In the winter, Switzerland uses Central European Time (CET). From the end of March to the end of October, it observes Daylight Saving Time (CET + 1 hour).
If you want to travel to Switzerland, you might need a visa. The FDFA (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) and the SEM (State Secretariat for Migration) can tell you where and how to apply for one.
The currency used in Switzerland is the Swiss franc (abbreviation: CHF). The Swiss franc is divided into 100 Rappen (cents).
There are 5, 10, 20 and 50 Rappen coins as well as 1, 2 and 5 franc coins. For higher amounts, there are 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 1,000 franc notes.
Many Bernese shops and restaurants also accept euros, but the exchange rate is usually very bad, so it’s better to pay in Swiss francs. You can get them at an ATM or a bank, or you can exchange your currency for Swiss francs at the SBB counters in the train stations.
Tips are included in the price; however, it is common to round up the sum in a restaurant if you’ve enjoyed the service, usually between 0 and 10 percent of the total amount.
The water from the tap is clean drinking water which complies with the purity specifications for mineral water. The same goes for the water of Bern’s fountains, unless there’s a sign that says «kein Trinkwasser» («no drinking water»).
By the way: the eco balance of Swiss tap water is far better than that of bottled and imported mineral water.
Since 1 May 2010, smoking is prohibited in closed public spaces as well as the entire Swiss public transport system. It is still allowed in separate, designated smoking rooms, outdoors and in private homes.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Alcohol is sold in supermarkets (with the exception of MIGROS). The minimum required age for buying wine and beer is 16, 18 for hard liquor.
There’s no national regulation regarding tobacco. In the canton of Bern, the minimum required age for purchasing tobacco is 18.
The international country code for Switzerland is +41. The subsequent 0 of the area code is omitted. To call abroad from within Switzerland, the country codes are:
|Ambulance / first responders||144|
|Rescue helicopter (REGA)||1414|
|European emergency number||112|
|MEDPHONE (medical call center for emergency medical services)||0900 57 67 47 (CHF 1.98/min)|
|Information hotline for general inquiries (e.g. doctors, theatres etc.)||1811|
|Breakdown service / towing||162|
Online phonebook: www.local.ch
The voltage in Switzerland is 230V/50 Hz. Switzerland uses type C (Europlug, 2-pin) and type J (3-pin) plugs. Attention: the type F plug («Schuko plug»), which is widely used in Europe, can not be used without an adapter.
Many hotels, restaurants and stores have free Wi-Fi. Bern’s main station also offers free internet to travellers: simply connect with the network «SBB-Free» and enjoy one hour of free surfing.
Travelers Wi-Fi gives you unlimited internet in Bern and all of Switzerland.
Up to ten devices can be connected to the portable Wi-Fi hotspot at a time, and the battery lasts up to six hours. The device can be rented for any amount of days between two and 365. You can find it at the Tourist Information in Bern’s main station, for example.
Good to know: if you show your Bern Ticket, you’ll get a 20% discount.
Returning the device is easy, too: just hand it in at the Tourist Information in the train station or put it in a postpaid envelope and post it using the mailboxes of the Swiss postal service.
More information on the Travelers Wi-Fi and the prices can be found here.
The following days are considered public holidays in Bern:
- 1 January, New Year’s Day
- 2 January, St. Berchtold
- Good Friday
- Easter including Easter Monday
- Whit Monday
- 1 August, national holiday
- 25 December, Christmas Day
- 26 December, St. Stephen / Boxing Day
Shop Opening Hours
For Bernese stores, the following opening hours generally apply:
|Monday–Wednesday||9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.|
|Thursday||9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.|
|Friday||9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.|
|Saturday||9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.|
*Stores are open on a few Sundays during Advent season.
Some shops may have differing opening hours. Some stores in the lower part of the Old City, from Zytglogge (Clock Tower) downward, don’t open until 10:00 a.m. If there’s a specific shop you’d like to visit, we recommend checking the opening hours beforehand.
In Bern’s main station, there are over 80 shops, open 365 days a year. On weekdays, most of them are open until 9:00 p.m., on weekends and public holidays, until 8:00 p.m.
Public Transport: The BERN Ticket
If you’re staying at one of Bern’s official tourist accommodations, you will receive a BERN Ticket upon your first overnight stay. The ticket is valid for the entire duration of your stay and lets you use the local public transport for free (Zones 100/101 of the LIBERO public transport association).
Included in the BERN Ticket are the Gurten funicular, the Marzili funicular, the elevator that goes to the Minster terrace as well as transportation to and from BERN Airport. On the day of your arrival, the hotel’s booking confirmation can be used as a transfer ticket from the train station or from BERN Airport to the accommodation. When you check in, you’ll be given your BERN Ticket. Attention: It’s only valid if all the required information is filled in.
If you’re travelling by car, you can find an overview of Bern’s car parks, including the current situation regarding free parking spots, here.
- Dictionary of the Bernese dialect
- SBB - the Swiss railway
- Bernmobil - - Public transit in Bern
- Moonliner Night busses
- PubliBike - - the bike sharing network
- Nette Toilette - an overview of all the public toilets in Bern
- Aare Guru - Everything regarding the Aare river
- Event calendar
- Bernese cultural calendar