Hi, I'm Lu!

A PhD Student at University of Chicago who loves discovering the world and trying new eats! Hope you enjoy!

Getting technological in Switzerland

Cell phones and internet are essential pretty much everywhere these days.  Yes, it is relaxing to live without them for a while, but most people need to keep up with family, friends and the world in general. I came to Zurich with an old, basic, unlocked Motorola phone so I could just insert a SIM card.  Normally, I would just go to an Orange store (they are prevalent throughout Europe) and purchase a SIM card, but I could not seem to find one in Zurich.  Asking around in shops, I found that in Switzerland, Orange and Swisscom are the largest providers, but there are smaller suppliers, such as Mobile Zone.  I decided to go to the latter since that was the nearest one at the moment (on west side of Bahnhofstrasse near the Train Station).

At the store, I asked for the rates.  There are different plans, but since I would mostly be calling home, I purchased a SIM card with an international plan – 10 cents/min. to call to the US and 35-45 cents/min. to call within Switzerland (depending on whether it is a mobile or land line).  At the time, the guy selling me the phone told me it was just 1 cent/minute for an international call, and I was absolutely surprised!  Unfortunately, checking my phone after making a 10 minute call left me a bit dissatisfied.  However, 10 cents/min. is a pretty low rate (the exchange rate is 1 Swiss Franc = ~1.1 US dollar).  Topping up 20 SF (which can be done at any Coop, Migros or Kiosk) would get you 200 minutes.  Plus, the SIM card came with a pre-paid 20 SF.One thing to note is to bring your passport while getting the SIM card!  I did not have mine with me, and I had to go back home to get it, which took some time.  Thank goodness for the super on-time and convenient trams.On top of the cell phone issue, I actually do not have internet at the place I am staying at.  So I had a some options:

  1. I could use the internet at the University of Zurich Irchel (where I am taking a course and doing research at), which works well, but that would mean I have to go early and stay late.  Unfortunately, the 7 and 9 trams (the ones I take to and from the University) stop running a little before 9 pm.  It would be good for my sleep schedule – wake up and sleep early!
  2. There are those USB wireless hotspots that come in handy.  However, I asked the salesperson at Mobile Zone, and one of those USBs costs 80 SF, and it is 5 SF for each day you use it…  That’s a lot of SF.
  3. The salesperson suggested to just use a McDonald’s or Starbucks.  There is a catch, though.  I went to Mcdonald’s (off Bahnhofstrasse next to Pestalozzi Park) and purchased a Frappe Banane (Figure 1), an awesome banana milk shake with bits of caramel so I could use the internet there.  However, I did this before I purchased my SIM card, and to get on Wi-Fi at many places, you need a mobile number and some pass code.

  4. Go to the Apple Store on Bahnhofstrasse.  This is convenient if you need to just check/send e-mails.  But perhaps you should not write anything too long since the keyboards are European style, i.e. the “Y” and “Z” keys are switched, and the punctuation marks are in the most random places.

I will probably combine Options 1, 3 and 4.  In fact, I’m at a Starbucks (on Niederdorfstrasse) right now!  The internet at this Starbucks is great!  However, after 60 minutes, your bandwidth gets lowered.  The downside is that Starbucks is crazy expensive: a tall chai latte cost me 5.9 SF, and a blueberry muffin (Figure 2) is 4.2 SF.


  1. Bring your passport when getting a SIM card.
  2. Utilize public Wi-Fi, but be careful!


I would say that calling internationally is at a pretty reasonable rate, and topping up the SIM card is really convenient.  Although it may be a bit of a hassle to get Wi-Fi if there is no internet at your residence, it really is not that terrible with prevalent McDonald’s and Starbucks!

Dining in Gandria

Flying Swiss