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Things to know about Switzerland


The capital (de facto) of Switzerland is Bern.


Switzerland doesn’t have state religion, but some regions or cantons officially recognize a few religious denominations. The Swiss Reformed Church and the Swiss Catholic Church are recognised. About 79% of the population are Christians, 4% – Muslims, the rest are atheists.


The most widely spoken language is German. French and Italian are spoken in selected regions or cantons. These are as follows:
French: Valais, Vaud, Geneva, Neuchatel and Fribourg.
Italian: Ticino.


The climate is temperate. However, parts of Switzerland have varied weather conditions. The north and central parts of the country are under the influence of the Atlantic weather patterns.
The southern latitudes have mainly Mediterranean climate.
In the mountains, thick snow cover is formed here in winter and remains until the summer. This region receives 65% of the country’s precipitation. The average temperature in Switzerland in mid-summer is +25°C. However, in winter the temperature rarely drops below 10°C.
Switzerland is suitable for a visit any time of year allowing a wide range of holiday experiences.



The average temperature in Zurich (in the north):

January 0°C
February +1°C
March +4°C
April +8°C
May +13°C
June +16°C
July +18°C
August +17°C
September +15°C
October +10°C
November +4°C
December +1°C


The average temperature in Geneva (in the south):

January +3°C
February +5°C
March +10°C
April +14°C
May +19°C
June +22°C
July +25°C
August +24°C
September +20°C
October +14°C
November +8°C
December +4°C


Currency: the Swiss franc. International code – CHF. One Swiss franc is equal to one hundred centimes. Circulated banknotes are in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 francs and coins of 5, 2, 1 franc, 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes. Most prices are recorded both in local currency and in euro.


Means of payment: cash – Swiss francs and Euros. Across the country, goods and services are paid by credit cards. A wide range of cards are acceptable, including Visa, Mastercard.


Currency exchange: you are advised to exchange currency in public institutions. Swiss Banks are usually open from 8:00am (8:30am) until 04:00pm (04:30pm), except days off and national holidays. Once a week, they usually work longer than on other days. You can find such information directly at the bank, where you want to exchange currency. Currency exchange offices, which operate at airports and railway stations, are open every day from 8:00am to 10:00pm or they are available 24 hours a day. If you find yourself being late at night, large stores offer their exchange foreign currency services as well.

Calls to Switzerland from other countries
The international dialling code of Switzerland is +41. To make a call to Switzerland, dial an international access code (different for each country). Then dial the international dialling code of Switzerland, then – the area code and phone number itself. To make a call from mobile to mobile within Switzerland, it is enough to dial the international country code, mobile operator and phone number itself.


Calls from Switzerland to other countries
To make a call from a landline phone from Switzerland, you should dial 00, then the international dialling code of the country, area code and phone number. You can also call from a payphone. Public telephone boxes are located at post offices, cafes, supermarkets, or simply on the streets. Phone cards for public telephones are sold at the post office or at newsstands, at train stations and gas stations. The cost of one card starts from 10 or 20 Swiss francs, and depends on the limit. Calls on weekdays between 6:00pm and 8:00am are cheaper. Big discount for calls operate on weekends and during national holidays. In order to be connected with a number in Switzerland dial 111; in order to be connected with an international number dial 1159. Within the country, however, it would be cheaper to use local mobile operators. Three of the most popular mobile network operators in Switzerland are Orange (78), Swisscom (79) and Sunrise (76). In order to buy a package and sim-card you will need to show id, a passport will usually suffice.


Useful phone numbers in Switzerland:
Police – 117;
Ambulance – 144;
Fire Department – 118;
Emergency service – 144
Emergency roadside assistance – 140;
Rescue Helicopter – 1414.

Time zone: UTC / GMT +1 hour
Daylight saving time in winter and summer is on the last Sunday of the second month.


There is no limit to the amount of currency you can bring in and out of Switzerland.
You can bring into country duty-free:
- up to 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 grams of pipe tobacco,
- up to 1 litre of spirits and 2 litres of wine, which is not more than 15°.


It is prohibited to bring in the country:
- absinthe,
- skins of wild animals, especially of feline (family of the cats), as well as crocodiles and lizards and products made of them,
- ivory products,
- fruit and flower plants with soil.


Shopping in Switzerland

Most shops are open Monday to Friday from 8:30am – 9:00am to 6:30pm. Some shops work until 9:00pm or 10:00pm. On Saturday, all the shops are open from 8:00am – 9:00am to 12:00am and from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. On weekends, shops are usually closed except those to be located at airports, railway stations and places where tourists stop to rest. All major credit cards and travellers cheques are accepted. Cheese, watches, chocolate and jewellery are popular among souvenirs from Switzerland.


Transport in Switzerland


1. Public transport


Buses, trams and trolleybuses. The Swiss Travel System is publicly owned system. A standard fare is paid. For instance, standard fare in Zurich is 3.8 Swiss francs, for a short distance – 2.4 Swiss franc, on the day of travelling – 7.6 Swiss franc. If you don’t have a valid ticket for your journey on public transport, be ready to pay a fine of 80 Swiss francs.


Taxi. Initial tariff entry is 5 Swiss francs per passenger, further you should pay 2 Swiss francs per each kilometre. In the evenings and on Sundays you should expect an extra charge or double rate.


Bicycle rental. In urban areas, along with public transport, you can go by bicycle. For instance, Zurich offers free bike rental services – in this case you should leave the document that defines your personality, and a deposit of 20 Swiss francs at the bike rental office.

2. Long-distance transport


Buses. Cross-country buses, well known in Switzerland as yellow post buses, operate between cities, towns and even villages in the mountains. Buses are generally used as additional help for the trains. Buses are used to transport passengers to suburban inhabited places, that’s why they provide a fixed fare of 15-25 francs for the whole journey. In large cities, tickets can be sold in vending machines at the station next to the schedule and route of the bus. In small towns, you can buy a ticket from the driver.

Railways. Trains of such types as Eurocity, Intercity ICE follow railroad lines between all the major cities in the country. Ordinary tickets for distances up to 80 km are valid for 1-2 days. Tickets to a distance up to 36 km are valid one day, up to 80 km – 2 days, and special tickets are valid for 1 month. From the capital you can travel easily to the administrative centres of the country.


Aircraft. Domestic flights are between Basel, Bern, Geneva, Zurich, Lugano, Samedan and Sion.


Car rental in Switzerland

All major international car rental companies are represented in Switzerland. Most have offices in large cities. To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old with driving experience at least one year, and show an international driving license. To rent a regular car you will need one credit card; two credit cards are required for renting a higher specification car.
If you want to rent a larger capacity car, you need to have two credit cards.


Some traffic rules:
1. The car must have a breakdown triangle;
2. Children under 7 years old must travel with a special child restrain;
3. Allowable level of alcohol in blood is 0.8 per millilitre,
4. Speed limit for vehicles (without trailer):
- in the city: 50 km/h;
- out of the country (side roads): 80 km/h;
- highways: 100 km/h;
- autobahns: 120 km/h
5. Some features: yellow line means that parking is prohibited; dashed line – end of prohibited; driver and his passengers must always wear seat belts; driver on roundabouts have priority.


Water transport in Switzerland
Water transport is available in several forms, ferries, ships and boats.
Boat services operate on all major lakes and rivers of the country. Streamer voyages along the coast of lakes are popular with tourists. You can get from one bank to another by ferry, which also provides cars transportation. Tickets for the water transport can be purchased at the ticket office on shore and on board. You can use water transport for free if you have a ticket of the Swiss Travel System.

Hotels in Switzerland
For many years, Switzerland has been famous for its hospitality. The are a range of hotels, ranging from luxury five-star hotel, and a modest, but very cosy family hotel. Most hotels of Switzerland are part of the national association, which sets certain standards for hotels in the country and certifies them. Small hotels and resorts outside of the association may also offer excellent facilities and good service.


Tipping in Switzerland
At the cafes, the usual deal is to tip the waiter 3-5 Swiss francs. If you are with a large group of people, the tip may be about 10 francs, in restaurants for instance. Tipping should be given only after the change being brought. In Switzerland, guides, drivers, and hotel porters expect to be tipped.


National holidays in Switzerland:
1 January – New Year;
28 March – Good Friday;
First Sunday and Monday after the spring equinox – Easter and Easter Monday;
8-12 May – Ascension;
18-19 May – The Trinity and Whit Monday;
11 June – Corpus Christi;
1 August – Day of the Swiss Confederation;
25 December – Christmas


Visa is not required for citizens of countries of the Schengen agreement. These are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Vatican, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Estonia. Citizens of other countries wishing to visit Switzerland must apply for a visa.


Electricity in Switzerland
Mains voltage – 220V and frequency – 50 Hz. There are two types of plugs in Switzerland – the international 2 pin round standard and Swiss special triple standard.


Behaviour rules in Switzerland
In Switzerland, rules of conduct typical for European countries exist. During a conversation with the Swiss, it’s improper to compare them with the Germans, it is considered very rude. According to etiquette in Switzerland, you should address people as Mr and Ms.
The Swiss may invite you on a visit only after a long acquaintance. In addition, the visit must be negotiated in advance. Tourists travelling through the mountains in Switzerland should greet shepherds and farmers.

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