Switzerland is one of the most scenic countries in the world. You will be completely lost for words while collecting numerous amazing moments on its ground.
However, it is also one of the most expensive European countries so you might need some pre-planning to save money and get around more easily.
Here we prepared 10 things that should know before you visit Switzerland. Most of them you wouldn’t be aware of until you have traveled there. That is why we want to cover them and prepare you for various situations.
Take a good look and make yourself ready for each challenge that can come along on your journey.
- Four official languages
- Switzerland is small country
- The Swiss Franc is the national currency of Switzerland
- It is expensive
- You will have to get up early
- Precise transportation
- Check the weather before you visit Switzerland
- Chocolate and fondue are a tradition
- Skip bottled water
- Recycling is very important
1. When you visit Switzerland, expect 4 official languages
People speak these 4 languages in Switzerland:
In different parts of the country, they speak different languages.
For example, in the northern and eastern parts of the country like in Zurich and Lucerne, they speak German.
Around Lake Geneva and the western part of the country like in Geneva and Montreux, they speak French.
In the southern part, like in Lugano, they speak Italian.
Romansh is spoken by a very few. Some dialects have been preserved in certain areas, but they are losing their status as an official language of the country.
Luckily, almost everybody speaks English, so if you are an English speaker, you probably won’t have any difficulties when you visit Switzerland.
One important thing that you should know about the Swiss – there is no need for small talk. The Swiss are very efficient and professional – they just want to finish the transaction that will exclude any necessity for a small talk that you might have frequently at home.
You would probably think that one multilingual population would be more than glad to use their conversational skills – but this isn’t the case with the Swiss. Attempts to spark up friendly conversations with waitresses and cashiers won’t be welcomed. Their culture doesn’t support showing warmth and friendliness to foreigners. Don’t take it personally.
2. Expect a small country
Considering both geography and population, Switzerland is pretty small. At 41,285 km² it is as big as the states of Vermont and New Hampshire together or as the Shanghai region in China. It is only 1/10 the size of the state of California, or about three times the size of Los Angeles County.
The Swiss population number of 8.1 million residents is practically the same as that of New York or just double that of Kentucky.
The country can be crossed by train in 5 hours. The biggest cities are Bern, Zurich, Geneva, and Basel.
Switzerland has many mountains which makes travel fairly slow throughout the country. But, if you are driving on a freeway where the traffic is developed pretty well, you can go from Zurich to Geneva in 3 hours, and that’s pretty much the length of the country.
3. No euros when you visit Switzerland, you will need Swiss Francs
Switzerland is a part of the Schengen agreement that allows visa-free entry, but they are not part of the European Union and they don’t use the euro. Their currency is Swiss Franc – abbreviated CHF. Its value is about equal to the value of a dollar.
You can exchange euros in any bank and hotel you are staying in. A lot of stores will accept euros, but you will get your change back in francs.
Note: The banks will provide the best exchange rate. Official exchange offices and hotels usually charge a fee for the service. Banks are opened the whole week from 8.30 to 16.30, except for weekends and national holidays.
If you are looking for an ETM, you’ll see them called “bancomats”.
It is advisable to carry some cash and coins with you, you don’t know when you are going to need them (for example, for parking).
Credit cards are not always accepted, especially in smaller shops and rural areas.
Visa and MasterCard are much more widely accepted than American Express.
Tipping in Switzerland is not expected, but if you insist, you can do it in taxis, hotels, etc. Their minimum wage is pretty good (about $23 (€19) per hour), so tipping isn’t a must.
4. Switzerland is expensive
Switzerland has one of the highest costs of living in the whole world. You’ll forget about those times when you paid less than $20 (€16) for a lunch and had free water. You’ll even start to think that paying two dollars per minute of a taxi ride is rational. Keep track of your finances all the time, otherwise, you’ll be out of cash in a blink of an eye.
Pizza will probably cost you about 20 CHF.
A big Mac meal at McDonald’s will cost about 12 CHF.
Starbucks coffee will cost about 5 CHF.
A scoop of ice cream will cost you about 3 CHF in most parts of the country.
Expect that when you explore Switzerland’s points of interest, nothing will be cheap.
5. Get up early when you visit Switzerland
On your tour of Switzerland’s beautiful places, you should know that cafés, restaurants, and stores open early and they also close early. Therefore, you should get up early and seize the day.
Most of them open between eight and ten in the morning, and they close between six and eight in the evening.
On Saturday, most stores close around four or five p.m., and on Sunday almost everything is closed.
Switzerland has very strict laws that aim to obtain a good quality of life so they avoid noises and crowds. Thus, when it comes to the nighttime, there are not many things to do.
This pre-knowledge will help you organize your day better and fill it with more activities while you can take a rest at night. Start early, end early.
Some cities have “evening shopping” – which means that they have chosen one day of the week when the shops will be open until late at night. For example, in Zurich, this is happening on Thursdays, when the shops are usually open until nine p.m.
It is quite clear that you don’t visit Switzerland for the nightlife. If you are planning to go dancing at clubs and spend the whole night out with your friends, you will end up disappointed.
The highlight of the Swiss nightlife is the student hub of Lausanne, a 45-minute train ride from Geneva. However, in comparison to other metropolis clubs, it lacks a lot of fun. But if you still want to go there, don’t forget to check the train timetables because it’s very unlikely that they run after midnight, even on weekends.
6. You can count on very punctual public transportation when you visit Switzerland
Swiss public transportation is more than great and it is always on time. To make use of it even easier, you can download the Swiss railways’ SBB app on your mobile device. The app will simplify your travel in a very useful way – it will give you an insight about where you are coming, where you are going, and the platforms that your train goes on.
In case you are staying in a small town without a train station, buses will be your alternative, but keep in mind that they usually don’t operate after 9 p.m.
On the other hand, if you are in a bit larger town that is a base for reaching larger cities, you can count on more options.
In big cities such as Bern or Basel, trams run almost all day and night, and it will be easy for you to reach any place within the city.
If you are staying for a longer time, it would be advisable to buy a SwissPass that will provide you the unlimited use of any bus tram, train, metro, boat, and cable car for free and at any time. It is the greatest choice if you are going to take a lot of train travel.
A SwissPass card can be used for a minimum of four months, and the price covers $60 (€50) per week. To elaborate that, a 15-minute commute every weekday costs $50 (€42) per week.
You can also buy a SwissPass that lasts less than a week for a short-term visit, but you’ll only save money if you travel throughout the country.
Note: There are two main classes of train travel in Switzerland: the first class and the second class. The second class is very good, it is almost like the first class in many other countries. So, don’t feel bad if you are taking the second class – actually, you will enjoy it.
If you want to travel in utmost comfort and luxury and elevate your Swiss travel, hire a limousine service in Switzerland.
7. Check the weather
The weather in Switzerland can vary a lot because of the Alps – the mountain range that runs through the middle of the country.
In the western part, it can be windy, while in the south it can be much warmer. It is important to know that in summer it can be quite warm in cities which travelers usually don’t take into account. So, if you visit Switzerland in summer, make sure that you bring short sleeves and shorts, and dresses and skirts if you are a lady.
It also can be quite humid because there is so much water everywhere – in, about, and around. If you are going up to the mountains, it is cold.
Each mountain will have its own website, so check the weather in the mountains. When you are at a high elevation, make sure to wear sunscreen because the sun is much stronger there.
What is the best month to visit Switzerland?
It is quite versatile when it comes to weather and the best time to visit Switzerland. Most destinations have just one season that is authentic for that region, but Switzerland is terrific in both summer and winter.
If you want to avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons are the best periods to visit Switzerland. They are from April to June and from September to October.
The high season starts in July and finishes at the end of August. In that period, the weather is the warmest in the entire year, and since it’s very crowded, there is over a 50% increase in prices.
In summer, you can take a dip in one of many lakes or go hiking at high elevations where the temperature drops. You’ll enjoy the pleasant weather and avoid summer hotness.
For skiers, the best period to visit Switzerland is from December to March. Winter is considered to be the low season since there is a high possibility to come across heavy snowstorms. Nevertheless, it is the best time for people who want to go skiing.
8. You must try chocolate and fondue when you visit Switzerland
The main things to eat in the country are chocolate and cheese. You will find chocolate shops almost on every block in major cities and there are almost 400 varieties of cheese.
For good chocolate, visit local chocolatiers and don’t focus only on the wrapped chocolate – the Swiss hot chocolate will instantly take you under its spell, too!
If you want some cheaper meals, go to restaurants that have lunch specials – they might be about 20 CHF, or go to some of the cafeteria restaurants that are in department stores.
Also, check the ethnic restaurants and kababs – they are always cheap. There you may find a kabab for 10 CHF.
Note: If you have a reservation – don’t be late. The Swiss are very strict on time so make sure that you don’t get late, otherwise, they won’t sit you.
9. Skip bottled water
Bottle water is very expensive in Switzerland. They have taxes that add up to 2 of 3 CHF to buy bottled water. We suggest that you buy a bottle and refill it while you are strolling around.
When you visit Switzerland, you will see that the county is full of public fountains that have cold and delicious water, and it is good for you – zero calories, no sugar, and no fat. So, tap your water on one of many Swiss public fountains and save some money.
10. Recycling is important in Switzerland
The Swiss are really into recycling. When you spot trash cans in supermarkets, you can distinct 4 or 5 different types of them – for plastic bottles, metal, or glass, so make sure that you put your trash in the right area otherwise you can get a sarcastic look.
What part of Switzerland should I visit?
When you think of the best places to visit in Switzerland – everything is the right choice with this enormously beautiful country.
If you love skiing, countless ski resorts are at your disposal. Choose Zermatt and you be blown away with the views of the famous Matterhorn.
If you would like to withdraw and find some quiet, Switzerland has many alpine villages that will instantly bring you peace. Gstaad offers intact natural beauties and expect to will fall in love right away.
In case you are a lake person, take a dip in one of many alpine lakes on your summer visit. Lake Brienz will mesmerize you with its turquoise clarity.
You’ll find cultural diversity in many museums and galleries of the Swiss big cities. Zurich offers over 50 museums nestled in all corners of the city.
How much does it cost for Switzerland trip?
According to the expenses of the other visitors, a day of a family trip in Switzerland should be around $210 (176€).
Those travelers have spent around $18 (15€) on local transportation and $43 (36€) on daily meals.
The cost of a night in the city won’t be below $150 (125€). The average cost in Zurich goes even higher, around $200 (167€) or more.
For cheaper accommodation, you can always book a hotel outside the town, but still not too remote and close to Switzerland tourist attractions. An efficient public traffic network will take you to the center in 10-15 minutes.
For example, in Geneva, you have the option to stay in another closer and cheaper city, such as Vevey, Montreux, or Lausanne.
Now that you’ve read our list of the top 10 things you should know before you visit this European pearl, we are completely sure that you are ready for your Swiss trip.
The number of unique places to visit in Switzerland is infinite, so pack your bags, and hire our limousine service to take your adventure to the next level.