SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

COST OF LIVING

What are the current rules for Swiss cross-border shopping in Germany?

For many Swiss residents who live close (and not so close) to Germany, crossing the border to shop is a regular occurrence. From customs to Covid, here are the current rules.

An outlet of German supermarket chain Rewe seen at night
Want to shop in Germany? These are some rules that you need to know. Photo by Michael Förtsch on Unsplash

Cross-border commerce makes up an important part of the economy in both Switzerland and Germany. 

Lower prices and greater variety across the German border have prompted Swiss residents to head north to shop for decades. 

For many border residents, the notion that they are crossing an international border is often soon forgotten. 

READ MORE: 13 things that are actually ‘cheaper’ in Switzerland

Indeed, the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020 was the first instance in many people’s lifetimes when the border was closed. 

However, while cross-border shopping is a part of life for tens of thousands of border residents, there are still rules to be followed. 

Covid-19 measures have been put in place, while customs in both Germany and Switzerland have rules which impact the amount of tax that must be paid. 

Covid rules

In Germany, measures are put in place at both the federal and state level. 

As the only German state to share a border with Switzerland is Baden-Württemberg, these rules will be considered. 

Entering the state for less than a day is allowed and you will not need to fill in an entry form to register your visit. 

However, all entrants to Germany over the age of six must be in compliance with the 3G rule. This requires everyone to be either vaccinated, recovered or have tested negative for Covid. 

The negative test must be within the past 72 hours (PCR) or 48 hours (antigen) and must be in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish. 

Your Swiss Covid certificate will be accepted for entry. 

All shopping and hospitality venues require a FFP2 mask. Bars and restaurants must close at 10:30pm. 

From Wednesday, January 12th, visiting bars and restaurants will require compliance with the 2G-Plus rule.

This rule requires people to either have received a booster vaccination or to be fully vaccinated and in possession of a negative test. Those who have recently recovered from Covid can also enter provided they show a negative test. 

Unvaccinated people and those who have not recently recovered from the virus are shut out of non-essential retail stores such as clothing and gift shops. 

You will need to show your Covid certificate to prove your status at non-essential stores. Your Swiss Covid certificate will be accepted in Germany. 

The unvaccinated can still shop at essential stores, which includes pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, animal feed markets or hardware and garden stores.

More information is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: The new rules Swiss cross-border shoppers in Germany should know

Swiss customs rules

When bringing goods into Switzerland, you will need to pay VAT if the amount exceeds 300 francs. 

While border patrols are rare, those who make a habit of exceeding this amount – even if it is for goods for personal use – run the risk of falling foul of the authorities. 

There are several different rules in place for bringing in different items, including meats, cheeses and alcohol. 

The limits for each of these items can be found here. 

Keep in mind that while the CHF300 applies now, Switzerland is set to reduce this to CHF50 in the future – although final approval of this has not yet been secured. 

Tax change: Switzerland to introduce 50 franc limit on cross-border shopping

German customs rules

Swiss residents are entitled to tax free shopping in Germany, as Switzerland is a non-EU country. 

In order to qualify for the tax exemption, you must bring the goods back to Switzerland with you. 

The specific rules for this are laid out by German Customs here, but they need to be either in your carry on or checked baggage, or in a car that you are travelling in personally. 

These rules are to ensure people are buying the goods for themselves rather than intending to sell them on. 

The tax exemption only applies to purchases over 50 euros. 

You will need to pay the total amount, before asking for reimbursement once you have exported the goods. 

More information on how to get the money reimbursed can be found in English at the following link. 

 

Member comments

  1. What are re-entry to Switzerland Covid rules for Swiss residents and non-residents, vaccinated and not, are they the same as normal entry by land rules?

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

COST OF LIVING

Aldi versus Lidl: Which retailer is cheaper in Switzerland?

At a time when prices for food and other consumer goods are going up in Switzerland, it is good to know which retailer has the best deals.

Aldi versus Lidl: Which retailer is cheaper in Switzerland?

Recently, we published an article where prices of some goods were compared at Switzerland’s two largest supermarkets, Migros ad Coop.

Overall, Migros had somewhat lower prices for 16 comparable products — 94.93 Swiss francs versus 100.49 francs at Coop — though some products were cheaper at the latter retailer.

READ MORE: Migros versus Coop: Which Swiss supermarket has cheaper groceries?

What about Aldi and Lidl?

The two are commonly considered as cheapest supermarkets in Switzerland. Unlike Migros and Coop, which are both Swiss, Aldi and Lidl are German; the former has 200 branches around the country, whilst Lidl has 150.

Which of the two is cheaper?

While it is impossible to examine all the merchandise that each of the retailers carries, The Local compared the price of several random products just to get the sense of what products are cheaper / more expensive where.

Overall, some items were more expensive at one or another, while a few cost the same at both. All the products we looked at have the same weight and are of comparable quality.

First, here are products that have the same price tag at both Lidl and Aldi:

  • 1 cucumber: 1.29 Swiss francs (CHF)
  • Signal-brand toothpaste: 3.39 CHF
  • Package of spaghetti: 2.39 CHF
  • 1 kg organic (bio) carrots: 2.79 CHF

So far so good, but other foods we compared differ in price between the two stores, with Lidl ‘winning’  with only one item among the ones we we looked at: 10 eggs sell for 2.39 CHF, versus 3.29 CHF at Lidl.

This is where Lidl beats Aldi’s prices: two chicken breasts (around 500 gr) cost 6.99 CHF at Lidl, versus 7.25 CHF at Aldi; French baguette bread, 1.29 CHF versus 1.49 CHF; butter for cooking 3.19 CHF versus 3.69 CHF; and hard Swiss cheese 2.49 CHF versus 3.75 CHF.

Keep in mind, however, that these are ‘regular’ prices and don’t take into account special deals that both chains regularly offer on selected products. Among those, Aldi could beat its competitor on some products, and vice-versa.

You can find deals and other prices on these sites:

Aldi

Lidl

Overall, both Aldi and Lidl are cheaper than Migros and Coop, though some people prefer to shop at the two Swiss chains, regardless of higher prices.

“Is it true that people don’t like to buy too cheap”, one social media user noted, while another responded this is because “some people treat Aldi/Lidl customers like peasants”.

Sometimes, shopping at more expensive Swiss supermarkets is a matter of family tradition.

“My Mom bought groceries at Coop, so I guess I am used to the brands …Also Coop and Migros just seem ‘fresher’ to me.

However, for those looking strictly to save money, the two German retailers beat their Swiss counterparts.

As one user put it, they “dropped from spending 60-70 francs per week for groceries to 40 francs per week. Definitely worth it”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s supermarkets

Let us know which Swiss supermarkets you prefer to shop at, and why. You can email your comments to [email protected]

SHOW COMMENTS