Travel Guide in Switzerland Hotel
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General Information Climate Activities
Passport/Visa Getting There & Away City Guide
Money Getting Around Map of Switzerland
     

General Information

Small, mountainous and wealthy, with a population of just seven million, Switzerland is renowned for its enviable quality of life in a country that ticks along like clockwork. Its products are sought after the world over, from dangerously delicious cheese and chocolate to luxurious watches whose timekeeping is as sharp as a Swiss army knife, another popular export from this clever little nation in the Alps.

Switzerland’s famed political neutrality and isolated location, ring-fenced by mountains, have enabled it to play a safe but central role in European affairs. These factors also gave rise to the coveted Swiss bank account, whose anonymity, along with tax relief and what may be the safest banks in the world, have made Zürich one of Europe’s major financial hubs. The conveniently central location in the middle of Europe has also made Switzerland a favourite meeting place for conventions and international conferences – Geneva, for instance, is home to the United Nations.

Switzerland is not only a place for professionals, though. As a stylish tourist destination it offers top ski resorts like Zermatt and celebrity-studded St Moritz, while the white peaks of mountains set against blue skies make a wonderful backdrop for summertime hiking. The ancient capital of Berne provides opportunities for sightseeing and elegant shopping, while nightlife can prove to be a lot of fun, too, since the Swiss like their food and folk music even in discotheques and nightclubs.

Full country name: Swiss Confederation
Area: 41,295 sq km (16,105 sq mi)
Population: 7.3 million
Capital city: Bern (pop 130,000)
People: 74% German, 20% French, 4% Italian & 1% Romansch
Language: German, French, Italian & Romansch
Religion: 49% Roman Catholic & 48% Protestant
Government: Federal republic
President: Kaspar Villiger


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Passport/Visa

Passport: Passport valid for three months after intended period of stay required by all except:
(a) nationals of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain holding a valid national ID card.
(b) foreigners holding national Identity Cards issued by the governments of Belgium, France or Luxemburg, provided they are resident in one of these countries.

Visas: Citizens of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the USA do not require a visa. A maximum stay of three months applies though passports are rarely stamped


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Money

Currency: Swiss Franc (SFr) = 100 rappen or centimes. Notes are in denominations of SFr1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of SFr5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes.

Eurocheques: Eurocheques are no longer guaranteed and and can not be accepted for encashments but may be useable for payments wihtout the guarantee.

Currency exchange: Personal cheques within the Eurocheque system are accepted. ATMs provide a convenient means of obtaining Swiss Francs. There are Bureaux de Change at train stations and banks.

Credit & debit cards: MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted. Check with your credit, or debit, card company for details of merchant acceptability and other facilities which may be available.

Travellers cheques: Pound Sterling, US Dollar, Euro or Swiss Franc cheques are accepted at airports, railway stations and banks. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in Pounds Sterling, Euros or US Dollars.

Currency restrictions: There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currencies.

Banking hours: Mon-Fri 08:30-16:30.


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Climate

You can visit Switzerland any time throughout the year. Summer lasts roughly from June to September, and offers the most pleasant climate for outdoor pursuits. Unfortunately, you won't be the only tourist during this period, so prices can be high, accommodation hard to find and the mainstream sights crowded. You'll find much better deals and fewer crowds in the shoulder seasons of April-May and late-September-October.

If you're keen on winter sports, resorts in the Alps begin operating in late-November, move into full swing around Christmas, and close down when the snow begins to melt in April.


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Getting There & Away

The main entry points for international flights are Zurich and Geneva. Basel, Bern and Lugarno airports also receive international flights. There is no departure tax when flying out of Switzerland. Trains are a popular and convenient way to travel to Switzerland, and European rail passes make train travel affordable. Buses tend to be slower and less comfortable, though sometimes cheaper. Getting to Switzerland by road is simple, since there are fast, well-maintained motorways through all surrounding countries. If you have time and money, it's possible to get to Switzerland by boat along the Rhine all the way from Amsterdam. Switzerland can also be reached by lake steamer ferries from Germany via Lake Constance, from Italy via Lake Maggiore and from France via Lake Geneva.


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Getting Around

Switzerland has a fully integrated and comprehensive public transport system incorporating trains, buses, boats, funiculars and cable cars. Internal flights are not of great interest to the visitor, owing to the excellent ground transportation. The Swiss rail network covers 5000 km. Trains are clean, reliable and frequent. Yellow postbuses supplement the rail network and their stations are next to railway stations. There are car-rental agencies in most sizeable towns. Roads are well maintained, well signposted and generally not too congested, though you may find it hard to concentrate with such wonderful scenery unfolding around you. Bicycles can be hired from most railway stations and returned to any station with a rental office. You'll need calf muscles the size of an ox to get very far though. All the larger lakes are serviced by steamers, and rail passes are valid on most steamer routes.


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Activities

Hiking : This is a national passion in Switzerland, and hikers are very well catered for. Approximately 50,000 km of trails lead through all kinds of terrain in this spectacularly beautiful country. Hiking times are given on the signposts, and trails are graded according to degree of difficulty. The organisation responsible for maintaining the trails and for co-ordinating local hiking associations is the Swiss Hiking Federation. The Federation can supply maps and guide books, which may be purchased at a discount by members. Guided walks, weekend trips and holidays are regularly organised by the Federation and the local associations and are open to individuals and groups. Most associations run at least one day’s walk per week (usually on Sunday), and these do not need to be booked in advance. All trips are led by qualified volunteer guides. Details of the walks and addresses of local hiking associations are given in the free booklet Switzerland on Foot, available from Switzerland Tourism or directly from the Swiss Hiking Federation. Programmes of walks are also published on the Federation’s website (see above). In addition to the above excursions, there are also ‘Radio Walks’, which are announced during the season every Sunday at 0655 on Swiss Radio DRS in the Guten Morgen programme. The meeting point, cost, timing and route are also given on teletext, on the Internet and on the special telephone line of Swiss Hiking Trails. Participants need merely to turn up at the station or meeting point as announced.

Mountain sports : These are widely practised, and include climbing, ice climbing, ski touring, snow boarding, deep-snow skiing, heli-skiing and glacier walking. The Swiss Association of Mountain Guides publishes a list of approved mountaineering centres as well as a list of approved guides. Staff at the centres are all qualified, and there are strict rules governing leader-participant ratios. Accommodation is available in the mountains in the form of alpine huts or chalets. As these are open according to season, visitors should check availability with local tourist boards before arriving. It is often necessary to book in advance. For further information on skiing, see Ski Resorts in the Resorts & Excursions section.

Cycling : There are 3300 kms (2046 miles) of well-marked interlinked trails, most of which offer easy cycling. Bicyles can be hired at most railway stations and at many other locations. Those hired at stations can then be returned to any station at the end of the tour. There are also inline skating routes throughout the country, varying in difficulty from easy to demanding.

Watersports : Lakes such as Lake Geneva, Lugano, and Neuchâtel offer sailing, water-skiing and canoeing. Rowing can be done on Lake Zurich.


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City Guide

Geneva :

Geneva - SwitzerlandGeneva has long been Switzerland’s most cosmopolitan city. Situated at the southwestern end of Lac Léman – the country’s largest lake – and astride the Rhône, Geneva is the departure point for lake steamers. Only an arrival by water can convey just how well sited the city is, with foreground hills rising against a backdrop of mountains. The river bisects the city – some refer to the north side as the right bank (Rive Droit) and the south as the left bank (Rive Gauche). The city centre is sited on both shores, with the main railway station and the suburbs to the north of the river and the Old Town (Vieille Ville) to the south of the river.

The city is also a major banking centre – a ‘city of wealth by stealth’ as the British actor Robert Morley put it – and plays a significant role in the manufacture of watches, scientific instruments, jewellery and foodstuffs. These roles have contributed to it being an expensive city in which to live or stay, although it has much to offer the visitor, principally the Old Town and some fine museums. Geneva is an efficient, clean city. Its excellent public transport system, coupled with the ease and pleasure of walking around the centre, make a car unnecessary, even a nuisance.

The city enjoys a mild central European climate with relatively low rainfall. The super-rich community of international civil servants and tax exiles demand good food, top hotels and entertainment and Geneva provides it all. Beneath the stereotypical veneer of diamonds and watches, however, one finds a tolerant and safe society with the Genevois strangely similar to the British – reserved but courteous.



Zurich :

Zurich - SwitzerlandZurich is located at the centre of the Zurich canton, on Switzerland’s central plain, with the elevation rising towards the south and the Alps. Positioned at the northern tip of the Zürichsee (Lake Zurich), lakeside promenades and expensive houses are prominent and can be spotted along both shores. But the city’s most familiar sites are, without a doubt, the Fraumünster and Grossmünster minsters, which solemnly face each other across the River Limmat. The Old Town spans this river, and some of the most interesting lanes and buildings are clustered along its banks. The nearby Lindenhof was once the site of a Roman customs post and is a good vantage point. Surrounding the Old Town, the Kreis (districts) of Zurich are arranged clockwise around the city centre, with the numbers corresponding to the last digit in the postcode. In summer the view of the city is beautiful, with the lake reflecting the mountains and clear blue sky. But the winter snowfalls bring a magic of their own.

The citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and this is evident in the many fashionable and enjoyable bars, cafés and restaurants that fill the Old Town. The ambience is heightened by the large swathes on either side of the River Limmat that are pedestrian-only areas. But for those who find the comfortable burgher lifestyle a little too tame, there are always alternative places to seek out. This is, after all, the city that saw the birth of the artistic movement of Dadaism – the antithesis of conformity.


     
Verbier
Giswil Villars-sur Ollon
Grindelwald Weggis
Gstaad Wengen
Guttannen Winterthur
Basel Huttwil Yverdon-les-Bains
Iseltwald
Kandersteg
Zurich
Klosters
Zurzach
La Chaux-de-Fonds
 
 
Lauterbrunnen
 
Lenzerheide
   
Les Diablerets
Solothurn    
Leukerbad
Spiez
Stein am Rhein
Taesch    
   


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