Ever dreamed of frolicking in the icy wonderland that's Switzerland? Well, the country that attracts the rich and the A-listers also has a place in the Alps for budget travellers. With the Swiss Franc trading strongly, it's all about planning before touring one of the most expensive nations in the world.
Reality check: Can a middle-class Joe earning in Malaysian ringgit really afford the high-end travel destination? Absolutely. Those tight on cash can source for the cheapest outlets for shopping, eating and accommodation.
According to a Swiss tourist guide, even the locals, having to pay high taxes, find the country expensive. They also go to local departmental stores where a pair of shoes can cost around SF100 (S$143.83) and eat mostly at the open air markets. Thus it all boils down to planning.
Accommodation: Most hostels and homestays are usually fully booked (well in advance) during peak periods. The peak periods are summer to winter (June to February) and, according to local guides, spring (March to May) is when hotels usually slash their rates. This depends on where you want to stay. If you wish to be near the ski resorts during this period, room rates can be pretty high.
Internal travel: Those planning to travel extensively will be wise to invest in a Swiss Pass. The trains are pleasant, punctual and practical. The pass offers unlimited travel on the amazing Swiss transport system for a set number of days. The rail network crisscrosses miles and miles of neverending beautiful landscapes. Within the city, there are trams. Cabs here are super-expensive, even for a short distance.
Food: It can be expensive and bland. Dining at the hotels with fanciful menus is a waste of money for most of the time all you get are tasteless sausages. Ask the waiter for something spicy and he will shove Tabasco sauce in your face. The affordable places to eat are at the open-air markets where you can find a fusion of Italian, French and German fare with no frills. Even here, the makan is so-so. And if you are planning for longer than a week-long trip, seriously, do what a seasoned Malaysian tourist guide who frequents Switzerland does - take a few bottles of spicy something with you. There are Chinese and Indian restaurants but check the prices first.
Chocolates: Going to Switzerland and not buying chocolates is like going to Terengganu and not buying the famous keropok. Shops selling fine chocs are just about everywhere and is very expensive at outlets selling them by weight. Take the advice of a trusted Malaysian tourist guide - head to the biggest grocery chain Migros and Coop (found everywhere). From chocolates to local cookies and other stuff, the prices here are affordable.
Clothing: According to the local tourist guide, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Be warned, it can be very cold in the snow-covered mountains and very chilly in the lowlands during spring. And if don't want to splurge on winter clothing, there are outlets which rent them out.