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Switzerland Travel Guide

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Switzerland is one of the best countries in which to travel in the entire world. It has an advanced, interconnected system involving trains, buses, trams, automobiles, boats, and even bicycles
Switzerland is one of the best countries in which to travel in the entire world. It has an advanced, interconnected system involving trains, buses, trams, automobiles, boats, and even bicycles. And even with all its motorized transportation, Switzerland is pedestrian friendly. The system is run so meticulously that missing a connection because of a late arrival - commonplace in many other countries - hardly ever happens in Switzerland. If your schedule is coordinated with only a short time between an arrival and a departure, you almost never have to worry about a late arrival derailing your schedule. There's a cost for this, naturally. Travel in Switzerland is relatively expensive, and even short term tourists are advised to consider buying one of the many Swiss Travel Pass options.

Public boat transportation is available on all the larger lakes, which are served by steamers run by the Swiss Federal Railways, or affiliated private companies that accept national travel passes. Lakes with public transportation are Zug, Brienz, Thun, Murten, Biel, Neuchatel, Lugano, Lucerne, Constance, and Geneva. Note the absence of Lago Maggiore in the list.

Public transport within cities is linked, whether by bus, tram, or train. Normally, you must buy tickets before you board from the ticket dispensers at the stops. Sometimes there are machines on board, but don't count on this. In some cities in Switzerland, single tickets may come with a time limit for travel inside a certain zone, and you can only split off your journey within that time period. Sometimes multiple tickets are available at at discount, and you validate them using the on-board machine when you start your journey. One-day passes are almost always a better value, however. Public transport inspectors frequently check for people trying to travel without a ticket. The fine for doing this is up to 80 Swiss francs, payable on the spot.

The rail network is supplemented by yellow postal buses, which follow postal routes and connecting towns in the less accessible mountainous regions. The postal buses are absolutely punctual. Their schedules are made so that they correspond to train schedules, for those changing transportation methods.

You can pay a flat rate of 12 Swiss francs to send your luggage ahead to a post office for you to pick up later. This is extremely handy for hikers who make heavy use of the postal buses. There are also buses late at night for those who have stayed late at a club or who must meet an oddly scheduled flight on weekend nights. The fares for postal buses are similar to train fares. An all day scenic journey on a postal bus can cost 30 to 80 Swiss francs.

If you want to rent a car or a motorcycle, think twice. Driving in a mountainous environment requires concentration. Driving in a foreign country requires concentration. You will have to really put your mind to your task of driving safely and you'll likely miss a lot of the gorgeous Swiss scenery that abounds. You'll also have to find parking in cities, which can be both inconvenient and expensive. Unleaded petrol (green pumps) and diesel (black pumps) are widely available. Due to large fluctuations in fuel prices, you are advised to check them before filling up or planning a car journey.

Central city parking is controlled by meters during the workday and costs 1 to 1.5 Swiss francs per hour, with maximum limits of two hours or less. Streets without meters are usually "blue zones," which allow a 1.5 hour stay during the workday. Occasionally you will find "red zones" which allow a generous 15 hour maximum. For either blue or red zones, you have to display a parking disc in your window that shows the time you parked your car. You can get them for free from tourist offices, car hire firms, and police stations

If you want to rent a car, you will probably get a better rate if you book ahead from your home country. The rates are quite expensive, even then: 300 to 500 Swiss francs a week. Normally the minimum rental age is 25 and you must have a credit card. You can probably drive a Swiss rental car into most EU countries, but you cannot drive them in Greece, Ukraine, Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Albania.

The Swiss railway network is a combination of state and privately run operators. All major train stations are connected by trains that depart every hour between 6 a.m. and midnight. Longer distance trains will have a dining car, and there is no smoking allowed on trains or in train stations. You can gain a rough idea of how much your fare will be by estimating 30 Swiss francs per 100 km. If you have a national travel pass, you'll save money. You won't save money buying return (two way) fares unless it is for a long trip, though sometimes off-season deals can save you some money. If you plan on traveling first class, add another 50 to 60% to the regular fare.

While travel in Switzerland is relatively expensive, the punctual service, safety, and cleanliness make it a worthwhile expense.

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