Switzerland is an expensive but beautiful country. Like all expensive countries, a little research can save you enough money to give Swizerland a shot on your European vacation.
Accommodations in Switzerland
Accommodations in Switzerland tend to be expensive. There are usually fewer hotels located around train stations than in other countries. You may inspect a hotel before committing to it.
Hotel rooms in Switzerland tend to be smaller than other places, but there are usually more services available. Prices include service, taxes and sometimes breakfast (ask).
Most Swiss hotels are members of the Swiss Hotel Association, which rates them according to their facilities and not necessarily their charm.
The hotel booking agent I use when traveling is usually Venere. You can find hotels on a map or by a list, then rank the hotels by guest rating, price, stars, or location.
The Swiss currency is the Swiss Franc, abbreviated to CHF. Swiss Franc banknotes are issued in the following denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 Francs. At the time of writing, 1 US Dollar = 1.02 Swiss Franc (July, 2008).
Language in Switzerland
Four primary languages are spoken in Switzerland. See the map above for the approximate areas those languages are spoken in. The Federal Constitution stipulates that German, French, and Italian are Switzerland’s official languages, whereas Romansh is an official language for communicating with Romansh-speaking persons. English is increasingly taught at an early age, sometimes taking priority over a second national language.
Transportation in Switzerland
Switzerland is served by more than 13000 miles of train, bus and boat routes. Find out more about Swiss transportation options in the page Transportation.
Switzerland is served by eight major airports.
Geneva International Airport (GVA)
Geneva International Airport is located about 5km NW of Geneva. There is one terminal, divided into Swiss and French sectors. There is a train and bus station at the airport for transportation into Geneva. Long distance buses are available on the lower level; many destinations are seasonal. Hotel shuttles are also found on the lower level. All trains stop at Geneva-Cornavin station in the city center.
Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport / EuroAirport (MLH)
The airport with many names is actually located in France. Busses (Linie 50: EuroAirport – Bahnhof SBB) take you to the Basel train station, as well as to Mulhouse, France and Freiburg, Germany. There is no train service.
Bern Airport / Bern – Belp (BRN)
The Bern airport is located 6km southeast of Bern. The White Airport bus shuttles you between the airport and the central train station of Bern.
Sion Airport (SIR)
Sion Airport is located 2.5 km from Sion. Bus #1 takes you to the bus station in Sion, which is near the train station. The Matterhorn, Zermatt and ski areas to the south are served by Matterhorn Gottard Bahn.
Zurich Airport (ZRH)
Zurich Airport offers both a train and bus service into the city center. Rail lines S2 and S16 trains take you to Zurich’s main rail station in about 10 minutes.
St. Gallen – Altenrhein Airport (ACH)
St. Gallen Airport is located near Lake Constance, near the intersection of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The bus station is in front of the airport. Buses timed to the arrival of Austrian Air flights are available to Vienna. There is no railway station at the airport, but the railway stations of Rorschach and Rheineck are only 5 minutes from the airport.
Samedan – Engadin Airport (SMV)
Engadin airport is 5km from St. Moritz. The Engadin Bus takes you all over the valley, including the towns of Samedan, St Moritz, Celerina, Bernina & Pontresina.
Lugano – Agno Airport (LUG)
Shuttle busses stop just outside the terminal and run to the train station in Lugano. The FLP train Lugano-Ponte Tresa stops at Agno station which is 15 minutes walk to the airport.
Weather in Switzerland – When to Go
Due to the mountainous terrain in Switzerland, weather can vary greatly with altitude. Prediction of the weather can be tricky. For some historical climate information, including historic temperature and precipitation graphs that might help you plan your vacation in Switzerland, as well as current conditions.
Eating in Swiss Restaurants
Although eating in a Swiss restaurant is generally more expensive than eating in a neighboring country, you can find interesting, inexpensive food in Switzerland. Lunches are often cheaper than the same meal at dinner. Look for the plate of the day.
General Eating Times: Lunch: 12-2 Dinner 6-8 pm
As you might expect, Swiss cuisine is based around dairy products — cheese, milk, cream, butter and/or yogurt.
Beer is often cheaper and more readily available than soft drinks.
Meals include a service charge, but tipping is common. 5% of the total is the usual tip. According to locals in Zurich, it is customary, when paying with a credit card, to leave the tip in cash rather than adding it to the card total.
Public Holidays in Switzerland
New Years: January 1st and 2nd
Labor Day – May 1st
National Day: August 1st
Christmas Eve (afternoon only)
Christmas: December 25 and 26th
New Year’s Eve (afternoon)