With dramatic scenes of towering glacial mountains, lush green valleys, charming villages and distant sounds of cow bells, a visit to Switzerland is on the list of many travelers. When planning a trip to Switzerland, there are many things to consider to ensure that you get the most out of your trip. From visiting the cities, exploring in the charming villages high in the Alps, staying at friendly B&B’s or having your own vacation rental in Switzerland. Having visited Switzerland a few times, I wanted I’d share with you my tips on visiting one of my favorite places in the world!
Travel Style & Purpose for Your Visit
I always tell people, whenever you plan a trip you should consider your personal travel style and what you want to ultimately get out of the experience. Do you want to just getaway – forgetting about work at home and relaxing in a new place? Would you prefer to get to know the local culture or learn something? Or are you looking for adventure and excitement?
Perhaps all of these things???
Many destinations serve up opportunities for all types of travelers, and Switzerland is definitely one of them too. So take the time to do your research and understand what there is to do in Switzerland that interests you, and what you want to get out of your trip.
My Favorite Things to Do in Switzerland
Personally, the bigger cities of Switzerland are nice, but they do remind me of many other cities in Europe. For me, my favorite thing to do in Switzerland is travel high into the Swiss Alps where I can getaway from it all and feel like I’m in a story book. Being high up in a mountain village, the sense of quiet and peace that surrounds you, even with the towering mountains, is just incredible. Plus, those stars at night – WOW!
Breathing in that fresh mountain air, strolling through the meadows, hiking, biking, or even paragliding (yes, I really ran off a Swiss Mountain with a parachute) is food for my soul.
So while I will typically spend a short time visiting cities in Switzerland, I prefer to spend much of my time in the mountainous areas.
Choose the Season Carefully
Once you know the why you are traveling to Switzerland and what you want to do, then that should help you to know what season is best to travel. Obviously, if you are wanting to hike then you will want to avoid the snowy season (unless you like to snowshoe).
Winter activities are amazing in Switzerland, but you definitely need to enjoy snow and cold. You should also be a little flexible with your time, because transportation in the country could be impacted by the weather conditions (although even the trains are typically on time even in the snow). Also consider that major ski destinations and popular mountain villages consider winter their high season – so prices may be higher and you may need to book in advance.
Summer is a wonderful time to visit Switzerland due to the lovely weather. It can be quite busy in some of the towns with summer activities though, so again, you may want to research different prices for destinations and make sure they have availability when you want to go.
Visiting Switzerland in the Spring or Fall usually enables you to save money on accommodation because you aren’t in either peak season. This also means that many of the towns (especially in the Alps) will be much more quiet. While it’s a peaceful experience, it can almost be too quiet for some people.
You should also consider that In the off-season, some hotels, restaurants and shops are actually closed in the smaller villages. For example, I visited Murren once in late May — and there was less than a handful of restaurants open in the village, which limited our options and hit our bank account pretty hard (few things are cheap in Switzerland anyway).
Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience staying in a small village high in the mountains during the off season. Strolling the mountain paths from village to village, hiking past cows in the meadows, and admiring the views with no one else around. It was quite nice – but I’m sure busy season would offer a whole different and exciting experience too.
Options for Transportation in Switzerland
There are many options for transportation in Switzerland, so once you have an idea of when you want to visit, where, and what you want to do, then you can arrange the appropriate transportation.
Switzerland has a fantastic train system that connects most of the major areas. Even in the winter, it is quite dependable and the trains do go high up into the Alps where you can connect to mountain villages. If you plan to do a lot of train travel in Switzerland, you can also look into getting one of the train passes.
For those of you who prefer to drive (as I often do), there is no problem driving in Switzerland. In fact, the country has a great road network and even a divided highway system. Although, it is a toll system – so you need a sort of tag for you car window to show that you’ve paid. If you rent the car in Switzerland, the rental agency should assist with this. If you cross into Switzerland from another country with your car, then you should be able to buy one near the border crossing.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the more remote areas of the Swiss Alps have some unique transportation challenges, obviously due to the terrain. In fact, many of the higher elevation (and most charming) villages aren’t accessible by your personal car. Some of them have parking areas where you then need to take a train, or even a gondola to get up to your village.
Keep this in mind and be sure to confirm with your accommodation the best way to arrive. You should also take this into consideration when packing for your trip – because you may have to haul your luggage up a gondola and / or a train…and then walk in a “car-less” village for a while to get to your hotel (possibly uphill).
How Long to Stay in Switzerland?
Of course, your length of stay in Switzerland will depend on your budget and time off work, but I think a week is usually sufficient to see much of the country and even spend a few days in the Alps. Switzerland is a small country, and with a car, you can pretty much drive around the entire country in a day! So if you spend a couple days visiting the bigger cities, and then time in the Alps that is usually enough for most people.
Switzerland Travel Budget
First of all, Switzerland maintains its neutrality and is NOT a member of the European Union. They also do not use the Euro currency, they use the Swiss Franc. Further, Switzerland is a notoriously expensive to live and to visit. While the Swiss people have quite a high standard of living and good salaries to afford their lifestyle, for some visitors prices for even simple things may come as a shock.
Visitors to Switzerland can expect to pay roughly double what they would in the United States for meals, even inexpensive meals at fast food chains. Same goes for beverages – even coffee, soda, beer or water may be twice the price you are used to paying. Similarly, supermarket prices vary — but overall, you will again pay much higher prices (possibly double).
Transportation costs in Switzerland vary depending on the type. But again, it is overall more expensive – particularly, gasoline which is more than double the price as it is in the States (but it’s actually typical for gas to be more expensive in other countries).
So when you are making you travel budget for Switzerland, take whatever you would pay in the States, and essentially double it!
** Also Read Money Travel Tips – From Banking, ATMs, and More!
Accommodation Options to Consider
When staying in Switzerland, again consider the type of experience you want to have. There are many wonderful hotels, including some very luxurious and expensive options. But for a more charming and affordable experience, we definitely recommend looking into smaller B&B’s where you can chat with some other travelers and get advice from the host. We’ve also had fantastic experience with renting our own place in Switzerland – it was huge and had an amazing outdoor patio where we could admire the mountains during the day and stars at night.
Because your budget will have a big impact on the kind of accommodation you choose in Switzerland, we recommend that you try to get the most for your money. Since meals are so expensive, we like to search for places to stay which offer options for breakfast and even dinner (in some of the smaller villages, this is a really nice option if there aren’t many other places in town – especially in the off-season).
Planning the Right Trip to Switzerland for You!
Personally, I believe that having a great experience during a trip anywhere has a lot to do with the planning you do ahead of time. And when you are planning a trip to Switzerland, I believe that taking these tips into consideration will help make sure that you have put together just the right trip for you.