The Lake Constance region offers so many highlights and sights that it doesn’t always have to be Lake Constance itself. Just a few kilometres into the surrounding countryside – and you will discover completely new facets! Because four countries meet here at one “corner”, there are a few things to keep in mind. Don’t worry: We have the overview for you.
Languages in the region
German is spoken throughout the region. However, the locals make no secret of their dialects. That’s why you can hear Swabian, Bavarian, Vorarlberg and Schwyzerdütsch all around the lake – and in different local variants, too! But at least native speakers need not worry. German ears usually follow very well.
But because Lake Constance attracts millions of guests from all over the world, visitors without German language skills need not worry. You can communicate with most hosts and service providers in English without any problems.
Besides, you can even hear the close ties of the region in the language. For example, dialects are spoken in Vorarlberg that are not very familiar in the rest of Austria – but very much so in Switzerland or Swabia!
Currencies in the region
There is nothing to gloss over here: As we all know, money is not only the end of friendship, it also gets complicated! At least when four nations form a unique region whose cohesion and attractiveness do not end at national borders.
In Germany and Austria the euro (€) is the official currency, whereas in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein it is the Swiss franc (CHF). So you have to convert here. As a rule, however, both currencies are accepted in the border areas. In all four countries you can of course pay by credit card. However, there are many smaller shops and restaurants where only cash payment is possible.
Tickets for public transport that are bought directly in the vehicle (for example, for the ferry or local transport) can often only be paid for in cash. So it doesn’t hurt to always carry a few notes and coins when you are out and about.
Passport controls at the border
It feels almost borderless: If you travel in the international Lake Constance region, it is very likely that you will cross a national border – sometimes even several times a day. You could hardly wish for more international togetherness than not even noticing these border crossings!
But: While the crossings between Germany and Austria are not checked, random passport checks are carried out at the Swiss and Liechtenstein borders. Guests are usually greeted in a friendly manner and often waved through quickly. Nevertheless, you should always carry your identity card or passport with you when travelling around the lake.
However, another reason for controls, also between Germany and Austria, at the lake can be the “Pickerl”, which are obligatory in Austria and Switzerland when using certain roads. This applies especially to the busy motorways. Even if nobody likes to think about the vignettes, it’s worth it. Because if you are on the road without one and you are checked, the officials unfortunately don’t take a joke. There are hefty fines!
Roaming in the four-country corner
On the subject of passport controls, we raved that due to the lack of borders, you usually don’t even notice that you’re travelling from one country to another. That’s true – at least as long as you don’t look at your mobile phone. Because the four countries are so close to each other, mobile phones often automatically book themselves into international networks.
Fortunately, however, European users have been subject to uniform roaming tariffs for 27 EU countries since June 2017. Germany, Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein are among them – so guests from the EU do not incur any additional costs for making calls or surfing via the mobile data connection.
One exception is Switzerland – right in the heart of Europe, but unfortunately not part of the EU! So if, for example, a mobile phone with a SIM card from Germany logs into the Swiss network or vice versa, this can unfortunately lead to high roaming costs.
Our recommendation: Set the selection of the mobile network on your phone to “manual”. In the system settings of Android and IOS, it is thus possible to prevent automatic switching to foreign networks.
Schedule of fines in the four-country corner
The countries in the DACH region have no differences when it comes to fining traffic offenders. Why should they? Anyone caught drink-driving, for example, rightly has to expect severe penalties. Unfortunately, however, in many cases the legislators do not agree on the threshold values above which penalties are due. Most of us are probably aware that there are general speed limits in all European countries except Germany.
Where and from when tolls apply – that could be more difficult. The Swiss and Austrians, of all people, don’t take a joke when it comes to this topic. The Swiss at least make it quite easy: every vehicle that drives on a motorway needs an annual vignette. Things are more complicated in Austria, where the “Pickerl” costs different amounts depending on the vehicle. There are also annual, 2-montas and 10-day vignettes. And some mountain passes and tunnels have to be paid extra! Liechtenstein is better: there are no tolls at all. But they don’t have their own motorway either.
By the way, it is not a good idea to simply ignore a traffic ticket from abroad. Fines from Austria are enforced in Germany from as little as 25 euros – plus any administrative costs incurred. “Fines” from Switzerland – as the notices are called there – cannot be collected abroad without further ado, as Switzerland is not part of the EU. Nevertheless, you should not ignore these “fines” either. Otherwise you might get a nasty surprise the next time you visit. The offences do not expire quickly and every routine check (passport or driving licence) reveals the faux pas.
So our recommendation can only be: Adhere to the applicable local traffic regulations! Or even better: we will take care of your mobility during your stay. So you don’t have to worry about parking tickets and fees. [Link to Mobil vor Ort: Fahrservice oder Busanbieter?]
If you still want to get lost in the jungle of paragraphs, you can find a good overview at the ADAC, for example.
Four-country region of Lake Constance At a glance
Where is the nearest airport? Where are the national borders? Where are the sights? Our map of the four-country region of Lake Constance provides an overview.Download now