Saturday, May 21, 2011

Switzerland

We recently returned from a 9 days/ 8 nights trip from Switzerland. The first impression and expression is definitely 'WOW'!!! God has been very kind to them and given them abundant greenery and scenic places. It is absolutely gorgeous, some people even claim it to be heaven on earth.

We landed in Zurich around evening and immediately took the train to Montreux. The good thing was that the train station was right across from the airport, so all we had to do was cross the street. Once we got to the station the next big task was to buy our Swiss Saver train pass for 8 days. Now there are many types of train passes in Switzerland. You can read more about them here. We decided on the Swiss saver pass because we were planning to visit multiple places and cities using the train. One can use the saver pass when two or more people are traveling together. You can specify the number of days you will be traveling and the pass is valid for unlimited train rides within this days. The pass is also used for getting discounts on various entry tickets, buses, boat rides etc. We found it to be extremely useful and even used it partially for our ticket to Rome.

We were a little bit anxious because we had to change trains twice to reach Montreux. The problem was that we had some luggage and we had 3 minutes and around 5 minutes to change trains. We were told that it would be a smooth transition, which it was but we had to be super quick, be prepared with all our luggage and literally run to the next train and hop on to whatever compartment was in front of us. We definitely made it but it was a bit nerve-racking the first day.

Another good thing about this train pass was that you did not need to reserve seats you can literally hop on hop off any train except some special scenic route trains. Comfort wise there is not much difference in the first and second class seats but we decided to go with the first class seats because these coaches were less crowded and quieter. Price wise it's not a big difference and I would highly recommend 1st class. Sometimes on long routes you need that peace of mind.

Our hotel in Montreux was right on the lake and we had a balcony opening on the lake. Since it was night it did not make much of a difference, but the next morning we woke up to this beautiful view. Isn't it a perfect way to start the day? It was simply beautiful!


Overall our trip was fabulous. I loved every bit of Switzerland.
A few things I noticed while traveling around:

1. It is extremely expensive. When I say extremely I really mean it. Coming from the U.S. I am use to paying $2.90 for a tall (small) cup of Starbucks latte. In Switzerland the same Starbucks cup is 5+Swiss francs. So we are talking about almost $6 for a small cup of coffee. That is 2 times more expensive. In general everything is 2.5-3 times what it would cost in the U.S.

2. You need only 4-5 days unless you are a big nature person or heavily into hiking/skiing/doing outdoor things.

3. It's best to visit different cities, towns and villages. You won't need more than 2 days in any big town or a few hours in small villages.

4. Since every place is drop dead gorgeous, every small little village can also be a tourist attraction. So pick your places wisely.

5. Don't worry no matter where you visit you will see plenty of beautiful scenery, greenery, mountains and cows. The true experience lies in smaller towns/villages and countryside. Big towns like Zurich and Geneva don't give you the same feel.

6. Water is not free. You need to buy water everywhere. In restaurants a small bottle cost anywhere between 4-5 francs. This is flat water not sparkling water. Though Switzerland is so high on hygiene that there tap water is very clean and safe to drink. But in most restaurants if you ask fir tap water they would refuse it. a good option is to buy bottles of water from the coop (grocery store). We got large bottles of Evian water for 1.20 Swiss francs.

7. Unlike the U.S. People in Switzerland are conservative about paper. So simple things like paper napkins which we love to waste in the U.S. Is pretty rationed here.

8. People mostly speak in French but almost everyone understands English and can help you out in English.

9. Lots of points for cleanliness and hygiene





10 comments:

Starbug said...

Hi. Just read your blog post about Switzerland. I am glad you enjoyed your visit. But I found some things odd. Firstly, the majority of people in Switzerland speak German, so I am guessing you spent a lot of time in the French part only? It is against the law to deny a customer in a restaurant tap water or charge you for it. You have to ask and insist for tap water. There is no rationing on paper napkins or paper in general and if you need more, the restaurant will give it to you. Greetings, Eva

Masami said...

Hi! I'm heading to Switzerland in 2 weeks and reading your blog was informative! thank you for sharing your trip and experience. I am very excited :)
and of course, I'll be sure to bring extra $.

Shruti said...

@Masami, glad you enjoyed the blogs. Have a wonderful trip.

@Starbug, we did spend a lot of time in the southern part of Switzerland. I definitely did ask for regular water in the restaurants and was told they don't serve it. Which i found to be strange. So we ended up paying for water in all restaurants. Yes they never refuse napkins etc but unlike the US where so much of it is wasted I liked the fact that they don't hand out a bunch of napkins to you when all you need is only 1 or 2. But thank you for your comments :)

ME said...

Hi Shruti,
U was going thru your blog & found informative, could you please share your experience while you were traveling in train how did you manage your timings & reserving right hotel etc..
thanks

ME said...

& also i have 2 kids with 2.5 year & 4.5 years old, i am nervious how to manage traveling with them. I was trying to look for escorted tour package but they have restriction of child age. Managing on own i am much worried..

Varun said...

Hi Shruti,

I am travelling from London to Switzerland for the first time with my wife. We land at Zurich airport and are headed straight to Wengen in Lauterbrunnen(late eve).

Need some clarification on Swiss train passes. Which one is beneficial for 7days(inclusive of 1st day travel from Zurich to Wengen and last day from Wnegen to Geneva airport).

First of all, the pass entails us for a discount on the ticket or is it used as a ticket itslef.

I have read some info about the swiss flexi pass which is valid for 4,5,or 6 days as per requirement. For 6 days its around 253 pounds, which is somewhat expensive. I read about your discount pass. Can you suggest one as per your exp. We are looking at covering mostly central part (Lucern, Engelberg, Interlaken etc.).

Would really appreciate any help.

Cheers
Varun

mak said...

Hi, I read your blog about switzerland. I want to visit switzerland within 3 days, so suggest me which place i have covered first and most.
Advise me I have to visit all place in switzerland by any package or indivisualy by swis pass??
I also want to visit paris so suggest me about it also if u have any idea of that.

Shruti said...

Mak, 3 days is a short time to cover everything in Switzerland. So it would all depend on what are your interests. For example the train ride up to jungfraujoch is very beautiful but it will take up half your day. You can either do the southern part of Switzerland or pick the north. Please tell me a little bit more about your interest and what are you wanting to see for sure?

Unknown said...

Hi Shruti,


Me and my wife are planning a trip to Europe next month from Chicago, USA. We are planning to cover Switzerland in 5 days, after reading your blog cant resist to ask you the best way to do this in 5 days.

Just to give you an outline:
Chicago to London,UK to Paris,France to Nice, France to Switzerland (5 days here) to Italy.

Couple of questions:
1. Could you please suggest the best itinerary to cover swiss in 5 days.
2. From Swiss we will go to Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome), if you would know could you suggest which be the best train pass we could use to cover swiss and Italy?

Waiting for your response.

Thanks,
Dhawal & Sneha

Shruti Kapoor said...

Hi Dhawal, I'd be happy to help.

For 5 days in Switzerland, I would highly recommend Montreux (2 days), Interlaken (1.5 days) and Zurich (1.5 days). Montreux is close to Geneva and Lausanne. You can do day trips from Montreux. These are all lovely cities and there is plenty to see.

With regards to the train pass, please follow my link on my blog post. We took the swiss saver pass which allowed us unlimited train rides for the 8 days we were there. If you are going to be traveling a lot in between cities, this is a great pass to have.

You can read more about the passes here: http://www.swisspasses.com/railpass/

We took the Eurocity train from Interlaken to Milan. Since ours was a day trip I cannot really recommend the best train pass for Italy.

Do let me know if you have any more questions about Switzerland. You can always email me at shruti_92507@yahoo.com.

Enjoy your trip!