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Old 15.10.2021, 10:27
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Tell me about: Border Crossings

We haven't got our car yet, but are looking now. I expect to have one within a month or so.

So I've been telling people, "I'm looking for a car this week."

That said, several folks we've spoken to have said "Once you have a car here, you can go across the border and shop in France, it's only ten minutes away."

An equal amount of folks have cautioned, "When you drive back from France, they will check your car for shopping bags/food/purchases."

Mind you, not one person has said "What kind of car are you getting?" or "Be careful, Swiss traffic laws are strict." or "Gas prices are insane." or even "Swiss drivers are all excellent/sh!t." which would be the responses that I would expect in most places. Nope, pretty much every comment has been about cross border shopping, and I haven't said a word about crossing the border or shopping to any of them, just that I'm looking for a car.

Naturally, I am now curious about this whole border crossing by car, and how it relates to shopping, brushes with the law, who exactly "they" are, what are the legalities involved, what people actually do (as laws on speeding seem to be pushed to 10kph above, and humans usually push limits), are there differences in crossing times at different spots, what happens if I cross one of those back roads that appear on the maps near my house, does time of day matter, has COVID played a factor, are there places I should go or avoid, are there any major driving differences or rule changes when crossing (drive from Ireland to Northern Ireland and there's a lot of changes, crossing any US state border can lead to different laws and styles and so on). Are there any stickers or passes that I need for my car?

Basically, I have never crossed the border from Switzerland to France before (although many years ago, a friend of mine and I rented a car and drove from Verona to Munich, and I seem to remember that we had to buy a sticker at a gasoline station or post office as soon as we got to Switzerland, and display it in our window), and seeing as pretty much every comment about the car purchase involved folks giving me a five second opinion, without any detail, about going to France, I'd like to know the realities of the situation as well as hear your stories.

As always, thanks!
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Old 15.10.2021, 10:37
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

I don’t have time to go into details now but basically there are restrictions as to how much stuff you can bring into Switzerland without having to pay tax on them.

There is a limit of 300chf per person per day (likely to be reduced to 50 soon) and maximum amounts of stuff such as meat, alcohol etc.

The guards at the border (or nearby) randomly stop and search cars in order to check whether they are adhering go these limits. They then issue fines for any transgressions on top of the duty due on the produce.

This should help

https://www.ch.ch/en/how-clear-perso...chased-abroad/

But there are many threads on this topic if you do a search.
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Old 15.10.2021, 10:40
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

Lots of people cross the borders both ways for work and to shop. The sticker is a vignette - costs 40 francs which allows you to drive on all Swiss motorways for a year. Since many crossings are on or near a motorway it makes sense to get one. If you can wait to try cross border shopping until December when the new stickers for 2022 come out you'll get 13 months out of it. Will be available at the border crossings and also many garages will have them on sale from December as well.

Different foodstuffs, more variety and often cheaper prices are the reason people shop across the border. There are limits to what you can bring back

https://www.ezv.admin.ch/ezv/en/home...d-tobacco.html

You may or may not get stopped.
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Old 15.10.2021, 10:40
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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I don’t have time to go into details now but basically there are restrictions as to how much stuff you can bring into Switzerland without having to pay tax on them.

There is a limit of 300chf per person per day (likely to be reduced to 50 soon) and maximum amounts of stuff such as meat, alcohol etc.

The guards at the border (or nearby) randomly stop and search cars in order to check whether they are adhering go these limits. They then issue fines for any transgressions on top of the duty due on the produce.

This should help

https://www.ch.ch/en/how-clear-perso...chased-abroad/

But there are many threads on this topic if you do a search.
Thanks - The search I did came up with several from around 2008 and the most recent from 2016, so I figured things may have changed.
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Old 15.10.2021, 10:49
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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Lots of people cross the borders both ways for work and to shop. The sticker is a vignette - costs 40 francs which allows you to drive on all Swiss motorways for a year. Since many crossings are on or near a motorway it makes sense to get one. If you can wait to try cross border shopping until December when the new stickers for 2022 come out you'll get 13 months out of it. Will be available at the border crossings and also many garages will have them on sale from December as well.

Different foodstuffs, more variety and often cheaper prices are the reason people shop across the border. There are limits to what you can bring back

https://www.ezv.admin.ch/ezv/en/home...d-tobacco.html

You may or may not get stopped.
How long does a stop take generally? In North America, as a student, we often used to drive from upstate New York to Canada and back, and most back roads took no more than five minutes, really just a chat with the border guard. Then when my daughter and I went to Niagara Falls three years ago, the crossing time had jumped to roughly an hour.

When I cross, should I plan to be stopped both ways, and how long will it take - eg my kid is still at school, and when she goes back after lunch, if I cross the border for some reason, spend an hour living the highlife of Divonne-les-Bains, and then head back, will I get home before 4PM, or should I plan to build in more time, just in case I get stopped (whether I've shopped or not)?
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Old 15.10.2021, 10:57
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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How long does a stop take generally?
Chances of one getting stopped are very low, 1000's of cars cross border everyday and border control just does not have enough manpower to check everyone.

But in case you are stopped, I would guess it would depend on amount of luggage you are carrying, some times they may just check the bill and let you pass and in some cases they may want to inspect what is being carried.
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Old 15.10.2021, 10:58
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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How long does a stop take generally? In North America, as a student, we often used to drive from upstate New York to Canada and back, and most back roads took no more than five minutes, really just a chat with the border guard. Then when my daughter and I went to Niagara Falls three years ago, the crossing time had jumped to roughly an hour.

When I cross, should I plan to be stopped both ways, and how long will it take - eg my kid is still at school, and when she goes back after lunch, if I cross the border for some reason, spend an hour living the highlife of Divonne-les-Bains, and then head back, will I get home before 4PM, or should I plan to build in more time, just in case I get stopped (whether I've shopped or not)?
In July I drove with ZH plates through the main crossing in Basel to France and back later the same day. Though one has to drive at 5kph through the border, I never actually stopped either way.

And there are moves to reduce cross border shopping advantages with the curtailing of reclaiming VAT...
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Old 15.10.2021, 10:59
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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There is a limit of 300chf per person per day (likely to be reduced to 50 soon) and maximum amounts of stuff such as meat, alcohol etc.
My husband told me about that recently -- that the limit for bringing goods over the border without having to pay taxes might be 50 CHF soon. And then I think I saw something in the news that said it will go into effect soon.

Does anyone know when exactly that will go into effect?
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Old 15.10.2021, 11:02
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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My husband told me about that recently -- that the limit for bringing goods over the border without having to pay taxes might be 50 CHF soon. And then I think I saw something in the news that said it will go into effect soon.

Does anyone know when exactly that will go into effect?
Yes, good question...
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Old 15.10.2021, 11:07
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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My husband told me about that recently -- that the limit for bringing goods over the border without having to pay taxes might be 50 CHF soon. And then I think I saw something in the news that said it will go into effect soon.

Does anyone know when exactly that will go into effect?

While I do not know when it will go into effect, but if it does it does come in to force, it basically mean end to tax free shopping? in Germany they stopping providing forms to reclaim tax if invoice value is less than 50 Eur and if CH introduces 50 CHF limit, goodbye tax free shopping.
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Old 15.10.2021, 11:36
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

I understand your situation is specifically for crossing the border in a car, but just to share my own experience so far (I've been here 4 months now); I live practically on top of the border (but on the Swiss side) and therefore one of my nearest supermarkets is on the German side. When I shop there, I walk across (or I've taken the bus when I'm feeling lazy), and I have never been stopped.

Having said that, I am always conscious to stick to the limits of what you can bring back (1kg of meat / max 1 litre of alcohol spirit) just in case.

On the odd occasion I've taken the tram to the big German supermarket, but I have never bothered to go through the whole 'claim your tax back' process, mainly because there's always a huge line at the counter and I figure I've already saved money by shopping in euros (side note but not wanting to hijack - if anyone wants to share how that claiming-tax-back process actually works, that'd be great too)
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Old 15.10.2021, 11:44
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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if anyone wants to share how that claiming-tax-back process actually works, that'd be great too)
Yes, I am curious about this too!
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Old 15.10.2021, 11:54
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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While I do not know when it will go into effect, but if it does it does come in to force, it basically mean end to tax free shopping? in Germany they stopping providing forms to reclaim tax if invoice value is less than 50 Eur and if CH introduces 50 CHF limit, goodbye tax free shopping.
In Italy the minimum is EUR 150 (not counting VAT), in France it is EUR 170.

Tom
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Old 15.10.2021, 11:56
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

For the last twenty years, I go every Friday shopping in Germany.

Maybe four times a year a Customs officer asks if I am over the limit, only once did I have to get out of my car while they searched it. It was a very young guy doing the search watched by an older man, I assume it was on-the-job training.
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Old 15.10.2021, 11:59
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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My husband told me about that recently -- that the limit for bringing goods over the border without having to pay taxes might be 50 CHF soon. And then I think I saw something in the news that said it will go into effect soon.

Does anyone know when exactly that will go into effect?
There is a thread.
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Old 15.10.2021, 12:11
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

There are many unmanned border stations. When we lived in SG we shopped in AT all the time. In 5 years we were stopped once at the CH border and asked what we'd bought. But if you risk being over the limit and you get through the border without challenge, don't assume you are "home free." Guards sometimes roam around inside the border...
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Old 15.10.2021, 12:11
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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There is a thread.
Thanks. That thread is four pages of posts, and I just tried to speed-read through it a bit, but I still don't see it mentioned anywhere when that will go into effect. Maybe a date is just not known yet (?).
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Old 15.10.2021, 12:13
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

Cross-border shopping is overrated for me.

I went once with flatmates across the border to France and it was mostly meat and canned products from the brands they know.

I've found local butchers that make good prices when you buy 2-3 kg at once and we always buy fresh stuff to cook. Spices travel across the world since centuries ago. Also, we're not attached to some industrial cookies, cheese or jelly or other packaged products from a certain manufacturer, so no reason to travel for them.

Finally, the less I work every week is 100%, sometimes, 105 or 110% of weekly hours. I don't want to spend Saturday or Sunday driving to a shop. For some families this weekly cross-border trip is family time, not for us.
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Old 15.10.2021, 12:20
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

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Cross-border shopping is overrated for me.

I went once with flatmates across the border to France and it was mostly meat and canned products from the brands they know.

I've found local butchers that make good prices when you buy 2-3 kg at once and we always buy fresh stuff to cook. Spices travel across the world since centuries ago. Also, we're not attached to some industrial cookies, cheese or jelly or other packaged products from a certain manufacturer, so no reason to travel for them.

Finally, the less I work every week is 100%, sometimes, 105 or 110% of weekly hours. I don't want to spend Saturday or Sunday driving to a shop. For some families this weekly cross-border trip is family time, not for us.
I don't work, currently, but rather am responsible for the kid... so I don't expect to shop at busy times, if I do shop there at all.

I'm more curious about the whole border crossing process by car - with or without having shopped. I assume that any car with Swiss plates can be stopped, whether or not I've shopped and so I'm curious about the times involved as well as the procedures.

That said, I realize that we will likely have CD plates. Does this increase or decrease the likelihood of being stopped (I'm genuinely new to this stuff)?
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Old 15.10.2021, 12:25
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Re: Tell me about: Border Crossings

Depends where you live. When I shop in France, less than 10k from home- I just cannot believe all the cars with Fribourg and Bern number plates... of for loca Vaud and Neuchâtel, also short distance depending which part- but spending half a day and lots of petrol/diesel to come over to shop- just don't get it. Unless it is just 'to make a change' from time to time and get slightly different products. We cross to go to the cinema, the theatre, Conferences, walking, kayaking or swimming, etc. It is one of the things we enjoy living close to the border, is being able to hop in and out of 2 countries, and 2 very similar, and vet very different, cultures- and much cheaper restaurants.

Border posts are manned on 2 hours per day at random- most of the checks are done by patrols on all the minor roads that people got used to use to avoid ... border controls, and away from the border posts- here in the lay-by by the Mairie, or at the end of the village, of at 2 other lay-bys about 5-6km from border.
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