How one Interrailer pulled off the perfect budget-friendly trip to Switzerland
14 December 2023
48 mountains towering more than 4,000-metres into the sky. An 11-billion ton glacier. Around 1,500 lakes, including behemoths such as Lake Geneva and Lake Constance.
Travellers from all over the world dream of witnessing Switzerland’s natural wonder. Last year, Nowshad, a software engineer from Berlin, was one of them.
“I visited Switzerland for 10 days, without spending too much money,” said Nowshad, who embarked on his first Interrail journey in 2022. “It was an extraordinary trip to remember.”
Nowshad is no stranger to travel. After moving from Bangladesh to Germany around four years ago, he has been exploring Europe from the Arctic Circle in the north to the Balkans in the south, often within a slim budget.
In August 2022, using a one-month Global Pass, he took the train southwest to Bern, his home base for the majority of his trip. “I had a friend in Bern who kindly gave me a place to stay for a week,” Nowshad said. “Lots of love to my friends Lukas [and] Jasmin for enabling this awesome trip!”
Home to a handful of accommodations charging less than €125 per night, Bern can be a helpful home base for budget-minded travellers, Nowshad said. Hostels are also a convenient option for those looking to save money.
“The [train] connections are very good. It's a big city, so you have everything you need,” said Nowshad. “And because it's in the middle of Switzerland, it's very easy to take day trips.”
For Nowshad, every day brought a new adventure, from catching sight of the famous Matterhorn to passing by the Freddie Mercury statue in Montreux.
Along the way, he found ways to maximise his experience while budgeting at the same time – for example, by sailing the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz, which Eurail and Interrail Pass holders can do for free.
“We sailed across the crystal-clear waters of Lake Brienz, passing charming lakeside villages like Iseltwald and the famous Giessbach Falls…offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains,” Nowshad described in a Medium post. “The color, the sunshine, the beauty all around, the fresh air — it felt like heaven!”
One standout excursion on the trip? His journey to Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps. Stretching over 20 kilometres, the colossal natural phenomenon – and the hike he took to reach it – left a lasting impression on Nowshad.
“When you are going up, you can see one side of the valley, and then when you get to the top, you can see this huge glacier,” he described. “You get totally different views from both sides of the mountain. That was something unique compared to other hikes.”
Nowshad found a smaller kind of beauty on the mountain, too. “A pinkish kind of flower blooms during August in the Swiss mountains. It looked really gorgeous.”
By the end of Nowshad’s time in Switzerland, he had crisscrossed the country’s jaw-dropping mountains many times over, taking the Bernina Express, Glacier Express, Golden Pass Railway, and beyond.
Taking the train – and using the Interrail Pass – allowed spur-of-the-moment stops along the way. “It gave me a freedom that I probably never experienced before, I got on and off the train wherever I felt like it,” he said.
A spontaneous stay in Davos – which Nowshad knew only from its role in hosting the World Economic Forum – was a highlight, he said.
“My night stay was a few kilometres from Davos in a tiny village. A camping hostel by a mountain stream,” Nowshad wrote in his blog. “The sound of the water flowing downstream and the crickets chirping made it such a peaceful experience, I can hardly describe it in words.”
To discover more natural beauty around Davos, Nowshad took advantage of the Davos Klosters Premium Card. Summer travellers can use the card to purchase a 15-franc day ticket to use on cable cars around the Davos area.
“I decided to visit the Parsenn ski area, which offered panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys,” Nowshad wrote. “In the morning, I was the only one at the peak, and I felt so lucky when I saw a [herd] of ibexes.”
Yet Nowshad found plenty of natural beauty and adventures back in Bern, too.
“One of the coolest things to do in Bern is swim in the Aare River, which is this turquoise colour,” he said. “It was pretty cool to see a lot of locals do that.” (Note that only confident swimmers should attempt a dip in the river.)
Using Bern as a home base made it easy for Nowshad to save on food, too.
“Eating out can be super expensive. Like a doner kebab costs €15 in Switzerland, [when it] costs €5 in Berlin,” he said. “As I was staying with friends, I could come back at night and make my own food or pack something for a hiking day or train travel day.”
He replicated this strategy while at hostels, making it a point to visit local supermarkets and bakeries instead of eating at restaurants for every meal.
However, he made sure to set aside some budget for dining out. “I tried to limit my eating out, like fancy meals, as much as possible. [But] obviously when I go somewhere, I want to try at least once or twice the local, special stuff.”
After exploring the mountainscapes of Switzerland, Nowshad took the train to Lichtenstein and Austria before working his way back to Berlin. Travelling solo allowed him the flexibility to work remotely when needed – or simply relax at his own pace.
When the occasional bout of loneliness strikes, “talking to people helps, especially during trips that aren’t strictly planned,” Nowshad said. “In Austria I actually talked to quite a lot of people,” swapping recommendations with fellow travellers.
“They can give you a lot of good advice like where to stay, what to eat, what to see,” he continued. “It's a good exchange…everyone has their own unique journey.”
For anyone nervous about travelling alone, Nowshad offers the following advice: “Start with something simple…rather than venturing into too much unknown [the first time you travel solo]. And then slowly, once someone discovers more and gets more confident with solo travelling, they can explore a bit further.”
“Travelling solo, I think it's a different kind of adventure," he added. “You feel peaceful.”
Feeling inspired by Nowshad's Swiss adventure? With Interrail, you can:
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