Health and safety in Switzerland

Health

Since there is no state health service in Switzerland, nor reciprocal agreements for free treatment with other countries, it is imperative that you take out health insurance, especially if you are taking part in sports or mountain walking.

Switzerland has very high standards of hygiene, so neither food nor tap water should pose any hazard, but it is not advisable to drink from mountain streams, however clear they may look.

In parts of the country, the mosquitoes can gather in rather dense clouds during the summer. Apply a DEET-based product to prevent being bitten and consider a hat with a net to keep them away from your nose and eyes.

Safety

Travelling with a disability

Switzerland caters well for someone travelling with a disability. Far fewer stations need hoists to elevate a wheelchair from a low platform thanks to the raising of platform heights. There is a large and exemplary section in English on the Swiss Federal Railways website devoted to helping passengers with disabilities.

The Royal Association for Disability & Rehabilitation and Switzerland Tourism offer information. Hotels of three stars and above can be expected to have lifts. The UK’s gov.uk website has a downloadable guide giving general advice and practical information for travellers with a disability (and their companions) preparing for overseas travel.

Provision for disabled access inevitably varies widely on mountain cableways and railways. Chairlifts and gondola lifts, which are usually boarded while in continuous motion, are obviously difficult if not impossible, but modern or rebuilt cable cars can sometimes accept wheelchairs.

Safety when mountain walking

Mountain walking and hiking are hugely popular activities in Switzerland but a few precautions are required to ensure your safety.

  • Hiking boots are essential.
  • Plan routes bearing in mind the limitations of the weakest member ofthe party, and do not go alone unless you are highly experienced.
  • A first aid kit, provisions, protective clothing, a small torch andtopographic maps are essential.
  • A telescopic walking stick will help with descents.
  • The weather in mountain areas can change rapidly, so it is advisableto obtain a forecast before setting out and to be prepared fordeteriorating conditions.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and what time you expectto return.
  • Set off early and plan to return early, allowing time to return if youencounter difficulties.
  • Be careful if lighting a fire, and never do so in dry weather.
  • Close gates behind you, be careful of plants and animals, and do notleave any litter.
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