HOW TO PLAN A SWITZERLAND TRIP
Are you planning a trip to Switzerland? Then you might be wondering about the best travel tips for your trip to Switzerland and how to plan a Switzerland trip.
If you are seeking breathtaking landscapes, picturesque towns, and a rich cultural experience, then a trip to Switzerland should be high on your list. From the towering mountain peaks to the pristine lakes and charming towns and villages, there is no shortage of natural beauty to explore.
However, planning a trip to Switzerland can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time visiting.
Switzerland is my favorite country and I have spent quite some time in the country, so I will provide you with a checklist and tips to help you plan a memorable and stress-free trip to Switzerland.
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TIPS FOR PLANNING A TRIP TO SWITZERLAND
So, let´s start with travel planning tips for Switzerland.
FAQ: TRAVEL PLANNER SWITZERLAND
First of all, where is this tiny country everybody is in love with?
VISA FOR SWITZERLAND
The Schengen Zone is an area consisting of 26 European countries that have abolished passport- and other types of border control at their mutual borders. This means that once you enter one of the Schengen countries, you can travel freely to any other country within the zone without the need for additional visas or border checks. However, you still might be controlled if you cross the border to Germany, France, Italy, or Austria.
A Schengen Visa allows you to enter the Schengen Zone and travel freely within it for a certain period of time. It is issued by the embassy or consulate of the country where you will spend the most time during your trip or the country where you will first enter the Schengen Zone.
ARRIVING TO SWITZERLAND
Since Switzerland is landlocked, the main ways to arrive to Switzerland are via plane, train, or car.
- Zurich Airport is the largest airport in Switzerland, located in the north of the country. It is a major hub for Swiss International Air Lines and offers direct flights to over 170 destinations worldwide.
- Geneva Airport is located in the west of Switzerland, near the French border. It is the second-busiest airport in Switzerland and is a hub for easyJet Switzerland. It offers direct flights to over 140 destinations.
- Basel Airport, located near the borders of France and Germany, is the third-largest airport in Switzerland. It is a hub for easyJet Switzerland and offers direct flights to over 60 destinations.
To get the best deals on flights to Switzerland, it’s recommended to book in advance and be flexible- if possible – with your travel dates. Additionally, consider using a search engine or aggregator website to compare prices across different airlines and booking platforms.
Once you arrive at one of the airports, there are several transportation options to get to your destination, including trains, buses, and taxis.
Switzerland has several main train stations that serve as international arrival points. These stations are well-connected to major cities in Europe and provide easy access to destinations within Switzerland.
The main train stations in Switzerland for international arrivals include:
- Zurich Hauptbahnhof (Zurich Main Station): This is the largest train station in Switzerland and is located in the heart of Zurich. It is well-connected to major cities in Europe, including Paris, Milan, and Vienna.
- Geneva Cornavin Station: Located in the center of Geneva, this station provides direct connections to several French cities, including Paris and Lyon, as well as other major European destinations.
- Basel SBB Station: This station is located in the center of Basel and provides easy access to destinations within Switzerland, as well as other major European cities.
- Bern Station: This station is located in the heart of the Swiss capital and is well-connected to major Swiss cities, as well as destinations in Germany and France.
- Lausanne Station: This station is located in the center of Lausanne and provides direct connections to several major European cities, including Paris, Milan, and Barcelona.
- Lugano Station: This station is located in the city center and provides direct connections to other Swiss cities, such as Zurich, Bern, and Geneva, as well as to Italian cities, such as Milan and Como.
St. Moritz Station: This station is located in the center of the town and offers connections to other Swiss cities, including Zurich and Bern, as well as to Italian cities, such as Milan and it is also a stop of the Bernina Express which starts/ends in Tirano/Italy.
All of these train stations offer a range of services and amenities, including shops, restaurants, and luggage storage facilities. They are also well-connected to local transportation systems, making it easy to get to your final destination within Switzerland.
HOW TO GET AROUND SWITZERLAND
One thing you should not worry about is how to get around Switzerland! Why? Because no matter which mode of transport you opt for, you are in for a treat!
Switzerland has an excellent transportation system, with various options for getting around the country, including public transport, cars, cycling, and motorcycling – and even boating. Whether you are traveling for leisure or business, Switzerland’s efficient and reliable transportation options make it easy to explore the country’s stunning landscapes and picturesque towns.
Here is a breakdown of the main ways to get around.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN SWITZERLAND
Public transportation in Switzerland is a convenient and affordable way to get around the country. Switzerland has an extensive network of trains, buses, trams, and boats that run on a regular schedule and provide easy access to even the most remote destinations. The benefits of using public transportation in Switzerland include:
- Convenience: With frequent schedules and reliable service, public transportation in Switzerland is an easy and convenient way to get around. Trains and buses often run late into the night, making it possible to travel at any time of day.
- Comfort: Switzerland’s public transportation is known for its comfort and cleanliness. Trains and buses are equipped with modern amenities, such as air conditioning and comfortable seating, making for a pleasant travel experience.
- Efficiency: Switzerland’s public transportation system is well-organized and efficient, with connections between trains, buses, and trams timed to minimize wait times. This allows travelers to easily move from one mode of transportation to another, making it easy to explore multiple destinations in a single trip.
- Scenic views: Switzerland’s public transportation often provides stunning views of the country’s breathtaking scenery, including mountain ranges, lakes, and picturesque towns. Traveling by train, bus, or boat is a great way to enjoy the beauty of Switzerland’s natural landscapes while getting around the country.
Public transportation in Switzerland is an excellent option for travelers looking to explore the country’s natural beauty and charming towns.
Let me introduce you to one of my favorite inventions of all time: The Swiss Travel Pass.
The Swiss Travel Pass is a ticket that allows you to travel on most forms of public transportation in Switzerland, including trains, buses, boats, and some cable cars, as well as free admission to more than 500 museums across Switzerland. It’s an all-in-one ticket that provides unlimited travel throughout the country, including some popular tourist destinations such as Lucerne, Zurich, and Interlaken.
- Convenience: With the Swiss Travel Pass, you don’t need to worry about buying individual tickets for each trip. You can simply hop on and off public transportation as you please, without having to worry about the cost of each journey.
- Cost-effective: If you plan to travel extensively in Switzerland, the Swiss Travel Pass can save you money compared to buying individual tickets. The pass is available for various durations, from 3 to 15 days, so you can choose the one that best fits your itinerary.
- Flexibility: The Swiss Travel Pass allows you to travel freely throughout the country, giving you the flexibility to change your plans at a moment’s notice. You can visit multiple cities and attractions in a single day, without having to worry about the cost of transportation.
- Discounts: The Swiss Travel Pass also provides discounts on some mountain railways and cable cars – often up to 50%.
The Swiss Travel Pass can be a convenient and cost-effective way to explore Switzerland’s beautiful scenery and popular tourist destinations and if you get around via public transport, then it’s a great option, especially for those who plan to travel extensively within the country.
Road-tripping in Switzerland is another fantastic way to explore the country.
Road-tripping in Switzerland is a popular way to explore the country’s stunning landscapes, picturesque towns, and charming cities. With its well-maintained roads and breathtaking mountain scenery, Switzerland is an ideal destination for a road trip, and driving here can be such bliss.
Some of the benefits of road-tripping in Switzerland include:
- Flexibility: Road-tripping allows you to travel at your own pace, stop wherever you want, and explore areas that are off the beaten path. You can customize your itinerary to suit your interests and travel style, making for a personalized and unforgettable trip.
- Scenic views: Switzerland’s mountainous terrain and picturesque landscapes make for some of the most beautiful driving routes in the world. From the winding mountain roads of the Swiss Alps to the charming Swiss villages nestled in the valleys, road-tripping in Switzerland offers stunning views at every turn.
- Adventure: A road trip allows you to experience the thrill of the open road and explore areas that are not accessible by public transportation. From winding mountain roads to scenic lakeside routes, Switzerland offers a variety of driving experiences that cater to different levels of adventure.
Road-tripping Switzerland offers a great way to explore the country’s natural beauty, culture, and cuisine. With so many scenic routes and charming towns to discover, it’s no wonder that road-tripping is a popular way to experience Switzerland.
If you’re planning a road trip to beautiful Switzerland, but don’t have your own car with you – no worries! Discover Cars is the perfect rental company for making sure that when it comes to wheels for exploring this magnificent country, prices won’t break the bank.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS SWITZERLAND?
Soooo, this is one of the most frequent questions I receive about visiting Switzerland – how expensive is Switzerland? Well, the bad news is that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world with prices on par with Scandinavian countries.
However, it is still possible to visit Switzerland on a budget, with some careful planning and budgeting.
The currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF) and 1 CHF equals about 1.05 € or $1,10 (as of October 2023).
Here is a breakdown of approximate costs for a trip to Switzerland, including budget, mid-range, and luxury options:
ACCOMMODATIONS IN SWITZERLAND
- Budget: 30-80 CHF (Swiss Francs) per night for a hostel or budget hotel.
- Mid-range: 100-250 CHF per night for a mid-range hotel or Airbnb.
- Luxury: 300+ CHF per night for a luxury hotel or chalet.
FOOD IN SWITZERLAND
- Budget: 10-20 CHF per meal for street food or fast food.
- Mid-range: 30-50 CHF per meal for a sit-down restaurant.
- Luxury: 100+ CHF per meal for a fine dining experience.
TRANSPORTATION IN SWITZERLAND
- Budget: 3-5 CHF for a one-way ticket on public transportation.
- Mid-range: 232-450 CHF for a Swiss Travel Pass for unlimited travel for a set number of days.
- Luxury: 300-500 CHF per day for a private driver or rental car or CHF 369- 706 for a Swiss Travel Pass in the 1st class.
ACTIVITIES IN SWITZERLAND
- Budget: 0-20 CHF for free or low-cost activities like hiking or visiting a museum.
- Mid-range: 50-100 CHF for paid activities like a guided tour or a mountain excursion that is not included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
- Luxury: 500+ CHF for exclusive experiences like helicopter tours or private boat charters.
These are just rough estimates, and actual costs will vary based on individual preferences and travel styles.
TIPS: Credit cards are common in Switzerland though smaller shops might not accept them. I highly recommend, having some Swiss Francs on you and being prepared to sometimes pay in cash.
PLAN YOUR SWITZERLAND ITINERARY
Planning a Switzerland itinerary could be overwhelming – if you did not have my help but lucky you! Very lucky you! I have created a couple of itineraries for you to help you with your Switzerland trip – just click on the links to find out about the Switzerland itineraries.
- 3 days in Switzerland
- 4 days in Switzerland
- 5 days in Switzerland
- 7 days in Switzerland
- 10 days in Switzerland
WHERE TO STAY IN SWITZERLAND
Switzerland has a variety of cities and towns that offer unique experiences and attractions, making it difficult to choose just one base. However, here are seven popular destinations that could serve as a great base for exploring Switzerland:
Switzerland’s largest city is known for its stunning architecture, museums, and shopping. It’s a great base for exploring the nearby Alps, as well as Lake Zurich and the Rhine Falls.
Luxury: Baur au Lac – Zurich has some great luxury hotels that are amazing for getting spoiled and enjoying life. Baur au Lac is one of the best-rated luxury hotels close to the city center. ➡️ Book your stay at Baur au Lac here.
Mid-Range: The Glärnischhof by TRINITY – For more budget-friendly accommodation, check out this 4-star hotel is one of the best-rated mid-range hotels close to the city center, right next to the famous Bahnhofstrasse. ➡️ Book your stay at The Glärnischhof by TRINITY here.
Budget: Oldtown Hostel Otter – There are not many budget hotels in Zurich. This is a good-rated hostel in Zurich. I stayed here once and for a hostel, it actually was quite good – especially because of its great location. ➡️ Book your stay at Oldtown Hostel Otter here.
Located in central Switzerland, Lucerne is famous for its picturesque Old Town, Chapel Bridge, and Lake Lucerne. It’s a great base for exploring the surrounding mountains, including Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi.
On my last Lucerne trip, I stayed at Hotel des Alpes. The room view was amazing (and included views of the Chapel Bridge and Mount Pilatus). ➡️ Book your stay at Schweizerhof Lucerne here.
As the capital of Switzerland, Bern offers a rich history and culture, including medieval architecture, museums, and the famous Zytglogge clock tower. It’s a great base for exploring the Bernese Oberland region and the nearby Emmental Valley.
Mid-Range – Goldener Schlüssel – I stayed at the 3-star hotel Goldener Schlüssel for 1 night, located in the city center/old town. Though my hotel room was pretty small, with no direct (and free) parking options and the breakfast was simple, the location was perfect and made up for it. ➡️ Check out rates here.
Situated between two lakes and surrounded by mountains, Interlaken is a popular destination for outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, and paragliding. It’s a great base for exploring the nearby Jungfrau region and Grindelwald.
Luxury: Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa – The most luxurious hotel in Interlaken is Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa. I have not stayed there myself, so I can only repeat what I heard: This hotel is amazing. If you are looking for a fancy place in Interlaken, this is probably the best pick. ➡️ Book your stay at Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa here.
Mid-Range: Hotel du Nord – For your stay in Interlaken, I recommend this hotel – Hotel du Nord – which is centrally located and is quite nice. It is one of my favorite accommodations for your 5-day Swiss itinerary.➡️ Book your stay at Hotel du Nord here.
Budget: Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof – If you are on a budget, I recommend staying in Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof next to the Höhenmatte. It is not the cheapest hostel but definitely worth the money and one of my all-time favorite hostels. ➡️ Book your stay at Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof here.
Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux is known for its mild climate and scenic views of the lake and the Alps. It’s a great base for exploring the nearby vineyards, Chillon Castle, and the Swiss Riviera.
Luxury – Fairmont Le Montreux Palace – For one of the most luxurious experiences in Montreux, check out Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. This 5-star hotel has a great location and is best known amongst those who like to indulge. ➡️ Book your stay at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace here.
Budget in Montreux – Okay, there are not really budget-friendly hotels in Montreux. Accommodation around Lake Geneva is just pretty expensive. ➡️ Book your budget-friendly hotel in Montreux here.
Located in the southernmost part of Switzerland, Lugano offers a Mediterranean-style atmosphere with palm trees, lakes, and mountains. It’s a great base for exploring the nearby Ticino region and Lake Como in Italy.
Luxury: The View Lugano – One of the most famous 5-star hotels in Switzerland is this property. It is located close to the funicular station of San Salvatore and Lake Lugano. ➡️ BOOK YOUR STAY AT THE VIEW LUGANO HERE
This 3-star hotel is located just 300 meters from Lake Lugano and in the heart of Lugano. ➡️ BOOK YOUR STAY AT HOTEL ZURIGO DOWNTOWN HERE
Mid-Range: LUGANODANTE – We like you – This is a beautiful 4-star property in the city center of Lugano. This might be the perfect choice if you are looking for something more comfortable and luxurious. ➡️ BOOK YOUR STAY AT LUGANODANTE HERE
Zermatt takes luxury to the next level – even for Switzerland, a country known for its extravagance! If you’re looking to take your vacation up another notch, this is definitely the place. There are no real budget hotels (if you would like to find out about my best tips on saving money in Switzerland, click here).
Luxury: Hotel Mont Cervin Palace – Hotel Mont Cervin Palace defines luxury. If you are looking for a 5-star hotel in Zermatt, this might be perfect for you because it has everything you could be asking for when you book luxury accommodation. ➡️ BOOK YOUR STAY AT HOTEL MONT CERBIN PALACE
Mid-Range: Matterhorn Lodge Hotel & Appartments – Hotel Matterhorn Lodge Hotel & Appartments, which opened in December 2012, is located in the heart of Zermatt’s historic center. Decorated in a classic Alpine style, it boasts a wellness area with three different saunas. The hotel is conveniently situated just a two-minute walk from a ski bus stop. ➡️ BOOK YOUR STAY AT MATTERHORN LODGE HOTEL & APPARTMENTS HERE
All of these destinations offer a variety of accommodations, including budget-friendly hostels, mid-range hotels, and luxury resorts.
As a Switzerland addict, I have a list of 200 + places to visit in Switzerland. I assure you – despite its size this country is rich in attractions. While I do have a post on 44 + places to visit in Switzerland, I have the top 25 places in Switzerland for your bucket list summed up here.
Zurich – Switzerland’s largest city with a bustling nightlife and charming old town.
Lucerne – A picturesque city in central Switzerland, known for its wooden bridges, historic buildings, and stunning lake.
Bern – The capital city of Switzerland, with a charming medieval old town and scenic views of the Aare River.
Interlaken – Located in the heart of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken is a popular destination for skiing, hiking, and outdoor activities.
Zermatt – Home to the iconic Matterhorn mountain, Zermatt is a charming village that offers skiing, hiking, and mountaineering opportunities.
Montreux – Known for its mild climate, beautiful lakeside promenade, and world-famous jazz festival.
St. Moritz – A luxurious ski resort town that attracts the wealthy and famous and a hikers-paradise in the summer.
Grindelwald – A charming village located in the Swiss Alps, with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
Lugano – Located in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, Lugano is known for its Mediterranean climate and stunning lake views.
Lausanne – Home to the International Olympic Committee, Lausanne is a charming city with a beautiful lakeside promenade.
Appenzell & Aescher – A traditional Swiss village located in the Appenzell region, and a great base to get to see the world-famous Aescher mountain restaurant.
Jungfraujoch – A popular tourist destination that offers stunning views of the Swiss Alps at the highest train station in Europe at almost 4,000 meters (11,000 feet).
Schaffhausen & Rhine Falls – Home to the famous Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall.
Basel – A charming city located on the Rhine River, with a thriving cultural scene and stunning architecture.
Lake Geneva – A beautiful lake located between Switzerland and France, with stunning mountain views and scenic boat tours.
Thun – A charming town located on the shore of Lake Thun, with a beautiful castle and scenic mountain views.
Engelberg & Titlis – A popular ski resort town that offers skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.
Appenzellerland – A beautiful region known for its rolling hills, traditional Swiss villages, and scenic countryside.
Brienz – A small town located on the shore of Lake Brienz, known for its traditional Swiss architecture and stunning views.
Aletsch Glacier – The largest glacier in the Alps, located in the beautiful Aletsch region.
Lake Brienz – One of Switzerland´s pretty lakes is easily accessible and offers a lot to do and see.
Schilthorn – Follow the steps of James Bond – this is where one of the iconic 007 movies was filmed.
Muerren – A charming car-free mountain town above Lauterbrunnen with stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SWITZERLAND
I could talk forever about the best time to visit Switzerland – since Switzerland´s seasons are very distinctive, it really is important when you visit.
Check out this guide where I talk about each season in detail, but here is a quick guide.
Switzerland is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit depends on your interests and preferences.
- Summer (June to August) is the peak season for tourism, offering mild to warm temperatures, longer daylight hours, and outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and festivals. However, it can also be crowded and expensive.
- Fall (September to November) is a great time to visit if you prefer cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, and the chance to see the autumn foliage. However, some tourist attractions may close during this season and November can be very grey, and the weather can be unpredictable.
- Winter (December to February) is ideal for winter sports enthusiasts with its snow-covered landscapes and activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and Christmas markets. However, it can be very cold, and popular ski resorts can be crowded and expensive.
- Spring (March to May) offers milder temperatures, fewer crowds, and the chance to see the blooming flowers and green landscapes. However, some tourist attractions may still be closed, and the weather can be unpredictable with occasional rain and even snow.
CHECKLIST FOR PLANNING A TRIP TO SWITZERLAND
Here are important steps to plan and book a trip to Switzerland:
- Determine your budget for the trip. ✔️
- Check passport and visa requirements for your country of origin. ✔️
- Decide on your travel dates and the length of your trip. ✔️
- Research and select your destinations within Switzerland. ✔️
- Book your flights to Switzerland. ✔️
- Research and book your accommodation, whether it’s a hotel or a hostel. ✔️
- Look into public transportation options, such as the Swiss Travel Pass, and purchase tickets in advance if necessary or rent a car. ✔️
- Research and book any activities or tours you want to do, such as hiking, skiing, or sightseeing. ✔️
- Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. ✔️
- Purchase travel insurance to protect against any unforeseen events. ✔️
- Create a packing list and make sure to bring any necessary items, such as a power adapter or hiking gear. ✔️
- Notify your bank of your travel plans and bring a credit card for emergencies. ✔️
- Download any necessary apps, such as transportation or translation apps. ✔️
- Print out important documents, such as flight and hotel confirmations, and bring copies with you. ✔️
- Double-check everything before you leave, including your travel documents, itinerary, and packing list. ✔️
GET YOUR SWITZERLAND TRAVEL PLANNER HERE
I have created my first digital travel planner…Of course, this first one is for your trip to Switzerland. How could it be any different!?! It is a 15-page file for you to download. It is simple, yet helpful and…pretty.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PLANNING A TRIP TO SWITZERLAND FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS
Planning a trip to Switzerland for the first time can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. The key to a successful trip is to research and plan in advance. Start by deciding on your preferred Swiss destinations and activities, and create a detailed itinerary. Book your accommodations and transportation well in advance to ensure availability and save money.
When packing, keep in mind the climate and activities you plan to participate in, and bring appropriate gear. Consider purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass to save money on transportation and access popular attractions.
Download useful apps such as SBB Mobile, and Google Maps to help navigate your trip. With careful planning and preparation, your first trip to Switzerland will be an amazing experience whether you stay 5 days in Switzerland, 10 days, or even longer.