While it’s not one of Switzerland’s busiest or most diverse areas, this place is quaint, relaxing, and full of adventure. Take in its unique cobblestone streets, and drink a glass of wine at one of its many quaint cafes while you watch the view of the mountains. Interlaken is a great place for mountain-related sports. The beautiful scenery and large number of pubs makes this a popular backpacker destination during the summertime.
Hostel prices – Rates start at 25-40 CHF per night for a dorm room, but average around 33 CHF. The two most popular backpacker hostels are Balmers and Funny Farm. Balmers does run a “tent city” hostel off site that is open from May-September. A 6 bed tent is about 15-25 CHF per person, and there is a bar and jacuzzi.
Budget hotel prices – Interlaken is a touristy town, and has subsequently high prices for lodging. You can find a decent hotel at 100 CHF per night for a double room, although closer to 140 CHF and up is more common.
Average cost of food – Dinner is usually 25 CHF at a decent restaurant. Consider going to Migros next to the train station for local and cheap dishes at a fraction of the cost. You can get a small meal for 11 CHF, and Balmers Hostel has a restaurant/bar and meals start at around 14 CHF.
Transportation costs – Interlaken is small enough to walk or ride a bicycle anywhere you need to go. You don’t need to pay for transportation around town. You can rent a bike from Daniel’s Fun Rental for 16 CHF for 3 hours or 30 CHF for the full day.
Money Saving Tips
Visit in the summer — During the summertime, there are a lot of free activities to do here. There’s hiking, climbing, running, swimming, going to the lakes, and much more. Switzerland is very expensive, so the best time to come is in the summer when you don’t have to pay for much. Plus, Interlaken is small enough that you can pretty much walk everywhere, as long as you have nice weather!
Free local transportation — Hotels provide a free Visitor’s Card to their guests, which entitles you to free travel on public transport within Zone 80 and to Iseltwald, Saxeten and Niederried. This is a very small town though so if the weather is nice, I suggest walking!
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. Swiss Rail also offers one-day and weekend group passes to look into.
Use Couchsurfing — With dorm rooms starting at 25-40 CHF per night, you need to lower your accommodation costs. Couchsurfing is the way to do it. It’s a service that lets travelers stay with locals for free (more on it here). It was a lifesaver that allowed me to keep my costs down the most. Since a lot of travelers use this service, make your requests for hosts early.
Book an apartment — Airbnb is also a good deal if you’re traveling with someone, as most private rooms are around 85 CHF per night in the town of Interlaken, but outside of the town, the prices drop drastically and room can be purchased for as little as 30 CHF. Split two ways, that’s cheaper than a hostel dorm!
Don’t drink — Drinking is not cheap here. Most beers are around 8 CHF. (Plus, who wants to hike while hung over?) Most wines are between 10-25 CHF a bottle. If you must drink, stick to hostel bars where you can enjoy 2-for-1 happy hours and cheap drinks for around 5 CHF or buy your beers at grocery stores for as little was 2 CHF.
Cook — With sit-down restaurants costing around 40 CHF per meal per person, eating out in Switzerland can be very costly, so buy your groceries. A week’s worth of food (bread, pasta, rice, eggs, vegetables, cheese, deli meats for sandwiches, and some assorted fruit) will cost you 75-100 CHF. The major supermarkets are Migros, COOP, and Spar. COOP is the most expensive.
Go veggie — Meat is expensive in Switzerland. Every Swiss resident or expat I talked to told me about how they limit their meat consumption because it costs so much. Stick to veggies and avoid buying meat for your meals (especially beef). While I was trolling supermarkets and butchers for grocery prices (travel writing is glamorous, huh?!), I found a pound of meat was 12-14 CHF. At that price, stick to deli meats for protein!
Use lunch specials — If you are going to eat out, do so during lunch, when most lunch specials at cafes and restaurants cost around 10-19 CHF. Moreover, stick to the ethnic restaurants like Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Thai for the best deals and biggest portions (and closer to that 10 CHF price). Lunch specials are a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck and to enjoy the dinner menu but at a cheaper set menu price.
Top Things to See and Do in Interlaken
Stay outside – Basically, this is a place you visit to get in touch with nature. Hike, sit in the sun, relax on the lake, whatever! Get into the mountains and enjoy yourself!
Visit the Giessbach Waterfalls – Rent a bike, and cycle to the beautiful cascading Giessbach Waterfalls. On your way back, ride around Lake Brienz for an added treat.
Try an adventure sport – Interlaken is filled with outdoor activities. Other than the ordinary, they also have bungee jumping, skydiving, rock climbing, river rafting, and paragliding. This is a place to be active when you are traveling around Europe, especially during the summer time.
Visit the lakes – Interlaken is full of lakes (hence, the name). Spend a day at Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, or the Aere River – go for a swim, have a picnic, get a tan, or hike the surrounding trails.
Take a boat trip – Boats traveling the Thunersee allow you to see many of the surrounding towns and countryside. A boat trip makes for a beautiful day. Plus, the boat is free if you have the Swiss rail pass.
Enjoy the nightlife – Interlaken is a big destination for backpackers to enjoy nature, relax, and drink big steins of beer. During the summer, this place is booked far in advance, and people spend their days exploring the mountains and their nights exploring how much they can drink.
Ride the Jungfrau Railway – This mountain railway takes passengers up Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch – the highest train station on the continent. The amount of snow in these mountains is just incredible, and the ride offers stunning views.
Go caving – The St. Beatus Caves are a network of caves that lie above Lake Thun. Legend has it that St. Beatus took refuge in the caves in the 6th century, and drove out the dragon that lived there. You can take guided tours of the caves and visit the little museum they have set up there.
Visit Bönigen – This tiny village is quiet, but has some great bakeries and chocolate shops. Stop by the museum to see exhibits with household items and furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Watch a folk music concert – If you’re in town during the summer, head down to the lakeside to catch a concert. Choirs dressed in traditional clothing sing or perform music, and are sometimes even accompanied by alphorns and yodelers.
Go night sledding – For something fun and different, book a night sledding excursion. At 90 CHF, prices aren’t cheap, but the excursion includes a fondue dinner at a restaurant after the dinner. Have fun and unleash your inner child. If you need a more budget option, simply rent a wooden sled for about 7 CHF, and head out on your own.