Switzerland would probably come in at the top of my list when I think of cheap destinations.
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.
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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 to Switzerland on a budget so that you can move up this beautiful country on your destinations list.
How to Travel Switzerland on a Budget
1. Use SBB Mobile app to save money on trains in Switzerland
Trains are the best way to get around 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 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
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.
Travel Planning Tip: Order a prepaid SIM card before you travel!
Airbnb instead of hotels or hostels
Even though you are guaranteed a very clean and organized room, staying in a hotel or hostel in Switzerland is expensive.
A one-night hotel stay in Geneva, Zurich, or even a mountain village like Zermatt costs approximately $35 a room. Airbnb provides good accommodation alternatives with rooms, or entire homes, listed for 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 find your next Airbnb.
If you still prefer to stay in a hostel, here are the top traveler-rated hostels in Switzerland.
4. You don’t have to go paragliding or skiing
Many 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 during 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
Things to Do in Switzerland For Less Than $10
- Medieval Lausanne: Tour this historic city & its architecture on an audio walk
- Highlights of Geneva: The Dark History Exploration Game
- The Lives and Legends of Lucerne: A Self-Guided Audio Walk
- The Best of Basel’s Hidden Treasures: A Self-Guided Audio Tour
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, cheese, dried meat, and fruit. For about $10, you have yourself a day’s worth of delicious and fresh food.
Keep an eye out for Coop, 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
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. You really can do it without breaking the bank! Put some of our other budget travel tips to use to save even more. Enjoy beautiful Switzerland, and treat yourself to some extra chocolate with all the money you’re going to save.
Feature by Chris Corbaz| @chriscorbaz
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Use these BMT-approved travel resources to plan your best budget-friendly trip yet!
Flights – Learn our tried and true strategies for finding the cheapest flights.
Accommodations – Using Booking.com to search for hostels and budget hotels has many benefits, including free cancelation and member upgrades.
Travel Insurance – Now more than ever, we encourage the purchase of travel insurance for every trip. Insurance protects you against cancellations, lost luggage, theft, injury, and illness. Compare plans at:
Activities – Find amazing things to do that won’t break the bank in destinations worldwide on Viator.
Need an international SIM card? We suggest pre-ordering from SimOptions.