Switzerland is slowly getting on the map as a hip travel destination after having spent years as a destination reserved for fans of expensive watches, exclusive banks, and overpriced chocolate. But it is now possible to travel through the country with dignity and without having to eat instant noodles every night. There are quite a few methods of exploring the ins and outs of the nineteen cantons, provided that you come equipped with some well-needed advice, particularly with regards to saving money. Switzerland is one of the most costly countries in the world, so being able to thrift on any part of your trip is a good thing.
Though this doesn’t directly relate to saving money, though it will stop you from spending extra money on something you don’t really need, be aware of closing times. Like in rural France, many stores will close between 12 and 2 PM for the shopkeepers to rest and enjoy a long European style lunch break. Also, particularly in smaller cities, stores close around 5 PM, so be sure to get your shopping in early in the day.
Communicating with people during your travels is a must so that you can get some insider information instead of getting ripped off by greedy merchants. Though most countries have a pretty straightforward approach to an official language (hint-it’s usually in the name), Switzerland has four. Depending on the part of the country that you’re in, you’ll hear French, Swiss-German, Italian, and Romansh. But don’t worry too much about mastering four languages for a two-week stint in the country as most people speak very good English and are friendly enough to help a lost traveler.
If Switzerland is but a stop on a bigger European tour, avoid pulling out too much cash. As a non-member of the European Union, the country doesn’t use the Euro but the Swiss franc, abbreviated as CHF. It’s best to pull out money for emergencies such as a cash-only street vendor who sells the best ice cream in town and to use your card for anything else. Please note that this tip only applies if your bank doesn’t charge for foreign transactions.
The most crucial tip on here: don’t buy tourist chocolate. As tempting as the lovely displays look in the souvenir shops and chocolatiers, you’re better off going to a nearby supermarket (they’re everywhere) and buying similar quality products for half of the price or less. While you’re at it, pick up some nice cheeses and cured meats to take home. Because most products in Switzerland are locally produced, the quality is generally extraordinary.
Because you’ll be traveling in one of the cleanest countries in the world, it’s safe to assume that you can drink the water with no risks of becoming ill. Unlike other European countries (though not all-water in the UK, for instance, is incredibly clean), water in Switzerland is available for free everywhere. There are fountains all over the big cities and even on some mountain trails, so by all means, enjoy the fresh, crisp water out of a reusable canteen and save money and plastic bottles.
Finally, traveling through Switzerland is the best way of truly understanding the country, but it is also incredibly costly. The best thing to do for the biggest bang for your buck is to invest in a Swiss Travel Pass. Not only does this nifty pass over unlimited access to the rail and bus systems, but it also gives you half off of gondolas and ski lifts.