Switzerland was always one of those countries that was high on our list but seemed a bit out of reach. It is known by most as one of the most expensive countries in Europe so when you typically do things on a budget, this is a country that will most certainly feel out of your price range. However, with a little bit of research we guarantee that you can find a way to tackle this entire country without breaking the bank.
We spent a good portion of the fall of 2019 in Europe and it just didn’t feel right to leave without checking out Switzerland, even if it was to be a short-lived adventure. Looking through hotel sites, Airbnb and car rental agencies really did no more than disappoint us but eventually we found the perfect option. After spending one night in a hotel near the airport we were able to get ahold of a van rental company, called Indie Campers, with a depot no more than 30 minutes from Zurich’s city center. The vans looked incredible online and the price was extremely fair considering everything else that we had been looking at since we had first considered tackling this small, mountainous country. This was going to be our first ‘road trip’ and we were both very excited to check out the vans in person.
There are a few different options, as is normal, and we went for the biggest one that they had. It came complete with seating for four, a kitchen with stovetop, sink and refrigerator, two full beds (one above the other) and even a shower and a toilet. This was literally everything we needed all in one and it was far cheaper than getting a rental car and booking hotels in every location we needed to stop in. Honestly though, what made this so amazing was that Switzerland as a country is very friendly toward this type of travel and there are tons of designated locations all over where you legally park for the night and sleep. They even have rest stops where you can plug in for electricity, fill up on water, wash your clothing, get access to wifi and take a hot shower. As we mentioned, there is a shower in the van but it was very cramped and also the water was usually cold - even after running the heater for it. The rest stops are great because for roughly 10 USD you get a bit of normalcy for a day and then you can head out somewhere to park for free overnight.
We started our trip from Zurich and made our way down to the south, near Italy, before we headed west on our slow climb back up to the north. We were in the van for about two weeks and we were able to visit a ton of destinations with incredible ease. The best part about this, for us, was that we literally had everything with us all the time. We didn’t need to pack up and move every day, repack the car, carry our backpacks around… it was a relief to have everything in one place and be able to travel around in a much more simplified manner.
In no particular order we visited the famous Hotel Belvedere, Zermatt and Matterhorn, Rhonegletscher, Oeschinensee, Verzasca Dam, Luaterbrunnen and we stopped at any waterfall that we could find along the way. The two weeks we spent exploring Switzerland were incredible and this opened our eyes to how easy and simple van life really is. We would do it all over again without hesitation. Rhonegletscher and Hotel Belvedere actually share a parking lot so this is one of the stops you should be sure not to miss. Lauterbrunnen is a speckling of villages in a valley between towering mountains with waterfalls around every corner. So many of the mountain lakes are stunning as well. We went a quite a few, more than mentioned here as we cannot recall all the names but beautiful blue lakes seem to be all over Switzerland. The Verzasca Dam is near the Italian border and is famous from the intro scene of Goldeneye. If you are going to go here be sure to call in advance to see if you can do the bungee jumping.
If you decide to visit this country and do a road trip like we did, definitely be sure to pick up your groceries at actual super markets rather than some of the quick stop locations that you will certainly find. The real grocery stores, like Aldi, are a fraction of the price. We were able to feed ourselves every meal for about 15 USD total per day and our grocery choices produced a very small amount of waste/trash. You will also want to look into getting a SIM card when you arrive in the airport or at any train station if you enter the country that way. We made a special trip just after we picked up the van to go to the airport and get a SIM for the journey. We were pleasantly surprised to find that for roughly 50 USD you could get unlimited texts, calls, data and a personal hotspot. Overall, doing a road trip through Switzerland is guaranteed to leave you very satisfied.
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