If you appreciate natural beauties, visiting Switzerland promises to be a unique and life-changing experience. Sights of dazzling lakes, fearless mountain peaks like Matterhorn, and scenic hikes will put a lasting effect on your vacation.

But before you start planning the journey and packing your bags, we wanted to offer 5 useful tips when planning on traveling to this amazing country:

  1. What to know before visiting Switzerland
  2. What are the rules for visiting Switzerland
  3. What to pack when visiting Switzerland
  4. Best time to visit Switzerland
  5. Places to visit in Switzerland

Keep reading, and use our tips to prepare yourself for the best European journey ever!

1. What to know before visiting Switzerland

Since you have decided to visit this beautiful country, we assume you already have some pre-knowledge about it. Still, here are the things that will overcome some common misconceptions. It is important to know the following:

  1. Switzerland has 4 official languages
  2. The Swiss currency is Swiss franc (CHF)
  3. Switzerland is expensive
  4. Switzerland is a small country

Switzerland has 4 official languages

There are 4 official languages in Switzerland, but the two prevailing are Swiss-German and French. In the north and the eastern parts of the country, you will mostly hear Swiss German, while in the west and around Geneva you will hear French.

In the south, many regions use Italian as the official language, such as Lugano. The fourth official language is Romansch and it is spoken in the smallest number of regions within the country.

However, you can always try conversational English and you will be understood in the majority of situations. The main touristic attractions, trains, and buses have most of the signs in English, so it gets easy to navigate.

In the end, why not give it a shot and learn some of the basic phrases of German and French so you can greet locals and make new friendships? The locals will appreciate your efforts and tolerate your bad accent.

Most signs on hiking trails and at the stations are in English to make getting around easier. Of course, the names of places are in Swiss German or French, but the directions are very plain.

When visiting Switzerland, there is no need for small talk. The natives are well-organized and professional – they just want to complete the transaction without involving the small talk that you might have regularly at home.

It is quite reasonable to think that one multilingual population would be more than pleased to show their conversational skills – but that’s not the case with the Swiss. Efforts to commence friendly conversations with waitresses and cashiers won’t be welcomed. Their culture doesn’t practice showing friendliness and politeness to foreigners. Don’t take it personally.

language map of switzerland
The language map of Switzerland. | Source: Wiki

The Swiss currency is CHF

As Switzerland is a member of the Schengen agreement, entering Switzerland is visa-free for the members, but as it isn’t a member of the European Union, they don’t use the euro.

Their currency is a Swiss Franc, shorten CHF, which value is about equal to the value of a dollar $.

swiss francs - banknotes - coins - a ring - visiting Switzerland
The official currency of Switzerland is the Swiss franc. | Source: Pixabay

Many stores may accept euros, but they will give you the change in francs. You can exchange the euros to any bank or at the hotel you are staying in, but keep in mind that the banks offer the best exchange rate. Hotels and official exchange offices usually add a fee for the service.

If you need an ETM, there they are called “bancomats”. Also, always carry some pocket money and coins with you, you may need them for some unpredicted situations, such as for parking.

As for credit cards, Visa and MasterCard are more welcomed than American Express. But in rural areas and smaller shops, there is a high chance that they won’t accept them.

Tipping in Switzerland isn’t a must as they have a very good minimum wage (about $23 (€19) per hour). But if you insist, you can do it in hotels, taxis, etc.

It isn’t a myth – Switzerland is expensive

Switzerland is one of the countries with the highest costs of living in the entire world. Don’t expect to have a lunch that costs less than $20 (€16) and goes with free water. If you don’t think about your finances all the time, you’ll end up with empty pockets in no time. You’ll even start thinking that paying two dollars per minute for a taxi ride is quite reasonable.

For pizza, you will probably pay around 20 CHF.

For a big Mac meal at McDonald’s, you will pay around 12 CHF.

For a Starbucks coffee, you will pay around 5 CHF.

For a scoop of ice cream, you will pay around 3 CHF in most parts of the country.

Be prepared that, when visiting Switzerland, nothing will go cheap.

Be aware of the size – Switzerland is small

From the aspect of both population and geography, Switzerland is quite small.

At 41,285 km² it can be compared with the Shanghai region in China or regarded as just 1/10 the size of the state of California.

If you consider Switzerland’s population, it’s approximately double in size that of Kentucky. It numbers about 8.1 million residents which are similar to the population of New York City.

The train can take you across the entire country in just 5 hours! That’s the reason why are major cities such as Zurich and Basel very easy to navigate. You will have no hard time getting to your destination, plus, you will be mesmerized by the breathtaking scenery on your way.

The country is intersected with many mountains which slower the travel across the country. Of course, traffic functions very well on freeways, so you can go from Zurich to Geneva in 3 hours, and that’s almost the length of the country.

2. What are the rules for visiting Switzerland?

When visiting Switzerland, there are some rules to follow to have a true Swiss sensation. Most people are visiting on a budget because of the high prices on each corner.

To help you save some money and experience Switzerland in the right way, in this guide you will find a lot of useful ways to have a wonderful vacation, and without spending money like water. Start with this:

  1.  Get a Swiss Travel Pass
  2.  Get up early
  3.  Try chocolate and fondue
  4.  Recycle

Get a Swiss Travel Pass for the trains

Swiss trains are super-efficient and they are the most frequently used means of transportation in Switzerland. They share great route coverage but they can be expensive, too.

That’s why you should take a Swiss Travel Pass and travel around with only one single ticket that can be used for most trains and buses. Plus, you have the option to take care of your luggage – it can stay inside the transportation while you are exploring the country.

If you are visiting Switzerland for a week or so, it’s very profitable to get a Swiss Travel Pass because you’ll probably change places frequently. Getting around the country in a short while can be very valuable for your money and time.

You can buy it in advance online, and pick it up upon your arrival at the airport. The trains are mostly very scenic and beautiful, so you will save your money and admire the landscapes at the same time.

Note: Switzerland provides two main classes of train travel: the first class and the second class. The second class is quite satisfying, it is almost like the first class in many other countries. So, don’t despair if you are taking the second class – in fact, you will enjoy it.

If you want to experience true first-class travel in Switzerland, we suggest that you hire a limousine. It will elevate your stay and comfort to the highest levels.

Get up early and seize the day

When visiting Switzerland, it is important to know that their day starts early and it ends early. It has very strict laws that strive to obtain a good quality of life so the Swiss are not fans of noises and crowds. Thus, when it comes to the nighttime, there are not many things to do.

Most cafés, restaurants, and stores open early and close early. On Saturday, most stores close around four or five p.m., and on Sunday almost everything is closed.

When you know this, it motivates you to organize your day better, fill it with more activities, and then take a rest at night.

Some major cities offer “evening shopping” – they choose one day of the week when the shops are open until late at night. For example, in Zurich, this is happening on Thursdays, when the shops are usually open until nine p.m.

You must taste traditional specialties – chocolate and fondue

The highlight of Switzerland’s tradition is the greatest chocolate and high-quality cheese. There are chocolate shops almost on every block in major cities and they offer almost 400 varieties of cheese!

swiss chocolate - chopped chocolate
If you haven’t tried Swiss chocolate when visiting you have missed a lot. | Source: Unsplash

You can’t go wrong with the local chocolatiers, but don’t eat just the wrapped chocolate – the Swiss hot chocolate will immediately conquer your senses!

For lunches on a budget, check restaurants that have lunch specials – they might be about 20 CHF, or visit some of the cafeteria restaurants that are in department stores.

You can also go to the ethnic restaurants and kababs, they are also cheap. There you may find a kabab for not more than 10 CHF.

Note: If you have made a reservation – you can’t be late. The Swiss are very strict on time so make sure that you don’t get late, otherwise, they won’t sit you.

When you are in Switzerland, you have to recycle

You should be aware that the Swiss are fervently into recycling. If you pay attention, you may spot 4 or 5 different types of trash cans in supermarkets.

Choose wisely where you will throw the garbage, or you won’t get away from very judgmental looks.

3. Best time to visit Switzerland

The best time for visiting Switzerland depends strictly on you. Unlike most destinations that have just one season-specific for that region, Switzerland is fantastic in both summer and winter.

The shoulder seasons are the best periods for visiting if you prefer peace and privacy. They are usually from April to June and from September to October.

The high summer season starts in July and finishes at the end of August. In that period, the weather is the warmest in the entire year, and there is over a 50% increase in prices as it gets super-crowded.

In summer, you can swim in one of the lakes or go hiking at high altitudes where the temperature decreases. You’ll avoid summer hotness and enjoy the pleasant weather.

Winter activities for utter entertainment are limitless. Skiers and snowboarders will find themselves in the center of paradise! Of course, for skiing, you will choose some of the winter months, but you should be aware that some resorts are open year-round like Zermatt.

The weather in Switzerland is very changeable because of the Alps. For instance, on the west side, it can be windy, while on the south it can be much warmer. In summer, the temperature can increase to quite some extent in cities which travelers usually don’t take into account.

swiss alps - cottages on the mountain - visiting switzerland
Swiss alps affect the climate of the country. | Source: Unsplash

Humidity can also be very present because there is so much water everywhere – in, about, and around. If you are going up to the mountains, they are cold. Each mountain will have its own website, so check the weather in the mountains. When you are at a high altitude, don’t forget to wear sunscreen because the sun is much stronger there.

4. What to pack when visiting Switzerland?

Spending a holiday in the Alps is extremely exciting both in summer and winter. There are infinite ski regions and hiking trails that promise to take your holiday adventure to the next level.

As we mentioned before, the weather can be changeable and the temperature may vary at higher altitudes, and be completely different from the temperature in the villages below. Therefore, packing is not that simple when visiting Switzerland. You must have all the necessary equipment to ensure a perfect and safe experience on snow.

On the other hand, in summer the temperature may vary in the valley and the mountain, and between north and south. So, dressing in layers is probably the best decision you can make.

Before packing your luggage, pay attention to the following things:

  1. Your destination is the essential thing when deciding what to pack. Lower or higher altitudes will create the content of your luggage.
  2. Check the weather before the trip. Check websites, such as Meteo Centrale or Meteo Schweiz, enter the dates, and then pick the right clothes.
hiking in switzerland mountains
The destination and activities you will do there will dictate your packing list for Switzerland. | Source: Pixabay

If you are visiting Switzerland in summer, you’ll mostly need some light clothes. It would be advisable to pack t-shirts and shorts, dresses and skirts, and pick clothes that are comfortable enough for long hikes. For chilly mornings and late evenings, don’t forget to pack a pair of leggings. Besides being practical, they won’t take much space in your luggage.

As Switzerland can get very humid, pack clothes that dry quickly.

In case you are visiting Switzerland in winter, you must pack warm clothes. The best option is to wear layers. Don’t go without the jacket, cardigan, walking pants/leggings, thermals, socks, two high-tech fleeces (one with a zip and one without), and woolen hat, scarf, gloves, or mittens.

These clothes will keep you warm, and when in layers, it’s easy to take off any unnecessary part and put it into the bag.

5. Places to visit in Switzerland

When you think about beautiful places that you should visit in Switzerland, you come down to this: everything is the proper choice in this tremendously appealing country.

You’ll find cultural diversity in many museums and art galleries of the Swiss major cities. Zurich brags more than 50 museums scattered all over the city.

If you love skiing, countless ski resorts await your visit. Go to Zermatt, and you will be mesmerized by the views of the magnificent Matterhorn.

If you would like to get away from the crowds and find some peace, Switzerland offers many cute alpine villages that will put your mind at ease. In Gstaad, you will find intact natural beauties that will make you fall in love right away.

Lake fans can take a dip in one of many alpine lakes on your summer visit. Lake Brienz will be a memorable experience with its turquoise clarity.

Geneva is a truly metropolitan city that will leave you wanting more.

Check out 7 places to visit in Geneva.

Conclusion:

Now that you’ve read our tips for visiting Switzerland, we are positively sure that you are ready to have a perfect visit and some quality time in this stunning country.

The number of authentic places you can visit in the center of Europe is unlimited, so pack the clothes we recommended and call our limousine service to make your traveling experience even better and more sophisticated.