Travelog

In Switzerland for the 1st time: Is Swiss vacation really that expensive?

We all know that Switzerland is said to be expensive. And a lot of people skip this beautiful country just because of that. Normally I don’t post anywhere how much my trips cost me, but I decided to make an exception for Switzerland. So is it really that expensive in Switzerland?


In this article I will share how much I paid for both hotels, flights, transportation and food/souvenirs. I will compare all amounts to Ireland/Euros. Unfortunately, I can’t compare with the Czech Republic, because I haven’t been there for a long time and I don’t have an overview of how much it costs. No, I won’t tell you how much the new jacket cost me.

Flights

I flew to Zurich and back with Swiss airlines. It was for several reasons – Ryanair only flies to Basel from Dublin. I hate Aer Lingus. I wanted to try something new.

Dublin – Zurich return cost me €190.84. I bought the tickets about 2 and a half months before the trip. I had hand luggage and a backpack included in the price. The system assigned me seats at random. On board they gave us a free small still water and a mini chocolate at the end of the flight. There was a small display above the seats that showed a map and where we were over Europe. There was also data such as altitude and speed.

Almost €200 within Europe is quite a lot. But the days of €20 Ryanair flights are over. At least from Ireland. On the other hand, I often pay more to Germany and when I remember that the flight between Lisbon and London cost me €250 one way last year… For me, the price for tickets is great.

Accommodation

Finding a cheap hotel in Switzerland is like winning the lottery. I think this is the point where one just spends the most, but unfortunately there is not much to choose from.

As you already know from my previous articles, I don’t like to book hostels – you just never know who you’ll be sharing a room and bathroom with. And I’m not saying it’s not safe, but rather the person might have warts and you’ll catch them and so on. One of my last hostel experiences is from Munich in 2018 and simply never again. People are rude and terribly selfish. I also looked at Airbnb but I was not satisfied with the choice. In addition, I didn’t have internet after my arrival, so I really needed accommodation right next to the train station. Of course, I didn’t want to pay a lot of money, but I also didn’t want to sleep somewhere that wasn’t nice.

The ultimate compromise between price, location and modernity of the hotel secured me room number 4 in the two-star Limmathof Hotel right by the Limmat River. Four nights cost me CHF 530. I booked the accommodation via Booking.com about two and a half months before the trip. Booking.com took the money in early September. In euros, it cost me €565.58, which is roughly €141 per night.

Was the hotel worth the money? Honestly, probably not. There was not much peace, the room was small and the furniture was older. However, it was one of the best deals in terms of price and reviews. If I compare it with Ireland, it was probably even cheaper. Here, hotel prices (at least in Dublin) range from €150 upwards. Anything under that price is either completely out of the center and you have to travel, or it’s a hostel. I have now booked a hotel in the center of Dublin for two nights in May, and one night cost me €199, and I chose that from the cheap options. When I was in Frankfurt a month later, we stayed in a hotel in Offenbach (it was originally because of the location, but I saw on Booking.com that you could also find cheap hotels in the center of Frankfurt). This hotel has 4 stars and cost me €79 per night. And it was great. So it can certainly be done cheaper.

I also stayed in Interlaken for 4 days and booked room number 420 in the three-star Mattenhof Resort. And not only because of the price, but also mainly because of the exterior. I was very interested and just had to try it. I would probably not recommend the hotel during the season, because it also serves as a hostel, so there must be a lot of noise. It was quiet during my stay. In total, the hotel cost me CHF 480. I paid on departure and the bank took €513.33. It works out to about €128 per night. And this hotel was worth it. It was more modern and I got an upgrade from a single room to a double room with a view of the Alps.

I deliberately looked at Waterford now, because we have a few hotels here and those that already have prices on Booking.com for the beginning of September also report one night for around €120. Ireland is insanely expensive at this.

Transportation

Public transport in Switzerland is also not exactly cheap, and just like accommodation, you won’t save much on it. Or do you? During my preparation for my Swiss trip, I found out that as a tourist I can buy the so-called Swiss Travel Pass, which pays for all trains, buses, trams, s-bahns, cruise ships and gives me a discount on cable cars and offers free entry to 500 museums throughout Switzerland. I will not go into more details in this article, you will see that in the next article about how I prepared for this trip. In the end I saved about €100 and it also gave me flexibility (with this pass you don’t have to book tickets, you just get on when you need and go. All rides are unlimited, so you can ride as needed).

I bought an eight-day pass for CHF 389 to cover all days except arrival. The bank took €436. This works out to around €54 per day. But the Swiss Travel Pass is not a daily credit, it is an unlimited pass. When I checked the prices of trains and cable cars to the destinations I wanted to visit, I found out that without STP I would have paid around €500 and I would have had to buy tickets and watch the times and… This gave me real freedom. And I also saved money.

Just to give you an idea. For example, the train to Lugano would cost me CHF 130 and that includes the return ticket. The trip takes about 3 hours. In addition, I didn’t catch the train back to Zurich at the time I was planning to and left an hour later. In such cases, one would lose the ticket and have to buy a new one. Because I had STP, I didn’t lose anything and didn’t have to buy anything 🙂

I also want to add that I used the cable car twice – in Lugano on Monte Bre and in Grindelwald on First. They gave me a discount both times. In Lugano, a return trip cost me CHF 13. In Grindelwald, one way was CHF 16 – however, the trip took about 20 minutes. I didn’t have STP when I arrived, so the s-bahn from the airport to the center cost me CHF 6.80.

In Switzerland they have several different such passes and not only for tourists. Most of the population, if not all, use the so-called half-fare card and thus save half on the fare. We don’t have anything like that in Ireland. If you’re not a student (or a pensioner/disabled person – both groups ride for free), then you’re out of luck and won’t save much. We only have the so-called Leap card, which is also available for tourists. One has to top it up with credit, like a phone or an Oyster card in London. The only advantage of the Leap card is that you don’t have to carry loose change for fares and buy tickets, and you get about a 30 percent discount on the ticket. The Leap card does not work on long-distance trains, you simply pay the full price there. But then again, I have to say that the trains here are not that expensive. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of them either. In Switzerland, you can reach the Alps from one side of the country by train. In Ireland, you usually only get between the big cities. Buses are more frequent here.

This is the current Irish Railways map. Don’t be fooled, there are plenty of places you just can’t get to by train in Ireland (for example Waterford – Cork – we have to go to Limerick and back down but to get to Limerick, we have to change several times and the journey takes 4+ hours!):

For comparison, a map of train tracks in 1920 on the left, 2020 on the right:

Food, souvenirs and other expenses

In addition to given things like accommodation and transport, you also have to eat something, you want to buy souvenirs and so on.

I hardly ate anything for the first few days because of the heat. But I’ve been to Coop several times anyway. I only visited Lidl in Interlaken. Coop is expensive, probably like Jednota in the Czech Republic, or Supervalu and Dunnes Stores in Ireland. There was another shop in Zurich, I don’t remember the name, but both shops were the same in terms of price. A package of ham cost me CHF 3.85. One liter of sparkling water for CHF 1.10. They sell half a liter of water for CHF 0.65. One banana cost me CHF 0.45. Pastries cost between CHF 0.80 and 1.80 per piece. It depends on where you buy it and if it is sweet or savoury.

On the other hand, every day at 4 pm, Coop discounts a lot of products by half. So I bought fresh blueberries for CHF 2.80 and 250 grams of blackcurrants for CHF 1.30. We don’t even have that in Ireland. I also bought a Caesar salad with big beautiful pieces of chicken and it cost me CHF 8.95. From what I’ve seen here, it’s roughly the same price, if not cheaper.

As for Lidl, I didn’t do much shopping there because it wasn’t along my way and I didn’t have the time or mood to run around Interlaken many times. But the cheese I buy at home cost about the same and everything else too.

The first night in Interlaken, I bought a Hawaii pizza from a nearby take away to try. I took the smaller size (I think) and even though it tasted good, it cost me CHF 18 and that was simply expensive. I have to say, however, that even my favorite Apache Pizza in Ireland has also become quite expensive 🙁

I think Burger King cost me CHF 15.30. That was for a wrap and fries. It’s generally expensive (it was a Sunday night and everything was already closed or sold out so I didn’t have much choice) but I don’t know if it’s expensive compared to Ireland and other countries because I don’t normally eat fast food.

The SIM card cost me CHF 20. For 7 days. Crazy. Unfortunately, this is also one of those expenses on which you have no way to save. Honestly, I would be fine without socials for 9 days, but Google maps are simply a must and it’s not like ten years ago that you have free Wi-Fi everywhere.

Souvenirs are expensive. But what would the trip of a lifetime be if I didn’t bring one?? The magnets cost at least CHF 5, but I chose very, very nice ones. Then, of course, postcards and finally stamps. They cost me around CHF 40 if I remember correctly. No, I didn’t bring the cheeses from Switzerland (btw, I looked at them in supermarkets, but a) they are huge blocks and b) very very expensive).

So how much did this trip cost me roughly?

Flights€190
Hotel 2x (2x 4 nights)€565 + €513
Transportation€436 + €7 (s-bahn from the airport) + €14 (cable car in Lugano) + €17 (cable car at First)
Other expenses (total amount without jacket)€372 (this includes food, souvenirs, SIM card and everything else)
GRAND TOTAL€2114

Conclusion

In a total of approximately 8 and a half days. It’s a lot of money, I won’t deny it. But I paid for the flight tickets in June. Hotels then closer or right during the vacation (but I had the option to pay them right away). So these three big items are not lumpy and one has a bit of flexibility. Pocket money of around €400 is not bad at all.

On the other hand, you can sleep in hostels or via Couchsurfing – thus saving money on accommodation. If you want to save on transportation, stay in one location (probably the best would be somewhere near the mountains, so you can go on hikes – they’re free). If necessary, rent a car, but gas and parking fees may not be cheap.

But in my opinion, Ireland would not be any better, mainly because accommodation and flights to Dublin are not exactly the cheapest either. Prices for food in shops and restaurants have also risen nicely over the past year. You will also pay a lot if you want to see the Emerald island.

Switzerland is expensive. And it’s not a cheap vacation. But if I couldn’t afford it, I wouldn’t fly there (I was saving money for this trip like my life depended on it). Some people will pay that much to stay by the pool at some exotic resort. I don’t like that. I want to see and experience something. In my opinion, one should enjoy themselves on vacation and maybe spend more than usual and just indulge. After all, the money stays but we won’t.