Home Moving to Switzerland Relocation Relocating to Switzerland: how to move your belongings
Last update on March 19, 2020

If you want to move to Switzerland, find the best way to send your furniture, belongings or car. This guide covers relocating to Switzerland by air, shipping and road freight, plus information about customs formalities.

Whether you choose to send your belongings by air or a combination of sea and road fright, moving to Switzerland doesn’t have to be stressful as there are many relocation options to ensure your belongings arrive safely. There are, however, many factors to consider such as how to keep costs down, avoid damage and breakages and receive 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 so you can decide which international removal option is right for you:

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, such as shipping your furniture or a car, compared to other relocation options that quickly add up for heavy items, such as air freight.

Another important question is whether you should hire an international relocation company. 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 also find Expatica’s listings of moving companies and relocation companies, or ask a relocation expert on Expatica’s Ask the Expert free service.

Relocating to Switzerland with air freight

Relocating your belongings to Switzerland by air freight is relatively straightforward, with each of the main airports – Bern, Geneva, Lugano and Zurich – accepting 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, and you’ll also need to factor in insurance costs, handling fees and (if you’re only sending a few things) minimum charges.

When sending by air you’ll usually be charged based on the weight of the items (rather than the size) so 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 as you’ll need to factor in manually transporting your belongings from the airport to your new 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, it’s best to speak to a few companies by phone to get a more bespoke price, as online estimates rarely include the various 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, depending on the service you choose, either you or your removal company will need to 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’ll usually be allowed to pack your items yourself, but if you do this it’s important to make sure you don’t over-pack cases and boxes. If you want some extra peace of mind, your air freight company will offer a packing service for an additional cost.

Who should use air freight?

With Switzerland having several large commercial airports, air freight can be a painless way of getting your belongings to your new home quickly and safely. It won’t be cheap, though, so if you have a lot of belongings, consider sending only your most urgent possessions by air freight or as pre-paid 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, so it’s easy to ship your belongings to a port elsewhere and complete the journey by road freight.

If you’re moving from the UK, your best and most cost-effective option can be to ship your belongings to Calais and complete the journey by road (seven hours to Geneva, eight hours to Zurich). From elsewhere in Europe, Rotterdam is a popular choice. From here, your belongings can either travel by road (eight and a half hours to Geneva, eight hours to Zurich), or by train freight, with regular 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, especially if you have a lot of items to send. With longer-distance and less time-pressured shipments, you can even group your belongings with those of other people, allowing you to 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, while from the US you could be looking at a least a couple of weeks. You should also be aware that 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 as you’ll need to wait until all of the available space is filled before the ship will leave.

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?

I want to move to Switzerland

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.

Using a relocation company: International movers for Switzerland

Hiring a relocation company to manage your move will often cost more than arranging the individual parts yourself, but 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).

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.

As mentioned earlier, if your journey takes in multiple forms of transport (such as sea and road freight), it can sometimes be more cost-effective and quicker to use a relocation company, who will be able to stitch together the different parts of the journey and perhaps even secure you a cheap package deal.

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?
  • How much 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 moving 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 residence permit. For more information, visit the Swiss government website.

If you’re moving to Switzerland to find employmentwork 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 and parking rules in Switzerland.

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