Permis De Conduire
May 29, 2014 ( Prev / Next )

I recently swapped my UK driving licence for a Swiss one, the Permis de conduire. I thought i would document the steps involved here for anyone else who has moved to Switzerland and is interested in swapping their licence. Actually there is a compelling reason to do so, even if you don’t ever plan on driving in Switzerland; your non-Swiss licence is only valid for driving in the country for the first twelve months of your stay, and if you haven’t swapped it within five years you will have to go through a full test. That could be expensive and won’t be in English.

The first thing you need to do is get an application form from the Service des automobiles et de la navigation, which, like many things in Suisse, is Cantonal based. So for example in Vaud the place to look is here, and the relevant form (numéro 220) can be found here1.

Having downloaded and filled in the form, which is not in English so pay attention - majuscule / minuscule (uppercase / lowercase, i.e not cursive), stylo de couleur noire (black pen). The next step is to take the form to the contrôle des habitants / office de la population who will sign and stamp with the date you entered the country, so you will need to take your livre pour étrangers (permit book) with you.

Next you need to get your eyes tested, which isn’t a full test so only takes a couple of minutes. Most moderately sized opticians should offer this, and the cost is 15 CHF. Having done that you then take the form to the nearest Service des automobiles, which you must do in person. With the completed form you also need a recent passport photo, your livre pour étrangers, and both parts of your UK licence. The UK licence will be retained by the Service des automobiles, probably sent back to the DVLA in the UK i imagine.

You will receive your permis de conduire through the post in a few days and the invoice a week or two later. The cost for exchanging your licence is currently 45 CHF.

Driving In Suisse

I haven’t done much as i only brought my car over in April, although i plan to get out at weekends for the projects i am working on. So far my observations are that the roads are quiet, well maintained, and the scenery interesting. It’s also cheap, mark this down as another instance of “Switzerland isn’t as expensive as everyone says it is”.

To use the autoroutes you must purchase an annual pass, currently costing 40 CHF. That’s it, there are no tolls2. Compare this to driving in other major European countries - last weekend i drove to France and back, here is a breakdown of the tolls i paid:

TUNNEL G.S.BERN                      ITA,20.60
AUTOST CONFINE STATO/A A-G.S.BERN.   ITA,34.11
ESCOT 2605-2605        MANDELIEU CED FRA,1.22
ESCOT 2605-2605        MANDELIEU CED FRA,0.49
AUTOST DIREZ. ENTRATA/ TA EST        ITA,6.47
AUTOST AOSTA -M.BIANCO ONFINE STATO  ITA,39.89
ESCOT 2205-2505        MANDELIEU CED FRA,1.22
ESCOT 2205-2505        MANDELIEU CED FRA,0.65
TUNNEL G.S.BERN                      CH ,20.60

Not listed: tolls in France where i paid in cash and also the “Non-sterling transaction fee(s)” my creditcard issuer charges. The total for that one weekend trip, including aforementioned fees, comes to 130.29 GBP - 5 times the cost of an annual pass in Switzerland. So yes, that sucks.

I don’t plan to keep the car here beyond the end of autumn, partly because my insurance won’t cover it but largely because i won’t be able to use it once the snow arrives. When the weather turns the use of winter tyres is recommended and using snow chains is dictated by local signs and road conditions3. Even so my car does not have four-wheel drive, and having seen the (relatively mild) weather last winter there is no way i would be out on the roads. Besides, if i wanted to keep my car here permanently i would have to import it and again that could be expensive.


  1. Which is currently a 404, so i had to use google cache to get it… 

  2. Fuel is also approx 15% cheaper than in the UK. 

  3. http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/snow-chains-winter-tyres.html 

switzerland, driving, living_abroad