In short, Switzerland is about as far from being a budget destination as it’s possible to be, and the continued strength of the Swiss franc hasn't helped.
The same goes for the “unpegging” of the Swiss franc and the euro — the exchange rate used to be fixed, but since January 2015 it’s been subject to fluctuation.
While value for money is the national motto, careful budgeting will be a vital part of planning a trip to Switzerland for all but the most well-heeled of visitors.
One way of avoiding the worst excesses is to travel in the off season (October and November are cheapest), book hotels well in advance, and stay in out-of-the way places rather than resorts.
For example, stay in Biasca rather than Lugano or Locarno, or bed down in Brig rather than Zermatt.
- Best for couples: Hotel Victoria. A family-run hotel with well-appointed rooms.
- Best for families: Gästehaus St Ursula. Family rooms plus a glorious garden and terrace.
- Best for indie travellers: Schlosshotel Self Check-In Hotel. Comfy and convenient, with fine views.
Best places to stay in Brig
Browse more of the best places to stay in Brig.
Prices also drop once you cross Switzerland’s borders. For instance, staying just over the frontier in Italy can hugely reduce the costs of a visit to Ticino.
- Best for understated style: Giardino Lago, Locarno. A quietly opulent waterfront hotel.
- Best for big spenders: Eden Roc, Ascona. One of the top Swiss hotels, this attracts money’s-no-object visitors.
- Best for romantics: Hotel Federale, Lugano. An atmospheric old town charmer hotel in a leafy district.
Best places to stay in Ticino
Discover more top places to stay in Ticino.
A comfortable double room in a two- or three-star city hotel is on average Fr.150–200 (£120–160/US$160–215).
Two people using this kind of accommodation, eating lunch and dinner in modest restaurants, taking in a scattering of sights and a luxury or two, are likely to shell out roughly Fr.300–350 (£240–280/$320–375) a day between them.
Remember to factor in a public transport pass. Find out more in our guide to getting around Switzerland — it's packed with top Switzerland travel tips.
Staying at rural inns or guesthouses, avoiding cities altogether, and spending your days hiking or just relaxing in reasonable comfort is unlikely to set you back more than Fr.160 (£128/$172) per day each.
Going up a mountain – which may be the whole point of you visiting Switzerland in the first place – can wipe out a day’s budget.
A return journey to the Jungfraujoch from Interlaken, for instance, costs roughly Fr.200 (£160/$215). Hiking part or all of the way up or down can bring big savings.
- Best for couples: Hotel Restaurant Hirschen. An atmospheric old inn south of the centre.
- Best for luxury: Victoria Jungfrau. One of Switzerland's grandest hotels, with a sensational spa and views
- Best for affordable comfort: Weisses Kreuz. A centrally-located affordable hotel with cosy no-frills rooms.
Best places to stay in Interlaken
If you’re prepared to cut all corners by walking or cycling your own bike around the country, staying in hostels or campsites, and never eating out, you could scrape by on Fr.60–70 (£48–55/$65–75) a day.
For travellers on a budget who like the great outdoors, this is one of our top Switzerland travel tips.
Crime and policing
Switzerland has 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 at all times. All drugs are illegal — if you’re caught in possession, expect either prison or deportation plus a criminal record.
If you’re a victim of theft, go to the nearest police station to get a report filled out — you’ll need it for your insurance.
220v, 50Hz (the same as in the rest of continental Europe). Plug sockets are mostly the thin, three pin type, although European plugs or adaptors should work in them.
British appliances mainly need the European adaptor or a special Swiss adaptor for the socket shape, while North American appliances will also need a 220-to-110v transformer.
Entry requirements and embassies in Switzerland
Both Switzerland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen Area, and all EU nationals and citizens of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand need only a valid passport.
For related Switzerland travel tips, read our guide to getting to Switzerland.
- Best for character: Hotel Marthahaus. A cosy hotel-pension on a quiet cul-de-sac near the Old Town.
- Best for budget travellers: Bern Backpackers/Hotel Glocke. An Old Town gem with fine facilities.
- Best for big occasions: Innere Enge. This Art Nouveau dazzler hosted Empress Josephine in 1810.
Best places to stay in Bern
Browse more of the best places to stay in Bern.
In connection with the Covid-19 pandemic, visitors should check for any restrictions before they travel.
At the time of writing, all travellers had to possess a valid Covid-19 certificate. In addition, only people with the certificate could visit restaurants, museums and other attractions.
EU citizens are entitled to discounted emergency medical care in Switzerland and Liechtenstein on production of an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
The UK nationals can use their EHIC cards until they expire, and then they should obtain a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card).
You normally have to pay the full cost of treatment upfront and claim it back when you get home, so hang onto full doctors’ reports, signed prescription details and all receipts.
Virtually every Swiss hospital has some kind of 24-hour emergency service. Wherever possible, seek advice from your embassy in Bern as well as your insurer at home before getting hospital treatment.
Hazards of the great outdoors
You can get sunburnt very quickly in the mountains. 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 hypothermia sufferer under cover, replace any wet clothing, give them hot liquids and high-calorie sugary foods. 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.
It’s essential to have good travel insurance to cover against theft, loss of property and illness or injury.
Before paying for a new policy, however, it’s worth checking whether you’re already covered — home insurance may cover your possessions when overseas.
In addition, many private medical schemes include cover when abroad, and premium bank accounts and/or credit cards often have travel insurance included.
Almost all the country’s hotels, B&Bs and hostels provide internet access for their guests either free or at minimal charge.
Often a terminal is available for guests to use in the lobby, though otherwise wi-fi is pretty standard in hotels, cafés and restaurants throughout the country.
It’s also available for free at railway stations and at Geneva airport.
- Best for couples: Beau Rivage. This classical-style palace boasts the luxury of its 1865 foundation.
- Best for families: Hotel Central. This quiet hotel has excellent-value rooms for three, four and five people.
- Best for Old Town elegance: Les Armures. This 17th-century building is the height of understated luxury.
Best places to stay in Geneva
Explore more of the best places to stay in Geneva.
Wi-fi is also free at Zürich airport, although there’s an hour-long time limit.
- Best for culture vultures: Alma Hotel. An upmarket designer hotel focused on sustainability.
- Best for couples: Hotel Kindli. One of Zürich’s most charming, tranquil hotels.
- Best for nightlife-lovers: Pension Furdich. Backing onto Backeranlage park, this is close to funky bars and clubs.
Best places to stay in Zürich
Browse more of the best places to stay in Zürich.
For devices that are WLAN-enabled, Public Wireless LAN enables surfing with any device at more than 1700 hotspots in Switzerland, charged on an hourly, daily or monthly basis.
Similarly, using a Travelers Wifi Mobile Hotspot allows 4G LTE data access throughout Switzerland. Users can share their portable Wifi with up to ten other devices.
Switzerland is very tolerant towards gay, lesbian and transgender lifestyles. All towns have organisations which serve as a focus for the local scene. National mouthpieces are Pink Cross and Los. Specific city organizations include VoGay in Lausanne.
- Best for couples: Angleterre & Residence. A classy hotel on the Ouchy waterfront.
- Best for luxury: Beau-Rivage Palace. One of Switzerland’s finest hotels, set in ten-acre waterside gardens.
- Best for families: Elite. Extremely pleasant and well-run, this is Lausanne's best mid-price hotel.
Best places to stay in Lausanne
Explore more places to stay in Lausanne.
Prices in Switzerland and Liechtenstein are in Swiss francs. The most common abbreviation is “Fr", but you may also see “fr”, “sFr”, “Sfr”, “SF”, “FS”, or the official bank abbreviation “CHF”.
Each franc is divided into 100; these are called Rappen (Rp.) in German-speaking areas, centimes (c) in francophone areas, and centesimi (also c) in Italian-speaking areas.
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.
Tourist brochures often quote hotel prices in CHF and EUR – be sure to check which column you’re reading.
Almost all Swiss banks have English-language ATMs (cash machines) which accept foreign debit and credit cards in a panoply of brands including Visa, MasterCard, EC, Maestro, Cirrus and Plus.
The best place to change cash is usually the desk beside the ticket counters at larger train stations. Rates are identical with the banks, no commission is charged (except at some airport locations), and they’re usually open seven days a week for long hours.
Travellers’ cheques — best purchased in euros, US dollars, sterling or Swiss francs — can only be cashed at bureaux de change in larger stations, and at banks.
Opening hours and public holidays
Outside larger towns you’ll find most shops and services take a break between noon and 2pm to allow staff to go home for lunch. Otherwise, shop opening hours are roughly Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 4pm.
Quiet Sundays are sacrosanct. Most towns have late opening until 9pm for one day a week, often Thursday. Exceptions to all this are shops and cafés located beside or within train stations, which generally open daily for long hours.
Banks in cities generally open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm, sometimes with a break for lunch. Town and village branches have shorter hours.
Many museums and public attractions close on Mondays, and most cantons supplement national public holidays with local religious holidays.
Liechtenstein has the same Swiss public holidays except 1st August’s Swiss National Day. Liechtenstein’s national holiday is on 15th August. It also celebrates Tag der Arbeit on 1st May.
For calls within Switzerland you must dial all ten digits — including the first zero of the area code — even if you’re in the same area.
Numbers beginning t0800 are free; t0900 and t0901 are expensive; t0848 are charged as local calls.
Mobile phone coverage in Switzerland is excellent — you can often get a signal at the tops of mountains, though you shouldn't depend on this when in the wilds, enjoying the best outdoor activities in Switzerland.
The most popular smartphones all work internationally, but to use your mobile (cell phone) in Switzerland, ask your provider about roaming and charges.
As in other parts of the world, you can save huge amounts — up to ninety percent — on international calls by using an international prepaid calling card. Those offered by your own provider will have charges that can be added to your usual bill.
- Police t117
- Fire t118
- Ambulance t144
- Helicopter rescue t1414/1415
- Enquiries/Operator t1811
Post offices, identified by a yellow logo, generally open Monday to Friday 7.30am to noon and 1.30pm to 6pm, and Saturday 8am to 11am.
That said, you should be mindful of regional variations and restricted hours in smaller branches. Some main offices stay open over the lunch break.
Switzerland is on Central European Time (CET), one hour ahead of London, six hours ahead of New York, and eight hours behind Sydney.
All bar, restaurant and hotel bills are calculated with fifteen percent service included. Staff are on proper salaries and tipping is officially abolished.
That said, unless service was truly diabolical, everyone rounds up to the nearest franc. In restaurants, it’s common to add two or three francs.
Learn more about culture and etiquette in Switzerland — from meeting and greeting, to dining out.
Switzerland Tourism is a treasure trove of Switzerland travel tips, with details about visiting all corners of the country, plus virtual tours, weather forecasts, maps, and special offers.
All Swiss cities, virtually all towns, and a sizeable number of villages have a tourist office. These are almost always located beside or near the train station.
Most staff speak at least some English and can provide you with free local maps, lists of hotels, restaurants, campsites and rental apartments, and information on local sights, events and transport.
Most offices sell hiking maps and guides to the surrounding area. Some sell transport tickets and parking permits.
During the low season (in the mountains this means mid-Oct to mid-Dec plus April & May; elsewhere Sept–June), many tourist offices outside major cities and resorts have limited seasonal hours, perhaps only Monday to Friday 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm, plus Saturday morning.
If you miss these times, it’s still worth going to the office as many keep leaflets outside. Alternatively, ask at the train station, where staff often keep brochures behind the counter.
Travellers with disabilities
Switzerland is one of the most enlightened European countries for travellers with disabilities — you’ll find most facilities have been designed with everybody in mind.
There’s lots of material at Switzerland Tourism — look for the sections “Barrier-free travel” and “Barrier-free accommodation.”
In addition, our run-down of things not to miss in Switzerland will help you plan.
Not a fan of planning? Consider booking a hassle-free tailor-made trip to Switzerland, with customisable itineraries curated by local experts covering everything from unforgettable highlights of Switzerland, to touring the Grand Circle.
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