Switzerland is situated at the center of Europe and thus is a focal point for international air traffic. The busy intercontinental airports of Zurich and Geneva can be reached in about 8 hours from the east coast of North America and in fewer than 2 hours from London or Paris. The country is also the crossroads of Europe -- virtually all rail lines, road passes, and mountain tunnels lead to it. Similarly, the main European route for east-west travel passes through Switzerland, between Lake Constance and Geneva.
From North America -- From New York, it takes about 7 hours to fly to either Geneva or Zurich; from Chicago, about 10 hours; and from the West Coast, about 14 hours.
Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. (simply called Swiss) has taken over as the major carrier for Switzerland in the wake of the famous Swissair going belly up. For information, contact Swiss at tel. 877/FLY-SWISS (877/359-7947) in the U.S., 0848/700-700 in Switzerland, or 0845/601-09-56 in London. Or else search out www.swiss.com.
From North America, the most popular Swiss routes are daily flights from New York's JFK Airport to either Zurich or Geneva. There is also a daily Newark, New Jersey-Zurich flight, as well as a daily flight from Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Dallas (in partnership with American Airlines).
From Montreal, Swiss flies to Zurich daily; from London, there are 2 daily Swiss flights to Basel, 5 to Geneva, and 14 to Zurich.
American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) makes one daily nonstop flight to Zurich from JFK. In collaboration with British Airlines, it also operates at least one daily flight to Zurich from London's Heathrow as well.
Delta Airlines (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) has one daily nonstop to Zurich from Atlanta and a daily flight from Portland, Oregon, with a stopover in Atlanta.
Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) flies nonstop daily from Toronto to Zurich. Flight time from Toronto is about 8 hours.
From Britain -- From London's Heathrow Airport, British Airways (BA; tel. 0844/493-0787; www.britishairways.com) offers six daily nonstop flights to Zurich; on Saturday there are five flights. The airline also provides eight daily flights from Heathrow to Geneva. From Gatwick, BA offers at least one daily nonstop to Geneva.
You can also check for flights by Aer Lingus (tel. 0870/876-5000; www.aerlingus.com) from Dublin, and flights from London on easyJet (tel. 0870/600-0000; www.easyjet.com).
British newspapers are always full of classified advertisements touting bargain airfares. Although competition is fierce, one well-recommended company that consolidates bulk ticket purchases and then passes the savings on to its consumers is Trailfinders (tel. 0845/058-5858 in London; www.trailfinders.com), which offers discounted tickets on major airlines.
Situated in the middle of the Continent, Switzerland has a network of express highways linking it to other European countries. You can drive all the way from Britain to Switzerland by taking a northerly route through Belgium or the Netherlands and then Germany. British motorists tend to prefer this express auto route, which is free, to going through France and paying expensive toll charges.
The route through France is also much slower. It begins a few miles south of Calais and leads directly to the Périphérique (the ring road around Paris), where you can pick up the Autoroute du Soleil to Switzerland. In Britain, the best connection for a road link across France is from Portsmouth to Le Havre.
From the south of Germany, Autobahn E35 leads directly into Basel. From Basel, head east to Zurich on E60.
From Paris -- One of the busiest rail links in Europe stretches from Paris to Geneva and Lausanne. Almost as busy are the rail routes between Paris and Zurich. Most of the trains assigned to these routes are part of Europe's network of high-speed trains (the French refer to them as trains à grande vitesse, or TGV). From Paris's Gare de Lyon, about four trains a day depart for both Geneva and Lausanne. Travel time to Geneva is about 4 hours; travel time to Lausanne is about 4 1/2 hours.
Trains from Paris to Zurich depart three times a day from Paris's Gare de l'Est. Ironically, kilometers traveled by train within Switzerland are proportionately more expensive than equivalent distances within France, so ongoing fares from Zurich or Geneva to other points within Switzerland may come as an unpleasant surprise. Travelers who anticipate lots of rail travel are well advised to consider the purchase of any of Rail Europe's passes, or one of the Swiss Passes.
Schedules, prices, departure times, and confirmed reservations can be arranged before you leave North America through Rail Europe (tel. 877/272-RAIL [272-7245]; www.raileurope.com).
From London -- Rail links are also convenient between London and Switzerland. Both the following routes are easy, but the route through France is considerably more scenic (plus, you'll get the thrill of crossing the Chunnel -- one of the world's engineering marvels).
Via the Hook of Holland -- The standard EuroCity express route sets out from London's Liverpool Street Station, sails from Harwick to the Hook of Holland, and then proceeds by train via Cologne, Germany, to either Basel or Zurich. Once here, it's easy to find rail links to the rest of Switzerland.
Across or Under the Channel through Paris -- It's also possible to take the rail link from London across or under the English Channel to Paris, where you can make ongoing rail connections to Switzerland. If you depart London at 10am, you can arrive in Geneva or Lausanne before 10pm the same day.
Another way to reach Switzerland via Paris from London is the Citylink rail-hovercraft-rail service. English trains originate at London's Victoria Station and chug through the English countryside to the port of Folkestone. Passengers disembark and board a hovercraft or, in some cases, a conventional ferryboat, and continue across the channel to the French port of Boulogne. Once you reach the Continent, you'll proceed south on a waiting train through France into Paris's Gare du Nord. In Paris, passengers must travel by taxi or Metro (subway) across town to either the Gare de Lyon, for ongoing transfers to Geneva and Lausanne, or the Gare de l'Est, for Basel and Zurich. Trains then depart for Switzerland at regular intervals.
For information, timetables, and confirmed reservations (which are required on certain segments of these routes), contact Rail Europe (tel. 877/272-RAIL [272-7245]).
Travelers from the U.K. may opt to take one of a dozen or more daily Eurostar trains from London's St. Pancras station to Paris's Gare du Nord via the Channel tunnel, also known as the Chunnel, then travel on to Switzerland from Paris. Travel time is approximately 2 hours, with one-way fares beginning at 100€ per person one way, depending on the hour of departure. You can make reservations for Eurostar at tel. 0870/584-8848 in the United Kingdom; in France at tel. 01-55-31-54-54; in the United States at tel. 800/EUROSTAR (387-6782); or online at www.eurostar.com.
The Eurotunnel trains also accommodate passenger cars, charter buses, taxis, and motorcycles under the English Channel from Folkestone, England, to Calais, France, on a service called Le Shuttle. They operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, running every 15 minutes during peak travel times and at least once hourly at night. Tickets may be purchased at the tollbooth or by contacting www.eurotunnel.com or calling 08443/35-35-35 (U.K. only). With Le Shuttle, gone are weather-related delays, seasickness, and a need for reservations.
You'll drive onto a half-mile-long train and travel through an impermeable underground tunnel.
Before boarding Le Shuttle, you must stop at a tollbooth and pass through Immigration for both countries at one time. During the ride you'll stay in bright, air-conditioned carriages, remaining inside your car or stepping outside to stretch your legs. When the trip is completed, simply drive off toward your destination -- in our case, heading southeast to Switzerland.
Because of its location at the crossroads of Europe, Switzerland is on several important bus routes. Eurolines, Ltd., 52 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0AU, U.K. (tel. 0870/514-32-19 or 020/7730-8235; www.eurolines.com), offers routes into Switzerland from several major European cities, including London. Departing from London's Victoria Coach Station, buses have toilets, air-conditioning, and reclining seats, and maintain a strict nonsmoking policy. They stop about every 4 hours for a brief rest and refreshments. Other buses depart 2 nights a week for Zurich at 8pm, arriving the next day at 1:15pm. Fares from London to Zurich go for £77 to £84 one-way and £126 round-trip. Persons 25 and under pay £77 each way and £118 round-trip.