You must prepare for your trip to Switzerland, a country that surprises you with its natural beauty and yeah… high prices.
Last updated: August 30, 2023
Roshan and I had been talking about visiting Switzerland for so long that when we actually were sitting on a bus from Munich to Zurich, it didn’t even feel real. Switzerland? Really? We dreamed a lot about this mountainous country but didn’t really spent time panning, searching and researching all things one should know before visiting Switzerland.
As it turned out going on this almost spontaneous trip (at least for Roshan who always asks: “Where exactly are we going?”), we let ourselves unwind and learn everything we needed to know about Switzerland as we explored. Yet, proper preparation would certainly help us enjoy the country even more. With that being said, here are a few things you should know before visiting Switzerland for the first time.
THINGS ONE SHOULD KNOW BEFORE VISITING SWITZERLAND
Switzerland Has Some of the Most Beautiful Landscapes
It didn’t take us long to realize how beautiful Switzerland actually was. Just to put it shortly, Switzerland didn’t disappoint. As I person who always has to keep her expectation in check, I finally could relax and give myself a pat on the back. Switzerland in real life was exactly the same (and even better) than how I had pictured it.
Sweeping hills were running for miles on end. Swiss mountains modestly covered with dense fog welcomed new visitors from afar. Gothic towers of churches and cathedrals towered over small towns and villages. Cows, goats and occasional sheep grazed on open fields and meadows nearby. Switzerland was picture-perfect!
It looked exactly how Johanna Spyri had described it in her books Heidi at the end of the 19th century. One thing was missing, though, Heidi herself, running down the hills to greet her grandfather.
Switzerland Is Expensive
One of a few things that you absolutely must know before visiting Switzerland is that this country is not cheap. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to travel across the region on a budget, but you definitely need to stick extra bills into your wallet.
When in Switzerland, be ready to pay more for food, drinks, entertainment, and pretty much everything. In fact, accommodation in Switzerland costs twice as much as in Germany.
Swiss Franc Is the Only Official Currency
Switzerland is neither a European Union nor European Economic Area member. If neither of these groups rings a bell, this is one of the most important things you should know before visiting Switzerland. With not being a part of the European Union comes the necessity of having its own currency. So instead of Euros, fill your wallet with Swiss Francs or credit cards with no international transaction fees.
Since Switzerland was the third country we traveled to during our week-long European trip, we didn’t bother to get any local currency. Instead, my credit card with no international transaction fees worked perfectly well. If you travel to remote areas of the country, though, I’d encourage you to get cash.
Switzerland Has Four Official Languages
Switzerland is a multilingual country. Its citizens and residents speak four languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Such a lingual situation makes traveling here convenient and stress-free.
While you might not speak Romansh, a Roman language spoken predominately in the Swiss canton of Grisons, knowing one of the three other languages will help you enjoy the country even more. On top of that, English is by far one of the most popular foreign languages used here. In fact, in big cities, you can easily get by speaking only English.
Look at It, Take It, and Never Put It Back
The Swiss have their own way of handling things. Before jumping on the plane to Switzerland, one of the main things to remember is being decisive. Even when you buy grocery, be sure to make your decision before picking up something from the shelves.
Grabbing a product to read its label and then putting it back to where it belongs is not always considered appropriate. One friendly, but straightforward employee at a supermarket in Zurich hurried to give us a lecture, in her perfect German, how things work in Switzerland.
Either my not-really-used German got better during our travels through Germany and Switzerland or her message was very clear, but I understood every single word. No additional questions or explanations were needed.
Swiss Public Transport System Is to Envy
Breaking your head over how to get from one point to another is almost never an issue. With 5,600 kilometers of train tracks and numerous buss routes throughout the country, the Swiss public transportation system is one of the best and most reliable in the world. Additionally, the county is so small that you can cross in by train in about five hours.
However, there is one thing you must engrave in your head before visiting Switzerland. The Swiss public transportation like anything else in the country is not cheap. It might literary cost you a small fortune to get from one place to another. I
f you plant to travel a lot, consider investing in the all-inclusive Swiss Travel Pass. The pass is good not only for travel, but also museum and even comes with a 50% discount for mountain excursions.
Being Early Is a Norm in Switzerland
Don’t go to Switzerland if you are looking for nightlife. Thanks to long history of Protestantism, everything in the country opens early and closes early as well. So, there is no problem with getting your morning coffee at 6 a.m. But finding a restaurant or even a grocery story after 7 p.m. might not be that easy.
The Country with no Official Capital
You read it right. Switzerland doesn’t have the official capital city. The explanation of such a rare fact goes back to the middle of the 19th century. In 1848 when Switzerland became a country, the political leaders of that time vetoed against selecting a single city as the capital. Instead, they focused on giving every territory of the country the same rights and importance. Eventually the city of Bern was chosen as the de-facto seat of the government of the county.
Swiss Chocolate Is as Good as Swiss Watches
Ditch your diet and go in full force on chocolate. In a country with the least conductive climate for growing cacao plants, the Swiss manage to produce some of the best chocolate in the world. Isn’t it one of the sweetest things to know before about Switzerland?
Bollywood Can’t Resist Natural Beauty of Switzerland
A beautiful Indian lady is dancing in the snow while the wind is playing with her long, bright sari against breathtaking mountains in the background… Leading actresses and the styles and colors of their saris change all the time, but this scene along with the mountains has become classics of the Bollywood movies.
Not many know, however, that the mountains portrayed in many Indian movies can’t be found nowhere else but Switzerland. So, next time you watch a Bollywood classic, pay close attention to the location. There is a big chance that it was shot in Switzerland.