SWITZERLAND TRAVEL GUIDE CONTENTS
At a Glance
Switzerland Quick Information
Electricity Socket: 230V AC electricity. Power outlets are usually two-prong round but may be three-prong round also. To avoid the hassle of having to buy new adaptors for everywhere you go, we recommend picking up a Universal Travel Adaptor before you leave.
Visa: Switzerland is not a member of the EU but are signatories to the Schengen convention. They permit 90 days Visa-free travel to all EU citizens, including those not in the Schengen zone and 90 days Visa-free travel to those approved by the Schengen scheme including most of the Americas, Israel, and Australia.
You must always carry your passport with you in Switzerland as it is a legal requirement to have photo ID; Swiss citizens carry national ID cards. However, with that being said, we never were asked for our passports apart from checking into hotels. Being that they are not part of the EU, Switzerland has their own currency, the Swiss Franc.
Safety: Widely regarded as one of the safest countries in the world, Switzerland’s geopolitical position doesn’t put it at risk of terror and its high standard of living means crime is low and equality is high. Risks come from its winter sports but safety on the slopes will prevent injury and fatality which is why getting travel insurance is highly recommended. Our top pick for travel insurance is World Nomads due to the large number of sports and activities that they cover.
Language: Switzerland is a fascinating mix of languages, predominantly French, German and Italian with some regional dialects such as Romansh. It is also one of few countries to still use Latin as a functional language in parts. English is spoken in parts and in most ski resorts but this is by no means a guarantee and the Swiss will be appreciative of any effort you can make in French or German.
Transportation: When traveling around Switzerland, the train system is pretty efficient along with other means of public transport. I also recommend downloading the Skyscanner App which helps you find cheap deals to travel within Switzerland. Other apps such as Rome 2 Rio are also very useful when it comes to looking up train connections.
Switzerland Trip Planning
Best Time to Go
Like any other country, you can visit Switzerland at any time of the year and have a fantastic time. However, there’s always a ‘best’ time for what you want to do there so it is always worth checking the seasons. It all depends on what your planned activities are. If you are intending to ski and snowboard, best to go when the snow is at its peak time.
Activity in Switzerland can be broken down into three tourist seasons:
- Low Season (Oct-Mar) – In the first half of this season, mountain resorts are closed with sights and restaurants open fewer days and shorter hours. Expect prices to be up to 50% lower than high season.
- Mid Seasons (Apr-Jun & Sep) – Warmer temperatures mean that resorts are opening for longer and you can still benefit from better prices.
- High Season (Jul, Aug & Dec-Apr) – Everything is open and busy, especially in July and August.
Switzerland is an expensive country to travel around, which is why it is often missed off the typical Europe travel route. Saying that though, it is possible to travel here for approximately $70-100 per day if you stay in hostels, cook most of your meals and using local transport only when necessary. You’ll find that food is quite expensive as well as accommodation. However, the entire experience is 100% worth it as it is one of the most amazing places we have been to. Here’s a rough cost of basic commodities:
Budget: $30-60 dorms / $80-120 budget hotels
Food (Typical Meal For One)
Restaurant: $20 lunch / $40 dinner
Very nice restaurant: $60+
City Buses: $2.50-5
Intercity Trains: $25-50
What to Pack for Traveling Switzerland
Despite having different seasons, traveling around Switzerland is generally a moderate temperature with the exception of spending time in the mountains. With that in mind, make sure you bring lots of thin pieces of clothing that you can layer if you’re cold but that would also be suitable to wear alone for the warmer days.
During Winter months, the most important thing is getting high-quality base layers, a good coat, and solid boots. After traveling to places with extreme weather (Everest), investing in good Winter wear is crucial. If you’re looking for great hiking boots- check out a few of our top picks for men and for women.
For a complete guide on what to pack for Europe (for all seasons), check out our full article.
Best Things to Do in Switzerland
Explore and Admire Bern
Although a small city, Bern earns its right to be called the capital of Switzerland. With origins tracing back to the 12th-century, you can see the medieval architecture that has been preserved throughout the whole city.
From ancient clock towers and churches, cobblestone streets, and important buildings such as the Neo-Renaissance Bundeshaus (Federal Palace) all in its historic town center, you can spend hours walking around in awe, admiring the city in all its glory. Built around a crook in the Aare River, there are heaps of things to do in Bern.
Get Your Fill of Adventure in Interlaken
Interlaken is the adventure capital of Switzerland! Offering so many choices of adrenaline-filled activities it’s easy to become overwhelmed when you get here, so make sure to plan plenty of time and watch your budget.
Whether you like skydiving, doing a canyon swing, paragliding, or going on a turbo jet boat, Interlaken offers everything and more for all adrenaline-seekers and anyone who loves the outdoors. A unique and quirky resort town, the Bernese Highlands are not to be missed! Apart from Interlaken, you can get your dose of adventure almost anywhere in Switzerland!
Click here to see all the adventure activities available in the area. On a side note, skydiving in Switzerland was a BUCKET LIST come true for us. It was absolutely incredible and is something I highly recommend.
Visit the Rhine Falls
We love exploring waterfalls wherever we go, so Switzerland is no exception. Located on the High Rhine on the border between Schaffhausen and Zürich, you will find Europe’s largest waterfall, Rhine Falls. It may be the most majestic too, but that’s for you to decide!
Grab a picnic and hike to the falls to enjoy the views. In the village of Schaffhausen, you’ll also get to feast your eyes on a medieval castle, so it’s worth the trip here for a couple of sights. If you’re coming from Zurich, we recommend this scenic tour which takes you to the majestic Rhine Falls!
Fly High Over Switzerland
If you’re looking for an incredibly memorable experience, head to Switzerland so you can enjoy the plethora of aerial activities. From scenic flights where you can see the Swiss Alps to helicopter rides above beautiful lakes. Listed below are a few of our best recommendations for incredible experiences.
Jungfraujoch Helicopter Ride– If you want a once in a lifetime experience, we recommend that you go on a scenic helicopter flight starting from Interlaken taking you over three magical peaks Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
Tandem Paragliding over the Aletsch Glacier– Imagine flying high above a UNESCO heritage site and the largest glacier in the Alps.
Bungee Jump like James Bond– Recreate the James Bond film GoldenEye over the Verzasca Dam and take on the challenge of one of the most popular jumps in the world.
Set on a beautiful lake with a stunning mountain backdrop, Zürich is worth visiting for its picturesque views alone. However, if you do make it here, you will be rewarded with what else it offers. A historic city center, lakes and parks, vibrant bars and restaurants, a big expat population and a bustling nightlife, Zürich has it all. Explore the street art and have a beer on the waterfront and you’ll soon see why this city is so appealing.
Recommended Tours from Zurich
- Mount Titlis Day Tour from Zurich– This day tour will take you up a scenic Mount Titlis where you can admire the beauty of the Swiss Alps in a revolving cable car. The tour also includes a city tour of Lucerne as well as the Ice Grotto.
- Lucerne & Mount Pilatus Day Tour– This tour takes you on a bus, cable car, funicular, and even on a boat, showing you the best of Mt. Pilatus. We love this tour because it takes you to all the best sights, but also allows you to explore Lucerne at your own pace. Plus, the boat ride back to Zurich is stunning.
- Day Trip to Jungfraujoch- If you want to see the top of Europe, this day tour from Zurich to Jungfraujoch is incredible. You can ride the cog-wheeled train for views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau as well as walk the tunnels in the ice palace.
- Day Trip to Grindelwald and Interlaken– Having explored the region of Grindelwald, I can honestly say that it is nothing short of beautiful so if you have the time, I highly suggest this tour!
Make the Most of the Mountains
The Swiss Alps offer a plethora of activity from skiing and snowboarding to hiking and trekking, so make the most of the mountains while in Switzerland! The Matterhorn offers some of the best skiing in the world (and some of the best views!), so bust out your skis or snowboard and challenge yourself.
If you like to hike, head to the city of Lucerne and take on Mount Pilatus. The trails up to the top may be tough but the breathtaking views of the alps when you reach the peak are more than rewarding.
Go Lake Hopping
Think of chasing waterfalls but with lakes instead. Switzerland is full of some of the most beautiful, glistening lakes in the whole of Europe, so take some time to visit some of the best and see those crystal clear waters for yourself. To name a few, Lake Constance that borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland is worth a visit, as is Lake Maggiore, a great place for windsurfing, and Lake Geneva, a picturesque place surrounded by relaxing spa towns.
What to Eat in Switzerland
With a cuisine that combines influences from the German, French and North Italian culture, Switzerland has an incredible foodie culture that differs from region to region. With the most popular dishes crossing the local borders and spreading across the whole country (see below!), you can take part in some seriously indulgent feasting anywhere. Make sure to try our favorites before you leave Switzerland:
Who doesn’t love fried potatoes that are crisp and golden and delicious? One of Switzerland’s iconic national dishes, you can enjoy these beauties any time of the day anywhere, alone or commonly eaten with salty bacon, fried egg, and melted raclette cheese. I believe the word you’re looking for is YUM!
You can’t get more Swiss than dipping some bread in a ceramic fondue pot filled with melted cheese after a day in the mountains. Pair yours with white wine and end with a schnapps or warm tea for the ultimate winter meal.
Yes, it’s melted cheese again, but this time served with gschwellti (jacket potatoes), gherkins, onions, and pickled fruit! Do as the locals do and gather around wood-burning fires waiting for this delicious cheese to melt.
A recipe local to the German-speaking region of Zürich, this popular dish makes a hearty and belly-warming lunch. Made of Zurich-style diced veal, calves’ kidneys and sweetbreads sautéed in a gravy of onions, butter, white wine, cream, and mushrooms, this needs to be on your list of must-tries while in Switzerland.
Where to Stay in Switzerland
Whilst accommodation is expensive in Switzerland, you do have a couple of options to choose from. From dorms or private rooms in hostels to budget hotels, luxury hotels or lodges, or Airbnb, there is definitely no shortage of places to stay. If you’re traveling during peak season or holidays, it is best to book your accommodations in advance. We recommend checking sites like Booking.com, Agoda, or Hostel World.
To help you figure out the best places to stay in Switzerland for you, here are our personal suggestions on where to stay:
Books to Read About Switzerland
If you’re looking for a couple of guidebooks to help you during your trip, here are a few of our recommendations.
Rick Steve’s Switzerland– If you’re looking for a guidebook to help you make the most out of your trip to Switzerland, I adore Rick Steves and find his guides really useful.
Fodor’s Essential Switzerland– This guidebook comes in full color and is available as a PDF or as a kindle read which I love.