“Switzerland on a budget”? Is this even possible! The landlocked alpine country is among the most expensive countries to visit in the world. The very idea of cheap holidays to Switzerland seems impractical, right?
Don’t worry, with smart planning and clever timing, you can actually plan a budget-friendly Switzerland holiday. So, if the picturesque country is beckoning you but, the travel cost is really holding you back, don’t break your heart. Check out these 5 practical travel tips that will help you to plan a smart backpacking trip to Switzerland.
5 ways to plan a budget holiday to Switzerland
1. Visit Switzerland in the off-season
Switzerland has three tourism seasons: Peak (July – August), Low (November – March) and two Shoulder seasons (April – June & September – October).
The peak season is the main summer season when the hotels, flights, restaurants, transport, and activities get expensive due to heavy demand. The low season is typical European winters but is in greatly popular among ski and winters-sport lovers. The most effective and off-season time to visit Switzerland is during the spring (April – June) and autumn months (September – October).
So if you want to escape the selfie crazy tourists and have a blissful Swiss experience, try visiting the country between September and October. You will be able to witness the fall colours of autumn, enjoy fresh wine harvests in the countryside, and have the striking Swiss cities to yourself.
What about skiing, you may ask! Well, you can indulge in the essential Swiss winter sports in the spring season too.
The spring and autumn months have much cheaper accommodation options and off-season discounts on food, shopping and activities. Some of the best places to visit Switzerland in September are Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, Interlaken, Bern, Montreux, and Zermatt.
2. Invest in a Swiss travel pass
Switzerland has one of the most efficient public transport networks with clinical efficiency and operating schedules. Travelling by car between cities and taking taxis within cities can get expensive and will burn a hole in your pocket every time. However, if you invest in a good, economical travel pass, it will not only take you to your desired destination but will also save your money.
SBB’s Swiss travelcards offer discounts on Swiss train routes. The Swiss Half Fare Card gives you a 50% discount on trains, buses, boats and mountain transport. It’s even cheaper for those under 25 years! The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited train, bus, boat travel plus entry to 500 museums and mountain hikes. Swiss Travel Pass Flex allows the same but on freely selectable days within a month. You can book your passes online (https://swisstours.com/) at discounts.
3. Opt for hostel stays and camping
Hotels in Switzerland are expensive. However, if you travel in the off-season and avoid the highly popular resorts, you can still get budget-friendly accommodation. However, your best bet is to stay in hostels. Switzerland has excellent youth hostels which are among the swankiest in the world. Some hostels offer inexpensive meals and a nice comfy bed along with other must-have facilities like locker, wi-fi, etc for CHF35 (AED 129.04). Hostelworld is the major player when it comes to hostels in Europe but there are several independent hostels available in the country.
Another option is to stay at one of the many scenic camping sites that are available throughout Switzerland. Some of the popular camping sites in Switzerland are Camping Delta (Locarno), Camping Jungfrau (Lauterbrunnen), TCS Camping St. Moritz, TCS Camping Interlaken, etc. Not only you will stay closer to nature, meet new and interesting travellers, but you will also save a lot of money. Stay in the scenic camps for as little as CHF10 (AED 36.87) per person and CHF 15 (AED 55.30) to pitch a tent.
Opt for mountain huts when hiking in the Swiss mountains. These huts are located at spectacular locations and come with dorm beds for CHF30 to CHF60 (AED 110.60 to 221.21).
4. Stick to food markets and no-frill eateries
Food and drink are costly in Switzerland but you can still have a hearty food experience. Skip the fancy buffet breakfast in the hotel and rather opt for a cup of coffee and muesli in a local café for CHF 30 (AED 110.6).
Have a hearty lunch in Swiss restaurants where you get a fixed price menu for CHF 15 (AED 55.30). Pizzerias and Asian restaurants are cheaper as compared to traditional Swiss restaurants. Another option is to visit the food markets in the cities and get snacks, patisserie, desserts, coffee at much cheaper rates.
Get a steel bottle with you and fill it from a fountain or your hostel tap. Tap water is fine and safe for drinking in Switzerland. For booze, look out for happy hours and discounts on food before venturing out on an all-night drinking session.
5. Look out for free things to do in Switzerland’s cities
Swiss cities are expensive. Cost of entry to attractions is equal to any European countries like France, the United Kingdom, or Italy. However, within the Swiss cities, there are plenty of free things to do.
In Zurich, you can climb the Uetilberg, a mountain the offers stunning panoramic views of Zurich and its surroundings. The Kunsthaus Zurich (famous art museum) offers free entry every Wednesdays to its permanent collection that features the work of Van Gogh and many more.
Also Read: Free Things to do in Zurich
In Geneva, check out the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire which is free along with other galleries. In Bern, you can explore the UNESCO listed Old Town, etc. Make sure to search for “free things to do in Swiss cities” on Google and you will get a good list of free things to see.
Also Read: Free Things to do in Geneva
Follow these 5 golden rules of Swiss trip planning and you can plan an affordable, budget-friendly tour of Switzerland.