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.