Switzerland

Snowy 4,000-metre peaks, raging torrents and breathtaking trails without end. Welcome to the outdoor paradise that is Switzerland Whether on foot or on a bike, in the mountains, on water or in the air, if you like leading an active life, you’re in for a treat in Switzerland. With over 60,000 kilometres of waymarked trails and unique scenery, Switzerland is a hiker's paradise and with superb roads and unspoilt scenery cycling enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice. Those looking for an active adventure can try their hand at glacier trekking, canyoning, Via Ferrata climbing or tobagganing. 

When to Visit

Switzerland offers something for visitors year-round. In autumn (September to November), the fruit ripens and the leaves of deciduous trees change colour. The winters were formerly generally cold and snowy, but now freezing temperatures and snow are no longer the rule, especially in the lowlands. Nowadays, many ski resorts could hardly survive without artificial snow. In spring (March to May) the trees blossom and the meadows turn green. Sometimes in April the winter returns for a short period and sometimes there are summer conditions as early as May.

Highlights

See the famous variety of landscapes, rich architectural heritage and well-protected nature in the Jura & Three Lakes region.

Visit Lucerne, the gateway to central Switzerland, a city of town squares and churches located on the banks of Lake Lucerne and set against an impressive mountain panorama.

Visit the Matterhorn, the pyramid shaped Swiss icon, said to be the most-photographed mountain in the world.

Stop in the UNESCO World Heritage region of Lavaux, which forms Switzerland's largest contiguous vineyard area with terrace after terrace offering magnificent views.

Stand above Europe's largest waterfall, feeling the roar and vibration of the water at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen

Take a train ride to Europe's highest-altitude railway station at 3,454 metres on the Jungfrau railway.

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Useful Information

Communications

Country Code for Switzerland: +41

Emergency Services: 112 Ambulance: 144 Fire: 118 Police: 117 Swiss Rescue: 1414 These services may not have English speaking staff.

Customs

The Swiss have always maintained and nurtured their own local customs, and because of this, Switzerland is a country with an enormous wealth of cultural activity and living tradition.

"La suisse n'existe pas" (Switzerland does not exist) – in this one key sentence Switzerland introduced itself at the World Exposition in Seville in 1992. This was because it is not uniformity, but variety in a small space that defines Switzerland. This can be explained culturally and geographically: In little Switzerland, four national languages are spoken in addition to numerous dialects. There is also a distinction between the culture in the mountains and the culture on the central plateau, while life in a mountain valley is different from that in the big city. So, although there are numerous regional traditions there are relatively few national customs. However, over time and with the increase in tourism, there are some local customs that have achieved national fame.

Yodeling had its origins in the call from mountain to mountain, the communication from Alp to Alp. Recognisable from the very first few notes, this Alpine music has the love for nature and home as its central themes. Yodeling is a form of singing that involves singing with repeated changes in pitch from the chest register to the head register without using words that mean anything. As described this way, yodeling is spread worldwide. It is especially in mountainous and inaccessible regions that natural yodeling communication forms have developed in order to communicate from one hill to the other or to bring in the cows. Although yodeling was probably being used back in the Stone Age, the choir singing of the yodeling songs only developed in the 19th century.
 

Switzerland has many customs that are tied to the calendar - most are of pagan origin or have a religious connection.

The festivals celebrated in Switzerland differ considerably depending on the season and the region. Some are based on ancient traditions while others have emerged only recently. Many of them reflect the course of the agricultural year, such as the ringing in of the vineyard workers in spring, the Alpine ascent and descent during the summer months, and the wine festivals, the Chästeilet cheese sharing and the Älplerchilbi carnivals in autumn. Because there was less for farmers to do in winter than in other seasons, there were more celebrations and customs during this time. Even today, the expulsion of winter and of evil spirits and demons forms part of the tradition - a tradition that is linked to the numerous carnival and year-end ceremonies. Other celebrations recall historical events such as important victories in historical battles.


 

Electricity

Electrical Socket type: Type C (2-pin) and Type J (3-pin) 
(Type C 2-pin plugs also fit J sockets.) 

Voltage: 230 volts 

Getting Around

The Swiss Travel System offers visitors some 29,000 kilometres of Swiss public transport network. Navigating the world’s densest transport network, trains run like clockwork: on all routes and always at the same minute after every full and half hour. 

Switzerland has some 29,000 kilometres of train, bus and boat lines throughout the country, and regular-interval timetables with precisely tuned connections which are provided by 150 transportation companies. There is also the option to travel on world famous premium panoramic trains such as the Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Gotthard Panorama Express. 

Health

The following information is intended as a guide only and in no way should it be used as a substitute for professional medical advice relative to a travellers individual needs and vaccination history. No guarantee is made as to its accuracy or thoroughness. For further information, please contact The Travel Doctor.

Medical care

Medical care in Switzerland is among the best in the world. You can consult any attending doctor in Switzerland. For emergencies, you may go to the nearest hospital or emergency practice, or in urgent cases, call the ambulance (144). Each hospital has an emergency department. Make sure that you are adequately insured. Depending on your situation, a travel additional insurance may be worth considering. You should have your insurance card with you each time you visit a doctor or purchase medicines. 

The emergency number for the ambulance is: 144 

Language

Switzerland has four unevenly distributed languages and a wealth of dialects. German is by far the most widely spoken language in Switzerland: 19 of the country’s 26 cantons are predominantly (Swiss) German-speaking. French is spoken in the western part of the country, the "Suisse Romande." Four cantons are French-speaking: Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel and Vaud. Three cantons are bilingual: in Bern, Fribourg and Valais both French and German are spoken. Italian is spoken in Ticino and four southern valleys of Canton Graubünden. 
Rumantsch is spoken in the only trilingual canton, Graubünden. The other two languages spoken there are German and Italian. Rumantsch, like Italian and French, is a language with Latin roots. It is spoken by just 0.5% of the total Swiss population. 

Shopping

Switzerland's superb products make it a shopper's paradise. English is spoken in most shops and department stores. Any stay in Switzerland is incomplete without buying a famous Swiss watch. Fine watches come in an infinite variety and are generally less expensive than in others countries. Bucherer is the country's biggest and most famous watch retailer offering a wide range of watches. Chocolates come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. Excellent buys are: textiles, embroideries, fine handkerchiefs, linen, precision instruments, drafting sets, multiblade pocket knives, music boxes, woodcarvings, ceramics and other handmade items as well as antiques and art books. 

Shops are usually open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Once a week they extend their hours to 9 p.m. They are closed on Sundays except for those at airports, at some railway stations and highway rest stops. 

The VAT tax you pay on purchased goods in Switzerland is 8.0%. You may ask at the shops for your Global Blue Cheque and reclaim the VAT. Global Blue offers you a swift and save cash refund system at Zurich and Geneva airports as well as at all major airport in Europe and all major road exit points. All major Credit Cards are accepted in fine shops and most department stores. 

Tipping

You never have to worry about tipping in Switzerland, as tips are included in the price. You can, however, add a smile to the face of someone who has provided good service by rounding up to the nearest franc or round figure.

Visas

Every traveler must have a valid passport. Visas are required for a continuous stay of more than three months. 

For the most up to date information regarding visas for Australian passport holders to Switzerland, visit www.dfat.gov.au/visas/

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