A Student's Guide to Backpacking: Switzerland

08/23/2011 03:01 pm ET | Updated Oct 22, 2011

Switzerland is one of the most naturally beautiful countries in Europe, but, as a backpacker or budget traveler, it can be easy to spend your time worrying about how light your wallet is getting. Plan well and a trip to Switzerland -- while modestly more expensive than a visit to the country's European neighbors -- doesn't have to break the bank.


Swiss Alps:Beautiful, majestic and -- at times -- mildly terrifying, the Swiss Alps provide a picturesque view of the Swiss countryside. The Swiss Alps are home to the world's highest rail station near the peak of the mountain Jungfrau and mountains capable of scaling in a simple day hike. Pace yourself, though, because the peaks are deceiving. After all, one would think that the journey up would be the hardest part when - in reality - the hike down may actually be more difficult. Negotiating the steep slopes and gravity's constant pull will quickly drain you of any energy you have left. The view from the top, though, is certainly worth the inevitable exhaustion.

United Nations:The guided tour is a bit underwhelming and rushed, but one can't expect one of the most influential centers for foreign affairs and international politics to throw their doors wide open either. What is available to the public, though, is worth a visit. Tours lead visitors through a multitude of grandiose conference rooms including the newly restored "Room XX" by Miquel Barceló, complete with a multi-colored, stalagmite sculpture-covered ceiling.

Lake Geneva: There is technically no 'Lake Geneva" in Geneva, Switzerland. The lake's real name in English is actually Lake Leman. When asked for directions to Lake Geneva, though, some locals will simply sigh and point travelers in the right direction. While it is home to the world's tallest fountain, many flock to the area for the shopping. Indeed, it would appear that Lake Leman was home to the headquarters of just about every renown Swiss watch maker, including Rolex. As a backpacker, it's hard to find something affordable. However, if you know where to look, relatively inexpensive stores -- such as H&M -- are never far away and a good source of replacement clothes.

Food & Drink

Fondue & Fribourgeoise: Fondue is rather universal, but there's nothing like trying a food in its original context. After all, it's hard to go wrong with melted cheese and bread, but the Swiss take the craft to an entirely different level with dozens of variations of the popular dish. For example, if you're looking to mix up your starchy carbohydrate intake, try fribourgeoise, a type of fondue that uses potatoes instead of bread.