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“Oh for FUCK’s sake!” Wanderer yelled, kicking the bus stop sign so hard I heard his foot crack.
We were at the Engleberg train station, a city 2 hours away from Zurich, situated at the base of the Swiss Alps. On the way here, Wanderer kept reminding me over and over again that we had only a 15 min window between trains and we couldn’t afford to make a mistake. Apparently, the FREE (woohoo!) shuttle to the lift only runs every 2 hours, and if we miss it, we’d have to take a cab…
*cue scary music*
Good God. I already HATE taking cabs, but cabs in SWITZERLAND?! I’d probably have to sell a kidney just to pay for the tip, never mind the ride itself. Just thinking about it gave me heart palpitations.
Luckily, 2 subway rides and 2 train rides later, we’d made it to the shuttle stop with a whopping, LUXURIOUS 10 whole minutes to spare. Aaaaah. Sweet success. Mission Accomplished.
Well, here’s the thing. Switzerland, the land of precision watches and precision pocket knives, prides itself on it’s…well…precision. And what that means is while Swiss buses definitely run on time, they also depart on time. Which means your window for getting on one of these things is approximately one and a half seconds.
Which for us, unfortunately, occurred while our back was temporarily turned and we were studying our hiking trail map. No sooner did we hear the bus squeal to a stop, we spun around and watched it pick up its one passenger and speed away, leaving us in a cloud of confusion.
“Cab?” Wanderer asked.
Glare, I responded.
The walk, according to the stupid map that had put us in this predicament, predicted it would be an hour and 20 minutes. That’s quite some distance, especially considering when we got there THEN the hiking trail would have started. But judging by the price of a bar of chocolate in Switzerland, I didn’t even want to think what a half-hour cab ride would cost. So walking it was.
As it turns out, this ended up being the single BEST thing that could’ve happened to us.
Gawking at the snow-capped mountains, the obscenely green grass, the adorable mooing cows, my head was exploding from the sheer wonder of it all. To be honest, I was actually a little sad when our walk was over.
We’d reached the base of the FÜRENALP lift, which was going to take us 1850 vertical meters straight up. From there we would hike a trail that passed waterfalls, ravines, and scenery so beautiful even a heathen like me started believing in a higher power. There’s no way science and math could make anything that breathtaking.
Here’s a video I took as we went up:
Judging by the scenery on our walk there, my expectations for the actual hike were pretty much unmatchable at this point. And yet, Switzerland, somehow managed to take those expectations and blow them to smithereens.
Here’s what we discovered at the mountaintop:
Here’s what the rest of our hike looked like:
The whole time all I could think about was the Sound of Music. But my leaky head could only remember the one line “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music…”, so I spent the whole time singing that line and ONLY that line, over and over again.
Wanderer was NOT impressed.
“BABE! If you don’t stop singing that line I swear to GOD I’m going to jump off this mountain,” He said, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me hard.
I’m not allowed to watch the Sound of Music anymore.
I can’t quite describe the wonder and majesty of those peaks in words. You have to be there to understand what I’m talking about. And this is coming from a Canadian, who’s been to Vancouver and Banff.
There is no comparison. There really isn’t.
Let me put it this way. I no longer see the point of going to Heaven. Simply pick up and move to the Swiss Alps and you’re set.
Just don’t take any cabs.
Cost Breakdown (in CAD dollars, per couple):
|Accommodations||$87||Fantastic deal for Switzerland, considering hotels start at $300/night. Once again AirBnB saved our butts. If you're interested in trying it out, click here for a $40 credit.|
|Food||$20||Food was painfully expensive, but luckily we planned ahead by smuggling dried noodles and pastries in from Germany. The Alps were the main attraction for us, not the food.|
|Attractions||$23.50||Since we can’t just parkour our way up a mountain, we had to pay 25 Swiss Francs each to ride the lift. Over 3 days, this worked out to be $23.40/couple/day.|
|Transportation||$78.80||Zurich isn’t actually close to the Alps, so we had to pay 110 Swiss Francs to get to the Alps by Train. Getting around the city was expensive too, around 4.80 Francs per person for a short 2 stop ride.|
|Total:||$209.30||OUCH. Not great but could’ve easily been $350-400 if we didn’t bring food in and stay in an AirBnB."|
Rating: 6/5 Swiss Alps ( I know 5 is the max so 6/5 makes no sense. Shut up. I don’t care)
Despite the hefty price tag, Switzerland was hands-down my favorite place in the WHOLE world. I’d gladly pass up heaven if I could go live there for all of eternity instead.
Don’t take my word for it. Just go! And make sure your wallet knows about the pounding it’s going to receive. WORTH IT!
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34 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Switzerland: Forget Heaven. Just Go Here.”
Love to read your travel series. You two seem like a happy couple. Keep em coming.
Thanks! Had a blast in Switzerland and writing about it 🙂
We found the Austrian Alps similarly nice – particularly for a bit of trekking. The DAV (German Alpine Club) maintains really nice huts throughout the German parts of the alps which are super cheap to stay in for the night and have great food and beer.
That’s a good point. The Austrian and German Alps are probably a good substitute without the insane Swiss prices!
I love the videos and your writing. Love to travel to the Swiss Alps. And I would have loved to travel to Vancouver and Banff, Canada.
Thanks! I hope you do get to visit those places. Being surrounded by nature really changes your brain chemistry and makes you a lot happier.
Ah yes Switzerland…absolutely beautiful..and yes your wallet will really take a pounding BIG TIME…..Have been twice to the Jungfrau region, stayed in the village of Murren and hiked all around Murren , Gimmewald, and Lauterbrunnen. There is an old saying that if you die and heaven isn’t what it is cracked up to be then just send me back to Gimmewald.
I remember my wife went into a store in the Zurich train station to buy me some chapstick because I had chapped lips, she came out and said that the chapstick cost 13 francs, I just said no way, I would rather have my lips just bleed than pay that!
We did the old smuggle in from Germany of spaghetti, and rice and other things to just cook in the apartment…Once saw a menu in a restaurant in Zurich where a hamburger and fries was 28 francs!!
But it sure is a beautiful country!!!!
“There is an old saying that if you die and heaven isn’t what it is cracked up to be then just send me back to Gimmewald.”
100% agree with this.
And yeah the outrageous prices for chapstick, fries, etc started turning into a freak show for us after awhile. Good thing we planned ahead, or it wouldn’t have been so funny to actually PAY those prices 😛
Right now the Swiss Franc is soooo expensive. You can get the same beauty (or similar? It’s in the eye of the beholder) for about 40% off in the German or Austrian Alps.
Also I’m not sure if might have reversed the currenices. You mention 110 Swiss Francs = 78.80 CAD. It’s actually the other way around. Currently, one Franc equals about 1.36 to 1.39 Canadian Dollar. Ouch. So that 110 Swiss Franc train ticket is actually slightly above 150 Canadian dollars. If this wasn’t a typo I just want to prepare you for the sticker shock when you check your credit card statement. 🙂
Sorry. I can see how that looks confusing.
I got $78.80 by taking the 110 francs + 4.80 franc*2 people*2 trips/day*3 days= 167.6 francs for 3 days.
Which gives us 55.86 francs/day/couple or $78.80CAD/day/couple (using the 1.41Franc=1CAD exchange rate we had at the time)
Clear as mud, right? 😛
Haha, thanks for clarifying. Glad you enjoyed the trip to Switzerland!
Been to Switzerland only once (Zermatt Interlaken Lucerne Berne Zurich) and it’s as close to heaven on earth I have experienced. Great photos and glad your having a great time at a (reasonably) affordable rate! You have motivated me to return soon! Enjoy your travels!
That’s how I would describe it. “Closest thing to heaven on earth”. Been to A LOT of places, but nothing feels quite like that.
I’ll be living vicariously through you if you end up going back! Switzerland rocks!
I went for a day hike in Maloja in southern Switzerland and felt the exact same way. I must be in heaven, everything else is just icing on the cake.
Maloja looks beautiful! I never understood how Switzerland can get away with charging such ridiculously prices until I went there. And now I’m like…okay okay you win Switzerland, you win. Just shut up and take my money already!
From the photo’s it looks like you’re having a terrible time….and that price tag? Outrageous!
Probably it’s just best if you go back to Canada, find yourself a job, and buy a house.
Ha! Only kidding!
Seems like the dollar to happiness curve was exponential here. Despite the costs. That, or there was something in the water.
Right? How can I possibly NOT miss the cubical and house prisons I left behind? Clearly I must be insane.
Loved this blog post. Switzerland seems like a wonderful place to visit and too bad you had to get a cab because of the bus issue… Not the same situation but while visiting Europe my friend and I had bought a really cheap flight from Paris to Ireland (Ryan Air). However, we got lost in the subway on the way to the airport, missed the flight AND had to buy a whole new flight that was double the price of the previous one – sigh! These things happen but are really frustrating.
Oh don’t worry. I wouldn’t never let that happen 🙂 We ditched the cab and walked instead. It was awesome!
And yikes, sorry you had to buy another flight. Sometimes that happens…especially if you’re trying to navigate a completely foreign subway system. It get easier over time and you end up making less travel mistakes.
Great photos guys! Yes, Switzerland feels like heaven on earth. I was in Zermatt and went all the way up the chalet and had lunch outside at -10 C weather facing the Matterhorn at the highest mountain restaurant – it was great! The Foundue was especially great there. Switzerland has amazing scenery and restaurants. Even the lodge-like hotel we stayed had a great restaurant. In general, food was expensive but lip-smackingly good.
Wow. You went all the way up Zermatt. Ambitious!
Yes, we missed the last bus once and ended up walking an hour to the Schwyz train station. You definitely get scenery though. I didn’t really want to think about how much the cab would have cost but had some guesses based on the fact that a taxi from Zurich airport to the center (8km) cost 50CHF.
Never did make it to hike at Furenalp. Did ski there, which was good too. The five-lakes-hike is a good hike as well, near Sargans.
Skiing is sort of expensive (most of the time unless you find cheap tickets, also possible) but if you walk up the mountain and then stay in the hut and if you don’t need a guide then it’s not so bad. But you get less skiing than if you take a chairlift, because it takes a while to walk up the mountain. Huts provide food (for a fee) but they can also provide snoring people, which is a minus.
There is also something called a half-fare card (Halbtax or carte demi-tarif). You can pay 180CHF and then all of the trains, buses, even most cable cars are half price. Buying food in grocery stores and using transit with the Halbtax makes prices almost reasonable in Switzerland (but I still ended up saying “yikes” pretty often). In Toronto yesterday I also realized that Toronto prices can be high too and not just for real estate. But there are more options in Toronto for cheaper restaurants. That just doesn’t exist in Switzerland for the most part.
Yeah, I don’t want to think about how much the cab would’ve cost either. Thankfully the walk was awesome so I’m glad we didn’t bother with that option.
I didn’t used to think that Toronto was expensive (except for real-estate) until I started travelling. Then all of a sudden a $7 chimney cake from the Waterfront seemed ridiculous, considering how we got one in Prague for only 2 Euros ($3 CAD).
And then after I had $1.60 Pad Thais in Thailand, everything in Toronto seemed even more ridiculous. Luckily, there are still some good food deals in Markham Place ($6 noodle soups) and Chinatown.
You guys always rock!
I’m always curious to know your travel stories. You both must had a great time in Swiss. Even I had been to Swiss 6 months back and this sentence of your completely nailed my experience.
“but cabs in SWITZERLAND?! I’d probably have to sell a kidney just to pay for the tip, never mind the ride itself.”
This made my day!
Thanks for the post, keep writing more and explore more.
Have a good day!
Amazingly beautiful! By the way, Wanderer is such a dork in that picture where he’s standing majestically looking up at a 45 degree angle toward the sky. 🙂
Did you do any Austrian/Italian Alps visits while there? We’re still plugging away on Europe trip planning and so far can’t find a compelling reason to go to Switzerland since it looks like tons of beautiful mountains and trails in Austria. Still expensive (some of the hotels were several hundred USD/nt though I didn’t do much comparison clicking yet). Admission fees seemed cheaper for lifts and for local transport too, and the food doesn’t appear to be ridiculous (probably similar to Everywhere USA/Canada).
Yup, that’s his favourite pose 🙂 #dorkilicious
Didn’t end up going to the Austrian Alps, but I heard they are just as nice. In general, prices in Austria were lower than Switzerland (subway, food, accommodations), but there’s a deal in Aug for Swiss Alps where kids can ride the lift for free so you may want to look into that.
Oooohhhh free – I like that price. I saw that Vienna lets kids ride free in July-August during their summer school break. And for lift tickets, in many places it looks like a “family pass” is available for a discount so you end up paying a small amount extra for the kids. One of the caves with a lift ticket combo were like €40 per adult or €93 for a whole family of 5, so it’s really a trivial cost to add the kids to it.
Trains in Germany (and maybe Austria) seem to be about the same fare scheme – 3 kids end up costing a total of 50-100% of the adult fare, and I think they have some train tickets where it’s for a family of 5 for 1 price. After extensive travel in the US and Mexico we’re used to paying full price or close to it for the kids.
Welcome to Switzerland 🙂
No, you don’t want to know how much half an hour cab ride costs 😀
So sad I’m so behind with reading my feeds and just stumbled upon this post. I could have hosted for free along your route!
Well, in case you come back contact me. I’ll be more than happy to share FI plans, strategies and philosophy with you!
Will definitely take you up on that offer if we ever go back to Switzerland! So jealous that you get to live there. It’s our fav place in the whole world (but my wallet’s least fav place :P)
Bringing your own food was clutch! I’ve been wanting to go to Switzerland so thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures. FI seems further away than I’d like it to be but Switzerland is one of the first places I want to go! I have the new CSR so I could always use those points for a vacation but I don’t have enough vacation days 🙁
I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to thank you for it. I read it back in January, and it inspired me to add a 3 day stay in Switzerland when my husband and I came (from Australia) to Italy for a work trip in October.
Your pictures of Engelberg looked lovely, but with so little time, we decided to base ourselves in Lucerne. Hands down THE BEST part of the trip.
It makes the close to 30 hours travel time worth it. We both agreed we could easily leave behind our lives here and live in Switzerland instead.
So thanks to you, we now have a new favourite place in the whole world 🙂
Now you know why I said forget Heaven just move there. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you for inspiring me to hike in Switzerland. Would you kindly answer a few questions to help me with future planning: Would food be affordable in Switzerland if you go grocery shopping, cook your own meals, and pack picnic lunches? Affordable food to me means $400-$600 USD per couple per month. Are there affordable vacation rentals, airbnb places in Engelberg? Why did you not stay in Engelberg versus Zurich, as Engelberg seems a better choice for beautiful nature, hiking, and proximity to the Alps?
I know you’re not asking me, but let me help a bit. $600USD is appx 550CHF (Swiss Francs). By shopping for groceries and cooking everything yourself, you could keep your grocery bill to 100CHF/week or less. It depends on how much meat you eat, for instance.
We shopped at ALDI and Migros while there.
We eat vegetarian food, so if you kept your food simple, with beans, rice/pasta, bread, vegetables, salad, fruit, perhaps some cheese and yoghurt, you could most certainly keep your costs down. Of course, fresh and crystal clear water is free from fountains in the streets!
We stayed in a nice airBnB in Lucerne, which had some lovely walks, and proximity to transport (ferry, bus, train, tram etc), as well as a stunning (and more costly) trip via cogwheel railway up Mount Pilatus, and down again via gondola and cable car. How very Swiss to listen to alphorns on top of a mountain! And the sounds of cowbells on the hills.
We paid $200+ per night for a place we really liked. But you could pay much less ($80UD/night) for a nice, private room.