As the desire to travel has always been very strong in the UAE, Switzerland opening up has offered up a perfect semi-winter locale to vacation in. Since June 26, travellers from the UAE could officially have a snow-filled summer in the magnificent mountains of the Swiss Alps.
The country has relatively returned to normalcy and has been diligent about vaccinating the population, with around 51.5 per cent of its population so before taking the family and luggage in tow for a Swiss dream holiday, there are a few rules and regulations to be aware of.
The Swiss government has outlined that fully vaccinated travellers from the GCC, including the UAE, can enter Switzerland without quarantine or pre-travel testing. Travellers will need to provide their vaccination certificates upon arrival physically. They must have received vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or included in the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing, i.e. the Pfizer BioNTech, Sinopharm and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines. These will be accepted up to 12 months after full vaccination.
Those interested can request the Schengen visas from VFS Global outlets while UAE citizens do not need a visa to travel to Switzerland. All visitors will have to present a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before the flight to re-enter the UAE.
Those who are unvaccinated must provide proof of a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours or a rapid antigen test, no older than 48 hours, on entering the country. Unvaccinated children up to 16 can travel with their vaccinated parents while children between 16 and 18 need to present a negative test.
To ensure every visitor has a great holiday and returns home happy and healthy, the Swiss government has introduced several protection protocols.
In the last year, the authorities have adopted and enforced stringent measures to quell the spread of the virus especially in tourist hotspots, which have proven efficient even while hotels, restaurants and resorts remain operational. More than 4,000 tourism businesses are using the Swiss ‘Clean & Safe’ label to document and inform guests of the application of the comprehensive protection concepts. These concepts are based on rules for hygiene and behaviour, as well as public health and employee protection guidelines issued by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). All event organisers and businesses have been instructed to plan and implement them.
Across major hospitality groups, restaurants, public transport, railways, spas and swimming pools and events there are shared measures:
Hand hygiene, with regular hand washing/sanitising and avoiding commonly touched surfaces and objects.
Social distancing of 1.5 m between guests and staff and designated waiting areas. The mountain railways operate in strict compliance with the safety protocols. Masks are compulsory in closed cabins and trains.
Cleaning of surfaces and objects touched by people.
Masks are compulsory indoors and the contact details of one person per group are collected.
Cashless and contactless payment is preferred as much as possible. For events, tickets are bought online.
What is open?
Most tourist spots and public places are open but there are also certain differing measures depending on the spot:
At restaurants, no mask is required to be worn at the table, but anyone moving around the restaurant must wear a mask. Masks are compulsory for staff. In outdoor areas, there are no space restrictions and no obligation to wear a mask or to sit, but the distances must be observed.
Discotheques and dance clubs are generally open if access is restricted to Covid-certified persons. As with all establishments whose access is restricted to persons with a Covid-19 certificate, the mask requirement does not apply. A Covid-19 certificate is proof of a negative Covid-19 test, an official vaccination certificate, or a certificate proving recovery from the virus.
Public transport services operate according to the normal timetable in strict compliance with safety protocols. The wearing of a face mask is compulsory in the entire public transport.
Certain wellness spas in hotels encourage guests to shower and change in their rooms after perusing the spa. There is a limit to the number of people in the closed rooms such as the sauna, bathrooms and cloakrooms.
In adventure experiences like zip-lining, boat rides etc. the equipment and its commonly touched surfaces are sanitized completely after every use.
Museums, zoos and botanical gardens are all open with restrictions on the number of visitors, social distancing protocols in place and face masks being mandatory in closed spaces and indoors. Visit the Albula Railway Museum, the Gantrisch Nature Park, the Arboretum Zurich and the Zurich Zoo.
Switzerland’s premium panoramic trains are in operation according to posted schedules. Face masks are compulsory during the complete ride. Jump aboard the Bernina, Glacier, GoldenPass and Luzern-Interlaken Express or the GoldenPass Panoramic.
A great initiative by Switzerland is the SwissCovid tracing mobile application. This app can help identify those who have been in close contact with anyone who has been infected with Covid-19, informing those who are at risk of potential infection with a rapid notification, breaking the spread. Available for free in the Apple Store and Google Playstore, users can utilise the proximity tracing function simply by switching on their Bluetooth function. The IDs of the other phones that have this or other compatible apps and their Bluetooth switched on will be stored in your app for 14 days and then deleted automatically. Visitors are encouraged to download the app as the more people who install it, the more traceability, and the easier it is to combat the spread of infection.
8 things to know before travelling to Switzerland
1. Everyone is multilingual. Switzerland has four official languages — German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
2. No small talk welcome. You would think that a population so multilingual would want to show it off — but not the Swiss. Making friendly small talk with waitresses and cashiers is strongly discouraged. It’s not part of the culture to show friendliness or warmth to strangers.
3. Visit the lakes. Lake life is integral. In the warmer months, the lakeside crowds you’ll see sunbathing will be some of the liveliest crowds in the entire country.
4. Start early, end early. Café’s open at 6 am, some tourist spots open at 8 am and good luck finding a store open past 7 pm. By the time you’re done with your day, so is everyone else.
5 .Travel public. Public transport is very reliable in Switzerland. There’s a handy app with schedules for every type of transport, and trains and metros are nearly always on time. There are also SwissPasses for short-term stays, but you only save money on those if you travel throughout the country.
6. Good Swiss chocolate is local. Do not head to the grocery store to eat the famed Swiss chocolate. Go to local chocolatiers!
7. Keep track of your cash. Switzerland is one of the most expensive places in the world. Plan and make sure you are aware of how much you spend or you’ll be shocked at your holiday credit card bill.
8. Most beautiful natural sights on Earth. The Alps and the cerulean lakes are enough to bring tears to any UAE resident’s eyes.
Source: University of Kentucky