First time to Switzerland

Hello- We are first time overseas travelers..my daughter and I are accompanying my husband to Geneva on a business trip. We will be in Switzerland for ten days and need help with an itinerary. I have read many of Rick's tips and watched his videos..he suggests flying in to one city and out of another..is this feasible? (i.e. flying in to Geneva and out of Zurich?) We plan to have several days after his meetings to sightsee..our daughter is 10 and we like to hike and bike..but also would like to incorporate some museums, etc..I am a bit overwhelmed with what rail pass to purchase..lodging, currency..I am assuming credit cards are widely accepted. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks very much, Stacey

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17736 posts

Stacey, As this is your first time abroad, I'd highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door prior to your trip. It includes a lot of good information on "how" to travel in Europe (including money matters and credit cards). After that use the country-specific Guidebook to plan your hotels, sightseeing, transportation, etc. A few questions..... > I'm assuming your husband's air fare is covered by the business, and therefore they'll be booking return tickets to Geneva? > Will your husband be able to travel with you for the 10 days, or will it just be you and your daughter exploring Switzerland? > Do you have any interest in seeing any other countries while in that area? > WHEN will this trip be taking place? Regarding transportation, you won't be able to get an accurate idea on whether a Pass will be worthwhile until you've decided where you'll be going. There are good lodgings suggestions in various price ranges and location in the Switzerland Guidebook. You should be able to find a copy in your local Library if you don't want to buy one. You can also download as an E-book if you have a Kindle, iPad, Nook or other Reader (be sure to check the issue date though, as the E-books are often not published until 3 months or so after the print versions - you may be buying last year's edition). You'll be using Swiss Francs while there. Note that for ATM use, your funds must usually be in a chequing account with a four-number PIN. It's a good idea to wear a Money Belt, even in Switzerland, as there will be pickpockets working. As the others have mentioned, Switzerland can be expensive so be prepared for a bit of "price shock". The Berner Oberland is a big favourite with many here, and that would be a great area for hiking and biking. Happy travels!

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6698 posts

Stacey. First, it is quite common to fly into one city and out of another. We've done it several times. Even now, I have my wife and daughter flying into Venice and out of Rome. Most airlines can set this up for you. They even have a multi-city link on their web pages for this purpose. Or, you can call them. For using our United Mileage Plus points, we have to call. Note that Geneva and Zurich are not that far apart but it still can be beneficial to save some travel time. As for a Swiss pass, a lot depends on how much you will travel in Switzerland and where you will go there. In general, if you intend to spend more than 240CHF in retail train tickets, which is not hard to do), you could consider some type of Swiss pass or card. Note that you only need a ticket for you. In Switzerland, your 10-year old will travel free as long as 1) she is either with you or her father, 2) you have a valid train ticket for the train you are on and, 3) she has a Swiss family card which is free with the purchase of tickets. Not bad so far. Next, you might consider the Swiss half-fare card. It costs 120CHF and is good for 30 days. It does what it's name says. 1/2 fares on all Swiss transportation. This includes going up to the top of both the Jungfrau and the Schilthorn. Again, your daughter rides free with the Swiss Family Card. Just buy the 1/2 fare card at your first Swiss staffed train station and, ask for free Swiss Family Card. Have you considered 2-day mini-trips. Lucerne/Mt. Rigi? Muerren/Schilthorn or Jungrau? Muerren is 3.5hrs away. Lucerne is 3.0hrs away. Chamonix-Mt. Blanc with the great ride up to Aiguille du Midi is just over an hour ride on a mini-bus from the Geneva airport. Stay at the wonderful Hotel L'Oustalet.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2821 posts

First, before booking flights, you need to figure out what you want to see. Yes, open jaw flights (called "multi city" on Internet booking sites like http://www.kayak.com/) can be great. If, for instance, you want to see the Lake Geneva area, the Berner Oberland, and Luzern, flying into Geneva and out of Zurich makes the most sense. But, if you're going to see the area around Lake Geneva only, it makes more sense to do a round trip. You say you only have "several days" after the business trip, so don't try to do too much. Geneva and Zurich have nonstop service to the US. Other airports in Switzerland are Bern and Basel. Kayak offers an option of "include nearby airports" when you put in a search city - very handy. The currency of Switzerland is the Swiss Franc. For cash, you get it out of ATM's there, and you can also use credit cards. Details here (read each individual entry and you'll be a pro): http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/money-travel-tips.htm Your next step should be go get a guidebook or two (start with Rick Steves, but do look at others too). You then have the difficult part: paring down what you can see in the time you have. There's no way to figure out rail passes and lodging until you know exactly where in the country you'll be. Once you do know, post another note, and you'll get lots of help. Do be prepared for sticker shock - Switzerland is a very expensive country, and even "cheap" meals and hotels cost a lot compared to other European countries. The prices seem high to me, living in NYC, so I can only imagine what they will look like to someone in Missouri!

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6698 posts

Now we get a little crazy. If this was my wife and daughter, they would be out of there in a heartbeat. Florence can be 6.0hrs away with one train change in Milan. Stay at the wonderful Tourist House Ghiberti B&B. Or, Venice is 7.0hrs away with 2 train changes. Paris is 4.0hrs away. Plan for 2 nights in any of these locations. Your Swiss card won't cover you while in Italy or France but wonderful hubby can cover these costs. I say that as a husband who has his wife and adult daughter currently booked for a mother/daughter trip to Italy later this year. I dont' get to go but they get my airline and hotel points. It couldn't be better. Also, my wife often accompanies me on business trips and simply takes off while I'm on business. A couple of years ago, I left her at the great Hilton in Shanghai for a 5 days while I had to travel 2hrs away for a business project. She did just fine. Go for it. By the way, I just told my wife about this message and if you would be so kind, she is very interested in what you ultimately choose to do. A report back would be appreciated.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2254 posts

The City of Geneva is surrounded on 3 sides by France. So don't feel you are limited to Switzerland. In fact, the far end of the runway at Geneva airport is the border. So feel free to visit Annecy, or Lyon while you are there. You will notice a price difference for things like food and drink, as Switzerland has gotten very expensive (punishment for keeping their finances in order). Credit cards are accepted, but decline the option of paying in dollars (dynamic currency exchange). Always have the transcation done in the local currency.
I think if you are accompaning your husband on a business trip, I would assume the employer will ticket him in and out of Geneva. No worries, Switzerland is small enough to get almost anywhere in the country in a few hours via fast train. Most flights from the US will land in Zurich. There are only a handful of flights from NY or Wash DC fly direct to Geneva. Its only about a 40 minute flight from Z to G. Its 3 hours on the train.

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

Stacey, I don't believe you ever stated when this trip would take place, that could have a bearing on what is available and how feasible it was to do.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
708 posts

I agree about Swiss food being pricey! We were in Zurich and hubby bought a hot dog/fries/drink from a street vendor, which here we may pay about $7-10, was the equiv of about $17 converted...

Posted by Stacey
Trenton, Missouri, USA
4 posts

A BIG thank you to all who replied to me! I neglected to give the dates of our trip..it will be 6/17/13-6/27/13. We are flying in to Geneva, but considering flying out of Zurich. I am afraid we won't have enough time for everything..my husband will be in meetings all day, so I would like to venture out with my daughter during the day and meet back up with my husband in the evening. Suggestions? We enjoy the outdoors, but also like history, museums, food!..my husband mentioned that he might like to go to Germany..I am not sure this would be possible due to time constraints..any suggestions there would be helpful as well. Thanks again, Stacey

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

There are many day trip options from Geneva. The obvious one is to take the train to Lausanne and then Montreux. Go visit the Chillon castle. You can take the cogwheel train up to the Rocher-de-Naye from Montreux. There is a neat little museum of games in La-Tour-de-Peilz (between Vevey and Montreux) located inside the castle that kids enjoy.
http://www.museedujeu.com/web/

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

Stacey, now that we know when and a little more about you.....I find Geneva interesting, will your 10 year old think the same? Are you willing to go by train on your own?(yourself and daughter). You two ladies should consider going to Castle Chillion. If this works out consider another day trip either to Berner Oberland or Luzern. I also like someone's proposal of Annecy. If you 2 or 3 are more adventuresome go to Chamonix/Mt. Blanc. You have soooooo many choices!Good Luck!!

Posted by Will
Columbia, SC
315 posts

If your husband has three or four days off at the end of the trip, the easy choice is to head straight for the Lauterbrunnen valley (the most picturesque part of the Berner Oberland). Some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, with good hiking opportunities. From there you could fly out of Zurich, though Geneva isn't much farther. Depending on your time you could add short stops in Lucerne and Zurich itself. Get a good "comprehensive" guidebook to Switzerland such as Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide. Rick Steves has a negative opinion of Geneva, and the RS guidebook has poor coverage of the city-- so not a good choice in your case.

Posted by JS
Bay Area
2081 posts

Lucky you to be so close to the beauty of Lake Geneva. Lausanne is a great lakeside town that features a lovely promenade w/ sculptures, The Olympic Museum, and an upper town to be explored.I am sure you can rent bikes along the promenade. Take the antique paddle wheel boat on the lake to Chateau Chillion both a real and special treat. Walk then take the train back from Montreux to your base. I would stay close to Geneva rather than fly out. Mt Blanc and Annecy are very nice visits or overnight and can easily be done by bus or train. Yes Switzerland can be expensive but follow Rick Steves guidebk for his restaurant suggestions etc. You can control the high costs if you follow his bk. With your jet lag 10 days soon goes and you will find close to geneva works out just fine. enjoy.