Switzerland //

Travel Essentials

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Costs

Daily budget Basic €50, occasional treat €80. Drink Beer (glass) Fr.5–8, house wine (small glass) Fr.4–5. Hostel/budget hotel Fr.35/Fr.110. Travel Geneva–Zurich train Fr.84 (2hr 45min; no bus).

Crime and personal safety

Switzerland has only a small force of plain-clothes federal police. Most policing is managed by the cantons, which have uniformed forces operating in conjunction with municipal police. You must carry your passport on you at all times. If you’re a victim of theft, go to the nearest station to get a report filled out (you’ll need it for your insurance).

Emergencies

Police 117; Fire 118; Ambulance 144

Health

If arriving from Europe, North America or Australasia, you don’t need any inoculations. EU citizens are entitled to discounted emergency medical care in Switzerland and Liechtenstein on production of an EHIC card obtainable in the UK from most post offices or online at ehic.org; and in Ireland at local health offices or online at ehic.ie. Every pharmacy, if closed, will have a sign in the window telling you where the nearest open one is. Almost all Swiss hospitals have some kind of 24-hour emergency service, but seek advice from your embassy in Bern or your insurer before getting hospital treatment.

You can get sunburnt in the mountains very quickly. High-factor sunscreen, a hat and total sunblock for lips, nose and ears are essential. UV sunglasses protect your eyes. Hypothermia is most often brought on by cold, wind and rain, with hunger and fatigue also factors. Symptoms include exhaustion, lethargy or dizziness, shivering, numbness in the extremities and slurring of speech. Get the sufferer under cover, replace any of their clothing that is wet, give them hot liquids and high-calorie sugary foods such as chocolate, and reassure them by talking. Do not give them alcohol. Above 3000m, altitude sickness can kick in. If the symptoms of headaches, dizziness and breathlessness don’t pass after a day or two, the only treatment is to head down.

Information

Tourist offices (Verkehrsverein or Tourismus; Office du Tourisme; Ente Turistico) are invariably located near the train station and always extremely useful. Most staff speak English. All have accommodation and transport lists, and maps. Opening hours in smaller towns involve a long lunch and can be limited at weekends and out of season. Main post offices open Monday to Friday 7.30am to noon and 1.30 to 6.30pm, Saturday 8 to 11am.

Swiss Backpacker News (backpacker.ch) is an excellent free paper, widely available.
myswitzerland.com Tourist office site – vast, detailed and authoritative.
postbus.ch Details of the postbus network, including Alpine routes.
swissinfo.org News database in English, with good links.
tourismus.li The Liechtenstein tourist board.

Internet

Wi-fi internet access (known as WLAN) is widespread at cafés (Fr.4–12/hr) or free at many hotels and hostels.

Money and banks

Both Switzerland and Liechtenstein use the Swiss franc (CHF or Fr.), divided into 100 Rappen (Rp), centimes or centisimi (c). There are coins of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, Fr.1, Fr.2 and Fr.5, and notes of Fr.10, Fr.20, Fr.50, Fr.100, Fr.200 and Fr.1000. It’s easiest to change money in train stations. Banks usually open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm; some in cities and resorts also open Saturday 9am to 4pm. Post offices give a similar exchange rate to banks, and ATMs are everywhere. Many shops and services, especially in tourist hubs, accept euros.

With an ISIC card, you can take advantage of student discounts (up to 50 percent) at almost all museums and galleries. Although there is no student discount on cable-car tickets, during the winter season many resorts offer a youth discount on lift passes.

Opening hours and holidays

Shop hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday 8.30am to 4pm, sometimes with a lunch break and earlier closing in smaller towns. Museums and attractions generally close on Monday. Almost everything is closed on public holidays: January 1, Good Friday and Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, December 25 and 26. In Switzerland, shops and banks close for all or part of the national holiday (Aug 1) and on a range of local holidays. Liechtenstein keeps May 1 as a public holiday, and August 15 as the national holiday.

Phones

Most public phones take phonecards (taxcards), available from post offices and news kiosks, as well as credit cards; some take Swiss and euro coins. Kiosks sell discount cards for cheap international calls.

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