Saving money is possible
Switzerland has always been pretty expensive to many travelers. Do not be put off by that! Switzerland is wonderful. You will get value for money. There are many ways to save money.
Save on traveling and day trips
- Plan your trips in advance to estimate travel costs. Think twice before renting a car. Apart from the rental rate, you need to take fuel costs into account, and possibly parking costs (up to CHF 4.40 per hour), detours due to closed passes, car train costs, and a motorway vignette if you rent outside of Switzerland. Most tourists travel by train and for good reason: it's easy, safe, clean and eco-friendly. With a rail pass, it's pretty clear what you will be spending, and children travel for free;
- If you intend to travel by train, boat, bus or cable cars, a rail pass will help you save money. Be sure to calculate which pass is best. A Swiss Half Fare Card nearly always pays off. A Swiss Travel Pass is the best choice if you travel a lot;
- Take advantage of the rail pass extras. For example, the Swiss Travel Pass includes free entrance to hundreds of museums and allows free traveling on the most beautiful scenic routes. Some cable cars and cogwheel trains are free instead of discounted;
- Even without a rail pass, traveling is free in some cases. If you book a hotel in Bern, Geneva, Saas-Fee or St. Moritz, you get free access to local public transport. If you book an airport hotel, free rides to the airport are often included;
- Cheap day trips include hiking or visiting a nearby town;
- Find discounted activities included in the Swiss Coupon Pass;
- Train travel in 2nd class is perfectly fine and cheaper than 1st class;
- If you’re traveling to or from Switzerland by train, book your tickets early for the best rates;
- Booking seats is not required for most trains, so you can save money by not doing so.
Save on accommodation
- There are budget hotels even in popular towns;
- If you plan to stay in one town for a week or longer, consider renting an apartment. It's cheaper, and you can cook your own meals;
- Try to avoid high season: July, August and late December to mid-March. Accommodation is often cheaper the rest of the year;
- Top tourist towns like Zermatt and St. Moritz are generally quite expensive, but even there some budget accommodation is available. Alternatively, look for a well connected nearby cheaper village. Examples are Randa and Täsch near Zermatt and Celerina, Pontresina and Samedan near St. Moritz;
- Booking a youth hostel or a camping can save you even more;
- Mind the tourist tax, which is different per town.
Save on food and drinks
- As mentioned, preparing your own meals in an apartment is less expensive than eating in hotels or restaurants;
- Some Migros and Coop supermarkets have a restaurant that offers affordable lunches and dinners;
- You can easily pack your own lunch. Just buy some bread rolls, cereal bars or other foods that are easy to take along. Add a bottle of tap water (safe in Switzerland);
- Look for cheaper supermarkets. See here for options;
- While shopping, look for the cheaper brands. Migros offers 'M-budget', Coop offers 'Prix Garantie';
- Check for discounted lunches and dinners included in the Swiss Coupon Pass.
Save on souvenirs and shopping
- Look for souvenirs in department stores like Loeb or Manor, or even in supermarkets. This is often cheaper than souvenir shops;
- Pick affordable souvenirs like chocolate bars or other Swiss delicacies, rather than army knives and watches;
- If you send postcards: do shop around as they're not the same price everywhere. Buy the cheaper economy rate stamps;
- Pay with Swiss francs, not Euros or other foreign currencies.
Plan your trip based on offers
Usually you would first plan your trip. Once the plan is final you would find a rail pass, accommodation, etc. that fit the plan. However, if your budget is important it pays off to first look at offers and promotions and plan accordingly. A few examples:
- Check the discounts included in the Swiss Coupon Pass, and base your plans on them;
- Rail passes are being offered for various durations. Once you know there's an 8-day pass, you may want to adjust the length of your stay to optimally use the pass.