Switzerland takes your breath away in many ways: the stunning views, the splendid food, and the absolutely crazy prices. There is no escaping it – Switzerland is expensive! Last time I was in Europe I actively avoided Switzerland to save money but this time I’m here for almost three weeks. I mean, it is ranked as the most expensive place to travel in Europe so what can you expect?
My last trip around Europe was done on a budget of less than $50AUD per day but this unfortunately is not possible in Switzerland *insert crying emoji*. However expensive it is here, you do get what you pay for. Food is delicious, the streets are clean and the transport is flawless.
Stunning mountain views from the Rigi
General Cost Breakdown
Coffee: 3.90CHF / $5.00AUD for an espresso (even at McDonalds)
Hostel bed: 40CHF / $40-50AUD
15 Day rail pass: 374CHF / $470AUD
Meal in an inexpensive restaurant: 16-20CHF
Meal at McDonalds: 10-15CHF / $12-$16AUD
Lunch from a supermarket: 5-6CHF / $6-7AUD
Local bus ticket: 5CHF
READ MORE: 24 Hours In Zurich
Hiking in Switzerland is a beautiful and memorable experience
Flights and Entry/Exit
To save money on backtracking, plan to enter Switzerland from one side of the country and exit from another. This will save buying an expensive train/bus ticket back to the original city. I would recommend flying into Zurich and perhaps exiting from Geneva or the other way around. However, if you have a rail pass this may not be such an issue.
Where to stay
Accommodation in Switzerland really is an unavoidable cost. Hotels are ludicrously expensive so hostels really are the way to go. It is still around 40CHF for a dorm bed in most hostels which is pretty expensive for Europe. Try visiting in off seasons for slightly cheaper prices (i.e. October/November after the summer season but before the ski season).
You can try AirBnB but it may not work out being much cheaper.
Couch surfing is also an option in Switzerland however I have not tried this myself and is at your own risk.
Calling on old and new friends for a place to crash is probably the best way to travel Switzerland on a budget. I was super fortunate that many lovely Swiss people were able to open their homes to me and give me a place to stay. This is a massive relief on the budget because accommodation costs easily stack up.
The historic city of Luzern
Where to eat
Food is definitely pricey as well so you will need to be careful with what you eat and where. Restaurants are very costly – even McDonalds will set you back around 14CHF for a meal. Cheaper restaurants in the outskirts of cities may be more like 10CHF for a meal but this still isn’t ideal for budget travellers.
Cooking at home or in hostels really is the best option. Even though groceries are slightly more expensive than in other countries, they really aren’t too bad. If you go to Coop supermarkets there is a lot of good quality home-brand foods. This will cut costs down to around 5CHF or less for a pretty decent feed.
In some supermarkets there are areas for heating up food and they have knives and forks, so meals on the go are possible! Also the supermarket chain Migros has some stores which have a kind of buffet/take-away section. This is hot food and is pretty good value, there is even seats and tables to enjoy the meal.
In department stores and train stations you may also find some cheaper places to eat.
Although it can be expensive, do try and sample some local Swiss food because it is incredible! Raclette, fondue and rösti are just some examples and they are absolutely delicious (I ate way too much of this but do not regret it).
Lunches from supermarkets can be cheap and delicious
Getting drinks out costs a small fortune so it is much cheaper to drink at home. Home-brand beers from supermarkets are only 0.50CHF for a 500mL can and the nicer beers are around 1-3CHF. Bottles of wine will not set you back too much either in the supermarkets – finally some good news!
For water just grab a drink bottle and fill up from the many drinking fountains around the cities.
Things are a little more dire for the caffeine addicts among us… coffee is super expensive in Switzerland and it doesn’t really stack up against Australia. Even in McDonalds you can expect to pay around 3.90CHF for an espresso. The cheapest espresso I found from a proper machine was from a small store in Zurich where it was 3CHF. You may have to curb your addiction to save francs in Switzerland, unfortunately.
Transport is another inescapable cost in Switzerland, there just really is no cheap way around it. The public transport system is immaculate, punctual and really does go everywhere. If you have some money to spend then getting a SwissPass for your stay is advisable. A 15-day pass is 374CHF which works out to be around 20CHF a day. This pass gives you unlimited travel on all Swiss trains, buses and some attractions. It also works as a museum pass and will give you entry to many museums. It also works in Liechtenstein – yay! Not to mention that zooming through the Swiss countryside in a pristine train is a splendid experience.
Ridesharing, such as BlaBlaCar, could be a cheaper way to get around Switzerland. I did not personally try this method but in researching it the prices seem lower than public transport. However with this option you do become dependent on other people and rides often cancel.
You could also hire a car to get around Switzerland. This is fairly expensive from Switzerland itself but it is possible to hire a car in Germany, Italy or France and drive in. You can get cars for around €25 a day. But be aware that on top of this you will need petrol money, parking money and insurance. However, it is still a good option to be aware of.
A rail pass allows you to visit more remote places in Switzerland
With a rail pass you can visit destinations like Lauterbrunnen
Switzerland is surrounded by Italy, Germany, France, Austria and Liechtenstein. This means that accessing these countries is pretty simple. France, Italy and Germany are significantly cheaper than Switzerland so heading there can relieve your wallet.
It can end up being much cheaper to head over into one of these neighbouring countries to stock up on groceries and have meals out. Many locals also do this because it can save quite a bit of money. When I was staying in St Gallen it was good to head to Konstanz in Germany which was a simple train trip away.
Enjoying a quick visit over to Germany to enjoy cheaper prices
READ MORE: 11 Reasons To Love Switzerland
Do you have any budget recommendations for Switzerland? Or any questions? Comment below!
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