Switzerland. Suisse. Schweiz. As a tourist destination, this is a gem in Europe’s crown – a country set against the dramatic backdrop of its Alpine landscape.
And it seems that more and more travellers from the UK (and beyond) are waking up to what Switzerland has to offer. British residents made nearly 1 million trips to Switzerland in 2018, according to UK government data – and that’s 4.1% more compared with the previous year.
If the time has come for you to explore Switzerland for yourself, you’ll soon see what has captivated those who have gone before you. Of course, it’s all too easy to build up your expectations to a point that you only end up disappointed.
That’s why, for first-time travellers visiting Switzerland, there are few things worth bearing in mind – here are seven useful tips to help you make the most of your Swiss adventure:
Speaking the Local Language/s
Switzerland has four official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh.
It often depends on which part of the country you’re in as to which one is more prevalent.
In Zurich, for example, you’re likely to find German is the most commonly spoken language. In Basel, meanwhile, it’s French.
But that doesn’t mean you need to master all four. English is widely spoken and (typically) to a very high standard.
Go Easy on Cash Withdrawals
Unlike its larger neighbours, Switzerland is not in the European Union and doesn’t use the Euro.
You may find that some businesses accept the Euro but don’t rely on it. The official currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF) and there are loads of ATMs to take cash out.
But it’s a good idea to use your credit card if you can. It’ll help you avoid going home (or travelling on) with leftover Francs you no longer need.
Passports and Visas?
If you’re a citizen of the EU, EEA or other countries within the Schengen zone, you don’t need a visa to travel to Switzerland.
The requirements for UK travellers may change depending on Brexit, however.
Getting Around Switzerland
It’s easy enough to hire a car in Switzerland, although it’s worth keeping in mind how amazing (and affordable) the local public transport systems are.
This can also be a great way to see Switzerland without having to keep an eye on the road.
Airport taxis are great for starting and ending your holiday. For your travels in-between? Buses, trams, trains and boats do the rest on time, every time. The world-famous Bernina Express rail service is a particular highlight.
Water, Water Everywhere
For a landlocked country, you might be shocked to learn that Switzerland is an incredible place to be if you like to be next to water.
Forget about beach holidays – lakes such as Geneva, Lucerne, Lugano and Thun offer spellbinding locations for relaxation, sport, sunbathing and many other activities.
Pick Your Season
Your Swiss travel experience can come down to picking the best time of year to go. If sports such as skiing, skating or bobsleighing are your thing, winter is the best time of year. St Moritz has even staged the Winter Olympics twice.
From around April onwards, the temperatures start to rise – taking you into the high summer months of July and August, where balmy evenings on the lakeside are a must.
Swiss Food and Drink
With inspiration drawn from its many cultures and regions, Swiss cuisine always strikes a chord with visitors.
From crisp potato-based Rösti to the indulgence of Fondue or traditional Raclette, there’s a dish to suit every palette. And that’s before we even mention the undeniably luxurious chocolate.
Make it Happen
Get there: I use and recommend the Omio portal to find and book the quickest and cheapest flights, trains and buses to and around Europe (and beyond).
Get around: I use and recommend using the Discover Cars portal to find the best deals on car rental.
Find local tours and experience: I use and recommend using the GetYourGuide app to quickly, cheaply and securely book travel tours and experiences wherever you are. From food tours and theatre tickets to skip-the-line entry to famous museums and landmarks, you can book it all with a few swipes of your phone.
Store your luggage: Wherever you’re travelling, free yourself up by storing your luggage with Eelway. Drop off your bags at their partner network shops and hotels, where your luggage is securely stored and insured. There’s no minimum or maximum storage time and most of their luggage storage drop-off points are open 24/7.