Visitors arriving in Switzerland from the surrounding Euro countries will probably feel their budgets being blown after that first meal or taxi ride in the country. The Swiss franc's conversion rate is currently less than one to one against the euro but goods and services in the country come with noticeably higher price tags. As the franc's value increases while investors search for a "safe-haven" currency in light of the Euro and dollar crises, the situation is becoming worse.
Why is everything so expensive in Switzerland? Import restrictions, small markets and oligopolies all play their part. An economist wrote this excellent explanation about why Swiss products and services are so expensive for readers who are interested in the details, but my interest was to determine whether travel to Switzerland was worth it. And I think it is!
Despite its small size, Switzerland offers such a wide array of scenery that it delights year-round. One doesn't have to travel far to see beautiful forests, lakes, castles, cathedrals, glaciers, valleys and snow-capped mountains. Three-fifths of the country is covered by the Alps and here one can also find the Jura Mountains, Swiss Plateau and the southeastern mountains. I haven't experienced such a breadth of scenery in such a small area since visiting New Zealand earlier this year.
Yes, you'll pay more. But the trade-off for high Swiss prices is better quality. The people of Switzerland actually examine quality before price and are used to their system providing them with superior, locally made items. Swiss manufacturers are said to be perfectionists. Transportation, infrastructure and public spaces are run efficiently and well-maintained. Living standards are very high and it's easy to get used to the comforts of Switzerland once you're there.
While they could be described as formal and somewhat reserved, the Swiss are so polite and compromise-loving that I can't help but wish they would export that model along with their other quality goods. What other small country could balance four different languages so beautifully? I've read in a few places that the people are obsessed with living peacefully together - and as a visitor I could easily feel that in our daily interactions. It's just a pleasant place to be.
Switzerland has not been a party to any external conflicts since 1815. Though criticised for some of its banking actions during World War II, the country was not militarily involved in the war. Its neutrality is guaranteed and protected by the Treaty of Paris and the Congress of Vienna. With all of the conflicts going on in the world today, I can't help but think of Switzerland as a safe haven for people opposed to war and violence.
5. Outdoor Activities
Where should an adventure enthusiast begin? Perhaps choosing a season will narrow it down. In winter, ski-gliding, sledging, snowboarding, ice climbing, deep-snow skiing, heli-skiing, glacier-walking, snow-biking, snowshoeing, tobogganing, ice skating and dog-sledding are most popular between January and March. Skiiers can choose between downhill and cross-country trails for day and night and at all levels. In the warmer months, cycling, climbing, hiking, sailing, water-skiing, canoeing, swimming, rafting, rowing, canyoning, abseiling, bungee jumping, paragliding, skydiving and hang-gliding are just some of the activities to be enjoyed here.
Have you visited Swtizerland? Did you feel that your experience was worth the cost?