Relocating to Switzerland: how to move your belongings

If you’re relocating to Switzerland, here’s everything you need to know about moving your belongings to the alpine nation.

Relocating to Switzerland

By Expatica

Updated 30-1-2024

Whether you send your belongings by air, sea, or road, relocating to Switzerland doesn’t have to be stressful. There are many relocation options to ensure your belongings arrive safely. There are, however, many factors to consider such as lowering costs, avoiding damage, and receiving your belongings on time.

Which international moving option is best for the items you need to relocate to Switzerland? Here, we explain how to move your possessions to your new home. Choose an international removal option that is right for you:

The Relocator

Are you moving to Montreux or settling in St Gallen? Take the stress out of your move to Switzerland by finding the right international shipping options for you with The Relocator. Compare a number of trusted international movers and get a free quote in minutes. Wherever your new life in Switzerland takes you, start it in confidence with The Relocator.

International removals for Switzerland

When moving abroad, a number of factors come into play, such as whether customs are payable or if there are restrictions or quarantine on your items, besides the usual issues, such as safety of your items, how much work is involved in packing and picking up, time period for delivery, and so on. Cost is a big factor because certain relocation options offer substantial savings for larger items. Shipping your furniture or a car, for instance, can have vastly different costs depending on the option. Heavy items can make the costs pile up quite quickly.

Another important question is whether you should hire an international relocation company while relocating to Switzerland. This question largely depends on how much time you have and costs; international moving companies typically take care of any potential issue, ideal for time-strapped expats, but at a cost. How, then, do you decide which is the best international moving company and relocation option for you? This guide answers all these questions below. You can check out our directory listings of relocation companies.

Relocating to Switzerland with air freight

Relocating your belongings to Switzerland by air freight is relatively straightforward. Each of the main airports – Bern Airport, Genève Airport, Lugano Airport, and Zurich Airport – accept cargo shipments.

Air freight rates

If you’re working to a tight timeframe, having your belongings shipped by air can be your best option. Air freight costs are usually higher than other forms of transport, however. You’ll also need to factor in insurance costs, handling fees, and minimum charges.

When sending by air, fees are based on the weight of the items. As a result, it can get expensive if you’re sending heavy items. Because of this, air freight is usually best used for smaller shipments.

Air freight: Transit times

It might be expensive, but air freight is almost always the quickest way of getting your belongings to Switzerland. It’s possible to have your items door-to-door in the space of a week if you use a specialist relocation company. Should you choose to go it alone, things can take a little longer. You’ll need to factor in manually transporting your belongings from the airport to your home.

How to find air freight for international removal

As a starting point, use online quotes and comparison tools for an outline of what air freight might cost. Once you’ve got your quotes, speak to a few companies by phone to get a more bespoke price. Online estimates rarely include the additional charges of air freight and insurance.

How air freight works

Air freight and removal companies generally provide door-to-door services. First, they’ll arrange a date to come and visit you to survey your belongings and offer a final quote. Once you’ve signed the paperwork, you can agree on a date to have your belongings collected. At this point, either you or your removal company must draw up a full inventory list. Once your items have been collected, you should be able to track their progress online.

Packing for air freight

You can usually pack your items yourself. If you do this, it’s important not to over-pack cases and boxes. If you want extra peace of mind, air freight companies offer packing services for an additional cost.

Who should use air freight?

With Switzerland having several airports, air freight can be a painless way of getting your belongings to your new home. It won’t be cheap, though; if you have a lot of belongings, consider sending only your most urgent possessions by air or as excess baggage.

Relocating to Switzerland by road and shipping freight

Switzerland is landlocked, so shipping exclusively by sea isn’t an option. On the bright side, the country is ideally located in central Europe. As a result, it’s easy to ship your belongings to a port elsewhere and complete the journey by road.

If you’re moving from the UK, your best option might be shipping your belongings to Calais and completing the journey by road. From elsewhere in Europe, the Port of Rotterdam is a popular choice. From here, your belongings can either travel by road or train. There are regular train cargo services available into Basel, Frenkendorf (near Basel), and Rekingen (near Zurich).

Shipping costs

Relocation by a combination of shipping and road freight is a versatile and cost-effective way of moving your belongings. With longer-distance and less time-pressured shipments, you can even group your belongings with those of other people. As a result, you can move on a smaller budget.

Freight shipping transit times

Transit times vary hugely depending on where you’re traveling from. From within Europe, it might only take a matter of days to get your belongings to Switzerland; from the United States, this could be at least a couple of weeks. When sending your items by sea, you’ll usually need to book further in advance than sending them by air freight.

Container ships: How the process works

As with sending by air, you can price things up online first. Most shipping quotes will be based on the size of container you need. The most common container sizes are 20-foot and 40-foot. The smaller size should be enough to carry the contents of a three-bedroom house, while the 40-foot container can fit a four to five-bedroom house or a car alongside some belongings.

If your belongings fit into one of these set container sizes, you should be able to send them quickly and easily. If, however, you’re only sending a small number of items or you’re on a tight budget, you can choose to have them shipped with the belongings of other customers.

Grouping is a great way to save money, but it can be a long process. You’ll need to wait until all of the available space is filled before the ship leaves.

Packing for shipping freight

Shipping by sea differs from doing so by air in that some shipping companies will refuse to insure your belongings unless they have packed them. If this is the case with your chosen shipping company, you’ll need to factor this as an extra cost. On the bright side, having your items professionally packed should make them easier to unload at the other end and ensure there’s less chance of anything breaking.

Who should use shipping companies?

With most of Switzerland being easily accessible by road, it can make sense to use sea and/or road transport, especially if you’re moving from within Europe. For longer distances, do your sums as the combined cost of sea and road (including insurance for both parts of the journey) can add up.

Hiring an international moving company

Hiring a relocation company to manage your move will often cost more than arranging the individual parts yourself. However, it can also give you peace of mind that your belongings will make it safely and with the required paperwork (such as inventory lists and customs forms). This is particularly true if the journey uses multiple forms of transport.

Relocation companies usually offer full door-to-door services, though some will also offer tailored packages – so think about whether you need the full service or not when getting your quotes. To give you an idea of what to expect in terms of costs and timeframe, check out these international logistics platforms:

Finding the right international shipping provider can give you peace of mind while dealing with the other details of your move. Check ahead of time to avoid any last-minute surprises.

Timeframes for booking a moving company

If you decide to get the professionals in, you’ll need to plan your move well in advance. There’s lots of specialist removal companies out there but the best ones tend to book up quickly, so you should realistically allow up to three months between first contacting the company and your move, especially if you’re after a full door-to-door service.

Packing and international moving companies

Different companies have different rules regarding how your belongings are packed. As discussed earlier, some will only offer insurance if they’ve packed your possessions for you.

DIY versus using a relocation company

If you’re an experienced mover or you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, it’s possible to organize and conduct your move without help – but it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much money will you save by arranging each part of the process yourself?
  • What amount of time are you willing to spend on arranging transport, packaging, and administrative tasks?
  • How confident are you about organizing each aspect without help?

If any of these questions makes you concerned, it might be best to get the professionals in.

How to choose a relocation company for Switzerland

Relocating people’s belongings is a competitive market, with significant financial rewards on offer to the best and most popular companies. With this in mind, you need to make sure you choose a reputable expert.

As a first port of call, check if the company is registered with an industry body, such as the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations or the International Air Transport Association. In addition to international bodies, some countries will have their own versions, so do some research.

Once you’ve got your quotes and checked the companies are reputable, do some digging. If you can’t get personal recommendations, delve into online reviews and testimonials.

If you haven’t already, phone each of the companies on your shortlist. Is the person on the other end of the line helpful and knowledgeable, and can they answer your questions? Ask about the degrees of insurance and what happens if something goes wrong and request a full and itemized quote before taking it further.

Customs and importing goods into Switzerland

There’s a few things you’ll need to prepare in advance before relocating your belongings to Switzerland. First, you’ll need to provide an inventory of your belongings, and you’ll only be able to take items that you’ve owned for at least six months. You’ll also need to attend the customs office in person and provide proof of why you’re entering the country in the form of a rental agreement or contract of employment. You’ll need to fill out form 18.44 at the customs office, but if you’re a resident of an EU country you won’t need to provide a Swiss residence permit.

If you’re relocating to find work in Switzerland or you’re a student, you should be allowed to use your foreign vehicle in Switzerland without paying duty costs. You will, however, need to get a customs permit for your vehicle. It is possible to bring your car into Switzerland, but you’ll need to declare it immediately on arriving in the country. You can find out more about this on the website of the Federal Customs Administration (FCA). Also, check the conditions for using your driver’s license in Switzerland and driving in Switzerland.

If you’re moving with an animal, read the guidelines for bringing your pet to Switzerland.