What comes to your mind when someone says Switzerland?
On one side, there are majestic mountains, delicious fondue and chocolate, big banks sheltering people’s money, precision watches, and a neutral and orderly society.
On the other, heart attack–inducing prices: $8 USD coffee or beer?! $50 steaks?! A $15 menu at McDonald’s?! $35-40 hostel beds?!
Switzerland is rated the most expensive country in the world to visit, with Geneva and Zurich being two of the ten most expensive cities to live in.
Hence most people wait till they are wealthier to visit this magnificent country.
So, when I say that it is possible to go there without filing for bankruptcy later, you might think that I’ve lost my mind.
I agree on one thing. Switzerland will probably never be a dirt-cheap destination so all of you who are patiently waiting it out for cheaper times, well, don’t bother. However, we can always keep an open eye for discounts, offers and just being smart about the whole thing.
Here are a few tips to keep spends in control:
TRAVEL TIP: Keep in mind that some places might not offer Couchsurfing. A good way to avoid shelling out a lot of money is accumulating hotel loyalty points. Its called travel hacking!
TRAVEL TIP: If you must drink, stick to hostel bars where you can enjoy 2-for-1 happy hours and cheap drinks for around 5 CHF.
TRAVEL TIP: If you are going to eat out, do so during lunch, when most lunch specials cost around 10-19 CHF. Moreover, stick to the ethnic restaurants like Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Thai for the best deals and biggest portions (and closer to that 10 CHF price).
WHEN TO GO:
Low Season (Oct–Mar)
Mountain resorts go into snooze mode from mid-October to early December. Prices are up to 50% lower than in high season. Sights and restaurants are open fewer days and shorter hours.
Shoulder (Apr–Jun & Sep)
Look for accommodation deals in ski resorts and traveller hot spots. Spring is idyllic, with warm temperatures, flowers and local produce. Watch the grape harvest in autumn.
High Season (Jul, Aug & Dec–Apr)
In July and August walkers and cyclists hit high-altitude trails. Christmas and New Year see serious snow-sports action on the slopes. Late December to early April is high season in ski resorts.
Budget (up to CHF200)
Midrange (CHF200– 300)
Top end (more than CHF300)
Visitors planning to use inter-city routes should consider investing in a Swiss travel pass. Timetables often refer to Werktags(work days), which means Monday to Saturday, unless there is the qualification ‘ausserSamstag’ (except Saturday). For timetables and tickets, head to www.sbb.ch.
Now that we have the essentials sorted, here is a sample itinerary for you to consider. You can always add or remove destinations from here to suit your preferences.
1-WEEK ITINERARY: ZURICH, INTERLAKEN, ZERMATT, GENEVA
Day trips to: Lucerne, Bern, Montreux
To travel within Switzerland and for this itinerary, in particular, it is highly recommended that you get the 8 Consecutive Day Swiss Travel Pass for unlimited travel the entire week you are in Switzerland. This pass covers all of the train routes in this itinerary including the boat ride between Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus. This pass excludes the fares for the cogwheel trains to Mt. Pilatus, Jungfraujoch, and Matterhorn but pass holders do get certain discounts off the regular fare for those trains. Pass should be purchased well in advance on the Rail Europe website. Please be aware some trains do require separate reservations so check this link after you have received your pass to see which trains you need to reserve for. Advanced reservation up to 90 days is recommended to ensure you get a space (and seat!) in the trains you want to take.
TRAVEL TIP: If you don’t want to lug around your bags, many train stations in Switzerland have luggage lockers that you can rent. Locker sizes and prices vary, many of them only accept coins. Check whether your train station offers luggage lockers by searching here, click under the “Equipment” tab for full details
Day 0: Arrive at Zurich
Day 1: Zurich
Day 2: Zurich to Lucerne
TRAVEL TIP: Trains depart from Zurich HB every 30 minutes to Lucerne, total travel time on the train is about 45 minutes so please plan accordingly (click here for train schedules and reservations).
TRAVEL TIP: The Dragon Path trail at the top is recommended to reach the highest peak of Tomlishorn for a panoramic view of all the surrounding mountain ranges. On the way down, choose the cable car route to Fräkmüntegg (while taking in the gorgeous views of Lake Lucerne in front of you), then transfer to Kriens via the gondola and take the line 1 bus back to Lucerne.
Day 3: Interlaken – Bern
TRAVEL TIP: if you are in Bern between October to November, you can also catch the spectacular Rendez-vouzBundesplatz light show that occurs every evening between 19:00-20:30.
Day 4: Interlaken - Jungfraujoch
TRAVEL TIP: Please be aware you will need to purchase separate train tickets on the Wengernalp Railway and Jungfrau Railway even if you have the Swiss Travel Pass, however ticket prices will be discounted by 25% for pass holders (see fare prices).
Also recommended is checking out the Ice Cave on the same level which is free for all visitors
Travel by coach through the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland's magnificent Jungfrau region, then hop aboard a cogwheel train and ride up to Jungfraujoch, Europe's highest railway station at a staggering elevation of 11,333 feet (3,454 meters).
Walk through the heart of a glacier in the Ice Palace, overlook the Aletsch Glacier (Europe's longest glacier) from the sweeping Sphinx Observatory and spot the snow-capped peaks of neighboring France and Italy beyond.
There are multiple day trips available from Zurich as well.
Day 5: Interlaken – Zermatt
Take the train from Interlaken Ost to Zermatt (get schedule here), please be aware there are usually 2 transfers in between, and the total travel time is between 2.5-3 hours.
One of the most popular and easy routes is the Hörnligrat, which essentially goes from Zermatt via the Hörnli Hut.
The Matterhorn does not have a cable car and therefore offers experienced sports enthusiasts a new challenge – climbing the mountain themselves!
A top excursion is Gornergrat.
The Matterhorn glacier paradise is the highest summer ski region in Europe and is open 365 days a year.
The Matterhorn Museum explains the historic development of Zermatt from a mountain village to an Alpine holiday resort and also has many photographs and facts about the first ascent of the Matterhorn.
On a clear day, definitely do the hiking route down (or you can take the train to Rotenboden station, 2 stops from Gornergrat station, plus a 10-minute walk) to Riffelsee, a glacial lake with a perfect reflection of Matterhorn’s peak. After the lake, you can hop onto the train back down to Riffelberg mountain station, in which you’d be able to take the gondola down to Furi. Then take the cable car to Klein Matterhorn via TrockenerStegfor a breathtaking view of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
Day 6: Zermatt & Montreaux
Day 7: Geneva
TRAVEL TIP: A great way to explore the city is through Segway Tours, not only do you get a one-tour-see-all package, it’s also tons of fun and barely any walking required. Advanced booking is highly recommended.
Hope this itinerary helps you in deciding what you would like to do. if you are looking for a few quirky things to do in Switzerland, here are a few options for you!
Opened in 2016, this engaging museum celebrates the life and work of iconic London-born film star Charlie Chaplin.
Chaplin's World is about 3km north of Vevey, by the A9 motorway. Bus 212, departing Vevey station every 30min from 5.30am to 7pm in the direction of Fenil-sur-Corsier, will get you to the 'Corsier-sur-Vevey, Chaplin' stop (Sfr3.70), in under 15 minutes.
Allow at least a couple of hours to do this place justice; better yet, make an entire day of it with visits to the on-site restaurant and gift shop.
Swiss National Park
This was the first national park to be established in the Alps in 1914. Admission to the park and its car parks is free.
Aletsch Glacier Hike:
At 23km, the Aletsch Glacier is the longest glacier in the European Alps and a Unesco World Heritage site.
While most view the glacier from its head at Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Oberland, the best views are from Eggishorn (2927m), Bettmerhorn (2647m) and Moosfluh (2333m) in Valais. These viewpoints sit at the top of cable cars and lifts climbing from Fiesch, Bettmeralp and Riederalp. There are superb hikes above the glacier.
The route follows mountain paths down to the Rote Chumma and into the basin of the Märjelen lakes. The Fiescheralp is reached by rounding the Tälli ridge or through the pedestrian tunnel to shorten the distance.
TRAVEL TIP: The water tunnel from Märjelen (passable on foot) shortens the tour by about 1 hour.
Get all the information on the guided hikes here.
Reichenbachfälle (Reichenbach Falls):
Accessibility: Train to Meiringen, on foot (20 minutes) or by bus to Willigen, funicular rail to the Reichenbach Falls
Attractions: The Sherlock Holmes story, statue and museum in Meiringen
Overnight stays: Meiringen or GasthausZwirgi
Winter: not in operation
Whether you are Team Sherlock or Team Moriarty, this is one heck of a place to visit. Here at the 120 meter-high waterfall, Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle found inspiration and a death place for his hero Sherlock Holmes in the battle against Professor Moriarty.
Today a cableway with 24-seater wooden carriages, once used for the electricity works, brings visitors to the place of the scene – close to the viewing terrace above the powerful waters.
And hiking trails lead back to the Haslital valley, Aare Gorge or direction Rosenlaui to the historic hotel and Rosenlaui Glacier Gorge.
For tickets and other information click here.
I hope this article was helpful! Do share your comments and let us know if you have been to any off the beaten track places in Switzerland!
Deea is an Influencer Marketer, content creator, traveller, photographer and blogger.