10 Simple Ways to Travel Switzerland on a Budget

Written By: Seraina Zellweger

Switzerland is expensive. That’s old news. But you can visit Switzerland on a Budget.

And be honest. It’s why you haven’t put it on your bucket list yet, right? You’re intimidated by the high prices.

You think you’ll never be able to afford a trip to Switzerland without blowing your retirement savings. You’re nervous you’ll be paying off debts for months to come.

But despite all those worries, deep down, you still want to go.

10 Ways to Travel Switzerland on a Budget

Switzerland on a budget sleep above cows
Get out of the city and sleep on some Swiss hay

There are plenty of reasons to go to Switzerland.

You’ve heard of the breathtaking views. You’re familiar with the taste of Swiss chocolate. You’ve longed for their endless selection of cheese. And you’re just about dying to see the Alps up close.

You’ve reached the point where you’re already subconsciously packing your bags.

Wondering whether your trekking shoes still fit you, how much weight you might gain once you give in to your chocolate cravings or whether you need to bring a German, French or Italian dictionary.

If only it wasn’t for that persistent voice at the back of your head. You know, the one that’s keeping you awake at night with a million questions.

  • How are you supposed to make it through a single day in Switzerland without robbing a bank?
  • Are you going to crawl up in a cardboard box and sleep in a stranger’s backyard just to save money?
  • Are you happy to live off instant noodles as you did during that trip to Australia?
  • Do you seriously believe there’s anything free to do in Switzerland?
  • What if the emptiness in your savings account forces you to come home after a few days?

The list goes on. But before you let this situation get out of hand, do yourself a favour.

Shut that voice up.

Because first of all, nobody’s going to sleep in a cardboard box. And for the record, robbing a bank is out of question, too. Never mind those instant noodles, either.

Believe it or not, but simple and legal ways to save money in Switzerland do exist.

And here are 10 ways to make your money last longer in Switzerland.

1. Use free public transport

ways to make your money last longer in Switzerland
Take advantage of free public transport in certain cities to make your money last longer in Switzerland

If you’re staying in Bern, Lucerne, Basel, Geneva or Lausanne, you get to use local public transport for free.

Your accommodation provides you with a ticket that’s valid for the time of your stay.

The Canton of Ticino extended this concept and recently introduced what I refer to as the travel-jackpot.

Every visitor spending at least one night in the Canton receives an all-inclusive ticket.

We’re talking about a free ticket here that includes buses and trains as well as a discount for cable cars, boats and selected activities.

More and more cities seem to be joining this concept.

So wherever you’re parked for the night, make sure you hit up your receptionist for potential freebies.

Check out our best Switzerland pictures.

2. Don’t buy a travel pass

Ways to Make Your Money Last Longer in Switzerland
Decide if a rail pass is really worth it for your trip to Switzerland

Don’t buy a travel pass, at least not until you know your options.

Travel passes can be amazing value for money if you’re going to use public transport. But they don’t always make sense.

To avoid wasting your funds on something you don’t need, set aside some time to do your research.

In order to pick your best match when buying a travel pass, try to answer the following questions as precisely as you can:

  • Where exactly do you want to go? What places do you want to see?
  • Are you going to cover long distances or mostly stay in the same area?
  • How frequently are you going to use public transport? Every day? Every second day? Only once or twice during your whole stay?
  • Apart from Switzerland, are you travelling to any other European countries?

Once you have those answers, start digging.

Figure out whether buying tickets as you go, getting a Half Fare Card, an Interrail/Eurail Pass, a Swiss Travel Pass or Supersaver tickets work out cheapest for you.

3. Grab a (free) bike

Ways to Make Your Money Last Longer in Switzerland free bikes
Some cities will give offer you a free bike

If you’re going to Zurich, Bern, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Zug or the Canton of Valais, you’re in for a treat. Those places offer free bikes.

Some for a few hours, some for a whole day and some even longer.

Bring along your ID and 20 CHF for the deposit.

Other cities rent out bikes as well but not for free.

Depending on your itinerary, it might still work out cheaper than paying for public transport, though.

4. Take matters into your own hands

Unless you desperately want to, you don’t need to book a tour to explore Switzerland.

With public transport being as efficient and plentiful as it is, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place that isn’t accessible by bus, train or boat.

Buses and trains run frequently so don’t worry about getting stuck anywhere.

However, if you head out to more isolated places, double-check the timetable just to be on the safe side.

5. Put your connections to use

travel switzerland on a budget couchsurfing
Stay with a friend or try Couchsurfing to save money on your Switzerland trip

Nothing eases the pressure on a backpacker’s wallet like staying with a friend does.

Saving 30 – 40 CHF on accommodation each night pretty much pays for an all-inclusive Swiss Travel Pass.

And with Switzerland being this small, you can take day trips to almost every corner of the country.

If you don’t have anyone you can contact, try Couchsurfing instead. It’s more common than you’d expect and it’s a fantastic way to get in touch with locals.

6. Sleep above the cows

cow in swiss alps

Believe it or not, but this exists. Provided you’re not allergic to hay or straw, sleeping on straw sets you up for a night out of the ordinary.

Especially if you’re after an adventure and travelling with a sleeping bag.

Agrotourismus is a good place to look for Swiss holiday farms – Prices range between 25 – 35 CHF per person, which is roughly the same or even less than a hostel.

With breakfast being included, this is well worth taking a detour out of the city.

By the way, some places also let you set up your own tent for a small fee.

7. Embrace your inner chef

budget switzerland tips - cook yourself

You’ve guessed it. Eating out is expensive, too.

Dinner at a restaurant costs at least 20 – 30 CHF. You might get away with 15 – 20 CHF if you catch a bargain.

Cooking your own food is way more affordable. Depending on how much of a gourmet your are, you can get by with 60 – 80 CHF a week for groceries.

Possibly even cheaper if you cut some edges. But I’d budget at least 50 CHF.

Supermarkets like Migros, Coop, Denner, Aldi and Lidl are your best friends here.

With Aldi and Lidl being the cheapest.

8. Buy old bread

budget travel switzerland tips day old bread
Eating yesterday’s bread is another way to save a few francs while traveling in Switzerland

This one‘s way better than it sounds. I promise.

A new concept called Ässbar has taken root in Switzerland.

In order to fight food waste, these guys collect whatever bakeries couldn’t sell during the day and offer it for half the price the next day.

As a result, you can get pastries, bread rolls, sandwiches and sausage rolls at a massive discount.

You can find Ässbar stores in St. Gallen, Winterthur, Zurich, Bern, Fribourg and Basel.

And since their concept is so popular, they’re looking to expand to other cities as we speak.

9. Go crazy over free snacks

switzerland budget travel tips

Everything free is worth its weight in gold.

And farmer’s markets are an excellent place to grab free samples every now and then.

While you probably won’t get a whole meal out of this, tasting free crackers, olives, bread, the occasional piece of cheese or cookie is the perfect way to get over those mid-morning or afternoon cravings.

Chocolate factories also hand out samples but since they make you pay entrance, I don’t like to count those.

However, the Kambly biscuit factory in Trubschachen lets you dig in until you explode. At no extra cost.

Trust me, you won’t make it through their whole selection in one go. Even if you arrive on an empty stomach.

Challenge accepted?

See some of the best Switzerland Photos on Instagram.

10. Stick with free activities

how to travel switzerland on a budget
Hiking is a great free activity, and Switzerland’s gorgeous landscapes are why you’re there

Nothing in life is free. Or is it?

You’d be surprised. If you pay attention and know where to look, you can find plenty of free things to do

Free Things to do in Switzerland

  • Join a free walking tour in different cities across the country.
  • Spend some quality time with the bears in Bern – figuratively speaking.
  • Visit a free wildlife park in Zurich, Aarau, Winterthur, St. Gallen, Interlaken and many other places.
  • Check out old towns, churches, and free museums.
  • Visit the Appenzeller cheese factory in Stein and stuff your face with free samples.
  • Join a tour of the Bundeshaus (House of Parliament) in Bern.
  • Take a stroll through botanical gardens and parks.
  • Head out to Schaffhausen and visit the Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfalls.
  • Take a refreshing dip in a lake.
  • Hike until your feet fall off. After all, that’s what Switzerland is famous for.

Budget Switzerland Travel – The only thing left

Now that you know how you can stretch your money while you’re in Switzerland, let’s see how that know-it-all at the back of your head is doing.

Is it still leading you on to rob a bank, sleep in a cardboard box or live off instant noodles? Or has it finally decided to shut up?

If it’s still being reluctant, don’t be too upset with it. After all, nothing you do will ever turn your trip to Switzerland into a low-cost holiday.

But with these 10 tips, hitting the Alps without blowing your retirement savings has just become a whole lot more realistic.

The only thing left for you to do is this. Go to your drawer, dig out your bucket list and scribble those eleven letters at the very top of it.

You know you want to.

Switzerland on a budget
10 Ways to travel Switzerland on a budget

Read Next:

Check out these money saving tips

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About Seraina Zellweger

Seraina Zellweger is a devoted budget traveller who’s been around the world and back. As a native Swiss, she’s made it her mission to give fellow backpackers tips on how to visit Switzerland on a shoestring.In her latest project, she's created a series of guides with itineraries for Switzerland, ranging from 2 to 14* days. For more information, Follow Seraina at LostInSwitzerland / Facebook / Twitter

Leave a Comment

40 thoughts on “10 Simple Ways to Travel Switzerland on a Budget”

  1. Thank you for this article! It eased a lot of my concerns for my upcoming trip to Switzerland. I am wondering about the public transportation… Will the free transportation take us from Geneva to Zurich? Or is it just free public transportation within the city you are staying in? Thank you again for all of the tips. My husband and I are feeling more confident in making this Switzerland trip an affordable and enjoyable experience!

    Reply
  2. Great tips on traveling to Switzerland on a budget. It is unbelievable how expensive everything is there, especially when traveling as a family. I will refer back to your post again before our next trip to this amazing country!

    Reply
  3. Amazing read. I’ve traveled around Switzerland on a tight budget just for a week. It was the first time I’ve used Couchsurfing and it was an amazing time! My host was a very friendly Swiss guy who was extremely interested in learning about my culture and traveling experiences. Also, as you’ve mentioned, using free public transport saves a lot as well as biking around the cities.

    Reply
  4. i was planning for a family trip there, and luckily found this amazing informational guide…
    thanks a lot as this guide will help me for my family travel trip… briefly explained travel guide…!!

    Reply
  5. I’ve been traveling almost all cheaper countries… scheduling how to set on foot on the rather expensive countries like- Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland etc.!

    Reply
  6. Switzerland is really awesome place for roam. You share the information is really awesome. Very helpful information on this blog. I am glad to find it. Thanks!

    Reply
  7. If you could travel through only one European country, which might you choose? Italy? France? Germany? How about a taste of three in one? That can only mean Switzerland! You’ll find Switzerland a chocolate box bursting with unexpected flavours. 🙂

    Reply
  8. This post made us laugh, sleeping above cows sounds like an adventure for sure! You are right on point with avoiding Switzerland due to the high cost, but maybe now we will finally add it to our bucket list. We accept the challenge of eating all the free snacks we can get while there!

    Reply
  9. Budget is the main concern not for all but for many of us. Cooking own food is the best idea to save money and also to maintain health.You have shared very useful budget friendly ideas here. I really like it.

    Reply
  10. Great post I’ve always been intimidated to visit Switzerland, but I was little worried about the cost of accomodation. I’m very curious about Agrotourismus, I’ve never heard of it and will definitely check it out. I love to hike so i’m covered for activities. Cheers! Millie

    Reply
  11. Awesome post Seraina. My first visit on your post but not last, will follow your next post! You obviously spent considerable effort and time to carefully document this post for our benefit. I was in Switzerland last year and spent average budget (My thinking before reading this post). But after reading your post I can say, “Yes” I could save 50% of my budget amount.

    Reply
  12. I absolutely loved Switzerland. The FRESH AIR is incomparable. And yes to Tip#1!! Our hotel was nice enough to inform us of this before we spent any money on public transport in Montreux. Oh and I remember getting a free ticket to the city from the airport in Geneva too. What I would give to live there. Great post, Seriana!

    Reply
    • Izy thank you for commenting because transportation is my biggest concern for my trip to Switzerland in September. I am wondering if the free transportation will take us from Geneva to Zurich? Or is it just free public transportation within the city you are staying in?

      Reply
  13. These are just stunning!
    Switzerland is one of my favorite places to travel. Wondering when I get a chance to visit..

    Reply
  14. I love this! Switzerland has been on mine and my husband’s travel wishlist for a while! It’s great to know about that free public transportation and the free bikes! It sounds like it would be best to spend more time in cities that offer these perks!

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  15. I’m planning a trip to Switzerland and your post is so handy and packed with good tips! Will definitely put some into good use.

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  16. Thank you so much Donna. I hope one day I get to return the couchsurfing favour by hosting you and Ted in Switzerland. There are so many things I’d love to show you.

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  17. So good to hear from you Laio. And yes, it’s been ages since Bolivia. Such good times out in the Salar de Uyuni. I really hope to see you in Switzerland one day. And you’re definitely welcome to stay with me whenever you’re here. The couch is waiting for you 🙂 Take care

    Reply
  18. We love your blog. Lots of great tips and information. I think that Ted and I may have to try this sometime. Well done.

    Reply
  19. Hey Seraina my Dear Friend!
    So many days since Bolivia’s Travel… times fly!
    Switzerland seems to be an amazing place… I probably will visit some day!
    I´ve no doubt that I will “put my connections to use” and I hope you enjoy to give a shelter for me there!
    This blog is awesome and very helpful!
    Thanks for it!
    Kisses

    Reply
  20. Hey Rosemary thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like Switzerland and think it’s worth a visit. I totally agree with you that coffee and cake are expensive. It’s a shame. Hopefully this won’t keep you from coming back one day 🙂

    Reply
  21. Switzerland is a really great place – all the trains run on time and are easy to work out. They are clean and comfortable. We agree that you can use public transport to travel around – it’s really good and convenient.

    There are lots of things which are good value in Switzerland but we find quick meals like coffee and a cake or something expensive.

    It’s worth going to Switzerland though as you’ll have a lot of fun.

    Reply
  22. Such a wonderful post by Seraina! Switzerland is a dream for me and this one just takes me so many steps closer. I especially agree with point 4 and 10 – nothing like exploring a new place on our own, there’s so much joy and it’s so cost effective too!

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    • Thank you for your comment Arti. I’m glad my post got you a little closer to reaching your dream. Hopefully you’ll make it to Switzerland soon.

      Reply
  23. Some great travel tips in this post to stretch your time in Switzerland. I love Switzerland, it’s so green, it’s so clean and it’s so stunning. My husband and I decided to camp in Switzerland, which meant we could save a lot on accommodation and we could cook our own meals. We just loved it (it was just a bit cold to sleep in a tent) 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Sabine, thanks for your comment. Yes, Switzerland is pretty green and clean, isn’t it.
      Camping is definitely a great way to save some money on accommodation. Although you’re right about the chilly nights. I hope you had a good sleeping bag and didn’t catch a cold 🙂

      Reply
  24. Grabbing a bike and exploring is my kind of thing. And I loved the concept called Ässbar. I hope they’ll spread all over the world….

    Reply
  25. Hi Seraina,

    LOL on old bread. That is all I buy 😉 I’d be saving Swiss scratch right off the bat. Ditto on the free biking. I recall years ago biking all over Hoi An in Vietnam for 2 months. I got in tip top shape and saved a small fortune in taxi fare. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Haha there’s nothing like old bread Ryan is there. I think you’d be saving heaps in Switzerland ? I love going to that place.
      Wow biking in Vietnam sounds exciting. And it’s definitely a great way to get in shape for free too, isn’t it.

      Reply