Switzerland - Extra Tips from Experience

Lol, here's another very late Switzerland post. I thought it would be useful!

Bring some Food Clips 

We stayed in Airbnbs and enjoyed cooking! We often bought stuff like chicken, cheese or bread and these come in some kind of plastic packaging. Food clips come in very handy if you do not use everything at one go! 

You don't need a huge water bottle.

I actually brought an empty 1.5 litre bottle for hikes, but this turned out mostly to be useless! Water is available readily in most places in the form of public fountains. You can also drink from the tap, so any bathroom would also do in a pinch. 

I found that water in different regions of Switzerland taste different. The water in Zermatt was the sweetest to us, while Zurich's tasted more salty for some reason. 

Hiking Shoes?

We got away with wearing sports shoes from New Balance and Nike. While hiking shoes offer more ankle support, they also add more weight and I would probably tire even more easily. For 'easy' hikes and beginner trails, you can probably just wear your sports shoes. You may want to invest in a good pair of hiking shoes however, if you envision yourself hiking often in the future. The terrain in Singapore doesn't really require hiking shoes, and we have no idea where else to hike after seeing these seemingly unbeatable views, so we decided to go without. It turned out fine.

Map app

A very handy offline map is the https://organicmaps.app/. Great when coverage isn't super good when you're high up in the mountains or trekking in who knows where.

The SBB App is indispensable to us. We have the Swiss Travel pass that enables us to hop onto any train or bus (but you still have to pay for gondolas and special scenic trains etc). However, you still need to check the timings! 

Here's how it looks like:

Just key in your start and ending locations and you will be able to check out various timings and routes at a glance. It is super useful as it shows you which platform you have to be at. Sometimes you only have a matter of 3 minutes before the connecting train arrives, so we sometimes do a mad rush - but it gets easier and more familiar with time.

The only bad thing is that you need mobile data or wifi to access their timetables. 

Mobile Data

We looked up some mobile data carriers beforehand but when we reached the airport, the rates were completely different. Many of the telecoms offered an unlimited data plan for say one week or more for quite a sum. (Sorry, can't remember how much.)

We ended up using airport wifi to activate Mobile Roaming from our carrier (Giga!). It's called the gigaRoam ROTW (Rest of the World) and you get 1GB for 15 days. We mostly only needed data for getting around. I also recommend that you deactivate Mobile Data use on Instagram if you're a doom scroller like me. You wouldn't want to waste your precious data on that! XD

Making full use of your Swiss Travel Pass to visit Museums and other attractions

We visited quite a few museums on our trip! Sometimes we head there intentionally, but sometimes we just stumble upon on them on our walks. Museums are a great way to spend the day especially when you're too tired for a hike (our poor knees) or when the weather doesn't look forgiving. 

My favourite museum was the Giger Museum at Gruyeres. For some reason when I was doing my research on the place back in Singapore, the museum was slated to be closed on the day we wanted to visit. To my surprise it was open (and free) for us! What a great surprise.

Giger's art is very detailed, dark, sometimes startling but very absolutely fascinating. His art style is described as 'biomechanical'. I LOVE the works, especially the ink ones. Full works are spectacular but sketches have their own charm. 

Anyway, he bought this castle building and it showcases his works and some pieces from the movie franchise, Alien.

We also visited the Matterhorn Museum and the Swiss National Museum. 

Matterhorn Museum -where you learn more about who actually 'conquered' famous peaks - native Swiss or the Brits or the Italians? Sobering history lesson that I never expected but in which I found many parallels due to our unique position of being sandwiched in between countries etc. (Except of course the Swiss have important resources like water and land!)

Key thing to note when visiting the Swiss National Museum: The museum is split into two main buildings. We spent too much time in one which housed the temporary exhibitions (about deforestation, Awards of Press photos), when in fact I was more interested in their Permanent exhibits, which focused more about the country's history, including fashion, armour, and various historical artefacts.) The museum closed at about 5pm so we could only do a quick walkthrough of the second building. The buildings are not really linked in an intuitive manner, and I would have left the museum disappointed had I not seen photos of the permanent exhibition in an online review beforehand! They also gave a very terrible map and there were not many signs leading to the other building... so please note this if you are planning to visit!

Most train stations (and trains) have free to use toilets. However, to our dismay, Zurich HB (and some major train stations) charges for a toilet visit. Malls have clean toilets, but what if you need to go when you're out in town? Most shops will allow you to use their toilet if you buy something from them. Sometimes the toilet is maybe two or three floors down in the basement. We've seen some English people traipse into a shop's toilet despite the shop owner telling them to buy something first. They kept saying 'Ok, ok', but in the end they left as hurriedly as they came. Awful T_T 

In the major city areas, you can get by with English. Swiss language is a mix of German and French (to me) and some of their own dialect and words. Depending on where you visit, the language changes (just like dialects). However most Swiss are quite nice in our experience (or at least used to the sight of tourists) so the language barrier can always be broken with respect and kindness. 

That's all from me! Hope these came in handy, and I hope you enjoyed your trip. Our trip was so fun and beautiful that we keep thinking that we have peaked. Gosh.

More Switzerland posts