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Living in Switzerland

Show or hide the answer What about Health Insurance?

Health care insurance for illness and accidents is obligatory for all persons resident in Switzerland. Basic insurance must be arranged with a health insurance company after taking up residence in Switzerland or after the birth of a child. It may be possible to organise insurance with a company in your home country that covers you while you live and work in Switzerland. You must provide proof of Insurance. Each family member must be individually insured. Each person must make his/her own insurance arrangements; the premiums are not deducted from your pay. Foreign workers in paid employment whose resident permits are valid for less than three months are also obliged to take out insurance, unless they have equivalent insurance cover for medical treatment in Switzerland. Prices for premiums are different for each insurance company. You must pay an annual ‘excess or franchise’ if you need to make a claim against the insurance (minimum 300 francs). Higher ‘excess’ can be agreed, which as a rule results in a lower premium. Depending on provider, excess, type of cover etc people at IDIAP pay between 125 CHF and 200 CHF per month.

Under the basic insurance, all health insurance companies pay for the same benefits. In principle the basic insurance covers, without limit of time, all benefits provided in the canton of residence by doctors, other recognized specialists or hospitals (general department) including maternity costs, as well as periods spent in the general department of a recognized hospital. The restriction to the canton of residence does not apply to emergencies and medically justified exceptions. The costs of the most important medicines, in accordance with a comprehensive list (LAMAL) are also met. The medical costs of long-term care at home or in a nursing home are also mostly reimbursed (but not the costs of board and accommodation). Dental treatment is only paid for by the basic insurance if it is linked to serious illnesses. Income replacement (during sickness) is not included under the basic insurance however you can voluntarily take out ‘Loss of earnings insurance’.

For a comparison of the prices for the basic LAMal insurance you can visit

Additional insurance can be taken out for benefits not covered by the basic insurance. This is not obligatory and thus the insurance companies are to a large extent free to structure their offers and premiums as they please. They can also impose restrictions concerning health or refuse applications. The most popular are additional insurances that cover hospital treatment outside the canton of residence also, or meet the cost of treatment in private hospitals. For more information you might like to visit the Groupe Mutuel site. Groupe Mutuel is just one of many Health Insurance companies. .

Show or hide the answer Am I covered for Accidents?

Accident insurance is compulsory for all workers. It covers not only accidents at work and occupational illnesses but also accidents which do not arise out of or in the course of employment. The insurance premiums for accidents at work and occupational illnesses are paid by the employer, those for accidents unconnected with the employment are automatically deducted from the employee’s wages. Accident insurance covers the cost of medical treatment; a daily allowance is paid from the third day of sickness, and later possibly a pension. Part-time employees who work for the same employer for less than 12 hours a week are only insured against accidents at work or on the way to work but not against accidents unconnected with their employment. In the event of illness or accident the insurance company and the employer must be informed immediately.

Show or hide the answer What about a Pension, Disability Allowance or Loss of Earnings Benefit?

The following is a rough explanation of the Swiss system. The retirement plan consists of three layers: one which is the same for everyone (AVS), one which is related to your professional activity (LPP), and one which is entirely voluntary.

The first layer (called AVS) is financed by 5.05% of your gross salary and 5.05% paid by the employer. This goes into a global fund, which is then distributed more or less equally among the population. These contributions are paid into the AVS insurance fund by the employer, who deducts half the contributions (5.05%) from the employee’s salary. Since they are compulsory contributions, all people earning a living in Switzerland must pay them. The mandatory contribution is also relevant for foreign citizens living in Switzerland. The employee receives, a “Certificate d’assurance AVS” (grey letter), with a personal number which represents their account. When you retire your AVS is paid back to you in regular monthly instalments.

The second layer (called LPP) is financed by a given amount taken from your gross salary, and again is matched by the employer. This money goes into your “private account". The method used to calculate these amounts is very complicated as this payment will evolve with time, as your gross salary changes. However, the general idea is that when you retire you can either take your LPP in regular instalments or as a lump sum. If you choose to take the LPP in regular monthly payments then the LPP amount, plus the AVS instalment, represents a reasonable percentage of your last salary before you retired (approx 80%).

The third layer is the money that you save yourself, and can take many forms, but in most cases neither the state nor the employer will interfere with this. When you leave Switzerland you may be eligible to take these funds with you. If you have any further questions regarding these payments please contact Mrs Sandra Micheloud, The Finance Manager Edward GREGG

Show or hide the answer Will my electrical appliances from home work in Switzerland?

The voltage is 220 V, alternating current, 50 hertz, for appliances and electrical equipment up to 2,200 watts. For larger appliances such as cookers, washing machines etc.: 1 x 380 volts or 3 x 380 volts. Switzerland has standard European plugs.

Show or hide the answer Tell me about the Transport system?

For timetables and costs of all transport systems visit the Rail website . There is also a Printed Timetable (Horaire) for Valais available from the train station for 2 CHF. It includes details of trains, buses, ferries and telecabins. Transport in Switzerland can be very expensive, so you may want to get:

  • Carte demi-tarif: Permits half price travelling on trains, boats, busses, for the whole of Switzerland. The cards are available at the train station. You will need your passport and a passport photo to purchase this card. Cards cost 150 CHF valid 1 year, 250 CHF valid 2 years, or 350 CHF valid for 3 years.
  • General Abonnement – Permits FREE travel on trains, boats, and busses for the whole of Switzerland. The basic GA for one person costs approximately CHF 3,100/ year.– in 2nd class (750 less for 16-25 year olds). You can also purchase a monthly GA but for a minimum of 4 months (265/month or 200/ month for 16-25 year olds). If you will not be using your GA for a while, you can deposit it during that time and receive pro rata vouchers in exchange (up to 30 days per year). In case of loss, your GA can be replaced. For more information see here.
  • Carte "voie 7" Costs 99 CHF and gives free public transport after 7pm. There's only one restriction, you can not be older than 25!

Switzerland’s railway system covers more than 5,000 kilometres of track and is therefore one of the densest in the world. The greater part is run by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB/ CFF/ FFS), there are also some private railways. The railway system is completely electric. Tickets may be purchased at the ticket office or through the machines on the platform. Long distance/ International rail bookings can be made over the Internet or at the train station. Sometimes discounts are available if you book well in advance i.e. TGV to Paris.


It is easy to visit smaller villages and most tourist places around Martigny by bus. The Postal service runs a good, efficient and regular bus service. Check out la Poste or ask at the train station. Don’t forget to show the driver your demi-tarif card for the discount. The Railway website also offers information on buses.


If your car is not Swiss, it has to be registered with a Swiss number plate before the end of the first year, after a thorough and strict technical check (i.e. engine stains may mean that your car is rejected). This is done at the "Service Automobile" in Sion. Phone them for the details. This check is then repeated every 3 years. Note: Of course, this applies only if you actually live and work in Switzerland for an extended period. Visitors’ cars are OK.

It’s compulsory within Switzerland to carry both a red warning triangle and the registration documents of the vehicle. If you intend driving on Swiss motorways, you have to stick a vignette inside your windscreen. These cost CHF 40 for any vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes, are bought most easily from post offices and petrol stations, and remain valid until January 31 of the following year. Trailers or caravans must have their own, additional vignette. Getting caught without one leaves you open to a CHF 100 fine. If you prefer, it’s quite easy to avoid Swiss motorways altogether and stick to ordinary main roads, which are free and – outside urban centres at least – reasonably fast.

You can drive in Switzerland on an International  driving License for 1 year. However, before the end of the year you must obtain a Swiss Driving License. This can be done through "Service Automobile" in Sion You can lodge your completed forms at the foreign office in Martigny. Please note that your licence will be confiscated and only sent back to you once a decision has been made. Please note this process can take 3 months and you will not be able to drive outside of Switzerland during this time because you will not have your licence! Some countries have an arrangement with Switzerland for an exchange of permits but other citizens will need to take a driving test to get their Swiss drivers licence. Further details of the process can be found here and you can download the form here


If you have a bike in Switzerland you have to buy a vignette (registration) for around CHF 5, which covers road tax and third-party insurance for a year. They are available from Migros or the Post Office. It is also nice to know that you can transport a bike between any two train stations in Switzerland for CHF 15; some EC trains and the Zürich S-Bahn are prohibited during rush hours.

Show or hide the answer Are there any TV programs in English?

People who prefer TV programs broadcast in English might consider buying a stereo TV with the special dual language function. Along with the BBC and CNN, some of the channels broadcast programs with the original (English) soundtrack on one of the speakers, and either French, Italian or German on the other. This allows people with a special TV to choose to listen to the program in English. Occasionally movies are also broadcast in this manner. Look for the notation I/II in the teletext.

Show or hide the answer How do I get a mobile, landline or Internet Access?

There are several companies offering Telecommunication services. To compare their services visit or use the following links: Swisscom, Orange, Sunrise.

Show or hide the answer How much will it cost to live?

The Federal Statistics Office provided the following prices as a guide to the cost of living in Switzerland here

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