Visiting Switzerland

Because I get regularly requests about visiting Switzerland, I prepared this page. Written in 2004.

For traveling within Switzerland I recommend public transportation by train, boat and bus or tram. The SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) page makes it easy to schedule your trips. A good deal might be the Swiss Pass (find it under Swiss Travel System) or the Swiss Card. I recommend that you travel second class if you want to experience average Swiss people. They are quite educated and many will speak English. First class is about 30% more expensive but in some trains you are a little isolated. On the other hand, first class travelers are very likely to speak English.

You will be positively impressed by the modern trains. Most larger cities have a so called S-Bahn which greatly facilitates travel. For example, when you have a ticket from A to B, you can use any combination of train, boat, bus or tram to get from A to B provided it is not a detour.

Make sure you have your ticket with you when you travel on most trains because there is ususally no possibility of buying a ticket in the train. Instead you get a fine of about 70$. In many trains the announcement are also in English and the next stop is also on display in each car.

We had fun with the excursions booked through Railaway (in German). Click on the English version of the page Railaway (in English). You will find timely travel ideas here. The German version, however, seems to contain more information.

MySwitzerland (in English). contains useful tourist information. You find hiking excursions and ski resorts described here.

You should enjoy one of the thermal spas in Switzerland. Very special is Vals (explore the sound tower!), Scuol and Leukerbad. In the summer, if you see people swimming in a lake, join them. It is fine to quickly undress in public and put on your swimming suit. In Zurich, you may want to use the swimming areas Uto Quai or Tiefenbrunnen or Mythenquai (a cheap entry ticket will be required and there are dressing rooms and showers) to take a dip in the lake.

If you want to drive in Switzerland, your American driver's license will be fine. You don't need an international one. You will find the Swiss drivers quite similar to Boston drivers. Make sure you follow the parking rules. Otherwise you could end up with a parking fine of a few hundred dollars if you leave your car at a forbidden space for a few days.

As a pedestrian, follow the pedestrian traffic lights.

If you have a triband phone, it will work in Switzerland. If you stay for a while, you may want to buy a Natel Easy SIM card from Swisscom. For using public phones, buy a Swisscom tax card for Sfr. 10.

For good, affordable eating with great choices, I recommend the Migros and Coop Restaurants. Both Migros and Coop have grocery stores throughout Switzerland where you get good organic food (look for the Bio label).

The drinking water is high quality. It is so good that a restaurant might charge a small amount for tap water. Never the less, in restaurants it is usual to drink mineral water, such as Valser, Passugger, Henniez etc. and not tap water. It is safe to drink water from fountains, unless there is a sign: no drinking water. You will find quite a few running fountains.

Switzerland has plenty of water and that means it is raining quite frequently. Take your umbrella with you.

In Switzerland you will find a huge selection of Swiss chocolates at many grocery stores. The selection is much larger than what you can buy in the US. The Migros and Coop chocolate brands are excellent but a little cheaper than the traditional brands like Lindt, Cailler, Maestrani, etc.