Switzerland is a favourite destination with Indians. The main reason I believe for its popularity among Indians is due to many Indian movies shot in Switzerland. That has created a craze and hype of Switzerland. Hence it is hard to see an Indian itinerary of Europe without Switzerland!!
I have visited Europe (Netherlands to be specific) many times on Official purpose. Usually, I try to utilise the weekend to visit nearby countries. Until now, I had not visited Switzerland as I felt that one weekend was not sufficient to visit a country like Switzerland. During my recent travel to Netherlands, I got a rare long weekend during which I went to Switzerland. In this post, I try to share from general observations on Switzerland.
Port of entry or exit
Zurich and Geneva are the main entry points for visitors entering in by flight or train. I flew to Basel from Amsterdam as I got a (relatively) cheaper ticket. It was holiday time in Netherlands making it hard to get cheaper tickets from Netherlands.
Basel is the only tri-national airport in the world!! The airport is in France but connected to Switzerland by a customs free road!!
Places to visit
Switzerland has lot of nice places and it will take months to cover all of them. I had about 4 days in hand and hence I had to prioritise the places I wanted to visit. I mainly concentrated on Bernese Oberland and made Lauterbrunnen near Interlaken as my base for those days. Interlaken is in the middle of Switzerland and cities like Zurich, Geneva and Basel at the border area. Irrespective of the entry point, it would take about 2-3 hours to reach Interlaken by public transport.
By the way, areas around Interlaken are not the only places in Switzerland to visit. It was just that I decided to visit that area.
Switzerland has amazing network of trains and buses. For a solo traveller, there is no need to rent a vehicle. Also, many small mountain towns do not allow outside vehicles. The mountain tops can only be reached by trains or cable cars. I observed that the public transportation was always on time and it is possible to manage connections even if the time gap is only few minutes. Usually, reservation is not needed on trains.
One sore point was that except for ICE trains, none of the them had Wi-Fi on board.
Switzerland is a very expensive country. Especially, the mountains trains will the drain the money from our pockets!! To minimise the travel cost, it is important to buy one of the Swiss passes. There are many variants and you can find more information here (https://www.swiss-pass.ch/). I purchased 4 day Swiss travel pass that allowed me to travel in all public transport (bus, train, boat) for free in Switzerland. Some cable cars were also free and few had discounts for Swiss travel pass. It helped me a lot. I purchased it at Basel railway station just before my travel started. You can also buy it online.
As a vegetarian, I did not find any issue with food. Vegetarian options are available at many restaurants. Due to high number of Indians visiting there are many Indian restaurants in major towns.
Switzerland uses Swiss francs. The conversion rate is almost same as Euros. Credit cards are accepted at almost all places. It is good enough if you keep a very small amount in cash.
Switzerland is part of Schengen Agreement.
Majority of the population speak German followed by French and Italian. But language was never an issue as most people understood and spoke English.
When to visit?
Based on the interest, Switzerland has options for all seasons. While winter is good for skiing, the summer months of June July and August is right time for general visit and treks. During my visit in April, there was still lot of snow on the mountains and most of the trekking routes and few cable cars were not yet opened. Note that the prices shoot up during summer months!! The shoulder months of April/May and September/October will be lighter on pockets and the crowd would be lesser.
It can rain anytime and can ruin the trip!! There is nothing much to do if it rains. Luckily, for me the weather was great on all days.