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See

  • Visitors attractions in Switzerland
  • The European Football Championships in 2008 was held in Austria and Switzerland. Basel, Berne, Geneva and Zurich were all hosting sites.

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Switzerland is not part of the European Union and the currency is the Swiss franc (or Franken or franco, depending in which language area you are), divided into 100 centimes, Rappen or centesimi. However, many places - such as supermarkets and the railways - accept Euro (notes only) and will give you change in Swiss Francs. Changing some money to Swiss Francs (CHF) is essential. Money can be exchanged at all train stations and most banks throughout the country. Switzerland is more cash-oriented than most other European countries. It is not unusual to see bills being paid by cash, even Fr 200 and Fr 1000 notes. Some establishments (but fewer than previously) do not accept credit cards, check first. But all ATMs accept foreign cards, getting cash should not be a problem.

Coins are issued in 5 centime (brass, rare), 10 centime, 20 centime, ½ Franc, 1 Franc, 2 Franc, and 5 Franc (all silver colored) denominations. One centime coins are no longer legal tender, but may be exchanged until 2027 for face value. Two centime coins have never been legal tender since the 1970's and are, consequently, worthless.

Banknotes are found in denominations of 10 (yellow), 20 (red), 50 (green), 100 (blue), 200 (brown), and 1000 (purple) Francs. They are all the same width and contain a variety of security features.

"Swiss-made": Souvenirs and Luxury Goods

Switzerland is famous for a few key goods: watches, chocolate, cheese, and Swiss Army knives.

  • Watches - Switzerland is the watch-making capital of the world, and "Swiss Made" on a watch face has long been a mark of quality. While the French-speaking regions of Switzerland are usually associated with Swiss watchmakers (like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe), some fine watches are made in the Swiss-German-speaking region, such as IWC in Schaffhausen. Every large town will have quite a few horologers and jewelers with a vast selection of fancy watches displayed their windows, with huge price tags to go with them. For fun, try to spot the most expensive of these mechanical creations and the ones with the most "bedazzle!!".
  • Chocolate - Switzerland may always have a rivalry with Belgium for the world's best chocolate, but there's no doubting that the Swiss variety is amazingly good. Switzerland is also home to the huge Nestlé food company. If you have a fine palate (and a fat wallet) - you can find two of the finest Swiss chocolatiers in Zurich: Teuscher (try the champagne truffles) and Sprüngli. For the rest of us, even the generic grocery store brand chocolates in Switzerland still blow away the Hershey bars found elsewhere. For a good value, try the "Frey" brand chocolates sold at Migros. If you want to try some real good and exclusive swiss chocolate, go for the Pamaco chocolates, derived from the noble Criollo beans and accomplished through the original, complex process of refinement that requires 72h (quite expensive though, a bar of 125g costs about CHF 8.-). For Lindt fans, it is possible to get them as low as half the supermarket price by going to the Lindt factory store in Kilchberg (near Zurich).

Holey moley!

Ever wondered why Swiss cheese, known locally as Emmentaler, always has those distinct holes? Bacteria are a key part of the cheesemaking process. They excrete huge amounts of carbon dioxide which forms gas bubbles in the curd, and these bubbles are what cause the holes.

  • Cheese - many different regions of Switzerland have their own regional cheese speciality. Of these, the most well-known are Gruyère and Emmentaler (what Americans know as "Swiss cheese"). Be sure to sample the wide variety of cheeses sold in markets, and of course try the cheese fondue! Fondue is basically melted cheese and is used as a dip with other food such as bread. The original mixture consists of half Vacherin cheese and half Gruyère but many different combinations have been developed since.
  • Swiss Army knives - Switzerland is the official home of the Swiss Army Knife. There are two brands Victorinox and Wenger. Both brands are manufactured by Victorinox. The Wenger business went bankrupt and Victorinox purchased it (2005). Victorinox knives, knife collectors will agree, are far far superior, in terms of design, quality, functionality. The most popular Victorinox knife is the Swiss Champ which has 33 functions and currently costs (Jan 2008) CHF78 . Most Tourists will purchase this knife. The "biggest" Victorinox knife is the Swiss Champ 1.6795.XAVT- This has 80 functions and is supplied in a case. This knife costs CHF364. The 1.6795.XAVT may in years to come be a collectors model. Most shops throughout Switzerland stock Victorinox knifes, even some Newsagents will stock them. They are excellent gifts and souvenirs. N.B. Swiss Army Knives must be packed in hold luggage.

Ski and tourist areas will sell the other kinds of touristy items - cowbells, clothing embroidered with white Edelweiss flowers, and Heidi-related stuff. Swiss people love cows in all shapes and sizes, and you can find cow-related goods everywhere, from stuffed toy cows to fake cow-hide jackets. If you have a generous souvenir budget, look for fine traditional handcrafted items such as hand-carved wooden figures in Brienz, and lace and fine linens in St. Gallen. If you have really deep pockets, or just wish you did, be sure to shop on Zurich's famed Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world. If you're looking for hip shops and thrift stores, head for the Niederdorf or the Stauffacher area.

Supermarket Chains

Swiss employment law bans working on Sundays, so shops stay closed. An exception is any business in a railway station, which is deamed to be serving travellers and so is exempt. If you want to find an open shop on a Sunday, go to the nearest big railway station. If a business is family-owned, you aren't employing anybody so you can open, hence small shops can also open on Sundays.

Swiss supermarkets can be hard to spot in big cities. They often have small entrances, but open out inside, or are located in a basement, leaving the expensive street frontages for other shops. Look for the supermarket logos above entrances between other shops.

For the "self catering":

  • Migros - This chain of supermarkets (in fact a cooperative) provides average to good quality food and no-food products and homeware. However, they do not sell alcoholic beverages nor cigarettes. Brand name products are rare as the chain does their own brands (quality is good, so you don't have to mind). Migros stores can be spotted by a big, orange Helvetica letter "M" sign. The number of "M" letters indicates the size of the store and the different services available - a single "M" is usually a smaller grocery store, a double M ("MM") may be larger and sells other goods like clothing, and a MMM is a full department store with household goods and possibly electronics and sporting goods. Offers change weekly on Tuesdays.
  • Coop - Also a cooperative. Emphasis on quality as well as multi-buy offers, points collection scheme(s) and money off coupons. Sells many major brands. Come at the end of the day to get half-priced salads and sandwiches. Coop City is usually a department store with a Coop grocery store inside, a multi-floor layout provides space for clothing, electrical items, stationary, paperware as well as beauty products and perfume. Offers change weekly (some exceptions - fortnightly), on Tuesdays.
  • Denner- A discount grocery store, noticeable for their red signs and store interiors. Relatively low priced. Offers change weekly, usually from Wednesday. Denner was bought by Migros in late 2006, but will not be rebranded at present.
  • Coop Pronto - a convenience store branch of Coop, usually open late (at least 20:00) seven days a week. Usually has a petrol, filling-station forecourt.
  • Pick-Pay - another discount grocery. Yellow logo. (Sold to Denner in Sept. 05, rebranding in progress)
  • Manor - the Manor department stores often have a grocery store on the underground level.

As of March 2005, Coop launched low-price-line (Coop Prix-Garantie). In Migros, you find "M-Budget" products. Sometimes it's exactly the same product, just for cheaper price. They also offer pre-pay mobiles as cheap as 29.80 CHF, including 19 CHF money on the SIM-Card and the some of the cheapest call rates.

The German discounter, Aldi Suisse started with 5 discount shops in the eastern part of Switzerland in early 2006. The prices are a little lower than at the other supermarket chains, but still significantly higher than in Germany.

Learn

Switzerland has some universites of world renown, like ETH in Zurich or University of Lausanne. Keep in mind, it's much better to speak the local language, so if you can't speak either French, German or Italian, better go for a language course first. There are a few English courses as well, but it will be much easier to go with local language. Also have in mind that if you're a foreigner, and you want to go for popular subjects, you have to pass entry-tests, and it will cost you a lot, not only for university fees, but also for living.

If you like cheaper learning, go for Migros Klubschule, they offer language courses in almost every language as well as a lot of different courses for many subjects, just have a look on their website . You may also want to try the different "Volkshochschule", which offer a large variety of subjects at very reasonable fees (such as in Zurich, for instance).

If you are looking for quality French courses for adults or juniors, you can learn French in one of the ESL schools centres located in Switzerland .

 

 

 

Switzerland

Switzerland (German: Schweiz, French: Suisse, Italian: Svizzera, Romansch: Svizra) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It has borders with France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east and Germany to the north.

The climate is temperate, but varies with altitude. Switzerland has cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters and cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers.

Switzerland is known for its mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) but it also has a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes. The highest point is Dufourspitze at 4,634 m while Lake Maggiore is only 195 m above sea level.

Regions

  • Lake Geneva - A tourist region surrounding Lac Léman
  • Jura Mountains and Fribourg - Hiking, lakes, watch-making
  • Bernese Lowlands - The core region of Traditional Bernese influence
  • Bernese Highlands - The Bernese alps,
  • Central Switzerland - The Swiss homeland, William Tell, etc.
  • Basel - Industrial city, with countryside
  • Zurich - A tourist region in its own right
  • Northeastern Switzerland - Extending east from Aarau in Aargau canton. Generally not mountainous.
  • Valais - A skiing/hiking oriented tourist region
  • Graubunden - region which is the same as canton Graubunden, very mountainous, lightly populated and home to many great tourist cities
  • Ticino - Italian speaking region which is the same as the canton Ticino

Cities

  • Zurich - Switzerland's biggest city and a major center of banking also has a thriving nightlife.
  • Geneva - This center of arts and culture, the second-largest city in Switzerland, is by far the international capital-- home to around 200 governmental and non-governmental organisations. Geneva was the home of John Calvin during the Reformation, elevating the city to the rank of "Protestant Rome," the effects of which drive Geneva today.
  • Berne - The Swiss capital features an amazingly well preserved old-town with arcades along almost every street. Great restaurants abound, as do bars and clubs. Check out the Einstein sites as well.
  • Basel - Slightly smaller than Geneva, Switzerland's third city is the traveller's gateway to the German Rhineland and Alsace.
  • Map of SwitzerlandLausanne - While Geneva is busy being the international capital, Lausanne fills the role in most of the rest of French-speaking Switzerland. Scenery, dining, dancing, boating and the Swiss wine-country are the draws.
  • Lugano - Italian-speaking Switzerland's top destination, with a gorgeous old-town and a pretty lake. The food is simply amazing.
  • Lucerne - Central Switzerland's main city with direct water links to all of the early Swiss historic sights. It's pretty too, and though it is heavily touristed the views and museums make putting up with the crowds well worthwhile.
  • Zermatt - There are a lot of mountain resorts in Switzerland, but only one of them has the Matterhorn.
  • Solothurn - Solothurn, situated on the river Aare and ont he foot of the Jura mountain range is referred to as 'Switzerland's Finest Baroque town'.
  • Interlaken - The outdoor and action sports capital of Switzerland. Anything from skydiving, bungee jumping, hiking, white-water rafting, to canyoning.

Understand

Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations, but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.

Switzerland is showcasing three of Europe's most distinct cultures. To the northeast is the beer-drinking, sausage-eating German-speaking Switzerland; to the south-west the wine drinking and shopping spills effortlessly into France; in the south-east the sun warms cappuccino-sippers loitering in Italian-style plazas; and in the center: classic Swiss flugelhorns and mountain landscapes. Binding it all together is a distinct Swiss mentality.

Switzerland can be a glorious whirlwind trip whether you've packed your hiking boots, snowboard, or just a good book and a pair of sunglasses.

Economy

Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP larger than that of the big Western European economies. The Swiss in recent years have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's to enhance their international competitiveness. Switzerland remains a safe haven for investors, because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc's long-term external value. Reflecting the anemic economic conditions of Europe, GDP growth dropped in 2001 to about 0.8%, to 0.2% in 2002, and to -0.3% in 2003, with a small rise to 1.8% in 2004-05. Even so, unemployment has remained at less than half the EU average.

Talk

There is no "Swiss Language" per se. Depending on where you are in the country the locals might speak Swiss-German (Schwyzerdütsch), French, Italian, or, in the hidden valleys of Graubunden, Romansch, an ancient language somewhat related to Italian. All four are considered official languages. Some cities such as Fribourg are bilingual, and any part of Switzerland has residents who do speak something besides the local vernacular at home. Note that you are unlikely to hear Romansch, as essentially all the 65,000 Romansch speakers also speak Swiss German, and they are actually outnumbered by native English speakers.

Around two-thirds of Switzerland lies in the German speaking area, particularly in the center, north and east of the country. French is spoken in the west, around Lausanne and Geneva, while Italian and Romansch are spoken in the far south. The Swiss themselves learn one of the other Swiss languages in school. In French-speaking Switzerland this is typically German, so English is less common in Suisse Romande (French-speaking Switzerland). In any of the large German speaking cities you will have no trouble finding people who speak English. In the countryside it is less common, but hardly rare.

Swiss German is a family of dialects. Even if you are quite fluent in high German you are unlikely to understand anything said to you. The dialects vary so dramatically that someone from Zurich may have real trouble understanding someone from the eastern Valais. All Swiss German speakers can also speak high German, albeit with a heavy accent, but at least in the cities many prefer to use English.

Swiss French is essentially standard French with only a few oddities. It is spoken much slower, with much more drawl. The numbers are not the same. Though anyone will understand you when you use soixante-dix, quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt-dix (70, 80, 90), these vanish as you proceed east along Lac Léman: in Geneva soixante-dix becomes septante and quatre-vingt-dix becomes nonente. By the time you reach Lausanne, quantre-vingt has become huitante, and in the Valais it morphs into the almost Italian ottante.

Swiss Italian is no more diverged than the dialects you would find within Italy.

Get in

Major international airports are in Zurich, Geneva and Basel, with smaller airports in Lugano and Berne. Flying into nearby Milan (Italy), Lyon or even Paris (France) or Frankfurt (Germany) are other options though rather expensive and time-consuming (3h Frankfurt-Basel, 4h Milan-Zurich, 5h Paris-Berne) by train. Some discount airlines fly to Friedrichshafen, Germany which is just across Lake Constance (the Bodensee) from Romanshorn, not too far from Zurich. The Flagcarrier of Switzerland is SWISS which is a member of Star Alliance and successor of the famous Swissair.

Trains arrive from all parts of Europe. Switzerland is together with Germany one of the most central-lying countries in Europe, making it a center of railways and highways to the rest of Europe. Some major routes include:

  • The TGV, with several trains daily from Paris, Avignon, Dijon, and Nice.
  • Hourly trains to/from Milan with connections to all parts of Italy (also night-trains to Rome and Venice).
  • Hourly ICE (German high-speed trains) from Zurich to Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Frankfurt in Germany, many continuing toward Amsterdam, Hamburg or Berlin.
  • Regular ICE trains from Zurich to Stuttgart and Munich
  • Every night trains from Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Vienna, Belgrade, Rome and Venice to Basel, Geneva, Zurich and some also to Lausanne and Geneva. See the link:

Common tourist destinations within Switzerland are easily reachable by car, eg. Geneva from central eastern France, and Zurich from southern Germany. Although Switzerland is now part of the Schengen agreement, the Swiss government has concluded that swiss border posts and checks on main roads will remain in place even after 2008. Delays are usually short, but cars may be stopped if they have eastern European plates and checked more thoroughly. Some delay may be caused by queuing at busy times, and there are often queues lasting hours to use the tunnels under the Alps from Italy such as Mont Blanc, Gotthard etc. Swiss motorway vignettes can and should be purchased at the border if your car does not already have a valid one for the year and you intend to use the swiss motorways, which is almost unavoidable.

Get around

By plane

The following carriers offer domestic flights within Switzerland:

  1. SWISS (website) (Basel/Mulhouse (EuroAirport Swiss), Geneva (Geneve-Cointrin Airport), Lugano Airport, Zurich Airport)
  2. Darwin Airlines (Berne (Belp Airport), Geneva (Geneve-Cointrin Airport), Lugano Airport)
  3. FlyBaboo (Geneva (Geneve-Cointrin Airport), Lugano Airport)

But in almost every case you will be better off taking the train.

Public Transport

The Swiss will spoil you with fantastic transportation - swift, disturbingly punctual trains, clean buses, and a half dozen different kinds of mountain transport systems, integrated into a coherent system. The discount options and variety of tickets can be bewildering, from half fare cards to multi-day, multi-use tickets good for buses, boats, trains, and even bike rentals. In general there's at least one train or bus per hour on every route, on many routes trains and buses are running every 30 min, but as with everything in Switzerland the transit runs less often, or at least for a shorter period of the day, on Sundays. Authoritative information, routes, and schedules can be found at , or from a ticket window in any train station.

Tickets

No one in Switzerland pays full fare for the transit system. At the very least they all have a Half-Fare Card (Demi-tariff/Halbfahr) which saves you 50% on all national buses and trains and gives a discount on local and private transit systems. Press the '1/2' button on the ticket machines to indicate you have this card, and be prepared to hand it to the conductor along with your ticket on the train. Annual half fare cards cost CHF150; foreigners can buy monthly cards for CHF99. You save CHF 57 on a round-trip ticket from Zurich to Lugano, so if you are planning on travelling a lot, it will quickly pay for itself.

The next step up from a half-fare card is a Swisspass, which grants you access to all national bus and rail, all city transit systems, and hefty discount on privately operated boats, cable cars, and ski lifts. These range from CHF 260 for a 4-day, 2nd class pass to CHF 578 for a month pass, 2nd class. Like the half-fare, you can buy this from any train station ticket office.

Only two trains in Switzerland require reservations: Bernina Express, running daily between Chur and Tirano and the Glacier Express running from St. Moritz to Zermatt.

Travel

Using the trains is easy, although the number of different kinds of trains can be a bit confusing unless you know that the schedules at a Swiss train station are color coded. The yellow sheet is for departures and the white sheet is for arrivals. Faster trains appear on both of these sheets in red, while the trains in black stop at more stations. For long trips it is often easier to use the website, as it will pick transfers for you. You need not fear transfers of five minutes or less. You will make them, provided you know exactly which platform you arrive on and which one you depart from. Many Swiss commute with a one or two minute transfer!

At the track, the signs indicate the destination and departure time. The small numbers and letters along the bottom show you where you can board the train. The letters indicate the zone you should stand in, and the numbers indicate the class. The class (1st or 2nd) is indicated by a "1" or "2" on the side of the car, these correspond with the numbers on the sign.

Luggage can be stowed above your seat or in between seats, or on a rack at the end of the car. During busy periods, people often stow large luggage (or skis) in the entrance area in between cars. This is usually fairly safe, but use common sense.

The variety of trains is bewildering at first, but is actually quite simple. The routes the SBB website suggests will make much more sense if you understand them. All trains have a one or two letter prefix, followed by a number, for example S3, IR2781. Only the prefix, the destination, and the time of departure are important.

  • S trains are local trains. They stop everywhere or almost everywhere, and generally reach into the hinterlands of a major station like Lausanne, but not to the next major station (in this case Geneva). If you are going to a small town, you may transfer at a large station to an S train for the last leg. Often you can use tickets from city public transit on the S system, but ask before trying.

  • RE trains (RegioExpress) generally reach from one major station to the next, touching every town of any importance on the way, but don't stop at every wooden platform beside the tracks.

    IR trains (InterRegio) are the workhorses of Swiss transit. They reach across two or three cantons, for instance from Geneva, along Lake Geneva through Vaud, and all the way to Brig at the far end of the Valais. They only stop at fairly large towns, usually those that boast three or four rail platforms.

  • IC trains (InterCity) are two decker express trains with restaurant cars. They are sumptuous and comfortable, often putting vaunted services like the TGV to shame, and make runs between major stations, with occasionally stops at a more minor one where tracks diverge.

  • ICN trains (InterCity) are the express tilt-trains, as luxurious as the IC trains. They run between major cities like Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Biel, and Basel.

There are also a number of small gauge railways that don't fit this classification that supplement the busses in the hinterlands, such as the line from [Nyon] to [La Cure].

You can bring your bicycle on every train in Switzerland, with two provisos: you must have a ticket for it (available from the ticket machines, CHF 10 for a day pass), and you must get on at a door marked with a bicycle. On ICN trains and some IR trains this is at the very front of the train.

Work

If you want to work in Switzerland, be aware that you need to obtain a work permit.

Switzerland signed an agreement with the European Union, that makes it easy for citizens of the old EU-15 states to work. In these cases you only need an employer that promotes you and a valid passport. For all other countries in the world the best way is to check with your embassy if there are, for example, exchange programs.

Switzerland has an unemployment rate of about 2.8% (end 2007) and skilled academics will have good job opportunities.

The high level of Swiss salaries reflect the high costs of living, so keep in mind that you must spend a lot for accommodation and food, when you negotiate your salary. Still, if you want or have to make money fast, you can save a substantial amount per month while working in a low-payed job. In general you work 42 hours/week and have 4 weeks of paid holidays.

Switzerland has no legal minimum salary. The salary depends on the industry you work in, with most companies paying at least 3500 CHF, for example as cashier in a supermarket. So you can save, if you really have to, depending on how much leisure time you like. Overtime work is usually paid (unless otherwise agreed in contract).

If you want to check the average salaries by industry or make sure you get the right amount paid, the Swiss employees are heavy organized in trade unions SGB and always keen to help you.

 
             
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