Learning to drive in Switzerland

Learning to drive in Switzerland

Learning to drive in Switzerland is a multi-stage process that will allow you to operate cars and motorbikes. There are many different steps involved in applying for a driving licence, involving medical examinations, theory exams and practical road tests.

Who can learn how to drive in Switzerland?

The official driving age for most counties (cantons) in Switzerland is 18 years of age. The exception to this rule is for category A licences for mopeds under 150cc where you are allowed to drive at 16. Once you are old enough, you are ready to get started with getting your Swiss driving licence.

1. Getting a Swiss provisional driving licence

The first step in getting a driving licence for Switzerland is to apply for a provisional driving licence. A provisional licence allows you to start learning how to drive in the company of a trained driver over the age of 23. There are several steps required to gain a provisional licence which are listed below.

First aid course

In order to apply for a provisional driving licence, the applicant must have attended and passed a first aid course. These courses are valid for six years from when you passed. Courses can be provided privately or through the road traffic office in your local county (canton). It is recommended to complete the first aid course before you start filling in the application form for a provisional driving licence.

Eye test and medical

In addition to filling in an application form from your county of residence, you are also required to submit an eye test that has been completed recently. This test is to make sure that you will be able to identify road signs and other cars while driving.

If you plan on learning to drive larger vehicles such as lorries and heavy machinery, you must provide a recent eye test and medical examination. This is in order to make sure that you have the mental and visual ability to operate a vehicle. This may also apply if you are applying for a provisional licence in old age. These tests can be arranged before you apply with your doctor or general practitioner.

Swiss theory test

If your application form for a provisional driving licence is accepted, you will be then able to apply for a Swiss road theory test. These tests are designed to test your knowledge of road signs and driving etiquette in Switzerland. The tests are available in all counties and many counties offer the option to do the theory test online. Contact your cantonal office to book a theory test.

Can you take the Swiss driving theory test in English?

Some counties in Switzerland now offer the theory test in English, as well as in the official languages. These counties are:

  • Bern
  • Glarus
  • Solothurn
  • St. Gallen
  • Thurgau
  • Neuchatel
  • Schwyz
  • Vaud
  • Zurich

How long are provisional licences valid for in Switzerland?

If you pass your theory test, you will receive a provisional licence through the post in the coming weeks. Once you have a provisional licence you are able to start learning how to drive in Switzerland. A provisional licence must be renewed every four to 24 months depending on the type of licence you choose; only if you have not received a full licence by the expiry date.

Rules for Swiss provisional licences

Provisional licence holders must follow strict rules when learning to drive. This extends to their teachers as well who must ensure the safety of all other road users. The rules for provisional licence holders are:

  • Be accompanied by a person who is at least 23 years old and has been driving a similar vehicle for at least three years.
  • The teacher or chaperone must be within easy reach of the handbrake.
  • They must ensure that you follow the rules of the road.
  • Both the learner and teacher must have no alcohol in their system.
  • The car you drive must be covered by third-party car insurance.

2. Driving lessons in Switzerland

The next step after getting a provisional licence is to learn how to drive. Driving instructors are numerous in Switzerland and will be more than happy to teach both automatic and manual cars. Although new to Switzerland, some driving instructors, mainly near the major Swiss cities, have started to speak English during lessons. Some of the instructors that speak English are:

  • International Driving School Zurich
  • Auto-Ecole Fazy

3. Swiss practical driving test

It is recommended to take at least 10 driving lessons before attempting a practical driving test in Switzerland. It is essential that you prepare in advance as multiple tests can lead to further delays and penalties in the future. You can book a practical driving test online through your canton of residence's traffic office. It is recommended to book your test at least six weeks in advance. It is advised to avoid the peak summer months of June and July as these are the times when bookings will be in high demand.

It is also advised to not book the test during the winter months of November through to February due to the significant chance of snow. This is one of the reasons why motorbike tests can only take place during the summer.

What do you need to bring to a practical driving test?

There are several different items that you must bring to your practical driving test. These are:

How much does a practical driving test cost?

The cost of a driving test in Switzerland varies depending on which licence you are applying for. Generally, licences for smaller vehicles are cheaper than larger vehicles, lorries and large machinery. This means costs can range from 80 Swiss francs to 500 Swiss francs for each test.

Failing a Swiss practical driving test

If you do not pass your test the first time, you are expected to re-book for another test in at least a months’ time. This test will run in a similar way to the last and will give you another opportunity to get your driving licence.

Failing multiple attempts

If you fail your test more than once, the following action is taken:

  • If you fail for a second time, you will have to provide a signed certificate from a driving instructor, proving you have received training.
  • If you fail for a third time, you must attend a driving aptitude test to be organised by your county of residence. If you fail this test, your provisional licence is revoked.
  • If you fail for a fourth time, you can only retake the test after a full psychological assessment regarding your ability to drive safely.

Next steps for new drivers in Switzerland

If you passed your practical test, congratulations! You are fully qualified to drive in Switzerland and will receive your licence in the few weeks after your test. Once you are qualified, you can explore buying a car, importing a car from abroad and accessing car insurance. Your first licence will be valid for a period of three years, being extended to life upon renewal.

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