6 Tips to Travel Switzerland on a Budget

When I think of cheap destinations, Switzerland would probably come in at the top of my list.

Okay, just kidding.

Facts are facts, and Switzerland is an expensive place to visit. But, it is a country filled with snow-capped mountains, crystal clear blue waters, and beautiful cities that make it impossible to skip.

Travel to Switzerland on a budget with these budget travel tips.
Snow-capped mountains, crystal blue waters, and the beautiful city of Lausanne. © Chris Corbaz

So, how can we make this destination affordable? I’ve lived in Switzerland for almost two years and have discovered some travel tips and tricks to save money, even in this ostensibly expensive place.

In this post I share my best tips to travel Switzerland on a budget, so you can move this beautiful country up on your destinations list.

How to Travel Switzerland on a Budget

1. Use SBB Mobile app to save money on trains in Switzerland

Use SBB Mobile to to travel by train in Switzerland on a budget.

Trains are the best way to get around in Switzerland on a budget. They are easy, convenient, and timely (can that go without saying?), and you can catch amazing views of lakes, mountains, cow-filled valleys, waterfalls and more. It’s probably the best train system in the world, as you can get to and from just about any town in the country.

SBB Mobile is the official app of the train system in Switzerland and the number one thing you need to get before you travel here. “Supersaver tickets” are discounted up to 70%, only available to buy through the app, and your ticket saves automatically on the app, so you don’t need a printer.

Aside from affordability, many small villages in Switzerland won’t have open train offices when you need them, so it’s also convenient to be able to buy your ticket with a few clicks in the app.

Related: When a Eurail Pass is Worth It and When It Isn’t

2. Use BlaBlaCar as an alternative to trains

Travel in Switzerland on a budget with BlaBlaCar, a long distance ride share app.

If you can’t find cheap enough train tickets, BlaBlaCar is the way to go.

BlaBlaCar is like a long distance Uber that always has ride options between major cities in Switzerland. Plus, you get to meet one or more locals who can always provide you with insider knowledge about your destination.

3. Use Airbnb instead of hotels or hostels

Even though you are guaranteed a very clean and organized room, it is expensive to stay in a hotel or hostel in Switzerland.

A one-night stay in a hotel in Geneva, Zurich or even in a mountain village such as Zermatt, with or without breakfast, costs approximately a minimum of $35 a room. Airbnb provides good accommodation alternatives with rooms, or entire homes, listed around $20 per night.

It may not be a huge difference, but the money you save on lodging adds up very quickly over multiple days.

Click here to save $55 on your first Airbnb stay.

4. You don’t have to go paragliding or skiing

Just walking around a new city like Zurich is a great way to save money when you visit Switzerland.
Take a walk around Zurich and see what you find. It’s free!

A lot of people go to Switzerland to do amazing, fancy adventure activities like paragliding or skiing. Yeah, you might think those things are cool, but your bank account isn’t going to agree.

Whether you go in the summer or winter, there are so many alternatives that are just as amazing and completely free or cheap to do. You can hike, walk around the old cities, go out on the lake, rent bikes, visit museums, and much more in every city you visit.

Related: How to Get the Most Out of Two Weeks in Europe

Interlaken, Switzerland. © Chris Corbaz

5. Eat fresh picnic lunches instead of at restaurants

Surprise! Food in Switzerland is expensive, too.

Instead of spending around $15-$20 a plate (at least!) at restaurants, go to the grocery store or a market to buy a loaf of bread, some cheese, dried meat, and some fruit. For about $10, you have yourself a day’s worth of delicious and fresh food.

Keep an eye out for Coop, which is a grocery chain you can find in almost any Swiss town. They have everything you could possibly want for a brilliant picnic with a view.

Podcast: Cheese Fondue and Cycling in the Swiss Alps (episode 107)

6. Day trip into Switzerland from France

One way to plan a budget trip to Switzerland is to stay in a French border town and make day trips.
Day trips to Geneva from nearby towns in France are easy and affordable. © Chris Corbaz

Geneva and Basel are Swiss cities close to the French border that you could visit for a day trip using public transportation.

Visit Geneva from Annemasse, France or Basel from Saint-Louis, France to save a few dollars on lodging – especially during peak travel season or if there are no other cheap options available.

Related: Southern France on a Budget: Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon

Don’t write it off!

Switzerland is WORTH IT. Put some of our other budget travel tips to use to save even more, you really can do it without breaking the bank! Enjoy beautiful Switzerland, and treat yourself to some extra chocolate with all the money you’re going to save.

Feature by Chris Corbaz| @chriscorbaz