There’s no doubt about it – Switzerland’s a jaw-dropping destination, but it can be an expensive place to visit too. Fortunately, there are some ways tourists can keep their costs down. Here are five tips for travelling for less in Switzerland, according to recent visitor, SEB ATKINSON.
Get yourself a discounted train ticket
Switzerland is famous for it’s punctual train network, which puts most other countries’ systems to shame. But, just rocking up and buying a train ticket on the day of departure can be painfully expensive.
Fortunately, there are some ways for tourists to get in on the discount action. If you’re staying for a while, you can get a one month Half Fare Card costing 120 Swiss Francs. So if you’re going to make over 240 Francs worth of train journeys, it’s worthwhile. For a shorter period, check out the Swiss Travel Pass that can be used to cover journeys over 3, 5, 8, or 15 days, along with a Flex version, which allows you to use the card on non-consecutive days.
Another hidden secret that few travellers will know is that each region is allocated a set number of discounted tickets. While some can be used for anyone, others are limited to local residents. These have to be bought directly from the ticket office. Or if you’re staying with a resident, they may be nice enough to pick one up for you. And there are no questions asked when you present them to the ticket inspectors.
Find cheaper, hidden gem attractions
As in most countries, popular attractions tend to be the most expensive in Switzerland. But do a little research prior to leaving, and you’ll find some lesser-known gems.
One such find is the Eggishorn, a lesser-known mountain in the heart of the Alps where the most expensive cable car ticket to the top is around 45 Francs. It’s a great deal considering on a clear day you get amazing 360 degree views to peaks like the Matterhorn.
By comparison, taking a cable car up to the summit of the famous Schilthorn (okay, so you’ve likely not heard of it, but you will recognise it from James Bond) costs a whopping 105 Francs.
Keep the alcohol to a minimum
If you’re on a budget, and you booked a trip to Switzerland to party, you’re going to be disappointed. Alcohol can be pricey, costing around 6 to 8 or more Francs for a beer. Its cost is put into perspective when you consider the other places in Europe with cheaper booze and nightlife.
That said, be sure to try the local wine, because you won’t find it anywhere else in the world. And yes, it is possible to grow grapes in an alpine country - visit Valais, Ticino or Geneva and you’ll see vineyards lining the edges of the valleys.
The Swiss also don’t make cheap wine - it’s all boutique, made by small vineyards on steep mountainsides, which limits the viability of mass production methods.
Many people visit the Alps in winter to go skiing, but why not go in the off-season, when the snow has melted and an amazing landscape has emerged?
Not only will accommodation be a bit cheaper when the skiers have gone too, but crucially, hiking is free. Plus, since it’s an important part of the Swiss mountaineering culture, there are plenty of designated hiking routes, called wanderwege. Just be sure to pack your camera!
Eat out at lunch
Lunch time is by far the cheapest time of day to eat out, so if you’re looking to experience local cuisine, don’t wait until the evening. Like in France, many restaurants offer a “menu of the day” that usually consists of a soup and main course, at a significant discount.
You can find such lunch specials for around 10 to 20 Francs, and if you’re up for some Chinese, Indian, Thai or other non-Swiss cuisine, you’ll tend to find prices are towards the lower end and portions are bigger.
This means you’ll need to make lunch your main meal of the day, but what’s better than hiking to one of Switzerland’s many mountain restaurants, having a hearty meal and walking back down to the valley?
Have you visited Switzerland? Have some budgeting tips to share?