Travelog

In Switzerland for the 1st time: How did I prepare for the trip

I am currently planning my vacation in Switzerland (I started writing the article in the summer of 2023) and in addition to the classic things like what to see where, I realized that there are also quite a few things that one should be careful about before departure. In this article I will use Switzerland as an example, but of course all the points can be applied to other countries as well. I’m going to try not to write a novel, think of this as a list of things to check – Google has more info 🙂


1. Electrical plugs

Most of Europe has the same plugs as we know them from the Czech Republic. For example, the UK and Ireland have different ones (identical to each other). Italy has another and so does Switzerland. Your Czech mobile phone charger wouldn’t fit in either. And while this is something that can be bought on the spot, I personally prefer to have two travel adapters with me upon arrival for several reasons – a) the flight may be delayed and you’ll arrive at the hotel very late, your power bank will be depleted and so will your phone or my favorite b) the hotel will lend you an adapter, but for a crazy fee. In Munich, in a hostel (!) they wanted 10 euros to rent. These adapters can be bought in Ireland for 2 euro each (okay, the Swiss one cost me 10, but Switzerland is special). They usually don’t have adapters on Airbnb (at least from my experience). So – don’t forget to google it and buy it ahead of time so there are no surprises!

2. Are the shops open on Sundays?

For example, they are not in Germany and neither are they in Switzerland (the truth is that, for example, clothing stores are closed, but some supermarkets are open, but not all of them and they are only open for a limited time). Also, check on the map how close such a grocery store is to your accommodation, so that you can buy the necessary things in advance if the nearest store is far away and the time would not suit you.

3. Discounts on public transport

Not every country has it – in Ireland, for example, you have a hard time (I don’t really count the Leap card). But in Switzerland they have several discounted travel passes – either according to the area you are going to or for the whole of Switzerland (Swiss Travel Pass). These travel passes are for a certain number of days and you get unlimited free transport by bus, train, cruise ship and either completely free or discounted cable cars throughout Switzerland or in the area for which you bought the travel pass. This way, you can save hundred(s) of euro, and the best part is that you don’t have to book anything in advance – you just get on the means of transport and drive. More info about these travel passes for Switzerland here – https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ie/planning/transport-accommodation/tickets-public-transport/regional-passes/ and https://www.swiss-pass.ch/.

This is really worth it, whether you are planning to travel all over Switzerland or just to the mountains. Swiss trains run almost all over the country and there is no corner where you cannot get to. In addition, the prices for these passes do not change like for example for flights or hotels, so it does not matter if you buy them x months or a day in advance.

4. Internet/SIM card

If you are traveling outside the European Union, you will most likely need a local SIM card. Mobile data charges outside the EU are really not worth it. In addition to the physical SIM card for your mobile phone, there are also so-called e-sim cards. However, they are not supported by all mobile phones (you can easily google if your phone supports them). If your phone doesn’t support e-sim, then I recommend spending some time on Google to find the best deal for a prepaid SIM card, and then also where that phone company’s branch is located, and if so, take a screenshot or download an offline Google map so you’ll easily go there from your accommodation while being offline.

I decided to invest in SwissCom, where a SIM for 7 days cost me 20 CHF (22 euros). Yes, it’s insanely expensive. Unfortunately, I had no choice and at the time it was the best price offer on the market.

5. Toilets, toilets, toilets

One of my favorites here in Ireland too. Thanks to my arachnophobia, I can’t go to the toilet everywhere (sometimes even at home). And on top of that, sometimes you have to pay for the toilets and I often don’t have change with me. My tips – google shopping centers in advance if you’re going to be in cities. They mostly have toilets and are in fairly good condition. If you are going to nature, then train and bus stations and perhaps restaurants.

I also recommend directly googling the names of locations + toilets. Thanks to this, I found out that in Basel you can go to the toilet in shops, cafes and restaurants with a special sticker attached, without having to buy anything. And now I have less to worry about!

6. When does it get dark

It sounds crazy, but if you’re going to the other side of the globe, I’m sure it’s a little different there. However, the point is that one gets excited about the holiday and you might just plan a lot of things without realizing that you only have a limited amount of daylight. And it’s also good to know for safety. I’m getting ready for a hike under the Alps and I know that the sun will set at half past eight, so at that time I certainly don’t want to be up on the hills with a two-hour descent ahead of me when the cable cars are no longer running. Just something that I think is also important.

7. THE WEATHER

Yes, I’m screaming. Yes, I’m used to the ends of the world from Ireland, but are you? You’re scrolling through Instagram, looking at the photos that other people around the world have posted of your next vacation location, and you’re already looking forward to the sun and the amazing views… but what if you’re unlucky and a few days, if not the entire stay, are rainy? That’s why it’s nice to google what you can do in that location in bad weather and just have one itinerary when it’s nice and one when it’s not (in my case I’ll spend time in museums – their entrances are also included in Swiss travel pass!).

I would also add to this – google where you have what kind of shops, so that you don’t run over the whole city when there’s end of the world outside. Or, where is a nice coffee shop you’d like to try and spend the afternoon there while it’s raining outside.

8. Webcams

No, this is not “check Airbnb, they have cameras”. This is for everyone who is going to nature – google the view from the webcam in the morning. For example, in Garmisch-Parternkirchen, a village under the German Alps, there are quite a few of them, so you know what you’re getting into. The same in Switzerland – all tourist spots around the Alps have webcams there, which I will check every morning and adjust the itinerary accordingly. For lovers of the Alps – Jungfraujoch webcams: https://www.jungfrau.ch/de-ch/live/webcams/.

9. For fellow photographers

If you plan to take a tripod with you in your hand luggage, I recommend contacting the airport in advance – either by email or on Twitter. In general, I read that it shouldn’t be a problem, but also that it sometimes depends on the people at the airport who handle security. I personally haven’t had a problem with it yet, luckily, but I’ve also contacted Dublin and Zurich airports to have emails and Tweets as proof.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to lug around a tripod, you can rent equipment in some locations. But it was very difficult in Switzerland (especially over the weekend).

And finally. Did you find a photo on Instagram, but the author didn’t mention where exactly did they take it? There is this website where you enter a location and it shows you photo spots. All photos are uploaded by other people, so it is possible that some locations do not have photos, or have few, or lack really big Insta spots. But it helped me when planning Frankfurt.

10. Custom maps

Did you know that if you have a Google account, you can create your own maps on Google Maps?

Just visit this page, sign in to your Google account and start creating! https://www.google.com/maps/about/mymaps/

So I “pinned” the places that I definitely wanted to see on my vacation – one map for each location. When I was in Basel, for example, I oriented myself according to my map (they can be opened in Google Maps under Saved > Maps). The created maps can then be shared with friends, family, or simply anyone who uses Google Maps.

11. YouTube

Yes, even today there are still people who make videos of their travel experiences and share them on YouTube. And yes, some of them are still worth checking out. As for Switzerland, I watched a few videos about the Jungfrau region and learned a lot of important information. These videos also helped me with my “travel fever” – I wasn’t sure how trains work in Switzerland (the system in Ireland is a bit different) and I also wanted to make sure I was using the Swiss Travel Pass correctly. I found countless videos on YouTube from the past two years that answered my questions. For example, while in Germany people are used to reserving seats on the train, in Switzerland it is not customary and there is no need. In fact, during my entire vacation, I never got kicked out of a seat because it was reserved. But when I was in Frankfurt a month later, getting the train to Stuttgart and back was a struggle (because almost all the seats were reserved).