Thursday, December 8, 2022
Switzerland Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Switzerland

travel guide

Switzerland is a federal republic in Europe, formally known as the Swiss Confederation. It is divided into 26 cantons, with the federal authority headquartered in Bern. The nation is located in Western-Central Europe and is bounded on the south by Italy, on the west by France, on the north by Germany, and on the east by Austria and Liechtenstein. Switzerland is a landlocked nation separated physically by the Alps, the Swiss Plateau, and the Jura. It has an area of 41,285 square kilometers (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps dominate the landscape, the Swiss population of roughly eight million people is located mostly on the plateau, which is home to the country’s major cities, including the two global cities and economic centers Zürich and Geneva.

The Old Swiss Confederacy was founded in the late medieval century as a consequence of a series of military victories against Austria and Burgundy. In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia officially acknowledged Switzerland’s independence from the Holy Roman Empire. The country’s military neutrality dates all the way back to the Reformation; it has not been at war on a global scale since 1815 and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Despite this, it maintains an active foreign policy and is often engaged in global peace-building initiatives. Apart from being the origin of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to a plethora of international organizations, including the United Nations’ second biggest headquarters. It is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association on the European level, but is not a member of the European Union or the European Economic Area. However, via bilateral accords, it is a member of the Schengen Area and the European Single Market.

Switzerland, which is at the crossroads of Germanic and Romance Europe, is divided into four distinct language and cultural regions: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Although the majority of the population speaks German, Swiss national identity is based on a shared historical heritage, shared ideals such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbols. Switzerland is known by a number of indigenous names due to its linguistic diversity: Schweiz [vats] (German); Suisse [sis()] (French); Svizzera [zvittsera] (Italian); and Svizra[vitsr] or [vits] (Swiss) (Romansh). Latin (sometimes abbreviated as “Helvetia”) is used on coins and stamps in place of the four live languages.

Switzerland is one of the world’s most developed nations, according to the IMF, with the greatest nominal wealth per adult and the ninth highest per capita gross domestic output. Switzerland ranks near the top of many worldwide performance indicators, including government transparency, civil rights, living quality, economic competitiveness, and human development. Zürich and Geneva have both been rated among the world’s best cities for quality of life, with the former coming in second worldwide, according to Mercer.

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Switzerland - Info Card

Population

8,636,896

Currency

Swiss franc (CHF)

Time zone

UTC+1 (CET)

Area

41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi)

Calling code

+41

Official language

German, French, Italian

Switzerland | Introduction

Geography Of Switzerland

Stretching over the northern and southern sides of the Alps of west central Europe, Switzerland covers a wide diversity of landscapes as well as climatic zones within a limited area of 41,285 km². A population of 8 million people inhabits Switzerland, which results in an average density of 195 people per km². The more mountainous southern half of the country is much more sparsely populated than the northern half. In the largest canton, Graubünden, which lies entirely in the Alps, the population density drops to 27/km².

It is made up of 3 basic geographical formations: the Swiss Alps in the south, the Swiss Plateau in the west, and the Jura Mountains. The Alps are a high mountain range that runs through the south-central part of the country and account for about 60% of the country’s total area. The majority of the Swiss population lives on the Swiss Plateau. The highlands of the Swiss Alps contain many glaciers, with a total area of 1,063 km2. The headwaters of major rivers, such as the Rhine, Inn, Ticino and Rhone, flow throughout Europe from these valleys. The hydrological network includes the largest freshwater bodies in Central and Western Europe, such as the lakes of Geneva, Bodensee and Maggiore. Switzerland has more than 1500 lakes and contains 6% of Europe’s freshwater. Lakes and glaciers cover about 6% of the country’s surface. The largest lake is Lake Geneva in western Switzerland, which is shared with France. The Rhône is both the main source and the main outlet of Lake Geneva. Lake Constance is the 2nd largest lake in Switzerland. Similar to Lake Geneva, it is located halfway up the Rhine River on the border between Austria and Germany. While the Rhône flows into the Mediterranean near the French Camargue and the Rhine into the North Sea near Rotterdam in the Netherlands, some 1,000 kilometres apart, both sources are only about 22 kilometres apart in the Swiss Alps.

48 of the Swiss mountains are 4,000 m above sea level or higher. At 4,634 m, Monte Rosa is the highest, although the Matterhorn (4,478 m) is often considered the most famous mountain. Both are in the Pennine Alps in the canton of Valais, on the border with Italy. A section of the Lauterbrunnen with 72 waterfalls above a deep glacial valley in the Bernese Alps is famous for the Jungfrau (4,158m), the Eiger and Mönch, and many picturesque valleys in the region. In the southeast, the long Engadine Valley, which includes the St. Moritz region of Graubünden, is also famous, and the highest peak in the neighboring Bernina Alps is Piz Bernina (4,049 m).

The heavily populated northern part of the country, which covers about 30% of the country, is known as the Swiss Plateau. It has larger open and hilly landscapes, partly wooded, partly open pastures, mostly with grazing herds, or vegetable and fruit fields, but it is still hilly. Large lakes are found here and the largest Swiss cities are in this part of the country.

Demographics Of Switzerland

In 2012, Switzerland had a population of just over eight million. Since then, growth has stabilised and, like most European countries, Switzerland faces an ageing population, although annual growth is expected to remain constant until 2035, mainly due to immigration as well as a fertility rate that is close to its replacement level.

In 2012, resident foreigners accounted for 23.3 per cent of the population, one of the highest proportions in the developed world. Most of them (64 %) were from EU or EFTA countries. The largest group was made up of Italians, with 15.6 % of the foreign population, and was followed very closely by Germans (15.2 %), people from Portugal (12.7 %), French immigrants (5.6 %), people from Serbia (5.3 %), people from Turkey (3.8 %), people from Spain (3.7 %) and people from Austria (2 %). Immigrants from Sri Lanka, mainly former Tamil refugees, were the largest group among people of Asian origin (6.3 %).

The 2012 statistics additionally showed that 34.7 % of the permanently living population in Switzerland aged 15 years and older (about 2.33 million) had an immigrant background. One third of this population (853,000) had Swiss citizenship. Four-fifths of people with an immigrant background were immigrants (first generation foreigners and naturalized Swiss by birth), while one-fifth were born in Switzerland (second generation foreigners and naturalized Swiss by birth).

In the 2000s, national and international institutions expressed concern about the perceived rise in xenophobia, particularly in some political campaigns. In its response to a critical report, the Federal Council noted that “racism is unfortunately present in Switzerland”, but stated that the high proportion of foreigners in the country, together with the “‘generally straightforward and smooth process of integration for foreigners’, highlights Switzerland’s open-mindedness.

Religion In Switzerland

There is no official state religion in Switzerland, though most cantons ( with the exception of Geneva and Neuchâtel) acknowledge the official churches, which are either the Catholic Church or the Swiss Reformed Church.

Christianity is the predominant religion in Switzerland (about 71% of the resident population and 75% of Swiss citizens), divided between the Catholic Church (38.21% of the population), the Swiss Reformed Church (26.93%), the other Protestant churches (2.89%) and the other Christian denominations (2.79%). Evangelism is becoming more and more active these days.. Immigration has made Islam (4.95 %) and Eastern Orthodoxy (about 2 %) important minority religions. According to a 2015 Gallup International poll, 12 % of the Swiss described themselves as “convinced atheists”.

Other minority Christian denominations in the 2000 census were Neopietism (0.44 %), Pentecostalism (0.28 %, mainly in the Swiss Pentecostal Mission), Methodism (0.13 %), the New Apostolic Church (0.45 %), The Jehovah’s Witnesses (0.28%), some other Protestant denominations (0.20%), Old Catholic Church (0.18%). Non-Christian religions are Hinduism (0.38 per cent), Buddhism (0.29 %), Judaism (0.25 %) and other (0.11 %); 4.3 % gave no information. 21.4 % reported being non-practising in 2012, i.e. not belonging to any church or other religious body (agnostic, atheist or simply not belonging to any official religion).

Historically, the country was roughly balanced between Catholics and Protestants, with a complex patchwork of majorities in most of the country. Geneva converted to Protestantism in 1536, shortly before John Calvin arrived there. It gained international fame as Protestant Rome and became the base for reformers such as Theodore Beza and William Farel. Zurich became another stronghold at the same time, with Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger at its head. One canton, Appenzell, was officially divided into a Catholic and a Protestant part in 1597. The large cities and their cantons (Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich and Basel) used to be predominantly Protestant.

Central Switzerland, Valais, Ticino, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Jura and Fribourg are traditionally Catholic. The Swiss constitution of 1848, under the impression of the disputes between the Catholic and Protestant cantons that culminated in the Sonderbund War, deliberately defined a concordance state that allowed Catholics and Protestants to live together peacefullyA 1980 effort to completely separate church and state has been rejected by 78.9 % of all voters. Some traditionally Protestant cantons and cities now have a slight Catholic majority, not because they have seen an increase in membership, quite the contrary, but only since around 1970 has a steadily growing minority not belonged to any church or other religious body.

Language in Switzerland

Swedish (Svenska) is the official language of Sweden, although many Swedes, particularly those born after 1945, also speak English well — an estimated 89 percent of Swedes can communicate in English. While Finnish (the biggest minority language) and the less spoken Sami, Meänkeäli, Yiddish, and Romani languages are legally recognized, Swedish is spoken by almost everyone born in Sweden. Whatever your home language is, Swedes appreciate any effort to speak Swedish, and starting discussions in Swedish, no matter how fast your comprehension fades, can help you ingratiate yourself with the locals.

Hej (hey) is the most often used greeting in Sweden, and it is appropriate for both monarchs and commoners. You may even say it while you’re leaving. The Swedes seldom say “please” (snälla, pronounced SNELL-la), preferring to use the phrase tack (tack), which means “thank you.” A simple “ursäkta” (pronounced “OR-sek-ta”) (“excuse me”) can do the job if you need to catch someone’s attention, whether it’s a waiter or you need to pass someone one in a busy scenario. You will be pushed to overuse it, and you may sometimes witness individuals practically repeating it like a mantra while attempting to leave a packed location such as a bus or train.

Some English names are given to objects that do not match to the original English term. Light, which is used for diet goods, and freestyle, which means “walkman” are two examples. Sweden utilizes the metric system, hence the usual term mil, “mile,” in the sense of distance, means 10 kilometers, not an English statute mile. Because of the distances involved, mil is used in spoken language, despite the fact that road signs always use kilometers.

Foreign television shows and films are nearly usually shown in their original language, with Swedish subtitles. Only kids’ shows are dubbed into Swedish.

Internet & Communications in Switzerland

Many of the internet cafés that popped up in the 1990s have now closed, probably because Switzerland has one of the highest rates of high-speed internet connections in the world in households, but there may be a few internet terminals in some major train stations. The tourist office should be able to tell you the nearest one. The starting price is CHF 5 for 20 minutes. The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB FFS) now offer free Wi-Fi at their stations.

You can also send emails, SMS (text messages to mobile phones) or short text faxes from almost any public phone box for less than a franc. In some public phone boxes you can surf the Internet. Many shopping centres and towns (e.g. Lausanne and Vevey) offer free wireless internet access: Ask the local young people, they might know where to go.

Public phones are surprisingly cheap and credit cards are not charged extra.

If you are staying for a while, it may be advisable to buy a prepaid mobile phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard in the 900/1800 MHz bands – these usually cost around CHF 10-40 and are available in most cities in the shops of mobile phone providers Swisscom, Salt or Sunrise. Mobile network coverage is close to 100% per area, even in mountainous and unpopulated areas.

There are also many cheap prepaid cards for local calls from other providers. The prepaid cards from the large supermarket chains Migros (M-Budget-Mobile [www]) and Coop (Coop Mobile [www]), for example, cost around CHF 20 and already include CHF 15 of talk time. The cheapest prepaid card for calls within Switzerland is Aldi Mobile [www]: CHF 0.14/min. for fixed network Switzerland and Aldi Mobile, CHF 0.34/min. for other mobile phones. The cheapest prepaid card for international calls is yallo [www]: CHF 0.39/min. to Switzerland, as well as to all European countries and many more (to mobile and fixed networks). These include the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. SMS messages cost CHF 0.10. Prepaid cards can be purchased online (CHF 30 with CHF 30 talk time included), at most post offices (CHF 29 with CHF 20 talk time included) or in Sunrise shops (CHF 20 with CHF 20 talk time included). Lebara Mobile (the sister company of Sunrise) offers another cheap prepaid card. The prepaid card is available for CHF 5 with corresponding talk time and vouchers offer the corresponding talk time for the price of the voucher.

Economy Of Switzerland

Switzerland has a stable, prosperous and high-tech economy and enjoys great wealth, ranked as the richest country in the world per capita in several rankings. In 2011, it was the richest country in the world per capita (where “wealth” includes both financial and non-financial assets), while the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2013 showed Switzerland to be the nation with the world’ highest average level of wealth per adult in 2013. Switzerland is the nineteenth largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP and the thirty-sixth largest in terms of purchasing power parity. Despite its small size, it is the 20th largest exporter. Switzerland has the highest European score in the Index of Economic Freedom 2010, but also offers a large coverage of public services. It has higher nominal GDP per capita compared to the larger Western and Central European economies and as well as Japan. According to the World Bank and IMF, Switzerland ranks 8th in the world in terms of GDP per capita when adjusted for purchasing power parity.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Switzerland’s economy is the most competitive in the world, while the EU considers it to be the most innovative country in Europe. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was by far the richest country in Europe (measured by GDP – per capita). The median household income in Switzerland for 2007 was estimated at $137,094 by purchasing power parity, while the median income was $95,824. Switzerland also has one of the largest fiscal balances as a percentage of GDP in the world.

Switzerland is home to several large multinational corporations. The largest Swiss companies by revenue are Glencore, Gumbol, Nestlé, Novartis, Hoffmann-La Roche, ABB, Mercuria Energy Group and Adecco. Also worth mentioning are UBS AG, Zurich Financial Services, Credit Suisse, Barry Callebaut, Swiss Re, Tetra Pak, The Swatch Group and Swiss International Air Lines. Switzerland is considered one of the strongest economies in the world.

Switzerland’s most important economic sector is manufacturing. Manufacturing consists mainly of the production of speciality chemicals, health and pharmaceutical products, scientific and precision measuring instruments and musical instruments. Exported services account for one third of exports. The services sector – especially banking and insurance, tourism and international organisations – is another important economic sector for Switzerland.

About 3.8 million people work in Switzerland, and in 2004 about 25 % of the workforce was unionized. Switzerland has a more flexible labour market than neighbouring countries and the unemployment rate is very low. The unemployment rate rose from a low of 1.7% in June 2000 to a high of 4.4% in December 2009. In 2014, the unemployment rate is 3.2%. Population growth through net immigration is quite high at 0.52% of the population in 2004. The proportion of foreign citizens was 21.8% in 2004, about the same as in Australia. GDP per hour worked is the 16th highest in the world, at $49.46 international in 2012.

Switzerland has a predominantly private sector economy and low tax rates compared to the Western world; overall taxation is one of the lowest among developed countries. The slow growth that Switzerland experienced in the 1990s and early 2000s has brought greater support for economic reform and harmonisation with the European Union. Only about 37% of residents actually own their homes, which is one of the lowest homeownership rates in Europe, according to Credit Suisse.

The Swiss federal budget was CHF 62.8 billion in 2010, equivalent to 11.35% of the country’s GDP that year; however, regional (cantonal) and municipal budgets are not counted as part of the federal budget and the total government expenditure ratio is closer to 33.8% of GDP. The main sources of federal revenue are VAT (33%) and direct federal tax (29%) and the main expenditure is in the areas of social affairs and finance & taxes. Federal expenditure has increased from 7% of GDP in 1960 to 9.7% in 1990 and to 10.7% in 2010. While Social Welfare and Finance & Taxation grew from 35% in 1990 to 48.2% in 2010, there was a significant reduction in spending in Agriculture and National Defence; from 26.5% to 12.4% (2015 estimate).
Agri-protectionism – a very rare occurrence in Switzerland’s Free Trade Policy – was a contributing factor to high food prices. The liberalisation of product markets lags behind many EU countries, according to the OECD. Nevertheless, domestic purchasing power is among the best in the world. With the exception of agriculture, the economic and trade barriers between the EU and Switzerland have been minimal, and Switzerland maintains global free trade agreements.

Entry Requirements For Switzerland

Visa & Passport for Switzerland

Switzerland is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

  • There are normally no border controls between the countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most countries of the European Union and a few other countries.
  • Before boarding an international flight or ship, there is usually an identity check. Sometimes there are temporary checks at land borders.
  • Similarly, a visa issued for a member of the Schengen area is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.

However, Switzerland is not a member of the EU. Therefore, travellers entering Switzerland are subject to customs controls even without entry controls, and people travelling to other countries in the Schengen area must also pass through customs.

As a tourist: Remember that personal effects with a total value of more than CHF 5,000 and cash and all cash equivalents with a value of more than CHF 10,000 must be declared. Certain quantities of alcoholic beverages, foodstuffs and tobacco products are also subject to customs duty. Note: The import of animal products from countries other than EU member states and Norway is prohibited. When entering Switzerland, personal belongings, travel provisions and fuel in the tank of your vehicle are exempt from taxes and customs dutiesOther transported goods are subject to VAT and customs duties according to their total value (more than CHF 300) and quantity. Please also be careful if you wish to travel with your pets. And generally observe the prohibitions, restrictions and permits relating to animals and plants, species, money, securities, weapons, pyrotechnic articles (fireworks), narcotics and medicines, the transfer of cultural goods, product piracy, counterfeiting, medicines (medical devices) and doping, radar detectors and public band radio (CB radio).

Unaccompanied minors (travellers under the age of 18) are strongly advised to carry a declaration of consent from their parents/guardians as well as a copy of the parents’ or guardian’s valid passport or identity card. Further information can be found on the website of the Federal Office for Migration in the FAQ section (under “Travel and border crossing documents”).

Minimum validity of travel documents

  • EU and EEA citizens as well as visa-free third-country nationals (e.g. New Zealanders and Australians) only need to present a passport valid for the entire stay in Switzerland.
  • However, other nationals requiring a visa (e.g. South Africans) must present a passport whose validity exceeds the duration of stay in Switzerland by at least three months.
  • However, EU and EEA citizens can still enter Switzerland without a valid travel document if their nationality has been established. The burden of proof lies with the person concerned. Proof of citizenship may be provided by any appropriate means (e.g. an expired passport, an official document proving the identity and/or citizenship of the holder).
  • Further information on the minimum validity of travel documents and on the entry of EU and EEA citizens without valid travel documents can be found in the FAQ section on the website of the Federal Office for Migration (under “Grenzübertritt/Reiseokumente”).

How To Travel To Switzerland

Get In - By plane

The main international airports are in Zurich IATA: ZRH, Geneva IATA: GVA and Basel (for the Swiss part: IATA: BSL), with smaller airports in LuganoIATA: LUG and Bern IATA: BRN. Some airlines fly to Friedrichshafen, which is on the other side of Lake Constance at Romanshorn, not far from Zurich.

Basel airport is a special case because it also serves the neighbouring cities of Mulhouse and Freiburg and has three different IATA codes, as well as a different customs procedure (and sometimes even airfares) depending on whether you are travelling to “Basel” or “Mulhouse”. The airport also has a regional code for the IATA “Greater Area”: EAP, which should allow you to get flights to both destinations.

Almost all major European airlines serve at least one Swiss airport. Switzerland’s national airline is SwissInternationalAirlines, a member of the Star Alliance and the Lufthansa Group. Together with its subsidiaries, the charter airline Edelweiss Air and the short-haul carrier Swiss European Air Lines, it offers connections to most major European airports as well as to many intercontinental destinations.

In addition, some smaller airlines based in Switzerland also offer connections to Switzerland – Etihad Regional mainly from Geneva and Lugano, Helvetic Airways from Zurich and Bern and Sky Work Airlines from Bern and Basel. AirBerlin also has a strong presence in the Swiss market through its subsidiary Belair, with almost all flights sold as AirBerlin flights.

However, the major European low-cost airlines are hardly represented in Switzerland and usually only offer a single flight from their home hub to Zurich or Geneva. The exception is EasyJet, which has its own subsidiary, EasyJet Switzerland, and offers flights to and from Basel, Geneva and Zurich as part of its normal low-cost business model. Ryanair flies to Basel from Dublin and London Stansted, as well as Strasbourg and Baden-Baden in France and Germany respectively.

In winter, many airlines specialising in charter and holiday flights offer connections to Swiss airports to meet the needs of the ski and winter sports market.

It is possible to take a flight from an airport near a neighbouring country. Grenoble in France is an alternative to Geneva and Stuttgart (IATA: STR) and Munich (IATA: MUC) airports in Germany are within driving distance of Bern and Zurich respectively. There is a small airport in Memmingen (IATA: FMM), mainly served by low-cost airlines, which is close to the border and marketed as being close to Munich (which is not the case).

Due to the excellent rail connections (see below), you can also fly to Frankfurt Airport (IATA: FRA) and take the train from there.

Get In - By train

Switzerland, together with Germany, is one of the most central countries in Europe and trains come from all parts of Europe. The main routes include

  • TheTGVLyria (high-speed train), with several daily trains to/from Paris, Dijon, Lyon, Valence, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Toulon, Cannes, Antibes and Nice.

Examples of journey times: Paris-Geneva 3h, -Lausanne 3.5h, -Basel 3h, -Bern 4h, -Zurich 4h ;

and Geneva-Lyon 2h, -Avignon 3h, -Marseille 3.5h, -Nice 6.5h;

and Basel-Marseille 5h

  • EuroCity (EC) trains run hourly to/from Milan with connections throughout Italy.

Examples of journey times: Milan-Bern 3h, -Basel 4h, -Geneva 4h, -Zurich 4h

  • ICE (InterCity Express, German high-speed trains) run regularly from Zurich / Interlaken via Bern, Basel to Freiburg i.B., Offenburg, Baden-Baden, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Frankfurt a.M.. (main station or airport) in Germany, many of which continue to Cologne and Dortmund, or Hanover and Hamburg, or Berlin, or Amsterdam.

Examples of journey times: Frankfurt Airport – Basel 3h, – Bern 4h, -Interlaken 5h, -Zurich 4h

  • Regular ICE trains between Zurich and Stuttgart, journey time 3h.
  • Regular EuroCity (EC) trains between Zurich and Munich, journey time 4h.
  • Regular RailJet trains (RJ) between Zurich and Innsbruck (3.5 hours), Salzburg (5.5 hours), Vienna (8 hours) in Austria and further east.

Night trains from Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Prague, Vienna and Belgrade to Basel, Geneva, Zurich and partly to Lausanne. These trains are either EuroNight services (symbol: EN) or CityNightLine services (symbol: CNL). Due to commercial decisions of Deutsche Bahn, but also other European railways, many of these connections will be discontinued in the near future. The Austrian ÖBB, on the other hand, is committed to using sleeper trains and may even take over some routes that have been abandoned by other railways, including Deutsche Bahn.

Get In - By bus

  • Eurolines has integrated Switzerland into its route network.
  • There are several bus companies that serve the Bosnian diaspora and offer a cheap way to travel to the Balkans. Turistik Prošić serves Switzerland from various destinations in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Most companies that offer intercity buses in Germany also serve some stops in Switzerland.

Get In - By car

All Swiss cities and many popular excursion destinations in Switzerland are relatively easy to reach by car, e.g. Geneva from central-eastern France and Zurich from southern Germany. However, some tourist destinations, especially small Alpine villages such as Zermatt or Wengen, are car-free.

Although Switzerland is now part of the Schengen Agreement, it is not part of the EU Customs and Tariff Union. When crossing the border between the EU and Switzerland, the focus will therefore be on smuggling etc. and on roadside checks during or after crossing the border. The time limits are usually short, but cars can be stopped without giving reasons, even during searches within Switzerland.

Some delays may be due to congestion at peak times, and there are often queues of several hours to drive from Italy through the tunnels under the Alps, such as Mont Blanc, Gotthard, etc. Swiss motorway vignettes (40 Swiss francs) can and should be bought at the border if your car does not already have one valid for the current year and if you intend to use Swiss motorways, which is almost inevitable. Remember that there is no free parking in most cities; expect to spend between 25 and 40 Swiss francs for a day’s parking. Some cities are completely car-free, but are well served by public transport. So be sure to consider travelling by train if your final destination is one of these cities.

When using the mountain roads, remember that they are also used by buses – especially in the switchbacks, which take up all their space. And most mountain roads are frequently used by the yellow Swiss PostBus. If you see a PostBus, or if you hear it approaching a bend with its characteristic three-tone horn, pull back (before the bend! ) and let it pass, they always have priority and their drivers count on your cooperation.

How To Travel Around Switzerland

Get Around - By plane

As Switzerland probably has the best developed public transport system in the world and the country’s airports are not that far apart, domestic air traffic is very limited. Routes offered by Swiss International Airlines and Etihad Regional include Zurich-Geneva, Zurich-Lugano and Geneva-Lugano. In most cases, the train, sometimes combined with bus or other means, is cheaper and often as fast and convenient as the plane. If you arrive with an international flight at Zurich airport (in Kloten) or Geneva airport (in Cointrin), you can take a train or bus directly from the stations integrated into the airport terminals. From there, you can get to many destinations with an easy connection by several means of transport, including just one or two quick transfers

Get Around - Public transport

The Swiss spoil you with fantastic transport – fast trains with shocking punctuality, clean buses and half a dozen different types of mountain railways integrated into one coherent system. The discount options and variety of tickets can be confusing. They range from half-fare cards to multi-use tickets for buses, boats, trains and even bicycle hire. There is usually at least one train or bus per hour on each line, and on many routes trains and buses run every 30 or even 15 minutes. Inner-city local transport often runs every 5-7 minutes during rush hour, but less frequently at weekends, especially on Sundays and public holidays in less densely populated areas.

Official information, routes, fares and timetables for almost all means of public transport can be viewed online on the nationally uniform integratedtimetable of theFederal Railways(SBB FFS), on posters and screens at every stop or at a ticket office at every station. The timetable is also available as a free app for smartphones. Information and tickets (at supervised counters) are available at every station and from every provider for each of the many members of the Swiss rail network and most bus systems, including in particular PostBus, which provides online timetable synchronisation data.

In Switzerland, buses and trains do not and must not compete with each other; on the contrary, they complement each other – and are also coordinated in terms of timetables. Thus, almost all inhabited towns and villages in Switzerland are accessible by public transport. This is indeed what the Constitution requires in the Ordinance on the Public Service of the Swiss Confederation. Public service is a specific Swiss term that refers broadly to all types of laws, statutes and ordinances that define the basic provision of public services and infrastructure, especially in relation to postal services, telecommunications, electronic media, public transport and road infrastructure.

There are about 20 regional fare associations nationwide that combine many types of public transport (city bus, tram, metro, trains of all kinds, postbuses, boats, funiculars and others) provided by different operators around urban centres into a single fare system, such as.e.g. the ZVV in the canton of Zurich or unireso (see also : Genèvetpg) in the canton of Geneva and the neighbouring French region, or mobilised around Lausanne in the canton of Vaud on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, Passepartout in the cantons of Lucerne, Nid- and Obwalden (keyword: Titlis). In general, these networks sell zone tickets that are valid for a certain period of time (instead of point-to-point tickets) for journeys within the boundaries of their fare network. Many of these networks and transport operators offer their own free smartphone apps, which can sometimes also be found on the website of the transport operator of the larger city.

Even if there is no train or public transport, the complete PostBus/Post/AutoPostal network will get you there. Where it makes sense, PostBus Switzerland is part of the regional tariff associations. You’ll find all the information you need on the SBB online timetable, but PostBus Switzerland also offers its own free app, which contains the same information as SBB’s and many additional features.

Additional information on the Swiss railway network and the Swiss fieldbus network is also available.

Get Around - Hiking and cycling

Hiking

No matter how good the Swiss rail system is, if you are short on time and only want to cover 1 to 200 miles, you can try buying the best hiking trail maps in the world and walk 10 to 20 miles a day on some of the most beautiful and clearly marked trails, whether in a valley, through a forest or over mountain passes. There are over 60,000 km of well-maintained and documented hiking and cycling trails.

The paths are well planned (after several centuries, why wouldn’t they be? ), easy to follow, and the yellow signs on the paths actually allow you to accurately estimate the distance to the next hamlet, village, town or city – usually in terms of time rather than distance. Once you have calculated the number of kilometres per hour you walk (easy to do after a day’s walking), you can adjust these estimates to your speed.

There are many places where you can sleep in a tent (but don’t put a tent on flat, seemingly comfortable, straw-covered ground – that’s where cows sleep after a lazy day feeding, and they gnaw on the rope supports of your tent and lean against the sides of your tent. And don’t do this during a rainstorm! ), many huts on the tops of mountains, bed and breakfasts in the valleys or hotels in the towns. You could even send your luggage ahead to the next hut and travel light, with the necessary water and Swiss chocolate!

Bicycle

Switzerland is an ideal country for recreational cyclists. There is an extensive network of safe and well-signposted cycle paths throughout the country. Maps and information can be found on the state-sponsored Veloland Schweiz homepage. The routes are interconnected, so you can do rides lasting several days or even several weeks. They lead through picturesque landscapes, mostly on dedicated cycle paths or smaller roads with little traffic, so they are also safe for children and families.

Cross-country mountain biking is a very popular sport in Switzerland. This is no surprise to anyone who has watched a World Cup race and seen that half of the top ten finishers are Swiss riders. Probably the main reason for Swiss excellence in the sport is the incredible training ground they have in their backyard. So Switzerland is a fantastic place for anyone who loves mountain biking. Locals use Swiss single track maps to find the best routes. These cover the entire country at a scale of 1:50,000, with individual trails and routes mapped and classified. They must be purchased in paper form as they are not available online.

The cycling infrastructure for daily cycling varies from city to city. Winterthur and Bern are the champions, almost rivalling Dutch and Danish cities. In general, German-speaking regions are better for cycling than French-speaking regions. There are many Swiss cities where you can rent bikes if that is your mode of transport, and you can even rent electric bikes. In summer, it is common for cities to offer “rental bikes” for free! Cycling in the city is safe and very common. If you choose to cycle in a city, be aware that you will be sharing the road with public transport. Be aware of tram tracks that can block your bike and send you into traffic, and of course the trams themselves and the buses that often stop in the far right lane and always have the right of way.

Inline skating

In addition to the main modes of transport, the adventurer can also see Switzerland on inline skates. Throughout the country, there are three routes with a total length of over 600 km that have been specially designed for inline skating. These are the Rhine Route, the Rhone Route and the Mittelland Route. They are also panoramic routes. Most of the routes are flat, with gentle climbs and descents. The Mittelland Route runs from Zurich Airport to Neuchâtel in the northwest, the Rhine Route runs from Bad Ragaz to Schaffhausen in the northeast. Finally, the Rhone Route runs from Brig to Geneva. It is a great way to discover the urban and rural landscapes of this beautiful country.

Get Around - By car

If you like cars, Switzerland may seem a little tempting. It has some of the most beautiful roads in the world, but can literally throw you in jail if you drive too fast, even on the motorways. Traffic rules are strictly enforced. If you follow the traffic rules and especially the speed limits, driving on rural and mountain roads will always be a pleasure, while being careful not to get fined or pulled over. Driving can be a great way to see the country and the views from some mountain roads are worth the effort.

Do not think that you will drive at full speed
If you receive a penalty notice but do not stop (e.g. if you are caught on the radar), the police will send you the penalty notice, even if you live abroad.

In Switzerland, speeding is not a traffic offence, but a misdemeanour. If you do not comply with this rule, there is a good chance that an international letter rogatory will be issued and you will have to go to court in your home country. This rule is applied by most countries, including throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many countries in South America and Asia. Failure to comply with this rule may result in an arrest warrant being issued by your home country.

Switzerland has also banned all GPS devices with integrated speed camera databases because they are equipped with “speed camera detectors”.

According to some GPS navigator manufacturers, it is advisable to clear the Swiss speed camera database while you are travelling in the country, as the police can fine you and confiscate your device even if it is switched off and in the boot of your car!

To use the motorways (called motorway(s), motorway(s) or autostrada/e, depending on the location) with green signs and white lettering, vehicles weighing less than 3500 kg must buy a vignette, a sticker that costs CHF 40 and allows you to use the motorways all year round (more precisely, from 1 December of the previous year to 31 January of the following year, so a vignette for 2009 is valid from 1 December 2008 to 31 January 2010). Trailers must have a separate vignette.

It is not usually necessary to avoid motorways to save on tolls; the amount is worth it even if you are only passing through. Not having a valid sticker is punishable by a fine of CHF 200 and the obligation to buy a sticker immediately (total fine CHF 240). Passing on stickers is of course illegal and is subject to the same fines as not possessing them. The sticker must be irrevocably affixed to the windscreen, otherwise you will be fined the same as if you had left it out. Renters must have already paid the vignette for this vehicle, but ask to be on the safe side.

Vehicles over 3,500 kg (7,716 lbs.) must pay a special toll, which is collected by special on-board units and applies on all roads, not just motorways.

Swiss traffic signs follow international standards (Vienna 1968), but some are specific to Switzerland. Motorways and motorways are marked by green signs with white lettering. Main roads are marked by blue signs with white lettering, while secondary roads are marked by white signs with black lettering.

Speed limits120 km/h on motorways100 km/h on motorways (ab : autostraße(n), fr: semi-motorway(s), it: semiautostrada/e; often in the opposite direction), 80 km/h on normal main roads outside built-up areas and often in tunnels, and a general speed limit of 50 km/h inside built-up areas and often marked only by the place name.

In addition, some roads are limited to 30 km/h or even 20 km/h in built-up areas where children play on the road and 70 km/h outside built-up areas. Vehicles that are not capable of driving at 80 km/h or more are not allowed on motorways and motorways.

Expect speed limits to change frequently on any road, including motorways; cruise control won’t help you much in Switzerland. Most speed limits are only displayed once, so be careful. The absence of a sign is not accepted as an excuse by the police, and fines are high. As a driver, you are supposed to give your full attention to the road, so don’t be distracted by the beauty of the scenery or anything else. Although it is common to drive “a bit too fast” on the motorways, people otherwise stick pretty closely to the speed limits. If you are stopped by the police, expect to pay your fine on the spot.

The blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.05%. As in all countries, you should not drive under the influence of alcohol, as you may lose your licence for several months and be fined heavily if summoned.

In Switzerland, drivers are obliged to switch on their headlights or daytime running lights when driving during the day, otherwise they face a fine of CHF 40.

In Switzerland, as in most European countries, you drive with your right hand everywhere. Please note that the right-of-way rule applies everywhere in Switzerland, on every road, unless otherwise stated. This means that at intersections, the driver on the right-hand side has priority, unless he is driving on a road whose right of way is indicated by a priority road (de: Hauptstraße, fr: main road, it: strada principale); sign: yellow diamond on a white background, see pictogram no. 303, or no. 304.

When entering a roundabout, observe the traffic signs indicating that vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way.

Some examples of fines for non-compliance with traffic rules
• Driving licence not presented: CHF 20.
• Exceeding the valid parking duration (<2h): CHF 40, (2h<t<4h): chf=”” 60,=”” (4h<t<10h):=”” 100.<br=””>• At a pedestrian crossing, parking: 120 CHF, bus stop: 80 CHF, also at rush hour: 60 CHF.
• Ignoring pedestrian priority at pedestrian crossings: CHF 140.
• On a cycle path, parking: CHF 120, stop: CHF 80.
• On the yellow stripe in front of a pedestrian crossing, parking: CHF 120, stopping: CHF 80.
• Do not adjust the snow chains if desired: CHF 100.
• Failure to observe the arrow indications printed on the road, given by traffic signs or traffic lights: CHF 100.
• Driving in a bus lane or on tram tracks: CHF 60.
• Failure to stop correctly at a stop sign: CHF 60.
• Ignoring traffic lights (red light and filter): CHF 250.
• Ignore flashing traffic light (yellow): CHF 250
• Use of a mobile phone without hands-free kit: CHF 100
• No passenger uses the seat belt: 60 CHF
• Uninsured children under 12 years (special child seat): 60 CHF
• Non-use of indicators: 100 CHF, misuse of indicators: 40 CHF
• Not extinguishing the indicators after the manoeuvre: CHF 100
• More passengers than allowed: CHF 60
• Dirty number plates: CHF 60
• Driving with unsuitable tyres: CHF 100
• Driving too fast (lower measurement uncertainty)
o In towns and villages (maximum speed: 50 km/h) :
 1-5 km/h : 40 CHF
 6-10 km/h : 120 CHF
 11-15 km/h : 250 CHF
 over 15 km/h: Court ruling
o outside built-up areas (maximum speed: 80 km/h) or on motorways (normal maximum speed: 100 km/h) :
 1-5 km/h : 40 CHF
 6-10 km/h : 100 CHF
 11-15 km/h : 160 CHF
 16-20 km/h : 240 CHF
 over 20 km/h: Court ruling
o on motorways (standard speed limit: 120 km/h, 75 mph) :
 1-5 km/h : 20 CHF
 6-10 km/h : 60 CHF
 11-15 km/h : 120 CHF
 16-20 km/h : 180 CHF
 21-25 km/h : 260 CHF
 over 25 km/h: Court ruling
o A court order results in very high fines, which are based on your personal assets and can also include imprisonment and the confiscation of your car! Speeding is considered a criminal offence.</t<4h):>

Indicate whenever you change direction or lane, and always overtake on the left, even on motorways. Never cross an unbroken centre line when overtaking, especially on mountain roads; they are there for your safety and everyone else’s, not to annoy you! Do not forget to indicate the beginning and end of the overtaking manoeuvre.

You may not overtake trams at a stop if there is no passenger island where pedestrians can wait. Moving trams can be overtaken on the right. If a pedestrian wants to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing (yellow stripes on the road), any approaching car must stop and give pedestrians priority. This is a general law valid throughout Switzerland, but it mainly applies to tram stops. Do not stop at a pedestrian crossing, even at rush hour.

You must always give right of way to the policeambulancesfire brigade and public transport buses, which leave first.

At traffic lights and level crossings you should switch off your engines (“For better air – switch off the engine!”) to avoid traffic pollution.

In Switzerland, the use of seat belts on the front and rear seats is required by law for all car journeys. Children under 12 years of age or under 150 cm must be secured in officially approved child seats and may only be transported in the rear seats.

Six tips for mountain roads:

  • Honk if you are on a narrow road that is too narrow for a normal two-lane road (i.e. without a white line in the middle) and you cannot see into the bend; this is mandatory!
  • The bright yellow Postbus always has priority. You can hear it approaching through its characteristic three-tone horn. It is best heard on hairpin bends. If you see a PostAuto, or better still, if you hear it approaching a bend, stop (before the bend! ) and let it pass, its drivers are counting on your attentive driving!
  • The upward moving vehicle has priority over the downward moving vehicle.
  • Don’t even think about driving as fast as the locals: They know all the curves, not you.
  • Generally drive at a speed that allows you to stop half the distance you can see – it’s even a law for narrow roads! – to be safe; and drive in such a way that you are glad when you come from the other side!
  • Although most vehicles are fitted with winter tyres in winter (not to be confused with all-season tyres or even summer tyres; winter tyres have a tread depth of at least 4 mm and are made of a different rubber), it may be necessary to fit chains to the wheels of your vehicle if you are driving in an area where there is snow on the road. Cars rented in Switzerland usually come with chains, but you should ask for them. Chains may be required for some mountain roads, towns and villages. Illustrated signs with snow chains are posted at the beginning of the route. If chains are required, winter tyres are by no means sufficient! Failure to comply may result in a fine. Petrol stations located on these roads may offer a chain service for a fee. It is worth it, as an inexperienced driver may struggle for an hour or more, sometimes in terrible weather conditions, to learn how to fit tyre chains. Don’t assume that all roads will be open; high-altitude mountain passes (e.g. Gotthard, Furka, Grimsel, Oberalp, Julier) will be closed for part or all of the winter. Before driving, make sure that a mountain road or pass is open or you will come across a red, multilingual “CLOSED” sign at the start of the route.

Car transport

As Switzerland is very mountainous and has a well-developed rail network, it is possible – and often faster and cheaper – to load your car onto a train. This system is called “Autoverlad” in standard Swiss German and the SBB website guides you through the process.

Destinations in Switzerland

Regions in Switzerland

Politically, Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons, but the following regions will be more useful for the traveller:

  • Western Switzerland
    From the north shore of Lake Geneva and the Alps to the Jura.
  • Bern Region
    The central region of traditional Bernese influence
  • Bernese Oberland
    The majestic Bernese Alps
  • Central Switzerland
    The birthplace of the Swiss Confederation and the legends of William Tell
  • Northwestern Switzerland
    Culture, art and cradle of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry; neighbouring countries Germany and France
  • Zurich
    The country’s largest city with an extensive metropolitan area
  • Eastern Switzerland
    Between the Alps and Lake Constance lies the Abbey of St. Gallen with numerous picturesque dairy farms on the hills of Appenzell
  • Valais
    Switzerland’s highest peaks and Europe’s largest glaciers
  • Graubünden
    Officially trilingual, the region is very mountainous, sparsely populated and home to many prime tourist destinations. It encompasses the ancient Romansh minority language and culture (in English: The Grisons).
  • Ticino
    Italian-speaking region with famous Alpine lakes
    The Swiss Alps cover the regions of the eastern part of Lake Geneva, the Valais, the Bernese plateau, the southern part of central Switzerland, almost all of Ticino except the southernmost part, the southern part of north-eastern Switzerland and Grisons.

Cities in Switzerland

  • Bern (Berne– as close as you can get to a capital in this highly decentralised nation, with a surprisingly well-preserved old town, with arcades along almost every street; great restaurants and bars abound
  • Basel – the travel gateway to the German Rhineland and Black Forest and to the French Alsace with an outstanding medieval centre on a bend of the Rhine
  • Geneva– this centre for art and culture is an international city that is home to some 200 governmental and non-governmental organisations, the cradle of the World-Wide-Web at CERN, and the Red Cross (ICRC).
  • Lausanne – Landscape, restaurants, dancing, boats and Swiss wine country are the attractions
  • Lucerne (Luzern) – capital of the central region with direct water links to all the sites of ancient Swiss history
  • Lugano – a beautiful old city, a beautiful lake; a lot of Italianatà paired with Swiss seriousness.
  • St. Gallen – the main town in north-eastern Switzerland, famous for its St. Gallen Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also the gateway to the very special region of Appenzellerland.
  • Zurich (Zürich) – the largest city in Switzerland and an important banking centre with a thriving nightlife

Other destinations in Switzerland

  • Bellinzona – famous for its medieval castles, UNESCO World Heritage Site, pretty centre and capital of Canton Ticino, overlooking one of the few flat rural areas in Switzerland on the way to Lake Maggiore.
  • Davos – large ski resort where the annual meeting of the WEF takes place
  • Chur – capital of the canton of Graubünden; it is the only trilingual Swiss canton and is located in the east and south of the country; gateway to several sunny skiing and hiking resorts.
  • Grindelwald – the classic holiday resort at the foot of the Eiger
  • Interlaken – the Swiss capital of outdoor and action sports; from skydiving, bungee jumping, hiking, white-water rafting to canyoning.
  • St. Moritz – ski resort in the Engadine in south-eastern Switzerland
  • Zermatt – famous mountain resort at the foot of the mighty Matterhorn

Accommodation & Hotels in Switzerland

Most accommodation in Switzerland can now be found and booked through the main internet booking portals, even hotels and accommodation in remote areas. Nevertheless, most tourist regions in Switzerland have a tourist office where you can call to book a hotel for a small fee. Each city usually has a full list of hotels on its website, and it is often easier and cheaper to book directly with the hotel. Some hotels ask you to fax or email your credit card information to guarantee a reservation. Generally, hotel staff are helpful and knowledgeable and speak English fairly well.

As in most European countries, there is a wide range of accommodation options in Switzerland. These range from 5-star hotels to campsites, youth hostels and accommodation in hay. Hotel types in Switzerland include historic hotels, traditional hotels, country inns, spas and bed and breakfasts.

Compared to other European countries, housing in Switzerland is generally among the most expensive. Hotel prices in Switzerland can be quite high, especially in popular ski resorts and large cities.

The following prices can be used as a general rule:

  • 5-star hotel: from CHF 350 per person/night
  • 4-star hotel: from CHF 180 per person/night
  • 3-star hotel: from CHF 120 per person/night
  • 2-star hotel: from CHF 80 per person/night
  • Hostel: from 30 CHF per person/night

Swiss Hotel Stars are awarded by the Swiss Hotel Association. All members of hotelleriesuisse must undergo regular quality controls to receive their hotel stars. On swisshotels.com you will find information about hotel stars, infrastructure and specialisations.

Tips are included in all services. For special services, a small tip, usually by rounding up, is always welcome.

Switzerland also has a network of youth hostels for students. The prices of Swiss youth hostels are at the usual European level.

Things To See in Switzerland

  • Chillon Castle: Castle near Montreux
  • The Lavaux vineyards: on the shores of Lake Geneva
  • The castles of Bellinzona: in the south of the canton of Ticino
  • St. Gall Abbey
  • The summit of Europe and the Sphinx Observatory: a “village” with a post office on the Jungfraujoch, 3,500 metres above Wengen
  • Grande Dixence: a 285-metre-high dam, south of Sion
  • The Landwasser Viaduct: on the railway line between Chur and St. Moritz.

The Seven Wonders of Nature

  • The Matterhorn: seen from Lake Schwarzsee, the Gornergrat or simply from the village of Zermatt
  • The north faces of the Jungfrau and Eiger: two of the most famous mountains in the Alps, which can be seen from the Lauterbrunnen Valley or from one of the many surrounding peaks that can be reached by train or cable car.
  • The Aletsch Glacier: the longest in Europe. The Aletsch forest is located above the glacier, which is best seen from the summit of Bettmeralp.
  • The lakes of the Upper Engadine: In one of the highest inhabited valleys in the Alps, near Piz Bernina, the lakes are all visible from Muottas Muragl.
  • Lake Lucerne: seen from Mount Pilatus, above Lucerne
  • Lake Oeschinen: a mountain lake above Kandersteg
  • The Rhine Falls: the largest in Europe, where you can take a boat to the rock in the middle of the falls.

Things To Do in Switzerland

Switzerland is world famous for skiing, but the country is also suitable for many other outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking. Mountaineering, from easy to very difficult, is also practised in Switzerland, and there is hardly a place with a longer tradition of it. Some routes, such as the north face of the Eiger, have become almost mythical due to the hardships and even deaths of the first climbers. And because of the breathtaking views, the journey from one place to another by car, bus, train or bicycle along the Alpine roads and railways is often an experience in itself.

Food & Drinks in Switzerland

Food in Switzerland

Although Switzerland has a long tradition of culinary exchange with its neighbours’ cuisine, it has a number of emblematic dishes of its own.

Switzerland is famous for many types of cheese such as GruyèreEmmentaler (simply called “Swiss cheese” in the USA) and Appenzeller, to name just a few of the approximately 450 cheeses of Swiss origin. Two of the most famous Swiss dishes, fondue and raclette, are based on cheese. Fondue is a glass of melted cheese into which pieces of bread are dipped with long forks. Fondue is usually not made with just one type of cheese, but with two or three different cheeses mixed with white wine, garlic and cherry liqueur, although there are regional differences. Traditionally, fondue is eaten in the cold season at high altitudes with just one pot for the whole table, served with hot black tea and virtually no other accompaniments – which is not surprising, as it was once a cheap dish and often the only food for a shepherd at high altitudes, far from civilisation and with only basic equipment. However, it is now possible to get fondue for one person in tourist restaurants in summer. Another cheese-based dish, raclette, is prepared by heating a large piece of cheese and scraping off the melted cheese, which is then eaten with boiled potatoes and pickled vegetables. Cheese lovers should also try Älplermakkaronen with melted cheese and potatoes, served with apple sauce, another very simple but very tasty dish from central Switzerland.

Another typical Swiss dish is Rösti, a potato dish very similar to rösti. It is originally a dish from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, which owes its name to the colloquial political term Röstigraben, which refers to the very different political preferences and voting habits of the German- and French-speaking parts of Switzerland.

Probably the best-known meat dishes are the incredibly common sausage called Cervelat, which is usually grilled on a stick over an open campfire, and the speciality of the Zurich region, Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (or in the local dialect: Züri Gschnätzlets), veal cutlets in a mushroom sauce, usually accompanied by Rösti. The Lucerne Kugelpastete (or in the local dialect: Lozärner Chügelipastete) are very typical of Lucerne. They are sausage meat (cheaper meat, chopped, mixed with water and an egg) formed into small balls, served in puff pastry baskets and topped with a stew of meat, agaricus mushrooms and sultanas. In western Switzerland you will find cabbage sausage and Vaud sausage, and near Basel the liver dish Basler Leber(li) (or in the local dialect: Baasler Läberli). Bern is famous for the Berner Platte, a dish consisting of various pork products, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut and dried beans, among other things. It was traditionally an autumn dish, as the butchering took place when the weather was cold enough again not to damage the meat. The slaughtering season and its dishes are called Metzgete in German-speaking Switzerland and are always on the menus of rural restaurants at this time.

If you prefer fish to meat, Swiss restaurants often serve freshwater fish from the many lakes and rivers. Among the 55 Swiss fish species, the most common fish dishes are trout, river perch or whitefish, called (blue) whitefish, whitefish/ferra or coregone bluefish, prepared in various ways. But you will also find a lot of imported fish on Swiss menus, because the domestic trade (fishing or farming) can never meet the high demand for fish. Moreover, the amount of fish caught today is about a third less than 30 years ago, which is entirely due to the much better water quality: Swiss water is too clean from this point of view!

In autumn, after the hunting season, you will find many fabulous game and mushroom dishes. Many traditional game dishes are accompanied by chnöpfli (literally: short for “buttons”; a soft egg noodle), red cabbage or Brussels sprouts, cooked pears and garnished with mountain cranberry jam. Nowadays, however, the game (roe deer, stags, chamois, wild boar, rabbits) comes mainly from farms to satisfy the high demand.

The mountain region of Graubünden has a special culinary repertoire, including capuns (mangold rolls filled with dough and other ingredients), pizokel balls, the rich and creamy barley soup and a sweet and dense nut cake called Bündner Nusstorte. The thinly sliced dried meat known as Bündnerfleisch also comes from this region. Most mountain regions in Switzerland produce their own air-dried meats and sausages, which are highly recommended.

It is very easy to find good Italian food in Switzerland, but if you are in Ticino, be sure to try the local specialities around polenta (a dish made from corn), risotto (the rice of the same name is grown exclusively in Ticino and northern Italy) and many types of marroni (chestnuts) in autumn, either as part of a cooked meal or simply roasted in the street during the very cold winter days, or as a special sweet dessert called vermicelli.

Swiss chocolate is known worldwide and there is a wide range of different chocolate brands.

The famous muesli for breakfast comes from Switzerland, and Birchermüesli is another dish worth trying: oat flakes soaked in water, milk or fruit juice and then mixed with yoghurt, fruit, nuts and apple chips.

Of course, there are many other local and traditional dishes and foods that cannot all be listed. There is an entire website devoted exclusively to Switzerland’s culinary heritage by canton, although it is only available in one of Switzerland‘s official languages.

As with most other things, eating out in Switzerland is expensive. One way to reduce food costs is to eat in the cafeterias of department stores like Coop, Migros and Manor. These cafeterias are usually much cheaper than independent restaurants. Coop and Manor also offer beer and wine with meals, but Migros does not. Smaller department stores may not have cafeterias. Kebabs and pizzerias abound in Swiss cities and are often a cheap option. In larger cities, more exotic dishes are usually available – at a price.

Supermarket chains

Swiss labour law prohibits work on Sundays, so shops remain closed. An exception is any commercial activity in a station that is considered to serve passengers and is therefore exempt. If you want to find a shop open on Sundays, go to the nearest major station. If it is a purely family-run business, small shops such as bakeries can also be open on Sunday in most cantons.

Swiss supermarkets can be hard to find in big cities. They often have small entrances but open inwards or are located in a basement, leaving the expensive street fronts to other shops. Look out for supermarket logos above the entrances of other shops. Geneva is an exception and you usually don’t have to go very far to find a Migros or a Coop.

The main supermarket brands are:

  • Migros – This supermarket chain (actually a cooperative) supplies food and non-food products of medium to good quality, as well as household items. However, no alcoholic beverages or cigarettes are sold. Branded products are rare because the chain uses its own brands (the quality is good, it doesn’t matter which chain you go to). Migros shops can be recognised by their large orange Helvetica sign (letter “M”). The number of letters “M” indicates the size of the shop and the different services offered – a single “M” is usually a small grocery shop, a double “M” (“MM”) may be larger and sell other goods such as clothes, and an MMM is a complete department stores’ with household goods and possibly electronics and sporting goods. Offers change weekly on Tuesdays.
  • Coop – Also a cooperative. It focuses on quality as well as multiple purchase offers, point accumulation programmes and discount coupons. Sells many big brands. Come for half-price salads and sandwiches at the end of the day. Coop City is usually a department store with a Coop grocery shop inside. A multi-storey complex offers space for clothing, electrical goods, stationery, paper products and cosmetics and fragrances. The offers change weekly (with a few exceptions – every fortnight) on Tuesdays.
  • Denner – A discount grocer, recognisable by its red signs and inside its shops. Relatively low prices. The offers change weekly, usually from Wednesday onwards. Denner was taken over by Migros at the end of 2006, but will not be renamed for the time being.
  • Coop Pronto – a Coop shop that is usually open late (at least 8pm) and seven days a week. It usually has a petrol station and a car park.
  • Aperto – also a convenience store located in railway stations
  • Manor – Manor department stores often have a grocery shop in the basement.
  • Globus – in larger cities, Globus department stores have a high-end grocery shop in the basement.

Coop offers a low-price range (Coop price guarantee) and in Migros you can find the corresponding “M-Budget” products. Sometimes it’s exactly the same product but at a lower price. They also offer cheap prepaid mobile phones, which are among the cheapest.

The German discounters Aldi and Lidl are also present in Switzerland. Prices there are somewhat lower than in other supermarket chains, but still significantly higher than in Germany.

Drinks in Switzerland

Virtually all tap water – including water from households or hotel rooms – is perfectly drinkable, carefully and frequently checked and of excellent quality. Around 85% of the Swiss population drinks tap water every day; there is no need to buy drinking water. There are many drinking fountains, especially in towns and villages, e.g. over 1200 in Zurich, or around 170 in Basel. The few exceptions, such as toilets on trains, are clearly marked “Kein Trinkwasser” (German), “Non Potable” (French) or “Non potabile” (Italian). Watering troughs temporarily placed in mountain meadows for watering livestock are also unsuitable for drinking.

Soft drinks in supermarkets are one of the few things that are not significantly more expensive than elsewhere in Central Europe. Local specialities are the milk drink Rivella and Elmer Citro with lemon.

Switzerland produces a surprising amount of wine, with a climate and soil well suited to many grape varieties. Very little of this wine is exported and it is very cheap in supermarkets, so it is worth a try! The Lake Geneva region is most famous for its wines, and the picturesque vineyards are worth a visit in themselves. But wines are produced all over the country, in Valais, Vaud, Ticino, Neuchâtel, the Lake Biel region, Grisons, Aargau and even on the hills around Zurich and Basel.

Money & Shopping in Switzerland

Currency

Switzerland is not part of the eurozone and the currency is the Swiss franc (or franc, or franco, depending on which language zone you are in), divided into 100 centimes, centimes or centesimi. However, some places – such as supermarkets, restaurants, tourist attraction counters, hotels and railways, or ATMs – accept euro banknotes (but not coins) and will give you change in Swiss francs or euros if they have it in cash. Many price lists include prices in both francs and euros. Usually the exchange rate is the official rate, but if it differs, you will be informed in advance. It is essential to change money into Swiss francs (CHF). Money can be exchanged at all railway stations and most banks in the country. After experimenting with a “fixed floor” for the exchange rate (which in practice means that one euro is always at least 1.20 francs), the Swiss Central Bank decided in early 2015 to let the franc float freely again. This decision, along with speculation about the future of the euro and the fact that the Swiss franc is considered a “safe” currency, has led to a dramatic rise in the franc exchange rate and thus in prices for visitors.

Switzerland is more species-appropriate than most other European countries. It is not uncommon to pay bills with CHF 200 and CHF 1000 notes. The number of establishments that do not accept credit cards is decreasing, so check beforehand. When paying by credit card, carefully check the information printed on the receipt (see the “Be safe” section below for details). All ATMs accept foreign cards, so getting cash should not be a problem.

The coins are issued in denominations of 5 centimes (brass-coloured), 10 centimes, 20 centimes, ½ franc, 1 franc, 2 francs and 5 francs (all silver-coloured). 1-cent coins are no longer legal tender, but can still be exchanged for their face value until 2027. Two-cent coins have not been legal tender since the 1970s and are therefore worthless. Remember that most bureaux de change do not accept coins and that at today’s exchange rate, the largest coin (5 francs) is worth more than five US dollars and about as much as five euros, so spend it or donate it to charity before you leave.

The banknotes are available in denominations of CHF 10 (yellow), CHF 20 (red), CHF 50 (green), CHF 100 (blue), CHF 200 (brown) and CHF 1000 (purple). They all have the same width and have different security features.

Since 2016, the Swiss National Bank SNB has been issuing a new banknote series, the ninth series in Switzerland’s modern history. It began with the 50-franc banknote on 11 April 2016. The other five denominations will be gradually replaced over the next few years. All banknotes of the eighth series are valid everywhere until further notice. The current eighth series is due to be replaced by 2020, but will remain valid until further notice and can be exchanged at banks at face value.

Banking

Switzerland has been known for its banking system since the Middle Ages. Due to its historic policy of banking secrecy and anonymity, Switzerland has long been a preferred location for many of the world’s richest people to hide their wealth, sometimes acquired through dubious means. Although banking secrecy is no longer as strict as it once was and anonymous bank accounts are no longer allowed, Switzerland remains one of the largest banking centres in Europe. Opening a bank account in Switzerland is easy and there are no restrictions on foreigners with Swiss bank accounts, except for US citizens. Since the recent US sanctions, many Swiss banks refuse to open a bank account for US citizens or people with ties to the US. In some cases, existing accounts have even been closed.

The largest Swiss banks are UBS and Credit Suisse.

Tipping

Swiss service staff enjoy a relatively high minimum wage compared to other countries, so tipping is rather modest. By law, a service charge is included in the bill. Nevertheless, if you feel satisfied, especially in restaurants, you can round up the bill and add a few francs, a maximum of 5 to 20 francs depending on the type of establishment, regardless of the amount of the bill. If you are not satisfied with the service, you don’t need to tip at all. If you are only drinking coffee, it is customary to round up the bill to the nearest franc, but some people are still quite generous. Remember that a tip is always your personal contribution and is never required by law.

Costs

When planning your travel budget, keep in mind that Switzerland is an expensive country, with prices comparable to those in Norway or central London. Besides soft drinks, electronics and car fuel, many things cost more than in neighbouring countries, including food, souvenirs, train tickets and accommodation. In fact, many Swiss living near the border travel to neighbouring countries to buy fuel and food, as the latter are usually much cheaper; a trend that has only intensified recently with the jump in the franc’s exchange rate against the euro. Although there are no systematic entry controls thanks to the Schengen Agreement, there are also random customs checks within the country as Switzerland is not part of the EU Customs Union, so you have to go through customs. So make sure you comply with Swiss customs regulations when importing goods!

“Swiss-made”: souvenirs and luxury goods

Switzerland is famous for some key products: Watches, chocolate, cheese and Swiss army knives.

  • Watches – Switzerland is the watchmaking capital of the world, and “Swiss Made” on the dial of a watch has long been a seal of quality. While the French-speaking regions of Switzerland are generally associated with Swiss watchmakers (such as Rolex, Omega and Patek Philippe), some quality watches are made in German-speaking Switzerland, such as IWC in Schaffhausen. In every major city, there are numerous watchmakers and jewellers who display a wide range of luxury watches in their shop windows, from the very trendy Swatch at 60 CHF to the handmade chronometer at enormous prices. For fun, try to spot the most expensive of these mechanical creations and the ones with the most “dazzle”!
  • Chocolate – Switzerland may still be competing with Belgium for the best chocolate in the world, but there is no doubt that the Swiss variety is amazingly good. Switzerland is also home to the giant food company Nestlé. If you have a discerning palate (and a big wallet), two of the best Swiss chocolate makers can be found in Zurich: Teuscher (try the champagne truffles) and Sprüngli. For the rest of us, even the generic branded chocolates in Switzerland always make the Hershey bars you find elsewhere explode. For value for money, try the Frey brand chocolates sold in Migros. If you want to try real, exclusive Swiss chocolate, try the Pamaco chocolates, which are made from the noble Criollo beans and undergo an original and complex refining process that takes 72 hours. However, they are quite expensive: a 125-g bar costs around CHF 8. For Lindt fans, they are available at half price in the Lindt factory shop in Kilchberg (near Zurich). Factory tours are also available at Frey near Aarau, Läderach in Bilten and Cailler in Broc.
  • Cheese – many parts of Switzerland have their own regional cheese speciality. The best known are Gruyère and Emmentaler (what Americans call “Swiss Cheese”). Don’t forget to try the wide range of cheeses sold in the markets and, of course, the cheese fondue! Fondue is essentially melted cheese and is used as a dip with other foods such as bread. The original mixture is half Vacherin and half Gruyère, but many different combinations have been developed since then. When you go hiking, you will often come across farms and village shops selling local mountain cheese from the mountain pastures you pass through. These cheeses are often not sold elsewhere, so don’t miss the opportunity to sample some of Switzerland’s culinary heritage.
  • Swiss Army Knives – Switzerland is the official home of the Swiss Army knife. There are two brands: Victorinox and Wenger, but both brands are now manufactured by Victorinox since the bankruptcy of Wenger, which bought Victorinox in 2005. Collectors agree that Victorinox knives are superior in terms of design, quality and functionality. The most popular Victorinox knife is the Swiss Champ, which has 33 functions and currently costs around CHF 78. Most tourists buy this knife. The “biggest” Victorinox knife is the Swiss Champ 1.6795.XAVT- It has 80 functions and comes in a case. This knife costs CHF 364 and could become a collector’s item in the next few years. Most shops in Switzerland carry Victorinox knives, including some kiosks, and they make excellent gifts and souvenirs. Unlike the tourist knife, the real “Swiss Army Knife” is not red with a white cross, but grey with a small Swiss flag. The Swiss Army Knife is also made by Victorinox. It is distinguished by the fact that the year of manufacture is engraved at the base of the larger blade and that it has no corkscrew because the Swiss soldier is not allowed to drink wine on duty. Swiss army knives may not be carried on commercial flights and must be stowed in checked baggage.

Ski resorts and tourist areas will sell many other types of tourist items – cow bells, clothing embroidered with white Edelweiss flowers and items related to Heidi. The Swiss love cows of all shapes and sizes, and you can find cow-related items everywhere, from stuffed cows to faux cowhide jackets. If you have a generous souvenir budget, look for traditional arts and crafts such as hand-carved wooden figures in Brienz or lace and linen in St Gallen. If you have a deep wallet, you can shop in Zurich’s famous Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world. If you are looking for trendy boutiques and second-hand shops, go to Niederdorf or the Stauffacher district in Zurich.

Festivals & Holidays in Switzerland

Holidays

Public holidays are regulated at cantonal level (except 1 August) and can vary greatly. However, they are those that are observed (almost) everywhere:

  • New Year’s Day: 1 January (one of the three public holidays legally recognised by each canton).
    • St. Berchtold: 2 January (in many cantons and municipalities it is a legally recognised holiday, but not everywhere).
  • Easter (is not a public holiday, but since it always occurs on a Sunday, it is observed that way).
    • Good Friday (public holiday in all cantons except Valais and Ticino)
    • Easter Monday (observed everywhere, but not a legally recognised holiday in every canton/municipality)
  • Ascension Day (39 days after Easter, the second of the three public holidays recognised by law by each canton)
  • Pentecost (49 days after Easter, it is not a public holiday, but since it always falls on a Sunday, it is observed that way).
    • Whit Monday (observed everywhere, but not a legally recognised holiday in every canton/community)
  • Swiss National Day, 1 August (only bank holidays)
  • All Saints’ Day: 1 November (purely Catholic feast day, celebrated and legally recognised only in traditionally Catholic cantons and municipalities).
  • Christmas:
    • 25 December: Christmas Day (the third of the three public holidays legally recognised by each canton).
    • 26 December: St Stephen’s Day (a legally recognised feast in many cantons and municipalities, but not everywhere).

The public holidays observed by the timetables of public transport companies, in particular SBB FFS and PostBus, are: 1 and 2 JanuaryGood Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension DayWhit Monday, 1 August, 25 and 26 December. The opening hours of local offices and the timetables of local transport companies are sometimes also based on local holidays.

Traditions & Customs in Switzerland

English is widely spoken in Switzerland, but any attempt to speak the local language is always appreciated, even if you are answered in English. It is always polite to ask if you speak English before starting a conversation.

Make an effort to learn at least the words “hello”, “goodbye”, “please” and “thank you” in the language of the region you will be travelling to. “I would like…” is also a phrase that will help you.

In German, French and Italian there are formal and informal forms of the word “you”, which changes the conjugation of the verb “you” and sometimes the sentence. For example, the informal expression don’t worry about it in English is don’t worry and the formal one ne pas t’en faire? don’t worry about it? The formal salutation is used to show respect to someone who is older than you, is considered a superior, someone who has a higher rank than you at work, or simply a stranger in the street. Informal is used with close friends, relatives and peers. Generally, you should not use informal language with someone you do not know well who is your superior or with an older person. Use informality with close friends and young people. Peers can be a grey area and it is advisable to use formal language first until you are asked to use informal language.

Friends kiss each other three times on the cheek – left, right, left – and this is a common custom when you are introduced to someone in French and German-speaking countries. If, on the other hand, it is a business meeting, you only need to shake hands. Don’t be shy – if you refuse the advance, it can come across as embarrassing and rude. After all, you don’t have to put your lips in contact with your skin, as a fake “airy” kiss would do.

Litter is considered particularly anti-social. Some cantons have fines for littering (about 40 to 80 Swiss francs), and there are plans to make littering illegal in general, including higher fines. Make sure you put your recyclable waste in the properly labelled bin, as some have special bins for paper and PET plastic. Some communal bins even have restrictions on the hours of use to avoid excessive noise!

Be on time. This means that you should not be more than one minute late, if you are! It’s not surprising that in a country known for watchmaking, the Swiss are obsessed with time.

Privacy policy

Be careful not to inadvertently invade the privacy of people in Switzerland. The Swiss Civil Code and the Federal Data Protection Act stipulate that it is forbidden to record a person without their express consent. This also applies to photos and video recordings as soon as a person is recognisable. You can be sentenced to up to three years in prison if you take photos and other recordings of a person without their express consent and, in particular, publish them. So be careful about what you photograph and respect the public’s and celebrities’ claims to privacy.

Culture Of Switzerland

Three of the most important European languages are official languages in Switzerland. Swiss culture is characterised by its diversity, which is reflected in a variety of traditional customs. A region may in some ways be strongly culturally linked to the neighbouring country that shares its language, since the country itself is rooted in the culture of Western Europe. An exception is the linguistically isolated Romansh culture in Graubünden in eastern Switzerland. It survives only in the high valleys of the Rhine and Inn rivers and strives to preserve its rare linguistic tradition.

Switzerland has made many notable contributions in the fields of literature, art, architecture, music and science. The country also attracted a number of creative people in times of turmoil or war in Europe. Some 1,000 museums are scattered throughout the country; their number has more than tripled since 1950. Among the most important cultural events held each year are the Paleo Festival, the Lucerne Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Locarno International Film Festival and Art Basel.

Alpine symbolism has played an essential role in the history of the country and in Switzerland’s national identity. Today, certain concentrated mountain areas have a strong ski resort culture with a high energy level in winter and a culture of hiking or mountain biking in summer. Other regions have a year-round recreational culture that favours tourism, but the quieter seasons are spring and autumn when there are fewer visitors. Many areas also have a traditional culture of farmers and ranchers, and small farms are ubiquitous outside the cities. Folk art is kept alive in organisations throughout the country. In Switzerland, it is expressed mainly through music, dance, poetry, woodcarving and embroidery. The alphorn, a wooden musical instrument resembling a trumpet, has become an example of traditional Swiss music, along with yodelling and the accordion.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Switzerland

Stay safe in Switzerland

Switzerland is unsurprisingly one of the safest countries in Europe, but any place that attracts Rolex-wearing bankers and throngs of distracted tourists is bound to produce a few pickpockets too. Clearly, you need to keep an eye on your business, especially amid the summer crowds. In general, you are safe anywhere, anytime. If you feel threatened for any reason, seek out a nearby restaurant or phone box. In Switzerland, the emergency number is 112 and operators are usually English-speaking.

Many Swiss institutions print your full credit card number on the receipt, which raises concerns about identity theft when making credit card purchases in Switzerland. For this reason, visitors using a credit card should carefully check the information printed on all receipts before throwing them away. This is done, for example, in some book and clothing shops and even at the ubiquitous kiosk. This list is not exhaustive, of course, so visitors should be careful when using a credit card.

Women travelling alone should not have any problems. Young Swiss people tend to be very open and show affection in public – sometimes too much so, and some women may find people too friendly, especially in the early hours of the morning in clubs and bars. Usually the international language of waving people off or simply walking around is enough.

The Swiss police take a relatively discreet stance; they prefer to stay behind the scenes as they consider their presence a threat to the environment. Unlike some countries where the police are more present, they rarely approach civilians to ask if they need help or simply mark their presence by patrolling. However, the police do take traffic violations seriously. For example, crossing a level crossing or a red pedestrian light is punished with a fine on the spot. The advantage of strict traffic rules is that drivers are generally very disciplined and stop for pedestrians at level crossings without any problems. Football matches are the only notable exception to the above rule. Because of the potential danger of violence from hooligans, a large contingent of police is usually deployed at these matches (especially in Basel or Zurich), equipped with rubber bullets and tear gas in case of major riots.

Switzerland has very strict Good Samaritan laws that make it a civic duty to help someone in need without putting yourself at undue risk. People are therefore very willing to help if you seem to be in an emergency situation. However, be aware that the same applies to you if you witness someone in danger. Refusal to render assistance to a person in distress may be punishable under criminal law as “refusal to render assistance”. The general American caveat of not getting involved with foreigners because of possible future civil liability does not apply in Switzerland, as it would be virtually impossible to take civil action against anyone who provides assistance.

The minimum age for consumption of beer, wine and alcoholic cider is 16, except in Ticino where it is 18, while the minimum age for any other alcohol (e.g. spirits, “alcopops”, etc.) is 18. The consumption of alcohol in public is legal in Switzerland. So don’t worry if you see a group of teenagers drinking a six-pack in public places or on public transport; this is nothing unusual and should not be interpreted as a threat.

Switzerland is not a country of pointless civil lawsuits and claims for damages. So if you see a sign or warning telling you not to do something, comply! Example: In many alpine regions, charming little mountain streams may be flanked by signs saying “no swimming”. To the uninitiated, this may seem a bit exaggerated, but these signs are actually a consequence of the presence of hydroelectric power plants further upstream, which can release large amounts of water without warning.

In mountainous areas, check the weather conditions at the tourist office or local train station when you leave in the morning. They should be well informed about the weather conditions and will advise you of possible avalanche areas.

There were problems with the police assuming that any black, Eastern European or Arab person without an identity card or passport was an illegal immigrant and treating them accordingly. This could be a significant problem if you are travelling alone. So carry your identity card or passport with you, even if you are not legally obliged to do so. However, the police have the right to ask you for your identity card at any time and if you cannot show your identity card or passport, they may take you to the police station to identify you. So do as all Swiss do: carry your identity card (or passport) with you.

Stay healthy in Switzerland

In general, there are no problems with food and water in Switzerland. Restaurants are controlled according to strict rules. Water is drinkable everywhere, including at any tap, especially in public fountains, unless it is labelled “Non-potable”, “Non-potable” or “Non potabile”. Do not drink from the makeshift water trough installed in a meadow to water livestock supplied by the nearby stream.

Many organic foods are available in virtually every grocery shop with the label “organic”, and it is currently illegal to import and sell genetically modified foods.

Switzerland has a dense network of hospitals and clinics, and public hospitals will admit you in an emergency. There are also ‘permanent’ clinics open 24 hours a day at major stations, including Zurich, Basel and Lucerne, which can treat non-urgent illnesses without an appointment. Be aware that treatment costs can add up quickly, so you will need to take out travel insurance with a good level of cover if you cannot pay these costs out of pocket.

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