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This page is intended to serve as a starting point for individual research. The information was compiled by student staff who previously studied abroad. Remember, not all important information can be summed on this page and some information may have changed. Students are highly encouraged to do their own research!

  • Population: 8.42 million
  • Capital: Bern
  • Demographics: Despite the largest ethnic group in Switzerland being the Swiss at roughly 75% of the population, Switzerland has some of the highest rates foreign nationals and immigrants throughout Europe, with 37% of the population coming from a non-Swiss background.
  • Type of government: Switzerland is a semi-direct democratic federal republic.
  • Regional Membership: Switzerland is not part of the European Union but is part of the Schengen region
  • Common foods: Fondue, chocolate, bread and pastries

German, French, Italian and Romansh are the official languages of Switzerland.

Most Swiss people (particularly the younger generation) are adept at speaking English, though there is no guarantee that they will. The best practice is to attempt speaking the local language and if they can tell you are struggling, they will likely switch to speaking English.

As a University of Illinois student, you have access to library resources (such as Rosetta Stone and Libguides). You may also want to consider free sources to learn basic phrases, or to refresh your language skills prior to departure.

It is each students responsibility to independently verify the visa information below and ensure they apply and secure the appropriate documentation to travel and stay in their host country for the duration of their program.

Students studying abroad in Switzerland for the fall or spring semester will need to get a student visa.

To read more on passport and visa terminology see the Passports & Visas page of this website.


  • Check with your service provider about purchasing an international plan, though a local number may be useful for safety and communications purposes.
  • Pay-as-you-go SIM cards might be the most affordable option for longer stays and you will be available for purchase once you arrive in Switzerland. Most pay-as-you-go plans will have data options for internet use. You can look at the Swisscom or Salt websites for further details on mobile plans.
  • Make sure you have the Duo Mobile app set up on your phone. If you get a new SIM card, use the passcode options instead of PUSH, or go to UI Verify website to enter your new phone information.


  • Internet infrastructure in Switzerland is well developed, and you will likely have internet access through your housing and on campus.
  • WiFi service is widely available throughout the country in bars, restaurants, and hotels. It may not be available for free in as many locations as U.S. students are accustomed to. Most menus in Swiss restaurants have the WiFi password on the back.


  • Switzerland uses plug Type C, and adapters are widely available for purchase.
  • While an adapter makes your device fit into the local outlet, a converter converts the voltage. The voltage will not be the same as in the U.S. For that reason, it is recommended that you do NOT bring appliances such as hair dryers or hair straighteners with you unless you also purchase a voltage converter.

The Swiss Franc is the official currency of Switzerland.

Payment Methods

  • Credit and debit cards are the preferred payment method for many Swiss nationals.
  • If you plan to use a US credit or debit card while in Switzerland, be sure to notify your bank that you will be using it abroad and find out how much of an international surcharge will be added for each card swipe.
  • While paying for items with a card, keep the payment in the local currency to prevent extra costs.
  • Cash is also common and can be used anywhere--coins are more widely used, as there are 1, 2, and 5 Franc coins in circulation.

Banking Tips

  • Internet banking/bank transfers are the most common payment method for regular bill payments..
  • Try to avoid using ATMs that are part of a store. It is better to use an ATM at a bank, even if the ATM is inside the bank and you have to swipe your card to enter the building in order to use the ATM. .
  • Many US banks will allow you to exchange dollars for Francs in advance. It is recommended that you travel to Switzerland with enough Francs to last you several days, or exchange money at the airport upon arrival..
  • There are several wire transfer services available in Switzerland if you need money sent from the United States to Switzerland while you are abroad. Carefully research all the possible surcharges and safety concerns before selecting a wire transfer service. Venmo and Cashapp are both widely used in Switzerland.


  • Switzerland has hot summers and cool, snowy winters (though weather tends to be a bit more extreme when traveling into the mountains).


  • Light T-shirts and cotton clothes are recommended for the summer, while warmer clothes and layers are necessary for the winter.
  • For more packing considerations, view the Packing List (PDF).

Traveling Locally

  • Within Switzerland, you should take advantage of the excellent public railway system to get from city to city. SBB trains depart from main train stations regularly, and travel all throughout Switzerland and the surrounding countries. Use the SBB website to purchase train tickets in advance to save money.

Public transport services

  • Interregional (IR) Trains: Slow and often cheaper, stopping at all or most stations.
  • InterCity (IC) Trains: Faster services operating between major cities. Their international counterparts are called Eurocity (EC).
  • Trams: Trams are commonplace in the larger Swiss cities, and are known for being timely and reliable. The tram network is dense, and you should be able to get to most places around the city by using them.
  • Buses: Buses are also a big part of public transport in Switzerland, and they tend to run later into the night than other train/tram services.


  • Zurich – one large-sized airport
  • Geneva – one medium-sized airport
  • There are also considerably smaller airports in Bern, Lugano, Basel and Sion, but flights here are infrequent and expensive.

Each student faces different barriers and unique challenges based on their identity. For example, how you identify in the United States may not be how you choose to identify abroad because of the local social culture. We encourage all students to reflect on the different aspects of their identity and consider how they may play a role in their study abroad experience. To help with this thought process: visit the State Department website and look into the Identity & Inclusion resources available on this website.

International Safety and Security provides important wellness tips, along with using your insurance and the emergency phone number. Be sure to become familiar with this website and the resources available to you. Review the U.S. Embassy page and the Department of State website for additional safety resources.

Enroll yourself in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with the U.S. Department of State. Registration in STEP will allow you to get alerts on the latest safety and security information. In addition, the information you provide enables the U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency.