Growing up as a 90's kid, there were two dream destinations for us; one was Paris and the other was Switzerland (imagined swiz was a city). This was a long awaited trip and March was the perfect time, enough to escape the winters.
Switzerland has got lot to offer and we had a hard time choosing which way to go about. It came down to budget. Switzerland is not a cheap destination, mighty expensive. Food, Travel, Transportation, Accommodation, everything is high compared to the other European destinations. We spent around 3 days in Central Switzerland and we are happy to share our experience in this blog
Things to Know before you Go
Visa (for Indian Passport holders): Prior Visa has to be arranged for Indian Passport Holders if you are only visiting Switzerland. If you have Schengen Visa or a resident permit in Schengen countries, you can easily travel.
Currency: Switzerland’s currency is the Swizz Francs (CHF). Even though it is inside the Schengen area, Euro is not the currency. If you have Euro it is easy to get it exchanged at a decent conversion rate 1 CHF ~ 80 INR
Best way to travel in Switzerland: No two major cities are close by, considering the small size of the country. Best is to catch the high speed trains which gives connectivity to almost all regions in the country despite the difficult terrain. There are many combination of travel passes which will save you upto 50% of the travel cost
Accommodation : We prefer AIRBNB’s. We rented out an entire place, which was less expensive than a hotel room.
Language : German/Italian & French are the official languages of the country, but you can find English widely spoken and boards/signs in English
Food: Average meal in Switzerland will cost CHF 20 (INR 1600). There are plenty of fast food joints across the city. if you staying in a dorm, the best option to get into a supermarket and buy fresh/frozen meal starting @ CHF 5 (INR 400). Healthy & cheap. We did the same with Booze, bought them in supermarkets. Asian restaurants were the most economical dine-in option we tried. Others were super expensive
Water: Tap water is Clean & safe. Do carry reusable bottles and refill it any restaurant/coffee shops
Wifi & Mobile data: There are plenty of free wi-fi spots if you are in the city. We didn’t have the requirement to buy a sim or activate data roaming. Our AIRBNB had free wifi where we used to download stuffs required for the next day
Credit Cards and ATMs: It was easy paying by card everywhere. Hardly we used cash, still we had close to 100 CHF, but didn’t have the need to use it.
Safety: Switzerland is one of the safest places on the planet. Keep your wallets & passports safe. Always be mindful of your surroundings & stick to your instincts. If you feel something is not right, don't do it.
Best time to Visit
Switzerland is known for its Summer crowds & winter crowds. People try to sneak in large numbers during June-August to enjoy the summer. You will also find people during Nov-February who enjoy the fresh snow & winter sports
So what is the best time to Visit?? March-April & September-October would be the best, you will experience dry & mild weather. It is not the holiday season. Hotels/Accommodations are not pricier. Winters are not harsh either except for the odd chilly days. This may not be the best time to Hike, but best if you are travelling on a Budget
Switzerland is a small country in size but has got lot to offer. We need to understand the locations of our places of interest and frame the itinerary accordingly.
The below were our places of interest and we mixed it up to maximize our time going around.
Central Switzerland – Lucern, Mount Titlis (Engelberg), Mount Pilatus
Bern Region - Interlaken – Jungfrau
You can more details about other destinations in the official Switzerland tourism website
How to get to Switzerland
Travelling from India, International flights arrive at Zurich Airport, one of the busiest & largest airports in the country. This will be your first point of entry flying long haul flights. There are flights to Geneva as well
We flew Norwegian air from Stavanger International airport to Zurich Via Berlin Schonefled airport. Zurich city center is not far from the airport. You get connectivity to other regions operated by swizz rail
This is the quickest way to reach Zurich. There are other connecting options via Paris/Milan
We were travelling on a Budget as we always do. Switzerland is mighty expensive when compared to the other main land European countries.
Norwegian air flew was the most economical. But we have to book two separate flights. One to Berlin and the other from Berlin to Zurich (EasyJet). One-way ticket costed us 499 Norwegian kroner (4000 INR)
We found an Airbnb Accommodation an entire villa, costed us 50 CHF (4000 INR) per day/2 ppl (still cheaper then hostel shared dorms which costed 30 CHF (2500 INR per person/night)
We only had two meals outside during our entire trip. The restaurants are expensive. We bought frozen food from supermarkets & did some basic cooking. It costed us like 10 CHF per person/meal, all three days
We purchased the three-day pass from the Lucern Tourist office. It costed 192 CHF (15000 INR/person) for all three days. It includes Public transportation, Interstate Train fares, Entry tickets to Tourist attractions including activities, Passes for the cable cars & Gondolas
Where to Stay
Lucern is our main place of stay . Based in Lucern, we planned all our trips
Old Town and near the Lucern Lake is the best place to stay if you are looking at budget accommodations & Hostel dorms. Close to the train station as well. Plenty of Restaurants and takeaways nearby
Lucern is well connected with Metro & bus network.
The only reason we chose to stay outside the city centre is because of the cheaper accommodation we found on AIRBNB with all the amenities and excellent reviews. Lucern train station is about 15 minutes by bus from the accommodation.
Our AIRBNB accomodation
3 Days in Central Switzerland !!What to Do?
Click on the Image to Zoom
This Map will give you the must see places in Central Switzerland. You’ll get an overall idea of what to do and you can mix it up the way you want. We shortlisted Lucern based on our interests & cost. Below is our Itinerary
Pass we bought
We bought the tell pass winter pass which costed us 192 CHF (15000 INR) for three days per person. This will cover our trip to Mount Titlis, Interlaken, Mount Pilatus & return to Basel Airport to catch our return Flight. Includes Metro, Bus, Trains, Boat trips, Entry to Attractions, Cables cars & Activities in the regions
What we didn’t consider is the Tickets from Interlaken to Jungfraugh. This was our biggest mistake and we had to pay another 200 CHF (15000 INR) per person return.
Switzerland as you know is not a cheap destination. But if you can work out a proper pass based on your itinerary, you will save a lot.
Day 1: Mount Titlis, Engelberg
How to reach?
Train is the quickest and will take 45 minutes to reach Engelberg station. The train journey itself is scenic with long & large see through windows. 10 to 15 minutes by walk, you will reach the base station of Mount Titlis. Scan the pass and pop into the cable car. There is also a free shuttle bus from the station.
Tips to visit Mount Titlis:
It has got snow all around the year. Located at 3200m height, you will never be disappointed with the breath-taking views and no worries about the availability of snow.
Be prepared for all types of weather at the top. It will be bright and sunny and there will be passing shower suddenly. Layered clothing is always the best. For ex: Thermals + Fleece + Jacket.
Do carry snacks, packed lunch, wrapped sandwich and a refill water bottle. This will help you cut down the additional cost at the top.
The Single journey tickets and tickets bought only for Mount titlis is not cost effective unless you plan to spend couple of days in Engelberg region. Go for the passes offered by the region, that will definitely help you with enormous cost savings
The Tickets will include many free activities at the top.
Click on the Image !
Day 2: Interlaken, Jungfrau
Why Interlaken? Interlaken, Jungfrau is the main attraction in Interlaken. It is said to be the top of Europe hosting the tallest railway station at an altitude of 3450m
How to reach?
Lucern-Interlaken express is one of the scenic (panoramic) train journeys in Switzerland with steep gradients in the rail lines. The distance is 100 km with a travel time of 2 hours. The Train passes by waterfalls and lakes which has got outstanding colors
From Interlaken East, we have to take another train to grindelwald and a cog railway to the top or you can opt for the quicker cable car option.
Unfortunately, because of bad weather, after reaching Interlaken we had to cable our plans of going to the top. Instead we had to do indoors because of the rain and returned back. We didn’t have big regrets as we did majority of the activities in Mount Titlis.
These are the highlights of Jungfrau
Day 3: Mount Pilatus & Lucern City
After spending a rainy day in Interlaken, it was a bright and sunny day in Lucern. Mount Pilatus is the closest one and located inside the city. It is 2132m high overlooking the Lucern lake. The views are fantastic from the top.
How to reach?
From Lucern city centre catch Bus number 1 (towards Kriens) and it will drop you at the nearest bus station Zentrum Pilatus” (approx. 15 minutes) and we walked for 5 minutes to reach the base station. Our Tell pass covered the up and down cable car cost. It also includes the activities on the top.
Alternatively, you can take the train to Alpnachstad railway station and from the cogwheel railway will take you to the top. This train journey is the steepest in the world with 48 degree gradients.
Things to do at the top
Actually it was a leisure day for us. We had checked out of our accommodation and had the whole day to spend in Lucerne & Pilatus. Luggage can be stored at the base station without any charge
There is a café midway. We spent some time over these and the views were fantastic. Another cable car will take you to the top and short walk from there will take you to the summit. We didnt try the hiking trails, but the images look awesome
Panorama Gondolas & Aerial Cableway
30 minutes is all you take to reach the intermediate station. Then you connect to a aerial cableway which uplifts us to the summit station.
Tell pass will give you unlimited access to Mount Pilatus, but the equipment's & gears will be charged separately.
Restaurant @ Intermediate station
Lucern City & Lake
We spent the evening going around the city centre & Lucerne lake. Did some basic shopping around.
Our Love for Borders
Love Beyond Borders!!! Borders define not only us, but who we are. The boundaries of countries are often some of the most fought over and safely guarded locations in the world
Look at the border between France & Switzerland!! No borders, no checkpoints, no security, Just a simple small board with flags!! Interesting World
We wanted to take this type of a photo for a long long time and we were so happy to have found one
Location : Basel, Switzerland
Another thing which we usually do on the last day of our trip. Try to locate Tamil restaurants which are closeby. We found this simple Srilankan restaurant in Basel. It was located in the basement close to a bike parking lot. But we couldnt rememebr the bame or lits location. We had a heavy dinner after 4 exhaustive days "Kothu parotta, Dosai & Masala tea"
Conclusion & Our Recommendation
Switzerland is an outstanding destination. It can fit almost everyone. You can plan your Honeymoon, Vacation with kids, Winter Sports, Summer Hikes & what not. No the best if you are on a tight budget. Majority of the swiz destinations are mountains and you need be aware of the weather at the top. You will waste an entire day like how we had in Interlaken. So you need to allow contingencies while planning your trip.
We did a 3 day trip which is not be sufficient. Allow at least 5 to 7 days and plan your itinerary accordingly. I got a good recommendation about eastern Switzerland from one of my close buddy recently. Moving away from the usual tourist spots will also allow you to travel under budget.
We also got another recommendation that Austria is almost similar to Switzerland as it is an extension of the Alps. Also you can cut down your budget considerably. But we didn't wan to miss out on this trip which we had in our bucketlist for 10~15 years
Bucket list Destination