I have been thinking about writing my day logs for the family trip to Switzerland. Today is 4th day. Days are long & filled with activities and night is occupied with next day plan and crash. Today I have caught up some sleep in the afternoon and hence thought to start this.
Notes about Switzerland
- Day & business starts early & closes early. I was surprised to see that stores close as early as 7 pm and remain closely on Sat/Sun. They may remain open longer on big cities like Zurich but general trend is business closes early. By 10 pm, cities are asleep. roads are empty. Smaller cities like Luzern, Interlaken, Thun – it is even earlier. Restaurants take last order at 9:30 pm. Some close by 10 pm. You get the point. Day closes early. Weekends – shops are closed including the chain stores like COOP. Some outlets especially in the main railway station of the city remain open on weekend & close little late.
- I was by myself (not booking through travel agent) and moving around by self – travelerwifi.com has been the best thing that I had planned.
- google map is probably the best thing happened to mankind. I used it for walking / commuting to hotel from train station, indian restaurants close to hotel. It shows all commute options including bus, train, walk including train/bus schedule, platform details.
- Public Transport is very well organized – Trains/bus/trams are run on time & very structured. They start & leave from the specified platform on time. e.g. 8:01pm means 8:01pm
- People expect that you read & follow the instructions. Generally they are detailed and you can help yourself. They meant to be organized. I think they don’t like you asking when it is already called out clearly in the sign boards. e.g. train station subway will have clear marking how to exit towards tram station with a tram sign. similarly for the bus. Following this we could reach the bus station @ Thun, boat pier @ Interlaken West and tram station @ Bern.
- Please don’t take shortcuts e.g. Cross the road when human crossing sign is red. I made this mistake on the train track. Crossing the train track instead of taking the subway and someone showed me the sign board! It is prohibited & not break the structure of the country.
- People are helpful especially ladies. First day on airport when we struggled to open the door for the train (the green button mentioned below) and could not identify whether the train on platform is correct one – one lady standing there – came to us and clarified.
- Switzerland also is hot in summer. We found temperature reach 26-29 C in the day/evening. There is no provision for AC in most hotels. Some don’t have fan. You will need to open windows. Global warming is likely causing the cities to warm up. When you enter a hotel like this – be patient. It found it to be trend in Luzern, Interlaken, Thun.
- Hotels are costly. They will typically start @ CHF 270 per night and go up to CHF 370. They will have basic amenities only. Don’t expect room service, some won’t have room phone also, reception closes by 9-11pm. Each room occupant will get a external door key as well so that he can help himself if he comes in late!
- Bathrooms will not have health-jets for toilets. Only paper to clean self!
- Typically tap water is good to drink. but check with your hotel.
- Carry a bottle with you so that you can fill the tap water to carry.
- I bought fruits from chain stores like COOPs. This is required since you can’t go on daily restaurant food without getting stomach trouble. Eating fruits & orange juice helped. No salad. Depended on fruits.
I bought the Swiss Travel pass on the Zurich airport for CHF 376 for 8 days. One child goes free with an adult. We need to buy two of them. Whether it has been cost effective – I don’t know yet. It has been certainly convenient. Once I finish the trip – I would know whether I have made enough rail trips to make for the pass amount. Since I did not have time to plan in detail and add up cost of train travel to decide whether to purchase the pass or purchase individual tickets – I took a blind call to buy the pass.
I found that Luzern, Interlaken hotels gave me hotel card and mentioned that the local travel will be complimentary. I did not use it since I already have the travel pass.
I booked the Glacier express (reservation required) on the Zurich airport itself. I knew exact date when I wanted to make that trip. This cost additional around 120 for the 4 members. Reservation of seats is not complimentary with Swiss travel pass. I booked from Zermatt to Chur in Glacier express.
There are simple things about public transport that I did not know & experienced first time here.
- Trains door has a green lighted button like we have in lifts – to open the door. On a platform, once the train reaches – you may need to press the button to board or leave the train.
- Buses / Trams door also have the same button system.
- Some old trains may have an handle to open the door.
- Most of the trains have automatic doors & have a live schedule. Watching this on screen you would know e.g. what is the next station or how many minutes it will take to reach there?
- The platform shoes the next train/bus that is due to come along with a count down in minutes. Sometimes there is a previous train that has not cleared the platform yet. In that case – you may need to read the display on the outside of the train.
- do your google first in the hotel. That will help directly go to the platform right away.
- Bear with first 2-3 journey. You will be comfortable there after. It is very simply & structured system.
- I would not suggest to use cash. It will be too much hassle. I have seen some people using a card, some using mobile wallet for the tickets. We used swiss travel pass. Ticket checker comes and enquires in most of the trains. You can show your pass.
We packed bunch of food from home. That helped survive the breakfast & lunch. During the day – we are roaming around as well. Evenings I would go to the Indian restaurant available in the vicinity and having good rating in google. We went to these restaunts
- Kanchi @ Luzern
- Gourm India @ Luzern
- India Village @ Interlaken
- Namaste India @ Bern (Reachable by 20 minute express train from Thun)
Suggest to go early after 7 pm. Like I said – day ends early specially in not big cities.
I could buy it online for around CHF 10 per day for a 8 day visit. I could collect it at the Zurich airport. Website has step by step details about how to collect the device & reach the “Service Center” desk. Device comes charged and works out of the box right at the airport. There might be other competing devices like this. I did not get to research others.
The device works for around 4-5 hours I think. I used to put it for recharge over night. Use it during the day. By end of day or later half – it will drain. It will be great if the device can come with some more juice. There is option to buy another battery. It works out great. Carrying a powerful powerbank helps. I use it to charge my mobile. It can also recharge the device.