From 27 November 2021, Switzerland changed its travel entry rules for visitors from the UK.
While Britons had previously been allowed into the country with proof of full vaccination, from 27 November all UK visitors will have to show both a negative PCR test result, taken within the 72 hours prior to arrival, and self-isolate for 10 days.
This is because the UK is on the country’s list of nations with a “variant of concern”, following the detection of multiple cases of the omicron variant of Covid-19, and it means that winter holidays to ski resorts in the Swiss Alps will be wiped out by the mandatory quarantine.
But the rules are even trickier for those who may be flying into Switzerland but travelling on to other countries, either by air or overland.
So what does this mean for travellers who have ski holidays booked in the French Alps, or connecting flights passing through Switzerland?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What are the new rules for UK travellers to Switzerland?
All visitors to Switzerland from the UK (who must be fully vaccinated, as per its previous rule change) must now present proof of full vaccination, a negative result from a PCR or lateral flow test, and then self-isolate for 10 days after arrival.
This can be done at the traveller’s choice of accommodation.
The only people exempt from the mandatory quarantine are Swiss or Liechtenstein nationals, EU or EFTA nationals, and holders of the following documents:
- a residence permit, ie a Swiss residence permit (L / B / C / Ci permits);
- a cross-border permit (G permit);
- an FDFA legitimation card;
- a D visa issued by Switzerland;
- confirmation of notification for the cross-border provision of services up to 90 days;
- a ‘laissez passer’ issued by the Swiss Embassy in situations of special necessity
What if I am flying into Switzerland, but skiing in France?
Many people access French or Italian ski resorts by flying into Swiss airports such as Geneva, so there is some confusion around travel rules between the two countries.
The Foreign Office website clarifies that there is “no quarantine requirement for those in transit airside at the airport” – so people connecting to a different flight and not leaving the airport in Switzerland – but it doesn’t address what the rules are for people travelling overland into France from Switzerland.
A spokesperson for Switzerland Tourism told The Independent that government officials have yet to outline what the restrictions are for short transits within Switzerland for skiers.
They added that that the tourist board is expecting this to be addressed at a press conference later this week.
“The most probable outcome will be that travellers will have to provide proof of a negative test result and specify that they are in transit on their entry form,” said the source. “But nothing [is] confirmed at this point.”
At the moment the Foreign Office website states: “From 27 November, travellers arriving in Switzerland from the UK who wish to travel onward to another country will need to self-quarantine in Switzerland for 10 days.”
As such, it is thought that the quarantine requirement still applies to those transiting briefly through Switzerland to reach nearby countries – French tourism officials are advising travellers to re-route via the French airports of Lyon or Grenoble instead of flying into Geneva.
Skier’s website PlanetSki interviewed travellers who had been turned away after Switzerland’s rule change, which came into effect at 8pm on Saturday 27 November.
“We flew to Geneva yesterday morning, had a pre booked transfer by road to Italy,” wrote one follower on the publication’s Facebook page.
“We were refused entry by Swiss border and put on a plane back to Manchester immediately. UK Govt website and FCDO advice was only corrected in the afternoon.”
This suggests that UK arrivals into Switzerland will have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival, or face being turned away at the border – regardless of whether their holiday is set to take place in Switzerland or a neighbouring country.
How long will the new rules be in place?
Switzerland’s authorities have not put an end date on the new rules for British travellers.
They are understood to be indefinite, but may be adjusted when more is known about the omicron variant, its symptoms and response to the vaccine, and the number of cases within the UK.