Switzerland

Switzerland: A Travel Guide

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What you need to know about Switzerland

Switzerland is another of the landlocked countries in central Europe. It shares borders with Italy, Austria, Germany, France and Lichtenstein. Because of its position and the countries that surround it, there are multiple languages spoken in Switzerland, depending on where in the country you are. German, French, Italian and Romansh are all official languages, and most Swiss people also have a really good level of English as a second language.

Switzerland is a popular tourist destination particularly for people looking to do some hiking and explore the outdoors throughout summer.  There are some great hikes in and around the Swiss Alps, and pretty much the entire country is crazily picturesque. In the winter, hiking regions become ski resorts, which are super popular and busy for the duration of the season.

It is, however, one of the most expensive places in the world to travel to.  So budget a little (or a lot) more than you normally would if you’re going to spend a bit of time here!

  • Population: Around 8.4 million
  • Capital city: Bern
  • Official Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh
  • Currency: Swiss Franc

Places To Go

Zermatt

A little village at the base of the Matterhorn, Zermatt was one of our favourite places in Switzerland.  It’s a great place to visit if you love either hiking in the summer, or skiing in the winter.

It’s a little touristy, but you get over that pretty quickly.  2-3 nights is a good amount of time in Zermatt.

Zurich

The largest city in Switzerland, and a bit of a hub for people flying in and out of the country.  Zurich is consistently rated as one of the most liveable cities in the world.

If you’re going to check out one of the bigger cities in Switzerland, this is probably the one to go for.  It’s worth spending around three nights here exploring the city.

Lucerne

One of the most picturesque towns in Switzerland.  One of the main attractions here is the Chapel bridge, a bridge that stretches over the river Reuss. Check it out in the picture above. Then book your trip and check it out in real life. You won’t regret it.

We think that a couple of nights in Lucerne is a good amount of time.

Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region

Interlaken is a city that lies between two lakes in central Switzerland.  It’s quite a touristy city that’s hugely popular for adventure sports and adrenaline junkies.

Situated close by is the Jungfrau region, which is hugely popular and pretty spectacular. JRR Tolkien apparently took a trip here in 1911, and it was so beautiful that it became his inspiration for middle earth.

If you want to explore both Interlaken and the Jungfrau region, you’ll probably need 4-5 nights. You can base yourself either in Interlaken itself or in one of the smaller villages like Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald

Bern

The capital city of Switzerland is probably a little overlooked sometimes.

We think that it’s a pretty stunning place.  There is a really great historical old town feel to the city.

It’s definitely worth spending a couple of nights here if you have the time.

Geneva

Geneva is another one of the hubs for tourists that are entering or leaving Switzerland.

The lake is nice, and it’s a nice city to spend a couple of days if you have the time.  If you’re a bit short on time though, you can probably skip it in favour of some of the other places we’ve mentioned.

Other places to visit

Switzerland has no shortage of tourist destinations.  Here are a couple more places you can visit if you have the time.

Lugano:   A beautiful city that’s close to the Italian border

 

St Moritz: One of the most famous alpine resorts in Switzerland

 

Travel tips and things to know about Switzerland

Best time to visit

This depends on what you’re looking to do.  The summer months of June – August are great if you’re into hiking, as the weather is a lot better and the hikes are accessible.  Switzerland is also really popular through winter as a skiing destination, so that’s another possibility.

Getting around  

If you’re going to be spending any amount of time in Switzerland, you’ll quickly find out that getting from A to B is expensive.  The easiest way to travel is by rail.  The Swiss have one of the most efficient and easy rail systems in the world, and the staff are super helpful.  However, it can be ridiculously expensive, with some trips costing upwards of CHF 100.  Saying that, there are ways to save, and other ways to get around…

If you know you’ll be taking more than a few rail trips, look into getting a swiss pass This gives you half price travel.  It costs CHF 120.  But you’ll save a heap.  It’s valid on trains, buses, boats, and some of the cable cars around the mountain regions.  You can order one online.  Or if you’re unsure, go into an SBB office (the swiss rail company) when you arrive.  They are so helpful they will literally sit down with you and work out if it’s worth getting one and how much you will save.

  • Tip:  If you’re going to be using the trains, download the SBB app (it’s just called SBB Mobile, and looks like this:    ).  You can look up all the timetables and routes, book online, and you’ll sometimes find saver fares on there as well.

Another option for travel from A to B is Bla Bla Car This is a ride sharing service, where people offer lifts between certain places for a small price.  It’s worth checking out, but it can be a little hard to find specific routes and dates sometimes, and it’s a little unreliable.  If you can get it to work for you though, then you’ll save a lot of money.

Hiring a car is the next option for getting around.  If there are a couple of you, and you’ll be doing a bit of travel, this can be a great option.  It gives you much more flexibility, and especially if you’re in a group can work out a lot cheaper.  Keep in mind though that there are a few towns in the Swiss Alps that are car free (Zermatt and Mürren are a couple of these).  That mean’s you’ll still have to park the car in a different town and catch the train if you want to visit.

Finally, if you’re on a super budget, it’s always worth asking around at your hostel or accommodation for other travellers who have a car and are travelling through Switzerland.  Plenty of people do this, so you might be lucky and find a lift or two!

Expenses  

Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe.  Actually, it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world.  It’s on par with the Scandinavian countries budget wise.  So expect to spend a lot.  A room at a hostel will probably cost you CHF 40 – 50.  A meal out will be anywhere between CHF 20 (a cheap meal) and CHF 40.  A beer will probably set you back CHF 5-8.  And as we mentioned above, transport from A to B can be super expensive as well, in some cases upwards of CHF 100.  (just a reminder, 1 CHF is roughly equivalent to €1.

  • Also keep an eye out for our article on budget saving tips for Switzerland, which is in the works and coming soon.  
Onward Travels  

Because it’s so central and surrounded, there are a huge amount of options for onward travel from Switzerland.  If you end up in Geneva, it’s easy to head on down into France.  If you’re going this way it’s worth checking out Annecy, which isn’t too far away.  If you finish up in Zurich, you can easily head on up into Germany.  Both Geneva and Zurich airports also have great connections, so if you’re not keen on Germany or France, you can get to pretty well anywhere in Europe you’d like.

 

Did you find this helpful?  Is there anywhere else you’ve been in Switzerland that you loved?  Let us know!

 

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