This politically neutral quadrilingual country, with its enviable quality of life, is famous the world over for its delicious cheese and chocolate, luxurious watches and the Swiss Army Knife. Switzerland, with its breathtaking mountain scenery, enchanting Alpine lakes, glorious ski resorts and fascinating cosmopolitan cities, offers a desirable destination for a truly memorable stay.
Due to the Alps the climate in Switzerland varies from region to region. Higher Alpine regions generally suffer from low temperatures with Jura being the coldest area. The south can have quite a hot Mediterranean climate and northern areas enjoy higher temperatures and warm summers. Most of the country enjoys a central European climate with daytime temperatures of around 18°c to 28°c in summer and -2°c to 7°c in winter. Rain is to be expected throughout the year. Be aware of the Fohn, a hot dry wind that sweeps into the valleys, which can hit at any time of the year but usually in spring or autumn and can be quite uncomfortable.
The Swiss observe a number of public holidays. The main holidays are:
New Year's Day
2nd January Berchtold's Day
1st August National Day
Additional holidays may be celebrated in different cantons.
The main airports in Switzerland are Zürich Airport(ZRH), Geneva International Airport(GVA), Bern Airport(BRN) and Basel Airport(BSL).
Domestic air travel is fast but expensive with many people preferring to travel by rail or road. Zurich to Geneva is one of the most popular routes taking around 45 minutes.
Rail is probably the most efficient way to travel around Switzerland as rail transport is particularly well developed here. Trains run at least hourly to and from major cities and country wide timetables are readily available. There are a large number of mountain railways in Switzerland with some being a tourist attraction in their own right offering spectacular views over the beautiful Alpine scenery.
Trains run to and from Switzerland from neighbouring countries in particular France, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Switzerland has a comprehensive road network with links to neighbouring countries including Austria, France, Germany and Italy. Coach services operate to and from major European cities. Domestic bus services run throughout the country, even in the remotest villages.
When driving the following rules and regulations apply:
Traffic drives on the right and the minimum age for driving is 18. Seat belts are obligatory and children under 12 years of age are forbidden from travelling in the front of the vehicle. Dipped headlights are compulsory during the day and speed restrictions apply; 50kph (31mph) in towns, 80kph (50mph) on country lanes and a minimum of 60kph (37mph)and a maximum of 120kph (75mph) on motorways.
Many mountain roads are narrow and winding and are often closed in winter due to harsh weather conditions. Chains and snow tyres may be necessary.
There are four official languages in Switzerland: Swiss German, French, Italian and Romanisch. Swiss German is the most common with it being the first language for over 60% of the population, 20% of the population speak French, 8% speak Italian and 1% speak Romanisch. English is widely spoken throughout Switzerland, especially by younger generations, however, here are a few key phrases:
Thank you: Merci
Do you speak English?: Redsch Anglisch?
Goodbye: Au revoir
Please: Si'l vous plait
Thank you: Merci
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous Anglais?
The currency in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc which divides into 100 centimes (rappen in German speaking Switzerland).
The domestic electricity voltage is 230v, 50Hz. Round three pin plugs are commonly used and adaptors are readily available.
The international dialling code for Switzerland is +41.
The emergency numbers for Switzerland are:
Police - 117
Fire - 118
Ambulance - 144.
ATM's are widely available and have English instructions and accept most international bank and credit cards.
Many businesses, including some restaurants and souvenir shops, throughout Switzerland will accept payment in Euros. Change will most likely be given in Swiss Francs.
The use of credit card is less widespread than it is in the UK and US.
Tipping is not normally necessary as many hotels, restaurants, bars and even taxis are required by law to include a 15% service charge in the bill. However, locals often round up the bill if they have been extremely pleased with the service.