Electricity, voltage and appliances in Switzerland
Depending on your apartment size and usage level, electricity is relatively cheap in Switzerland. It is billed directly to the apartment occupant, usually on a quarterly basis.
Voltage in Switzerland for small appliances and electrical equipment up to 2,200 watts is 230 volts/50 hertz (single phase). Larger electrical items, such as cookers, washers and dryers, need a three phase (3 X 400 volt) supply. Appliances needing 110 volts will require a transformer.
If you are planning on moving your appliances to Switzerland, there are several things to consider first. In the end, it may be cheaper and more practical to buy new electrical appliances once you arrive.
The back of an electrical appliance will list both the required current and the frequency. Electrical appliances from the US are usually 60Hz. In Switzerland it is 50 Hz. US appliances marked as 50/60 may or may not work in Switzerland. To use foreign appliances you will have to use an adapter or change your plugs. Check that laptop transformers have European voltage capacity. Since electrical transformers and adapters are relatively expensive in Switzerland it is advisable to buy them before you arrive.
Many electronics, like TVs and DVD players, have regional restrictions and will not always work in other countries. Make sure to check your device compatibility before packing it up and shipping it to Switzerland.
Tenants need permission to install appliances or white goods, such as a washing machine or tumble drier, in apartments. In most cases, a clause in the lease contract will state that the tenant will bear the costs if there is water damage. A professional tradesman must connect the appliance, or else insurance will not cover any damages, should they occur.
Connecting to telephone, television and internet services in Switzerland
There are several telecommunication service providers in Switzerland, including Sunrise, Swisscom, Cablecom and Orange. Setup time frames vary depending on your provider, but they often require several weeks, so it is advisable to apply for telecommunications services as soon as possible before moving in to your new home.
Swiss radio and television license fees
Billag is commissioned by the Swiss government to collect license fees from any household that owns a device that can receive radio or TV. This includes computers and smartphones! If you are staying in Switzerland for longer than 3 months, you are obliged to register with Billag within 14 days of arrival. Fees can be paid annually or quarterly and include all devices. There is a hefty fine for households discovered without a license. Billag is paid separately from standard TV network connection charges.
Connecting to the internet
The speed of your internet will determine its cost. There are free wifi hotspots all over Switzerland, and there are a few internet cafes in larger cities as well.
Most apartment buildings have basic cable TV included in their rates. This will provide a standard range of around 30 non-HD channels, in various languages. Most tenants decide to connect an additional TV package from another provider, to receive a better selection of channels and higher quality screen resolution. If you want to install a satellite dish, you need permission from the renting agency or landlord and you must cover installation and removal costs yourself.
Fixed line telephone connections
When taking over an apartment, the previous tenant's name is needed in order to connect your new phone line. If the connection was terminated six months before the apartment was vacated, there was no previous connection, or the building is new, an authorised contractor must carry out the installation work.
Note: Switzerland's country code is +41. Include the area code when dialling numbers within Switzerland.
A range of contract and prepaid mobile phone options are available in Switzerland. To apply for a mobile phone contract, documents, including passport, work permit, proof of residence, a bank account, and credit card details may be required.
Shops, supermarkets and kiosks sell prepaid mobile cards and cheap international calling cards. Yallo is one of the companies offering cheap mobile national and international calls.