Now that we’ve been home and had a chance to digest our travels through Switzerland, I wanted to share a few thoughts and some helpful tips for others who might be thinking about a visit.
First and foremost – Go! Switzerland is absolutely beautiful. There are so many breathtaking views of nature everywhere you go. As you could probably tell from the trip posts and pictures, we tried to take in as much as we could. Land, lakes, mountains and cities were all incredible.
The Swiss travel system is hands down the best we’ve seen, especially the rail system. We chose to travel by train and could go everywhere we wanted to go comfortably. They have an intricate train network that is very efficient, very clean and very user-friendly.
Tip: Be sure to check out a travel pass. Be it the Swiss Travel Pass, Jungfrau Pass, Oberland Pass – check it out. If you are using the trains to get around – you will save money over buying individual tickets. The passes also provide free or discounted admission to many museums and other attractions.
Tip: If you want to take one of the Panoramic trains such as the Golden Line, Glacier Express or Bernina Express, make sure you book a seat reservation. Check out the websites 3 months prior to going as they fill up fast during the high seasons.
Tip: Get the SBB Phone App! This app is awesome to check out train schedules, get platform information and get train configuration information. Where is the bar car?
Switzerland is not a cheap place to eat. We knew that going in, but there will inevitably be some sticker shock. You can offset that a little bit by grabbing lunch from a COOP store (Cross between a supermarket and a convenience store depending on the location.) or by eating a hearty breakfast, especially when it is included at your hotel.
If you’re passing through Zurich, the train station also has an underground level with a market and a couple of restaurants. There are usually places in and around the train stations to grab a bite to take with on the trains. Do everyone a favor, avoid the stinky stuff.
However, make sure to find a restaurant and indulge in a traditional Swiss meal. The food is delicious and goes perfect with a beer or Swiss wine. Rösti, schnitzel and a fondue are musts. Rumor has it they don’t even add calories if you eat them and enjoy them!
Tip: No need to constantly buy bottled water. Bring along a water bottle and you can refill it anywhere with clean, cold water from the numerous fountains located throughout most of the cities and towns.
Throughout Switzerland, there are accommodations of all types, from opulent hotels to family campgrounds and everything in between. We found that by staying near to the rail stations in cities and towns, we had the best flexibility. Besides the obvious access to the trains, there were usually buses and car rental places nearby.
Tip: Check with your hotel to see if they offer a discount card for local attractions and transportation. We were able to get them in a few of the towns we stayed in and they saved us a bunch. We were able to use the metro system in Lausanne, the cable cars and funiculars in St. Moritz and the buses in Lucerne for free.
There are four languages spoken in Switzerland, the three dominant languages are German, French and Italian. The fourth is Romansh, but if they were speaking it, we didn’t know it. You’ll find that many people who deal with the tourism industry also speak English. We had no problems with communication – especially when ordering in restaurants. However, we also found that using a little bit of the local language was like finding the gold ticket in Willy Wonka. Plus, it was a fun way to interact with folks.
We had a wonderful trip and would go again in an instant (after replenishing the travel bank account). The people there truly made us feel welcome and tried very hard to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. We have lots of memories, but one that stands out is the older couple thanking us for visiting their country. That was a memory of the Swiss people that we won’t forget.
So go, enjoy and be ready to be amazed!
Now, back to sorting through 2,400 pictures and enjoying every minute of it.