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What's so expensive about Switzerland?

Hi, I spent two days in Switzerland as part of a RS GAS tour in 2010. I incurred expenses for meals that weren't covered (one dinner, lunch, drinks), and the cable car to the Schilthorn. I didn't find it to be crazy expensive. I'm thinking about another trip to Switzerland in 2016. I've mentioned it to a few people and the first thing they say is "It's so expensive!" What am I missing?

Posted by
20321 posts

A lot has happened in the last 5 years. In the summer of 2010, the USD was worth slightly more than 1 CHF. Now the USD is worth about 6 cents less than a chf, so everything is about 8% more expensive than 5 years ago.
Meanwhile, back in 2010 a single euro was worth about 1.30 USD, and now it is only worth about 1.10 USD. So in 5 years, most of Europe has gotten 15% or so cheaper in USD terms, while Switzerland has gotten 8 % more expensive.
You notice it now whenever you cross the border. It's hurting Switzerland's economy, both the tourism and manufacturing, but there is not much they can do about it. They tried to hold a peg of 1 euro to 1.2 chf, but the Swiss National Bank couldn't keep it up and stopped this January, and the euro and the chf immediately went to equality. It has since bounced slightly to 1 euro equal to 1.04 chf.
Jump back to 2002 it was 1 USD was 1.4 chf, and prices seemed reasonable to me. They've gone up almost 50% since then. But then there is only one Switzerland, so pony up and pay the price or stay away, there are not any other places quite like it. As long as the world's shady billionaires insist on stashing their money in Switzerland, it is likely to stay pricey.

Posted by
8209 posts

An option would be to stick to the Austrian Alps if you're looking for incredibly beautiful mountains and great accommodations.

Posted by
32244 posts

"As long as the world's shady billionaires insist on stashing their money in Switzerland, it is likely to stay pricey."

I vaguely recall that the IRS managed to get the Swiss to divulge the name of some of these billionaires, at least those that are subject to U.S. taxes. No doubt there were a lot of people unhappy with that, but not a problem as they've found other places to hide their money.

Aside from the exchange rate, I also find the prices a bit high there.

Posted by
3392 posts

$40 for a pizza
$10 for a roll with one slice of ham
$160 to fill the car with gas
$90 for a lunch consisting of wine, soup and salad for 3
I think that's expensive.
Was there for three weeks two summers ago and budgeted $150 per day NOT INCLUDING LODGING OR RENTAL CAR. That ended up being about right.

Posted by
7209 posts

RS Tours must be a great insulator for their travelers. Otherwise you would have had an eye-opening experience.

Posted by
2921 posts

Hey Donna,

Expensive is different for every person. For us, we can easily spend two days/nights in the Austrian or Bavarian alps for the price of one day/night in Switzerland. Been to Switzerland once. Been to Austria and Bavaria 11 times.

Price of the Schilthorn is over $120 per person. in comparison, the Dachstein trip in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria is around $40. Same with the Zugspitze from Austria.


Posted by
5356 posts

The Swiss authorities have been back in the market today buying euro to try to sustain its value.

Posted by
995 posts


Yap, we've got a lot in Euros. Last report shows us holding Euro Bonds equal to the deficit of they seven biggest EuroGroup nations - and they say Germany finances the Euro ;-)

Posted by
12040 posts

"What's so expensive about Switzerland?" In my experience, everything except the wine. At least the air is free to breathe.

With the exception of the seldom-visited-by-foreign-tourists mountain resort of Flumserberg, I've found that the costs for equivalent meals, lodging and activities can run from 1.5 to 3 times more in the Swiss Alps than in Bavaria or Austria.

Posted by
9363 posts

On a tour, you aren't paying for your own transportation or housing. And two days five years ago isn't much to go by.

Posted by
2145 posts

Thanks everyone for your informative and helpful responses! Another thread gave us a heads up that there will be a new RS Switzerland tour for 2016. I loved the little I have seen of the Swiss and French Alps and thought it would be a nice trip. We'll have to check out the itinerary and price when it's announced in August. Thanks for your help!

Posted by
4554 posts

Also remember that tour companies like Rick are paying closer to wholesale than you will. So you might not have felt the sting of dining and shopping.

I was so surprised to cross over into France after several days in Switzerland and feeling like just buying stuff because it seemed so affordable!

Posted by
3984 posts

We stayed in Zug Switzerland for 1 month four years ago. The food prices were very expensive for us: 7 euro bratwurst from a street vender, 40 euros for a pizza to 30 euro for an uncooked chicken at the market. We had friends from Germany come to visit us for a few days and they said the only thing people cross the border to buy (Germany into Switzerland) was gasoline for their cars. They said the tax was higher in Germany.

When we stayed in western Switzerland for a month even more years ago, the family who's house we were staying in recommended that we drive to France to buy our groceries.

Perhaps taking an organized tour would help take the sting out of the food prices especially!

Posted by
3984 posts

The prices I posted were accurate at the time for the exchange rate. I should clarify that the pizza wasn't for the typical individual size pizza but a larger size-- we were looking for an affordable restaurant for 8 family members in Lausanne that day and ended up ordering 3 pizzas and other things to share at a restaurant no longer in business in CH. The expensive raw chicken was at a butcher shop and when I saw the price I went back to the Coop and bought some less expensive packaged pieces because we were hosting dinner for 7 at our house that evening. The brat was sold by a vendor at the Swiss National Day festival by the lake. We had just returned from little trip from Munich so I was comparing it to the less expensive brats sold in Germany.

That's all I can add to help clarify things.

Posted by
4554 posts

to second Aniol, we popped into some bigger supermarkets looking for breakfast fixings (which is a very smart thing to do BTW so you can eat in your room) and were scanning prices, found that yes they weren't so far out of line. Keep in mind that you will need your own shopping bags in most places, and there are self-serve checkout options.

One night we also bought a roasted chicken to take back to our room for dinner, bought some prepared veggies and bread and voila, cheap dinner.

Posted by
2297 posts

If you stay in a hotel (anything above hostel standard) in one of the popular tourist centres and plan to eat out in restaurants most of your meals, then yes, Switzerland is going to be very expensive.

You can cut down on cost substantially by renting a vacation apartment and doing your own grocery shopping and cooking most of your own meals. It's still higher in cost than in the neighbouring countries (in fact, we bought our groceries in a German Aldi discount store before crossing the border into Switzerland) but not outrageously so. Actually, I thought Italy was more expensive for us.

If you take an organized bus tour, calculations are very different as the tours operators get different prices than the individual traveler.

For people living in Switzerland, living expenses are again different and quite high in international comparison. Though countries like Norway or even Ireland are in a similar league ...