Switzerland is a land locked country in Europe bordered by four countries that all use the Euro. However Switzerland, known for being neutral, has not adopted the Euro and there seems little chance of it doing so in the near future either.
If you visit Switzerland you will have to use the Swiss franc. It is represented on the currency markets by the letters CHF. The currency is also used in Liechtenstein and in Campione d’Italia, which is a comune sandwiched between Switzerland and Italy.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
Firstly it is important to note this is a decimal currency and it takes the form of every other franc used, in that it is divided into 100 centimes. There are seven coins in use at present, three of which are valued as centimes. These are the 5, 10 and 20 centime coins. There are also four franc coins of various values, which are the ½, 1, 2 and 5 franc coins.
The country also issues six banknotes, ranging from the smallest – the 10 franc note – to the largest, which is the 1,000 franc note. In between you also have the 20, 50, 100 and 200 franc notes.
From past to present – the history of the Swiss franc
We can follow the existence of the Swiss franc all the way back to 1798, so it is currently over two hundred years old. The reason why it was introduced was because the country had a variety of coins and notes in use before this time. As hard as it may be to believe, around 75 different organisations were releasing coins and banknotes before 1798. This led to hundreds of different coins being used at once! Even though this would have been confusing enough for those living in the country, just imagine how hard it would have been for those who were visiting the country and attempting to trade there. Every time they moved to a different area of Switzerland they would have had a new selection of currencies to deal with.
It was a relief then to introduce the Swiss franc in 1798, which existed for five years as the franc of the Helvetic Republic. This was weighted according to the silver standard and while it was divided into 100 centimes as it is today, it could also be split into 10 batzen.
The republic ended in 1903 which led to the confederation as we know it today. However at this point the country adopted a variety of cantonal currencies, and though they were all based on the franc there was still no one single currency in use in the country.
Residents would have to wait until 1850 for the modern franc to be issued. This is the franc that is still in use today. After all those changes it is quite a relief to know that today’s Swiss franc is a very stable currency, especially when compared to others around the world.
How to get hold of Swiss francs
The best part about visiting Switzerland is of course the sights, but it is good to know you won’t have any problems getting your francs while you are there either. As one of the world’s leading currencies it is also easy to buy some from a bureau de change before you leave home. Traveller’s cheques can also be easily exchanged if you want to take some with you.
One of the interesting things to note about this country is that they are far more reliant on cash than some other places are. You can still take and use your credit or debit card but you shouldn’t be as reliant on it as you might be at home. Make sure you have more than just some spare change on you when you are out and about in Switzerland. It is problematic to assume you will always be able to pay with your card as this may well not be the case. Make sure your card will be accepted wherever you go if you do want to use it to make payment.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Swiss franc
As with every other currency, the exchange rate varies all the time. Fortunately it is easy to find out where your currency stands against the Swiss franc, thanks to the prevalence of various currency converters online. You might also have a smart phone app that allows you to follow the latest exchange rates. Simply input the amount you want to convert, select your own currency to convert from and the Swiss franc as the one you want to convert to. Then hit the convert or ‘go’ button to find out the answer.
If you are intending on travelling to Switzerland in the future and you want some more information on the country, travel advice and perhaps visas as well, visit the embassy website at http://www.eda.admin.ch/london.
Travelling safely with Swiss francs
The government website in the UK offers the latest travel advice for you when it comes to visiting Switzerland, but the good news is it is generally a very safe place to visit. In fact the biggest threat may well be from avalanches in mountainous regions, since the country is a popular destination for skiers.
Perhaps the most obvious piece of advice you could take is to be vigilant in major cities. As is the case with many other countries, Switzerland has seen an increase in theft in these areas. It is also more common for tourists to be affected when arriving at Geneva airport and coming into the country via train as well, so be alert in these situations.
With this taken into account though, Switzerland is still an incredibly safe country to visit, so make sure you enjoy it.
Where to spend your francs in Switzerland – and what to spend them on
Switzerland boasts an incredible number of superb sights worth seeing. It is known for being a top skiing destination, and with the likes of the Swiss Alps, the Matterhorn and other similar places on offer it is easy to see why. There are countless ski resorts available to visit as well, including Gstaad, three resorts in the Jungfrauregion and the likes of Klosters and St Moritz too. They may be expensive but they are well worth it if you can afford it!
The country also has a couple of famous lakes – Lake Geneva and Lake Lucerne. The former is also known as Lake Leman and it sits on the border between France and Switzerland. It is good for various water sports and also simply for enjoying a walk along the shore. Meanwhile Lake Lucerne not only offer the chance to see the lake itself, but also to explore the city of Lucerne, perhaps on a guided tour. The ideal way to spend part of your day is to spend some of your francs on a paddle steamer trip on the lake.
There are many other delights awaiting you in Switzerland as well. Many recommend getting out into the open and exploring the Jungfrau region. This is punctuated by three mountains and the Alpine air is second to none. Take on one of the many walks through valleys and up peaks here if you dare.
As far as big cities are concerned you have Geneva of course, but you also have Zurich and Basel. The former can be found at one end of Lake Zurich and it boasts many well-known sights. Make sure you visit some of the museums here, including the Swiss National Museum and the Museum of Design among others. The city also has a Zoological Garden and a Botanical Garden if you would like to see both animals and flora and fauna while you are there.
Meanwhile one of the finest sights in Basel is the Old Town of Basel, which is well worth a walk around. There are many ruins and settlements here that hark back centuries ago to when the area was first inhabited.
All this exploring is bound to make you hungry, and when you think of Switzerland the first thing to come to mind is probably chocolate. This is not without good reason either, since Swiss chocolate is widely regarded as being among the best and tastiest in the world. It would be a shame to visit the country and not take the opportunity to try as much as you can, wouldn’t it?
Of course the Swiss people eat a lot more than just chocolate, so you will have the chance to try many of their most popular dishes while you are there. As is the case in many countries, there are regional differences in what you will find. Some are influenced by the particular country border you are close to. For example if you venture down into the part of Switzerland that is close to Italy you will notice an Italian influence to some of the food. The same holds true for regions close to France and to Germany. It provides a rather interesting journey through their culinary creations, and a great excuse to spend some francs too.
You will no doubt try some Swiss cheese while you are there, but you’ll find a wonderful selection of other meals available too. Zopf is just one of the many types of bread made in the country, but this has a particular significance as it is traditionally eaten for breakfast on Sunday. You can also enjoy fondue with cheese, as this is quite popular in the country. Cheese figures highly in many cases, as in the tasty raclette dish, where cheese is melted over potatoes and served with accompaniments.
As you progress towards the border with Germany you will notice a German feel to some of the best dishes. These include kalberwurst and landjager, two types of sausage that are very different to one another. As you can see, you certainly won’t go hungry while exploring Switzerland!
Most people would agree that Switzerland is well worth a visit. This holds true for people regardless of whether they have actually been there before or not. There are many delightful places to visit in the country and it attracts people who love the outdoors as well as those who love to explore cities and towns.
With a history that can still often be seen today, this is one country that has much to offer. You’ll never tire of exploring it.