Although it is one of the most expensive destinations to visit in Europe, we give you how to travel Switzerland on a budget.
Budgeting for travel to Switzerland is always a headache because of the high prices The costs of accommodation, excursions and transportation are usually at least twice as much as in Spain, not to mention Latin American countries.
Switzerland is ranked as one of the most expensive countries in the world with its strong Swiss franc.
However, there are many ways to spend less money if you go sightseeing in the country. Here are some tips on how to travel Switzerland on a budget and enjoy the scenery of mountains, rivers and lakes.
🔝 Check out our article on tips for choosing the best travel insurance to Switzerland. Discounts for TravelRutadelMate readers!
1) When is it cheapest to go to Switzerland?
Both inwinter and in the middle of summer , flights to Switzerland are not cheap, due to the high season in the country. Winter is the season where tourists and locals go to the various ski resorts in the Swiss Alps. Summer is high season in Europe in general, although it is not a destination as crowded at this time as the Mediterranean coast.
The cheapest time to travel to Switzerland is during the months of March to June and September to November. Temperatures at this time of the year are not so low and it is possible to hike in the mountains and enjoy the country’s lakes.
Looking for itineraries around the country? Check out this article on things to do in Switzerland in 4 days.
2) How to travel Switzerland on a budget, save on meals
As mentioned above, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe to travel to. Consequently, all restaurant expenses are not cheap.
A meal in a cheap restaurant does not go below 25/30 Swiss francs, about € 25 approximately. If you already want to treat yourself in a mid-range restaurant without great luxury, you have to leave at least 50 Swiss francs per person, about € 45.
Even fast food chains are priced much higher than in other European countries. A menu in a hamburger chain is around 15 Swiss francs, about 14 euros, compared to 7 euros in Spain.
If you want to travel in Switzerland on a budget, then the solution is to buy ready-made food from supermarkets or to shop at fast food outlets on the street. This way you will save a lot of money, since for about 7 or 8 euros you can eat with a drink. The best thing is that you can sit on the banks of rivers or lakes in the cities to eat with fantastic views.
Some of the lowest priced supermarket chains to buy prepared food are Migros, Lidl or Coop which have stores in the center of every city in Switzerland. Not only will you find classic products such as sandwiches, hamburgers or salads, they also sell ready-to-eat Swiss products such as sausages or the famous braided bread.
✏️When we were in Zurich we bought prepared food at a supermarket downtown and ate it sitting on a bench on the banks of the Limago River. Between the two of us we spent 12 euros.
3) Consume water from the tap or fountains.
Switzerland has a very high quality of drinking water thanks to the fact that it comes from high mountain snowmelt. Most of its inhabitants do not buy bottled water but drink directly from the tap. The reality is that if you buy bottled water there is no difference in taste from tap water.
One of the ways to travel cheaply in Switzerland is to refill a bottle of water in the public fountains that are scattered throughout the cities or at the tap of the place where you are staying.
4) Evaluate the purchase of the Swiss tourist pass.
The Swiss Travel Pass is an unlimited travel pass for Switzerland on trains, buses and boats that can be purchased for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days. In addition, it also includes transportation within the cities such as subways and streetcars.
Its benefits also include free access to more than 500 museums in Switzerland, three expensive mountain excursions and significant discounts on other excursions.
🔝 Check out this article on whether to buy the Swiss Travel Pass.
You just have to do the math to see if it is convenient for you to convenient for you buy the transport tickets and excursions separately or directly the Swiss Travel Pass. For us it is convenient if you are going to move a lot within the country and you are going to do at least two mountain excursions.
If you are traveling with your family, it is more than convenient since children under 16 years old accompanied by an adult can access the pass for free. There are also discounts on the pass for people between 16 and 25 years of age.
📷 Buy the Swiss Travel Pass that suits you best here.
There are also other tourist passes for certain localities or areas. One of them is the Jungfrau Travel Pass, a pass for unlimited travel on trains, cable cars and funiculars in the Jungfrau region for 3, 5 or 7 days. In Fribourg you can purchase the Fribourg City Card with access to public transportation and museums in the city.
5) Walk or rent a bicycle
In the big cities of Switzerland such as Geneva, Zurich or Bern many of the attractions are concentrated in a few kilometers, so walking is an excellent option to see all the monuments and the historic center and not spend money.
Even the rivers and lakes that border these cities also pass through the center, so you won’t miss anything.
In Switzerland, the use of bicycles is widespread among its inhabitants because of how expensive it is to pay for a parking space in the city. If you prefer, renting a bicycle is also an excellent way to get around and go to places farther away from the city center.
6) Visit free attractions
Not everything is pay-as-you-go in Switzerland. Apart from walking through the cities with the beauty of their monuments, most of Switzerland’s historic churches are free of charge.
Some museums are also free of charge, such as the Natural History Museum of Fribourg Johanna Spyri Museum on the outskirts of Zurich (where the world of the children’s saga Heidi is on display) or the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts of Lausanne.
As for natural spaces, there is no fee to enter the Botanical Garden of the University of Zurich.
7) Sleep in campgrounds or hostels.
Any hotel in Switzerland has a minimum price of € 100 to € 150 for a basic double room, which is really very expensive compared to the average in other European countries.
If you want to travel Switzerland on a budget, it is best to stay in hostels, bed & breakfasts or campsites during the summer. This way you will save money by sleeping in shared rooms, double rooms with shared or single bathrooms, or directly in tents at the campsites.
Switzerland is a great country for camping in designated sites due to its beautiful nature surrounded by mountains, rivers and lakes. Sleeping in campsites, although the prices are higher than in other European countries, they are cheaper than hotels.
8) Rent an apartment if there are several of you or if you are traveling with your family.
If you are planning to travel to Switzerland with your family or a group of friends, then the best alternative is to rent a whole apartment with several rooms, as it will be cheaper than booking several hotel rooms.
In addition, you have the advantage of being able to cook on site and save money in restaurants.
Both Airbnb and Booking have rental apartments for short and long stays.
9) Take free tours to get to know the city center.
Although free tours are not very widespread in the country, there are some options to know the historic center of Swiss cities with a tour where the payment to the guide is at will.
In this way, you can get to know the history, monuments and legends with a specialized guide and without paying too much money.
10) Enjoy nature, it’s free!
Most of the natural pools on the shore of the lake are free of charge. The lakes of Switzerland are crystal clear and very clean and although the water temperature is cold, it is an ideal place for sunbathing in summer.
Some sandy lakeside beaches are Lido di Lugano, Lido Locarno and Lido Ascona. In the big cities there are also natural pools in rivers or lakes such as the Marzili pool in Bern, Rheinbad Breite in Basel or the Seebad in Lucerne, many of them with metal structures floating on the water for sunbathing and having a drink or a snack.
Discounts and useful resources to save on your trip
- Cheap flights with Skyscanner
- Rent a car with RentalCars
- Train, Bus and Ferry tickets for Europe with OMIO
- Interrail and Eurail Passes with RailEurope 🚆.
- Passages through Asia with 12Go
Activities and Tours
More articles about Switzerland
- Best Things to Do in Bern in 1 Day
- Is Swiss Travel Pass Worth It, Tips and Examples
- The Best Swiss Alps Tours, the Must-Sees
- The Best Travel Insurance to Switzerland 2023 With Discount
- Things to Do in Interlaken in 1 Day, 5 Must-See Places
- Things to Do in Lucerne in 1 Day, a City With Lots of Charm
- Things to Do in Switzerland in 4 Days, Suggested Itinerary
- Things to Do in Zurich in 3 Days, a Quiet Walk by the Lake