Is Switzerland Safe? Essential Travel Tips for Visitors

There's very little serious crime in Switzerland. But the petty crime that does happen is mainly targeting tourists, and focused on tourist attractions in major towns.

Jungfrau peak at Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland Photo © Getty Images/K'Nub

Most crime occurs at festivals and during the peak summer holiday season (July to August). Common crimes include bag snatching, pickpocketing, theft from rental cars (even cars stopped in traffic) and stealing from unattended cars.

While these are all worst case scenario, and are pretty unlikely to happen, it's important visitors do everything they can to avoid being the target of an easy crime.

Here's everything you need to know to stay safe in Switzerland.

Swiss crime

It's very common for thieves to work in pairs, while one distracts the victim, the other person steals valuables. Visitors should take care of their belongings and not leave them unattended at any time – like you would anywhere else in the world.

There have also been reports of passengers being robbed on night trains, so if you're catching an overnight train it's a good idea to keep your valuables safe, secure, locked up and somewhere you can keep an eye on them.

If you're traveling to Geneva, be aware this city has been rated with a medium risk for petty crime, so remain alert for pickpockets in public areas, including Lake Geneva's promenade, the vicinity of the Jardin Anglais, Mont Blanc Bridge, large shopping areas such as Rue de Rive, Plainpalais area (which is an open market), the Cornavin Train Station, Geneva's International Airport and its train station, Les Paquis area, public transport (trams, trains and buses), while checking into or out of hotels, and in restaurants.

Common scams in Switzerland

In general, Swiss people are known for their honesty and integrity, however there are a few issues with crime and scams that visitors need to be aware of and exercise vigilance.

The white van speaker scam

The 'white van speaker scam' has been seen in the main cities of Bern, Zurich and Geneva. This is where a group of sales people target the public from a white van with an aggressive sales pitch of what turns out to be poorly made imported speakers and audio goods. Your best bet is to avoid anyone selling anything from their van.

The bonneteau game scam

Another scam is the bonneteau game, otherwise known as shell and pea, which is found in Geneva despite being outlawed. This is where a small ball is moved under three boxes or cups, and the player must guess which one hides the ball. They place a bet and appear to lose each time. In reality the person with the ball manages to hide it in his hand and not under a box. He makes it reappear when it is the "right" moment. Usually there are a few players around who will be in on the scam and are seen to be betting.

Minimum bets start at 100CHF, and when the scammers are playing they appear to win which draws in innocent people.

Hooligans and ultra-nationalists

Football hooliganism exists from time to time in Switzerland, particularly in Zurich and Basel. It is not unusual to see police in full riot gear outside football stadiums.

Switzerland does see occaisional crimes of a racist and anti Semitic nature. This includes verbal abuse and damage to property by anti establishment groups.

Overall, Switzerland is a really safe place to travel, and visitors should be just as cautious as they are while traveling in any new city.

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  • Shirley Mann said

    Swiss Sales/Swiss Holidays booked a tour for me. They then canceled Now I cannot get my money back. Avoid this fraudulent company!!

  • Tom said

    I always was told by my grandfather that Switzerland is very safe and that people leave their doors open and no thieves in Switzerland. I grew up knowing that Swiss is reliable, quality and safe. How wrong I was. Then in the past decade or so I have heard thefts are on the increase, but the Swiss quickly blamed them to the immigrants from the Eastern Europe etc. Well, when I had my registered mail with important documents stolen that were sent to Switzerland and when Swiss post did not respond to the enquiry (I was not even compensated) my opinion on Switzerland, which is also called Schweiz, Suisse, Swiss, Svizzera and Helvetia started changing fast. I thought - uncivilized!? Then another mail was stolen. Finally my bag was stolen (never recovered) in Switzerland and now this: Swiss owner of an unnamed (I may disclose it later, if they do not promptly remove my texts from their store's website) collectibles store has been stealing entire texts from my website along with headings and posting on their store website as if its theirs, without any reference and without any request to use those texts. They know permission will not be granted. The texts are written to be used solely on my own website. Of course my website has copyright notices on images and text on its every single page. I think the Swiss used to be a safe country 100 years ago, or was it? Can't trust our money to Swiss banks anymore. Would they care to clean it up or lose their name and perhaps their revenue from banking? When I read that some Swiss bank is now moving their operations to Poland (which is a nice country), which is in the plains, not protected by the mountainous Swiss environment, I think, yes, the Swiss do not care about their image anymore.

  • John Carpenter said

    It looks like Switzerland is more civilized and Christian than North America is. Too bad North America is more like Sodom and Gomorrah and less like Nineveh where the people repented and turned from their evil ways.

  • Deidre Hart said

    Iceland is doing better than North America. They do not listen to the devils of murder. But Donald Trump loves cops killing people and getting away with it. It seems like there are a couple of countries that are putting North America to shame. Even Canada does not impose religion on people by misusing the bible and its verse in the Old Testament that says make a man an offender for a word. That is in Isaiah 29:21. That is something Satan and the devils told the North Americans to use as a weapon of hate against men since nineteen seventy six to twist their words when they compliment ladies bosoms and cleavages and to intentionally get offended on purpose as a excuse to criminalize customers in malls and supermarkets you tell them your breasts and cleavage is lovely. North Americas tyrants are very unchristian when they punish male customers for complimenting cashiers and baristas by casting them out like Satan himself from those places and threatening them with hell if they return which is what prison is. God is going to punish our wicked and devilish governments for committing atrocities against the free people of the world.

  • Earl said

    Governments that criminalize freedom by using laws to enslave, oppress and rule over people God is going to send them to hell who commit sins against the people they rule with cruelty over. God is sending people to hell who call compliments and whistling "sexual" "hassling" and "sidewalk" "hassling". North America should have abolished its police, shut down its prisons and got rid of its army and learned to live as a Christian anarchist country free from being in bondage to devils and Lucifer through its evil government. Another crime lawless criminals hiding behind badges commit is dishonoring those who clean the environment around graveyards. Satan tell them to hassle them with littering tickets, photographing other peoples junk in their pickup truck. Do it next year by yelling at them with a megaphone, snoop around the woods to look at other peoples junk and garbage and to threaten them with jail if they return and further hassle them by following them as they leave the graveyard. Why aren't police in their headquarters arrested and serving life sentences for aiding and abetting two other criminals wearing badges? Why are they using a grave owners permission as a excuse to victimize someone at a graveyard with a littering ticket? Why does North Americas government act like the environment should not be clean but that men at graveyards should have their right to clean the environment violated for just because of some lame excuse they are making to justify committing a crime against them when they are not doing anything wrong? The littering law was not supposed to be enforced incompetently like this where people who clean graveyards are being singled out to be victims of police harassment. And yet everyone else who flicks a cigarette into the parking lot never gets a littering ticket along with those who shatter bottles and pollute the highway with it. Why is that?

  • RITA said

    In general, Swiss people are friendly, nice and honest. During my last visit in November, my purse was stolen in the train. I filed a police report with Geneva Police. Next day, a Swiss lady contacted me that she found a purse in the street, with my id card and contact info inside, all the cash and jewelry is gone. After returning home, I was running my videos taken by family member and one of the videos show the suspect was stealing my purse while it was my right side on the seat and i was looking outside. The thieve looks more like a non Swiss, eastern European and a professional thieve.

  • Joe said

    This may not qualify as a scam, but it sure felt like it; and executed by Swiss Post employees !
    It happened recently in village of Grachen in the Alps, where I had just finished the last day's hard walk of a 7 day "Tour de Monte Rosa", and was waiting at the bus terminal to descend to the town of St Nicklaus in the Zermatt valley below, where a shower and clean clothes awaited me in a hotel. A sign said that a Swiss Post bus service ran on about a half-hourly schedule between the two towns, about 3 km apart.
    So the bus came round the corner of the terminal building into the yard and stopped right in front of where I was seated. I took a step or two towards the bus expecting the front door to open, so I could enter and pay the driver for my ticket, as I had done on two other bus routes on the previous day. However only the doors in the middle of the bus opened and everyone but me and another woman got on there. We waited at the front door for a few seconds but the driver completely ignored us and just looked straight ahead. As he seemed determined not to open the front door, we walked up to the middle doors and got on.
    This was puzzling behaviour, and I tried to work out what the deal was as I sat down, with my wallet still in my hand. The driver immediately closed the middle doors as I got on and drove off. The possible explanations that ran through my mind were - A: It was a free community shuttle service, as it only ran between the two, closely situated towns at half-hourly intervals; B: we would pay at the end for some reason; C: there was a conductor who had not made himself apparent yet.
    However about 2 stops on the way down, three official looking people got on and one came towards me in the rear of the bus. I had just started to ask how to buy a ticket, when he cut me off with the statement that "It's too late for that, you must pay 100 Francs!"
    I tried to explain that the bus driver had not opened the door to allow me to pay, but he said that I should have pushed down the aisle from the middles door to the front of the bus and paid him. I said I saw no one else doing that to pay a fare. I felt I had been trapped by a plot and let them know about it, but I had to pay the fine, which was not a problem money-wise, because I had 500 Francs in my wallet, as he clearly saw.
    I asked him why the driver had not opened the front door even though I was obviously standing there waiting to pay, but he said that was immaterial. Anyway, before this team got off the bus down at St Nicklaus, he walked down to the front and had a conversation with the driver, presumably to report the success of their scheme to trap ignorant tourists.
    The moral of this story if you are travelling by bus in Switzerland, is to expect a ticket inspecting team if the driver doesn't open the front door.

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  • Joe said

    To update my post of a few months ago. I made an formal complaint about my treatment on a bus in the Zermatt Valley, to the PostBus organisation. They have a convenient and well-structured mechanism on their web site.
    To give them credit, they followed up and telephoned me in Australia to report that they had counselled the employees concerned, and followed up with a refund of the fine (minus the fare, of course).

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