Swiss Info

Travel Tips:

Switzerland ! also known locally as Schweiz(Swiss German), Suisse(French), Svizzera(Itallian) and Svizra(Romansh). The name Switzerland comes from "Schwyz", one of the original cantons in the Confederation. The letters "CH" are the country's national designation and stand for "Confoederatio Helvetica", the Latin words for Swiss Confederation.

General Information

Bordering Countries:     Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein
Capital City:     Berne
Population:     7,4 million
Population density:     172 per sq. km
Languages:     Swiss-German, French, Italian, Romansch English is widely spoken.
Government:     Parliamentary Federal State since 1848, Direct democracy
Cantons:     20 full cantons, 6 half cantons
Religions:     Catholic (48%), Protestant (44%), others (8%)
Currency:     Swiss Francs (CHF)

The Swiss francs comes in the following denominations:

a) Coins: 5, 10, 20, 50 cents and 1, 2 , 5 Francs
b) Bank notes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000 Francs

Credit Cards:

The safest and easiest form of money are traveler’s checks and credit cards. The cards most used are Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Many banks in Switzerland have equipped their ATM machines with the CIRRUS or MAESTRO system. Many other Swiss banks offer ATM machines for cash advances with your credit card.

Money exchange places:

- any Swiss bank
- airport
- main railway stations (western union)
- major hotels

Weather and Climate:

The climate is moderate without excessive heat, cold or humidity. From July to August the daytime temperature range is 18 to 28 °C (65° - 82° F) and from January to February the temperature range is -2 to 7 °C (28° - 45° F). In spring and autumn, the daytime temperature range is 8 to 15 °C (46° - 59° F). Depending on the altitude the temperatures may vary. It is highly recommended for visitors to pack a sweater, good walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a compact umbrella and/or a light rain coat.

Flag:

The Swiss national flag consists of a white cross centered on a square field of red. Each Swiss canton and community has its own flag.

Local time:

MET (Middle European Time) (Co-ordinated World Time + 1); March to October: MET + 1 (Co-ordinated World Time + 2)

General:

a) The Swiss are generally friendly; a local how is greeting you expects a return greeting and /or a smile.
b) The kitchen in restaurants often closes by 9.30 till 10 pm. It’s considered to have dinner quite early in Switzerland.
c) Tickets for public transport have to be purchased before boarding – especially in trains and trams. In some cases tickets have to be punched in automats at bus/tram stops. Swiss passes you only have to sign and mention the date of journey.
d) Telephone calls from public booths are generally cheaper than from hotels. Most booths accept credit cards or pre-paid telephone cards which are available at Kiosks and the post office. In big cities as well as at the airports you can buy pre-paid cell-phone cards. The most important telephone companies in Switzerland are Swisscom, Sunrise, Orange.
e) Medical facilities are generally expensive in Switzerland. It’s considered to have a travel insurance, which covers Switzerland.
f) Phone numbers: Emergency 144
g) In Switzerland the 1st class carriages of the trains are marked with a fellow line at the top. Please only use the 1st with a valid ticket. In trains there are rest carriages, if you are looking for quietness please feel free to sit there, but please remain quite and turn your phone on silent.

Transport:

The main entry points for international flights are the airports in Zurich or Geneva. But also Basel, Bern and Lugano have an International airport. There is no departure tax to pay at the airport (Included in the ticket price). Zurich and Geneva – airport have a train station with public-transport-connections to all over Switzerland. From Basel-airport the yellow buses runs every 20 minutes to the main railway-station.

North of Switzerland:

Zurich Region
Zurich is the top destination for leisure and pleasure. Gentle hills, peaceful woods, unpolluted lakes and rivers, picturesque villages – all this just a stone's throw away from the Alps. Zürich is an ideal starting point for all kinds of varied excursions.

North-West of Switerland:

Basel Region
Basel is a fascinating city, tourists encounter the best of modern art and architecture at every step. Savour fresh cherries from nearby orchards and asparagus from the Alsace region.

West of Switzerland:

Valais
The region with endless natural wonders. Balmy summer warmth bathes the valley, water gurgles from pond to pond in pine forests and vineyards. Valais region is sure to mesmerize you with its beauty.

Fribourg / Neuchâtel / Jura / Jura Bernois
From the Jura range to the pre-Alpine hills, vast elevated plains punctuate the fir trees in lush pastures, and the beautiful farm buildings of light-coloured Jura limestone takes ones breath away. The Jura region is a giant park created by nature herself, bordering France to the north and crossed by deep canyons to the south.

Lake Geneva Region
One region, four worlds. They came, saw... and stayed. Courbet, Kokoschka, Charlie Chaplin and David Bowie are among those who settled in the Lake Geneva region. Attracted by the Alpine panorama and almost Mediterranean vegetation they found it hard to part ways with the beautiful city.

The world's smallest metropolis, cosmopolitan Geneva is a world of its own, a world for everyone, quite apart from the rest of Switzerland.

Eastern Switzerland:

Eastern Switzerland/ Liechtenstein
Eastern Switzerland stretches from the shimmering waters of Lake Constance across the hilly Appenzellerland to the Alpine landscapes of Toggenburg, the Heidiland holiday region and the Glarnerland. Far off in the Rhine Valley is Vaduz with its princes' castle.

Graubünden
Graubünden has the Alpine valleys descending from high mountains with rivers in every conceivable direction. German, Romansh and Italian, all live together in a single canton

Central Switzerland:

Central Switzerland
Central Switzerland is all about unlimited freedom. Switzerland was born when the good people of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden formed an alliance at the Rütli. Here, in Central Switzerland, lies the Schöllenen Bridge which made north-south travel across the Gotthard range possible, and in 1871, Europe’s first cog railroad up to Rigi marked the beginning of tourism.

Schweizer Mittelland
Simply grand. A slight haze tints quiet rivers with subtle pastel hues. Impressively vast roofs shelter prosperous Emmental farmhouses. Bernese Oberland Where nature and holidays come together. Waterfalls crash down sheer cliff sides. Glacier-fed creeks force their way through th narrow Rosenlaui and Aare canyons.

South of Switzerland:

Ticino
The Italian flair of Switzerland. The Mediterranean region seems to begin on the southern side of the Alps. There is a feel of Italy, with palm trees at clean beaches and lanes and alleyways leading to piazzas and churches.

Where Mountains rise into the sky

Fantastic routes, breathtaking vistas: experiences that await the traveler on the Glacier-Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt, across 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels, and on the William Tell-Express from Lucerne to Lugano/Locarno, first by ship and then by train. Also unforgettable: The Bernina, the Palm and the Golden Pass Express.

The glow of the Alps at sunset:
The world of the Swiss Alps is a world of wild beauty. Mountain peaks soar more than 4,000 meters into the sky. Awe-inspiring glaciers and gigantic rock-formations abound. Frothy streams rush down mountains, without premonition of the oceans into which they flow. Waterfalls thunder into valleys. The reflection of windswept pines and larch trees shimmer on the blue surface of mountain lakes. The vivid colors of mountain flowers dot Alpine meadows. Sun-blackened chalets beckon by the roadside and invite you to rest awhile. Cogwheel trains and airy gondolas effortlessly reach the top of the highest peaks. Come on board, wander back on foot on the mountain trails!

The delights of the Alpine lakes:

Crystal-clear water glitters in the sunlight, pristine beaches entice you to go for a swim. Sailboats leave a trail in their wake on the water. Steam boats travel from shore to shore. Chalets and inns with shady gardens invite you to stay. Wherever you go, the next lake is waiting around the corner!

Southern ambienceSouthern ambience:
South of the Alps Mediterranean style awaits you: Italian "Dolce Vita", outdoor cafes on lively plazas, laughter, conversation, happiness. Clean beaches with palm trees. Promenades for leisurely walks. Romanesque churches. Houses with stone-dotted roofs in pristine side-valleys. The most modern architecture wherever you go.

Gently rolling hills and vast valleys:
Forests, hills, rivers, fertile soil and grazing cows, vibrant cities full of hustle and bustle: this is the heart of Switzerland, between the Alps and the crescent of the Jura mountains. Huge farmhouses, adorned with window boxes full of colorful flowers, define this region just as much as the large urban centers of Zurich, Bern and Basel with their rich cultural offerings and modern industry. Medieval arcades preside over stores and boutiques aligned like pearls on a string and over the pulsating life of the cities. Modern architecture can be found next to original Old Town quarters: Botta and Le Corbusier are to be seen not far from Roman ruins, Mediaeval castles and Baroque cathedrals. Everything is close by and easily reached.

French Flair:

Vineyards stretch in a wide arc downhill toward Lake Geneva. The shores of Lake Geneva are dotted with romantic villages, castles with mighty ramparts and elegant cities with an urbane culture. A whiff of Paris, a dash of France is in the air. Here alpine panorama and southern vegetation unite in unique harmony. And the pristine mountain world of the Waadtland Alps, or the quiet peaks of the Jura are just a short journey away.

Geographic Facts

Area:

41,293 sq km / 15,936 sq mi

Distance:

North to South 220 km / 137 mi.
East to West 348 km / 216 mi.

Length of frontier:

1,881 km 1,168 mi.
Switzerland borders France in the West, Germany in the north, Austria and the principality of Liechtenstein in the east and Italy in the south.

Landscape:

3 main types of landscape - the Swiss Alps, the hilly Swiss Mittelland, which extends from Lake Constance to Lake Geneva, and the Swiss Jura, a long line of rugged fold mountains.

Highest Peaks:

Dufourspitze (Valais): 4,634 m / 15,203 ft
Dom (Valais): 4,545 m / 14,911 ft
Weisshorn (Valais): 4,506 m / 14,793 ft
Matterhorn (Valais): 4,478 m / 14,691 ft

Largest Glacier (Surface):

Aletsch (Valais): 117 sq km / 73 sq ml.
Length 24 km / 15 mi.
Glaciers in total 140

Largest Lakes:

Lake Geneva: 582 sq km / 223 sq mi.
Lake Constance: 539 sq km / 208 sq mi.
Lake Neuchâtel: 218 sq km / 83 sq mi.
Lake Maggiore: 212 sq km / 82 sq mi.
Lake Lucerne: 114 sq km / 44 sq mi.
Lake Zurich: 88 sq km / 35 sq mi.
Lakes in total 1,484

Highest Village:

Juf (Graubunden): 2,126 m / 7,000 ft

Lowest Village:

Ascona (Ticino): 196 m / 690 ft

Largest Cities:

Zurich 336,800
Geneva 173,500
Basel 168,700
Berne 122,700
Lucerne 57,000

Economy

Switzerland is a highly developed industrial country with a strong export orientated economy. Machines, synthetics and dyes, agrochemistry and pharmaceuticals, jewellery and watches are the main exports. 95% of all Swiss watches are exported abroad. Switzerland is, above all, well- known world-wide for manufacturing precision instruments and machines. The food industry also has a good international reputation (Swiss chocolate, cheese and baby food are especially famous all over the world). It's true that Switzerland does meet about a half of its food production requirement from abroad; however, agriculture remains a very important economic asset. Grain, potatoes, sugar beet, wine, fruit and tobacco are produced. Cattle breeding and the dairy industry are also very famous.

Switzerland is poor in mineral resources and is dependent on the import of raw materials. Along with the insurance sector and the bank sector, tourism is the most important source of income in the tertiary sector. In addition, Switzerland is one of the most important financial centers in Europe. The main export markets are EU countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain as well as the USA and Japan. Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), but not of the EU.

Area:

41,293 sq km / 15,936 sq mi

Customs Entry Regulations

Tobaccos and spirits:

These limits apply only to persons older than 17 years
200 cigarettes or 50 250 grams of pipe-tobacco
2 liters of alcohol

Passport, Visa Regulations:

Travellers wishing to enter Switzerland need a valid passport, Visas are required for stays of 3 months or more. In general, holders of a valid permanent residence certificate of an EU or EFTA country, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada or the USA and some other countries do not need a visa. Please check with the nearest Swiss Embassy or Consulate.

Security / Health / Insurance:

Switzerland have one of the lowest crime rates of all industrialized countries. But it is always wise to keep an eye on wallets and luggage in busy areas. Drinking and eating-out is hygienic and the tap water is safe. Immunization for contagious diseases is only required if the traveler has been in an infected are within 14 days preceding arrival in Switzerland. Personal travel insurance is strongly recommended, including coverage of personal accident, sickness, loss or damage to luggage and personal effects and cancellation charges.

Value Added Taxes:

The VAT you pay on purchased goods in Switzerland is 7.6%. You may ask at the shops for your Global Refund Cheque and reclaim the VAT: The total purchases in a shop must amount to CHF 400.00 (including VAT). The tourist must be resident outside Switzerland and the goods must be exported within 30 days.
Nice to know

Business Hours:

Generally, offices are open 8 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm on weekdays and closed on weekends.

Banks:

Banks are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Once a week they extend their hours. Please check locally. They are closed Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays. However, money can also be changed at major train stations. Look for the "Change/Cambio" signs.

Many banks have automated teller machines (ATMs) that accept overseas bank cards. Please check with your local bank before leaving if your bank card is valid in Switzerland.

Shops:

Shops in smaller towns and villages are generally open from 8.30 am - 12 noon and again from 2 - 6.30 pm. In larger cities they do not close for lunch. In larger cities, shops generally extend their hours till 8 pm on one evening of the week, usually on Thursdays.

Post Offices:

Post offices are usually open from 8 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm on weekdays, whereas some branches that are located in shopping centers are usually open the same hours as the shopping centers, including the extended business times that are often offered once a week. On Saturdays, post offices in large cities are open from 8.30 am till 12 noon, in villages they may be closed. Please inform yourself locally. All post offices are closed on Sundays.

Important Telephone Numbers

The following numbers can be dialed for information
117 Police in case of emergencies
118 Fire Brigade
144 Ambulance (not in all areas)

Information Services:

1811 Numbers of subscribers within Switzerland, doctors, theatres, etc.
1141 To place calls abroad when direct dialing is not possible
140 Motoring assistance
162 Weather report
163 Conditions of traffic, roads and passes
187 Avalanche Bulletin

Travel Guides / Maps

Road maps, regional maps, city maps, panoramic maps, holiday maps, guides and atlases, bicycles and excursion maps of Switzerland from Hallwag or Kümmerly+Frey cover a national and international touristic range. All these touristic products are available in bookshops, warehouses, kiosks, petrol-stations.

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