How to save money in Switzerland

July 31, 2023, 1 Comment

This beautiful land of lakes and mountains is a wonderful place to live (and visit) but it isn’t always the cheapest place to be. And while inflation in Switzerland is low compared to other countries (currently 1.7%), it still adds to the prices. So how can you save money here? I have a few tips for you.

Let’s start with food and drink.

  • Shop carefully. The supermarkets have special offers every week so buy things you always use when they are discounted, such as tinned tomatoes or müesli. The cellar room that comes with almost every Swiss flat is great for storing non-perishables.
  • Shop late. An hour or so before closing is a great time to grab fresh food at half price – the one big advantage of restricted opening hours. Saturdays are a good bet so swing by your local Coop and see what meat, vegetables and cheese are reduced for a quick sale.
  • Have lunch. If you want to eat out, then lunch is often cheaper than supper. Many restaurants offer fixed priced menus at lunchtime, especially in spots with lots of offices. Or go to a self-service restaurant like Manor or Migros, which are usually good value.
  • Free water. You need never buy water in Switzerland. Just carry an empty bottle and fill up at the fountains that are in every town and city. Or even refill with tap water, which is always safe unless there is a sign saying otherwise.

What about travel tips?

  • Day cards. The travel pass for the whole country is a steal if you’re doing a lot in one day. To save even more, book a Saver Day Pass online or look out for 2-4-1 offers that regularly pop up in Coop or the post office. Some municipalities still offer a set-price day card for residents.
  • Supersaver tickets. Trains can be cheaper if you know exactly which one you want to catch. The SBB website has online supersaver tickets with good discounts for travelling on a specific train – but usually only for times outside rush hours, and rarely at weekends.
  • Free transport. Some places provide free public transport when you stay overnight (eg Bern, Geneva, Lucerne, Grindelwald) so pick your weekends away wisely. It applies to hotels but also many Airbnbs as it’s part of the tourist tax. In Engadin, it’s a two-night minimum but then you get free mountain transport too.
  • Museum entry. Some, eg CERN, are free but most charge an entry fee – though not always. For example, Bern’s museums are free on Saturdays in August, while in Geneva it’s the first Sunday every month, as is the Kunstmuseum in Basel. The Kunsthaus in Zurich is free on Wednesdays.

And tips for residents rather than visitors:

  • Loyalty cards. You may not like the shop knowing what you’ve bought, but having a loyalty card does bring benefits. You might get special offer discounts or receive cash back in the form of vouchers. I have ones for Coop, Migros, Pfister, Loeb and Orell Füssli.
  • Health insurance. Three ways to save on your monthly premium: switch to the HMO or GP model, which gives up to 25% off; raise your annual deductible to the maximum of CHF 2,500; change insurers every year in November.
  • Credit cards. Not every credit card in Switzerland has an annual fee so choose one which is free, such as Migros or Coop. And as long as you pay it off every month, you won’t pay any interest so it’s win-win for you, and not for the bank.
  • Free museums. One way to get into over 500 museums absolutely free is to bank with Raiffeisen. If you have their Member-Plus account it comes with a Museum Pass (which normally costs CHF 177 a year). I love mine.

The best way to save is not to spend anything at all, so make the most of Switzerland’s scenery with free activities such as hiking or swimming. Or just enjoying the views.

One Comment on "How to save money in Switzerland"

  1. Mike Tuesday August 8th, 2023 at 10:55 AM · Reply

    Half fare card for adults and junior travel card for children are another big money saver on the trains.

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