Though Switzerland is located in Europe, Switzerland is not part of the European Union (so citizens from EU countries might have to pay customs when shopping in Switzerland).
Four official languages are spoken in Switzerland. Most of Switzerland consists of the German-speaking part (north and east), while the south west speaks French, and Italian is the main language in the southern part of Switzerland.
Some, but few, people speak Romansh – however, many people speak (basic) English (at least in the areas that have tourists).
Swiss people are very friendly and quiet people – some might say boring, but I say they are very polite. Loud talking, e.g. in public, is not well received. However, I have noticed that the people in the Italian-speaking part are different than (meaning a bit more livelier) the people in the German-speaking part. If you travel to Switzerland and do not want to attract negative attention, keep it quiet.
People in the villages and towns are very conservative. Not Vatican-city conservative, but Switzerland is not the most liberal country.
The Right-wing party is strong in Switzerland. However, unlike many other places in Europe with such a strong right-wing politics, I never felt threatened or felt uncomfortable.
But you should know that even in popular places like Interlaken, people do not necessarily like foreigners – not even as tourists, and not even if their job depends on tourism
Swiss people are extremely polite and friendly, overall, and will not openly display their disapproval – and after all, not all Swiss are conservative or dislike foreigners.
Do not be surprised to see Swiss flags wherever you are. Seriously, they are everywhere. After all these years, it is still strange to me, and I think the only other country where I have seen so many national flags was Turkey.
Swiss Francs are the main currency, but Euros are accepted in many shops, as well as credit cards (though American Express is accepted in less shops). However, I recommend having some Swiss Francs with you at all times.
Yes, Switzerland is expensive, so I have written an extra post on “how to save money in Switzerland“.
Water in Switzerland is not only drinkable from the tap, but there are also many water fountains offering fresh water (so always have an empty bottle with you to refill).
HOW TO GET AROUND IN SWITZERLAND
It does matter whether you decide to road trip Switzerland or if you travel Switzerland by train – both ways are great
Public Transportation in Switzerland
Switzerland has an amazing public transportation system – you can get to the most remote area by just using public transportation (seriously, there are just a few exceptions). The public transportation system in Switzerland is reliable, punctual, and clean. It is not cheap, though, but if it is your only means of getting around, then I recommend using the Swiss Travel Pass for tourists.
Road Tripping in Switzerland
I have not figured out which form of transportation I enjoy more – driving a car myself or using public transportation. Both are fantastic ways to get around – Switzerland´s streets are well-paved and not normally busy (expect in the bigger cities), which makes them easy to drive.
If you want to use the highway, you need a toll sticker, which you can buy in Switzerland (just after the border), or in the neighboring countries. For a one-year toll sticker, you pay about 40€.
Most places can be reached without using the highways – these routes are actually the most scenic, but I get my toll sticker anyhow, as I never know where I will be heading.
Do not drive too fast – speed cams are basically everywhere and speeding is expensive (speaking from experience, driving 59 kmh instead of 50 kmh I had to pay a 55€ fine).
Petrol costs about 1.40€ (as gas prices can vary strongly, this is just an estimate).
Parking in cities is not always easy, and it is definitely not cheap.
Walking in Switzerland
Switzerland is pretty safe and the streets are paved, so walking and hiking in many parts of the country is a great way to get around – at least for short distances.
SECURITY TIPS FOR (FEMALE) TRAVELERS
Switzerland is a very secure and safe country. I, personally, never take any extra precautions and actually tend to be less cautious than in Germany.
However, I am careful and I always exercise common sense, but feel fine wearing luxury brands or walking around in the evening/nights. But, in the last three years, I have been visiting with my dog – and though he is small – he does a great job as a watchdog, so this makes me feel even safer.
If you are a solo female traveler, always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to where to go.
Towns and villages are so safe that your Airbnb host might not even close the door at night. However, there are areas that are safer than others; towns and villages are naturally safer, cities are a bit less so. According to locals, the Italian-speaking part is a bit less secure, as well as cities like Geneva.
I always felt safe though.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SWITZERLAND
Switzerland makes a great destination for any time of the year. However, if you are into skiing and other winter sports, naturally, winter is the best time to visit (though you can also do winter sports in some parts of Switzerland throughout the year).
Summer is a very popular time to visit, though rain and cold days are not uncommon, even in July/August. Winter and summer are the most expensive times in terms of accommodations, so visiting in fall or spring might be great choices, as well.
WHERE TO STAY IN SWITZERLAND
Switzerland is not geographically big, but traveling from A to B might take a while. I love all parts of Switzerland, though some parts, like Lucerne, Zurich, or Interlaken, are ridiculously expensive.
The most popular places to visit and stay in Switzerland are:
For a stay at one of the most luxurious hotels in Zurich find out more about Dolder Grand
Click here to read reviews for a mid-range hotel in Zurich that is my top tip.
For a luxury stay in Lucerne, I recommend the gorgeous 5* hotel Schweizerhof Luzern
The Seminarhaus Bruchmatt is a lovely budget hotel
One of my favorite hotels ever is the 4* luxury hotel Grand Giessbach Hotel
I have not had much luck with hotels in Geneva, the only hotel I can actually recommend is the colorful and stylish 4* hotel NvY Mantel Hotel
Locarno and Lugano
Villa Orselina is one of my most favorite hotels ever – my pick for a luxury stay in Locarno
Lacando Castagnola is a very lovely 3* hotel in Lugano I can truly recommend if you are on a budget
In Zermatt, I can recommend the 4* Sunstar Style Hotel Zermatt 4* Sunstar Style Hotel Zermatt
St. Moritz (in winter)
Of course, it depends on which attractions you mostly want to see and visit in Switzerland. Accommodations a bit further the main tourist attractions are probably cheaper – whatever you opt out for I definitely recommend staying close to one of these areas.