Wait?! Did I just put Switzerland and cheap in the same sentence? Can that be possible?
I am telling you it is.
I moved from Bucharest, Romania to Zurich, Switzerland around 3 months ago and boy does time flies when you’re having fun in such a perfect city like Zurich. To my expectation, shock came to my wallet. Everything in Romania was so cheap, with only €400 I could easily live happily, if not luxuriously, in my €100/month student residence eating delicious restaurant food on the weekend. In Switzerland? Well basically I had to say goodbye to my luxurious, cheap Bucharest-style student life.
Yes, some things are higher, way higher, than anywhere else in Europe but it is not impossible to live/travel on the cheap in Switzerland. Here are some tips you can use when you’re travelling to Switzerland.
OK, so I gotta admit that transportation is super expensive. Let’s do the comparison. In Nantes, France, I paid around €150 for one year transport subscription allowing me to take all the buses, trams and boats in Nantes. I also bought a train discount card called 12-25 for €49/year which gave me almost 50% discounts for trains (TGV, TER) in France. That was pretty useful and gave me a lot of nice deals for trains at reasonably affordable prices. In Bucharest, for a ticket of 10-times journey costs around 15RON (€2.30) – yes too cheap!
Since I am only in Zurich for a while, I decided to take the monthly ticket. It costs 81CHF (€65) for one month. I was speechless and completely bummed. However after a while, I don’t really regret the cost since transportation in Zurich is really good. Good is an understatement, excellent is more like it. You can use the trams, buses, boats and S-Bahns which goes in every corner of the city making it a complete breeze to explore the city (and lazy to walk!). One thing though, this is the cost for only one zone, the city of Zurich, if you go outside of this zone, say the airport, you would have to add some extra CHF which you can get discount if you have the Half-Fare TravelCard.
Half-Fare TravelCard comes in subscription of 1/2/3 year(s). I bought one for 1 year even if I am not staying here for that long. I think it’s a pretty good investment since trains and transports in Switzerland is expensive. For mine, I paid CHF175 (€140) but you can get half-fare for all trains and also for transport tickets within the cities in Switzerland. So it’s a pretty handy card. If you are travelling often in Switzerland I truly recommend you to subscribe for this card.
When you are booking a train ticket via SBB, be in the look out for Saver Tip which is usually at the bottom, after the list of fares. The normal train ticket can usually be used at a flexible time within a certain period of time, however these savers can only be used at a certain date and time – which is probably why they are cheap. It is so worth it to use them even if you are constraint by a certain time, the price can be cut to half. I love it when I find these savers!
For you travellers coming to Switzerland, to cut some cash try walking! If you are visiting the cities in Switzerland, I think walking is a great way to see the city and cheap too. I walked in Luzern and Bern, didn’t use any transportation to explore the old town. The train stations in cities like Zurich, Geneva, Luzern, and Bern are conveniently placed in the centre of town making it super easy for you to explore by foot.
What I’ve seen is basically prices of goods are pretty much the same as in France. Meat can be higher but chicken, bread, yoghurt – they are all pretty standard. There are some shops which you can look out when travelling in Switzerland. Migros is the standard cheap Swiss store, Coop is also pretty affordable but maybe just a little bit more expensive than Migros. Both stores sometimes sell hot food which is definitely cheaper than eating at a restaurant. I usually buy sandwich, fries, lasagne, wurst (anything hot they sell that day) and head for the lake to eat it there. There are other cheaper supermarkets such as LIDL, but they are usually not placed in the centre.
If you’re more into sitting down at a restaurant and eating “proper” food, head over to Manor’s restaurant. At the top floor there should be a restaurant with reasonable prices and good food. I once ate there (potatoes, chicken, veggies, drink) for around CHF12 (€9) which is cheap for Swiss standard. If you are in Zurich, head over the asian takeaway restaurants under the Bahnhof, they sell pretty cheap and excellent food too!
When I was visiting Zurich for my Christmas 2011, my friends and I rented an apartment with kitchen. We shopped and cooked by ourselves and only splurged a little at a fondue restaurant one night – this definitely helped us to cut some costs. We also prepared home-made sandwiches for our day trip.
Even if the food is expensive, like the Swiss, I am pretty happy with Swiss products. I think they have the best, freshest, highest-quality products in the supermarket, if this comes at a cost, I really don’t mind. Of course this is coming from me who lives here day to day.
I think most of the things I’ve seen in Switzerland have been free. A stroll by the lake, looking at pretty churches, admiring the cobbled-stone streets, enjoying the sun in the park – that all comes for free. Unless of course you want to visit museums, which you may have to pay extra.
Places to Stay
I don’t really have much to say on this since I have only stayed once in Switzerland. In Zurich, my friends and I rented a two-bedroom apartment for 3 nights which was pretty reasonable if I remember correctly. Try to find the best deal possible, better if you have a friend you can crash 🙂
If you plan on living here, students get pretty good deals at the university dorms. I know my friends living in dorms paying around €300 – €500 which is not expensive. Renting a flat can be a pain and lengthy process, but sometimes if you’re lucky you can get pretty good deal.
Things to Splurge
There are some things in Switzerland that are just worth the splurge. Mövenpick ice cream is totally splurge-worthy, usually it costs around CHF4.20 (€3.36) for a scoop of ice cream. Sprüngli is also worth the visit and don’t forget to try their delicious macarons.
I also like to visit some cafes for some hot chocolate and their homemade cakes. A cup of hot chocolate ranges from CHF5 (€4) to CHF7 (€5.60) and the cakes are a little pricier. If you pick the right cafe though, the price is usually worth it.
The Swiss also makes splurging so easy with their excellent hospitality and cosy atmosphere!
So there you go, some tips to make your travelling in Switzerland a little bit cheaper.
Have you been to Switzerland and have tips to add?