Welcome to Switzerland
Compared to other European countries, Switzerland might seem small and not as tempting as other, more exotic destinations, but it's got a lot to offer. You should experience what it has to offer at least once, whether it's to see the snow-capped mountains in the Swiss Alps, enjoy thrilling outdoor activities, visit UNESCO World Heritage cities, or eat famous Swiss cuisine.
It’s here where you’ll find one of the world’s most photographed mountains, the Matterhorn, and some of the best ski resorts in Europe. Plus, Swiss cheese and chocolate!! Need we say more? Find everything you need to know about visiting this stunning country in our ultimate online Switzerland travel guide.
Documents checklist for Switzerland
- Visa copy
- Passport (valid for at least 3 months after the scheduled date of departure)
- Sufficient funds to cover your travel expenses
- Return or onward ticket
Essential Switzerland travel information
Currency - Swiss franc (CHF or Fr.). $1 is equivalent to approx. Fr. 0.95.
Daily budget for 1 person - Allow a daily budget of Fr. 196 ($208).
Languages - German, French, and Italian maintain equal status as official languages. Around two-thirds of its population is also able to converse in English.
Top 3 cities to visit - Bern, Geneva, and Lucerne.
Top 3 landmarks and monuments - Chillon Castle, the Swiss National Park, and Lake Geneva.
Socket type - Type C (2-pin) and Type J (3-pin) plugs.
Time zone - Central European Time (CET): ET +6.
Visa information for Switzerland
Visiting Switzerland is relatively easy for most foreign visitors because the country is part of the Schengen zone. Most travelers who wish to enter Switzerland can stay in the country for up to 90 days within a 180-day period, for tourist or business purposes, without a visa. As of mid-2023, you may need to obtain an ETIAS or a Schengen visa. to travel to Switzerland.
If you are from a visa-exempt country that is not part of the Schengen zone, you may soon have to apply for the ETIAS visa waiver to visit Switzerland and the Schengen area.
Foreign nationals from the EU and EEA region are able to enter and travel within the 26 Schengen countries visa-free.
As part of the new EU travel agreement, the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) provides a visa waiver to enter Switzerland and the EU. It's designed to help border authorities monitor travel in the European Union. ETIAS enables you to travel freely. If you apply for ETIAS, you will be subject to a routine criminal background check. The Switzerland ETIAS will be a mandatory part of traveling to the country from May 2023 for all nationalities who are currently visa-exempt and able to visit the Schengen area. It can be obtained online through iVisa without visiting a Dutch embassy or consulate. Find out more about ETIAS here.
You will still need to apply for a Switzerland Schengen Visa if you are not eligible to apply for an ETIAS.
Typical costs and budget for Switzerland travel
Is it expensive to travel to and around Switzerland? This country has a reputation for being one of the most expensive countries to live in and travel. On average, Switzerland does have some of the most expensive accommodation, food and transport in Europe.
Daily spending - Be prepared to spend around Fr.195 ($208)/per person/per day. This includes:
Meals - Fr.39 ($44)
Transport - Fr.26 ($28)
Hotel or accommodation - Fr.234 ($246), for two people.
A trip for two people, for one week, will cost on average Fr.2798 ($2,929). Of course, budget choices are available, but do your research.
Transport and ways to travel around Switzerland
Swiss public transportation includes trains, buses, trams, boats, funiculars, and cable cars. Schedules are generally very reliable.
If you're taking the train in Switzerland, your first stop should be the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) website. Here you find most schedules, fares, and options to book tickets. It’s also possible to book tickets at dedicated counters and machines at any train station. The country also offers some of the most spectacular mountain railways (usually at tourist prices).
Buses and trams
If you need to go anywhere that’s not within walking distance in any city, trams and buses are often the answer. There are electric tram systems in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchâtel, and Switzerland's largest city, Zurich, that take commuters and visitors around the city and into the suburbs.
Tourist travel passes and discounted tickets
Depending on the city, tram/bus tickets are sold based on zones, calculated by distance from the center. If you're a tourist, most of your travel will be within one or two central zones. In most major cities, hotel guests get free city passes, which give them unlimited access to public transportation and discounted admission to attractions. In mountain regions, the pass usually includes free ski lift and cable car access, and in lakefront cities, it usually includes free boat transportation.
If you’re visiting Switzerland for an extended period of time, it may be wise to buy the Swiss Half Fare Card. This is a Swiss travel pass that allows you to buy 50% discounted tickets for nearly all transport in Switzerland for one month.
Safety in Switzerland
Switzerland is a very safe country to visit. In spite of this, it is expected that an occasional pickpocket might lurk around popular landmarks or streets in touristic areas. As always, be careful with your valuables.
Weather in Switzerland
Whatever season it is, Switzerland offers diverse activities to keep you busy all year long without getting bored. Visit top-quality ski resorts during the winter ski season between October and March, enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Site towns and villages spread across the country during spring, hike the most beautiful trails during summer, and skip the tourist crowds and save money during autumn.
The climate in Switzerland is moderately continental, except for mountain areas, where temperatures are usually very low. The differences between the four seasons are clear, summers are hot, and winters are cold and snowy.
Popular cities and towns in Switzerland
Some of the most popular towns and cities that can’t be missed on any Swiss itinerary are:
Bern - Switzerland's capital city Bern is also one of the top Swiss destinations. A dreamy place to explore with lots of natural and architectural sights.
Geneva - Geneva, located on the Swiss/French border, is home to some of the most beautiful sights, as well as politically, scientifically, and internationally important organizations. Besides Lake Geneva and the nearby Jura mountains, you can also visit the UN headquarters and CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider.
Lucerne - Some of the most beautiful and impressive mountain peaks of the Central Swiss Alps are located around Lucerne, showing majestic views everywhere you look. An excellent place for mountain excursions!
Zurich - Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and home to some of the largest museums and art galleries in the country. It’s also the go-to place to buy Swiss watches and Swiss army knives.
Basel - Basel is a hotchpotch of cultures and languages, due to its proximity to both Germany and France, and is the capital of art in Switzerland. Besides that, the old town alone is worth a visit.
Must do and see in Switzerland
Discover Switzerland with all its wonders, from breathtaking mountain railways to pristine lakes, and Swiss cities filled with medieval architecture. Here are some of the top things to do and see in Switzerland:
- Visit the 4,478-meter high Matterhorn, one of the most photographed mountains in the world.
- Check out Château de Chillon, Switzerland’s most-visited historical monument.
- Take a trip up the Jungfraujoch, a glacier located between two mountains, and experience a true winter wonderland with the highest train station in the world.
- The Swiss National Park is the country’s only national park, so protected, that it’ll give you an idea of how the Alps were before tourism.
- Stretching from Geneva in the west to Lausanne in the east, Lake Geneva is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful sights and offers many activities.
Typical food to try in Switzerland
Switzerland offers some extraordinary local dishes. Don’t leave Switzerland without trying:
Cheese fondue - In Switzerland, fondue is indelibly woven into the culture. Swiss living in the mountains have used fondue to bread and cheese in the colder months for centuries. From autumn to spring, it is a must-have for any local or visitor.
Swiss chocolate - With brands like Lindt and Toblerone (shaped after the iconic Matterhorn), Swiss chocolate is popular around the world and a must-try when visiting the country. Milk chocolate as we know it was invented here.
Rösti - Rösti, thinly grated potatoes, pan-fried until crisp and golden, is one of Switzerland's iconic national dishes. Though no one knows when the first rösti came about, farmers in the district of Bern would traditionally eat it for breakfast.
Vaccine information for Switzerland
Some vaccines are recommended for your trip to Switzerland. The CDC has a full list of recommended vaccines, including COVID-19 requirements, on their website. Please direct any questions about health advice to your local health practitioner.
Fun facts about Switzerland
Although Switzerland is known for its chocolate, watches, and having more banks than dentists, we bet you didn't know these unusual facts:
- 1. Switzerland has four national languages: French (20.4%), German (64%), Italian (6.5%), and Romansh (a little over 1%).
- 2. Less than 15% of the Alps are actually Swiss, but it is the country that people most closely associated with the Alps.
- 3. Switzerland’s flag resemblance with The Red Cross is not a coincidence, as the organization was founded in 1863 in Geneva, where its headquarters still remain today.
- 4. The Swiss do not have a single president or prime minister who sets policies and takes responsibility for decisions. The seven members of the Federal Council make decisions together and even take turns being president.
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