travel switzerland on thirty francs a day
Everyday Money

Switzerland on 30 Francs a Day

July 4, 2024 - Daniel Dreier

Is it possible to tour Switzerland for 30 Swiss francs per day? moneyland.ch tells you how to do it in this Swiss travel guide.

Switzerland is known for being expensive – but it is possible to tour the country without spending more than 30 francs per day, on average. Here, moneyland.ch looks at the cheapest options for transportation, accommodation, food, and activities.

1. Transportation

Bicycles are a cheap form of transportation. While they work best for small distances, it is perfectly possible to travel almost anywhere in this small country by bicycle. You can borrow bicycles free of charge using Swiss sharing economy platforms. Some regions, including the city of Geneva (Genèveroule) and the city of Zurich (Züri rollt), have stations where you can borrow bicycles free of charge during the summer months.

Aside from cycling and hitchhiking, carpooling is generally the cheapest way to travel in Switzerland. The average best available price across random samples taken by moneyland.ch from popular carpooling platform Blablacar for numerous long and shorter routes within Switzerland was 10 francs per trip. Planning your travel in keeping with available rides is recommended. Make allowance for people to cancel drives, and be ready to pay for occasional buses or trains when you cannot find a ride.

Even if you are able to carpool for most of your travel, you will likely find yourself in situations where you will need to use public transportation for short stretches. For example, you may need to ride a bus from a carpooling drop-off point to your next accommodations. It is important to budget some money for this.

Cost: From zero Swiss francs per day, with a bicycle. From 10 francs if you use carpooling.

2. Accommodation

Prices for hostels in Switzerland start at around 30 francs per night for a single bed in a shared dorm. Prices can be much higher than that in some regions. But there are cheaper options. The sharing economy platforms Bewelcome, Couchsurfing and Trustroots let you stay with private hosts across Switzerland at no cost at all. The only thing required is a little advance planning, as you have to find people in all the places you want to travel to who are able to host you at the needed times.

Depending on your relationship with the great outdoors, camping is also an option. All cantons allow you to camp above the forest line for one night at a time. If you already have basic camping gear, freestyle camping does not cost you anything at all – other than the climb. If you do not, tents can be rented on Sharely for as little as 2 francs per day. You can find more detailed rules in the guide to camping in Switzerland.

Cost: From zero Swiss francs, if you are willing to camp or couch surf.

3. Food and drinks

Even if you do your best to save on restaurant dining in Switzerland, a 30-francs-per-day budget will not accommodate eating out – other than the occasional kebab or pizza from a takeaway joint. 

But shopping at budget supermarkets is a cheap alternative. A price analysis at the time of writing this article showed that 17 francs will buy you one item each of baked goods, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, barbeque items, and meat products at Denner supermarkets. That is based on the average prices of standard, quality products for each category.

That budget should also suffice for buying no-name items at Coop and Migros, or shopping at discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl. Follow this guide to saving on supermarket shopping in Switzerland for tips on how to shop on a budget.

It is worth noting that if you opt to use couch surfing platforms, many hosts will let you use their kitchens to cook, or even invite you to share their meals with them.

Cost: From 17 francs per day, if you shop at supermarkets.

4. Attractions

The alps are arguably Switzerland’s biggest attraction, and you can visit almost any part of this natural playground completely free of charge, as long as you are willing to forego cable cars and use your legs instead. Even major tourist magnets like the Jungfrau, Lauterbrunnen, the Lavaux, the Rhine Falls, the Rigi, the Titlis, Saas Fee, and Zermatt are largely accessible on foot and/or by bicycle. If you are willing to put in the legwork, you can almost completely avoid expensive cable car and train rides.

Additionally, a number of the country’s best museums can be visited free of charge – either permanently or on specific days of the week. The CERN research facility (Meyrin), the Omega watchmaker’s museum (Biel), the cantonal art museums in Lausanne (up to age 26) and Zurich (on Wednesdays), and the natural history museums of Fribourg and Zurich are just a few examples of attractions which you can visit free of charge.

Monuments and parks are generally freely accessible, as are many cathedrals and some castles, fortresses, botanical gardens, and wildlife parks. Folk festivals – including the popular carnivals of Basel and Lucerne – are open to the public.

Cost: From zero francs per day, if you stick to free attractions.

5. Experiences

Via ferrata climbs, hiking, snowshoe trekking and ski touring are just a few examples of experiences which are free, except for the cost of renting or buying equipment. If you do not have your own equipment, the cheapest option is renting it from private people using Sharely or other sharing economy platforms. The average cost of renting a climbing harness on Sharely, for example, is around 8 francs per day, but many offers are cheaper.

If you want something more chilled, take a look at the Free Walk historical tours offered by many Swiss cities.

It is worth noting here that there are numerous paid experiences available in Switzerland, from bungee jumps and skydiving to music festivals. These are generally not cheap, and would not fit into a 30-franc daily budget.

Cost: From zero francs per day, if you are content with free options and own or borrow equipment.

6. Communications

If you use prepaid mobile (as a visitor to Switzerland, for example), prepaid offers with unlimited local calls and internet start at around 35 francs per month, or around 1.17 francs per day. If you live in Switzerland, you can get flat-fee mobile plans for as little as 13 francs per month (just over 44 centimes per day). You can find the current best available offers for your specific needs using the mobile plan and prepaid mobile comparison on moneyland.ch.

Cost: From 1.17 francs per day (prepaid) or 0.44 francs per day (plan) for unlimited calls and data.

So is it possible to tour Switzerland for 30 francs per day?

Theoretically at least, yes, it is possible to tour Switzerland on 30 francs per day, or even less, but only if you are willing to adopt some unique lifestyle practices.

Carpooling and couch surfing, for example, require a fair amount of social interaction and trust, so not everyone will be comfortable using these options. Freestyle camping requires a fair amount of energy and even more love for the outdoors. Likewise, you may not be willing to forego restaurant dining or takeaways in favor of supermarket shopping, or you may not have the option of cooking your own meals. There may also be certain paid attractions or experiences that you do not want to miss out on.

If you are physically impaired or otherwise unable to take long walks or bike rides, then public transportation is the only way to get to certain popular destinations which are not accessible by car (Zermatt or the Jungfrau, for example). Swiss public transportation is expensive.

It is also important to note that getting free accommodation and cheap transportation may require a lot of advanced planning. Couch surfing hosts may only be able to take you in at certain times, and often need a lot of notice. The same applies to drivers whom you plan to carpool with. You should also be prepared for the possibility of hosts or drivers canceling on short notice, so having emergency money for hotels or public transportation is recommended.

More on this topic:
The costs of transportation in Switzerland compared
A practical guide for digital nomads in Switzerland
Hiking in Switzerland: Financial tips for outdoor enthusiasts
Tips for getting cheaper hotel stays in Switzerland

Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at moneyland.ch.
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