In Switzerland, license plates are assigned based on experience, thus low number plates usually indicate someone who has been driving a long time (i.e., an old person). Larger cantons (GE, ZH, etc.) have more cars and so the numbers on the plates extend much higher.
Very low numbers (e.g., “GE 3”) usually are assigned to taxis. On government cars have a single letter (instead of the canton): “A” for administration, “M” for military. There are no personalized license plates.
Diplomatic plates are all over Geneva. They have CD in a blue square on the left of the plate.
Each canton (like a state) has its own abbreviation. When you are in the parking lot of a ski resort, you are easily able to tell where the other skiers live in Switzerland. I find looking at them is helpful in learning the coat of arms for each canton.
The abbreviations for the cantons (listed in German, French Italian and English) are:
- AG = Aargau, Argovie, Argovia, Aargau
- AI = Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieur, Appenzello Interno, Appenzell Inner Rhodes
- AR = Appenzell-Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Rhodes-Extérieur, Appenzello Externo, Appenzell Outer Rhodes
- BE = Bern, Berne, Berna, Bern
- BL = Basel-Landschaft, Bâle-Campagne, Basilea, Basel
- BS = Basel-Stadt, Bâle-Ville, Basilea Città, Basel City
- FR = Freiburg, Fribourg, Friburgo, Fribourg
- GE = Genf, Genève, Ginevra, Geneva
- GL = Glarus, Glaris, Glarona, Glarus
- GR = Graubünden, Grisons, Grigioni, Grisons
- JU = Jura, Jura, Giura, Jura
- LU = Luzern, Lucerne, Lucerna, Lucerne
- NE = Neuenburg, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel
- NW = Nidwalden, Nidwald, Nidvaldo, Nidwalden
- OW = Obwalden, Obwald, Obvaldo, Obwalden
- SG = St. Gallen, St-Gall, San Gallo, St. Gall
- SH = Schaffhausen, Schaffhouse, Sciaffusa, Schaffhausen
- SO = Solothurn, Soleure, Soletta, Solothurn
- SZ = Schwyz, Schwytz, Svitto, Schwyz
- TG = Thurgau, Thurgovie, Thurgovia, Thurgau
- TI = Tessin, Tessin, Ticino, Ticino
- UR = Uri, Uri, Uri, Uri
- VD = Waadt, Vaud, Vaud, Vaud
- VS = Wallis, Valais, Vallese, Valais
- ZG = Zug, Zoug, Zugo, Zug
- ZH = Zürich, Zurich, Zurigo, Zurich
Often, you see EU (European Union) plates in Geneva. It’s understandable given our proximity to France. Sometimes, you even see foreign plates.
I once saw US plates while I was riding on the bus. Sorry, I couldn’t get a photo.
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A low number plate in Switzerland has little to nothing to do with the driver’s driving experience. 1), you can get a low number plate like I did by simply walking into the registration office and being handed one, irrespective of how much driving experience you have. 2), low number plates are handed down from one family member to another. They can be given to first year drivers. 3), capitalism exists and no matter what the offices may tell you, wealthy individuals, including recent expat residents, seem to frequently have very low numbers.
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“I once saw US plates while I was riding on the bus.”
Okay, so you can’t use div tags to play with the size of text in WordPress comments… Good to know.
In the 1960’s at Geneva if you had a number plate in the 40 thousand range you had CD status. The one on our Rover 90 was GE 41170. “Les quarante milles” plates indicated diplomatic status, but you had a separate small CD plate as well as the usual CH country plate for Confederation Helvétique. Happy days, indeed with it being 12 CHF to £1 sterling, CHF 4.30 to $1 US and gold was fixed at $25 per ounce!