Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe so for budget travellers it’s a difficult place to be. Petrol is far more expensive than in neighbouring countries and to drive on motorways you need a vignette.
This is a small sticker that is placed on your windscreen and costs €40 for one year. If you’re spending a bit of time in Switzerland this might be worth it but if, like us, you’re just passing through you can save yourself some money and see a lot more of the country by taking the smaller roads.
How to find toll-free roads in Switzerland
There are maps like this one here which show you where the toll roads are. But all you really need is google maps. If you type in your route and then use the options menu to select ‘avoid toll roads’ google will give you a route avoiding any major highways which require a vignette.
Pay attention to the signs. A green sign with a car on it is a minor highway and is fine. A green sign with two roads on it means major motorway and you need a vignette. Any other colour road is fine. But as I said, google knows!
What to expect on the toll-free roads
The roads we drove in were a mix of 2-3 lane motorways with very little traffic and speed limits of 100km/h and small country roads. Many of the smaller roads were windy and steep.
It takes considerably longer using these alternative routes so if you are in a hurry it may be worth investing in a vignette. Our routes showed that it was around twice the time using the smaller roads but since we have nowhere to be we didn’t mind!
It can be very steep! Of course, being in Switzerland, there are a lot of mountains around. Our van- Morrison- did a stellar job getting over the hills but some parts were a struggle. This is also added a lot of time to our journey.
It’s beautiful! Driving through little Swiss villages, through valleys surrounded by huge mountains and past herds of cows with bells clinking on their necks. We stopped hundreds of times for photos and to admire the views. May be that contributed to our extended time as well!
Avoiding toll roads in Switzerland is definitely a great way to see the country if you have the time. We've decided to adopt the same policy in Italy and Slovenia and love seeing all the small villages, local life and great scenery.