Helpful Switzerland Travel Tips

Helpful Tips for travelers and people going to Switzerland for the first time...



What to expect

In many ways, what you get out of your vacation depends on what you put into it. There are many other differences you'll notice, both large and small, which is part of what makes foreign travel so much fun. As a guest in Switzerland, try to approach their country with an open mind and wide-eyed wonder. Enjoy the differences, and remember we are all ambassadors for our home countries. You'll probably find that you enjoy many things that you can't find at home. Don't be afraid to open up to people or to ask questions. Most locals are very friendly and are quite happy to talk to a stranger from a different land. At the end of your trip, the people you meet and the interactions you've had will be among your favorite memories.


How much spending money you need to bring depends on your habits. If you forget to bring something, don't worry - everything you might need for the trip can be found in Europe.

It is recommended for bringing a couple hundred dollars in cash, either exchanged before you leave or at the airport when you arrive. The currency exchange booths at the airport and at train stations in Switzerland are just fine. Euros are generally accepted in Switzerland (if you're coming from elsewhere in Europe), but you'll probably get change in Swiss francs and a bad exchange rate to boot. If you're coming for more than a day, do a currency exchange at a bank in Switzerland for some Swiss francs.

Traveler's checks are a big hassle, but ATM cards are easy. Visa, MasterCard (called Eurocard), and American Express are all about equally accepted. You probably won't be able to use your credit card at the grocery store, to make small purchases at a souvenir shop, or to pay for drinks at many hotels and small mountain inns. You will be able to buy train tickets (train stations accept all 3 cards), or pay for a meal at a restaurant or night at a hotel. Most importantly, you can use bank machines to get cash advances in the local currency when you need cash. ATM machines are fairly well distributed throughout Switzerland, even in small villages, and you usually pay only a 2-3% fee, which is as good as or better than you'll get at currency exchange counters. If your PIN code is a word, make sure you know the number sequence before you leave, as ATMs in Europe usually don't have letters on them. Bring two different cards, in case one gets lost, demagnetized, or just plain doesn't work in the machines you find.


By law, a service charge is levied in all the hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, hairdressing services and taxi.

The tourists can expect a 15% service charge levied in addition to the food charges at most of the hotels, restaurant and bars. The taxi fares in Zurich also include the service charges. Tips are voluntary and can be given for an extraordinary service. Rounding up a few francs (3-5%) in restaurants is customary, and almost all Swiss tip. This is usually given to the waiter as you pay. For instance, if a drink costs 3.40, you might give the waiter 4 francs and tell him to keep the change. There is no tip built into the price (as many guidebooks lead you to believe), but waiters in Switzerland are paid a decent wage to begin with, and nobody will get upset if you forget to tip.


Public phones in Switzerland require a card instead of change. For local and international calls, you can buy cards of different denominations at train stations, post offices, and many hotels and magazine shops. Just insert it into the phone, and make your call. Some of them require you call a toll-free number and enter a pin code. Phone calls internationally from Switzerland are very reasonable (10-15 cents/minute), even if you just put your credit card directly in the phone, and a foreign calling card in Switzerland is a waste of money. You can also call from your hotel. Ask about rates before you call from your hotel, but they're usually pretty good. There are also many great deals on local pre-paid cell phones, with reasonable rates on outgoing calls and free incoming calls. You can find them at electronic stores or post offices.


Switzerland has a low violent crime rate. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, conferences, shows, or exhibits especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas). Liechtenstein also has a low crime rate. Travelers are advised to be cautious while in trains, especially in overnight trains to neighboring countries. The loss or theft of a passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest Embassy or Consulate of that country.

If you are the victim of a crime overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of your country for assistance. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal process and to find an attorney if needed.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

Safety of public transportation: Excellent

Urban road conditions/maintenance: Excellent

Rural road conditions/maintenance: Excellent

Availability of roadside assistance: Excellent

Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high in Switzerland. In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of the jamming traffic. Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or "vignette", which must be affixed to the car's windshield. Vignettes can be purchased at most border crossing points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to a heavy penalty levied on the spot. Public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is excellent.

Currency in Switzerland

Swiss Franc (SFr) = 100 rappen or centimes. Coins are in denominations of SFr5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes. Notes are in denominations of SFr1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10.

Currency restrictions
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currencies.

Credit & Debit cards
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa cards are widely accepted in the country. Check with your credit or debit card company for the complete details of merchant acceptability and other facilities available in Switzerland.

Banking hours

The standard working hours of banks are from Monday to Friday from 0830-1630 hrs.

Health and Vaccination in Switzerland

A tourist planning for a Switzerland Tour must know about the high risk factors and the probable diseases one can catch hold of while being in Switzerland. Switzerland has the same risk factors as in the United States of America. So the tourists traveling to Switzerland are required to follow the same precautionary steps as to be taken care of in the United States.

The preventive measures you need to take against the high-risk diseases while traveling in Western Europe depend on the areas you visit and the period of stay. Travelers' diarrhea, caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, can come from contaminated food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting, fever, or liver damage (hepatitis). As a precaution, take hygienic food and safe drinking water.

Tickborne encephalitis, a viral infection of the central nervous system, occurs chiefly in Central and Western Europe. Travelers at risk are those who visit forested areas during the summer months and consume unpasteurized dairy products. To avoid this disease the travelers should prevent tick bites. There is no risk for yellow fever in Western Europe. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry if you are coming from countries in South America or sub-Saharan Africa.

The general safety precautions to be strictly followed by all the travelers are:

• Wash hands often with soap and water.
• Walk and drive defensively to avoid accidents. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
• Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
• Don't eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
• Don't share needles with anyone.
• Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or weak immune systems.

While traveling to the rural or undeveloped areas the tourists should take the following precautions:

• Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles.
• Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If impossible, then make water safe by both filtering through an "absolute 1-micron or less" filter and adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. "Absolute 1-micron filters" are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
• Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself.
• Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
• Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
• To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
• If you become ill after your trip-even within a year after your departure-intimate your doctor mentioning about the place of travel.

Duty Free Items in Switzerland

The following items may be imported into Switzerland by persons over 17 years of age without incurring any customs duty by:

  • Visitors from European countries:

200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 2 litres of alcohol (up to 15 per cent) and 1litre of alcohol (over 15 per cent); gifts up to a value of SFr100.

  • Visitors from non-European countries:

400 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco; 2 litre of alcohol (up to 15 per cent) and 1litre of alcohol (over 15 per cent); gifts up to a value of SFr100.

Prohibited items

Most of the meat and processed meat, absinthe and narcotics are prohibited. There are strict regulations on importing animals and firearms by the tourists.

Shopping in Switzerland

The items of purchase in Switzerland that constitute excellent memoirs and souvenirs of the country include pottery, watches, crystal, embroidered items, wood carvings, clocks (including cuckoos), Swiss army knives, liquors (Williamine, the best thing that can be done with a pear), lace, textiles, folklore souvenirs (such as music boxes), cowbells, cheese, antiques, stainless-steel cutlery, ski equipment and clothing, leather goods, shoes and chocolates. The shopping areas are widely scattered through out the country. The tourists are still advised to do shopping from the standard shops and showrooms and be attentive when purchasing items from the roadside vendors or small shops.

Shopping Hours

The shopping hours in Switzerland are generally Monday-Friday 8:30 am-noon and 1:30-6:30 pm, and on Saturday 8 am-noon and 1:30-4 pm.

Note: if you buy more than 400 CHF of goods to take home (total for 1 invoice at 1 shop), you might get a refund if your application form No.1149 is sealed by Swiss Custom at the airport or train station at the boundary. Please ask the seller and find more information from the website:

Public Holidays in Switzerland

A tourist planning for a Switzerland Tour should essentially have the basic knowledge about the country. An element that is ignored by most of the tourists is the public holidays. Though it appears less important but many a times these holidays hamper some important schedules and programmes set by the tourists during Switzerland Tour. The list of holidays would be helpful during your Switzerland vacation.




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