9 Things to Know Before Traveling to Switzerland
Updated: Dec 25, 2021
picture taken in Zermatt, Switzerland
Things to know before traveling to Switzerland
When to go
Hits and Misses
When to go
To start off, let me talk about the perfect times to visit Switzerland! Switzerland is beautiful all year round. I went during the month of August and let me just tell you, it was HOT out... even in Zermatt! You may think that Switzerland remains cold, but in reality it has all four seasons. The good thing about Switzerland though, is that winter sports remain all year round, though the snow is much better in winter. If you want more snowy mountains, sledging or skiing I recommend going in the winter season where you can also cuddle up with authentic Swiss Hot Chocolate. Switzerland also has beautiful Christmas markets which appear around December! Summer was also a great time to visit Switzerland since I really got to appreciate the scenery, but If I'm honest, it would've felt much more like Switzerland if I went during the winter (even though I probably would've been FREEZING!). If you want to be able to walk around more outside or hike, I recommend going during the months of May, June or September!
Costs; is it expensive?
SWITZERLAND IS BY FAR THE MOST EXPENSIVE COUNTRY I VISITED. Okay so, my friend and I heard about Switzerland being expensive before traveling there, but, we didn't really do much research on it. When we got there, we were extremely surprised. Let me just start this section off with the fact that a salad in Zermatt cost about 27 Euros PER PERSON. A small salad at that! So, before you go, just know that you might be spending a lot of money if you're eating out or even if you buy groceries. Everything is pretty expensive in Switzerland so there's really no getting around that fact; but the reason why everything is expensive in Switzerland is because the standard of living and the wages there are much higher than most countries. If you want to go during winter season, things are bumped up in price a little bit, and you're going to be wanting to buy a little more (such as ski passes, train tickets, ski lifts, etc) and those are PRICEY in Switzerland! So make sure you have a good amount of money saved up before traveling here.
-Also, another thing to note; is the CURRENCY. The currency in Switzerland is officially known as the Swiss franc also knows by CFH. Euros are also widely accepted but not in all places, so make sure to convert your money. The Swiss franc is a very strong currency, so the rates are pretty expensive to most people.
1 CHF = 0.925 Euros
a photo of 20 CHF
Weather in Switzerland
As I said above, there are four seasons in Switzerland that are very easy to distinguish. If the altitude changes than the weather varies, but usually the summers are HOT, winters are COLD, and autumn / spring is cool. Summers are usually around 65 - 85 F, but sometimes can exceed if its a very hot summer. Since I went during August, I can say that Switzerland this year, was definitely experiencing one of their hottest summers. We went on a hike and could barely walk up the hill since we were dripping in sweat. Very unusual but it happens. Winters are around 25-45F, while Autumn and spring is around 45-59F. The winters are usually cold and snowy, which is perfect for warm hot chocolate and winter sports! Except, these days, snow sometimes doesn't occur all winter; especially not on the lowlands! Switzerland does tend to rain quite a bit, the most rainy months being May-August. The most rainy month is June, while the driest month is usually January. If you go during summer make sure to bring your umbrella!
Public transportation in Switzerland is very great and almost always on time. Public transportation includes buses, trains, ferries, and taxis. I recommend using all of the public transportation here, except of course, the taxis. DON'T USE THE TAXIS PLEASE (unless you're fine with spending a lot!). In Geneva, my friend and I took a ten minute taxi ride which ended up costing us 37 Euros... for TEN MINUTES! We definitely did not take any taxis after that hahaha. Some hostels in Switzerland actually give you a free transportation card, which can be used in the city you are in! It's very helpful and definitely a way to save money. We got to take taxi boats as much as we wanted, trams, and buses; the only thing we had to pay for were train rides from city to city (we used our EuroRail for most of them though!). In most cities in Switzerland, walking can get you where you want to go. The walks are usually short, and filled with scenery; so if the distance is walkable then I definitely recommend that form of transportation the most.
-One thing to note, is if you're going to Switzerland, I would save up for the Swiss Golden Pass train route. It's one of the most beautiful train routes and an amazing way to experience the beauty in Switzerland. There are different styled trains that take you on the route, the most famous being the panoramic train and the Belle Epoque. The Belle Epoque train was the one I really wanted to go on, but actually have to save it for next time. It has historical and luxurious coaches which transport you back in time while you get to view the Swiss landscapes. The costs very on where you want to go, but are usually around 60 CFH.
Hits and Misses
Since Switzerland is quite expensive, I recommend choosing a couple of cities to visit instead of doing a whole trip around the country; like I did. Down below I will include my favorite cities I visited in Switzerland and some that are not worth going too.
Picture taken in Zermatt, Switzerland
I'll start out with my top three favorites; one being the town of Zermatt. I probably would've loved it even more if I went during the winter or went snowboarding; but I sadly didn't get the opportunity since we didn't realize how expensive it would be (next time though!). This town was still one of the most beautiful cities I've seen due to the amazing landscapes and the clear view of the Matterhorn. Just seeing the Matterhorn is a great experience and when I saw it, that's when I understood why travelers decide to come to Zermatt. The train ride to the town is also beyond imaginable as you're able to see a lot the famous Swiss landscapes and go through various small Swiss towns.
What I also loved about this resort is that everything is walkable and the entire town is filled with photogenic streets. I would definitely include Zermatt in you're itinerary especially if you love winter sports and hot chocolate.
Another city in my top three is the small town of Montreux. Montreux is a city that isn't usually talked about but it definitely should be! It originally wasn't on my itinerary but our cab driver actually told us about it! He said it was one of the most beautiful towns in Switzerland and I completely agree. Though Montreux is a bit small, it is surrounded by the gorgeous Lake Geneva and filled with colorful buildings and flowers. A day or two is the perfect amount of time to explore the town of Montreux.
Picture taken in Montreux
My third favorite town I travelled too was the hidden town of Lauterbrunnen. As soon as we got there it was like a real life fairytale! Due to the fact that we went in August, it was EXTREMELY HOT; so I definitely recommend going in autumn / spring. The town is very unique since it is surrounded by a total of 72 waterfalls, among with it's famous Staubbach Falls which is 300 meters high. The town is filled with lush green hills and mountains and beautiful wooden houses / stores. I LOVED it here! In order to see many of the sights, you would need to hike so get prepared for that! Lauterbrunnen was also very close to the towns of Interlaken Ost and Est. which are also insanely beautiful and definitely worth going too. Interlaken is a little bit bigger than Lauterbrunnen with more things to do and more stores to visit mean whilst Lauterbrunnen is surrounded by nature and known for its camping sites.
As you can see above, Lauterbrunnen is just the perfect spot of photo ops as well! The entire town is just magical and oh so photogenic. The buses are free as well! (we loved that part HAHAH) but the food is just as expensive as ever.
Although all towns in Switzerland are beautiful and worth seeing, I compiled a list of towns that you could go without in order to save time and money.
Starting the list off, comes the town of Geneva, Switzerland. This was the first stop on our Swiss trip, but we honestly didn't find too much scenery or much to do here. It's more of a modern town due to the important banking systems and the headquarters for the United Nations. It was extremely expensive due to this as well, but just like every town in Switzerland. A taxi here cost 35 Euros for a ten minute drive; but hostels do give you free transport so that was nice. The thing that I did like about Geneva was that it was close to the towns of Lausanne and Montreux; only about an hour or less train ride.
The next town on the list is Bern. The capital of Switzerland. Bern is beautiful, but you could go without visiting the town. There's a lot to do here but if you're going to Switzerland for the nature, and experiences than Bern is a more of an industrial town that you could go without seeing. I did think it was very nice though but for a different visit.
Something to know about Switzerland is that they speak a total of four national languages... German, French, Italian and Romansh. When you travel through Switzerland the languages will change in almost every town you go too! We had to navigate through all four languages and it was honestly pretty fun! I haven't been to a country where they speak French in one town, and then in a town an hour away they speak German; so pretty cool culture shock! I would definitely practice a few basic phrases in each language before going, just so you can be able to speak to people! Although, many people in Switzerland do as well speak English.
Accommodations in Switzerland are all on the expensive side, even hostels. I would recommend staying in hostels though if you are trying to save money... or CAMP! Switzerland is the perfect country for camping due to the beautiful scenery and loads of safe camp sites. We ended up staying in hostels due to the lack of equipment and preparation we had but if you really want to save money and have traditional Swiss experience then I would definitely camp! In Lauterbrunnen especially! I'll put my favorite list of accommodations in another blog post linked down below :)!
If you want some fun activities to do in Switzerland get ready to spend a lot of funny! There are also some FREE activities you can do here too though! Some of these free activities include one of the most obvious and a have to do things in Switzerland... HIKING! If you're traveling to Switzerland you're going to have to hike... it's kind of inevitable; especially if you want to see the most stunning views. The hiking in Switzerland is an insane workout due to the elevation and high mountaintops; so be prepared to bring your hiking shoes and to drink a lot of water! When hiking you're able to really experience the nature as well as see common animals like mountain goats and cows! They're usually very friendly and will even come up to you occasionally! Though this next thing is going to cost a bit of money, it is a must do in Switzerland; SKIING! If you're in Switzerland, skiing or snowboarding is a must! Just going to those Swiss resorts are an amazing experience. Another must do is take the Golden Pass train route! With this train route you're able to see so much of Switzerlands natural beauty just sitting down! I also recommend going on the Gornergrat Railway which you can do in Zermatt. The passes are more than one hundred fifty Euros though... so get ready and SAVE UP!
Some more activities you can do include, parasailing above the mountains, taking ferries across the lakes, taking the ski lifts and petting the cows! hahah
So this is the most important thing to note about Switzerland. The main thing you're going to spend money on is food; since everyone has to eat ya know! I recommend buying groceries and cooking for yourself because the food in Switzerland is what's going to waste all your money hahaha. Though groceries in Switzerland can be very expensive as well, it will ultimately be cheaper than eating out. A soup or salad is twenty six dollars while a regular meal will cost you around fifty euros. Just remember that. Some food that you have to eat include the Swiss fondue, raclette, rosti and obviously the Swiss chocolate!
In conclusion, Switzerland has so much beauty to offer and lots of fairytale towns that are definitely worth a visit. There is so much to do and try that is a one of a kind opportunity. I loved my trip to Switzerland and will definitely go back in the winter time to do some snowboarding. Switzerland is also the most expensive country I visited, and is a country you need to save up for. The activities are insanely crazy expensive but worth it for the experience.