Switzerland Travel Tips.
Duty free limits are as follows: visitors arriving from Europe may import 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 grams of pipe tobacco. Visitors from non-European countries may import twice as much. The allowance for alcohol is the same for everyone: one litre of spirits plus two litres below 15% vol. Tobacco and alcohol may only be brought in by people aged 17 or over. Gifts up to the value of SFr. 100 may also be imported, and food provisions for one day.
No endemic contagious diseases exist. Immunisation for contagious diseases is only required if the traveler has been in an infected area within 14 days preceding arrival in Switzerland. Swiss medical facilities are among the best in the world. In case of a hospitalisation or a doctor's visit you either need to make a deposit or show proof of travel health insurance. You can use cash or Traveler's cheque to make the deposit. After your hospitalisation an invoice will be mailed to you. Doctors may ask you to pay in full.
The Intercontinental Airports of Zurich, Geneva and Basel can be reached from various convenient gateways with scheduled services to Switzerland. The Inter-European Airports Lugano and Bern are two additional airports with flight connections to various destinations in Europe. From here inter-European flights are operated by Crossair. Swissair is the official representative.
Zurich and Geneva airports are fully integrated into the Swiss railroad network with an integrated railway station. Trains to the city run every 10 to 20 minutes. The ride takes approx. 10 minutes. Hourly intercity and direct trains leave right from the airport station and will connect you to many cities and towns. In Basel, a bus service links the airport with the downtown area. The bus stops right outside the main railway station. The buses leave every 30 minutes and the ride takes from 15 to 20 minutes. A Crossair taxi service connects the airport with the downtown railway station in Bern. The schedule is adjusted to the airline departures and arrivals. The ride takes approx. 20 minutes. Regular taxi-service is available to connect you with the Lugano airport from downtown Lugano. Fare approx. SFr. 25.
You will appreciate Switzerland's extensive and sophisticated railway system. It is relaxing and comfortable and will allow you to fully enjoy the scenery. The trains run on an hourly basis beginning early morning until midnight. Train connections are easy and usually only require a few minutes changing time. Point-to-point tickets as well as round-trip tickets are sold at every train station in Switzerland. Seat reservations are only required on special scenic trains like the Glacier Express, Bernina Express etc. In Switzerland seat reservations are made at major railway stations. Seat reservations on regular trains are only possible for larger groups.
You can buy your train pass of choice (Swiss Pass/Swiss Flexi Pass, Swiss Card, Swiss Family Card, Europass/Eurailpass) through selected travel agent, at Swissair ticket counters and in Switzerland at any major train stations:
With a Swiss Pass you will be entitled to unlimited travel on the entire network of the Swiss Travel System. This includes the Swiss Federal Railways, most private railroads, lake steamers, postal coaches and the urban transit systems in most cities. On most excursions to mountain tops a discount of 25% is granted. All Swiss Passes are valid on consecutive days. The Swiss Flexi Pass is valid for three days during a fifteen day period.
The Swiss Card is basically a discount card to be used towards the purchase of a transportation ticket. You will only pay 50 % of the regular fare. In addition it entitles you to two free transfers. Your first transfer is activated upon arrival at any Swiss airport or Swiss border crossing. Your second transfer terminates the validity of your card on the day of departure back to the airport or border crossing. Each transfer has to be completed within one day. The Swiss Card is valid on the entire network of the Swiss Travel System. This includes the Swiss Federal Railways, most private railroads, lake steamers, postal coaches, the urban transit systems in the cities and on most excursions to mountain tops.
With the Swiss Family Card your children, under 16 years of age, travel free of charge. This card can be obtained at no cost with the purchase of a Swiss Pass, a Swiss Flexi Pass or a Swiss Card. Please note that the Family Card is only valid if you are the parent of the child you are traveling with. Regular point-to-point tickets as well as the above listed train passes offer special rates for Children. From age 6 to under 16 a 50 % discount is offered. Children younger than 6 travel free. As a senior citizen you may take advantage of the above listed travel passes. Unfortunately, no further discounts are available.
If you plan to travel in several countries in Europe the Europass (up to 9 countries) or the Eurailpass (up to 17 countries) will be an economical choice for you. Various passes entitle residents outside Europe to unlimited travel on the railroad networks of maximum 17 European countries, including Switzerland. Children from age 4 to under 12 years pay half. Make sure you purchase your Eurailpass before you leave your country of residence. They can not be bought in Europe. Selected travel agent will be able to sell these passes to you.
Cities and towns offer an excellent transportation network (streetcars and/or buses). You need to buy your ticket from a vending machine that is located at every streetcar or bus stop. To operate the machine you need to have some coins on hand. Tickets are not sold on the bus or streetcar. In case of an inspection, any person without a valid ticket has to pay a considerable fine in addition to the actual fare. The Swiss Pass, the Swiss Flexi Pass as well as the Swiss Card are valid throughout the urban transportation network.
It is easy to get around by car in Switzerland. Many traffic signs are identical to the ones used worldwide, others are self explanatory. Alpine passes are easy to drive, but reasonable care must be taken on more narrow, winding roads. Passes can be avoided where there are road tunnels or car trains. Speed limits are: freeways 120 km/h (75 mph); highways 80 km/h (50 mph) and cities, towns 50 km/h (31 mph). Freeways are identified with green directional signs. Unless otherwise indicated, the driver approaching from the right has the right-of-way. Keep to the right, pass on the left. Passing on the right is prohibited. An annual road toll, called "Vignette" of SFr. 40 is levied on all cars and motorcycles using the freeways. Cars rented in Switzerland usually include the Vignette, vehicles rented outside of Switzerland do not. Vignettes are available at border crossings as well as all Swiss Post Offices and gas stations.
Most Swiss hotels are members of the Swiss Hotel Association. Different standards are set by the Hotel Association and the members are rated according to those regulations. Non members, like small family run hotels, are usually clean and comfortable. Hotel ratings are: Deluxe (*****), First Class (****), Tourist Class (***), Standard (**) and Basic (*). Prices are set for single and double rooms and according to the star rating. Continental breakfast is usually included in the price. For a surcharge most hotels also offer half and full board. Small hotels, guest-houses and private houses offer excellent bed-and-breakfast arrangements at reasonable prices.
Almost 80 youth hostels throughout Switzerland are open to individual travelers, groups, families and schools. Most fees range from SFr. 15 to 20 per person per night. A National or International. Youth Hostel Card is required for admission. There is no upper age limit. However, during peak season, members up to 25 years of age have priority.
There are numerous camping sites in Switzerland. Please note that you can only camp on an authorised camp ground. Reservations are recommended during the summer months.
Because of its cultural diversity, Switzerland offers an unusually wide range of gastronomic delights. French, German and Italian influences prevail in regions where those languages are spoken. Quality is uniformly good. Each region has its specialities: Fondue and Raclette (melted cheese dishes) in the French part; sausages, roasts and fried potatoes (Rösti) in the German part; sliced air-dried beef (Bündnerfleisch) and ham in the Graubunden region; Italian specialities in the Ticino. Swiss pastries and desserts are world-famous. Swiss wines are excellent, especially when ordered in the region where the grapes are grown - always ask for local wine. Swiss beer is first rate. Liquors are delicious, but highly potent - Marc, Kirsch, Pflümli, Williamine are the most popular.
New Year (Jan 1), Good Friday (Mar 28), Easter Monday (Mar 31), Ascension Day (May 8), White Monday (May 19), National Day (Aug 1), Christmas (Dec 25) and Boxing Day (Dec 26). Regional and local holidays, such as January 2, May 1 (Labor Day), May 29 (Corpus Christi) among others, are observed in many parts of the country.
Business hours are weekdays 8am to 12 noon and 2pm to 5pm, closed on weekends. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Once a week they extend their hours. Please check locally. They are closed Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays. Post offices in large cities are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 12 noon and from 1:30pm to 6:30pm: Saturday 7:30 to 11am.
Switzerland's superb products make it a shopper's paradise. English is spoken in most shops and department stores. Fine watches come in an infinite variety and are generally less expensive than in others countries. Chocolates come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. Excellent buys are: textiles, embroideries, fine handkerchiefs, linen, precision instruments, drafting sets, multiblade pocket knives, music boxes, woodcarvings, ceramics and other handmade items as well as antiques and art books. You may ask at the shops for your Tax-free Shopping Cheque and reclaim the VAT. Europe Tax-free Shopping offers you a swift and save cash refund system at Zurich and Geneva airports as well as at all major airports in Europe. All major Credit Cards are accepted in fine shops and most Department stores. Shops are usually open from 9am to 6:30pm on weekdays and from 9am to 4pm on Saturdays. They are closed on Sundays except for those at airports, at some railway stations and highway rest stops.
The climate is moderate with no excessive heat, cold or humidity. From July to August the daytime temperature range is 18°-27° C and from January to February the range is -1° to 5° C. Depending on the altitude the temperature range may vary. It is highly recommended to pack a sweater, good walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a compact umbrella and/or a light rain coat.
There are a variety of private schools in Switzerland. They are well known for their high standard of education. American Schools and Colleges, Boarding Schools, Management Schools etc. are only a few examples of a large variety of educational facilities.
If you would like to study a foreign language during your stay in Switzerland a variety of language schools offer courses throughout the year.
Switzerland with its well-kept hiking paths is the ideal hiking country. During the Summer the choices are great, ranging from easy lake shore walks to challenging mountain ridge hikes or glacier tours. You can take a day tour or hike from hut-to-hut. Tour operators offer a variety of packages. You can also easily hike on your own. Walking and hiking maps are available from the local tourist offices or from well-stocked bookstores in Switzerland. Hiking is best from May through October. In Winter well maintained, clearly marked trails invite for relaxing walks. The most challenging peaks of the entire alpine region are in Switzerland. In summer and winter they offer many attractive excursions and climbs. Mountaineering schools offer guided tours as well as courses in rock climbing and mountaineering.
City and mountain bikes can be rented for a moderate fee at most railway stations. You may return it at the same station or to any other railway station. Switzerland has more than 30 ideally situated golf courses. Playing golf in Switzerland combines the pleasure of the game, the enjoyment of a beautiful landscape and the benefit of a bracing climate. There is hardly a Swiss resort without tennis courts. Numerous hotels maintain their own courts. Please ask your hotel or the local tourist offices. Most lakeside beaches are open from June to September. Sailing, water skiing, windsurfing are popular throughout Switzerland. Cities and resorts have public indoor and outdoor pools. Many resort hotels have their own heated pools. Lots of fun for those who love activity and adventure. River rafting, canoeing, yachting, hang gliding, parachuting, bungy jumping, horseback riding and much more.
For the skiers, Switzerland has an abundance of magnificent slopes and most extreme vertical drops which guarantee every possible skiing thrill in a breathtaking setting. Should you be a beginner you will quickly learn skiing in one of the ski schools. They are staffed with expert instructors and most of them speak English. They also offer classes for intermediate skiers, snowboarding lessons as well as classes for children. Further facilities for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, tobogganing are available in almost every ski resort. Summer skiing is only possible on glaciers. Best places are in Zermatt, Saas Fee and Les Diablerets. Equipment such as skis, ski boots, snowboards, toboggans, skates, etc. can be rented at very reasonable rates. Daily and weekly ski passes for unlimited use are available at every resort.
The latest news about Switzerland and around the World can be listened on Swiss Radio International. SRI prepares daily programs dedicated to foreign countries.
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Last updated: June 12, 1997