BERN, SWITZERLAND – Swiss citizens are some of the world’s biggest fans of travel and with that in mind the federal government has just published a travel advisory app for iPhone and Android.
You can download it as of today: “itineris” is free and is published in German, French and Italian.
The app offers much of the same advice Swiss tourists have until now found on the FDFA (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) web site, but the information, kept current and with useful links, is now more readily available on travelers’ smart phones.
A word of caution if your smart phone is in English – by default the app goes to German. I wanted it in French, so had to temporarily change my phone settings.
Itineris is an addition to a service by the same name launched at the end of 2012 and which already has 25,000 users. The online platform offers a place where Swiss citizens can register their trips, list people they are traveling with and leave emergency contact numbers.
The foreign affairs office says that in addition:
“Travellers who need the assistance of a Swiss representation abroad can also use the app to find the relevant address details and opening times on Google Maps to contact the representation directly. In an emergency, they also have the option of contacting the FDFA Helpline 24/7 by phone at 0800 24 7 365 or by email. Since 2011, the FDFA helpline has answered some 60,000 enquiries, mainly concerning visa, marital status, citizenship and residents’ registration issues.”
Travel advisories that are up to date but assume you have some common sense
The country security advice is European and more particularly Swiss-specific, so Americans reading about “Special legal situations” in the US might be surprised to read that the laws are often based on more rigid moral principles than in Switzerland. “It is, for example, illegal to bath top or without a swimming suit (including children), to urinate out in the open or to photograph children partially unclothed (even at home).” As for carrying alcohol around without keeping it wrapped and out of public view, watch out!
There’s a special section on the risk of kidnapping in the Sahara and neighbouring countries and another advising you to skip the Gulf of Aden because of the danger of pirates.
If you’re going to Madagascar the FDFA suggests you stay in urban areas, but accepts that some people will travel further afield, so it cautions you about travel in three areas where armed gangs and government forces have clashed several times since June 2012.
Compared to some other countries’ traveler advisory services, the Swiss are relatively relaxed and appear to assume if you’re old enough to travel you’re probably smart enough to take care of yourself. The last word from Gerhard Brügger, head of the consular directorate services in Bern, at a press conference Thursday, was to point out that on any given day numerous Swiss nationals find themselves in emergency situations abroad, and that these latest innovations will not be able to prevent such situations.
He noted that last year alone, the FDFA provided consular assistance to Swiss citizens involved in thousands of incidents, primarily accidents, illnesses, deaths, and arrests.
He also stressed that good preparation and planning are the best form of travel insurance.