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Swiss franc & tipping questions

We are spending 4 or 5 days in Switzerland & want to know if using their currency is straightforward; easy to understand & use?
Also, what is the customary practice in Switzerland regarding tipping for services? Who gets tipped & how much? Do some places, like restaurants, include service in the bill? Thanks!

Posted by
798 posts

Well speaking as a Swiss....

On tipping it depends a lot of the size of the bill and the occasion. If the bill is small one the general approach is to just round up and if it is restaurant you round up to about 10% of the bill.

Posted by
27 posts

To be less abstruse about using different currencies, an example may clarify: in Canada, we quickly learned the loonies, toonies & with some practice we identified the different coins needed in transactions. There was a similar learning curve in the UK, so we're hoping the Swiss currency goes the same.

Posted by
419 posts

Am I the only one who has no idea of what the loonies and the toonies are?

Posted by
16169 posts

Get Swiss Francs from an ATM with your bank card. Since the value is about 10% more than US$, it is easy to gauge how expensive some things are.

Posted by
8889 posts

More detail about Swiss currency. There are different names for the subdivisions of Swiss currency in different languages,
- If you are in German-speaking Switzerland, 100 Rappen = 1 Frank
- In French-speaking Switzerland, 100 centimes = 1 franc
- in Italian, 100 centesimo = 1 franco
What names you use in English is up to you.
The official international abbreviation is "CHF". You will see this on train tickets. Otherwise most prices will just be a number, with a comma for the decimal ("4,20"), or sometimes "4,20 Fr".

Coins - picture here:
Brown: 5 Rappen.
"Silver": 10, 20 Rappen, ½, 1, 2 and 5 Frank. Note the ½ Frank (50 Rappen) is smaller than the 10 or 20 Rappen. Be warned.
Most prices are in multiples of 10 Rappen.

Notes - picture here:
Denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 1000 Franks
Each denomination is a different colour (as is the case with most currencies), They are all the same width, but the length goes up with each denomination (10 Franks = 126 × 74 mm, 20 Franks = 137 × 74 mm, up to 1000 Frank = 181 × 74 mm).
A "Bancomat" (Cash Machine / ATM) dispenses 50, 100 and sometimes 200 Frank notes.

Switzerland is more of a cash-economy then other European countries. Do not expect credit cards to be taken, always ask first.

Notes contain all 4 Swiss languages. Coins are marked "Helvetia" (=Switzerland in latin) because there is no room for more than one language.

TIPPING - If in doubt, don't.
Restaurant, if you are a group, round up. But for 1 or 2 diners, you will often see people hand over notes, then wait for the correct change.
Taxi drivers usually expect it, but not necessary unless they have done something special, like carrying your bags.
Anything else - no.

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks so much Chris. Taking the GAS tour, I was wondering about this myself. It helps to be prepared when it comes to your money.

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks to all for the info & suggestions. This gives us a place to start getting familiar with the currency.

Posted by
798 posts

@Chris F

In 25 years living in Switzerland I have very rarely seen a Swiss not leave a tip of some kind. Servers are in variable foreign seasonal workers with restricted work permits on low wages (we have no min. wage) and rely on tips to arrive at a reasonable wage. So yes tips are most definitely expected as it is very unusual for service charges to be included in the bill.

Posted by
113 posts


Thanks for posting this. I had not even thought about the differences with the Swiss franc and the different names for their coinage. I usually read the coins and look for the actual number on so I become familiar with them. I have tried to learn enough German to get by and this was not part of that.

@Chris, Thank you giving us the information we will need as tourists in Switzerland and their monetary system. I like to use cash when I travel abroad, but I am still trying to figure out all my transportation costs so I have enough cash for all the cable cars needed to tour around the Berner Oberland area.


Posted by
16877 posts

You can think of the value of a Swiss Franc as a "large" U.S. dollar. Currently, shows the typical ATM exchange rate at $1.12 to the Swiss Franc. You might want to print a traveler's cheat sheet from that site, using the ATM or credit card rate (not the inter-bank rate). Swiss currency comes in pretty standard denominations, as shown on Chris' links. Feel free to take your time if you need to count your change.

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks, Laura & to all, for really good information. We are becoming familiar with the Swiss currency & the preparation will make for a more enjoyable adventure.