Accommodation in Switzerland
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As a general rule, it’s no problem to turn up in any Swiss town at any time of the year and find a room. With the popularity of the bigger cities and resorts, though, booking ahead – especially in the summer and winter high seasons – is strongly advised. Aside from anything else, it saves you the effort of searching for a place once you arrive, and also guarantees that you won’t be forced into spending over budget in order to rest your head. Despite the fact that Geneva and Zürich suffer from exceptionally high hotel prices, Fr.90–120 will buy you some kind of double room in any town in the country.

Compared with other European countries, Swiss accommodation is expensive but nearly always excellent, conscientiously run and hospitable. Tourist offices always have lists of hotels, hostels, campsites and apartments in their area, and outside office hours they normally have a display board on the street with details of the local hotels, often with a courtesy phone. In many cases you’ll find these boards at train stations as well. Swiss hoteliers, campsite managers and hostel staff invariably speak English, but in the unlikely event that you can’t make yourself understood, most tourist offices will make a booking for you, either for free or for a small fee. It’s rare to be able to negotiate multi-night bargain rates over the counter, but many tourist offices run deals throughout the year that can save plenty if you book three or seven nights in a row. Wherever you check in, you should always ask for a free guest card (Gästekarte, carte des visiteurs, tessera di soggiorno), as this perk for overnight visitors can give substantial discounts for local attractions and transport.

The main thing to take into account when planning your trip are the high and low seasons, since hotel prices, pressure on rooms and even periods of opening – especially in the resorts – can fluctuate dramatically. Problems come in trying to pin down the seasons, since they vary according to the town. Across the country, July and August are peak-season summer months, when everything is open but everything costs the most. Accommodation in the major cities and lakeside resorts follows a summer season which extends from at the earliest mid-May until at the latest mid-October. However, the higher in altitude you go, the more the season is truncated: snow may not melt on the Alpine pass roads until mid-June, and may fall again in late September, limiting the opening times of the highest huts and mountain refuges to ten or twelve crowded weeks. Countrywide, the low seasons are April, May, and mid-October to early December: cities and lowland towns still welcome tourists at these times (and, indeed, offer cut-price deals on accommodation), but many mountain resorts – including all hotels and shops – close down altogether and use the time for renovations. The ski season traditionally opens in the week before Christmas and lasts until April; cities and lakeside resorts are bitterly cold for general street wanderings at these times, and (unless they offer direct access to the mountains) flog accommodation at rock-bottom prices.

Note that in the accommodation listings throughout the guide, rooms in each hotel listed are en suite unless mentioned otherwise.

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