Are you currently planning your next vacation with your furry friend? Why not go to Europe? More specifically, to the very center of Europe – Switzerland!
Maybe you’re thinking of Switzerland as a super expensive place where you won’t be able to afford anything at all. Well, yes, Switzerland isn’t exactly the cheapest place on earth. BUT, you actually get a lot for your money. Infrastructure is unbeatable, the Alps are breathtaking and everything is neat and clean.
But the biggest advantage for a dogpackr (person backpacking with a dog) is that Switzerland is one of the most dog friendly places on the planet. Since Switzerland is quite a wealthy country, many people own pets. There are over half a million registered dogs in Switzerland and even 1.5 million cats while there are about 8 million people living in Switzerland. So that means for every 16 people there is one dog which makes it one of the most dog-dense countries. Pets are generally treated really well and are increasingly popular as an alternative to children. But that’s probably a worldwide phenomenon, at least in the western world…
So all of this makes Switzerland a super comfy place to travel to with your dog. Below you’ll find a list of some of the most awesome and unexpected things about traveling Switzerland with your dog.
1. Pretty much any restaurant welcomes dogs
Living in Switzerland, it’s the most normal thing for me to take my dog to a café or restaurant. I don’t remember that anyone has ever told us that we can’t enter, neither with my parents’ Hovawart, nor with Baloo. I was actually surprised to hear that this is not at all the case in the US. This is why this is the number 1 on this list because I think this might be surprising for a lot of people.
Since the majority of people like dogs, it’s really no issue to take your pup to a restaurant, café or even pub (bars are probably not the best idea, but I don’t think anyone would care ;)). Unless there’s a no dog sign on the door, you can take your dog to any place to eat and you don’t have to ask for permission. Most restaurants or cafés will even happily give your dog a water bowl and will want to pet your pup. Be prepared to get a lot of smiles and friendly comments from other guests who will most likely love your (well-behaved) doggo lying underneath the table.
2. Public transport is pet friendly
Public transport in Switzerland is a blessing. It can be expensive, but it’s just the best organized I can think of. Even in the most remote areas somewhere in the Alps, you’ll find bus stops all along the common hiking trails. Trains and trams are very frequent and very punctual. AND, they all allow dogs! Pets who can fit in a carrier, travel for free. Bigger dogs have to get a half fare ticket. Ferries and gondolas also belong to public transport, so you can also take your pup along there.
Bonus tip on the side: If you plan on traveling around Switzerland by public transport for more than about 10 hours in total, it might be worth to get yourself a half fare travel card. It costs CHF 185 and is valid for a whole year. This allows you to travel at half fare for one whole year. But of course it’s only worth it if you plan on using public transport a lot.
The other thing I highly recommend is to download the sbb app. You can look up all public transport connections and buy a ticket on there which can then also be used offline. But the best thing is that you can get discounted tickets. You have to book at least one day in advance, the earlier the better. On the overview you can see a % sign, which means that you can get a discounted ticket for this connection. Once you click on it, you can see how much the discounted ticket costs. This makes you save a lot of money. But be aware, if you’re buying a discounted ticket, it’s only valid for this specific connection. You can also buy a ticket for your dog with the app.
If you plan on using public transport a whole lot during your holiday, a Swiss Travel Pass might also be worth it for you. This pass allows you infinite travels during the time you bought it for. If your dog needs a ticket, you can get him and unlimited day pass for CHF 35.
3. Off leash walking
In a lot of areas, your dog is permitted to walk off leash. There’s a general rule that you have to have your dog on a leash between 01. May to 30. June because this is the breeding time for many animals. Other than that, there are different regulations per canton. Make sure to check them in advance when you go to a different canton.
A a general rule of thumb, I’d always have my dog on a leash in forests, unless he comes back very reliably. In open fields and meadows, I usually have him off leash. In the city I always have him on a leash, I think it’s too dangerous to do it differently.
So what I think is most important is that you can generally have your dog off leash when you go hiking. The exception is to walk in forests, check out the cantonal regulations for this.
4. Shopping dog
You can go shopping with your dog! Apart from grocery stores, dogs are welcome in most malls and stores, unless there is a no dog sign at the door. But the Swiss are generally really relaxed about dogs. By law, dogs are not allowed in stores where food is sold. But in all the rest, well-behaved dogs are usually no problem. I’ve seen people taking their German Shepherd to H&M, letting him lie down somewhere while the owner browses through the clothes. Always funny to watch.
Where dogs are not allowed, there are always dog parking spaces where you can attach your dog while you are doing your groceries. If your dog is used to being left alone somewhere, then that’s no issue at all. Switzerland is really safe. Personally, I only do it if absolutely necessary, because Baloo has separation anxiety, so leaving him outside results in a lot of stress. I generally put him in my dogpack, this way he’s basically invisible.
5. Plenty of sleeping options
The majority of hotels and at least about half of the airbnbs allow dogs. Plan to pay an extra $10 to $20 for your furry companion. But other than that, dogs are very welcome in most places to stay. There are also lots of camping sites allowing dogs. Here you can find an overview of camping sites that allow dogs. Just tick the options on top to see where you can take your dog during the off-peak season or where you can take him throughout the year.
Wild camping is not generally forbidden in Switzerland. However, there isn’t a clear rule about it, either. It’s certainly forbidden to camp in a national park, wildlife reserve, in designated wildlife areas or in a nature reserve. Generally no problem is camping for single nights per spot (or take your tent down when staying for consecutive nights). Or to camp on a private property where you asked permission. Here you can find an overview on the wild camping situation in Switzerland (in German, French or Italian).
6. Poop free country
This is a very important rule to follow. In Switzerland you always need to clean up after your dog. There are lots of bins with poop bag dispensers scattered all over the country so you never have an excuse to not pick up your dog’s poop. It’s just so much nicer if you never have to fear to step in some dog’s poop. This is also required on the trails. So always take some extra bags with you.
Related question: Entry requirements for Switzerland
The entry requirements for your dog are relatively simple if you’re coming from a country with a low rabies risk, such as the US. Your dog needs to have a rabies vaccination, that was done at least 30 days prior to entering Switzerland. And he needs to have a microchip plus a vet passport, where all the vaccinations are listed. For more information, check here. And that’s it, you’re free to come!
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