50 Simple Ways to Save on Your Swiss Vacation

50 Budget tips

Heading on a Swiss adventure but don’t want to empty your bank account? đź’µ

From majestic Alps to charming cities, Switzerland offers unforgettable experiences that can be enjoyed without draining your wallet. You just need to know how and where you can save a pretty penny!

Save yourself a lot of money with these 50+ tips and tricks including lots of insider knowledge from my over 23 years living in Switzerland!

bernina express
Bernina Express panoramic train

Use a Swiss Travel Pass

The Swiss Travel Pass gives you unlimited travel on trains, buses, and boats for a set number of days, providing extensive coverage of the public transportation network at a fixed cost.

OR The Swiss Half Fare Card

Get the Half Fare Card for reduced fares on trains, buses, boats, and some mountain railways.

Travel Off-Peak

To save on transportation costs, avoid traveling during peak hours, as prices can be significantly lower during off-peak times. Which also brings us to the infamous….

Use SBB Supersaver Tickets

Book train tickets in advance through the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) to get discounts of up to 70% on standard fares. If you want to learn more about this system, watch my video on it.

Use City Cards

Purchase city passes for free or discounted entry to attractions and free public transport in cities like Zurich, Geneva, and Lucerne.

Mountain Passes

Purchase regional mountain passes for discounts on cable cars and mountain trains, making it more affordable to explore the Alps.

Rail Pass for Kids

Kids under 16 travel free with a Junior Travelcard when accompanied by a parent, which can significantly reduce family travel costs.

Public Transport Over Taxis

Use trams, buses, and trains instead of taxis, as public transport is much cheaper and very efficient.

Night Trains

Travel overnight to save on a night’s accommodation and maximize your travel time.

Travel by Carpooling

Use carpooling services like BlaBlaCar for cheaper travel between cities, and to meet locals and fellow travelers.

Stay in Hostels

Opt for hostels instead of hotels for cheaper accommodation, which often include amenities such as free Wi-Fi and breakfast.

Rent an Airbnb

Share an Airbnb with friends or family to split the cost, offering more space and often kitchen facilities for cooking.

Free Accommodation

Stay with friends or use hospitality networks like Couchsurfing for free accommodation and a chance to meet locals. If you are more flexible or on a very strict budget this can be a great way to travel and have unique experiences.

Camp

Use campgrounds instead of hotels for a budget-friendly and nature-filled accommodation option. Campgrounds are often around 30-50 CHF a night compared to the cheapest hotel, which usually runs around 150 CHF at the absolute cheapest.

Cook Your Own Meals

To save money on food expenses, shop at local grocery stores and cook your own meals instead of dining out.

migros supermarket

Buy Groceries from the Supermarket

These supermarket chains often have lower prices compared to smaller, specialty stores. And even within the supermarkets, there are more expensive and cheap options. Check out this post to find out the difference.

Picnic Instead of Restaurants

Pack a picnic and enjoy your meal in one of Switzerland’s beautiful parks, which is a cost-effective and scenic dining option. You should also do this during your days out in the mountains to avoid the costly lunch options.

Bring Snacks

Carry snacks with you to avoid buying expensive food while on the go. You never know when you are going to get hungry, so just have a few things in your bag ready to go just in case.

Discount Supermarkets

Shop at discount supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl to save on grocery expenses, as they offer a wide range of products at lower prices.

Lunch Specials

Many restaurants offer lunch specials at a lower price compared to dinner menus, allowing you to enjoy Swiss cuisine without breaking the bank. You might also find that you can get an affordable Michelin-star meal at lunch instead of dinner!

Grocery Store Cafeterias

Eat at grocery store cafeterias like Migros, Coop or Manor. They offer reasonably priced meals that are often fresher and healthier than fast food.

Eat at University Cafeterias

University cafeterias offer affordable meal options and are open to the public. Just head to the closest university or technical school you can find in major cities like Zurich, Lausanne, Geneva, Basel and Lucerne.

Skip Desserts and Alcohol

Avoid ordering desserts and alcoholic beverages at restaurants, as these can significantly increase your bill. Instead, consider having these treats from a supermarket or bakery, which are more affordable.

Accommodation with Kitchen

Choose accommodation with a kitchen to prepare your meals, reducing the need to eat out.

Fountain in Lucerne

This could come in the form of an Airbnb or an Aparthotel – which is a combo of an apartment in a hotel block.

Drink Tap Water At Restaurants

Restaurants charge an insane amount of money for a bottle of water. So, ask for tap water instead and at least save 50% or more on the price. If you are not a water drinker, avoid it altogether, as it is often as expensive or more than a beer or Coca-Cola.

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Use Refillable Water Bottles

Carry a refillable water bottle to avoid purchasing drinks while exploring the city. Fountains are scattered throughout towns and cities all over the country.

Swiss tap water is clean, safe, and free, so avoid buying bottled water. 

Bahnhofstrasse
Luxury stores in Bahnhofstrasse

Avoid Tourist Traps

Eat and shop away from major tourist areas where prices tend to be higher. You will find meals and other purchases are often cheaper in the mountains and in smaller towns.

Self-Guided Tours

Save on guided tour costs by planning your own itinerary and exploring at your own pace with the help of guidebooks and online resources.

For example, I have a free walking tour of Zurich which you can do yourself :>

Free Walking Tours

Join free walking tours available in many Swiss cities, where you can pay what you can afford or feel the tour was worth at the end. Don’t be fooled by the name “free” as they are not. But, they are cheap and far more affordable than many other paid options.

Château des Monts - watch museum in le locle
Château des Monts – Watch Museum in Le Locle

Museum Free Days

Visit museums on days with free entry to save on admission fees. Many of Switzerland’a major museums offer a free day mid-week or on another allocated day of the month. Be sure to check each museums schedule.

Travel in Groups

Group travel passes are often cheaper per person, making it economical to travel with friends or family. When you get to 10 people or more, groups discounts tend to kick in.

Use Free Public Wi-Fi

Avoid data roaming charges by using free Wi-Fi available in cafes, restaurants, and public spaces.

Use the Free Library

Visit local libraries for free internet access and resources, which can be useful for planning your trip and staying connected.

Budget Airlines

Fly with budget airlines for cheaper flights into Switzerland, and look out for special deals and promotions.

Off-Season Travel

Visit during the shoulder or off-season to get lower rates on accommodation and flights, and to avoid crowds.

Free Festivals and Events

Attend free local festivals and events, which can provide entertainment and cultural experiences without the cost. Although many of the big music festivals are paid, many destinations put on free entertainment or town festivals throughout the year.

Hiking

Enjoy free outdoor activities like hiking in the mountains, which is a great way to experience Switzerland’s natural beauty without spending much money.

Biking

Rent bikes or use city bike-sharing schemes for an affordable and eco-friendly way to get around.

Use Public Restrooms Wisely

Most public restrooms in Switzerland cost money, even in the big department stores or train stations. The advantage is that they are usually very clean and well maintained.

To avoid paying to use the restroom, you should use them on long-distance trains or in your hotel. Or at a restaurant while you are eating.

Luggage lockers

Luggage Lockers

Use luggage lockers at stations to store your bags while you explore, and if your departure is late, you can avoid paying for an extra night.

You can check out my list of luggage options for most popular locations around Switzerland.

Second-Hand Shopping

Buy clothes and other items from second-hand shops to find unique items at lower prices. More and more of these options are springing up in Swiss cities as the cost of inflation has proven to be crazy!

Student Discounts

If you’re a student, take advantage of student discounts on travel, attractions, and dining. Even train passes tend to have a “youth” option which is of course more expensive than children but far cheaper than adults.

Use Loyalty Programs

Join hotel and airline loyalty programs for potential savings, benefits, and upgrades. This is always a great way to save if you are a frequent traveler.

Work for Your Accommodation

Consider work exchange programs like Workaway for free accommodation in exchange for volunteer work. Friends of ours offer awesome free accommodation for workers and both sides benefit greatly from it.

Look for Last-Minute Deals

Check for last-minute deals on travel and accommodations, which can sometimes offer substantial savings.

Take Advantage of Tax-Free Shopping

Switzerland offers tax-free shopping. All you have to do is fill out the form and keep the receipts from participating shops and you can claim back the tax at the airport when you leave.

Bell Souvenirs at Marko Market
Bell Souvenirs at Marko Market

Skip Souvenirs

Save money by skipping souvenirs or buying them at local markets where prices are more reasonable. You can also buy more local products like chocolate, cheese, wine and so on.

Local Sim Cards

Get a local SIM card or even better, an eSIM card for cheaper mobile data rates and to avoid international roaming fees.

Early Booking

Book trains, flights, and accommodations early to get the best rates and availability.

Avoid Currency Exchange Fees

Use a travel-friendly bank card with no foreign transaction fees to avoid extra charges when making purchases.

Or even better, get yourself an online bank card like Wise.com where you can transfer the money into Swiss Francs at a set rate and pay zero fees while you travel.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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