Is it just us, or does Switzerland conjure up images of luxuriously creamy chocolate, snow-capped mountains and impossibly pretty lakes? Not to mention Roger Federer and his dreamy hair. No doubt about it, Switzerland is one of Europe’s most charismatic destinations. The poised, standalone nation is a posterchild for traditional Europe (no thank you EU), with a smorgasbord of forward thinking cities, medieval old towns and glorious countryside to explore. If you thought New Zealand was a beauty, Switzerland will leave you utterly smitten. Trust us, the grass is greener, the snow is whiter and the air is like pure elixir for your soul.
Whether you’re dreaming of leisurely strolls by Lake Lucerne, adrenalin fuelled days on the Zermatt ski slopes or an endless supply of Lindt balls, we’ve got the scoop on everything you need to know about holidaying in Switzerland.
How long can I stay without a visa?
If you’re visiting Switzerland for less than three months there’s no need to get a visa. Your passport will simply be stamped on arrival, however you need to have proof of a return ticket out of Switzerland. And of course, a passport that’s valid for at least six months.
What’s the local currency?
No Euros here. The nation deals in Swiss Francs so be sure to stock up before you go.
Do I need to tip?
Tipping isn’t expected anywhere, though if you enjoyed your experience it’s always nice to round up your bill to the nearest franc.
Transport to and from the airport
Public transport to and from Switzerland’s major airports is fantastic. So, whether you’re touching down in Geneva, Zurich or anywhere in-between you’ll always be able to reach your hotel independently. Of course, after a 24+ hour flight from NZ the last thing you’ll feel like doing is battling trains, buses and taxis. Instead, why not ask your House of Travel consultant about booking a transfer?
In Switzerland public transport is better than good, it’s stellar. If you’d rather not share your ride Uber is offered in Basel, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich. And there’s always taxis. The country is powered by a wonderfully efficient network of trains that will whisk you to towns, cities, villages and everywhere in-between. Not only are trains fast but they’re also the absolute best way to soak up the scenery.
Top 10 phrases
Unfortunately, Swiss isn’t quite as easy to pick up as French, Spanish or Italian. But you can try! Here’s a basic introduction of ‘need to know’ phrases.
- Hello – Gruezi or Sali
- Goodbye -Uf Widerluege or Ciao or Adieu
- Please – Bitte
- Thank you – Merci or Dangge
- Reply to thank you – Nüt z’dangge
- Sorry – Es duet mr leid
- Excuse me – Entschuldigung
- Where’s the toilet – Wo isch d’Toilette
- I don’t understand – Ich verstand nit
- How much is this? – Was koschtet das?
Where to go
Geographically Switzerland may be small, but when it comes to picking and choosing your destinations it can seem overwhelming. Really, it depends on what kind of holiday you’re after. If you’re a skier or a mountain lover including a spell by the Matterhorn is a must. Even in summer the Alps still hum with activity, with opportunities to hike amongst alpine wildflowers, soak in luxe hot springs, paraglide over shimmering lakes and more. Geneva offers urban cityscapes and beautiful waterfront views, while Bern’s Old Town will have history fiends captivated. Need a little help deciding what highlights to pencil in? Chat to one of the friendly House of Travel consultants about piecing together a bespoke Swiss itinerary that ticks all your boxes.
Mobile usage – to roam or not to roam?
From sending emails and updating your social media pages to trawling through TripAdvisor and checking Google Maps, mobile covering can be oh so useful. Instead of lumping huge roaming fees from your NZ supplier why not purchase a local SIM card, or take advantage of the ultra-efficient ‘Traveller’s WiFi’ service that connects you to high-speed uncapped internet data for CHF 17.45 per day. Genius.
Top Swiss eats to devour
Let’s face it, food is half the fun when you travel. Make sure you arrive hungry, because Switzerland is all about rich, heart-warming food.
- Fondue for you? No matter when you go, you can never go wrong with a bowl of melted cheese and fluffy bread cubes.
- Swiss Chocolate. Did you really go to Switzerland if you didn’t stuff yourself silly with wonderfully creamy chocolate?
- Berner Platte. When in the Swizz capital you must try its namesake! This meaty dish is a carnivore’s dream, featuring smoked beef, pork belly, sausage, bacon and even pig ears ears.
- St Gallen is the home of the legendary OLMA Bratwurst, a veal sausage that locals have been devouring for hundreds of years.
HOT’s top insider tips
Anyone can pick up a Lonely Planet, but will it tell you that at 3454 metres above sea level, Jungfraujoch’s Lindt Chocolate Heaven is Europe’s highest chocolate shop? Or that Grindelwald’s Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof is home to the retro Otto’s Bowling Cellar?