Information & Facts
Sightseeing in Switzerland is feast for the senses with plenty
of gorgeous, soul-stirring scenery and picture-perfect cities and
villages to experience. Switzerland is a country that exudes wealth
- after all, this tiny nation has more millionaires and mountains
per capita than anywhere on earth. Its many riches have made
Switzerland one of the very earliest tourist destinations, and as a
result the country is well geared for visitors.
Getting to Switzerland's many attractions is effortless, if
rather expensive. The rail network is clean and efficient, with
other public transport filling in the gaps between. Alternatively,
with impeccably maintained and signposted roads renting a car
becomes an attractive option.
With cold winters perfect for skiing and mountain viewing, and
glorious summers to enjoy the exciting cities of Geneva and Zurich
and the charming Alpine villages, Switzerland is truly a year-round
destination. Packed into its modest boundaries you'll find the very
best of Europe in a highly accesible package that will keep you
coming back for more.
Punctuality is vital for business meetings throughout
Switzerland. However, styles of business negotiations vary from the
Swiss-German to the Swiss-French/Swiss-Italian side. Swiss-German
business meetings are rarely over food and are often as brief as
possible with little small talk. But the Swiss-French and
Swiss-Italians often meet over lunches and talk is not restricted
only to business. Prior arrangements and preparation is essential
for both and it is important to dress smartly; business suits are
the norm for meetings. Handshakes are common for addressing both
men and women. Business hours are generally 9am to 12pm and 2pm to
6.30pm Monday to Friday.
The temperature is moderate with no extremes of hot and cold, so
Switzerland can be visited at anytime of year. Summer is warm to
hot lasting from about June to September, and although good for
outdoor activities it is also the most crowded time for a holiday.
Ski resorts open in late November and remain so until the snow
begins to melt in April.
The international country dialling code for Switzerland is +41.
The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code
(e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use e.g.
(0)22 for Geneva. Mobile phone GSM 1800 and 900 networks operate
throughout the country. Internet cafes are available in the main
towns and resorts; some public phone booths also have Internet and
Privacy and discretion are highly valued in Swiss culture, and
strangers generally do not speak to each other. The Swiss are
naturally reserved and conservative, and prefer structured rules to
govern their daily lives. Littering is a serious social crime in
Switzerland, and you should also make an effort to throw your
recyclables in the proper receptacle. French and German-speaking
Switzerland have different customs in some areas. When being
introduced to someone, German-speaking Swiss will shake hands,
while French-speaking locals may kiss on the cheek three times
(generally left, right, left). While many Swiss speak English, it
is considered polite to inquire before attempting conversation.
Travellers to Switzerland over 17 years do not have to pay duty
on the following items: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g
tobacco; 2 litres alcohol up to 15% and 1 litre alcohol over 15%.
The maximum allowance of wine is 20 litres, but duty will be
payable on this quantity. A reasonable amount of personal effects
and gifts (including perfume) to the value of Sfr200 for residents
of Switzerland and Sfr100 for other travellers. Restricted items
include meat and meat products from selected countries. Prohibited
items are absinth and anaesthetics.
Electrical current in Switzerland is 220 volts AC,
50Hz. Plugs are of the linear, rounded three-pin type, but rounded
two-pin plugs will fit the outlet.
Swiss medical facilities and health care are among the best in
the world, but very expensive and health insurance is recommended.
Immunisation certificates are only required if the traveller has
been in an infected area within two weeks prior to arrival in the
country. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK and
most EU countries, whose citizens are entitled to free or low-cost
emergency medical treatment on presentation of a European Health
Insurance Card (EHIC). Medical insurance is advised for other
nationalities. Outbreaks of the deadly strain of bird flu were
confirmed in 2006, but no new cases or human infections have been
reported. The risk to travellers from bird flu is very low, but
close contact with live birds should be avoided, and all poultry
and egg dishes well cooked as a precaution.
The three official languages are Swiss German, French and
Italian. A few people speak Romansch, but this is confined to the
southeastern corner of the country. Most people know at least three
languages, including English.
The official currency is the Swiss franc (CHF) divided into 100
rappen (German) or centimes (French). Although not part of the EU
many prices are nonetheless indicated in Euros and some merchants
may accept Euros. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely
accepted and ATMs are widespread; many are equipped with the Cirrus
or Maestro system. Banks offer the best exchange rates for
travellers cheques and foreign currency, but it is also possible to
exchange money at major hotels, main train stations and airports.
Banks are open Monday to Friday.
Travellers must have all documents necessary for their next
destination and passports must be valid at least three months
beyond period of stay if a visa is required. The borderless region
known as the Schengen area includes the following countries:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia,
Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland,
Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and as of December
2008, Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen
visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to
travel freely within the borders of all. It is highly recommended
that passports have at least six months validity remaining after
your intended date of departure from your travel destination.
Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated
by travel agents and official sources.
Switzerland has a low crime rate compared to other European
countries and is generally a safe country to travel in, however
there has been a recent increase in petty theft and visitors should
be alert to pickpockets and thieves, particularly in the city
centres and on public transport. Be aware of robberies on overnight
Local time in Switzerland is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between March and
A 15% service charge is normally included in all hotel, taxi,
bar and restaurant bills in Switzerland, and further tipping is not
necessary, but small change left over is appreciated.