When we think of Switzerland, the things that come to our mind include beautiful sceneries, snow capped mountains, beautiful lakes, Swiss watches and chocolates. Switzerland is all about scenery, but it has a bit of everything.
From our childhood we are watching Bollywood movies with a lot of Switzerland destinations and then came Yash chopra movies that make Switzerland a dream destination for all Indians. It was our dream to visit Switzerland and when we were planning our first DIY trip to Europe we knew one thing for sure that we would definitely visit Switzerland.
Switzerland is a mountainous Central European country. This land locked country is home to numerous lakes, historic towns /villages, alpine mountain regions, ski resorts and business hubs. This small country technically doesn’t have a capital; the accepted ‘federal center’ is Bern. There are four official languages in Switzerland; French, German, Italian and Rhaeto-Romantsch but English is understood by majority of the population. Switzerland is also known as Confoederatio Helvetica – in short CH and its currency Confoederatio Helvetica Franc (CHF).
We started by flying into Zurich on a direct flight from Dubai. We flew Swiss Air and the experience was good.
Locker facility at Train stations and Zurich airport
When you travel, it’s not always practical to take your luggage with you everywhere you go. If you arrive early and wish to visit the city before leaving to your final destination or changing your location from one place to another while vising the city in between, it’s much more convenient to store your luggage to a secured place and pick it up later when you leave.
In Switzerland almost all the train stations provide a locker service, which allow you to leave your luggage and make the most of your time there. Most of the lockers at stations are card and coin operated except Zurich airport which is only coin operated.
We reach Zurich early morning and want to visit Rhine fall before leaving for Thun, so we decided to store our luggage at Zurich airport and then go for sightseeing. Locker service is available at Zurich Airport in small, medium and large sizes and that can be used for up to 72 hours. The lockers are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These lockers are coin operated and you need a lot of coins which is not always practical.
There is another luggage storage facility at the Zürich Airport Railway Station where luggage can be left for a few hours and up to maximum three months. There are not lockers, but an attendant will store luggage in a room and this place is always manned. The left luggage room is properly sign posted (Gepäckaufbewahrung/Left Luggage) and is above the ticket counter. For purpose of storage and payment there are four categories of luggage: hand luggage, regular luggage, clothing and shopping bags. Minimum time charged is four hours. Storage charges for Hand bag starts at 5 CHF for 4 hours/ 8 CHF for 24 hours and regular luggage starts at 7 CHF for 4 hours/ 12 CHF for 24 hours. At the time of depositing the bags they will give you a receipt. You have to pay at the end when collecting your luggage. Cash and card both are accepted.
Moving around in Switzerland
After depositing our luggage at left luggage room we went to the ticket counter for buying Swiss pass.
All the Swiss cities are best explored on foot, but there are more interesting places, natural scenery and mountain top that can be easily explored using public transport. Switzerland is having one of the densest and efficient public transport systems in the world. We have planned an 8 day vacation in Switzerland, so we have already decided to buy the Swiss Pass for 8 days, which we have done at the international airport train station.
After getting our Swiss pass we left for visiting Rhine fall and experienced our first rail journey in Switzerland. Trains are frequent, comfortable and no reservation required. In Switzerland travelling by train is itself an amazing experience. After returning from Rhine fall we collected our luggage and catch a direct train for Thun, our base for next one week.
Vegetarian food in Switzerland
Since I am a vegetarian and looking for a vegetarian only restaurant before my trip but unable to find any restaurant and vegan restaurants are also few in major cities only. So we decided to book a self-catering apartment for our week long stay and make our own breakfast and dinner. You can find an Indian restaurant at all the major tourist destination which has a vegetarian menu. The most common name for Indian restaurant at most places is Bollywood restaurant.
Where to stay in Switzerland
Should you stay in two different places or at one place? The answer depends on where exactly you want to visit and how much you are willing to travel. Staying at two places reduces the amount of time spent in train journey, but you may lose a day in shifting and getting adjusted to the new place.
We want to explore the Bernese Oberland area and the most central place to stay and move around is Interlaken. For a real Swiss experience we want to stay in between the locals and Interlaken is full of tourists, so we ruled out this place. Brienz and Laturbernn is best for staying but on the last day we have to catch 10:30 AM train for Paris from Basel and we have to start from these places very early. Finally we settled for Thun which is a small beautiful town near to most of the attractions we planned to visit.
Hiring Apartment or Chalet
We hired an Airbnb apartment away from main shopping district and old town. It was another side of the train station but within walk-able distance. Our apartment was a two bedroom apartment with both bedrooms on different floors and a fully furnished kitchen. It was in the middle of a residential area and we have a great experience staying there.
Basic shopping in Switzerland
In evening we went for grocery shopping at the nearby Migros supermarket chain and found it was closed. Grocery stores, bakery and shops close at 6 PM in most towns in Switzerland. Evening time, which is considered as a business time in most parts of the world, Swiss consider that as a family time. Almost all the shops close at 6 PM and the people spend evening with their family. If you miss the 6 PM deadline, go to the COOP stores at train stations which close at 8 PM. (Shops at Bern station remain open till 9 PM).
Our Swiss itinerary
We stayed eight days in Switzerland and have a pleasant time there. Our day to day itinerary is below.
Some of the places are nearby and can be done in combination while for others you have to spare a full day. I hope these will help you to plan your own trip.