Practical Information

When do Bern’s shops close? What are the most important phone numbers? How high should I tip at a restaurant? Here’s a compilation of useful information for your visit.

Time Zone

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).

Entry Requirements

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.

Drinking Water

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.

Country Codes

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:

Germany 0049
France 0033
Italy 00390
Japan 0081
The Netherlands 0031
Austria 0043
USA 001
UK 0044

Emergency Numbers

Police 117
Firefighters 118
Ambulance / first responders 144
Rescue helicopter (REGA) 1414
European emergency number 112
Poisoning 145
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
Road report 163

Online phonebook:


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.

Public Holidays

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
  • Ascension
  • 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.
Sunday closed*

*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.

Useful Websites

Nützliche Apps

  • Aare you safe? - Safety measures and recommendations regarding the Aare river as well as swimming in and boating on the river
  • Bärn isch eso - The Citizen’s Community’s fun guide to Bern
  • Spotted by Locals - Find out how locals discover their city
  • Tourist Information at the Main Station

    Bahnhofplatz 10a
    3011 Bern

    T +41 31 328 12 12


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