‘Swiss crush’: Shoppers from Switzerland head to France after stores close

Many Swiss residents now unable to shop for "non-essential" products in Switzerland are heading over the border en masse to make their purchases in France.

'Swiss crush': Shoppers from Switzerland head to France after stores close
Border crossing between Geneva and French town of Thonex. Photo by AFP

Shops in Switzerland, which sell goods deemed as “non-essential” by the Federal Council had to close their doors on Monday.

“Retail tourism” from Switzerland is not a new phenomenon — many residents living close to the borders often go shopping in the neighbouring countries, as prices there are cheaper.

But now people from Switzerland shop in France out of necessity, and not just to save money, Tribune de Genève (TDG) newspaper reported on Monday.

“I'm looking for snowshoes. Usually, I would have shopped in Switzerland, but now I don't have a choice”, a customer shopping at the Cap Bernard shopping centre in the industrial zone of Ville-la-Grand, located 11 km from Geneva, told the newspaper.

 “I’m not used to shopping in France. I even had to put my GPS on to find the store because I had never been here before”, the customer added.

READ MORE: Is Switzerland 'pilfering' health workers from France during pandemic?

Other shoppers from Switzerland also told TDG they came to France because the item they needed is no longer allowed to be sold in Switzerland — such as a TV set, which is not considered to be an essential item right now.

French retailers said they expect an even greater number of Swiss customers over the weekend, even though they must close their businesses at 6 pm, according to the new curfew rules.

“At the end of the week, we expect the Swiss crush”, one retailer said.

Even though France now requires people from outside the EU to present a negative coronavirus test upon entry, Switzerland is excluded from this obligation as it is a member of the Schengen area.

Meanwhile, retailers in Switzerland are confused by the rules established by the Swiss government regarding goods that can and cannot be sold in stores.

READ MORE: 'An absurd situation': Swiss retailers left baffled by shop closing rules 

Curiously, items such as perfumes, cosmetics, kitchen utensils, tableware, envelopes, house plants and flowers, photo equipment, and gardening tools are also classified by the government as essential goods.

On the other hand, light bulbs and electronics are not. 

Mike Schüpbach, a legal expert at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) conceded the government’s list “is a compromise that may seem contradictory to some”. 

Member comments

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


Can you go shopping from Switzerland to neighbouring countries?

Are Swiss residents allowed to go shopping in border regions now, and under what conditions?

A sign on the Swiss border with France.
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The so-called ‘shopping tourism’ is very popular among Switzerland’s public, as food and many other goods are cheaper in neighbour countries. 

At certain times during the Covid-19 pandemic, crossing the border for non-essential reasons, including shopping, was banned, but far fewer restrictions are in place now.

This is what you should know before you go shopping across the border(s):


As the Lombardy region of Italy is in the red zone since Monday due to a surge in the number of Covid cases, Ticino officials asked federal authorities to strengthen controls at the border.

They noted that “already a year ago, Ticino suffered the first pandemic wave precisely because of the free movement of people from Lombardy”.

This measure, intended primarily to stop Italians from coming into Switzerland, could also impact Swiss residents returning from a shopping trip.

However, Karin Keller Sutter, the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, said Switzerland is not planning to implement systematic checks at the Italian borders.

So while theoretically a jaunt across the border is possible, a ‘red zone’ classification means that shops, along with restaurants, schools and museums, are closed.

This is also a situation in Piedmont, another region that borders Ticino.

The only people with unrestricted access both ways are Italian cross-border workers who are employed in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Which of Switzerland’s neighbouring countries can you enter – and what are the rules?


Swiss residents are not prohibited from entry into France and do not have to quarantine. But arrivals to France will need to provide a negative test result which is not older than 72 hours. 

However, cross-border commuters and people who reside within 30 kilometres of a border area do not need to provide evidence of a test. The evidence that can prove that your residence is within the authorised distance includes an ‘attestation de domicile’ from your local commune or an official envelope with your address on it.

But some shoppers have said that the 30-km requirement is not systematically checked or enforced, because smaller border crossings are unmanned on the French and Swiss side.

In fact, Swiss residents go to France not just for shopping but also to get Covid tests, as they are cheaper than in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Why are Swiss residents going to France to get tested?

Keep in mind too that France has a 6 pm curfew, so you have to return to Switzerland before that time.


Current regulations require a 10 to 14-day quarantine for all arrivals, including from Switzerland.

The only exemptions are for urgent family matters or work, including the cross-border employees.

So no shopping in Austria for the time being.


Travel into Germany from Switzerland is discouraged but not banned. This includes tourist and shopping travel, although tourist accommodation is not allowed to open at present in Germany. 

While you may be allowed to enter, you may also be required to quarantine. 

Whether or not you will have to quarantine depends on which of the 16 German states you are entering. Click here for up to date official information

Both Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the two states closest to Switzerland, do not consider shopping to be a valid ‘exception’ – meaning that anyone entering to go shopping will be required to quarantine, which is a great way to spoil a shopping trip. 

If the German state requires you to quarantine, it will last for ten days but can be ended early from the fifth day with a negative test result. 

People entering from Switzerland must have a negative test result of less than 48 hours and must register online

Anyone who visits the state of Thüringen/Thuringia will need to quarantine on their return to Switzerland

Note: This page was updated on March 16th to reflect the updated policies of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, both of which consider shopping and tourism not to be valid reasons to avoid coronavirus quarantine. 

Editor’s note: Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.