Zurich is known for its stunning views of the Swiss Alps, charming old town, and luxurious shopping. While the city has a well-connected public transportation system, renting a car in Zurich is a more flexible way to explore the surrounding areas.
Whether you’re looking to take a scenic drive through the Swiss countryside or want to visit the nearby picturesque towns of Lucerne or Interlaken, a car gives you the freedom to follow your own plans and travel at your own pace.
In this travel guide, we’ll share some tips on Zurich car hire, including how to get the best deal, and what you need to rent.
We’ll also go over some of the top places to visit on day trips, so you’ll truly get the most from your Swiss driving experience.
Do you need to rent a car in Zurich?
The answer depends on what you want to do during your stay. If you’re staying within the city, you can use Zurich’s public transport – the buses, trams, and trains.
But if you want to venture outside the city, having your own wheels could help you get the most from your Swiss trip.
Switzerland has some of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the world.
With a car, you’ll have the chance to take leisurely drives through the epic Swiss countryside, taking in stunning views of the Alps, lakes, and forests.
You’ll especially feel the benefits if you’re a nature lover or enjoy photography. You’ll really be able to explore the Swiss landscape for those perfect pictures.
There are other reasons, too:
- It’s easier if you’re traveling with a group or have a lot of luggage.
- Taxis and public transportation fares can add up quickly – renting a car might even save you money overall.
- You’ll have the freedom to come and go as you please – no worrying about bus or train schedules.
During my Swiss travels, one of the best road trips we took was to Rhine Falls from Zurich. It was incredibly scenic as we wound our way through the countryside and along the Rhine River.
Trips like this wouldn’t have been possible without an affordable rental car. This is why Discover Cars is really useful – It lets me compare all the rental options available so I can get the lowest price on a great little car.
What requirements are there to rent a car in Switzerland?
Renting a car in Switzerland is an easy process, but there are a few things you’ll need.
First, you need a valid driver’s license that you’ve had for at least a year. If your license is not in Latin characters, you may need to get an International Driving Permit – luckily, this is cheap and easy.
When you’ve found your perfect ride, you can pay using the most common payment methods – whether it’s a debit card, credit card, or even PayPal if you use Discover Cars.
Please note though, you’ll need a credit card to pay the car’s deposit when you arrive. This credit card needs to be under the same name as your passport.
As is true in most of Europe, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old to hire a car. And always check your insurance, it might be a good idea to pay for extra coverage for more peace of mind.
Here’s a checklist:
- A driving license from your home country – at least a year old.
- Over 21 years old.
- Possibly an International Driving Permit – if your license is not in Latin characters.
- Your ID (passport).
- Credit card, debit card, or PayPal for payment when booking the car online.
- A credit card in your name (not a debit card) for paying the deposit on arrival.
- Extra insurance if you prefer.
Tip: Get the extra insurance for peace of mind. It will cover any damages to your rental car, or even if it is stolen.
What are some road trips from Zurich?
In Switzerland, all roads lead to Zurich. This makes it the perfect base for your Swiss adventure.
Here are five road trips you can take from Zurich into the stunning surrounding countryside:
Drive through the Swiss Alps to reach Mount Titlis, one of the most breathtaking peaks in the country.
At the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, take a ride on the famous revolving cable car, and even walk across Europe’s highest suspension bridge. The trip takes about 1.5 hours.
Just a short drive from Zurich, the Rhine Falls are one of the most stunning natural wonders in Switzerland.
This massive waterfall is a must-see attraction, with a variety of viewing platforms, boat rides, and other activities to enjoy. Expect the journey to take about 40 minutes.
Take a drive to the picturesque town of Lucerne, which is known for its beautiful medieval architecture, charming Old Town, and stunning views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains.
Don’t miss the chance to walk across the famous Chapel Bridge and visit the Lion Monument. This trip takes about an hour.
Drive through the Swiss Alps to reach the Jungfraujoch, one of the highest railway stations in Europe.
This stunning destination offers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, a variety of outdoor activities, and even an ice palace to explore. This trip takes close to two hours.
Explore the beautiful Lauterbrunnen Valley with a scenic road trip from Zurich. This picturesque region is known for its towering waterfalls, quaint Swiss villages, and stunning mountain views.
Don’t miss the chance to take a ride on the famous cogwheel train to the top of the Jungfrau mountain. Expect the car journey to take about two hours.
How much does it cost to rent a car in Zurich?
On average, you should expect to pay anywhere from €10-20 per day for a standard rental car, and if you’re after something fancy or unique, the price can go up from there.
The good news is that many rental car companies offer discounts for early bookings or longer rental periods, so be sure to shop around and compare prices to find the best deal – I’ve found Discover Cars is the easiest way to do this.
If you’re visiting during the summer season from late May to September, prices might be a little higher – so be sure to book well ahead to get the best deal.
Tip: Having the car for a few more days will mean the daily price will drop – so five days instead of just two or three might only cost a tiny bit extra.
Where should I rent a car from in Zurich?
If you’re looking to rent a car in Zurich, there are many pick-up options:
- Zurich Airport – many rental car companies have desks there, and it’s a great option if you’re arriving from another country. Plus, you can jump right into your rental car and hit the road as soon as you land!
- Around the city – This can be a good choice if you’re already in Zurich and want to avoid the hassle of traveling to the airport.
- Your hotel – they’ll help you rent a car, and even have it dropped off at your accommodation. But beware, they may add a commission charge to the price.
Wherever you choose to pick up, booking ahead through a comparison site will get you the lowest price. I like to use Discover Cars – you can book your car, and have it waiting at a convenient location for when you arrive.
What type of car is best to use in Zurich?
When it comes to choosing a rental car in Zurich, you should think about where you’re planning to drive.
If you’re sticking to the city, with perhaps some short day trips to nearby towns, a compact car like a Volkswagen Golf or similar may be a good choice. These cars are easier to use in the city, and you’ll find parking a breeze. They also have great fuel efficiency.
If you’re planning to explore the Swiss Alps or take longer road trips, it might be a good idea to rent a larger car or even an SUV. These will give you more power for winding mountain roads, and you’ll feel safer if the roads are a bit slippery. You’ll also have more space, so you and your fellow adventurers will be more comfortable.
Tip: Automatic cars are less common in Europe. If you need an automatic, make sure you book well ahead.
Is driving in Zurich difficult?
Zurich is a bustling city, and like any other city, the traffic can get heavy, especially during rush hour. It’s best to avoid driving in the city center during peak times. During the evenings and on the weekends, the traffic eases and driving is much smoother.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the streets in Zurich are narrow and winding. These can take some getting used to, so you’ll have to drive slowly and navigate carefully.
But don’t worry – once you get out of the city, you’ll find yourself driving in Switzerland plane sailing. Zurich is well-connected to Switzerland’s excellent road system, which makes going on day trips to the many nearby attractions super easy.
From the city, you can hit the highway and head out to explore the Swiss Alps, picturesque villages, and stunning lakes.
You’ll find that the roads in and around Zurich are well-maintained, and driving is a breeze with the scenic views along the way.
Is it a good idea to rent an electric car in Zurich?
Zurich has been actively promoting the use of electric vehicles, so if you’re environmentally conscious, renting an electric car is an excellent option.
The city has a well-established charging infrastructure, so you won’t have any issues finding charging stations. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the perks of using a quiet and efficient car.
However, keep in mind that electric cars can have a limited driving range.
If you plan on taking a long road trip, make sure to check the distance and charging stations on your route.
Some rental companies offer electric cars with a longer range, so it’s worth asking about that when making your booking.
Tip: Rental companies have been slow on the electric car uptake – so make sure you book ahead as an electric car might not be available on short notice.