Switzerland on a budget – is that even impossible? I mean, Switzerland, apart from its jaw-dropping natural beauty that includes the stunning Swiss Alps and the many breathtaking lakes, is like the Rolls-Royce of pricey destinations.

If you’re all about saving those Swiss Francs, this post is for you! Here, I’ve got the ultimate guide on how to have an amazing trip to Switzerland without going broke.

As a Switzerland fanatic – who has spent almost 2 years in Switzerland in total – let me tell you: Switzerland is like the champ of pricey destinations. My jaw dropped when I first set foot here back in 2009! The truth is: I am still not “rich” but keep going back to Switzerland. 

Because there are tips on how to not go bankrupt. So, I’m spilling the beans on how to save money in Switzerland – whether it is about the best free things to do or other ways to save money in beautiful Schweiz (which is the German name).


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So, here are the best tips on how to plan a budget trip to Switzerland


Switzerland is a treasure trove of awesomeness. I won’t say every corner is equally drop-dead gorgeous, but the majority of this country is picture-perfect.

Now, for the wallet-friendly tip: The German-speaking bit of Switzerland, where you’ll find Zurich, Interlaken, and Lucerne, can drain your funds fast! Other Swiss slices are gentler on the wallet. I am not counting fancy Lugano down south or Montreux located on the shores of Lake Geneva, you might find more budget-friendly destinations if you look in other parts of Switzerland. 

While it’s true that accommodations in Switzerland can put a dent in your budget, the location within Switzerland where you choose to book your stay can still influence the impact on your wallet (we’ll delve into that shortly). 

Valposchiavo - a more affordable gorgeous travel destination in Switzerland

Allow me to unveil one of my top picks in the Swiss treasure chest: Valposchiavo. This breathtaking locale won’t have your wallet sobbing like some other Swiss hotspots.

Granted, it’s not exactly a ‘bargain basement’ and doesn’t play in the same price league as many (Eastern) European, let alone Asian, destinations, but guess what? In Valposchiavo, you can soak up Switzerland’s splendor for less than in Lucerne.

Food and fun come with a friendlier price tag in certain corners, especially those where French and Italian are the talk of the Swiss town.

Take ice cream, for example. I dropped a cool 3.50 € for a scoop in Zurich (yes, you heard that right!), but just a stone’s throw away near Locarno, I got the same delight for half the dent in my dessert fund. Now, ice cream isn’t exactly the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, but it does give you a sweet hint.

I don’t have a calculator handy, and these aren’t etched-in-stone facts, but I’ve sampled my way around Switzerland enough times to pick up on these trends. Keep in mind that places like Lugano might still charge you a pretty penny for accommodation, but your food adventures can be kinder on your cash.

Every corner’s got its charm, so being a little flexible with your destination can be a secret stash of Swiss savings


This happens to be one of the top tricks for pocket-friendly Swiss adventures: steer clear of the high season, or rather, the two peak seasons, which are July/August for summer and December/early January for winter.

Now, I get it, as a teacher, you might have your hands tied with school holidays, but if you can avoid visiting during these pricey periods, you’ll find more affordable accommodations.

Plus, a heads-up: July and August don’t always guarantee sunny skies—rainy days (or even weeks) can spring up at any time of the year. Switzerland’s weather has a mischievous sense of humor!

Valposchiavo Lago di Val Viola
Valposchiavo – Lago di Val Viola

Several times I visited Switzerland in October, and lo and behold, I hit the weather jackpot. Throughout my few weeks there, rain barely dared to make an appearance. I actually even say, that October is my favorite time to visit Switzerland!

October, and also the stretch from April to June, come with lower price tags, so mark your calendar for those months. If you’re itching for some winter sports action, swap late December for a February trip. Your wallet and your ski gear will thank you!”

Here is more information on the best time to visit Switzerland.


Saving money in one of the most expensive countries does not sound like fun – but…it can be.

In this country, opting for hiking and walking over public transport or driving is not just a cost-effective choice; it can also be quite rewarding.

Hiking is an excellent way to keep your budget in check while still exploring the beautiful landscapes of Switzerland. By embracing hiking, you can discover some of the country’s most incredible places without the need to splurge on expensive activities.

A personal update: It took me some time, but I’ve come to appreciate the joys of hiking, thanks to Switzerland’s breathtaking scenery. It has become my preferred method of exploring the country.

Best of all, these mesmerizing views come at no cost Check out my tips on hiking in Switzerland.

Mount Rigi with the Swiss Travel Pass
Mount Rigi – views like this are totally free


Even though I’m a fan of walking and hiking, it’s a bit unrealistic to suggest ditching train tickets altogether and relying solely on your own two feet to get around. I’m not advocating for that. However, before you commit to splurging on a costly Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Half Fare Card, here’s another money-saving idea to consider.

In Switzerland, many destinations offer a guest card that grants you free access to public transportation. It’s not available everywhere, and the specific terms of the offer can vary but what is better than free public transport? 

In places like Basel and Lucerne, you can hop on regular city transportation, while Valposchiavo boasts one of the most generous guest cards I’ve encountered. It even covers certain regular train routes, and you won’t have to part with an extra Swiss cent (or ‘Rappen,’ as they say in Switzerland). This is precisely why Valposchiavo stands out as a fantastic budget-friendly destination, and also why the train journey there is a visual feast.

DIAVOLEZZA glaciers with dog in the background
DIAVOLEZZA glaciers near St.Moritz – using cable cars for free in Switzerland

St. Moritz, known for its sky-high prices, is a top-tier Swiss destination. However, here’s a summer secret: If you stay a minimum of two nights at one of the participating hotels, you not only get complimentary public transport but also free rides on all 13 cable cars and funiculars. You can have a wonderful day trip and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the world without spending tons of money.

Considering these cable car journeys typically cost between 40-60 CHF each, this deal can save you a small fortune. It’s precisely this perk that keeps me coming back to St. Moritz—I just can’t resist those free cable car rides. Plus, let’s not forget, that St. Moritz is absolutely, without a doubt, breathtaking. Here is more about the guest card and the attractions in St.Moritz.

So, it might make sense to book official accommodation in certain areas to benefit from free public transportation.

Valposchiavo train station highest in Europe


Shopping can be an enticing pastime for many, and for some, it’s among the best activities in Switzerland. However, for budget travelers, I strongly recommend exercising restraint.

Pack wisely and buy everything you need in your home country, as most items tend to be more affordable than in Switzerland. 

Even Swiss chocolate, renowned for its quality, comes at a heftier price tag within Switzerland compared to neighboring countries like Germany (as a chocolate addict I definitely know what I am talking about).

What to pack for Switzerland - lugguage

Before embarking on your journey, thoroughly assess your need for luggage, electronics, and other essentials if you are on a tight budget. This foresight will allow you to stroll down the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, often dubbed the most expensive street in the world, without emptying your pockets.

Ensure you’ve acquired all your crucial items in advance to make the most of your visit without breaking the bank. Here is my Switzerland packing guide and here is my carry-on packing list.

Of course, you do not need to bring your own food, as I also have tips for grocery shopping later on.


  • Luxury hotels in Switzerland – veeeeeerrry expensive.
  • Mid-range hotels in Switzerland – expensive.
  • Budget accommodation in Switzerland – quite expensive
  • (Youth) Hostels in Switzerland – still rather expensive

Let’s face it, accommodations in Switzerland can put a serious dent in your budget. It’s not just the luxurious 5-star hotels that’ll make your wallet whimper; even the smaller, budget-friendly ones come with a hefty price tag.

But fret not, there are ways to dodge those costly hotel bills:

First, consider looking for lodgings slightly off the beaten path from the most crowded tourist hubs and major cities. You don’t need to go all-in by avoiding places within 100 kilometers of popular destinations and major cities (just kidding!). Staying 10-20 kilometers away from the hotspots should suffice.

Switzerland boasts an impressive public transportation network, so if you’re arriving by bus, you can easily explore the country without bedding down in touristy spots like Lucerne. Additionally, the breathtaking region of Graubünden (Grison) offers more wallet-friendly lodging options, so conducting some accommodation research can pay off handsomely.

TIPS: Youth hostels also often allow you to cook your own meal, so you save in several ways.

Airbnb often comes with a more budget-friendly price tag compared to hotels. For those looking to maximize savings, Couchsurfing is an option worth considering, as it’s entirely free. I personally haven’t given it a go, and I don’t foresee myself trying it in the future.

Airbnb in Switzerland, Unique Airbnb in Switzerland
Airbnb in Switzerland, is cheaper than hotels and more unique


Another significant expenditure while traveling, particularly in Central Europe, will undoubtedly be your dining expenses. Yes, it’s a bit of a broken record, but it bears repeating that Switzerland’s culinary scene can be rather pricey. However, it’s worth noting that the quality often justifies the cost

Meat comes with an exceptionally high price tag. While I can’t personally vouch for the rumored $20 Big Mac (I’ve heard the whispers), it’s evident that meat in Switzerland consistently ranks among the pricier options, whether you cook your own meals or dine outside.

In this instance, the adage “you get what you pay for” holds true. Swiss meat isn’t churned out en masse (foreign meat must be declared), and even a humble McDonald’s meal can set you back around $20

The most sound advice would be to cut down on your meat and dairy intake during your trip to Switzerland – it is one of the best ways to decrease food costs.

While accommodation with a kitchen might entail a higher upfront cost, it can ultimately lead to savings. It’s a matter of doing the math (hostels sometimes, but not always, offer cooking facilities). When you secure accommodations with self-catering amenities, you have the flexibility to shop in the afternoon, taking advantage of numerous discounts on fresh vegetables and fruits.

Some supermarkets are extremely popular in Switzerland, like Coop. But if you want a real bargain, shop at Aldi, Denner or Lidl. Swiss people seem to have a big aversion, and it is more popular among non-Swiss, but seriously, those prices are hard to compete with.  


Here comes the part where I do a happy dance each time I am in Switzerland.

Switzerland excels in providing numerous charming fountains scattered throughout its landscape.

I consider myself fortunate because my beverage of choice is primarily water; I rarely indulge in alcohol, soft drinks, or juices. If you share this preference, all you need is a reusable water bottle, and you can conveniently refill it wherever you go. These water fountains are ubiquitous, found in the mountains, city centers, and quaint villages. Surprisingly, the freshwater they dispense often boasts a taste superior to bottled water.

Saving Money in Switzerland. Tips for your Switzerland vacation

Water fountains in Europe - drink fresh water for free

Can you drink water from every fountain in Switzerland? Generally, yes, but it’s essential to pay attention to signs or notices that explicitly advise against it. And, of course, always check the water’s color; if it’s not clear, refrain from drinking it.

In Switzerland, tap water is entirely safe, so you can confidently put aside concerns about the cost of bottled water, whether it’s pricey or not.

Fun Fact: Legend has it that those charming fountains in the Alps were initially established to provide fresh water for the cows on their journey from the Alps back to the farms. While I can’t guarantee the accuracy of this tale if it’s true, I’d like to extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the cows, not just for the water!

Now, I’m not much of a coffee enthusiast, but I do treat myself to a cappuccino once a day, or every other day. I often find myself shelling out about 5, 6, or even 7 CHF for a single cappuccino, and even takeout coffee doesn’t come cheap, hovering around 4-5 CHF.

However, I’ve stumbled upon cappuccinos priced at a more modest 3 CHF, primarily in the Italian-speaking regions or in less frequented tourist spots. For those who savor multiple cups daily, instant coffee might be a viable (although not the very best) solution.


Euros are widely accepted in most areas, including many shops, making it convenient to skip currency exchange in some cases. However, it’s important to note that when you pay with euros, the exchange rate is not favorable. Therefore, it’s advisable to acquire some Swiss Francs for better value.


Spend to Save—yes, sometimes a small upfront investment can lead to substantial savings. This holds true in Switzerland as well. Personally, I usually embark on solo adventures in Switzerland, so I haven’t needed these, but there are some fantastic 2-for-1 coupon books available that can potentially help you save a considerable amount.

Additionally, you’ll find regional coupon books tailored for specific locations like Interlaken, Zurich, and various other places. Be sure to explore whether these can assist you in cutting costs. 

READ MORE: Best places to visit in Switzerland


Spending a substantial sum on travel passes can lead to significant savings. While I may not always qualify as a hardcore budget traveler these days, I still want to get good value for my money. That’s why I typically invest in a Swiss Travel Pass 2-3 times a year—it’s just downright AMAZING.

This pass isn’t just about unlimited train and boat rides; it also grants you a 50% discount on many mountain cable cars and funiculars. Plus, with the Swiss Travel Pass, you can even enjoy complimentary rides on certain mountain funiculars.

Bernina Express in Switzerland in the winter, Valposchiavo

When you first glance at the price, you might be taken aback by my suggestion as a “money-saving tip.” However, if your Switzerland itinerary involves ascending Mount Rigi and frequent train use, you could end up saving a small fortune! Allow me to provide you with a comprehensive review of the Swiss Travel Pass.

Regional travel passes, such as the Jungfrau Travel Pass, offer an opportunity to save significant amounts of money (after a modest initial expenditure).

Mürren in sprig
Mürren in spring – free train ride with a Swiss Travel Pass


Besides walking and hiking, Switzerland offers a wealth of wonderful activities that won’t cost you a dime. If you’re curious about the best things to do for free, and you’re seeking more than just hiking, there are options such as the free walking tour in Interlaken.

Enough places to swim and rest
Lake Geneva

While some may require a bit of exploration, there are plenty of activities for free. Whether it’s gazing at the majestic Swiss Alps, enjoying serene moments by the pristine lakes and enjoying outdoor activities like water sports (mainly swimming I would say in this case), savoring the talents of artists at Lake Zurich during the summer, or immersing yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of Christmas Markets in December, you can savor these experiences without breaking the bank.

Rhine Falls: Marvel at Europe’s largest waterfall in Schaffhausen. Feel the mist on your face as you enjoy the spectacular view.

Powerful wateralls Rhine Falls

Lake Geneva Promenade: Stroll along Lake Geneva’s shores, surrounded by the Alps. Admire the scenery, statues, and gardens without spending a dime.

Swiss National Park: Explore nature at its best in the Engadin Valley. Hike through pristine landscapes, spotting wildlife in this protected area.

Old Towns: Wander through Zurich’s and Bern’s Old Towns, where medieval charm meets modern life. Discover historical architecture, cozy cafes, and vibrant markets.

Montreux Jazz Festival (Free Stages): Attend free performances during this renowned music festival held along the scenic shores of Lake Geneva.

Lauterbrunnen Valley: Immerse yourself in the beauty of 72 waterfalls surrounded by lush greenery. Nature lovers will relish the picturesque landscapes.

View from train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, Switzerland

St. Moritz Lake: Enjoy the tranquility of St. Moritz’s pristine lake. Relax on the shores or take a leisurely stroll around its crystal-clear waters.

Museum Night Basel: Experience art and culture for free during this annual event. Museums and cultural institutions open their doors late into the night.

Geneva’s Jet d’Eau: Admire the iconic water fountain on Lake Geneva, reaching 140 meters in height. Take a leisurely walk around the lake for breathtaking views.

Rigi Kulm: Hike to the top of the “Queen of the Mountains” for panoramic views of the Swiss Alps and lakes. The Rigi Kulm offers a rewarding experience without costing a penny.


I hope this post did not scare you away from Switzerland, and that you still want to visit this country.

Despite Switzerland’s pricey image, budget-friendly exploration is somehow achievable. Abundant choices for affordable accommodations and economical transportation enable you to savor the full spectrum of Switzerland’s splendor without emptying your wallet.

Whether you’re drawn to charming, postcard-worthy villages or the grandeur of the towering mountains, Switzerland possesses a unique allure that caters to diverse tastes and budgets.

So, seize the opportunity to embark on a memorable escapade and explore Switzerland without financial strain. This stunning country promises unforgettable moments at every turn, and you wouldn’t want to miss out.

Make the decision today to experience Switzerland, where the magnificence of the landscape, the warmth of its culture, and the richness of its history await you—accessible to travelers of all financial means

Exploring Switzerland on a budget is somehow possible!

Safe Travels, Arzo

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