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How to save money in Switzerland: Priceless insider tips

Updated on January 23, 2014

Frugal living in an expensive country

Switzerland has a high cost of living and is certainly not a cheap travel destination. However, if you follow some simple rules you can save a lot of money and still have plenty of fun:

Enjoy a picnic in the park.
Enjoy a picnic in the park.

Save on food & beverages


Eat your main meal for lunch: Most restaurants, especially in built-up areas, offer lunch specials. They are good value for money and often cost half as much as an evening meal.

Go to a self-service restaurant: The two big supermarket chains COOP and MIGROS offer inexpensive self-service restaurants. If you prefer a down to earth meal rather than junk food at McDonalds and other fast-food outlets, this is a good alternative. While MIGROS restaurants don’t serve alcoholic beverages, Coop Restaurants do. Compared to normal restaurants their prices are a lot cheaper. Especially recommended if you want to sit down for a quick coffee and cake or have a beer or glass of wine.

Have a picnic: Especially in good weather, buy yourself a snack at the local bakery or supermarket. Switzerland is full of park benches, you are always assured to find one. Since you are allowed to drink in public, you may even bring a bottle of wine or a beer to the park.



Expensive supermarkets: Globus, Loeb, Jelmoli

Most popular supermarkets: Migros, Coop. Coop is more expensive but sells brand name products whereas Migros has got their own brand.

Cheap supermarkets: Denner, Pickpay, Aldi, Lidl. Very basic shops with limited range of products. Denner and Pickpay offer Swiss quality chocolates (Lindt, Toblerone etc.) at reasonable prices. Aldi and Lidl have their own brands. All 4 supermarkets offer alcoholic beverages at excellent prices. A good place to buy your wine, beer or liquor.

Don't pour your money down the toilet

Angelina Jolie was probably one of the more prominent victims of the public washroom shortage. While she was on her way to the World Economic Forum in Davos years ago, she had to borrow change from a friendly policeman. Even at a highway rest stop she couldn’t have a free pee.

You have to know one thing: Switzerland is definitely not the place of free washrooms. Know where the public washrooms are. Before you go sightseeing in a new town, visit the local tourist office and get yourself a map. Look for signs saying WC or TOILETTE. If you can avoid it, don’t ever use a washroom in a main railway station, they can cost up to 2 Francs! Restaurant owners offer the free use of washrooms to patrons only.

If you don’t want to consume anything, go to McDonalds or a Coop or Migros self-service restaurant, where nobody will hassle you. You will also find free washrooms in shopping centres and big supermarkets.

Quite often the rural hotels are inexpensive gems.
Quite often the rural hotels are inexpensive gems.
Sleep on straw. Nothing for people with allergies.
Sleep on straw. Nothing for people with allergies.

Will you go broke in Switzerland quiz

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Save on accommodation

Generally, City hotels are a lot more expensive than hotels in rural areas. If you have a rental car you should rather drive out to rural suburbia and look for accommodation there. An additional perk is free parking, one thing that you can never expect in a city.

Also, City hotels are a lot more expensive in Summer. If you travel to Switzerland in Winter they will probably offer you greatly reduced low-season rates.

Bed & Breakfasts:

B & B’s generally offer low cost accommodation and human interaction with local hosts.

Swiss Budget Hotels:

Chain of inexpensive hotels

Other inexpensive hotel chains:

Google for search words like E & G Hotels, Garni or Pension.

Youth Hostels:

Youth Hostels offer cheap and clean accommodation for anybody travelling on a low budget. Especially recommended for single travellers and families as well as people looking for inexpensive city accommodation.


Backpackers offer similar accommodation to Youth Hostels.

Farm vacations:

Sleep on Straw is definitely the cheapest and most adventurous option. "Sleep on straw" means spending the night in a barn on a bed of sweet-smelling straw, with a delicious farmhouse breakfast the next morning. Make sure that you don’t suffer from allergies and bring your own sleeping bag.

For basic, low-cost accommodation in the Alps:

SAC Huts (Swiss Alpine Club Huts)

Nature friend Houses

Looking for a private room, flat or entire house? On airbnb private individuals advertise their homes or holiday accommodation. Warning: The advertised prices may not include cleaning fees, costs for additional people or the airbnb booking fees and only show up during the booking process (also check the small print before you proceed to the check-out). As many hosts charge a cleaning fee this kind of accommodation is only recommended for people wanting to stay several days.

Save on transportation

Public transportation is expensive but also very reliable and comfortable and therefore highly recommended. If you follow some simple tips you can get the most value for your bucks.

Travel 2nd Class: It’s a lot cheaper and there is hardly any difference with regards to comfort, other than the 1st Class being less crowded.

Travel at half the price: If you plan to take several trips within Switzerland the purchase of a Half Fare Ticket may be a good solution for you. It costs CHF 165 and is valid for a whole year. This pass allows you to get most public transportation tickets (incl. ships & cable cars) with a 50% rebate.

Junior or Grandchild travel card for travel with children age 6 – 16: For just CHF 30, your child or grandchild aged between 6 and 16 can travel for a whole year on public transportation in Switzerland. As the child’s parent or grandparent, you must be in possession of a valid ticket and each child must have their own Junior or Grandchild travel card.

Buy a travel pass: You can cut your travel costs considerably by purchasing one of the various travel cards that the Swiss Railways have on offer. They have a solution for any budget or purpose. These discounted offers are valid on almost the entire public transportation system including railways, ferries, buses, mountain railways & cablecars etc.

The Swiss railways also offer specials in combination with leisure facilities. Check at the railway station or

In Winter look for Snow n’Rail offers (greatly reduced ski passes in combination with public transportation).

Engadines Hot Summer Deal (Free public transportation incl. cablecars)

Have you ever dreamed of going to St. Moritz? Do it this Summer. Most hotels offer an amazing deal (for 2 nights accommodation you get free transportation tickets for unlimited travel within the area).

Save on parking

City parking is very expensive: Especially if you want to go sightseeing in a city for a whole day it may work out considerably cheaper if you park your car at a Park & Rail car park outside and catch public transportation into the city center.

Save on road tolls (how to avoid buying the Swiss Motorway Sticker)

There are no toll roads as such in Switzerland but any vehicle using the Swiss Motorway System must have a Swiss Motorway Sticker (Autobahnvignette) stuck to the windshield. This sticker is valid for 1 calendar year and currently costs CHF 40. The fees are used to improve and maintain the state of the art motorway system and its various tunnels. The bad news is, that you have to buy this sticker whether you spend 5 minutes or 365 days on Switzerland's motorways/freeways. Please take note that the sticker is non-transferable and must be firmly attached to the windshield.There are frequent police checks at various highway exits and any violations will result in a hefty fine of CHF 200!

If you only enter Switzerland occasionally and are not in a big rush, you can avoid this road tax by sticking only to the main roads and secondary roads which do not require a motorway sticker. Switzerland has an extensive network of well maintained secondary roads and you can easily travel all over without ever having to use a motorway. To avoid confusion, the motorway signs are green and all other roads blue. Travel will take you a bit longer as the speed limits are generally 50 in urban areas and 80 outside urban areas. Speeding, especially in built-up areas is not recommended, as speed traps are frequent and the fines are pricey.

Bring the right currency

Make sure that you bring Swiss Francs, the local currency. The EURO is widely accepted but you will probably get a bad exchange rate.

Exception: Grächen is one of the Swiss tourist destinations trying to attract foreign tourists by offering a favorable fixed EURO exchange-rate (see announcement box on right). Also watch out for special signs in shop windows etc.

Don't tip

In general, tips and value added tax are included in the price you see advertised. In restaurants tipping is not expected, but if you were happy with the service you can round off the amount. You also don’t have to leave a tip for the cleaning staff in your hotel room.

Creative tips for the poor traveler

And last but not least, if you are desperate to go to Switzerland but still can’t afford it, you may consider a wwoofer job or volunteer work. Visitors usually work for a few hours a day and get free food and accommodation in exchange.

Sleep on somebody's couch for free. You have to become a couchsurfing member and be prepared to reciprocate when somebody wants to visit your place.

Or if you are talented, bring you guitar to Switzerland and earn some pocket money as a street singer. Anything goes except for jodelling!

Author's comment

This hub is a work in progress and will be updated on a regular basis. May be you know a few more ways how to save money in Switzerland. Please leave a message and your input will be integrated in the hub.

A funny video by Switzerland Tourism, how the Swiss people get ready for the tourist season


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    • Iammattdoran profile image

      Matt Doran 14 months ago from Manchester, UK

      Hey that's a really informative hub. Especially for someone who loves to travel like me. I may be inspired to write a similar Hub about Norway from where I've just returned. A really expensive country.

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 16 months ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      CYong74 Thanks for your comment which I don't understand. What does GO mean????

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 16 months ago from Singapore

      The golden advice for visitors to Europe. Always GO when dining in a restaurant!

    • profile image

      Missing Switzerland 3 years ago

      Picnics are definitely a great idea. Swiss bread is so nice, so is the cheese, so is the deli meat... Maybe grab some yoghurts and some nice Swiss apples, and of course some chocolate for dessert, and you have yourself a real feast. And don't forget to wash it all down with Rivella! :-)

    • profile image

      The Wise Cheese 4 years ago

      Just travel to places that are not too "tourist crowded"

      The canton Luzern for example...

      Geneva and Bern are nice places too, but they're more popular for tourists.

      And that's a tip from a swiss person ;D

    • profile image

      Jochen 4 years ago

      Wow thanks a lot for the nice information. I love Switzerland and always fly with ryanair to save money... I use sites like on this one: perhaps it is useful

    • profile image

      Maria 4 years ago

      Hey great site

    • worldtravelexpert profile image

      Kirsty Stuart 4 years ago from London, UK

      I'd never heard about any of these things so thank you!

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 4 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Worldtravelexpert: Thanks for your comment. Yes, unfortunately Switzerland is a very expensive place but with some careful planning a lot of money can be saved. Regarding travelling by train or any other public transportation I recommend that travelers who intend to take several trips or expensive cable cars purchase a half-fare ticket for CHF 165.00. It's valid for one year and most tickets can be purchased with a 50% rebate which adds up very quickly. Also the Junior or Grandchild travel card which allows children to travel free if accompanied by their parents or grandparents is a good investment at only CHF 30.00 per child/per year.

    • worldtravelexpert profile image

      Kirsty Stuart 4 years ago from London, UK

      I wish I had read this Hub before my trip to Switzerland! It does seem incredibly expensive over there, particular train journeys and the like. Their standard of living is high though... plus you wouldn't get nice trains and scenery like that anywhere else in the world. Thanks for a great Hub.

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 5 years ago from Miami, US

      I highly value this type of information. As a young travel-lover, I hope to use tips like these to extend the amount of time I spend in foreign countries in the future, as I have in the past. There is nothing like the allure of travel to make you explore ways to stretch your dollar. Voted up, up, up!

    • profile image

      UrsulaRose 6 years ago

      Awesome Hub Article full of valuable information all about one of my most favourite destinations in the world.

      I look forward to reading more of your hubs ... Swiss Bliss!