5 Things to Know Before Traveling to Switzerland
Boasting one of the highest standards of living in the world, Switzerland has become a popular tourist destination with its breathtaking mountain scenery, gourmet chocolates and cheeses, and numerous outdoor sports. If you’re considering taking a trip to Switzerland sometime soon, there are a few things to keep in mind before you go.
1. The language
Like many countries in Europe, most people you encounter will speak English, though it’s probably not their native language. If you’re visiting parts of the country that are closer to Austria or Germany, you’ll likely find more people who are speaking German. If you’re traveling closer to the country’s border with France, you’re more likely to hear French. While most Swiss people recognize American tourists and will quickly switch to speaking English with you, it’s still polite to know a few phrases (e.g. yes/no, thank you, goodbye) in whichever language is spoken. Simple enough, right?
2. Dining out
In Switzerland, the proper etiquette for tipping is quite a bit different than in the U.S. When you’re at a restaurant, your bill will often include a service charge, which indicates you don’t need to leave an additional tip. However, if you’ve received exceptional service and would like to add an additional amount, feel free to round your bill to the nearest Swiss Franc (CHF) to thank your server. On the flip side, if your service is terrible, you have no obligation to leave any additional tip on the check. For other services such as taxis, baggage handlers, and bellhops, 1-2 CHF is generally a sufficient tipping amount.
Another thing to keep in mind when dining out in Switzerland is that you will usually need to ask your server for the bill, rather than them dropping it off at your table. This is considered a courtesy that gives guests the chance to sit and relax after their meal, rather than pressuring them to leave as soon as the check arrives.
3. Getting places
If you’re planning to see several different cities throughout Switzerland, you’ll need to consider your method of transportation. Traveling by car is often expensive, and some of the country’s most popular places (e.g. Mürren and Zermatt) have banned cars altogether, relying on electric taxis for most transportation needs. Plus, purchasing your tickets and rushing to catch a train can turn into a stressful situation worth avoiding.
One of the easiest and most cost-efficient options is to purchase a Swiss Travel Pass for the duration of your stay in Switzerland. The Swiss Travel Pass allows you to travel by train, bus, and boat with a single pass, making it incredibly easy to move between different cities and regions of the country.
4. Tourist season
Depending on the time of year you plan to travel, certain parts of the country may be much more crowded than others. For example, Mürren and Zermatt are popular daytime tourist destinations year round but tend to clear out after sunset during the warmer months.
Planning a ski trip during the winter? Areas with easy mountain access tend to be very popular with skiers and snowboarders during the colder months of the year, and it may be harder to find accommodations. Try to give yourself ample time to research, plan, and book your trip so that your first choice in accommodations are readily available regardless of the time of year.
5. Visiting a Schengen country
Since Switzerland is part of Europe’s Schengen Area, there may be certain travel restrictions depending on your citizenship. Travelers may need to obtain a Schengen visa to enter the country. One of the main requirements for this visa is travel medical insurance to cover any unforeseen health-related expenses that might occur during the trip. Our Patriot plan is a great option to consider for this visa requirement, as it offers temporary medical insurance for traveling individuals, families, and groups.
These are just a few of many things you’ll discover as a tourist visiting Switzerland. Take the time to do your research and figure out the places you want to visit, how you’ll get around, and what time of year is best for your trip.
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