Is Switzerland expensive?
Yes, 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 5 easy ways to save money.
1. Save on traveling and day trips
- Plan your trips in advance to estimate travel costs. Think twice before renting a car. There are many additional costs on top of the rental costs. 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. Look into the Saver Day Pass and Supersaver ticket if you don't travel a lot.
- Take advantage of the rail pass extras. For example, the Swiss Travel Pass includes free entrance to museums and castles, and allows free traveling on beautiful scenic routes. Some cable cars and cogwheel trains are also free; many others are discounted.
- Even without a rail pass, traveling is free in some cases. For example: if you book a hotel in Bern, Geneva or Montreux, you'll 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.
- 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.
2. 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. If you are willing to book last minute, there often are good discounts to take advantage of.
- 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 such as Zermatt and St. Moritz are generally quite expensive, but even there budget accommodation is available. Alternatively, look for a 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.
- If you're flexible about which exact hotel you'll be staying, low room rates can be found on websites like www.hotwire.com.
- Mind the tourist tax, which is different per town.
3. 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 and house brands. Migros offers 'M-budget', Coop offers 'Prix Garantie'.
4. 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.
5. 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 and activities that fit the plan. However, if your budget is important, it pays off to first look at offers and promotions and plan accordingly.
For example: 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.
6. Is tipping expected in Switzerland?
No, tipping is not expected. Your bill includes all service charges. This applies to hotels, restaurants, shops and everywhere else.
Many people do not tip, which is perfectly fine. Others do if they are happy with the service. In that case it's custom to round up to the nearest CHF 1, 5 or 10, depending on the total amount.