Friday, August 10, 2007

Switzerland Travel Tips

Just in case all you "bloggers" don't check your email, here are some handy travel tips from Dave Dunham. - Richard Bolt

Drink plenty of fluids, and remember that alcoholic beverages and caffeinated beverages have a dehydrating effect. The tap water in Northern Europe is generally safe to drink, although its high mineral content can cause minor upsets if you’re not used to it.

To avoid Jet-lag it is best to try and get an overnight flight to Europe and sleep as much as possible on the flight. You should then try and get on European time as soon as possible (don’t take a nap; it may make getting to sleep the first night very difficult).

Currency exchange facilities are widely available in Europe. There are exchange offices at airports and central train stations, in the central business districts in cities and at border crossing points. They are often open extended hours in the summer and during vacations. Most hotel reception desks also will exchange currency. Exchange rates are normally displayed and are available in newspapers. Your best bet may be to take your Debit card if you need cash - - but check with your bank on charges for withdrawals. Credit cards (see below) are great for most purchases and the exchange rate is calculated which saves you on transferring money to another currency and you invariably end up with extra Euros or Swiss Francs when you return home!

Credit cards are an easy and trouble-free method of payment to use when traveling abroad. AMEX, MC, and Visa are the most widely accepted; check with our credit card company prior to departure if you have any doubt about its use abroad. Keep a record of your card number in a separate place and note the international phone number to report card loss in case yours is misplaced or stolen.

Leave valuable jewelry at home, ostentatious displays mark you as a prospective target for theft. Never leave your bags unattended. Train stations normally provide lockers or check desks where you can leave a heavy bag while sightseeing. If traveling by car, keep your doors locked in slow-moving traffic or when driving through busy urban areas, and put everything in the trunk while the car is parked.

Currency – the Swiss franc (SF) is divided into 100 centimes or “Rappen” the denominations for Franc bills are 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes and 1, 2 and 5 SF. For more info visit:

Electricity – 220 volt power. Electrical sockets take plugs with two round pins. SU appliances will need a plug adapter and a transformer if they do not have a dual-voltage facility. You can pick converters up at WalMart, Target, Walgreens, etc.

Driving – Drive on the right. Police can impose on-the-spot fines for speeding. Seat belts must be worn in the front and back seats at all times.

Rest rooms – Most toilets (Toiletten) are clean and well maintained. They are indicated by a variety of signs such as “WC”. Women’s may be designated “Damen, Fauen, Femmes, Dames, Signore or Donne”; Men’s may be designated “Herren, Manner, Hommes, Messieurs, Signori or Uomini”.

Phones – You can make international calls from most European telephones. You can use cash or a prepaid phone card (Kartentelefon). Most phones have direct dialing for international calls.
Emergency numbers
Police= 117
Fire= 118
Ambulance= 117 or 144.

Trains – most countries in Europe have a national train system, with trains operating across national borders. Service is generally efficient although local routes with frequent stops can be slow.

Stores – Typically close in the afternoon on Saturday by 4 or 5 PM. Many stores close from noon- 1:30 for lunch.

Reflecting Switzerland’s location in central Europe, the Swiss speak four different languages; Schwyzerdutsch, a Swiss-German dialect; French; Italian; and Romansch, and ancient Latin tongue. 18% of the population in SW Switzerland speak French and south of the Alps Italian is spoken. Most Swiss (65%) speak German. An attempt to say a few words in any of Switzerland’s languages will always be appreciated.

Trains run punctually, hotels are clean and comfortable, opening times for attractions are reliable, and everyone connected with tourism speaks English. Switzerland is also generally expensive.

Although most Swiss are excellent linguist, it’s polite to ask if they speak English before starting a conversation or asking a question.

Be polite – bitte, prego or je vous en prie is the equivalent of “you’re welcome” and it’s important to use one of these expressions when you’re thanked.

The traditionally French “raclette” is undergoing a revival in Switzerland and is quite good. A whole block of cheese is cut into slices and melted, then draped over boiled potatoes and is eaten with gherkins, smoked ham and sausage.

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