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Planning the Travel

There are probably as many ways to travel overseas as there are modes of transport. My wife and I live near Kansas City. Here is what I recommend and/or did:

1. Get your passport(s) if you haven't done this already. Having this time consuming task done well ahead is one thing out of the way that may otherwise influence your ability to accept the dates of the invitation.

2. For the first treatment, we elected to arrive in Basel on Saturday, get settled, adjust the body clock, and tour locally a bit on Sunday before reporting for treatment on Monday morning. If the schedule works out as planned, I will be released about 11:00AM on Wednesday. The invitation suggests staying a few days more for rest before heading home. So, our plan was to leave Basel on following Saturday morning.

3. Using, I compared the cost of connections offered by several airlines. For us, we had to connect through Chicago, or Atlanta, or Dallas, or Detroit, depending on the airline. On the European side of the Atlantic, other stopovers would be London Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, or Amsterdam on the way to Basel. (The regional airport for Basel – designator is BSL --- also serves Mulhouse, France, and Freiburg, Germany. The airport is actually in Mulhouse.)

I considered flying only to Frankfurt and taking the train from there to Basel. A one-way 2nd class train ticket costs about $97.00. The added cost of flying all the way to Basel was nearly that same amount. So, we elected to fly all the way to Basel, which may have changed the European connecting airport for scheduling. Our routing was Kansas City-Chicago-London-Basel. It's a short taxi ride from BSL airport to Basel (approx. 35.50 CHF). Train and bus connections to Basel also abound. If you want to Google the Basel Europort and/or London Heathrow, you can find the airport layout for familiarization and match the layout with your airline arrival and departure terminals and gates. Probably the same research idea can be applied to other international airports.

4. The hotel selections in the Basel area can easily be checked just by Googling "Hotel Rochat". You will find references to all kinds of other hotels in the immediate area. We chose the Hotel Rochat (the locals said to pronounce it Roe-sha, long "o" and short "a")) since it was closest to the hospital (about 200 paces) and available. I made the reservation on-line . The hotel promptly replied, and that was an easy task to accomplish. I know that if the treatment dates had been sooner or during a Swiss holiday, it may have been more difficult to reserve the Hotel Rochat room. The University hostel is the other closest place to stay and less costly than the Rochat. The hostel is a ten-minute walk to the hospital entrance. Take your own supply of Kleenex tissues. Your cell phone, computer, and camera battery chargers will probably work in Basel if you have a plug configuration converter. Read the qualifiers on the chargers. They should say 110-240 v, 50-60 Hz. Check to see if your cell phone will work in Europe. They use GSM at different frequencies than in the U.S., but not CDMA at all.

Parking space at the Hotel Rochat is limited to four cars in a very tight area. I overheard it costs 25 CHF/day for this service. Street parking is nearly impossible. Public pay parking is available for the hospital and near to Marketplatz. Since the public transportation is so good and extensive, I'd recommend no rental cars. If you insist, it will be a hassle.

5. If you need to take a supply of special liquid drugs and accompanying paraphernalia, you must have a letter from your doctor in order to get all this stuff through airport security if they question you. No one ask to see my letter. After going through airport security without any cooling for your drugs, get some ice for the container. The airline people are used to being asked for ice to keep medications cool.

6. Take some Swiss Francs with you, at least a few hundred. Your local bank can probably make this currency exchange for you with a few days notice. Your credit card can also be used at the airport to get local money at an ATM, but it's probably cheaper to have this done before you leave home. Getting some native coin of the realm is a big help to avoid at least the initial problems of paying for a taxi and buying food and forgotten toiletries soon after you arrive. Make sure you know your credit card PIN before you find out you need to use it to obtain cash in a foreign country. You might also consider having a few Euros in your pocket for miscellaneous purchases at the stopover airports. I suggest that you call the credit card company ahead of travel, and have them note the expected card usage in cities where you will be traveling. If you select to pay the hospital using a credit card, this advanced notice will preclude any probable denial by the card company.

As indicated above, treatment payment can be accomplished in many ways. I chose to wire transfer the money. That way I could monitor the daily currency exchange rate fluctuations and time the payment for my advantage. A one percent advantage saves 70-80 dollars per thousand. If you use wire transfer, your local bank will have a charge for the service. Also, on the receiving bank end in Switzerland, there will be a 7 CHF incoming charge. The hospital writes this 7 CHF off as I understand it, but it would be nice to take this into account by adding the 7 CHF to the amount being sent.


1. Restaurants are everywhere. Find the Marketplatz and work your way out from there. The market is open every day except Sunday. Only once did we eat at a place where the waitress didn't speak English. She quickly brought over another person and there was no issue at all. Most people speak at least four languages. English is almost universal, as is French, German, and Swiss. Then sometimes you can add Spanish and Italian to their capabilities. How do they do it?

2. From the Hotel Rochat, you are very close to the Marketplatz. Step outside the hotel, make a left, after 30 paces turn left again at the corner of the hotel. That is the Peterskirkeplatz. After 50 yards, or so, there are 80 steps leading down to the market area. The hotel will provide a tram rail/bus map and a free visitor pass if you want to ride either conveyance. We did, all over the place. My wife preferred the steps on the right (south) side of Peters Kirke.

3. Food is more expensive than here in Kansas City, a little over twice the price. Unless you buy a sandwich at a vendor stand for 6-10 CHF, expect to pay 15-20 CHF per entré for lunch and 17-30 CHF for a dinner entré. A half-liter of water costs 4-6 CHF. All that adds up. The Hotel Rochat had a free breakfast (I understand the hotel has recently begun charging for some of the breakfast items since I was there.) and a great lunch for as low as 14 CHF and free water. Hotel Rochat doesn't serve dinner.

4. Tipping. The Swiss love Americans because we tip too much. A friend in Zurich says a typical tip that rounds up the bill to the next whole franc, or if it's a big bill over 60-70 CHF, add 2-3 percent as the tip. Boy, we made a waiter really happy before we learned this.


While in the hospital, I wore gym shorts and a tee shirt for sleeping. Otherwise, street clothes are the norm. The room is not air-conditioned, but there is a vent for air ventilation. It was comfortable in May and July. Short-sleeved shirts are appropriate to allow access to your arms for blood testing. I have a chemo port in my right chest from treatments a few years ago, but it was not used in Basel. The nurses recommended I keep the hospital clothing separate from other clothing and wash them by themselves for one time. I used a plastic shopping bag to keep this clothing separate in my luggage.


Don't forget to take a list of email addresses and telephone numbers. (The Hotel Rochat has an internet computer for guest usage.) You may have an English speaking room mate, mine was Swiss, and we couldn't talk much!

The hospital plans to have Wi-Fi access, but as of July, 2009 it was not working yet. By now (May 2011) it should be.