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Parking in Switzerland is hellish, and can be very limited and prohibitively expensive. In cities across the country, full car parks will quite often harbour queues of cars, their engines off, drivers waiting – sometimes for over an hour – for the next person to finish their shopping and so liberate a space.

The easiest options are covered or open parking garages, signposted in all cities. Prices can be outrageous – Fr.30 a day or more in central Geneva and Zürich, an average Fr.15/day around the country, and rarely less than Fr.1/hr anywhere. Out of town car parks, often located near motorway exits and tagged P+R (Park and Ride), are sometimes free or discounted; they always have a bus or a tram heading into the town centre, though, for which you must pay.

Otherwise, onstreet parking is colour coded, as in much of the rest of Europe. Spaces delineated with white lines – the White Zone – are free, unless there’s a sign reserving them for a particular company (as in nur für Kunden, “only for customers”) or a particular licence-plate number. You can park in the Blue Zone if you have a special parking disc (available for free from tourist offices, car rental agencies, police stations and banks). Spin the wheel round to show your time of arrival and leave it on your dashboard: this gives you 90 minutes’ free parking if you arrive between 8am and 11.30am or between 1.30pm and 6pm; if you arrive between 11.30am and 1.30pm, you’re safe until 2.30pm. If you arrive after 6pm, you’re OK until 9am next day. As long as you keep returning to your car to spin the wheel, you’re entitled to stay in the same space all day. Red Zone spaces are free for up to 15 hours. There are also Pay-and-Display car parks and on-street meters; again, feeding them throughout the day isn’t forbidden.

Illegal parking of any kind is much less tolerated in Switzerland than in its neighbours, and fines of Fr.50–100 for minor transgressions are common.

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