Switzerland on a budget –Road Trip

Previous experiences, in addition to the advice of fellow travelers, had led me to believe that there was no way to travel through Switzerland without sustaining trauma to my wallet.  Feeling somewhat hopeless about what was to come, I drove towards the border (from Germany) and prepared to pay premium prices for my short stay in this beautiful nation.  Using some basic “road trip” tactics, we were able to enjoy this country and keep it surprisingly affordable.

If you are traveling by car, you need to stop at the border and purchase a vignette tag for your car.  It is about 40 francs.  They take US dollars as well as euros.  If you drive past this vignette purchase lane, you will end up paying about 200 francs when you are on your way out of the country.

Just like the rest of Europe, the highways are spattered with exits to small towns and rest areas as you make your way to your tourist destination.  Use your GPS and look for grocery stores.  We found that driving through small towns was a wonderful experience.  We stopped at local cheese shops and small groceries and visited with the friendly town folk.  Note: You will need a grocery bag when you purchase edibles, grocery stores do not provide disposable bags (but they do sell fabric bags at the register). The prices at the food stores are reasonable and it is a great opportunity to buy fresh fruit as well as to eat like the locals do.

Stocked up with provisions, we parked at a nice looking rest area and enjoyed a picnic in the Swiss countryside on the way to our major stop.  We also stopped to take photos at some lovely lakes.  Switzerland truly has some awe inspiring scenery.

Our stayover was in Lauterbrunnen, which is a valley town in the alps.

It is a quick train trip to Wengen, a well-known ski town in the mountains.  Lauterbrunnen is best known for its abundant number of waterfalls, and you’d be hard pressed to find a room that doesn’t include a view of the majestic alps.

We hadn’t made reservations in advance and had to stop at a few places to find one that still had vacancy.  Our room was 160 francs for the night, it came with a private balcony and bathroom, as well as a complementary breakfast.  It was nothing spectacular for certain, but it was cozy and had the amenities that we sought.

In the evening, we took the train up to Wengen.  The tickets were about 6 francs each way per person.  The ride (before sunset) was very scenic and worth the ticket fee.

We walked around Wengen and admired the views.  Similar to other tourist towns, the restaurants displayed their menus at the entrance, so we could compare prices and offerings.  Once we had made our decision, we went inside and were stopped by the wait staff declaring that the kitchen had just closed.  Using the small amount of German I had remembered from previous trips, I said, “bratwurst un pom fritas?” (“bratwurst and French fries?”).  The employee agreed to opening the kitchen to accommodate our request, and we enjoyed a tasty, if not basic, dinner for about 15 francs per person.

After a modest breakfast at the hotel, we stopped at Tremmel bach falls and paid our admission fee to walk within the water carved tunnels of the mountain.  It was very impressive and is a recommended stop for any nature lovers.

Speaking of nature enthusiasts, though we didn’t have time, there were many hikers in Lauterbrunnen, taking advantage of the temperate summer climate.

Our drive out of Switzerland was designed to take us through the western part of the country, but our GPS routed us north and we ended up backtracking a bit until we turned west right before the German border.  Again, we took advantage of grocery stores and rest areas to save money on our midday meals.

All told, we were able to keep our spending to a reasonable level, and had a great time.  Using these road trip techniques throughout Europe yielded some great stories from some lesser known spots.

Europe Summer – What to Wear

Facts versus Fallacies – Europe Trip

In order to prepare for the trip, I spent my free time reading travel blogs and watching videos about the “dos and don’ts’ of packing for Europe. Armed with ample travel tip knowledge, I felt confident that I had packed everything necessary to blend in to my every-changing environments. Although some advice was spot on, other items were not accurate to what I observed while on the road. So here’s my take on what I found to be helpful and what was not very accurate.

“Europeans dress nicer than Americans”

I wanted to make certain the outfits I selected that were more “dress casual” than “casual”.  As we made our way through the towns and cities of Germany, Switzerland, and France, the citizens going about their normal lives did not appear to wear nicer clothing than what I observe in America.  The men wore blue jeans and khaki shorts.  The women wore casual shorts, the younger women wore skinny jeans.  The majority wore knit shirts.

“Europeans do not wear exercise clothing out in public”

This was absolutely true.  I did not see yoga pants, gym shorts, moisture wicking workout shirts, nor sweat pants.  The only athletic clothing I observed on the streets was worn be the cyclists riding their road bikes.

“Nobody wears tennis shoes on the streets”

Nope.  I saw folks in tennis shoes all over the place.  The Germans seem fond of Converse, while the French seem to go for whatever is most comfortable for lots of walking.  I had brought a pair of stylish black athletic casual shoes, but they did not last through the long days of walking in Paris.  I purchased a pair of canvas tennis shoes at a Cora superstore (for 8 euro) and they worked out great.

“Europeans do not wear bright colors”

This one was pretty accurate, although I think its more accurate to say that most of the colors I saw on the clothing of the people there tended to be neutral in nature.  Black, white, ivory, brown, navy, and grey were the dominant color scheme.  Folks used small bits of other colors to accent their outfits, but still, even in summer, they were of a more neutral tone.  Brightly colored t-shirts and dresses really stood out amid the sea of more calming shades.  If you are wanting to blend into your environment in Europe, stay with the neutral colors.

“Graphic T-shirts are a no no”

I did see graphic tees, but nothing with a lot of words on it, and nothing that was terribly loud.  The t-shirts had tasteful graphics that did not come across as busy nor obnoxious.