Business Hours -- Banks are usually open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm (closed on legal holidays). Foreign currency may be exchanged at major railroad stations and airports daily from 8am to 10pm. Most business offices are open Monday through Friday from 8am to noon and 2 to 6pm. Shops are usually open Monday through Friday from 8am to 12:15pm and 1:30 to 6:30pm, and on Saturday from 9am to 4pm. In most major cities, shops and supermarkets in the main train station are open on Sundays -- generally between 11am and 4pm. In large cities most shops don't close during the lunch hour, although many do close on Monday morning.

Doctors -- Any foreign consulate can provide a list of area doctors who speak English. If you get sick, consider asking your hotel concierge to recommend a local doctor -- even his or her own. You can also try the emergency room at a local hospital. Many hospitals also have walk-in clinics for emergency cases that are not life-threatening; you may not get immediate attention, but you won't pay the high price of an emergency-room visit.

Drug Laws -- A word of warning: Penalties for illegal drug possession are severe in Switzerland. You could go to jail or be deported immediately.

Electricity -- Switzerland's electricity is 220 volts, 50 cycles, AC. Some international hotels are specially wired to allow North Americans to plug in their appliances, but you'll usually need a transformer for your electric razor or hair dryer. You'll also need an adapter plug if you're from North America or the UK.

Embassies & Consulates -- Most embassies are located in the national capital, Bern; some nations maintain consulates in other cities such as Geneva. There's an Australian consulate in Geneva at Chemins des Fins 2 9tel. 022/799-91-00). The Canadian embassy is at 88 Kirchenfeldstrasse, Bern (tel. 031/357-32-00). New Zealand has no embassy in Switzerland, but there's a consulate in Geneva at Chemin des Fins (tel. 022/929-03-50). The embassy of the United Kingdom is at Thunstrasse 50, Bern (tel. 031/359-77-00) and there is a British consulate in Geneva at 37-39, rue de Vermont (tel. 022/918-24-00). The embassy of the United States is located at Jubilaumstrasse 93, Bern (tel. 031/357-70-11), with consulates in Zurich at Dufourstrasse 101 (tel. 031/499-29-60) and in Geneva at Versonnex 7 (tel. 022/840-51-60).

Emergencies -- Dial tel. 117 for the police (emergencies only) and tel. 118 to report a fire.

Language -- The three major languages are German, French, and Italian, although most people in the tourist industry speak English.

Legal Aid -- The government advises foreigners to consult their embassy or consulate in case of a dire emergency, such as an arrest. Even if your embassy or consulate declines to offer financial or legal help, it will generally offer advice on how to obtain help locally.

Newspapers & Magazines -- Swiss papers are published in German, French, or Italian (depending on the region). Most news kisks in major cities stock the British dailies, plus the latest editions of the International Herald Tribune, which, although edited in Paris, is printed in Zurich. USA Today, the latest copies of Time and Newsweek, and other North American and British magazines are also widely available.

Taxes -- A value-added tax (VAT) of 7.6% is added to bills. In addition, drivers entering Switzerland are required by law to purchase a windshield sticker for 40F, valid for travel on Swiss roads for 1 year. Sticers are sold at all Customs posts upon entering Switzerland.

Time -- Switzerland's clocks are usually 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States, and 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. However, because Switzerland and the United States switch their clocks every spring and fall during different weeks, the time difference is sometimes only 5 hours.

Tipping -- A 15% service charge is included in all hotel and restaurant bills, although some people leave an additional tip for exceptional service. For taxis, a tip is usually included in the charges (a notice will be posted in the cab).

Toilets -- Most public toilets are clean and modernized. However, in this multilingual country you have to know what you are looking for. Depending on the part of Switzerland, public restrooms may be WC (water closet), Toiletten, toilettes, or gabinetti. Women's rooms may be identified as Damen, Frauen, Signore, Donne, Femmes, or Dames; and men's rooms may be labeled Herren, Männer, Signori, Uomini, Hommes, or Messieurs. Public restrooms can be found at bus stations, railway terminals, and cable-car platforms. If these aren't handy, use the toilets in cafes. Most public toilets are not free.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.