Switzerland is known for being one of the most expensive countries in Europe. After living there, I’ve found some ways to keep costs down. Here are my top tips for travelling Switzerland on a budget.
It’s no secret that Switzerland is an expensive country. When I first moved here, I was SHOCKED to see that an aubergine cost 3 CHF! So what can a budget traveller do if they want to see Switzerland on a budget? The tips and tricks in this post contain everything I’ve learned about budget travel in Switzerland. After living here part-time for a few years now, I’ve learned of some ways to get the most bang for your buck (or franc).
Where to stay in Switzerland on a budget
Honestly, accommodation is going to be one of your highest costs. If you’re staying in the cities, I’d do some research ahead of time. If you’re travelling with others, it’s probably cheaper to book a hotel room than to stay in hostels. Hostels can be incredibly pricey here, but if you’re a solo traveller, it might still be cheaper to stay in one.
AirBnB is also a great resource in Switzerland. You can often find a cheaper place to stay just a quick tram ride away from the big cities.
On the strictest of budgets? Couchsurf. In a place like Switzerland, Couchsurfing is generally safe. That being said, you should still be cautious!
Camping is the cheapest option usually, and Switzerland’s campgrounds are some of the most beautiful I’ve stayed in! If you’re spending your summer hiking in Switzerland, camping is a good option. There are sometimes pools you can use, and I even stayed in a campground with a sauna! If you don’t like the idea of sleeping in a tent, some campgrounds have some lush glamping pods.
The Lowdown: Hostels are expensive but worth it if you’re a solo traveller. If there are 2 of you travelling, budget hotels are usually cheaper than a hostel. Camping is the most affordable option if you’re going to be in the Alps!
How to get around Switzerland on a budget
Getting To/From Switzerland on a budget
The most efficient way to travel in and out of Switzerland is either plane or train, however, if you’re booking short notice, it can be seriously overpriced. Buses, though generally slower and less efficient/comfortable than planes/trains, are fairly cheap here. Flixbus is a reliable and cheap company to use, though there are many bus companies.
If you’re travelling within the EU, think about travelling into a budget airport instead of a main airport. Basel EuroAirport is just an hour train ride away from Zurich.
Train travel in Switzerland
Trains are often the most convenient way to get around. The costs can add up, but it’s worth it – what’s travelling in Switzerland without train travel?
One of my best tips for travelling through Switzerland on a budget is to book ahead of time! The earlier you book, the better price you’ll pay. When you’re booking your train journeys, look out for the super saver tickets. They’re the cheapest you’ll find!
If you’re having a big travel day, look into the saver day pass. This gives you unlimited travel on trains, ferries, and buses for your date of purchase. If you book them ahead of time, they can be as low as 50 CHF!
If you’re staying a while, check out the Half Fare Card. This allows you to get up to 50% off train tickets and public transportation. It costs CHF 120 per month.
The passes/cards usually give you a discount on mountain railways and cable cars, too! If you’re unsure, just ask!
What to Eat
Eating out in Swizerland comes with a pretty hefty price tag (for the budget traveller or those staying in CH for a long time). If you must eat out, kebabs and pastries are generally the cheapest. It’s better to go to a grocery store and to get their takeaway food or to buy groceries to cook your meals at home. Coop and Migros are good stores, but Aldi and smaller Turkish stores are cheaper.
Even fast food is a bit pricier in Switzerland, but if you’re really craving a dine-in meal, McDonalds and Burger King are probably some of the cheapest meals you’ll get.
I highly recommend buying pre-made sandwiches and snacks from Coop on your hiking days – sit down and have a snack! There are usually benches along major hiking paths, and sometimes the trails have barbecue pits if you want to cook a hot meal!
Things to do in Switzerland on a budget
First, it’s important to note that everything closes on Sunday. Don’t plan a city trip for Sundays! On Sundays, do as the Swiss do: get out into nature!
Hiking is an obvious cheap activity, but it’s a good one. To get to some of the more famous hiking places can be expensive, but there will always be a hiking route for you to follow just a stone’s throw away.
Even if hiking isn’t REALLY your thing, you can still enjoy the outdoors! Skiing is surprisingly affordable in Switzerland. There are also some beautiful outdoor activities, like a mountain coaster (awesome) or a massive suspension bridge/play area. Switzerland seriously knows how to do the outdoors.
Here are some posts on my favourite hikes in Switzerland.
Free things to do in Swiss cities
Walk around the cities! Swiss cities are BEAUTIFUL and packed with things to do. Check for free museums, historic sights, churches, and landmarks. One of my favourite ways to see a city while on a budget is to plan my own walking tour. That’s how I saw so many European cities a couple years ago. It’s a great way to save money.
You can also bike around Switzerland if walking isn’t your thing. Want to do a big mountain biking trip? Cycling through Swiss National Park is beautiful and extremely challenging. Are you up for the challenge?
Other helpful Switzerland posts
Below you’ll find some other guides I’ve written to help you navigate through your time in Switzerland!
Outdoor Adventure Guides
Want more general budget travel tips? Read this post!
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