Switzerland Travel Tips

Switzerland Travel Tips 2014-10-16T11:09:10+00:00

Switzerland is one of the countries people dream about going to their whole lives. I certainly did. Early in my childhood I became familiar about the Matterhorn/Alps, yodeling and the picturesque towns that Switzerland is always associated with. Switzerland is one of the smaller countries in Europe and is landlocked; surrounded by Italy, France, Liechtenstein  Austria, and Germany. Not surprising is that all of these major countries have had an influence on Switzerland. Switzerland has four official languages which include, Romansh, Italian, French, and German (a lot of Swiss also speak English). Nobody will deny that Switzerland is gorgeous with it’s relatively low population, mountains, lakes, snow, and classical European villages (because Switzerland is a neutral country most of the time in Switzerland’s history buildings were not effected by war).  It has it’s own tradition from skiing and raclette and also is one of the richest countries in Europe (make sure you bring your wallet with lots of cash inside). I believe Switzerland is a must country to visit in Europe.The country is gorgeous, everybody seems to be well off, public transportation are on-time and orderly, and the people are generally nice… whats not to love?

(click on a topic to skip to that section)

Noteworthy Places
Getting to/around Switzerland
Breakdown of Costs
Swiss People
Swiss Languages
Definitely Do’s and Don’ts
From Splurging to Saving
Good for Gay Lifestyle?
Random Advice

Noteworthy Places I’ve Been To

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Zurich – Anybody traveling to Switzerland will need to stop into Zurich. Their airport is one of the most efficient as well as the public transportation. Zurich is largest city in Switzerland and has become known as one of the financial leaders across the world. Zurich is in the German speaking portion of Switzerland and rests by Lake Zurich. Zurich is known for it’s great quality of life and one of the best places to live in the world. I would take a walk along the old part of town known as, Augustinergasse, as well enjoy the main street of Zurich known as Bahnhofstrasse.

Geneva – Or as the French would say, Genève; Geneva is located on the very western part of Switzerland and is surrounded by France on three sides of the city. Geneva is also a financial center in Europe (following London and Zurich) as well as the diplomatic capital of the world for its involvement in peace conventions. Like Zurich, Geneva enjoys a very high quality of life as well as one of the most expensive cities to live in. Geneva is the biggest city in Romandy or the French speaking part of Switzerland. Take a stroll through the old town, walk along the lake, see the famous jet d’eau, and see the United Nations as well as the Red Cross.

Lucerne –  or Luzern in German, is a medieval city that is famous for it’s Chapel Bridge, a bridge that spans over the Reuss River. It has been long known has a tourist destination and on a good day offers fantastic views of the Alps. The city is charming and filled with medieval architecture, an old town, and famous monuments such as the Lion Monument.

Berne – Capital of Switzerland and is known for it’s famous for having one of the best Old Towns in the world. Like the rest of Switzerland it also enjoys a high standard of living.

Chur/Sargans – Located just across from Liechtenstein these cities are relatively unknown for most people. This is where I stayed when I traveled to Switzerland in 2008 with a friend who lived here. This part of Switzerland is worth traveling because it is close by to Liechtenstein, offers great views of the mountains, and has great skiing nearby!

Getting to/around Switzerland

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By Plane – Zurich and Geneva are probably the two airports you are going to use if you’re coming in on a flight. Zurich is the biggest airport in Switzerland and is known as being one of the best airports in the world. All major European carriers and even select US carries fly to Zurich. Getting a flight to Switzerland is easy but it could be expensive. Usually during the winter months it is cheap to fly to Switzerland because there is not much of a demand to go. During the summer months Switzerland is very popular so you will see prices jump up to close to a 1000 dollars or possibly even more.

By Bus – Sure you could ride a bus from any major European city but why would you? Train or flight is going to be your best option and going to get you to your destination much faster (Although I did get stuck in this random French city because we had got on the wrong train from Grenoble to Geneva… in that case the bus system will get you to where you need to go).

By Train – Train is perfectly acceptable option to get into Switzerland. Trains go from all of the major cities in Europe and you will most likely arrive in Zurich or Geneva. Train tickets can be very expensive if you buy them last minute so make sure you book in advance.

The transit system in Switzerland is very impressive but it’s not cheap but they are efficient and will get you to where you need to go! Everything in Switzerland will be a little higher to you in cost but that is just part of the experience. The point is the getting to where you need to go is not a problem in Switzerland.

Breakdown of Costs

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Hotels – Expect to pay a minimum of 100 US dollars  for any type of decent hotel. I’ve actually never stayed in a proper hotel while in Switzerland thanks to a friend I had that lived there. If you’re going in the off season… like in the winter time or not during any type of holiday you can actually find good deals in cities like Zurich of Geneva. Obviously the summer time is the height of vacation type for Europeans and the rest of the world so expect to pay more. Hey if you’re on a budget than you can always stay in hostels. I stayed in a hostel in Geneva and it was quite pleasant actually. It was in a shady part of Geneva but never did I feel unsafe of anything like that.

Food – Well no way around this… Switzerland is an expensive country to eat in. If you’re on a tight budget than I would recommend going to a local grocery store and making your own meals… or if you don’t like any of the food in Switzerland. I would recommend that people try traditional Swiss food like Raclette, Fondue, Rösti, Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (sliced meat), and their famous cheeses they are known for like Gruyère, Vacherin, and Appenzeller. Going out to dinner will be slightly higher than what you pay in the states. Even McDonalds was around 12 US dollars.

Other Activities – Anything you do in Switzerland will cost you. If you want to go skiing expect to shell out a few hundred (especially if you have a big family). If you want to go see sites then make sure you have enough in your budget for train tickets and entrance fees. Shopping is also very expensive in Switzerland (you can probably find a better deal back in the states for anything you want). In Switzerland is not a bargain country and you will end up spending a lot of money. But I would recommend to venture to the Alps and splurge in this country… It’s kind of what Switzerland is all about.

Swiss People

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My personal experience with Swiss people is that they are a little reserved and distant when you first get to know them (I’m sorry if I offend any Swiss person). But in reality most of the time they are helpful and do actually know quite a bit of English. Most Swiss people seemed very set to their own personal group and you won’t make a best friend over night. During my times in Switzerland I might a lot of nice and well spoken people but I wouldn’t say I established any friendship with any of them (we did have fun at a club in Zurich though… they do know how to party).

Swiss Languages

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Switzerland is a country that has been much influenced by it’s neighbors. The Swiss are very educated and know lots of languages. In fact depending on what canton you’re in you might be hearing French, German, Romansh, or Italian (and even a little English thrown in there). It’s a country that really doesn’t  have a set language but that is what makes it unique (the majority of Swiss do speak Swiss German however but most know another language on top of that).

Definitely Do’s and Don’ts

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Do appreciate how clean everything feels in Switzerland. They really take pride in keeping their cities looking beautiful.

Don’t expect a bargain to be found in Switzerland… you’re going to pay a lot just to be in the country so expect that.

Do eat local Swiss food especially the cheese. It really is amazing.

Don’t miss the city of Bern. The Capital of Switzerland has one of the best Old Towns in Europe. But still go to Zurich and Geneva and cities in the Alps

Do go out to the clubs. The Swiss do know how to party and you probably see some expensive drinks. For instance it costs around 15-20 US dollars for one drink.

Don’t miss skiing if you’re coming in the winter time. The Swiss were pretty much raised on skis so more than likely there will be little 5 years old whizzing past you.

Do dress up while you’re there. Please don’t be that American slob who is wearing an over sized t-shirt or gym shorts. You’re in a country where fashion is important to both men and women.

From Splurging to Saving

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It is possible to come to Switzerland and have a medium budget and be fine. If you do have a tight budget than it might be better for you to come in the winter time as the prices are cheaper. Remember for any decent hotel you are going to spend at least 100 Swiss Francs. Now Switzerland, like any European country, does have hostels to stay at and the prices at hostels are pretty decent (book way in advance because hostels do tend to fill up fast). I think budget would probably be going to the grocery store and making your own meals or getting food from a fast food place. Regular restaurants will probably cost you a minimum of 25 Swiss Francs.

Splurging is really easy in Switzerland. Any of the major cities host the major brands of the world and it’s really not that hard to find something expensive to spend on. You can easily find 500 dollar a night hotels to stay at and buy a Rolex (it is of course a Swiss product). If you have a big wallet than you will be eh okay in Switzerland.

Good for Gay Lifestyle?

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Yes it is! Switzerland is liberal country and there are numerous gay bars in Zurich and Geneva. People are more open about the sexuality in Switzerland than the US so you don’t have to worry about being gay there. I have actually never been to any of the gay bars in Switzerland (I guess that is another goal I can accomplish in my future), but even at bars that are not considered gay there is tons of gay activity.

Obviously the older generation might not understand the whole gay lifestyle but as a whole the people are more forward thinking than the United States. LGBT rights in Switzerland are very good and same sex couples enjoy most of what their heterosexual counterparts enjoy.

Side note…  same-sex sex has been decriminalized since 1798.

Random Advice

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Of course bring lots of cash but most places will also take your credit card. Make sure to call your bank before you leave to tell them about your travels (so they don’t block you).

Going out can be expensive but it’s worth it! I had a really great time with the clubs there.

Try to talk with the locals… I sure tried but sometimes they are hard to crack!

There are passes for the train systems so you can get a discount depending on how long you are in Switzerland

Use public transportation. It’s clean, easy and efficient.

If you’re up for hiking in the mountains I would highly recommend it!

 

 

 

image by: Charlie, shawnvoyage.com