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The lowdown on all things Switzerland. This is your definitive guide to holidaying in Switzerland.
Switzerland's got more charisma (and Christmas pumpernickel) to compete with the best of Europe. A charming standalone nation of traditional Europe (no thank you EU), it's a mecca of charming townships, modern-thinking cities and countryside so glorious, everything is more perfect than perfect. The grass is greener, the snow is whiter and the air....well, take a big lungful, because it's like pure elixir for your insides. Good for your soul, your senses, and your overall well-being, if you thought New Zealand was a beaute, this one will blow the retinas out of their sockets.
1. How long can I stay without a visa?
If you’re visiting Switzerland for less than three months for a vacation there is no need to get a Visa, however you need to have proof of a return ticket out of Switzerland again and make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your intended departure.
2. What’s the local currency?
3. Do I need to tip?
Tipping isn’t expected anywhere, but it’s good practice to round up your bill to the nearest franc if you’re impressed with the service.
4. Transport to and from the airport
Getting from Geneva International Airport into the city centre:
Trains between the airport and Geneva's central railway station in the city (Gare Cornavin) takes 6 minutes, with departures every 12 to 20 minutes. The first train departs from GVA Airport to Geneva at 5:07 and the last train leaves at 0:51.
The bus to downtown Geneva takes roughly 20 minutes. Buses 5 and 10 will drive you to Gare Routiere train station.
Free Ticket: On arrival to Geneva by plane, you can claim a free Unireso ticket for 80 minutes for public transport in Zone 10 (Includes Tout Geneve in the central Geneva area, as well as the airport itself and most central hotels). The ticket machine for free tickets is located in the baggage reclaim hall. You simply need to provide a valid plane ticket in.
Taxis: Maximum 4 passengers. Average CHF 70 per trip.
We guarantee after a 24+ hour flight from NZ, you won't want to deal with a transfer via public transport. Ask your HoT consultant about booking a transfer before you even leave NZ.
5. Getting around
Public transport: In Switzerland it's better than good, it's stellar. Getting around is a beautiful breeze. The train system has many route options with comfort and beautiful scenery. Where the trains don’t quite cover, the bus and ferries step up so you can always make it from A to B.
Uber: As of August 2017, Uber is offered in Basel, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich however it’s a tad different than New Zealand as they offer ride-sharing so make sure you check your settings depending if you want to make a few new friends.
6. Weather: What can you expect when you go?
According to our sources, Switzerland is beautiful July-August in their summertime for a nice scenic trip but if you’re after the winter sports scene then your best bet is Late February-March - any earlier and it’s too chilly, any later and the resorts start shutting for the season.
7. Top 10 phrases
8. Rules and customs
Pointing your index finger to your head is considered an insulting gesture
Visitors must always carry their passport on them.
German, French and Italian are all spoken in Switzerland. You'll find more French around the west and more Italian in the south. Other areas are more German orientated.
If you have permanent residence outside Switzerland and you're older than 18, you are eligible for the tax back on your shopping. Refunds are paid on goods that are exported in your personal luggage. Complete a Tax Free Form and have it stamped by Customs. For more information, click here.
9. Where to have fun
Switzerland is a beautiful place to visit, but where to visit depends on what holiday you are after. If you are off for a chilly trip to the mountains then including The Matterhorn is a must. If you were looking for more of a city scene then Geneva offers urban cityscapes and beautiful waterfront views, or in the capital Bern you can see a more medieval street plan which has remained relatively unchanged for five centuries.
10. What to do in an emergency
Switzerland is a relatively safe place overall, like anywhere there is still petty crime so be on alert but there are no major concerns. There is only a small faction of plain clothed federal police who operate in conjunction with uniformed forces.
Important emergency numbers in Switzerland:
117 - Police
118 - Fire department
144 - Ambulance services
House of Travel recommends anyone travelling to the UK and Europe registers with Safe Travel. As well as offering invaluable travel advice, should an emergency arise, they can find you, check your well-being and send important travel information.
We also recommend safely and securely storing three important travel documents (your passport, credit card and driver's license) on your phone. Use an app such as Traveler ID which will store a series of documents in one place. Of course, you might lose your phone, so also store them in the Cloud, or your saved emails.
11. Mobile usage – to roam or not to roam?
You could buy a SIM card for your mobile, but we recommend this little genius device instead:
The Travelers WiFi
A small portable WiFi device which you can rent from most hotels, Swiss Post Shops and Zurich Airport. You rent then return after your trip. You get high-speed uncapped internet data for up to 10 devices (they'll all transmit to the same device). There is absolutely no data limit so you can be online all day long. The price is CHF 17.45 per day for a minimum of 2 days. Prices drop for longer rental periods. For example, down to CHF 6.66 per day for 30 days.
The website will clarify all the deets you're now intrigued about.
12. HOT’s top 5 Swiss eats
Fondue for you? - No matter what time of year you go, you can never go wrong with a bowl of melted cheese with bread cubes… don’t worry we won’t tell your doctor if you don’t.
Swiss Chocolate - Did you really go to Switzerland if you didn’t try too much of their delectable chocolate and try attempt to save some of your purchases to take back home…
Berner Platte - When in the capital of switzerland, you must try it’s namesake! Although it is a very meaty dish of pork and veggies so if that’s not quite your cup of tea maybe try;
Meringue - All through Switzerland you will find Meringue and whipped cream on the dessert menu, and after all that cheese and chocolate - something light sounds about right.
OLMA Bratwurst - St Gallen is the home of the nation’s favourite sausage and with that German influences in Switzerland can you really justify not giving it a go?
13. Is the water safe to drink?
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink (unless told otherwise) it’s pure and full of minerals!
14. HOT’s top insider tips
Europe's highest chocolate shop
Lindt Chocolate Heaven. Sitting 3454 metres above sea level, the store's the highest chocolate shop in Europe. Get the train to Jungfraujoch train station; also the highest station in Europe.
Secret 'bowling cellar bars' from yesteryear
So secret is Otto’s Bowling Cellar it is frequented only by locals. Located in the basement of the Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof, it’s one of very few retro bowling alleys that remain in the bowels of Switzerland’s most age-old hotels.
Switzerland's best-kept secret
Basel. It sits on the Rhine in northwest Switzerland and boasts one of the most scenic settings in Europe. The old collides quite spectacularly with new in Basel’s Old Town. Possibly one of the best preserved (and arguably the prettiest) nuggets of traditional Europe, narrow cobblestone streets are flanked by crooked townhouses and balcony flower boxes tumbling with posies.
15. Switzerland for kids
In a country filled with chocolate, kids will be easily entertained. If you want to satisfy more than the sweet tooth though then a train ride is a must. There are a variety of routes to begin with but also a variety of models too. If trains aren’t quite what you’re after, try have a look around the museums and if you venture to the northeast there is an adventure park too.
European Heritage Days
These are annual national events, currently set up by more than fifty countries whereby the public are permitted to visit buildings and other historical places of interest which are not usually open to the public, or museums whose access then becomes free, or reduced in price.
These heritage days are launched every year on the third weekend of September. Also known as Doors Open Days and Open Doors Days. For more information click here.
16. What adapter do I need?
The voltage in Switzerland is between 220 and 240 V and to use any appliances from New Zealand you will need an adaptor to fit the two pin fittings.
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