Only 160 square kilometres (a little smaller than Washington DC), little Liechtenstein is the 4th smallest country in Europe. The head of state, Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein, is a very successful banker who presides over the family business — leading the government of the only remaining absolute monarchy in Europe. He has, though, left the day-to-day running of the country to his son Prince Alois.
The little nation’s major claim to fame is money, and heaps of it. The 35,000 citizens enjoy the highest per capita income in the world. Liechtenstein’s banking system has been criticised for enabling money laundering but the country won international respect in 2009 for moving to improve transparency in its bank sector
The principality, however, has much more to offer than just money. Wedged between Switzerland and Austria, this Alpine country by the River Rhine has been blessed with unbelievably stunning scenery and excellent out-door sporting opportunities.
Passports & visas
Liechtenstein is not a member of the European Union, but is a member of EFTA – along with Switzerland, Norway and Iceland – and of the EEA (the European Economic Area, meaning EFTA minus Switzerland.)
The same visa requirements apply for Liechtenstein as for Switzerland, meaning passports are required for citizens of the USA and Canada. Tourist visas are not required for stays up to 90 days. Business visas are required.
Obtaining a US passport
The US Government Website is where to start.
Liechtenstein has an embassy in Washington DC. However, consular affairs are administered through the Swiss consulates in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Boston.
There is no US embassy in Liechtenstein. US citizens living in or travelling to Liechtenstein are encouraged to register with the US Embassy in Bern or with the consulates in Zürich or Geneva. For contact details, see our tourist information for Switzerland
Culture and History
The official website of the Principality of Liechtenstein provides a good overview of the country’s history.
Currency in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein participates in a customs union with Switzerland and the Swiss franc (CHF) is the national currency. Euros are generally accepted as well. There are plenty of ATMs.
Driving in Liechtenstein
Driving in Liechtenstein is safe and roads are well maintained, but as can be expected in mountainous terrain, often narrow and winding. Liechtenstein takes road safety seriously, so watch out for speed cameras. Parking in the capital, Vaduz, and elsewhere is easy.
Electricity in Liechtenstein
Electricity is standard continental European 220 or 230 volts. They use the 3-pin socket common in Switzerland, but the standard European 2-pin socket functions as well.
Emergency Numbers in Liechtenstein
Dial 117 for the police and 144 for medical emergencies. You can also use the standard European emergency number 112 (covering police, medical and fire services).
Etiquette in Liechtenstein
Liechtensteiners tend to be rather formal in business, often using titles and surnames. It’s a rather conservative country (women did not obtain the right to vote until 1984.) The axiom punctuality is the policy of princes, is very true here. Most people speak English, but making an effort to speak some German is appreciated.
Public Hours in Liechtenstein
Working hours: M – F, 8 am – noon and 1:30 – 5 pm. Banking hours are approximately the same. Shops are generally open M – F, 8 am – 6:30 pm and Saturday, 8 am – 4 pm. Thursdays are usually long days, with shops staying open until 9 pm. Stores are closed on Sundays, except souvenir shops during the tourist season.
Safety in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is one of the safest countries in the world, with a very low crime rate. Do take normal precautions against pick-pocketing.
Time Zone in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is on Central European time (CET), an hour ahead of GMT.
Tipping in Liechtenstein
Service charges are included in most bills, and further tipping is not required (but surely appreciated.)
Weather in Liechtenstein
The climate is continental with cold, snowy winters and pleasantly moderate summers.
Liechtenstein has no commercial airport. However, the airports of Zürich, Altenrhein and Freidrichshafen are all within an hour’s drive.
Liechtenstein Bus operates from the stations in the Swiss towns of Sargans and Buchs, and the Austrian town Feldkirch. There’s a relatively extensive bus system within the country.
Car Rental in Liechtenstein
Avis, Europcar, Nolo and Sixt are all represented in Liechtenstein.
For a small country, Liechtenstein has a great number of taxi companies, ensuring safe and efficient transport within the country and to international destinations.
Health care and medical facilities are very good. But there is only one hospital in the country, so a transfer to a hospital in Switzerland may be likely.
Nopermit is required to carry medication in your luggage. However, you should pack your medication in its original containers and/or have your doctor’s prescription with you. Customs officials will have to be satisfied that you are not importing more than would be necessary for your personal use, taking into account the drug type and length of stay (for no more than three months).
Liechtenstein offers every type of lodging from hostels and mountain cabins to private B&Bs, romantic hotels and lovely resorts. There’s even a stunningly beautiful camping site. Lodgings can be found scattered throughout the tiny country, but the majority is in or near the capital, Vaduz. All accommodations are very clean and well appointed. You can browse here for good deals on Leichtenstein Hotels
Main Sights in Liechtenstein
In Vaduz, you can have a look at some very good museums and also sample the goods in the prince’s wine cellars. If you like walking across borders, the old covered foot-bridge connecting Liechtenstein and Switzerland is a must. In the tourist offices at Vaduz and in Malbun, you can buy a passport stamp (CHF 3), highly sought-after now that border controls have all but vanished in most of Europe.
However, Liechtenstein’s gorgeous Alpine location means nature and sports are the highlights of any visit: superb skiing, hiking and beautiful walks abound. The Via Alpina – a series of connected walking trails through the eight Alpine countries – takes you through Liechtenstein on rocky mountain paths high above the Rhine River Valley.
- New Year’s Day (1 January)
- Saint Berchtold’s Day (2 January)
- Epiphany (6 January)
- Candlemas (2 February)
- St Joseph’s Day (19 March)
- Good Friday – Easter Monday
- International Labour Day (1 May)
- Ascension Day (13 May)
- Whit Sunday and Monday (23 – 25 May)
- Corpus Christi Day (3 June)
- Liechtenstein State Celebration – National Day (15 August)
- Nativity of Our Lady – Mary’s birthday (8 September)
- Immaculate Conception Day (8 December)
- All Saints’ Day (1 November)
- Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephens Day (24 – 26 December)
- New Year’s Eve (31 December)
Liechtenstein’s country code is 423. To call a number in Liechtenstein from the USA, dial 011 + 423 + the local number.
Useful Country Codes:
- USA and Canada 1
- UK 44
- Republic of Ireland 353
- Australia 61
- New Zealand 64
Returning to the USA – Customs, VAT & Duty Free
Returning to the USA, you’ll need to declare everything you’ve brought back form abroad. You may be asked to fill out a Customs Declaration Form provided by the airline or cruise ship. Keep your sales slips and try to pack the things you’ll need to declare separately. Signs in the Customs area contain helpful information about how to clear Customs. Complete information is available at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website
Value Added Tax (VAT or IVA) Refund Information
From 1 January 2011, VAT rates in Liechtenstein will be increased to align with those of Switzerland. Also effective as of 1 January 2011, Switzerland will temporarily raise VAT rates. Standard VAT will increase from 7.6 % to 8 %, reduced VAT from 2.4 % to 2.5 % and accommodation services VAT will increase from 3.6 % to 3.8 %.
Residents of Canada and the USA can claim a VAT refund for goods purchased in participating shops, as long as the minimum purchase is 300 CHF. VAT is not refunded for services (hotels, restaurants, etc). The nearest refund office is at the railroad station in Buchs (Switzerland). For more information see the Global Refund website.
If you are a U.S. or Canadian resident, you may qualify for a personal exemption which allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying customs duties, excise taxes, or Value Added Tax.
Written by Anne-Sophie Redisch for EuropeUpClose.com