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Budget Travel Guide through Switzerland Hostels and Backpackers, Fun, Information
 
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......and all you need to know about Switzerland

SWITZERLAND founded over 700 years ago (1291) with a vow of mutual aid among three “forest Cantons“. Over the years more political regions have joined. Now, 26 politically sovereign cantons make up the modern federal state of Switzerland..

 

General Information

Currency:
Swiss Franc , CHF 1. - = 100 cents . Exchange rate (fixed on Februray 18th 2011): CHF 1.- corresponds to 0.77 Euros / 1.05 US$.

Cinema:
In the German part of Switzerland, cinemas nearly always show films in their original language (e.g. a film marked E/f/d means spoken in English with subtitles in French and German). Cheaper admission on Mondays! There are many open-air cinemas during July and August.

Democracy:
The Swiss vote, a few times each year, on local, cantonal and federal issues like public building, raising taxes, and environmental and international participation.

Emergency phone numbers:
117 Police, 144 Ambulance, 118 Fire Brigade.

European Union:
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU).

Health Insurance:
As there is no state medical health service in Switzerland, and as medical treatment must be paid for, it is advisable to take out insurance against personal accident and illness.

Internet/E-mail:
Many hostels offer internet access, and in most towns and cities you’ll find at least one Internet Café; see “Practical Information” of each section.

Lockers:
Almost every railway station has lockers where you can leave your baggage.

Population/Languages:
Switzerland has a population of about 7.5 million. The national languages of Switzerland are Swiss-German (north, central and east), French (west), Italian (south) and Rhaeto-Romanic (south-east).

Phoning:
Most public phones accept cards only (no coins). Taxcards are sold at post offices, at all “kiosks” (small shops where you find newspapers, cigarettes and sweets), at train and petrol stations, and at most hostels. For national and international directory information call 1811, 1818 or see www.directories.ch.

Post:
Postcards and letters (if under 20 gr weight) within Europe CHF 1.20 (priority 1.30), overseas CHF 1.40 (priority 1.80).

Tipping:
Tips are included on all hotel/hostel and restaurant bills. It is neither necessary nor expected to give an extra tip. Tip when the service was nice and friendly.

Water:
Tap water is fine to drink nearly everywhere. Some fountains carry the sign “Kein Trinkwasser” or “eau non potable.” This means no drinking water!

Weather, Clothes and Climate:
The climate is moderate with no excessive heat, cold or humidity. March to May, October & November the daytime temperatures range from 5 to 15 degrees (Celsius), from June to September from 18 – 30 degrees. Depending on the altitude, the temperature range may vary!

Work: Switzerland is known as a country with a restrictive policy regarding foreign labor. And if you get caught working illegally you can be fined and deported.

Accommodation

Swiss Backpackers: A group of independent hostels uniting the Swiss Backpacker Hostels have dormitories as well as private rooms, all conveying a friendly and international atmosphere plus self catering kitchen and/or reasonably priced restaurant. Almost all of their addresses are listed on our hostel section marked with 'SB'.

Swiss Youth Hostel Association: is affiliated with the Hostelling International network HI. The cheapest way to become a member is to register in your country before you depart. As a non-HI member you have to pay a surcharge from CHF 6.- per night (families CHF 12.- per night). Their most important addresses are listed on our hostel section marked with 'HI'

Hostels: There are many more hostels all around Switzerland, some of them also listed on our hostel section.

Other affordable hotel groups are
Etap Hotels


Transport

Public Transport:
Cities and towns have excellent transportation networks. Buy your ticket from a ticket machine, which you’ll find at almost every stop. For the various disounts of the different tickets see our 'List of Discounts'

Railway System:
You will appreciate Switzerland’s extensive railway system. It is relaxing and comfortable and will allow you to fully enjoy the scenery. Normal point-to-point tickets and reservations can be purchased at every railway station. Seat reservations are only required on special scenic trains like the Glacier Express, the Bernina Express, etc. For all train information, call 0900 300 300 (CHF 1.19 per min.) or see www.rail.ch

Train Tickets:
Single train tickets are expensive, so if you’re frequently using the train in Switzerland, “Swiss Travel System” offers a wide range of tickets to cut costs. The rates for 1 person are: Swiss Youth Pass and Swiss Pass (valid 4, 8, 15, 22 days or 1 month), 4 days for CHF 200.- respectively CHF 266.- and up. Swiss Flexi Pass (3 days up to 8 days within a month), 3 days for CHF 254.- and up.
Swiss Half Fare Card, 1-month half-fare card for CHF 110.- (with this card you pay only 50% of the normal fare). For a second person or more, passes are available at 15% reduction. Kids under 16 travel for free with the Swiss Travel System Family Card. Swiss Passes and Swiss Flexi Passes include all trains and most of the mountain top trains and cable cars. Various special discounts included. The tickets can be ordered online or by phone at 00800 100 200 23 (foc). In Switzerland, Swiss Passes are available at major railway stations. Note: Swiss Pass holders not only get unlimited access to the train, bus and boat network, but also get a 50% discount on most mountain railways and cable cars and free admission to more than 400 museums and exhibits all over the country! www.rail.ch/sts
For the various disounts of the different tickets see our 'List of Discounts - Public Transport'

Post Buses:
The Swiss post buses are ideal if you want to travel off the beaten path. With some of the post buses you can cross alpine passes. The Swiss Passes (see above) are all valid on post buses (surcharge on some mountain routes)! www.postbus.ch

Bicycles:
Cycling is very popular in Switzerland. You’ll find well-marked cycling routes throughout, particularly in the urban areas. Bicycles can be rented at most railway stations. In the cities of Bern, Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, and Vevey you can even borrow bikes free of charge! For more information about this great deal see the pages about each particular city.

Walking/Hiking: Switzerland, with its well-kept paths and trails, is an ideal country for hiking! Maps of trails are available from local tourist offices. You’ll find some hiking tips inside this newspaper!

Guided tours/excursions
Best of Switzerland Tours is a Swiss company with professional multilingual guides, focusing all their efforts on showing you the best of the marvellous Swiss mountains, landscapes and places of interest (i.e. Mount Titlis or Mount Pilatus, the cities of Zurich or Lucerne). For information/booking ask at your hostel, at the tourist office or see >>>www.bestofswitzerlandtours.ch

Skiing / Boarding: In almost every winter resort you can rent equipment, such as skis, boots, snowboards, sledges, skates, etc., at reasonable prices. Staying in a city? No problem doing a day trip to a winter resort nearby!

Winter for non-skiers: Winter in Switzerland is not only for the active sports enthusiast. As a non-skier you’ll find well maintained, clearly marked trails for relaxing walks. Ask at the local tourist information office for winter trail maps.

Guided Tours: Do you want to experience Switzerland on a personally guided tour? Swizzbuzz offer adventurous activities in Switzerland with a flexible service for backpackers off the beaten track for local culture and alternative activities – and unlike an ordinary Swiss bus tour you have the option to get off and stay longer
in any place. For information see ›››www.swizzbuzz.ch or call 076 245 99 82.

Food

Restaurants: The range of restaurants is wide, from traditional to international cuisine. Of course, you’ll find McDonald’s, Subway and Wendy, too. Coop and Migros supermarkets have a restaurant. In the cities check out the wide range of take-out stands, for example, turkish kebab, falafel or just simple pizza and burgers.

Supermarkets: There are plenty of supermarkets like Coop and Migros where you can stock up on your provisions.

Traditional Swiss Dishes: Traditional and regional dishes play an important role in the Swiss diet. The ones most widely known are: Fondue (a blend of melted cheese served up in a big stoneware pot into which bread or hot potatoes are dipped); Raclette (melted slices of cheese with boiled potatoes and mixed pickles); Rösti (German-Swiss dish: grated, fried potatoes, sometimes with sausage, onions and bacon).
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Phoning

Most public phones accept cards only (no coins). Taxcards are sold at post offices, at all “kiosks” (small shops where you find newspapers, cigarettes and sweets), at train and petrol stations, and at most hostels. For national and international directory information call 1811, 1818 or see www.directories.ch.

Some calling card numbers:
Argentina Home Service: 0800-555-254
AT&T: 0800-890-011
Australia Direct: 0800-555-004
Bell Canada: 0800-558-330
Brazil Direct: 0800-555-251
MCI: 0800-890-222
New Zealand Direct: 0800-556-411
Sprint: 0800-899-777
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National Events

For national Events, Festivals and Concerts see the calendar of Switzerland Tourism.