Living in Bern
Moving to Bern
The University of Bern’s International Office provides information on its website regarding:
Students may want to buy a local SIM card or prepaid plan for cell phones. Comparisons of different options (as well as price comparisons for other goods and services), can be found on www.comparis.ch.
Transport & Free Time Ideas
The International Office has additional tips on cultural activities and entertainment in Bern at: http://www.unibe.ch/studies/mobilitaet/students/incoming/ausgehen_reisen/index_eng.html.
Getting to Bern/Travel within Switzerland
The easiest way to travel to Bern is by train. There are good train connections from all major European cities as well as from the airports of Basel (90 minutes), Geneva (120 minutes) or Zurich (75 minutes). You can also fly to the small Bern airport and take a shuttle to the city center. If you plan to drive to Switzerland, remember that one needs a motorway sticker to drive on Swiss highways, which costs about 40 CHF once a year. In general, students tend to take public transit or ride their bicycles to and from the university.
If you plan to take the local transit system in Bern city (trams, buses, local trains) frequently, you may want to consider buying a monthly ticket, which is 60 CHF per month for students under 25 years old, see, https://www.mylibero.ch/de/abo/libero-abo/. Schedules for local trains can be found both online at www.sbb.ch or at www.rbs.ch (the Bern railway site).
If you plan to travel around Switzerland in your free time, you can save a great deal of money by buying a “Halbtax” card, which reduces your fares on most train and bus networks throughout Switzerland. See https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/railpasses/half-fare-travelcard.html
Another option to save money is the “Gleis 7” card, which allows passengers under 25 years old to travel unlimited in second class from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. (but you must also have a “Halbtax” card). See details here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/railpasses/track-7.html. There are also sometimes “Supersaver” tickets available at a reduced price, http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/supersaver-tickets.html. For other train fares and schedules, see http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html.
If you go on one-day trips, you might also consider buying a one-day travel pass, sold by the train company or some municipalities an some private organizations. With one of these, you can take Swiss trains and buses for approximately 49 CHF a day. See http://www.tageskarte-gemeinde.ch/en-us/.
Please note that even though Swiss trains and buses operate on the honor system, i.e. you buy a ticket and it is only checked when and if controllers come through, most intercity trains are controlled, and trams and buses are also often spot checked. If you are found to be traveling without a ticket, the penalty fee can be quite high, and you will be asked to pay it on the spot.
Shopping & Meals
Most consumer goods, including food, are somewhat expensive in Switzerland. On the other hand, the quality and variety tends to be very good. The two largest supermarket/department store chains, Coop and Migros, have branches near the university in the Post Parc on Schanzenstrasse and on Bubenbergplatz, as well as in the main train station. Discounter chains like Aldi, Denner, and Pickpay are also available, but often in less convenient locations to public transit. Note that most stores are closed on Sundays, but there is an exception for stores in the main Bern train station (Bahnhof), which have longer hours and Sunday hours. If you want to make a larger grocery order and have it delivered, you can do so via delivery services Coop at Home or Migros Le Shop.
The least expensive option to eat out for students is to eat at the university cafeterias, where a main course tends to cost under 10 CHF and where coffee and drinks are also a little less expensive than elsewhere. The university cafeterias are called “Mensa”, and they tend to offer a choice of two daily menus each. See http://www.mensa.unibe.ch
Cheaper fast food options exist, especially in the main train station nearby the university, but in a casual sit-down restaurant in Switzerland, plan on paying about 20-25 CHF per person for a basic meal with a drink. Although the drinking water is safe in Switzerland, it is uncommon to get free water automatically on the table with a meal. Tipping in Switzerland tends to vary from elsewhere, also because wait staff are paid better wages. Usually, customers round their bill up to the next franc or two, basically leaving a tip of 1-2 francs maximum, unless you are in an expensive restaurant and have a very high bill.
If you have an emergency in Switzerland, you should be aware of the emergency telephone numbers. For general emergences, call 112; for an ambulance, call 144; for police, call 117, and for fire, call 118. Swiss Universities do not have student health clinics, but if you need medical care outside of regular doctors’ hours, you can also go to the Emergency Room (Notfall) at the Inselspital hospital or other nearby hospitals, or if you have a less urgent illness, there is a “City Notfall” walk-in clinic near the University at Schanzenstrasse 4A (Postparc Area), http://www.citynotfall.ch/en/bern/home/, which accepts walk-ins without appointments from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The pharmacy in the main train station is also open longer hours.