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Practical A to Z

Eating out


Service is included in the bill, but it is customary to leave at least a 5% tip.


The Swiss traditionally refer to lunch as dinner and dinner as supper. Meals are served around 12noon and 7pm in the evenings. In areas off the beaten tourist track, it is advisable not to turn up too late or the kitchen may well be closed.


“Open” wine in carafes is served in decilitres (from 2 to 5). You could, for example, order 2 decilitres of fendant (a wine grown in Switzerland). Wine by the glass is often served in relatively small glasses. Tap water is rarely drunk and in restaurants, most people order mineral water.


At midday, even if you order a single dish, a green salad will often be served as a starter (at no extra cost).


The voltage in Switzerland is 230V, 50 Hz. Two types of sockets exist in Switzerland: 2-pin C sockets and 3-pin J sockets. An international adaptor is recommended, which can be easily purchased in Switzerland.

Embassies and consulates

British Embassy –Thunstrasse 50, 3005 Berne – t 031 359 7700 – http://ukinswitzerland.fco.gov.uk/en

Irish Embassy – Kirchenfeldstrasse 68, 3005 Berne – t 031 352 1442 – http:// www.embassyofireland.ch


Also see Know before you go.


Universal European emergency number: t 112.

Police: t 117. Fire brigade: t 118. Medical emergencies: t 144.



The currency of Switzerland is the Swiss franc (abbreviated locally to CHF ).

Banks / exchange

Banks are open Monday-Friday from 8am to 4.30pm; they are closed at weekends.

You can change money in airports, the main railway stations and in some large shops and hotels. Banks offer the best exchange rates for cash (notes only) and traveller’s cheques.

Credit cards and traveller’s cheques

The major international credit cards are accepted everywhere. Large cities and most small towns and villages are equipped with ATMs.

Budget / cost of living

The Swiss Confederation is traditionally an expensive holiday destination.

It is rare to find a double room for less than CHF100-130. Don’t expect to pay less than CHF35 for a proper meal in a decent establishment. Museums are also quite expensive, but some towns do offer passes.

However, winter rentals of chalets and flats are often quite cheap, compared to France for example, although this saving is quite quickly offset by the high cost of ski passes: CHF300 minimum for 6 days.


Post offices are closed on Saturdays from 12noon. In large towns, they are extremely well equipped and some even boast a café and a stationery stand selling everything from paperclips to DVDs!

Two postage rates exist, depending on the destination (inside Switzerland or abroad): priority (A mail) for immediate despatch and non-priority (B mail), which will be despatched within 3 days.

Public holidays

Public holidays vary from canton to canton.

1 and 2 January

Good Friday

Easter Monday

Ascension Day – Moveable feast

Whit Monday

1 August – National holiday

2 nd Thursday of September – Federal Fasting Day - all cantons except Geneva.

3 rd Sunday of September – Federal Fasting Day - Geneva only.

25 and 26 December


Opening hours

Shops are open Monday-Friday from 8am-6.30pm and until 4-5pm on Saturdays. Some shops are closed on Monday morning.

Tax-free purchases

You can reclaim the VAT (7.5%) on purchases over CHF500 made in “Tax Free” shops. Ask for the form and fill it in in the shop. You will be refunded in cash by Cash Refund offices.


Calling Switzerland from abroad

00 + 41 (country code for Switzerland) + area code without the 0 + number of the person.

Calling Liechtenstein from abroad

00 + 423 (country code for Liechtenstein) + number of the person.

Calling home from Switzerland and Liechtenstein

00 + country code. For the United Kingdom: 44; for Ireland: 353.

National calls

Throughout Switzerland, always dial the 3-digit area code beginning with a 0. Pre-paid taxcards (CHF5, 10 and 20 units) for use in public phone booths can be purchased from post offices, stands and railway stations.

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