Save money in Switzerland - 33 tips for your trip

Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, but there are ways to get around on a budget. This article will show you how to save money while traveling in Switzerland. We'll help you plan your trip on a budget. Here you will find 33 valuable tips on how to save money on food, accommodation, leisure time and travel.

Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. The stronger the Swiss franc, the more expensive it becomes for guests from abroad. Occasionally, the Swiss price level reaches twice the global average.

The internationally recognized "Big Mac Index" makes a tangible comparison*.

  • US Dollar vs. Swiss Franc: The Big Mac costs 30% more in Switzerland: in the USA USD 5.15 | in Switzerland USD 6.71
  • EURO vs. Swiss Franc: The Big Mac costs 40% more in Switzerland: in the euro area EURO 4.77 | In Switzerland EURO 6.55
  • YUAN vs. Swiss Franc: The Big Mac costs 90 % more in Switzerland: in China YUAN 24.00 | In Switzerland YUAN 45.29

(*Values July 2022 with purchasing power adjustment)

This may discourage some people from visiting Switzerland. Which is a shame: because despite the generally high prices, there are numerous tricks you can use to save money on your trip to Switzerland. We introduce you to some valuable money saving tips for Switzerland to help you plan your trip on a budget.

Focus on free activities

There are plenty of free attractions and activities in Switzerland. These include numerous zoos, theme trails, churches, quite a few museums and much more. In addition, visiting natural attractions such as lakes, waterfalls and gorges is free in the vast majority of cases. And of course, hiking or swimming in a pristine mountain lake is also very easy on your budget. Find out more in our article about 100 free things to do in Switzerland.

You usually visit a suspension bridge for free (Photo. Switzerland Tourism Lorenz Richard)You usually visit a suspension bridge for free (Photo. Switzerland Tourism Lorenz Richard)
This swing in Ascona is also easy on your budget (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Nicola Fuerer)This swing in Ascona is also easy on your budget (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Nicola Fuerer)

Benefit from good exchange rates and low fees

In Switzerland, you can pay by card almost everywhere. If you use Revolut, you can pay your bills directly in Swiss francs and don't suffer any exchange rate losses. Through the app, you exchange your currency for CHF at the daily rate and pay in Switzerland as if you had a local debit card. This way you ensure that your fees and losses stay at a minimum.

Choose the right time to travel to Switzerland

If you choose your travel time wisely and don't travel during peak season, you can save money on your trip. Learn more about the best time to travel to Switzerland.

  • Avoid skiing around Christmas as well as in January and February.
  • Seek out the mountains especially in April and June or late summer/early fall.
  • Avoid the summer months of July and August for hiking.
  • Use spring or fall for your excursions and hikes.
  • Avoid Ticino between June and October because many things are booked up.

Avoid winter sports hotspots

Tourism magnets are expensive. It is much cheaper away from the big crowds. If you avoid typical tourist destinations, you will save quite some money in Switzerland.

If you choose one of the big winter sports resorts with a ringing name like Zermatt, Gstaad or St. Moritz, it can be expensive. The formula for saving money is to look for the lesser-known ski resorts, of which there are over 200 to choose from in this country. For a more detailed overview of ski resorts in Switzerland, see our related article on the subject.

Seek out destinations off the beaten track

A trip to Europe's highest train station on the Jungfraujoch is a special experience, but also very expensive. Areas off the beaten path offer cheaper yet extremely attractive destinations. Rural or sparsely populated regions are more affordable than cities or sophisticated hotspots.

Inexpensive and unforgettable travel experiences can be found throughout Switzerland. For example in the Jura mountains, in Appenzellerland, in the Aargau countryside or at hidden magic spots in Graubünden, Ticino or Valais.

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House in the Engadine off the beaten track (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)House in the Engadine off the beaten track (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)
Wenigerweier in St. Gallen (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)Wenigerweier in St. Gallen (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)

Save your budget with food highlights

Switzerland is the land of fine chocolate and delicious cheeses. Want to know what's behind it? Take advantage of the numerous offers to visit our chocolate factories, show dairies and other culinary manufactories for a small entrance fee or free. Who knows, you might discover a secret or two.

Join a free walking tour

Thanks to their small size, Swiss cities are relatively easy to explore on foot. Many offer free walking tours. Because Switzerland survived two world wars intact, its historic old towns are largely intact today. This feature is not taken for granted in Europe and is appreciated by tourists from all over the world.

Castles, museums, bridges and libraries preserve your budget

Even today, castles are difficult to access because you have to pay admission. But from the outside they always impress for free. This is the case with bridges anyway, and in Swiss museums you can sometimes get in for free or at a reduced price. A Raiffeisen membership, the museum pass, the Swiss Travel Pass, other special public transport tickets or a student card can help.

Many libraries are not only free for students. Besides free Wifi, they offer shelter in stimulating, beautiful reading rooms. Plus, you'll get a slice of local daily life.

Visit Swiss cultural assets

Switzerland has countless cultural assets that are open to the public. Here are a few examples to help you save money in Switzerland.

  • Collège Calvin in Geneva, founded in 1559, still functions as a high school and is open to the public.
  • Low entrance fees invite you to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Castello di Montebello in Bellinzona.
  • Like all churches in this country, the Baroque cathedrals of Einsiedeln Abbey and the Abbey District of St. Gallen are open to the public free of charge.

These and another 13.400 historic buildings with special flair are part of the Swiss list of cultural assets. They can be visited free of charge or at low cost throughout the country. For your personal selection, you can find a detailed list of all cultural assets in Switzerland on the federal geoportal.

Ring wall in Murten (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)Ring wall in Murten (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)
House in the Simmental (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)House in the Simmental (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)

Discover Switzerland in the panoramic train

Enjoy your train journey with a panoramic view thanks to large, high reaching windows. In such special trains you can explore the most beautiful sides of of Switzerland. Delight in the culinary delights while the breathtaking landscape breathtaking landscape passes you by.

If you have to buy a ticket, panoramic trains won't save you any money. But if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, an Interrail or a Eurail, you're in for unforgettable rides at budget prices. This way, the trip becomes a destination without you having to spend a lot of money in addition to your passport.

Bernina Express (Photo: Swiss Travel System)Bernina Express (Photo: Swiss Travel System)
Glacier Express (Photo: Swiss Travel System)Glacier Express (Photo: Swiss Travel System)

Book well in advance or at very short notice

The higher the number of vacant rooms, the lower the overnight rate. Today, many hotels flexibly adjust their changing offers at short notice according to current demand. The same applies to trains and flights as well as to the entire offer in tourism. It often pays to book well in advance, when the prices are lower. But also make sure you check last minute offers carefully and keep an eye on them.

Book the right flight

Booking a flight is easy today. Finding the best and cheapest flight on the Internet is more difficult. Here are some tips:

  • Use comparison portals like Google Flights, Skyscanner, Momondo, Kiwi or Kayak to find the best deal.
  • Check recommended flights additionally on the website of the respective airline. Sometimes they are offered cheaper there. Especially when it comes to checked baggage, which is often not included on booking portals.
  • Avoid peak travel times, because high demand generates high prices.
  • Book early and save up to 50%. Last minute bargains are rare on flights.
  • Try to stay flexible. Sometimes a day earlier or two days later makes a big difference.
  • Large airports and EU hubs allow for cheaper airfares to Switzerland.
  • Direct flights cost more. Stopovers push prices down.

Profit from discounted train tickets

If you are travelling through Switzerland for a few days and use public transport a lot, it is often worth buying a railway pass for your train trip in Switzerland.

If you have your main residence in Europe, the Interrail allows you unlimited train travel in 33 countries. This includes Switzerland. If your main residence is outside Europe, you benefit from the same discounts and opportunities with the Eurail. By the way, the Swiss Travel Pass also saves you a lot of money if you often cover longer distances on your trip.

There are also discounted tickets, such as the SBB savings ticket. Learn more about the Train tickets in Switzerland and discover new ways to save money.

Traveling through Switzerland by public transport (Photo: Swiss Travel System)Traveling through Switzerland by public transport (Photo: Swiss Travel System)
(Photo: Swiss Travel System)(Photo: Swiss Travel System)

Travel cheap by car

The more passengers you have in your car, the cheaper the trip will be. If the passengers pay, the trip will be especially cheap.

Once you are in Switzerland, you benefit from the flexibility and can go anywhere at any time. You don't have to pay attention to timetables. Another advantage is that you can also eat and sleep in the car if necessary.

Rental cars are also an option. The websites of the major car rental companies always offer bargains. Many comparison platforms help you with your online search.

Long-distance buses bring you cheaply to Switzerland

Compared with air, car and train travel, the journey by long-distance bus is often cheaper. When the buses are fully booked, it can get crowded. Seat guarantee and WLAN still bring some comfort. In addition to the low fare, there are other arguments for traveling by bus. The luggage regulations are more generous than with airlines and the rebooking and cancellation options are more flexible.

Please note, however, that long-distance buses like Flixbus are only suitable for traveling to Switzerland, but not for getting around within Switzerland.

Save with car sharing

Low rental costs with a low ecological footprint. Carsharing is the idealistic alternative to classic car rental. Here are two Swiss providers in comparison:

  • 2EM is a community that dreams of a better world. On their app, private individuals share their vehicle for a contribution towards expenses. For the app expenses, the 2EM community takes a small commission.

  • Founded in 1997, the Mobility cooperative is the pioneer in car sharing. Around 250,000 users share 3000 cars at 1500 locations. Here, too, you benefit from convenient self-service with spontaneous and short-term 24x7 use. At many train stations in Switzerland there are red mobility (electric) cars as an optimal combination of road and rail.

Uber and Vertt are sometimes cheap

In a direct comparison to conventional cab services, the ride-sharing service Uber comes out cheaper, especially for short distances. The Uber app automatically determines the route, calculates the price, charges your credit card and pays the driver.

Those who know Uber are at home with Vertt. The Zurich-based startup also uses algorithms to arrange ridesharing - just cheaper. The drivers pay less commission, which you notice clearly at the end of the ride. You already know the fare beforehand.

Rent a bike

Switzerland has a well-developed bicycle network. Even if there is still room for improvement in the infrastructure, you can get around Switzerland wonderfully by bike. You can either borrow it for free or rent it cheaply. You can choose from around 20 bikesharing networks in Switzerland.

  • Velospot operates in several Swiss cities.
  • RentABike is a leading Swiss bike rental company with 150 rental stations. Many of them at major train stations.
  • CargoVelo2Go rents electric cargo bikes by the hour.
  • Publibike is an ecologically oriented bikesharing app.
  • Free bikes are available for rent through Schweiz Rollt in cities like Zurich and Geneva.
Rent a bike in St. Gallen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Giglio Pasqua)Rent a bike in St. Gallen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Giglio Pasqua)
Cycling through Toggenburg (Photo: Toggenburg Tourism)Cycling through Toggenburg (Photo: Toggenburg Tourism)

Book hotels with savings and special prices

Did you know that all-inclusive vacations are a Swiss invention? Almost a hundred years ago, billboards advertised "7 days of sun, snow and sports from CHF 50." Hundreds of Swiss hotels offered all-inclusive packages, appealing to budget-conscious guests.

Even today, you'll find many low-cost or all-inclusive offers on hotel websites. They are aimed, for example, at families with children, wellness fans or city travellers. You can sometimes find overnight rates as low as CHF 30 per person, including a rich breakfast or half board.

The higher the number of detached rooms, the lower the overnight price. Many hotels today adjust their changing offers flexibly and at short notice according to the current demand. Therefore, it is worthwhile to obtain an online offer at the hotel of your choice for the desired period. It can pay off to plan well in advance or to react quickly.

Stay in hostels

How about spending the night in a castle or in an original new building? And for little money with a sustainable environmental flair? Then one of the more than 50 Swiss youth hostels is the right place for you. From a bed in a 6-bed room to a double or single room with bathroom and toilet, there is a suitable solution for everyone.

Budget travelers benefit from free Wi-fi and luggage storage, bed linen and breakfast as well as common and leisure rooms or self-service restaurants. Inexpensive annual passes and the free hostel app bring benefits and discounts such as:

  • easy booking or check-in
  • annual pass on your smartphone
  • hostel discounts
  • cheaper entrance fees to museums as well as leisure facilities
  • partner and family-friendly offers
  • discounts on the public transport network

Sleep in farms and guesthouses

Off the beaten track along the country roads you will find them: The country inns and farms with their moderate room rates. These traditional family-run businesses can be found all over rural Switzerland. Specialities of the Swiss cuisine according to grandmother's recipe or newly interpreted adorn the menus. To find the right accommodation for you, we recommend the platform MyFarm of Agrotourism Switzerland.

You will also find inexpensive accommodation and catering options in the many guesthouses, inns, bed and breakfasts and hotels. Throughout Switzerland they offer comfortable accommodation at favorable conditions. This leaves you more money for other nice things in your trip through Switzerland. A look at over 400 host offers you will find in this pension directory.

Sleep on straw

Sleeping on straw is a farm adventure for the whole family. You lie in the fragrant straw and look forward to the strengthening breakfast. The fresh milk and the farm's own products are a unique pleasure. On corresponding websites you can find farms that offer sleeping on straw for as little as 10 CHF per person. But beware, not all of them are so cheap. Check out the MyFarm platform and find the right farm for you.

Swiss Activities Tip: Although sleeping on straw is a great experience, it is not suitable for everyone. If you suffer from allergies and have problems with hay, straw or dust, it's better to avoid it.

Sleeping on straw (Photos: Switzerland Tourism Robert Boesch)Sleeping on straw (Photos: Switzerland Tourism Robert Boesch)
Farm vacations (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Andre Meier)Farm vacations (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Andre Meier)

Book a holiday apartment or a house

Are you travelling with family or friends? Then it often helps the travel budget if you book a holiday apartment or a holiday home. The more travellers, the lower the accommodation costs per person. If you want to save on meals, your holiday home is the right place. Cooking yourself is usually cheaper. You can find offers on the following platforms:

  • HomeToGo is a meta search engine with forwarding function. If you like the accommodation, you will be guided to the right booking portal.
  • Atraveo is suitable for offers from one week.
  • Airbnb is ideal for accommodation in the city.
  • Casamundo offers a practical map view for orientation.
  • HomeAway helps with short stays in city apartments.
  • Holidu offers vacation rentals throughout Switzerland.

Discover attractive campsites and bungalows

Save money on accommodation and travel without complications? Camping is more popular today than ever before. Many Swiss campsites offer high standards of development with recreation close to nature.

You are traveling without equipment and want to arrive spontaneously? Book a fully equipped accommodation at the campsite. The trend is called "glamping" and combines glamour and camping. You spend the night in comfortable bungalows, romantic yurts or in a nostalgic circus wagon.

TCS Camping is the largest provider in Switzerland. As a member you have up to 20% discount on TCS campsites. Depending on your Switzerland itinerary it can be worthwhile. On the portals of TCS or you will find the right campsite in Switzerland.

Camping in Switzerland (Photo: Base Camp Europe)Camping in Switzerland (Photo: Base Camp Europe)
Camping in Switzerland (Photo: Base Camp Europe)Camping in Switzerland (Photo: Base Camp Europe)

Use Park4night and Roadsurfer Spots

What's better than getting to know the country and its people spontaneously on a road trip? Are you on a round trip through Switzerland with your car, caravan or motorhome? Apps like park4night and roadsurfer spots simplify your daily search for a parking space.

They show you where you can easily park for the night or in between. Park4night documents suitable public parking spaces. In Switzerland, this is completely safe. On the other hand, Roadsurfer Spots will guide you to natural parking spaces on private property, some of which you have to pay for.

Find cheap lunch menus

Eating in Swiss restaurants does not always have to be expensive. Cheap lunch menus allow for inexpensive enjoyment. So look for restaurants, inns and bistros between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. Look for signs at the entrance with the daily menus and prices. Often you can choose from three or more different menus and pay much less than you would in the evening or if you ordered à la carte.

Eat near universities and schools

Near big schools and universities, there is often a high density of restaurants and take-away stalls offering reasonably priced meals. As they compete for the favour of students, prices are often lower than in other places.

Save money at a self-service restaurant

Cheap is not always bad. That's true of self-service restaurants, too. They serve inexpensive and at the same time good quality food. In Switzerland, you can find them in shopping malls or at large supermarkets like Migros and Coop. School, university and company cafeterias welcome out-of-town visitors. Places like museums, open-air swimming pools or youth hostels sometimes also run restaurants.

Spare in the fight against food waste

There are numerous concepts that combat food waste. These include the Ässbar and TooGoodToGo.

The Ässbar, which you can find in eight cities in Switzerland, offers delicious baked goods from the day before. With the slogan "fresh from yesterday," you get delicious creations from bakeries in the area. Perfect for a cheap meal or picnic for your next hike in Switzerland. By the way, the Ässbar sometimes also offers whole menus that were cooked and packaged the day before, but not sold.

Via the TooGoodToGo App you can see where you can save food from going to waste in your area. Restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets and even drugstores offer their food at a greatly reduced price, which is wonderful for your travel budget.

In the Ässbar you can get cheap baked goods (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)In the Ässbar you can get cheap baked goods (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)
We advertise with the slogan "fresh from yesterday" (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)We advertise with the slogan "fresh from yesterday" (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)

Enjoy a picnic

Get your food at the counter and find a nice place to picnic. Since you're foregoing a set table with service, you'll save some money. Lakefront promenades, public fireplaces, lookout points and park benches, to name a few, are perfect for a leisurely picnic. Takeaway stands are booming in Switzerland and you'll find them everywhere:

  • at train station arcades
  • in shopping malls
  • in pedestrian zones
  • in large stores such as Migros, Coop, Manor, Jelmoli or Globus
  • in restaurants with takeaway offers
  • on lake and river promenades
  • at mobile counters on streets and squares
  • at markets
  • and near schools and universities

Get your own groceries and be your own chef

The shopping possibilities in Switzerland are huge and the choice is enormous. So buy your own ingredients and cook your own food to save money on the restaurant. Here are some tips for good bargains:

  • The big supermarkets Migros and Coop carry inexpensive budget products in their private label. At Migros, the packages are white and green striped and labeled "M-Budget." Coop labels them with "Prix-Garantie" in pink lettering on a white background.
  • Discounters such as Denner, Lidl or Aldi are attractive for low-cost purchases.
  • Products with the "Action" label promise interesting reductions.
  • Shortly before closing time, orange discount points with up to 75% off stick on perishable goods.

Shop on farms

At farms you have a wide selection of fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy products, eggs and homemade jams. Also fresh from the farm: sausages, lamb, turkey, pork and other meats. By buying the goods directly from the farmer, they are often cheaper than in the store. With over 3000 farm stores in Switzerland, the websites of Hoflädeli and MyFarm will help you find them.

Save money on drinks

In Switzerland, drinks can add up when paying at the restaurant or at the supermarket. So take advantage of the abundant free fountains or tap water. Fountains with drinking water quality can be found on every corner in Switzerland. Especially in cities. Self-service restaurants and canteens offer free tap water. Often the taps are discreetly placed and not immediately visible.

Did you know that you can drink alcohol in public in Switzerland? So buy a cold beer and drink it on the lakeshore or in a cozy park. Another insider tip for thirsty budget travelers: Look out for the many happy hour offers.

In Switzerland, you can drink beer in public (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Nicole Schafer)In Switzerland, you can drink beer in public (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Nicole Schafer)
Drink water for free at the fountain (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Christian Perret)Drink water for free at the fountain (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Christian Perret)

Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. However, thanks to good travel planning, it is also an affordable destination for budget travelers. Now you know the ways and ways to save money in Switzerland.

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