Switzerland Travel Guide
As one of the most expensive European countries, Switzerland is skipped over by many budget travelers. Having been here, I can say that before you even get out of the train station, you begin to wonder “how the heck did I spend so much money?!” But that being said, Switzerland offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world and is home to lakes and picturesque mountains. Everything runs on time here. The chocolate is amazing; the country is safe, and everyone is super nice.
Destination Guides for Switzerland
Accommodation – Hostel dorms average $35 USD per night, and private rooms start around $80 USD a night for a single room. Hotels can be quite expensive, and you should look to spend about $90-125 USD per night for a double room in a budget hotel. In Geneva or Zurich, rooms start higher, around $100 USD a night.
Food – Although eating out is pricey in this country, you can keep your budget in check by going to the local supermarkets and buying your own groceries. Bars and cafés are the cheapest food option, cost about $10-15 USD for a light meal. If you’re dining out, you’ll spend an average of $50 USD a day on food. For self-catering with the occasional meal out, expect around $40 USD. The best place to buy food is Migros. It’s a supermarket that can be found everywhere and offers inexpensive groceries.
Transportation costs – Consider hiking around the quaint towns instead of taking a taxi, and purchase a rail pass instead of flying from one area of the country to another. Like most areas you’ll travel to, public transportation is available, cheap, and likely to take you anywhere to need to go.
Activities – Most museums cost around $10 USD to enter, while day trips begin around $75 USD.
Money Saving Tips
Buy a travel pass – Since one of your biggest expenses is long distance travel, don’t let pricey airline tickets cut into your budget. Travel passes can save you a ton of money. Consider traveling by bus, boat or train or lift to get you where you need to go and save money in the end.
Skip the cable cars – Although it’s a fun, entertaining and great way to see parts of the country, it’s also one of the most expensive ways to tour.
Limit your time on the slopes – Although you should indulge in some skiing or snowboarding (after all you’re in one of the best places in the world for it), just be careful not to make it a daily habit, or you’ll be spending your money quickly. Take a day or two to indulge in their ski resorts, and then get back to budgeting by cooking for yourself during the week and taking advantage of weekday museum prices and low-cost public transportation.
Book your trains early – While a train ride is a cheaper way to travel than the plane, you can get even cheaper rates by booking your train ticket early.
Don’t eat out – Restaurants are expensive here and will destroy your daily budget from the second you step foot in the country. Cook as much as you can. Switzerland isn’t known for its food anyways.
Couchsurfing – Using Couchsurfing or any other hospitality exchange will be critical if you are on a tight budget. With accommodation costing so much money, if you hope to stay on a budget here, you will need to avoid paying for a room. You can find a lot of hosts in Switzerland.
Top Things to See and Do
Ski the Matterhorn – Switzerland offers the best skiing in the world, and the Matterhorn is the epitome of it all. You’ll have to take a train or bus into the city as cars aren’t allowed. Not only do you need to ski here, but you can come to admire what’s truly a pollutant-free area.
Join in the Fasnacht Spring Carnival – Located in Basel, this is a festival not to be missed. As a three-day festival, café’s are open day and night and not much else in the town shuts down either. It’s something that’s highly anticipated by both tourists and locals alike.
Explore Geneva – As the third largest city in Switzerland, Geneva offers spectacular views of the city’s lake (Lake Geneva), a plethora of museums, the world’s largest fountain, and a collection of restaurants to satisfy anyone’s palate.
Visit the capital, Bern – The capital of Switzerland, Bern has an amazing old town that you’ll want to walk around all day long. Also, don’t forget to check out the Federal Parliament.
Hike Mt. Pilatus – Mt. Pilatus, right outside the city of Lucerne, is a beautiful mountain with breathtaking views. From the city, you can take a cable car to the top. Hike its trails and well as looking out over the Swiss Alps.
Picnic at the Rhine Falls – Here’s an afternoon that requires hardly any money at all. Pack a picnic lunch and look out at your view of Europe’s largest waterfall. Nearby in the town of Schaffhausen, you’ll find a medieval castle which also houses a hostel for cheap but interesting accommodations.
Explore St. Gallen – The seventh largest city in Switzerland, St. Gallen boasts beautiful museums, colorful murals, and one-of-a-kind architecture. Don’t miss out on a day where you can eat, walk the city at your leisure and enjoy all it has to offer on your own timetable.
Be adventurous in Interlaken – Interlaken is a big outdoor adventure park. There is a lot to do for the adrenaline-seeker: sky diving over the Swiss glacier, water-skiing, skiing, hiking, etc. This is also a popular destination with backpackers and thrill-seekers.
Visit the Old Villages – Visit the Graubunden area, where you’ll find villages whose houses dating back to the 13th century. Here, they also speak an ancient language called Romanch, which has died out everywhere else, and they try their hardest to keep their old traditions as well.
Visit the Swiss Riviera – The “Swiss Riviera” is situated in Lavaux (Cantan of Vaud) and goes along Lake Geneva. You can visit vineyards that overlook the lake, the thrilling castle Château de Chillon, and the town of Montreux, which is famous for its annual jazz festival.
Hike – Switzerland has more than 30,000 miles of marked trails. Hiking in Switzerland is easy. There are day hikes and many multi-day treks. With so much of the beauty of this country in the mountains, you need to spend some time exploring the outdoors.
Have a Romantic Time in Montreux – With a picturesque castle (Chateau de Chillo) lying at the edge of a lake, this area makes for a pretty romantic destination. Tour the castle, which dates all the way back to the 11th century.
Get a taste of Italy – Ticino, south of the Alps, is Switzlerland’s Mediterranean region, a fact that’s certainly reflected in the atmosphere of the place. You’ll hear Italian being spoken, see a difference in the food, yet you’ll still find plenty of Swiss castles to explore.
Discover rural culture in Appenzell – This small village of 7000 lies in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden. There are no cars here, and the village has upheld much of its local traditions and culture. Its location near the foot of the Alpstein mountains makes it a great gateway for participating in summer and winter outdoor activities.
Visit Lucerne – You can’t get much more of a typical Swiss destination than Lucerne. Located on the beautiful Lucerne Lake, but retaining a lot of medieval charm, the city offers a wonderful combination of urban life and nature. Be sure to spend time wandering the old historic center.