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24 hours in Switzerland

Ever planned a trip somewhere and then changed your mind at the airport? I did. Here's how it went.

One random chilly day in November. I decided I wanted to go somewhere, but not just somewhere in the US, I wanted to get out of the country and experience the joy of being a US passport holder. (I'd only waited my whole life!) I have a fond habit of jet-setting off to random destinations at the drop of a hat, so that's exactly what I did.

It started as a harmless spontaneous trip to Ireland, seeing as how it would only cost me $25 to fly there and back. I packed a backpack and headed off to the airport. I was to connect in Newark and fly away to Dublin, where I intended to stay 24 hours and roam around the city, exploring as much as I could possibly see in one day. Nothing booked, no hotel. I was going full nomad for 24 hours straight.

When I landed in Newark, I had a change of heart and decided I wanted to go somewhere else. I did what I always do in these situations and found the flight status board and started combing through it to see where all the flights are going, hoping to find a destination that stuck out to me.

It wasn’t easy, as every destination I saw had to be thoroughly researched on the spot for three things: 1. Their entry/quarantine restrictions.

2. Their general COVID requirements.

3. The flight loads coming back the next day.

After all, I didn’t want to get stuck somewhere without the ability to get back!

My goal was to see as much as possible, spending as little as possible.

I should mention time was of the essence as it was 6 pm and all the last flights of the day were soon departing. If I didn’t check in to the flight an hour prior, I wouldn’t be able to make it through security!

After almost an hour of researching, I narrowed it down to Israel, Switzerland, and Amsterdam- I finally chose Zurich, Switzerland.

Quickly putting myself on the flight list, I started walking to security. As I reached security, finishing the check-in, I realized it was 6:57 pm and the flight was at 7:55 pm. I had missed the check-in by 2 minutes!

It wouldn’t let me check in on my phone, so I ran to the counter, hoping to pull off a miracle. The agent at the counter however couldn’t care less that I’d missed the mark, and flat out told me I was refused into Switzerland and it’s too late for my flight. He seemed to just not care enough to get me checked in. Great. Instead of arguing, I just said thank you and left. It was too late to catch any flight out today.

I called up my favorite New Yorker - Jasleen - and told her I was crashing at her place for the night.

The next day, I headed off to the airport and caught my flight to Switzerland, absolutely hypeedd!!

Landing in Switzerland, I was excited. It had been a while since I had flown to a new country and it was the first time I could explore a European city without worrying about getting caught for not having a Visa! (That's a story for another day) As I landed, I couldn’t help but stare out of the window at the amazing towns nearby. They looked exactly as I imagined they would.

Immediately after walking into the airport, I found a restroom and brushed my teeth/washed up, and got ready for a day of exploring.

My trip was very close to ending before it even began when I walked into Swiss immigration. The officer asked me how long I was there for, and I told him a day. He looked up at me, expecting me to say I was joking, but I just looked at him and smiled. He was completely baffled!

He asked me what I was going to be doing, I said I had no idea, I'd figure it out as I went.

He asked me who I knew in the country, I said no one.

He asked me where I was staying, I said nowhere.

He was growing increasingly alarmed at my answers and it was very evident on his face! In hopes that he could convince himself I wasn't a liability to the country, he asked me if I had a flight back.. and I said nope! He stared at me and his jaw dropped as he let out a big "EXCUSE ME?!!". I had to quickly calm him down and let him know I could get a flight at any moment and it wouldn't matter. He asked me to get one on the spot before he let me in, so I did! It was the only reason he let me in, or he would've sent me back to the US on the spot!

I converted $100 into Swiss Francs which was about 90 Francs, but with it being the airport- I only got 80. Bleh. I didn't know it then, but I later learned that Switzerland is widely considered the most expensive country in the world! Great place to go for a cheap trip, right? I'm a smart cookie.

Leaving the airport, I found trains to be the best way to get to the city center so I looked up a train map, hoping to see something similar to New York's Subway map. To be fair, I did.. but it was 100% in German. So I was utterly confused.

If you can decipher anything from the Da Vinci code above, you're either clinically insane or you know German. I, unfortunately, didn't fit in either category. So I did what any sane person would do in this situation- I walked onto the first train I saw, hoping it goes in the right direction. Lucky for me, it did!

Checking my maps the entire way, I eventually got off at the town center. I walked outside and it was beautiful.

First things first, I needed a bite to eat. I walked in random directions until I walked past a cute little cafe. It had little chairs and tables outside so I walked in and looked around for a menu. An older lady popped her head out from the back and said something in German.

Explaining how I don't speak the language, I asked her for food and she told me she wasn't even open yet but asked me in Italian, where I was from, and what I was doing there. Since Italian is somewhat similar to Spanish, I could understand a little of what she was saying, so I told her I'd come for 24 hours and I was hungry! This lady was so sweet, she cooked me something even though her cafe wasn't open yet!

Heck if I know what it was, but she only charged me 5 francs (which I would later realize is impossibly cheap for a meal in Switzerland). This stuff was gooood!

Post breakfast, my cousin who lives in Germany recommended I go to Uetliberg - a hill station just outside Zurich. That's where I went next after a flurry of wrong trains. When I got to the top, however, the view was... impossible. Literally. It was a cloudy day and I couldn't see a darn thing. :') But it didn't all go in vain- I got to see this amazingly quaint station (Pictured at the top of this blog post) and get an incredible shot of a famous Sequoia tree path! Say hello to 'Mammutbaum-Allee' Park and the famous path of the Sequoia trees!

Making my way back to civilization, I went to the infamous 'Bahnhofstrasse' street. This street is packed with high-end luxury designer stores like Gucci, Louis Vitton, Prada, Patek Phillipe, and more. It was once the most expensive retail strip in the world!

Currently, I believe it stands around number 6 or so. You don't have to go there to buy anything, but I'd highly recommend going there just to check the place out. It's remarkable just window shopping and seeing the price tags on these things.

From bags that cost as much as my car, to watches that cost as much as the dealership I bought it from, Bahnhofstrasse is an experience in and of itself.

Good luck crossing the street here however, even the darn trams are silent as heck! Make some noise Switzerland, sheesh!

I almost got run over by them more times than I'd like to admit. One of those times was to take this picture, but it was completely worth it-

Leaving the fancy district, I decided to get on the first train I could find (because why not?) and go wherever it took me. Big ol' mistake.

I ended up circling the ENTIRETY of Lake Zurich, which took me a mad 2 hours even though this train was hauling ass the whole way. Lake Zurich is 34 sq mi. and 24 miles long. To its credit, it is a beautiful ride and there're some really nice sights to see! However, I was more intrigued by what Zurich had to offer so I stayed on the train and went all the way back to Zurich.

By this point, it was getting dark and I was famished. Jumping on google to find a cheap place to eat, I came across a grand total of 0 places that felt even remotely cheap. the cheapest thing I could find was a cold cheese sandwich for $9! Deciding to bite the bullet, I went to...McDonalds (I know, I know).

I went with the hopes of getting something cheap to just stay alive, however, McDonalds had other plans. A SINGLE McChicken was $7!! What costs $2 in the US was over triple the price here. Too hungry to keep looking, I bit my tongue and got two. To their credit, the sandwiches there were infinitely better than the ones in the US. Europe having stricter laws on what goes into their food and whatnot, meant that fast food actually tasted good. Unlike in the US where it's more chemical than food.

As I ate every last crumb of my criminally expensive sandwich, I hooked my phone up to charge... or so I tried.

I realized I didn't accommodate for the power ports being different in Europe! I had no adapter and my phone was at 21%.

Luckily I never leave without my portable charger, so I hooked it up and went on my way, intending to buy an adapter at the airport since all shops around me were closed. I'd later find out a single adapter was $50 and my portable charger was all I had until I got on my plane back- And yes, the charger did die on me. At which point I turned on super power-saving mode and hoped to heck it didn't die so I could translate my way back to the right train and get to the airport!

I left the area and walked for miles and miles, taking in the sights and enjoying being amongst a different culture of people. The only thing I needed was water- which Switzerland is known to have some of the cleanest in the world. Not only that, they have fountains all over the city that flow with clean drinking water, 24/7! When I first looked at it, I thought they were birdbaths, but quickly ruled that out, seeing as they would have to be some giant birds!

Check out this fountain at Bellevue station-

After spending hours and hours wandering around the city, I headed to the station around midnight to relax for a bit. Zurich main station was surreal at midnight. There was absolutely no one there! What was a busy station with 10,000+ people just hours ago, now didn't have a soul in sight. Imagine being the only person in grand Central Station in Manhattan. Impossible! That's how this felt. I waltzed around the station until I found a spot to relax.

Not even 10 minutes went by before I got kicked out by some rather unpleasant policemen. They were further unpleasant to the sleeping chap they found in a hallway. When they tried to wake him, he just yelled at them and went back to sleep! So they called for backup and together, the policemen grabbed this chap by the hands and legs and physically tossed him out of the station! He wasn't too happy about it so snuck back in the second they went away.

Sixty seconds later, this happened-

The cop was not happy when he caught me recording, so I had to delete the video in front of him before he let me go. Thank god for Google cloud hehe.

I went about strolling in the streets again and found that Zurich is dead silent at night. Wherever the clubs and whatnot were, definitely wasn't downtown. I have never seen a city as quiet as Zurich was that night.

I kid you not, I could have dropped a pin and you would've heard it across the street.

Even the traffic lights had gone to a permanent 'blinking yellow' phase, which I haven't seen anywhere since I lived in India. That's how I knew the real quiet part of the night had begun.

I decided I wanted some coffee from a particular vending machine I saw at a station, so made the 30min journey there. Remember, this is in November. It was around 2 degrees Celcius. (That's about 34 F).

Why did I make such a journey in the freezing cold for Coffee, you ask? Simple.

I did it because I'd been at that station earlier in the day when the technician came to fix the machine when a cup got stuck and I watched him as he put in a code to test the machine and got a free cup of coffee out of it. So yes, I shamelessly drank an alarming amount of coffee from that very machine that night.

Hopped up on enough caffeine to wake the dead, I made my way back to the station.

I was frolicking along until I heard a familiar tune- Pirates of the Caribbean! I turned the corner to find this lively chap and his fiddle!

I gave him my last 5 franc coin and kept going.

I reached the station only to find that they'd blocked off every single one of Zurich Main station's 30+ entrances! They really took this shutdown thing seriously. Naturally, I did what anyone would do and just set up camp on the staircase to the station, turned on 'Sons of Anarchy' on my tablet, and sat in the freezing cold. Over the course of the night, some of Zurich's nightly characters revealed themselves.

From the crackhead to the drunk taxi driver, Zurich had its share of delinquents too. Something that impressed me however was the nightly cleaning crew.

A plethora of trucks swarmed the streets over the course of the night and cleaned everything from the roads and the sidewalks to the tram tracks that ran through the streets! Those trucks were pretty cool, They were regular trucks but had train wheels under them! So they looked like they were levitating around the city.

As soon as the clock struck 4:30, the gates opened and I made my way back to the airport where I picked up some delicious Swiss Chocolate and flew back home, exhausted but quite impressed with everything Switzerland has to offer! I'll definitely be going back again to explore other parts of the country.

I plan to do a lot more of these 24-hour trips in the future too, so if you'd like to have a say in where I go next, then head over to my Instagram HERE and watch out for my polls! You'll also virtually travel along as I post a lot when I'm out and about.

If you like to see some of the sights I see on my travels, I've started to compile the best ones and post them on Youtube. You can see those HERE. You can watch my first ever YT video below too!

Be sure to head to my home page HERE and drop your email at the bottom so you can get alerted with I post a new video or travel blog!

Thank you for making it through! Wander with me next time! =)

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Jan 08, 2022

the spirit of adventure......enjoyed travelling with you !

Sam Wolf
Sam Wolf
Jan 14, 2022
Replying to

Thank you for being here! Hope you Wander with me next time :)


Jan 08, 2022

Amazing journey and so carefully documented. Loved reading

Sam Wolf
Sam Wolf
Jan 14, 2022
Replying to

Super glad to hear!! Thank you for taking the time :)


Jan 03, 2022

Great read

Sam Wolf
Sam Wolf
Jan 03, 2022
Replying to

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


Jan 03, 2022

Very exciting read, Sam. How do you travel for so cheap? Is traveling your passion?

Sam Wolf
Sam Wolf
Jan 03, 2022
Replying to

Glad you enjoyed it!

I look for the cheapest places to go, things to do and places to eat whenever I travel. It allows me to save a ton and take more trips! I also have flight benefits that allow me to travel for dirt cheap, if not for free.

Traveling is definitely my biggest passion, I hope to never stop!

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