Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world and if it weren't for its incredible beauty, many trips to Switzerland would be overlooked just because of its budget. However, the Swiss Alps and stunning nature convince even budget travelers to visit this beautiful country. While not a backpacker hub like cheaper destinations around the world, Switzerland definitely has a backpacker trail and budget travel vibe. In this blog post, I am going to share with you how expensive Switzerland really is and a list of my top tips to help you travel and backpack Switzerland on a budget.
Even if you're not a backpacker through and through, many of these tips can help even a regular traveler to Switzerland save big while taking in all the highlights of Switzerland.
IS SWITZERLAND EXPENSIVE?
The short answer is yes. I am from Australia, which is also quite expensive, and I lived in the United States for four years. I've also traveled to over 30 countries (many cheap destinations) just to give you an idea of what my perspective is all about. Below I will do my best to give you some prices as of 2020 on certain items, tickets and fares for your travel in Switzerland. I'll also give you some ideas on how to build your daily budget and what you can expect to spend. Please note that this applies to travelers who are sightseeing, using public transport and traveling. For example, if you live in Switzerland, you can find cheaper alternatives with long-term rentals and annual discounts.
PRICES IN SWITZERLAND
As of 2020, the Swiss franc is almost on par with the US dollar, which means that it will exchange approximately one Swiss franc for one US dollar.
Backpacker accommodation in Switzerland: There are hostels in almost every city in Switzerland, although some smaller cities did not have any hostels, e.g. B.Appenzell. The cheapest hostels in Zurich cost USD 80 per night for a bunk bed in a shared room with continental breakfast included. The cheapest hostel in Zermatt was $80 with breakfast (and views of the Matterhorn). However, the best cheap accommodation is in Interlaken, which has many hostels and is a central starting point. In Interlaken you can find a bed in a hostel dormitory for only 43 USD including breakfast. I wrote a blog post on why you should stay in Interlaken when backpacking Switzerland and the best hostels to choose from:THE BEST CHEAP ACCOMMODATION IN INTERLAKEN
Price to eat out backpacking in Switzerland:Restaurants are quite expensive in Switzerland, most meals start at at least USD 20 for a regular restaurant, but when it's fancy, don't be surprised if you see meals for USD 40-50 per person for the cost of food in Swiss. If you want a beer with your meal, it will cost you almost $10 at a restaurant. Most people who backpack Switzerland stay in grocery stores to buy supplies and, as a gift, grab a take-out meal or venture into a cafe. When it comes to travel expenses in Switzerland, food is second only to accommodation.
Price of grocery stores in Switzerland:The cost of groceries in Switzerland in grocery stores is still expensive, but not as exorbitant as in restaurants. If you can stick to locally produced items like cheese, bread, yogurt, milk and chocolate, you can get away without breaking the bank. If you are dairy and gluten intolerant, you are going to have an expensive time in Switzerland! Many hikers and backpackers use bread, cheese, and chocolate as their staple foods and then add fruits and vegetables. If you like meat, Switzerland will be expensive for you, as steaks and meat products are quite expensive compared to bread, cheese and dairy products.
Transit price in Switzerland:Transit is one of the most expensive parts of backpacking Switzerland, as you actually have to use the trains and buses, but they are very expensive. I've had a series of long travel days where my train tickets cost almost $100. I'll detail how to get the right rail passes and discounts below, but to give you an idea, a 30 minute ride can often cost $20-$30. be surprised if the trip costs $50 or more.
TRAVEL EXPENSES TO SWITZERLAND AND DAILY BUDGET
Accommodation:$40 to $80 for a hostel if you are alone.
Essen:$30-40 a day when you eat at a cafeteria and the rest of your meals at their free breakfast and grocery store.
Transport:If you took a train to and from a hike, which would count as an average day in Switzerland, you could expect to pay $20-$30 a day for transportation (assuming you already have yourHalf Fare Travel Card, which I will talk about next)
Extras:Depending on your travel style, you can buy a few beers at night, pay for activities, tours or cable cars to the top of a mountain. You can expect to spend $20-30 a day on extras.
Total daily expenses in Switzerland:$110-180 USD per day backpacking Switzerland if you are actively exploring, hiking and visiting the country. If you're just relaxing in the hostel and reading a book, your budget will thank you, but you might be missing out on the Swiss Alps! You can definitely do much cheaper if you are on a very tight budget and skip lunch and just enjoy free breakfast at your hostel. However, things like train fares are unavoidable, so $100 per day is a good starting point. If you are coming to Switzerland for 2 weeks and want to do a lot of sightseeing, less than $1400 is a sign of a budget backpacker.
MY TIPS FOR SMALL BACKPACKERS IN SWITZERLAND
YOU NEED A HALF CARD OR A SWISS TRAVEL PASS FOR THE TRAIN!
I have backpacked Switzerland using trains and buses. Unless you rent a car (which isn't cheap), this is how most people get around. They are very efficient, have good road coverage and are damn expensive. When I say expensive, I mean it. My first week in Switzerland I took a train to and from the Oescheninsee hike and it was $100 USD per day and it blew my socks off. I wasn't sure how to pay for another 3 months in this country.
what i did was buy itSwiss Half Fare Travelcard, giving you half the price on any ticket for an entire year (with the exception of some privately owned cable cars). It basically pays for itself in five days, so if you're going to be in Switzerland for at least a week, you need it. I know it sounds weird to buy an annual membership ticket but it will pay for itself after a few days because it was only $120 for that.Swiss Half Fare Travelcard. So if I had used it on day one of the Oeschinensee hike, I would have saved $50 and used the card. Trust me. If you want to move quickly across the country and take long train rides, they will sometimes cost you upwards of $100 and add up every day.
Lots of people get themswiss travel pass,That's pretty expensive, around $100 a day, but it gets you unlimited free rides and half the price on many cable cars. If you're in Switzerland for a short time, say a week or so, it might be worth getting the full chargeswiss passportbecause you drive from city to city, like Zermatt to Interlaken and from Zurich airport to Grindelwald. It can be valuable if you are moving across Switzerland in a short period of time. These trips will quickly burn a hole in your pocket as they last only a few hours. However, I found out if I bought the complete one.swiss passportand I didn't take the train that day, I felt a bit lost.
i would say take thisSwiss Half Fare TravelcardSure, but don't rushswiss passportuntil you've established your route, although it might be worth it if you drive to a new city every other day, as many people traveling in Switzerland do.
you can buy bothSwiss Half Fare Travelcardand theswiss passportonline before you travel to Switzerland and will be delivered to you by post so you can start saving directly with your card when you arrive at the airport (the train station is connected next door). FYI: Not all trains are as scenic as below, but many of the train rides are worth it on their own!
WHERE IS THE CHEAPEST PLACE IN SWITZERLAND?
This is a question I can't fully answer without knowing your budget and motives. However, I can offer some rough suggestions on how to travel to Switzerland cheaply based on my 100 days in Switzerland itinerary.
If you like hiking or at least looking at the mountain. I highly recommend that you do.Stay in Interlaken. I'll look at some key reasons that make Interlaken the best place to start your adventures.
- Price: Interlaken is relatively cheaper than most other cities. It has luxury resorts and hotels, don't get me wrong, but it has morebudget optionsthan most cities. For example, the cheapest hostel I could find in Zurich was $80 and in Interlaken I stayed in a hostel for $40 that included breakfast, two coffees a day, free locker storage, and a washer/dryer for $2.
- Location: Interlaken is a hub. if you stay ingrumbling, Wengen, etcLauterbrunnenYou're in a great place, but you're really deep in it and it becomes a bit of a journey to get anywhere. A long-distance journey awaits you, especially if you are traveling outside of the Jungfrau region. Living in Interlaken for several weeks, I was able to catch the train to Grindelwald in less than 45 minutes, Lauterbrunnen in less than an hour, and Thun and Brienz in half an hour. You are central and I z. B. drive to Mürren at noon, do the via ferrata and drive to Interlaken.
- Interlaken itself is quite a picturesque city with lots to do including the Harder Kulm lookout, the epicOther durogratweg, theSenderismo Schynige Platteand activities likeParagliding over the lake.
I have created some guides to help you find the best accommodation in Interlaken for your budget. There are many cheap hotels, hostels, but also some impressive traditional hotels. Here are the guides I wrote:
Definitive guide to accommodation in Interlaken:OVERNIGHTS IN INTERLAKEN: A COMPLETE GUIDE
Cheap accommodation in Interlaken:THE BEST CHEAP ACCOMMODATION IN INTERLAKEN
MOUNTAIN CABINS IN SWITZERLAND ARE A BUDGET TRAVEL HACK
While hiking in Switzerland, you will inevitably come across amazing mountain huts. I didn't know much about Swiss hut culture, but once inside I loved it. Basically, mountain huts are something like mountain hut hotels. They usually have a restaurant and also several dormitory-style rooms.
For medium-sized cabins, it is common for a family to stay at the top of the cabin during the summer and hiking seasons, and visitors can book a night or more at the top of the cabin. Upon arrival, dinner and breakfast are included in the room rate. I stayed in five different cabins (listed above) and most ranged from $60 a night to $100 a night per person, including breakfast and dinner. You may not think it's a very cheap price, but if a hostel in the city (without an amazing view) is 40-90 dollars a night without food, then 60-80 dollars with breakfast and dinner if you're at the top from the mountains. it's a value deal.
The "cabins" are quite luxurious and have heating, good restaurants, balconies, alcohol, games, books and much more. All you need to bring is a sleeping bag liner and your hiking gear, and you'll be good to go. In most cabins you can also take a shower (usually included in the price). I always slept one night, so I walked around, watched the sunset, and slept through the night. Then he would hike at dawn and explore further before hiking again.
Many hikers enjoy hut-to-hut mountain hiking, which means you map out several huts that are within walking distance of each other and hike for several days, arriving at a new mountain hut each night in connecting trails in the Swiss Alps. It's a great way to hike since you don't have to carry all your groceries, heavy camping gear, or warmer clothes for cold nights outdoors. You eat in the restaurants in the cabins, take some snacks with you and sleep comfortably in the campsites in the cabins. If you're in Switzerland in the summer, I can't recommend it highly enough.
The other important point to remember is that most meals in Switzerland cost at least $20-$40. So when you consider that you have two meals included, accommodation is really only $30-40 a night, which is the cheapest accommodation you'll find in Switzerland, but the best view!
If you plan to stay in many mountain refuges, you can buy oneMembership in the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC)., which also includes an emergency medical service if you get stuck on the mountain. This membership gives you a 40-50% discount on the regular price of the cabin. Annual membership is around $80 USD, so after three nights we'll give you your money back and you'll be supporting Swiss mountain cabin owners who you'll see are really nice families.
You can click on one of the links below to visit my blog post about the mountain huts I have visited. I was inGlecksteinhütte,drifting cabin,Ebenalphütte,Baregghütteand visited many others in transithiking in switzerland.
STAY ON THE EDGE OF A POPULAR CITY
Because Switzerland has such an efficient train and bus transportation system, you can often stay on the outskirts of a popular tourist town for a much cheaper nightly rate, but still be only a 5-10 minute train ride from the center of this city. For example, when I was stationed in Interlaken, I found a hotel that was half the price of most Interlaken hotels, and it happened to be just one train stop away in a small town called Wilderswil. The train passed this stop every 10-15 minutes and I basically stayed in Interlaken but for half the price. Sometimes just a little research on where the trains stop and where the hotel is located can mean the difference between $200 a night for a hotel room or $90 a night for a hotel room.
TRAVEL SLOW AND CHOOSE 2 DESTINATIONS, NOT 10
Anyone who travels to Switzerland is quickly overwhelmed. Have you heard of the greats?Hiking in ZermattIt is also that Grindelwald is a must see. They are told that they have toDiscover Interlakenbut Zurich and Bern should be on your bucket list. Before you know it, there are ten hotspots through Switzerland on your two-week itinerary and you'll be doing more transits than actual sightseeing while backpacking Switzerland.
This is how beginners travel and how they waste their money on mindless train rides. Seasoned travelers recognize that they can't "see everything" and instead select several locations that stand out to them and fit their travel style or personal preferences. They then spend several days or even a week at each location and really know the area, enjoy the surroundings and are very productive with their tourism due to their fixed base. You'll also save a lot of money in transit and be able to cook a few meals in your accommodation and settle in for a bit.
That is exactly what I did for several weeks in Interlaken.chur for two weeks, Freiburg for three weeks and Zermatt for eight days. Don't try to bookmark as many places as you can just so you can go home and tell your friends, "I was there." Travel slowly and you'll find that you have a better vacation and spend your money on experiences instead of going to and from all the places on your long list.
CAN YOU DRINK THE TAP WATER?
Tap water was one of my favorite places in Switzerland. Having traveled Asia for many years, I was used to the constant fight for safe drinking water without buying wasteful plastic bottles. In Switzerland, the water from building taps is 100% drinkable and even goes one step further. This is a great way to save money, while most cities and even hiking trails have fountains and taps installed (often very complicated and beautiful fountains) and you can fill your bottle right at the fountain. With so many glaciers and alpine regions, there is no shortage of clean, fresh water in Switzerland. I always carry a hydroflask with me and keep it full at all times to stay hydrated and save money on drink purchases.
THE VIA FERRATA IS THE CHEAPEST ADRENALINE ACTIVITY
For those who don't know what a via ferrata is, it's basically a series of stairs, steps and climbers that lead you up a wall. You wear a climbing harness and hold on to a strong cable at the start of the via ferrata. From now on, it will always be clipped with at least one clip. Every 10 steps or so he comes to a new section of cable and detaches a carabiner clip from the old section and connects it to the new section. Once it's securely attached, detach the second clip from the old section and add it to the new section as well so that you now have two carabiner clips on the new section and you're going another ten steps.
I had never heard of it before in Switzerland, but it quickly became one of my favorite things to do. I didFriday via ferrata coursein all of Switzerland and they were definitely the highlight of my trip.
Compared to $160 for a 10-minute skydiving or paragliding experience, via ferrata equipment rental is typically just $20, and the course is free like a normal hike. The course is often longer than 2-3 hours so you get a really great full day activity at a super cheap price instead of a 5 minute experience on a week's budget. You can click on any of the links for places I've done a via ferrata so you can check out those specific blogs. My favorite via ferrata experiences were:Via ferrata from Mürren to Gimmelwald,Furenalp via ferrata,Rotstock via ferrata, yPinut via ferrata.
HUBSCHRAUBER, PARAGLIDING, SKYDIVING, CANYONING = BREAK THE BUDGET
Switzerland is a country full of adventure and adrenaline pumping activities are available in most cities. However, compared to many other countries, they are incredibly expensive. One piece of advice I would give you is to pick one and do it in Switzerland so you can enjoy being in the air near the Alps. However, most people only do bungee jumping or skydiving once in their life, and you can do it for half the price in many other countries. Maybe going hiking for free is your best bet instead of doing a $160 tandem paraglide while backpacking Switzerland. It's just not bang for your buck when you could do it for less than $100 in most countries around the world. Hiking is free and it's great, so make the most of it if you're on a tight budget! I did get to paraglide and ride a canyon swing though and they were cool but it was a collaboration so I didn't have to pay for it. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have done it. Just a bit of transparency there.
Basically, you should never eat at a restaurant.
If you're loaded, do it. Buy all the Swiss fondue you can stomach, but if you're more into travel and adventure and less cultural dining and dining, just skip the restaurants. If you have table service in Switzerland, you can guarantee that you will spend at least $20+.
I usually avoided restaurants like the plague, but I still ate a lot. The solution is to order a pizza, find a low-end coffee shop, an out-of-the-way Thai restaurant, or the grocery store. Swiss grocery stores like COOP and Migros actually have good quality fresh food and I loved the bowls of cereal, bread, cheese and fresh juices. Basically, what you can get at a grocery store for under $20 compared to a restaurant meal is a big difference and something to consider when trying to stretch your Swiss budget. Below we are after a long (very late) walk, giving in to the temptation of an expensive pizza in a restaurant. One of the few times we couldn't resist a good meal in Switzerland.
YOU DON'T NEED A GUIDE (FOR ALMOST EVERYTHING)
Yes, if you're going to climb a 4000+m mountain in the snow, get a guide, but you don't need a guide for almost anything else in Switzerland. If you want one, go ahead, but if you're relatively smart, you can drive yourself. Switzerland is one of the best signed countries I have ever been to. The signs tell you exactly which route to take, how long it takes to get there, and are understandable to English speakers.
The trains are easy to navigate and Google Maps will show you how to navigate the relatively simple transportation system. Everything is set up to make your entire trip your own, and with a little basic planning, you can efficiently move around the country and see the sights without taking part in group tours or excursions that cost upwards of $100 per day and can quickly blow your budget when backpacking Switzerland.
FREE OUTDOOR GYMS IN SWITZERLAND
Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, so expect the training to cost you an arm and a leg as well. However, we discovered that many outdoor fitness classes are hidden in the forests of Switzerland. It's a bit strange but great when you see that the locals actually use them.
Basically there is an app and a website calledZurich life courseand you can easily search your location and find the outdoor gyms near you. They usually settle in several stations in a small forest path, so you have to walk or jog between them. Josh and I found a lot during our trip and they really kitted us out and kept us in shape. This is one of my best tips for traveling in Switzerland, especially if you are going to be there for a long time.
THE BEST FOOD IN SWITZERLAND
I have since found out that Switzerland is very expensive, so of course the food is on a par with things you probably can't afford on your Swiss tour. Meals can cost up to $30, and dining out is not an option for many travelers who frequent smaller grocery stores and cafes. Let's be honest, if you're traveling on a budget in Switzerland, you won't be settling in a restaurant that often!
Of course, if you are not in a restaurant or mountain refuge, go to the soup and ask for extra bread. Here are some reasons why soup is always the best choice:
- Soups throughout Switzerland are amazing and are a little specialty with a unique recipe in every mountain cabin or cute restaurant.
- The soup is usually half the price of a meal, but when you add the free side of bread, it's usually just as filling.
- It will warm you up on a cool adventure.
- You can usually order an extra piece of bread and for just $8-12 you'll have plenty instead of a $25 pasta or regular meal.
RENT A CAR... ACROSS THE BORDER
Switzerland is expensive…you get it! However, there is a little trick for those who are willing to put in the effort to save a few bucks. I know a few people who rented a van or car in Germany, filled up their tanks with groceries, and then headed for Switzerland. Germany is much cheaper than Switzerland for fuel, food and car rental. So if you go on your big shopping spree and rent a car across the border and then sail to Switzerland, you can save big! Sleeping in a car or van is one of the most sensible steps when backpacking Switzerland, as it can save you money on train tickets and accommodation!
CLIMB TO THE SUMMIT AND SAVE ON BERGBAHN TICKETS
It may sound obvious, but you can actually save a lot of money by going up or down the top of a mountain instead of using the cable car. Summit tickets can often cost $30-$50 round trip. So by walking in one direction, or even both, you can save enough money to eat for the whole day. You'll also build some serious quads and glutes as you begin to attack the slopes each day. I am speaking from personal experience here.
AIRBNB HAS BETTER VALUE THAN HOSTELS & HOTELS
We managed to find several Airbnbs for $60 or less per night that offer good value, rather than at least $100 for a hotel room or $60-80 for a bunk bed in a dorm room. I stayed in a private room in Appenzell for $45 a night. It was the house of an older lady who was super nice and instead of a bunk bed and locker I had my own private room, I could use the bathroom and kitchen and I didn't have to store my gear in a locker during the day. The cheapest hotel in Appenzell cost 150 USD.
You can also find a variety of great apartments or chalets where you can rent the whole place to yourself. If you're in a group of 2 or more, this can be great value as you can split the price among your group rather than everyone requiring separate hotel rooms. I have used Airbnb in Chur, Appenzell, Zurich, Interlaken and Grindelwald during my stay and found it incredibly cheap compared to hotels and all the hosts were super friendly. Even if you are backpacking Switzerland, you can still stay on Airbnbs instead of hostels and find that you have a better budget than hostels!
I hope this has been a helpful backpacking Switzerland guide for budget travelers. I know Switzerland seemed expensive to me, but with these tips and a little help from some locals, I managed to spend 100 days in Switzerland without breaking the bank!
MY HIKING GUIDES IN SWITZERLAND
I walked 100 days in Switzerland and created a travel guide for different regions of the country. You can click on one of my hiking guides for Switzerland below to start planning your trip.
THE SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDE: 50 GREATEST HIKING IN SWITZERLAND: I spent 100 days in Switzerland to create this great travel guide with all the hikes that I have personally explored.
4 GREAT VIA FERRATA COURSES IN SWITZERLAND: Via Ferrata is a via ferrata on the cliffs where you buckle up. You have to try this at least once!
10 GREAT HIKING NEAR LAUTERBRUNNEN: Lauterbrunnen is the most picturesque valley in Switzerland and is perfectly situated in the middle of many famous hiking trails.
INTERLAKEN HIKING GUIDE: 15 GREAT HIKING INTERLAKEN: Interlaken is my favorite city in Switzerland and the number one hiking base.
12 GREAT HIKING NEAR GRINDELWALD: A great base if you're an avid hiker, with lots of hut-to-hut hikes and epic peaks.
7 BEAUTIFUL HIKING IN MURREN: Mürren is one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland and is surrounded by excellent hiking trails.
9 BEAUTIFUL HIKING NEAR APPENZELL: My favorite hikes around the Alpstein area and other peaks near Appenzell.
7 BEAUTIFUL HIKING NEAR CHUR: Several beautiful lakes and an amazing gorge hike and an epic via ferrata course.
MY PERSONALIZED TRAVEL TIPS FOR SWITZERLAND
A BUDGET BACKPACKER'S GUIDE TO SCHWEIZ: In this blog I talk about travel expenses and how to travel cheap in Switzerland with some tips and tricks from my experience.
20 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING: MY TRAVEL TIPS FOR SWITZERLAND:You probably didn't even think half of it. Me neither, and I found many of these tips the hard way.
TOP TRANSPORTATION TIP: HALF SWISS CARD
OPTION 1:Swiss trains, buses and cable cars are EXPENSIVE! I found the best way to get around cheap was to buy theseSwiss Half Fare Travelcardbefore I came You get a 50% discount on all regular trains, buses and even many cable cars. It only costs 150 USD, but it pays for itself in a few days, as many train tickets in Switzerland alone cost almost 100 USD.OPTION 2:The second option is to get it.swiss passport, which gives you unlimited rides on the train, bus, and (many) cable cars, but it's pretty expensive, around $100 a day. So if you don't travel every day, it's not worth it.OPTION 3:The final option is to buy the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass, which allows you to buy transit tickets for 8 days, but you can choose the night before to activate the next day. This way you don't have to commute every day to get your money's worth, you can just turn it onFLEXI Swiss Travel Passon the days when you make larger transits. My advice is to reserve them.Swiss Half Fare Travelcardor theFLEXI Swiss Travel Passbefore your trip so it's ready when you arrive.