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Crossing borders in your RV can be stressful and involve days of preparation while you gather your passport, insurance, vaccine records for pets, and visas.
We’ve never had a simple border crossing in our home on wheels. During our last border crossing in our RV, the customs agent locked himself in the RV and broke two door handles trying to break out…
Related: Crossing the Canadian Border In Your RV
So when we planned to cross from France into Switzerland, we mentally planned on needing to get out of the RV, have it searched, provide our passports, answer questions—the whole gamut. Switzerland is not part of the EU, so while we planned to cross into Spain and Andorra in the RV easily, we assumed this would be slightly different.
We crossed from the small town of Les Rousses, a ski village in the Jura Mountains. Watch our border crossing
Schengen versus the EU
While Switzerland isn’t a part of the EU, it is a part of Schengen. This was something that we hadn’t realized in our quick Google search.
“Schengen Area signifies a zone where 26 European countries, abolished their internal borders, for the free and unrestricted movement of people” (source). We knew we didn’t need a visa, but we didn’t realize that Schengen also meant that there wouldn’t be any trouble at the border. (Plus we crossed in a very small town, making the crossing even more simple!)
Swiss Driving Permit (Required!)
You cannot drive in Switzerland if your vehicle doesn’t have a vignette. Anywhere Campers, where we rented our RV, includes the Swiss driving permit affixed to the windshield. (They also include permits for Czech and Austria where similar permits are required by law.)
If the vehicle you’re in doesn’t have a driving permit, you’ll need to purchase one for around $40. They are available at gas stations near the Swiss border or may be available from your rental company.
Switzerland requires foreigners to carry identification at all times, so you’ll need your passports close by. We also kept our rental agreement handy in case we were questioned about our RV. Since the border station where we crossed was abandoned, we didn’t end up needing either.
Crossing other French Borders
During our month of RVing across France, we crossed into Italy, Monaco, and Andorra as well. We never once needed to provide our documents to French border control.
However, while taking a cab from Italy into France (to then hop a train to Monaco), we did go through a border checkpoint. Our Italian driver was asked where we were going and waved through without fuss. We didn’t need to show our documents at any border crossing, but we didn’t keep them on us.
We toured Europe in September and October 2022. There weren’t any COVID restrictions in place, so no tests or proof of vaccination were required.
My Best Border Crossing Tip
We’ve only crossed a few borders in our RV, but the easiest are always in small towns. We found a waterfall off our Google Maps route that allowed us to get away from the main road and cross into Switzerland from a tiny border crossing versus the larger crossings near Geneva.
If you’re planning to cross borders in your RV, pull up Google Maps (or an old-school atlas) and look at possible border crossings around your destination. The smaller the town, the easier your crossing will likely be.
Related: What’s It Like RVing in France?