I have to say that Switzerland is one of the most beautiful and incredible countries I’ve visited. I had to pinch myself several times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. The lush, green rolling hills and the delicious chocolate had me mesmerized. However, the $17 burgers from McDonald’s and $8 cappuccinos left me a little shocked.
There’s no surprise that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. It’s easy to see why many travelers choose to visit this country when they’re older and ballin’ a little more. I had the same thought too but decided to just go for it because I’m in that “YOLO” phase. I don’t really know if that’s a thing still, but we’ll pretend it is.
People looked at us like we were crazy when we told them we were going to Switzerland because of how expensive it is. I was worried too, but I found myself enjoying everything this exquisite country has to offer while being on a small budget.
You might want to pack your bags because it’s totally possible to visit Switzerland without breaking the bank! So, how exactly do you visit without completely depleting your travel fund? Here are seven helpful tips to help you explore Switzerland while being on a budget.
1. Accommodation in Switzerland
We all have that image in our heads where we go to Switzerland and stay in a luxurious cabin tucked away in the Swiss Alps snuggled up next to the fireplace. While that sounds like oodles of fun, it’s going to wipe out your budget. Hotels and even hostels are incredibly pricey here. The cheapest hostel we found was $40 USD per person. The cheapest hotel averaged $230 USD per night. I can see your jaw dropping from here.
You have a few options when it comes to saving money on accommodation. You can housesit/petsit for homeowners/pet owners while they’re away. In return, you get a free place to stay. If you’re not into this, Airbnb is another good option.
Pro Tip: If you’re staying near the Swiss border, you can save a ton of money by crossing the border and staying in a bordering country. It’s relatively easy crossing the border within the EU so it’s worth it to do this if possible.
2. Don’t Eat Out
Restaurants are very expensive in Switzerland. In St. Moritz, the cheapest restaurant was charging $30 USD for a simple pasta dish. Even McDonald’s was outrageous. A plain cheeseburger in the States is about $2 at most. This same burger in Switzerland was $6. Making your own meals is the way to go. We actually visited Switzerland after Italy so we brought our own groceries with us. We did take a stroll through the grocery store in St. Moritz and the groceries weren’t too expensive. The meat was pricey though. Our Airbnb hosts actually became vegetarian because meat costs so much. The major supermarkets here are Lidl, Spar, Migros and Coop. I found Coop to be the most expensive. Lidl and Spar were great options because they were reasonably priced compared to Coop and had a good selection.
Pro Tip: If you want to eat out, eat out for lunch when some restaurants have lunch specials. When eating out, stick to ethnic restaurants like Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, etc because they’re cheaper. We had dinner at a small Lebanese restaurant and I got a falafel for $9. It was still expensive, but it was less expensive than other options.
3. Don’t Buy Drinks
As tempting as it is to participate in the nightlife in Switzerland, it’s not worth blowing your budget on. If you want to drink, buy some booze from the grocery store at a cheaper price. Also, don’t buy bottled water because it’s expensive. Instead, take a refillable water bottle with you. Switzerland does a great job of putting water fountains everywhere. Plus, the tap water in Switzerland is more delicious than any bottled water you can buy there.
4. Don’t Travel in High Season
High season in Switzerland is from July to August when the weather is the warmest and from January to February during the winter months. The winter months are popular for winter sports. That usually means that the country is filled with tourists which means that the prices are higher. A good time to visit is from April to June and September to October.
5. Use Public Transportation
Switzerland has an amazing public transport system. It’s safe and easy to use. The public bus is actually free in some towns in Switzerland. Do a quick Google search to see if the town you’re visiting offers it for free. Either way, public transportation will be cheaper than taxis.
6. Discover Your Location on Foot
Hiking and walking in Switzerland is fun because the scenery is so pretty. Save some money by hiking and walking instead of using taxis. I’m not going to lie to you- I get faint at the thought of hiking and I didn’t hike all the time when I was there. I took funiculars and took the bus once. But, hiking and walking will allow you to get exercise and save money on taxis.
7. Buy a Train Pass
The best way to explore Switzerland is via train. The Eurail pass will be your best friend here. It’s a single travel document that lets you travel via train in EU countries. You pay a flat fee for the pass and you can travel to 31 countries without having to buy individual tickets. If you’re 27 or younger, you qualify for a youth discount which gives you 23% off of the standard adult prices.
If you hold a Eurail pass, you get to ride the Glacier Express for FREE. You have to make a reservation and pay a small reservation fee. This scenic route is gorgeous and takes you through 91 tunnels and over 290 bridges. You can also experience a train ride on the Bernina Express. The scenery on this route is truly the most amazing and beautiful scenery I’ve seen during my travels. You’ll pass through mountains and glaciers and through several tunnels. Once again, you just have to pay a small reservation fee.
We paid around $1700 USD for both of our passes which included the price of shipping to our Airbnb. That was for two-month travel through EU countries and first-class seats. We decided to splurge on first class because it was only $2 extra per day per person. Some of the routes we took in Switzerland easily cost $400+ USD. Luckily, we had the Eurail pass so we didn’t have to pay this hefty amount for the trains. We actually got our money’s worth on our Eurail passes by using them in Switzerland alone.
Pro Tip: When using these scenic trains, don’t purchase meals on board. The meals are very expensive. We brought our own snacks with us and it’s totally allowed to do so.
Pro Tip: You can save even more money on your trip to Switzerland by using a fare comparison site such as Kiwi.com and Skyscanner. These are my go to search engines that help me find cheap flights all over the world.
Pro Tip: Switzerland is a super safe country. But, don’t forget to protect yourself against flight cancellations, unexpected illnesses, theft and more. RoamRight has great customer service and benefits.