If you want to travel to Switzerland, then you’re bound to have some questions about your trip.
In this article, we address the most commonly raised questions about visiting Switzerland. In fact, many of these questions are asked frequently in our Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook group.
This article answers a number of FAQs about Swiss travel that should help you plan your trip.
From general questions about Switzerland and the weather to languages, currency, driving, train travel, accommodation, shopping and more, you’ll find the answers in this article.
Whether you want to know why Switzerland’s code is CH, if they have daylight saving in summer or can you pay with Euros in Switzerland, read on to find the answers to these questions and many more.
Here are more than 25 of the most frequently asked questions about travel to Switzerland.
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What's in this Article
General FAQs about Travel to Switzerland
Is Switzerland in the EU?
The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of European countries. Members have the right of free movement between states, and this applies to people as well as capital, goods and services.
Switzerland is not in the EU.
Nor is Switzerland in the European Economic Area (EEA). This includes several additional countries which also belong to the single market.
Despite not being a member of the EU or EEA, however, Switzerland does also belong to the single market.
What is the capital city of Switzerland?
Bern is the capital of Switzerland. It is also the capital of Bern canton, and the name may sometimes be spelled as ‘Berne’.
The city has been the Swiss capital since 1848. Bern is located on the Aare River in the central to western part of Switzerland.
Why is Switzerland’s country code CH?
The CH abbreviation for Switzerland actually stands for Confoederatio Helvetica, which is Latin. It translates to Helvetic Confederation in English.
Helvetia is the country’s Latin name, and is still seen on Swiss stamps. The CH acronym for Switzerland represents the Latin for Swiss Confederation.
Swiss Time Zone
The whole country of Switzerland is in one time zone, and this time zone is also shared with neighbouring countries.
During winter, Switzerland uses Central European Time (CET) to set the clocks. This is one hour in front of both Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+01:00).
In summer, Central European Summer Time (CEST) is used in Switzerland for daylight saving. This is two hours in front of both UTC and GMT, as there is no time difference between these.
Is there daylight saving in Switzerland?
The whole of Switzerland moves the clocks forward by one hour in spring, for daylight saving throughout spring and summer.
This is in line with Central European Summer Time (CEST) and two hours ahead of both Central European Time (CET) and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Daylight saving begins at 2am on the last Sunday in March and finishes at 3am on the last Sunday in October.
Languages in Switzerland
What language do they speak in Switzerland?
Switzerland has four national languages. These are German, French, Italian and Romansch.
German is the most common language, with over 62% of the population being native speakers. Just under 23% of the Swiss population speaks French, and about 8% speak Italian.
Romanach is only used by around 0.5% of the population, primarily in Grisons canton.
Lingual variations used in Switzerland include Swiss German, Swiss French, Swiss Italian and more.
Do they speak English in Switzerland?
English is fairly widely spoken in Switzerland. It is taught in Swiss schools, and used more than any other non-national language.
Many Swiss people do therefore use English as a second language. In cities and tourist centres, English is spoken more frequently than in smaller, more remote areas.
Travel Documentation for Switzerland
Do you need a visa to visit Switzerland?
Before considering whether you need a visa to visit Switzerland, check the validity of your passport.
Your passport should be valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave Switzerland and it should also be issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country.
At the time of writing, most nationalities do not need a visa to enter Switzerland as a short-term visitor staying for under 90 days. This includes US, Australian and UK citizens.
Note: This is expected to change when the European Parliament introduces the ETIAS visa in November 2023.
Money and Budgeting in Switzerland
What currency do they use in Switzerland?
The Swiss franc (CHF) is the legal currency of Switzerland. It is also the official currency of Liechtenstein and the Campione d’Italia: the latter being an enclave enclosed by Swiss territory.
Swiss francs come as notes for sums of 10 francs or more, franc coins for 1, 2 or 5 francs and centime coins for amounts of half a franc and less.
Can I use euros to pay in Switzerland?
Whilst you should be prepared to pay with Swiss francs, you can sometimes pay using euros in major Swiss destinations ranging from hotels and shops to restaurants and tourist attractions.
Expect to be given change in Swiss francs, though.
We recommend you pay with a credit or debit card, or withdraw Swiss francs from a local ATM.
How much can I expect my daily budget to be?
How much each traveller can expect to spend varies according to their requirements and preferences.
As a general rule of thumb to use, a Switzerland Tourism survey found that accommodation and meals cost travellers between CHF 100 and CHF 200 per day on average.
Travel costs to and from Switzerland are an added extra to factor in.
How much do lunch and dinner cost in a restaurant?
If you want to dine out during your stay, it’s worth knowing that a set lunch menu at a restaurant tends to cost less than dining at the same establishment during the evening.
A set lunch typically costs CHF 25 to CHF 30, while a main course from a dinner menu might cost CHF 20 to CHF 50.
Having your main meal at lunchtime and buying food from takeaways, supermarkets and snack bars can save you cash on food in Switzerland.
When is the best time to visit Switzerland?
When’s best to visit Switzerland depends on what you want to do and where you’ll be spending time. If you want to attend a specific event, then you’ll need to plan accordingly.
Otherwise, it depends on whether you want to take part in winter sports such as skiing, or enjoy longer, warmer summer days.
Concerns about Swiss weather
Checking your usual weather app can lead to unnecessary concerns about the Swiss weather. Our top tip is to use the more accurate MeteoSwiss app.
Also bear in mind that when rain is forecast on the app, this may simply mean a brief shower rather than wet weather all day, so do check the hourly forecast.
What the weather’s doing at the summit of a mountain is likely to differ hugely from what’s going on in the valley. If you’re planning an ascent, check the mountain webcam for current conditions before leaving.
You can access these via the website for each mountain.
What can I do in the Jungfrau Region if it’s raining?
If you’re visiting Interlaken and the Jungfrau region, the good news is that there’s plenty to do when the weather is wet.
Rainy day activities in this area include touring Spiez and Thun castles, local museums or St Beatus caves, taking part in a cheese or chocolate tasting experience, enjoying a spa day or visiting an indoor activity centre.
Find more inspiration in this article.
Shopping in Switzerland
Are shops open 7 days a week?
In Switzerland, most shops – including supermarkets – are open six days per week and close on Sundays.
Airport and main railway station stores, plus those in some major tourist towns, can be the exception.
What time do shops close in Switzerland?
Shopping hours in Switzerland vary according to location. As a rule, stores in villages and small towns will be open between 8.30am and 12 noon, and will re-open between 2pm and 6.30 pm.
In larger towns and cities, though, stores often don’t close at lunchtime. Shops in the bigger cities also tend to stay open until 8pm on one weekday evening. Most often this is on a Thursday.
Banks and post offices don’t normally open on Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays. In larger cities, a post office may be open during Saturday mornings, however.
Planning a trip to Switzerland?
At Holidays to Switzerland we are passionate about sharing our love of Switzerland and helping you to plan the perfect trip. Read our guide to planning a trip to Switzerland to kick start your travel plans and join our free Switzerland Travel Planning group on Facebook to chat with other past and future travellers.
Want monthly news and podcast updates, helpful travel tips and special deals sent straight to your inbox? Subscribe to Holidays to Switzerland and we’ll send you a bonus copy of our 10 Useful Things to Know Before You Visit Switzerland guide.
Tipping in Switzerland
Tipping isn’t generally expected in Switzerland – but it is a very nice gesture to round the bill up a little or drop a few coins in the tip jar if you see one.
If you wish to tip, a good guide is a couple of Swiss francs per night for the room maids and one or two CHF for baggage porters.
You may perhaps like to tip in restaurants when the service has been exceptional.
What is Kurtaxe (Swiss tourist tax)?
Kurtaxe is a Swiss tourist tax payable by all hotel and lodging guests. This may also be known as the Visitor Tax.
Rates depend on the type of establishment, and there can be seasonal variations too. Generally the cost ranges from CHF 2.50 to CHF 3.50 per adult, per night.
Do note that this tourist tax won’t always be included in your accommodation rate. So be prepared to pay the tax when you check out, in cash.
What types of accommodation are available to tourists in Switzerland?
As well as hotels, visitors to Switzerland can stay in holiday apartments, in a youth hostel, in a bed and breakfast place, on a farm or at a glamping or camping site.
You may even be able to share a Swiss chalet or book into a mountain hut or building of historical importance in some areas. There are even numerous Castle hotels in Switzerland.
Swiss Train Travel
Should I buy a Swiss Travel Pass?
There are many factors to consider when deciding if a Swiss rail pass might be best for your trip – and if so, which one to buy.
Factors include the time of year you are travelling, if the majority of your trip will take place within one particular region, whether or not you plan to travel on any of the premium panoramic train services, how many (and which) mountain excursions you plan to take, and much more.
A Swiss travel pass can save you a lot of money.
The most well-known Swiss rail pass is the Swiss Travel Pass but there are a number of other options to choose from, too.
We cover all considerations in this article, so you can decide which Swiss rail pass is the right one for your trip.
Do I need to reserve seats on the trains in advance?
For most rail journeys within Switzerland, you do not need to reserve a seat on the train. The majority of tourists travelling on Swiss trains do not reserve seats in advance although it is possible should you prefer the peace of mind.
If you have a valid ticket, you simply sit anywhere you like in the correct class. For instance, if you have a 2nd class ticket or 2nd class rail pass, you can sit anywhere in a 2nd class carriage.
The exception to this rule is on the panoramic Swiss trains the Bernina Express and Glacier Express. On these trains reservations are compulsory and a seat reservation fee applies.
Additionally, seat reservations are compulsory in Prestige class on the GoldenPass Express and are recommended for 1st and 2nd class.
If you are travelling during the high season (typically June to August inclusive), it is highly recommended that you make seat reservations for all premium panoramic trains.
You’ll find lots more resources and guides about travelling by train in Switzerland > here.
Driving in Switzerland
What side of the road do the Swiss drive on?
In Switzerland, vehicles are driven on the right hand side of the road.
This is the same as across Europe, with the exception of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Cyprus and Malta.
Do I need an International Drivers Licence for Switzerland?
Whether or not you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Switzerland depends on which language your home licence is in.
If your licence is printed using the Roman alphabet, then an International Driving Permit will not be required.
Some neighbouring countries will require an IDP, however. You can get one from your national motoring organisation before leaving your home country.
Are there road tolls in Switzerland?
There are no toll booths on Swiss roads however anyone driving on a motorway in Switzerland must have a vignette (road tax sticker) affixed to the windshield of their vehicle.
A vignette costs CHF 40 and is valid for a whole calendar year. They can be purchased from fuel stations throughout the country.
If you collect a rental car in Switzerland it should already have a vignette affixed to the windshield, however if you drive into Switzerland from another country you will need to purchase one.
Our Driving in Switzerland guide covers all these questions, and more, in further detail.
What to Pack for Switzerland
What should I pack for Switzerland?
What to pack for a vacation in Switzerland will depend on the season and what you plan to do.
Comfortable, casual clothing is ideal for most purposes, and a pair of sturdy outdoor shoes will be necessary for mountain excursions, hiking and walking on the cobblestones found in historic areas.
For mountain trips, a warm jacket is essential, and as temperatures can vary a lot – even during the same day – layering is key.
Which is the correct adaptor plug for Switzerland?
As with much of mainland Europe, the voltage in Switzerland is 230V/50 Hz.
Switzerland uses both 2-pin type C and 3-pin type J plugs.
Type C 2-pin plugs are also compatible with type J 3-pin sockets, and there are more of these than 2-pin type C ones.
A standard continental plug with two round pins can be used in Switzerland. Plug adaptors are also available at most Swiss hotels.
Other commonly asked questions about Switzerland
Is Swiss water safe to drink?
Swiss water is very safe to drink. In fact it’s some of the freshest in the world. This is due to high rainfall levels and good infrastructure.
In Switzerland, visitors soon notice that there are drinking fountains everywhere. In Zurich alone, for example, there are over 1,200 drinking fountains.
To make the most of access to this clean, free water, carry a reusable bottle and fill it up as required whenever you pass a fountain.
Do you have to pay to use public toilets in Switzerland?
In general, there is no cost to use public toilets in Switzerland. The exception is at some train stations, especially in larger cities.
The cost to use these toilets is usually either CHF 1 or CHF 2 and payment should be made in cash. There are a number of apps available that help you locate the nearest public toilet in Switzerland including WC Finder.
Planning your trip to Switzerland
There are plenty more resources to help you plan your Swiss vacation on our website. We suggest you start with our Planning a trip to Switzerland article which includes a useful booking timeline to help you cover off on all the important components of your trip.
You can also listen to our podcast where we speak with Swiss travel experts who share their local knowledge and advice.
🇨🇭Happy Switzerland trip planning!