Switzerland puts the fear of an empty bank account into the hearts of many travelers. And I get it. Aside from Norway and Iceland, it is probably the most expensive country in Europe.

So, in this post I want to help you and your purse survive a trip through Switzerland. One that will leave your eyes wide, your camera full, and a chocolate-coated smile on your face.

1. Save On Accommodation

Accommodation is usually a killer expense on any trip, so saving money here is key. And Switzerland is a lot like any other country when looking for accommodation bargains.

If you want to stay in the center of any town, hostels are always your best bet. Even if you want a private private room! Yes, Switzerland’s hostels are often a notch above the rest of Europe, and still the cheapest option.

Grabbing a room in an Airbnb is another price saving option, especially since it is still quite new to Switzerland. The prices seem to be quite reasonable, and the further from town you go the better.

Cheap hotels are available, but you often have to head further out of town or closer to the road/train noise. Personally I would always look for Airbnbs instead, but that is just me.

And keep in mind distance is relative, and Switzerland is small. So, anywhere “far from town” is still not far at all.

Finally, try something like Couchsurfing if you are up for it. It’s not as popular in Switzerland as other countries, but it’s a great way to spend zero on accommodation.

2. Be Choosy With Your Food, Except Chocolate

Switzerland is perhaps not known for its amazing restaurants. Sure, there are a few things you should try while you are here, but the main reason to come here is the history and scenery.

If possible, get some accommodation where you can cook (hostel or Airbnb). This is the easiest way to save big on food. If you choose to do this, you will end up at the local supermarkets. Migros is one of the cheapest, but even better are Aldi or Lidl if you can find one. They are often further out of town, and only in bigger cities.

If you are heading out to eat, the cheapest food is found at places that serve Indian or Middle Eastern takeaway. Even a simple Pizza can be more than a Turkish Kebab!

Some supermarkets also dabble in the takeaway scene, and you can find some decent and low-priced options there too.

I would, however, splurge on some treats like some tasty Laderach or Lindt chocolate. And, if you love cheese, you have to try Cheese Fondue or Raclette.

And the good news is, that none of these is anywhere near the price of a steak in Switzerland!

3. Plan Your Transport, Or Don’t

If you only have limited time then your best bet is to get a train pass. This will save you a huge amount of money, because although Swiss trains run like clockwork, they also cost as much as a Rolex.

I recommend something like the Swiss Pass that offer either so many days in a row, or days in a given period of time. Although make sure to use your days wisely (ie. on long journeys) as local transport can easily be paid when you are staying in one spot.

The same goes for getting to and from the airport. Trains are the way to go by far. Taxis and even Uber are going to cost you significantly more. So, avoid them where possible.

If you have a little more time in the country there is one more option you can try called Blah Blah Car. It’s a ride sharing program where you can catch a ride with someone going to/from the same place. All for a fraction of what a train ride costs. The downside is there are not always rides available, which is why you need more time than money.

4. Grab A City Pass

A lot of cities and regions in Switzerland have passes that offer you free entry or discounts to local attractions. The catch is, you have to buy it.

Make sure it is worth your while before investing, but some of them are definitely a great investment if you are staying for a while.

For example, there is the Zurich Pass which gives you a whole swathe of benefits from discounts to free entry. You just have to figure out if it covers things you really wanted to do.

Other cities that have them include: Geneva, Basel, Lucerne.

Be sure to check the local tourist office wherever you are, as there are bound to be lots more. Also keep in mind that the Swiss Pass (I mentioned in point 3) also has some discounts baked in.

5. Enjoy Those Free Activities

Switzerland is all about the mountains and the outdoors. And that means lots of free activities.

With over 66,000 km of walking trails, this is one of the best things you can do in Switzerland. Almost every corner of the country is covered by a huge network of well-maintained trails. And they are all free. So, if you are in a stunning region like Lucerne, Interlaken or Zermatt, it’s a no brainer to get out and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Another thing the Swiss enjoy in their spare time is water. The country is full of it. From lakes to rivers, almost every city has one or the other (or both). This also means there is a huge choice of places to go swimming. In most cases you can do it for free. My local swimming hole in Zurich is actually a well-maintained water channel that leads to a power station. It’s called “the Letten” and is an awesome place to hang out in summer and go for a swim. They even have a bar and takeaway, with free seating.

Another quite common thing in most of Europe is “free days” at museums. You only have to be there on the right day and you get in for free! Check each museum’s website for details so you can plan around it.

6. Choose Your Paid Activities Wisely

Switzerland is an awesome place to get an adrenaline rush. From bungee jumping off dams (like James Bond) to helicopter rides, or even sky diving from one. They seem to have it all.

The only problem is that it is insanely expensive.

So, instead of avoiding spending any money, I would pick the one (or two) things you want to do very carefully. Saving money on such things is never a great idea because of safety. However, you may be able to save by booking ahead or as a group.

Alternatively, you could hire a mountain bike for a day which is way cheaper than jumping out of a helicopter. And these days they have “electric” bikes, so it is a lot easier than it used to be.

Of you could just go Stand Up Paddling instead. Less adrenaline, sure, but it’s a fun way to experience the lakes of Switzerland and they’re available on almost every waterway in the country.

It’s As Expensive As You Make It

Yes, Switzerland is expensive, but you can still have an unforgettable time here without blowing your budget.

Just be smart on the things that cost the most (accommodation, food and transport) and splurge on the things that matter most to you.

And don’t forget your camera. The scenery is stunning!


About the author:

Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on Expert World Travel.