Lucerne

Basics

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Basic information on the lay of the land, its history and local peculiarities - so you can act like a local during your stay in Lucerne.

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Basic data

Area
Switzerland: 41285 sq km
Lucerne (canton): 1493 sq km
Lucerne (city): 29 sq km

Population
Switzerland: 8.0 million
Lucerne (city): 80,000

Official languages
Switzerland: German, French, Italian, Romansh
Lucerne: German

Local time
Central European (GMT+1h)

Rivers
Reuss 164 km (flows through Lucerne)
Rhine 375 km (in Switzerland)

Borders
France (572 km), Germany (373 km), Austria (165 km), Principality of Liechtenstein (41 km), Italy (741 km)

Customs

Switzerland is not a member of the European customs union. On the one hand that gives you the opportunity to buy real tax-free goods at airports when you are travelling from and to Switzerland. On the other hand there are tight restrictions on the goods you can take free of customs duty from Switzerland to your country. For EU-countries the following customs and tax allowances apply (for other countries check with the appropriate customs authorities):

Tobacco: 200 (50 to some countries) cigarettes or 100 (20) cigarillos or 50 (10) cigars or 250 gr (50) of smoking tobacco.
Alcohol: 1 litre of spirits over 22% vol or 2 litres of spirits with less than 22% vol, 4 litres of still wine, 16 litres of beer.
Other goods: Max. value of all goods: 430 euros for air travellers and 300 euros for other travellers.

Goods over these limits must be declared when entering an EU-country, additional taxes and VAT may apply.

In Switzerland there is duty-free shopping for arriving passengers as well.

Drinking

The drinking age in Switzerland is 16 for wine and beer and 18 for spirits and alcopops. The standard sizes for beer are the 0.3 litre Stange (pronounced: shtang-eh) and the 0.5 litre Grosses (gro-sus). The long-standing medium-scale brewers (in Lucerne you‘ll usually find Eichhof, which now belongs to the Dutch Heineken breweries) are increasingly getting competition from innovative local brewers. Check out Luzerner Bier, Lozärner Bier (yep, not the same) or Appenzeller for instance.
Swiss wines are also not to be underestimated. While the best may come from further south, you‘ll find some very good Blauburgunders (red) and Riesling Sylvaners (white) from the Lucerne region. Traditional Swiss spirits are fruit brandies, cherry (Kirsch) and pear (Williams) being the most common.
 

Electricity

Electricity in Switzerland is 230 V, 50 Hz AC. Plug sockets are round and take three round pins (types C and J) - they can take europlugs with two pins. If you are coming from the US, UK or Ireland, as well as from many other countries, you will need an adaptor. Travellers from the US (and other countries with a different voltage than 230 V) additionally need a voltage converter. In modern hotels you might find multi-use sockets. Otherwise ask for an adaptor / converter at the reception or buy one in a traveller's or electronics shop.

Health & Emergency

Informations for health issues and emergencies.

Emergency

Emergency telephone numbers (operators usually speak basic English):

Ambulance: 144
Police: 117
Firebrigade: 118


If you need medical attention, there is a walk-in medical centre (Permanence, see below) for all kinds of consultations at the main tran station. The emergency unit at the hospital is always open.

Pharmacies

The pharmacy (Apotheke in German) with the longest opening hours is Benu in the underground shopping area of the main train station. It is open Mon - Sat 06:00 - 22:00, Sun 09:00 - 20:00 ((+41) 41 220 13 13). If you are in urgent need of medication outside these hours contact (+41) 900 11 14 14 (3.23Sfr/min.).

Internet & Wi-fi

Surfing the internet over a mobile network can be very expensive when you're abroad, due to the roaming charges. Luckily, most hotels and many cafés, bars and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi. And in the city centre around the station, at the lakeshore and Löwenstrasse there is free public Wi-Fi. Simply search for the network 'luzerner wlan' on your device and open a browser. After you enter your phone number you will get an access code which will allow you to surf for an hour for free. You will also find the commercial Wi-Fi providers Monzoon and Swisscom all over the city. You can subscribe to their services on the start page you get on your browser once you connect to their hotspots - all you need is a credit card. Prices start at 5Sfr per day. With the Visitor Card issued for free by your hotel, you get unlimited access to the W-FI 'Free WiFi - Luzern.com' on hotspots dotted around the city, you don't even have to register separately. Ask at your hotel about it.

Travelers Wifi - unlimited internet in Switzerland

This is an easy solution to get a quality internet connection when in Switzerland while still avoiding sky-high roaming costs. You simply rent the tiny pocket Wifi traveler Wi-Fi device and you'll have an unlimited and speedy 4G/LTE data connection in all of Switzerland, for up to 10 devices. And it's simple to get. Book it either in advance on its website and then simply pick it up upon arrival in Switzerland at Zurich Airport or any Swiss post office. They'll even send it directly to your hotel or to any Swiss address. The device always comes with a box. To return it, just put it in the box and drop it into a Swiss Post mailbox.

Sample prices:
3 days CHF 39.90
7 days CHF 64.90
10 days CHF 83.40
15 days CHF 129.90
additional shipping costs CHF 5 - 9

You can book it at www.travelerswifi.com

Language

Switzerland has four official languages: German (spoken by 64%), French (20%), Italian (6.5%) and Romansh (0.5%). Lucerne lies in the German speaking part of the country, where people speak a German dialect, so-called Swiss German or Schwyzerdütsch. Be it among friends, at work or when dealing with the authorities, people speak dialect. However, Swiss people use standard German, so-called Hochdeutsch, when writing and speaking at school. A lot of Swiss speak English fairly well, especially the younger generation. So generally getting by in English is no problem.

Language smarts

Here are a few German phrases and some typical Swiss German words - it will be always appreciated if you use a few Swiss words. The 'r‘ in Swiss German is rolled, the ‘ch’ is pronounced like in the Scottish loch. Mind your throat.

Swiss German
Grüezi  (groo-e-tsi)  Hello (formal)
Adieu  (as in French)  Goodbye (formal)
Merci  (mersi) or Danke  Thank you

Entschuldigung!  Sorry!
Exgüsi   (ex-gewsi)  Excuse me!
D‘Schwyz  (chviiits)  Switzerland
Zum Wohl!  (tsoom vol)  Cheers!
Lozärn  (Lo-tsaern)  Lucerne

 

Lost & Found

If you've lost your hat, your handbag or something else, you might have a happy reunion at the lost & found, fundbüro in German. It's located at the police station at Hirschengraben 17b (B-4), tel +41 41 248 86 66, open Mon - Fri 10:00 - 12:30, 14:30 - 17:00. If you might have lost your item on a train or at the train station, also try the lost & found at the station.

Lu...what?

What's in a name? If you look for the destination Lucerne on a timetable, you might wonder if the place has gone missing! But no fear - the German spelling is Luzern. That is standard German however: in dialect it's Lozärn, but now we're getting a bit advanced. The simple math is: Lucerne=Luzern.

Mail & Phone

Post
The Swiss post is generally reliable, and also can take care of all your financial transactions. There are post offices all over the city - the university post office just next to the train station has long opening hours (see below).

Dialling
Switzerland’s calling code is +41. Lucerne’s code is (an additional!) (0)41. We list the country code before all telephone numbers. Of course you only have to use this if you are dialling from abroad. If you are already in Switzerland, just ignore the +41 country prefix, dial 0 and then the nine-digit number.

Market values

Loaf of bread 2-5Sfr (€1.85 - 4.70)

Cup of coffee 4-7Sfr (€3.70 - 6.55)

0.3 litre of beer (bar) 4-7Sfr (€3.70 - 6.55)

Public transport ticket, valid 1 hr 4.30Sfr (€4)

Packet of cigarettes 8Sfr (€7.50)

McDonald‘s Big Mac 6.50Sfr (€6.05)

The Swiss national bank has abandoned its policy of tying the Swiss Franc to the Euro. Currently the exchange rate is quite stable at around 1.08 Sfr to the Euro.

Money

The currency and legal tender of Switzerland is the Swiss franc (Sfr), which is divided in 100 rappen. There are banknotes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 1000 francs. The coins in use are 1,2 and 5 francs as well as 5, 10, 20 and 50 rappen. You can change your money at UMC Change, Frankenstr. 5 (tel. (+41) 41 211 00 50, C-4, www.umc-change-lu.ch, just next to the station) or at the SBB Change at the train station or any of the banks. Or just withdraw Swiss francs with your Maestro or your Plus card from one of the ubiquitous ATM’s. Credit cards are widely accepted - both in shops and restaurants. Service is always included. At a restaurant however, if you were happy with the service, leave 5-10% of the bill as a tip.

National holidays

January 1 New Year
January 2 Berchtold Day (local)
Feb 28, March 4 & 5, 2019 Carnival (local)
April 19, 2019 Good Friday
April 22, 2019 Easter Monday
May 30, 2019 Ascension
June 10, 2019 Whit Monday
June 20, 2019 Corpus Christi
August 1 National Holiday
October 2 St. Leodegar's Day (local)
November 1 All Saints' Day (local)
December 25 Christmas
December 26 St. Stephen's Day

Politics

The Swiss like to consider their country the home of direct democracy and citizens here are regularly asked to take a stand on national issues. The two chambers of parliament are (mainly) elected in a proportional voting system and the seven-member government appointed by parliament always includes representatives of all of the four or five major parties. Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, once sovereign states which retain some independence and have their own constitutions, parliaments and governments. Bern is the capital and the seat of the parliament and the federal authorities. Due to the understanding of political independence many locals favour, Switzerland is not a member of the EU and joined the UN only as late as 2002. Switzerland does, however, cooperate with the EU in many areas, such as on the Schengen visa and border agreement.

Safety

Lucerne is generally a safe city, and there is no no-go area, even for single travellers at night. Of course crime exists, and be on guard against pickpockets just as in any European city.

Smoking

The legal age for smoking is 16. Smoking in publicly accessible buildings and public transport is generally illegal in Switzerland. In Lucerne however, if restaurants and bars are under 80m2, they can opt to be smoking venues and quite a few do so.

Visas

For a stay of up to three months, many foreigners simply need a passport or an ID card to enter Switzerland. Even though not a member of the European Union, Switzerland is a member of the Schengen Agreement. As a result a Schengen visa is valid for Switzerland as well. Always check these details with a Swiss embassy or consulate.

Visitor Card Lucerne

The Visitor Card issued by Lucerne Tourism comes for free with an overnight stay in one of the city's hotels. Since spring it's now issued digitally to your smartphone (you can still print it if needed). It includes free use of buses and trains within the city (zone 10) as well as access to the free Wi-Fi 'Free Wifi - LUZERN.COM' throughout the city and dscoutns on activites and the like. Ask at your hotel and see www.luzern.com/visitorcard.
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