Somehow Switzerland is different from other European countries. The
Swiss have their own style, their own architecture, their own way of
organising things. Not being an EU member means that they are not
involved in the EU wide harmonisation process.
I had the impression that Switzerland is not as modern as the other
European countries. They used to be on a pretty high standard, but it
seems that the Swiss have kind of missed the modernisation wave which
swept through the EU over the past years. To make some examples, the
infrastructure in Switzerland is aging. Motorways are not up to the
standards of an advanced European country, streets in the cities are
There was a large number of Arab tourists in Geneva. Nowhere else in
Europe have I seen such a concentration of tourist of Middle Eastern
countries. The city must be very popular with Arab tourists. It feels
Switzerland is more expensive than other European countries, but not
too expensive. The Etap hotels where we stayed cost 100 CHF (=60 Euro)
vs. 40-48 Euro in France. The price of food in restaurants is on the
same level or slightly higher priced than food in France or Germany
(but of course in Geneva you should avoid the lakeside area, where
restaurants are 2-3 times as expensive as elsewhere. The lakeside area
of Geneva is a luxury area, with five star hotels, expensive
restaurants and lots of luxury goods shops. Prices for supermarkets are
probably on the same level as in Munich, although we didn't compare
exactly. Petrol is substantially cheaper (1.17 Euro vs. 1.50 Euro) than
in neighbouring countries, probably because the tax on petrol is lower.
We ate mostly in unconventional places (twice in the restaurant of the
Migros supermarket, once in a McDonalds restaurants, once in a Chinese
restaurant etc.), so can't really comment on the Swiss cuisine. The
restaurant of the Migros supermarket is good value and offers a large
choice of meals at very reasonable prices. The Swiss cuisine seems to
be influenced to a certain extent by the French.
Hotels in Switzerland are not cheap if you travel with two small
as you need a larger room and not all hotels allow you to stay in a
room with two children. We stayed in Etap hotels (100 CHF = 60
Euro/night), where you can stay in one room with two small children
below the age of 12. Overall hotels in Switzerland are more expensive
than in other European countries.
/ Exchange rate (August 2008)
1 Euro = 1.67 CHF
the Universal Currency
I withdrew cash with an ATM card from ATMs.
phones and prepaid cards
Due to new EU-wide regulations the cost of roaming has substantially
decreased over the past year. Making international calls (to another
European country) and receiving calls when roaming is now not too
expensive. For this reason and due to the short duration of our stay in
Switzerland we didn't buy Swiss prepaid cards.
I didn't see any Internet cafes in either Geneva or Zurich. To check my
mails I bought airtime in a Swisscom WLAN hotspot and used the GSM data
services of my mobile phone. McDonalds restaurants in Switzerland offer
Quite fresh and a mix of overcast days and rain and sunny days while we
were in Switzerland. We only had one nice sunny day.
None required for Switzerland.
VISA / Entry
None required for visitors of developed countries (EU, USA, Canada
No issues here.
We travelled across Switzerland by car. Getting
around by car in Geneva and Zurich is a bit confusing, because there
are everywhere lanes dedicated to buses and these are not well marked.
However getting around by car in Zurich and Geneva is a viable option,
as these cities are not too big and parkings are available.
The motorways are toll-free but you must purchase a vignette. Motorways
are not that good, as they have mostly only two lanes each way (in
Germany most motorways have three lanes per direction). Heavy traffic
jam on the motorway between Bern and Zurich while we drive there.