I just got back from a breathtaking trip to the mountains of Switzerland, and, let me tell you, Switzerland quickly elevated to the top of my list of favorite destinations! Why? Easy – the views, the activities, and the hospitality. Here’s what you need to know to plan your visit!
Save yourself some money
Although the exchange rate of the Swiss Franc to the US dollar is close to 1:1, dollar for dollar, your money won’t buy you much in Switzerland. Hotels, transportation, and food especially can get very expensive, so you have to plan ahead. For example, a typical döner sandwich (gyro) in Germany costs roughly 3.50 to 4 Euro, but the same sandwich in Switzerland costs about 8 or 9 Francs. So, that’s approximately 8 or 9 dollars for the cheapest lunch option you can find. Likewise, you can expect a standard hotel rooms to cost around 200 CHF per night. Just make sure you have determined a budget ahead of time and be sure you can afford to do all of the things that you want to (including feeding yourself). Of course, there are some ways to make your stay a bit more affordable:
- Stay in hostels. Personally, this isn’t my preferred way to travel because my husband and I enjoy our privacy, but if you don’t mind sharing space with others, hostels can be great money-savers.
- Invest in a Half-Fare Card. Transportation is very expensive in Switzerland because the trains, ferries, and cable cars are all privately run and operated. However, the trade off is very clean, reliable modes of travel – in fact, none of our trips left more than a minute late the entire time we were there. The cost of a Half-Fare card (as of this posting) is 120 CHF, but it allows you to get half-off tickets on virtually all modes of transportation and is good for a whole month. Plan your excursions ahead of time to see if an investment in this card will save you money over the course of your trip. Another option is the Swiss Fare Pass which gives you unlimited travel by rail or waterway available for 3, 4, 8, or 15 days. More information on both passes can be found here.
- Bring food from home. Knowing that food was going to be expensive, we brought shelf-stable, non-liquid foods from home to supplement our meals. Trail mix, apples, and granola bars were mainstays in our diet during our visit to the Alps. Since we were hiking a lot, we would have wanted these foods anyway, but we saved a few bucks by bringing it from home rather than getting it at a local grocery store.
- Shop at the grocery store. For PERISHABLE items, it’s a great idea to buy from the grocery store. If your hotel/hostel has a fridge, you can buy meats and cheeses to make yourself sandwiches to eat during your travels. If there isn’t a fridge where you are staying, a pre-made sandwich from the store is probably still cheaper than anything you will find at a restaurant or from a street vendor.
- Fill up on breakfast. Plan to stay in accommodations that provide breakfast…and then eat as much as you can in the morning. Assuming the cost of the hotel isn’t much more than a hotel without breakfast, you can save quite a bit by filling up on all-you-can-eat toast and scrambled eggs. You may also be able to make small sandwiches at breakfast and take them with you for your lunch, but check with your hotel first, as some have strict policies against this.