What You Need To Know
Lugano, the largest town in the holiday region of Ticino, is not only Switzerland’s third most important financial centre and a conference, banking and business centre, but also a town of parks and flowers, villas and sacred buildings. With Mediterranean flair, Lugano offers all the advantages of a world-class city, combined with the cachet of a small town.
Area: 32 km²
Population: 63,668 (2015)
- The Swiss franc (CHF) is the only official currency in Switzerland (and in Liechtenstein). The franc is the only currency accepted everywhere. The Euro is the currency in the neighboring countries Germany, France, Italy and Austria, and in many other European countries.Nevertheless, you can pay with Euros in many shops, hotels, rail stations and gas stations in Switzerland. This is convenient if you’re only in transit or only stay for one night. Many smaller shops, market stalls, kiosks, etc. only allow payment in Swiss francs. Note that the Euro is a foreign currency in Switzerland, so accepting it results in extra costs and risks for shop owners. Therefore, if you pay with Euros, change will be in Swiss francs and the exchange rate is mostly not in your favor. For longer stays, it is cheaper and more convenient to have Swiss francs at hand.
- Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted, so there is no need to have large amounts of cash at hand. You can pay larger amounts by cards and take along some cash for smaller payments and places that do not accept cards.Swiss francs can be obtained from ATM’s. They are available in all towns, and you usually find them at the post office, rail station and shopping center. In general this is the cheapest way to obtain cash. Your bank can provide exact fees. To save time upon arrival, it can be handy to purchase some Swiss francs before you depart.Your bank may charge fees for both cash withdrawal through ATM’s and credit/debit card payments.
In Lugano, located in the canton of Ticino, on the shores of the lake of the same name (also called Ceresio), 270 metres (885 feet) above sea level, the climate is temperate, with cold (but not freezing) winters, and warm summers, in which there’s a good amount of sunshine, but also quite frequent thunderstorms. Along with Locarno, Lugano is the mildest city in Switzerland.
In the cold half of the year, the wind is generally weak or non-existent, except when the favonio (or föhn) blows, the warm and dry wind that comes down from the Alps and is able to bring clear skies and very good visibility. During the warm half of the year, the wind is weak or moderate and follows the breeze regime: during the warmest hours the breeze blows from the lake towards the mountains, while after sunset and at night it blows from the mountains to the lake.
The best periods to visit Lugano are spring and early summer, in particular from mid-April to mid-June. September is also a good month. However, you should take into account some rainy days in both periods.
Summer, which is the best time for sunbathing, can be hot, though this rarely happens: usually the temperature is acceptable, especially in June. We recall the possibility of afternoon or evening thunderstorms, in summer and in May.
Switzerland has four official languages: German (spoken by 64%), French (20%), Italian (6.5%) and Romansh (0.5%). As Lugano is on the border with Italy, most of the inhabitants are of Italian descent, and thus, speak Italian. Among the Swiss National Languages, German, French and Romansh are also spoken here by various groups. However, due to the prevalence of the tourism industry, English is spoken by most people as well.
Health and security
- Healthcare in Switzerland is universal and is regulated by the Swiss Federal Law on Health Insurance. There are no free state-provided health services, but private health insurance is compulsory for all persons residing in Switzerland (within three months of taking up residence or being born in the country). International civil servants, members of embassies, and their family members are exempted from compulsory health insurance. Requests for exemptions are handled by the respective cantonal authority and have to be addressed to them directly.The whole healthcare system is geared toward the general goals of keeping the system competitive across cantonal lines, promoting general public health and reducing costs while encouraging individual responsibility.
Health insurance covers the costs of medical treatment and hospitalisation of the insured. However, the insured person pays part of the cost of treatment. This is done (a) by means of an annual deductible (called the franchise), which ranges from CHF 300 (PPP-adjusted US$ 184) to a maximum of CHF 2,500 (PPP-adjusted $1,534) for an adult as chosen by the insured person (premiums are adjusted accordingly) and (b) by a charge of 10% of the costs over and above the excess up to a stop-loss amount of CHF 700 (PPP-adjusted $429).
- Lugano is considered a safe city to visit, as safe as the whole of Switzerland. But like many parts of Europe, you must be aware of pickpockets and conceal your valuables accordingly. Most areas of Lugano are safe, but some areas might turn a little less safe at night for tourists.
- 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 according 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 a EU-country, additional taxes and VAT may apply.
- Switzerland is known as one of the more expensive countries to visit in Europe, and visitors are advised to choose their dinners wisely. However, responsible planning can help you avoid paying too much. While a three-course meal with wine will cost you more than 40 Swiss francs per person, you can have sandwiches that will cost you no more than eight francs. Also, remember that in Switzerland, most restaurant bills include service. Unless service is exceptional, there is no need to add any further server tip. However, visitors should be aware that the credit card bills leave open the ability to tip. If you’re not paying attention, you may end up paying far more for the meal than you realized.
- With a magnificent vista over Lugano, Monte Brè is Lugano’s closest mountain and it can be reached via funicular rail. The small, quaint village of Brè has a traditional character and also houses many paintings by the Swiss painter, Wilhelm Schmidt. There are plenty of things to do in the outdoors, including several hiking trails and mountain biking. The observation point gives you a view not only of the entire Lake Lugano valley, but often stretches as far as the views of Monte Rosa and the Bernese Alps.
- Set between lush vineyards and woods, the lovely little town of Vico Morcote has an impressive historical and architectural heritage. The houses in the area date from the 17th and 18th century and there is a stunning baroque church which offers panoramic views over the Alps and the valley. There are several hiking trails which are easily accessible from the town, and many of them have a mix of Alpine and Mediterranean flora, making for the ideal afternoon out.