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Switzerland Travel FAQ

What is the best time to visit Switzerland?

The best time to visit Switzerland is from May to October and from December to February. In between these months there is a shoulder season that includes maintenance and reorganisation.

 

In summer (May to October) you get to visit all the locations with all the activities and attractions Switzerland has to offer.

In winter (December to February) a fairy tale landscape awaits you and it is perfect for winter sports.

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In the Alps where it is colder, winter lasts longer and comes earlier. Apart from needing a different wardrobe, it can happen that the some areas/ attractions are closed because of that.

Population

8.5 million

Official Languages

German, French, Italian, Romansh

Local Time

Central European Time (CET)

Visa

For Schengen Area

Drinking Water

Safe to drink tap water

Currency

Swiss Franc (CHF)

Transportation

Excellent public transportation

Electricity Socket

Type J

Safety

Generally safe, low crime rates

Tipping

10% but not mandatory

Religion

Mostly Catholic or Reformed

If you like to visit Switzerland for its landscape and culture then summer is the season you want to visit. You don't even have to miss out on snow because really high up you get to touch snow (e.g. Titlis). The downside is that it can be a bit crowded.

If you like to do some winter sports and experience snow, then winter is the right time for you. Generally there are less visitors during this time, but activities and accommodation can be more expensive.

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In the month of September the crowds are gone and you can enjoy all of the country almost for yourself and you get to see a lot of locals enjoying the country during this time!

Engelberg in May

Engelberg in January

Engelberg in May

Engelberg in May

Best time to visit

What is a realistic budget for traveling Switzerland?

Let's face it: Switzerland is expensive, even for the locals. But if you know what you are doing, then you can save some money without compromising on the experience. Throughout this site and our videos you will learn how!

If you want to properly enjoy Switzerland then here are some budget examples for a 7 day trip:

  • A couple sleeping in hotels, eating at restaurants doing fair amount of paid activities: CHF 300-500 per day for both

  • Backpacker sleeping in hostels, eating on a budget, few paid activities: CHF 80-150 per day

  • Family of 4 sleeping in an apartment, cooking at home, moderate amount of paid activities: CHF 300-500 per day for all

In general we can make the following estimates (1 CHF is roughly 1 USD):

  • A hotel room costs about CHF 150-250 per night.

  • A full meal in a restaurant costs about CHF 50 per person.

  • To go on a mountain top costs about CHF 70 per person.

  • A 1 hour train ride costs about CHF 50 per person.

  • A rental car costs about CHF 100+ per day.

  • A full night out with drinks costs about CHF 100-200 per person.

  • A hostel bed costs about CHF 40-80 per person.

  • On the go food costs about CHF 30 per day.

  • A night in a luxury hotel starts from CHF 400 per night.

Most travellers should expect costs of about CHF 150-250 per person and per day. 

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Anything that involves work executed by a Swiss will destroy your travel budget. A few examples: tour guides on site, taxis or hotels. Instead you can get an online guide, you can use public transportation or book an apartment.

Realistic travel budget

What are the best things to do in Switzerland?

Climb a mountain

Almost half of Switzerlands surface are mountains. They are breathtaking to look at but it's such a great experience to be on top of one. Of course you can walk but nowadays there are a lot of Swiss mountains that run cable cars or cogwheel trains so you can get up there in comfort and focus on enjoy the stunning surroundings! Famous mountains are Jungfraujoch, Pilatus, Rigi, Brienzer Rothorn, Titlis, Rochers-de-Naye and Diablerets.

The photo is the view from Mt. Titlis in Central Switzerland.

Visit an authentic Swiss village

Of course one of the reasons you travel to Switzerland is to see the traditional chalets! You may now think that they are everywhere, but they only really exist in the Interlaken region. To visit them it is suggested to rent a car or plan some time as they are often a bit remote and buses run only a couple times a day. You will be most lucky around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.

The village in the photo is called Habkern and a short drive from Interlaken.

Eat food the locals eat

Cheese Fondue and Raclette. Some Swiss dishes are popular, whereas others such as sliced veal and hash browns or Vogelheu, a dish with apples, bread and eggs are only for insiders. Don't feel shy to ask locals what's popular in the region and you will be surprised how interesting Swiss cuisine can be. You still have to try cheese fondue though. The best place to eat cheese dishes is in the Canton of Valais.

In the photo: Traditional Bratwurst and Cervelat

Ride on a Swiss train

Switzerland is famous for its public transportation system which is known for its punctuality, reliability and comfort. "Swiss trains run like clockwork" - this can be checked at train stations where many trains depart just seconds after the scheduled time. Many train lines run through picturesque landscapes, sometimes just meters next to lakes or through snow y paradise in the  Swiss Alps.

 

If you want to treat yourself you can book a first class train seat just like in the photo.

Touch some snow

To experience snow in Switzerland travellers are not limited to winter months. There are some mountains that have year round snow. Of course this can't be compared to a bright and crisp winter morning with powder snow. This means that you have got the opportunity to get to touch some snow if you have never done this before and this is good news! If you plan on coming in summer you have got an excuse now to come a second time during the winter months.

Maybe you will enjoy snowshoe hiking like in the photo?

Experience Swiss culture

Switzerland is rich in culture and only a few know how diverse it is. There is a rich history of folklore that goes beyond music and includes events celebrating traditional farm live (Alpabzug) as much as concerts, markets and sport events. If you are looking for more traditional Swiss culture then you need to look outside of the cities. The Canton of Appenzell is maybe the one that's most traditional.

Maybe you hear the sound of the Alphorn one day (photo).

Take a lake cruise

Water and Switzerland go together like Raclette and potatoes. There are many lakes in Switzerland and the closer they are to the Swiss Alps, the more teal they look and the more magic a lake cruise is on them. There are restaurants on these cruises and some of them take up to 5 hours. It's the perfect way to enjoy a slow travel day.

 

On bigger lakes there are steam ships in operation, some of them are older than 100 year like the one in the photo.

View from Titlis in Engelberg
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Swiss Sausages Bratwurst Cervelat
Swiss Train First Class
Snow in Engelberg
Swiss Culture Alphorn
Lake Lucerne Steamship Cruise

Visit less known regions

Jungfrau, Lucerne, Titlis... But have you heard about Creux-du-Van, Sempach or Säntis? Probably not. For this reason it's worth looking at regions and attractions that are less popular but don't fall behind in attractiveness at all. Like this you get to explore Switzerland like a local and because you are on their route you will get to immerse in the Swiss culture more easily. Underrated regions for international travellers are: Graubünden and Ticino.

Grand Canyon of Switzerland is called Creux-du-Van (photo).

Creux du Van

Let a sunset kiss you

No one travels to Switzerland to experience sunsets. Until now. There are a few particular spots that offer sunsets that let you skip the next beach holiday. Before rushing for dinner it is sometimes worth to check the sky for the possibility and then to have a seat at a beautiful location to enjoy the last sun rays of the day. Swiss locations with amazing sunsets are: Montreux, Sempach and Basel.

Enjoy the end of your travel like in Sempach (photo).

Sunset Switzerland Sempach

Visit a big Swiss city

All the cliches you ever heard about Switzerland (except from banks) play only outside of cities. Zurich for example is often skipped by travellers although the city is very unique and has a noteworthy history of its own. The Swiss cities play a big part in what Switzerland is today and all have their own vibe, so much so that many of them have friendly rivalries. So Zurich, Basel, Bern and Geneva are not only for flying into and changing trains.

Enjoy the view in the photo with a cold drink in Zurich.

Zurich Switzerland Grossmünster
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Where ever you go to, try to eat outside as often as you can. Either sit on a restaurant terrace or take away your food to a lake. You can also enjoy an adult drink alongside and this will not be a problem. This way you get the experience the beauty of Switzerland even longer.

Best things to do

How many days should you visit Switzerland for?

If you want to experience Switzerland a bit more thorough then it is recommended to stay a minimum of 5 days. Anything between 5 and 10 days is ideal so you can visit different parts of the country and maximise your time here. Although Switzerland is small, transfer times between destinations can take time because of geographical reasons (mountains and lakes).

A lot of bus tours arrive in Switzerland and head straight to Lucerne for the day. The sleep in this area for one night, then head on to Interlaken and Jungfrau where they spend a second night and they are off again to then next country. So this seems to be the bare minimum to tick off the main attractions.

How many days should you visit

How to get to Switzerland?

Although Switzerland is a landlocked country you can reach it by all means of transport.

Flights to Switzerland

Most travellers fly Switzerland. There are three main airports:

  • Zurich (ZRH): Largest airport with many intercontinental routes.

  • Geneva (GVA): Second largest airport with connecting flights to Zurich.

  • Basel (BSL): Mainly served by budget airlines with routes within Europe.

Map of Airports in Switzerland
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If you intend to book with Swiss, the flag carrier, then you may want to look for Geneva as your final destination. You will then most likely transfer in Zurich but the flight total is often much cheaper and you get to see Geneva.

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The airports in Munich (Germany) and Milano (Italy) are also very close to Switzerland. These two airports are often used by the Swiss to save on airfare as well.

Train to Switzerland​

Europe is well connected with trains. There are many direct trains from large European cities like Paris, Milano, Vienna or Munich. Some even go overnight so you can sleep on the train and wake up in Switzerland. This could be very attractive for you if you are travelling Europe with the Eurail Pass. 

Driving to Switzerland​

You can enter Switzerland by car 24/7, however the border crossings are not always manned. To drive on Switzerlands highways you need to purchase a toll sticker (CHF 40) for your windshield. It can be purchased at the border crossing or at gas stations and sometimes newsagents. 

Ship to Switzerland​

There are river cruises on the River Rhine that depart and arrive in Basel.

How to get to Switzerland

How to get around in Switzerland?

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The big question is always if you should take the train or rent a car. This question cannot be answered easily, because there is no clear answer (at least financially). It really depends on how many of you are travelling together and how often you will actually use the train or the car as well as if you want flexibility or not. Therefore all we can recommend is that you do the math.

As locals though we believe that you can experience Switzerland more freely by car but on the other hand there are train routes that are so mesmerising that a car ride cannot compete with.

Driving in Switzerland​

Driving in Switzerland is wonderful because you can access the country in a way that public transportation is not able to. Also using a car in Switzerland is not difficult. Although some roads are narrow and others are really twisty you should not be afraid. Just make sure your car has the highway toll sticker (Vignette) if you want to use the highway, or use rural roads and enjoy the landscape around you.

A few facts about driving in Switzerland:

  • Driving happens on the right hand side of the road.

  • Carry your driver's license with you and an official translation if necessary.

  • Speed limits are 120 kph highway, 100 kph expressway, 80 kph country roads (rural area), 50 kph urban areas, 30 kph residential areas (indicated). Fines start from CHF 40.​

  • Make sure that you got winter tires mounted during winter.

  • Blood alcohol level maximum is 0.05%.

Swiss drivers are sticking to traffic rules more diligently than in other countries and some just simply cannot take a foreigner or a rental car in front of them. So, if you get honked at don't worry too much if you're not doing anything wrong. This even happens to the Swiss visiting another region.

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Your private lunch spot next to Stanserhorn

Trains in Switzerland​

Switzerland is famous for its trains and it is worthwhile to experience a scenic train ride in Switzerland at least once. As a traveller you need to know that there are different kind of trains in Switzerland. There are larger trains that operate between bigger cities, there are regional trains that are smaller and slower and operate usually as feeders for the larger trains and then are commuter trains in cities. On top of that there are many train routes that are intended for tourism such as Glacier Express, GoldenPass Line, Bernina Express or Voralpen Express.

Trains in Switzerland pride themselves as being among the most punctual in the world. In order to maintain that it is mandatory to have a valid ticket before you board. You have the following options to get a train ticket:

  • You book the Swiss Travel Pass or Eurail pass beforehand and you have a valid ticket for almost all of Switzerland's public transportation system for the duration of your stay.

  • You book regular tickets either online, at the counter or at a ticket machine at the train station.

  • You buy the Half Fare Card for Tourists and you benefit from half off ticket prices.

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There are sometimes discounts if you book tickets online, however you need to take the specific train you book where as normally the ticket is valid for the day.

How to ride Swiss trains stress free:

  • Seat reservations are not common unless you take the tourist trains where they are mandatory.

  • On most trains there are English announcements at least for stops that are interesting for travellers.

  • You don't need to request a stop except on some smaller regional trains usually running in the Alps.

  • You can always ask train staff any question even if you make your connecting train.

  • In Switzerland we let the people get off the train first, before we get on.

  • There are dedicated spaces for large suitcases and they will be safe there.

  • You can eat and drink on the train but the codex is that the food has no smell.

  • Your bicycle and your dog need a special ticket :-)

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If you want to have a cool view from the train, it matters what side you sit on. If you travel from Zurich to Lucerne, try to sit on the left. Travelling to Geneva from Berne sit on the left. From Berne to Interlaken sit on the left. From Lucerne to Interlaken sit on the right.

Switzerland by Bus

Although Buses play an integral part of public transportation, buses play a different role in Switzerland. Either they are for short distance or commuter transport in cities ans suburbs or they are the only means of transportation in remote regions. In both cases buses serve as a means to cover the last couple of kilometers of your trip i.e. there will not be a bus from Zurich to Lucerne for example.

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If you travel in remote areas of Switzerland the buses will be yellow and called PostAuto. They are famous for their distinct horn to signal their presence behind sharp corners. Usually the routes they have are an adventure so try to get a ride at least once in Switzerland.

Postbus Switzerland.jpg

Walking/ hiking

Hiking is probably the most popular pastime in Switzerland. Therefore we do have the best maintained hiking routes in the world. They are well indicated and lead through stunning landscapes. If you want to go on a tour in the Alps you can rent your hiking gear on site and talk to locals about what to look out for or hire a guide.

When you go on a hike it's the time to bring a packed lunch and you Swiss Army knife so you can cut up an apple or so.

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When the Swiss go for a hike they always bring one layer of clothes more than believe is necessary because the weather can change quickly in the Alps.

Hiking in Switzerland

Switzerland by ship

Although it seems like that ships are only there for sightseeing purposes, they are actually a part of the public transportation system and often used for that. Most ship companies accept the travel passes or offer reasonable ticket prices.

Cable cars and cogwheel trains

Although they also seem like they are only built for tourism, they are a lifeline for many Swiss. If you want to have the real Swiss experience you need to have travelled at least once on cable car or cogwheel train. They are all usually quite slow so you will get really get a chance to sit back and relax. Some of them also accept your travel pass like on Mt Rigi (photo).

Cogwhell Train Switzerland Rigi
Cable Car Switzerland

Switzerland by bicycle

If you love cycling then Switzerland is the perfect country to be explored on two wheels. There is a near perfect network of bike lanes and because the country is small you actually get around easily. If that's too much, then why not renting a bike for a day in a city and immerse in local life?

Getting around

Where to stay in Switzerland?

Welcome to your biggest travel expense on your Switzerland trip. A place to stay is always a big part of the travel budget but in Switzerland overnight stays are especially expensive. All in all this is not a concern if the quality is right. For this reason you need to know a few things about hospitality in Switzerland so you enjoy a good nights sleep.

Hotel

If you book a hotel you will most likely get a room that sleeps two adults. As most hotels have been built decades ago the room size might be smaller than you are used to from home but then again you come for the landscape and not the bed. Contrary to the rest of the world, independent hotels are often the favourable choice. Hotel rates and occupancy may vary tremendously depending on season and location.

You can expect the following hotel rates (1 CHF is roughly 1 USD):

Budget hotel: CHF 80-150

Small family hotel: CHF 100-250

Mid scale hotel: CHF 150-300

Luxury hotel: from CHF 400

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If you are looking for a hotel in the touristy areas make sure to check out the pictures online as some of the accommodations have not been updated in decades and you may be disappointed in terms of value for money. Also you can get breakfast outside the hotel in a traditional bakery and save a lot of money and time.

Airbnb/ Holiday rental

If you stay in one region for a bit longer and you want a home base to start your day trips from then it is the best choice to rent an apartment. On top of that you can also try and cook with some Swiss ingredients or you can try to prepare a fondue on your own (don't worry, it's easier than you think). Holiday homes have become more popular over recent years and therefore supply has increased leading to fantastic flats or even entire authentic Swiss chalets, you can call your home for the time of your trip.

Because some of the chalets are a bit remote, it might be ideal to rent a car for comfortable access. Rates for a chalet are between CHF 150-300 per night.

Traditional Swiss House

Hostel

We tell you as it is straight away. Unless you are really going for the hostel feeling, try to look for cheap rooms on Airbnb or check the rates of budget hotels because some of the hostels rates make you want to need a shot of Röteli (Swiss version of Jägermeister), which you won't be able to afford anymore. Although most hostels are around CHF 50-80 per person, you may get better value with other accommodation options.

Sleeping in your (rental) car or mobile home

Technically, if you want to sleep in your car you have to be on private property i.e. on a camping ground or with consent of a landlord or farmer. But as it is Switzerland, there are different rules for all Cantons (states). Some are very easygoing and some more strict. The best way is to ask the community or police if you want to be safe. Alternatively you can look for camping grounds, which are often in superb locations and many with direct access to beautiful Swiss lakes or other fantastic scenries.

Sleeping on a farm

There is no better way to experience Switzerland than by sleeping on a farm. You can do that either in a guest room, or you can sleep in the stable next to the cows! What an experience. If you are lucky you get to help with milking the cows in the morning and other farm duties.

Where to stay

What to eat in Switzerland?

The Swiss can't cook? That's the perception many have when it comes to Swiss food. Because you are a curious traveller, of course you want to try. The Swiss have been poor for the longest time but they are also very innovative. As a result, you get Swiss cuisine, something you have probably not tasted before!

Famous Swiss dishes

  • Raclette: melted cheese poured over potatoes

  • Fondue: cheese hot pot and you scoop it with bread

  • Zürcher Geschnetzeltes: sliced veal with Rösti

  • Rösti: type of hash brown, potato dish

  • Bratwurst: veal sausage with bread and mustard, may contain pork

  • Älplermagronen: macaroni dish with cheese, cream, potatoes and onions

  • Ghackets mit Hörnli: curved macaroni with minced beef

  • Gschwellti: jacket potatoes served with cheese and dry meats

  • Bircher Müesli: oats with fruit and other healthy seeds

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Swiss cuisine and food on your trip do not have to be expensive. Although most of travellers raid supermarkets for the convenience food, the locals rarely do that. So in the following video you get many tips on how to eat like a local at a reasonable price. Also make sure that check out our YouTube channel for more useful insider tips about Switzerland!

What to eat
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