Hike Europe: Italian Lakes & Swiss Alps
Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
Complete Your Checklist
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 800-766-2645. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Verify your passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date. No visa is required for this trip if you are a U.S. Citizen
- Join the Facebook group: Join your private Facebook group now! It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. Call us at 800-766-2645 if you’re having trouble joining.
- Request a roommate:: Double check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Personalize your trip: Travel Insurance is not available for purchase on tour, and the price of Optional Excursions increases after departure. We suggest logging in to your Online Account now to add these items.
- Call your bank: Let your bank and credit card company know of your travel plans so you can withdraw cash and use your debit/credit cards abroad. Otherwise, you risk your account being blocked.
Pack Like a Pro
Your airline ticket includes one checked bag but note that years of customer feedback tells us that the lighter you pack, the better. We recommend bringing one hiking backpack (approximately 20 liters is a great size), and one smaller suitcase or duffel bag approximately 22” x 14” x 9”. See more packing tips below.
Standard packing suggestions:
- 1 jacket (light/rain jacket if June – August, thicker/waterproof jacket for all other months)
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Waterproof shoes
- 1-2 pairs jeans / shorts
- 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
- 1 nicer outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
- Underwear and socks
- Toiletries, medicine
- Phone or camera
- Debit / Credit cards and cash
- Adapter / Converter – type “C”, “F”, or universal
Hiking Packing Suggestions:
- One hiking backpack (approximately 20 liters is a great size)
- Hiking boots with non-slip sole and ankle support. It’s important to break your boots in for 2-3 weeks before the trip so you avoid blisters or discomfort on tour!
- Active-wear clothes; quick-drying, non-cotton material
- Long pants; quick-drying, non-denim or cotton material
- Hat & gloves (wool is ideal for hiking)
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Hat/Bandana (sweat resistant)
- Water bottle with 2-liter capacity
- Moleskin and bandaids for blisters
- Soft lunch box to keep lunch cold (optional)
- Telescoping hiking poles (optional)
- Personal medicine
- Towel for swimming and kayking (we recommend the Microfiber Towel found on Amazon - $20)
Note: We recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered to accommodate varying temperatures, as well as a light jacket or rainwear.
This is a physically demanding tour; there are hikes or extended walks almost every day and most hikes will start in the morning and end in the evening. On some days, you should be prepared to hike upwards of 9 hours, taking into consideration different terrains and altitude adjustments. You should feel comfortable walking or hiking uphill continuously for at least 3 hours, otherwise you risk missing out on hikes or not enjoying the tour as much as you’d like. You can opt out of any hiking day, but we recommend making the most of each hiking opportunity!
Pro Tip: Our Hiking Tour Directors suggest training for at least 4-6 weeks before the trip starts. We recommend trying a stair-stepper machine that will help you build endurance and muscle for activities like hiking and long outdoor walks.
Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. You can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
- If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
- If you slept in and missed your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case…
Note: All flight information is online (e-ticket) via your account and the airline’s website. You will not receive a physical paper ticket from us.
Arriving in Milan
Your Tour Director will communicate on Facebook or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is another reason you should join your Facebook group.
Meet Your Tour Director and Fellow Travelers
Your Tour Director will also tell you best way to communicate with them during the trip; they will be with your group from start to finish so if there is anything you need, connect with them. Concerned about international cellular data and staying in touch with your group? Check out “Phones and Electronics” further down in this guide.
Use Your Phone, Internet, and Electronics
We recommend you get an international data plan from your cell phone provider. The most common options are the Travel Pass with Verizon, or purchasing a personal hot spot with your carrier. Wi-Fi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars; but it isn’t always as strong as Wi-Fi in the US. For your cell phone and any other electronics you bring abroad, you will also need a converter/adapter.
Note: You should use a “C” or ”F” adapter / converter on this tour. A staff favorite is the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com)
On The Ground
Manage Your Money
Cash and most well-known credit/debit cards are widely accepted in Europe. Budget $80- $100 per day for meals, shopping, and free time activities. Tipping is not customary in Europe, but many locals leave 1-2 Euro for exceptional service. For your Tour Director, we recommend tipping $36 - $54 at the end of the trip if you feel inclined.
- Italy: Euro (€)
- Switzerland: Swiss Franc (CHf)
Note: Call your bank(s) ahead of time to let them know of your travel plans to avoid any complications while on the road.
*Depending on local weather conditions, seasons and trail closures, the activities and sequence of your included walks may change.*
- Rifugio Menaggio - 6 miles / 6-7 hours. Starting in Breglia, you’ll hike about 2 hours before reaching Refugio. This hike offers majestic views of Lake Como and the Orobic Alps. An optional additional 2 hour ascent to Sant’Amante chapel may be available too.
- San Salvatore - 6 miles / 4 hours. A walk over mostly even terrain, and crossing through charming villages along the way. You’ll take a funicular from Lugano then start your walk from Morcote via Carona.
- Curzutt and Tibetan Bridge - 5 miles / 4 hours. A more challenging hike, this trek will take you through vineyards, Curzutt housing cluster, and the Tibetan Bridge - the longest in Switzerland.
- Monte Lema to Monte Tamarao Traverse - 8 miles / 4-5 hours. One of the most scenic treks of the whole trip, unpaved mountain paths ascending over undulating terrain will take you to summits of Monte Tamaro, Monte Lema, and the Santa Maria degli Angeli church.
Note: You’ll typically stop for lunch during your hikes. Hiking protocol is that everyone in the group waits until the last person arrives at the lunch stop before eating. Think of it like waiting for your family members to all sit down at the dinner table before starting to eat!
Getting from A to B
All transfers between cities are via private motor coach and can take anywhere between 2-8 hours. You’ll receive a public transportation pass in each city that offers them. Transportation in cities that offer no pass may require more walking. Prepare to walk between 4-8 miles per day, especially when sightseeing and on your hikes.
Optimize Your Free Time
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into your Online Account and do so on tour. Or, talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Optionals on this tour include:
- Post-Hike Spa: $50
Live Like a Local
Here are some expert tips to help you feel like an Italian stallion, and Swiss… miss?
- Italians greet everyone with two kisses—one on each cheek
- Italians and the Swiss take fashion seriously; now is the time to break out your new duds!
- When you cheers or toast, make eye contact—it brings good luck!
- Unlike the Swiss, Italians tend to be fashionably late
- Swiss people are more reserved; the less small talk, the better
- Public intoxication is frowned upon
- No jaywalking allowed, especially in Switzerland
- As majestic as they are, avoid approaching the swans in Switzerland
- Switzerland has an early bedtime, so make the most of your day
Wine and Dine
You’ll sample a variety of local dishes on your trip, but read on for tips, tricks, and delicacies you just must try.
- For breakfast, try a sweet pastry and cappuccino instead of the savory continental breakfast you’re used to!
- Iced coffee begone, espresso is your new friend. You’ll never find a bad espresso in Italy, but order and pay for your espresso at the bar to avoid paying more than the usual 1-2€.
- Before dinner, try aperitivo—a light meal between lunch and dinner with snacks and wine, or a refreshing spritz like aperol or campari
- In Italy, dinner doesn’t often begin until after 8 or 9pm. More reason to enjoy aperitivo!
- Try an after-dinner digestive liquor like limoncello, sambuca, amari, or apertivi.
- Save your Swiss Francs for a block of frischschokolade—fresh chocolate, a praline, or a truffle for a chocolate foodie experience
- The Swiss recommend Gruyere, Appenzeller, Emmentaler; world-renowned cheese from all different regions of Switzerland
- Like Italy, the Swiss start their day with light pastries or cereal, followed by a mid-morning snack of bread or fruit
- Dinner, or Znacht, starts around 6-7pm and can consist of colder foods like cheese, meats, honey and jam
Dining in Europe
- Ordering food and drinks is a great time to practice the local language; it goes a long way with locals, and shows respect for their culture.
- Restaurants ask you to choose between still or sparkling water, but remember sparkling water is an added cost
- The less special requests you make at a restaurant, the more accurate your dish will be
- It’s normal to seat yourself in a restaurant instead of waiting to be seated
- Wait-staff in Europe are not as attentive as in the US; don’t be afraid to flag someone over for help!
Note: Vegetarian options will likely be available but let your Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.
Speak the Language
While it may feel awkward at first, attempting the local language goes a long way when navigating a city and interacting with people. Practice these basic phrases in Italian and Swiss German to get started:
- Hello = Ciao / Grüezi
- Goodbye = Ciao / Tschüss
- Thank You = Grazie / Merci
- Yes = Sì / Ja
- No = No / Nein
- Where is ___? = Dove si trova _? / Wo ist _?
- Cheers! = Saluti! / Prost!
Health and Safety
It’s important to maintain your health and stay safe while abroad. From your first flight to Italy all the way through to your farewell dinner, drink plenty of water, get sleep when you can, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi or Uber, and always have cash on hand.
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.