How THE HELL was I able to afford traveling Switzerland, one of the most expensive countries in the world?! Trust me when I say I lived frruuuugggaaalllll for most of my life, even when I moved out from my parents’ house, I rarely spent money on food (I opted for the cheapest cuts) and never had a problem saving money. I never needed to budget because in my mind it was simple. How do you save up?
You just don’t. Spend. It’s not a secret.
So accumulating some money and working part time all my life, I finally took off to one of the most expensive countries in the world. Switzerland! Oh my goodness, and there’s a good story behind it too.
I’ll give you some pointers on how you can afford and even save money traveling this beautiful country:
ACCOMODATION IN SWITZERLAND:
You will not survive living in Switzerland very long if you’re staying for couple of weeks in hotels, airbnb’s and hostels. That’s why I activated an account on a site called Worldpackers.
“Worldpackers is a work exchange site that enables you to volunteer around the world in exchange for free accommodation (and sometimes other perks like food, free tours, etc). A 1-year membership fee is $49 and if your readers sign up HERE, they get $10 (USD) off.”
^If you sign up for it using the link above, or use the promo code THEFITTY upon checkout, you get $10 off and I also get creditl which helps keep the free content on this blog flowing ^^
Let me tell you how it happened: I was supposed to go to Denmark (when I asked my heart where she wanted to go, she immediately blurted out Denmark!) after carefully selecting my desired destination out of a listing of open places hosting travellers. This place was perfect! It oozed wellness and an intentional community; and since fitness/diet and meaningful connections are very much valued in my life, I applied immediately, imagining the experience of my stay meeting like-minded faeries in the garden. I reached out to them and applied for a stay. I didn’t hear back. Then I reached out to someone that left a recent review of their experience there as a traveler–and to my surprise, she emailed me back saying this center was closing down; that’s why I got no reply. Partly because of the coco V, partly due to an disorganized system, and partly due to lack of finances.
My heart sank. I found the perfect place, and it escaped me. Back to the drawing board, I suppose. I could have just replied with a, “Oh, that’s a shame. Thank you for telling me. Have a great day!”, but I added a little bit more…I asked if I could learn a little bit about her, where she came from, what she learnt from her experience there, and soem tips around traveling.
Did I mention I like making friends? That’s why something in me told me to ask some more. Besides, I was also a first time solo international traveler; of course it doesn’t hurt to learn a thing or two.
She wrote back, not only answering some questions but also with the invitation for me to stay with her in her flat in Switzerland.
JESUS, IF THIS WASN’T A SIGN FROM GOD, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS!
I wrote back.
YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
“Wow, thank you so much! Of course I’d love to stay with you in Switzerland, I’ve always wanted to visit that country too!…”
Clearly, this was an invitation, and I work well with invitations, as per my Projector Human Deisgn type. So now as I’m writing this, I’m in Switzerland. 😀
Lesson: Your intuition will guide you to one area and your mind will think, “Oh, I know what to expect here, this is where I’m supposed to be and this is what I’m expecting it to turn out…”
But really, our minds don’t know a thing. I had to look in Denmark to actually come to Switzerland. It’s funny how our lives are divinely guidedly like so. 🙂
When it comes to saving money, finding an accomodation where you can do an energy exchange (offering time, energy and service to your host) is going to help a lot. You’ll cut costs and make a friend. I swear it’s one of the only ways I’ve been able to afford traveling Switzerland.
FOOD IN SWITZERLAND:
- Less plates to clean
- It saves so much time
- It tastes so much better
- It retains nutrients that would be spoiled if cooked! (Each time you expose food to light heat, or oxygen, less and less nutrients are retained)
First and foremost, I think it goes without saying that you’d save money not eating out and get groceries instead. I remember eating this 1 hot dog for 12 CHF (Swiss Francs), which is around $16 CAD at this time.
In Switzerland, meat is very, very expensive. I’m talking ridiculously expensive. So expensive that I had to resort to breaking my diet and opting for mostly eggs (usually 3.5 CHF for 15) and cheeses. This country is the only country I know that has cheese more affordable (or the same prices) as vegetables! I can’t afford living in Switzerland if I keep buying meat.
The prices in the grocery stores look something like this:
- Take the number that’s listed, divide that by two.
- That’s how much it costs usually in Canada, except that’s the number IN CANADIAN DOLLARS. Not the 1/2 price of whatever is listed in Swiss Francs!
And hey, if you’re here, you’d really be amiss if you didn’t try the cheeses here. Their cows actually graze on grass and get access to outdoor sun and exercise. My skin didn’t break out as much when eating the dairy here and my digestion wasn’t as clogged up compared to dairy in North America (hence why I avoid dairy back at home). The cheese back home taste like PLASTIC compared to the quality here! SERIOUSLY! Their quality is just… *chef’s kiss*
I never liked brie cheese until I tried it in Switzerland. OH MY GOD. I bought 10 Brie cheeses the next day. The lady at the cash must’ve thought I was crazy.
If you’re shopping for groceries, how you can afford Switzerland prices is to shop at Lidl or Aldi; they are German chain grocery stores that are cheaper than the two biggest Swiss chain grocery stores; Coop and Migro’s.
Another tip: if you are along the border of Switzerland and close to a neighbouring country (Germany, France, Italy, or Austria), go there to buy everything. Food, electronics, clothes, everything. When I stayed in a suburb of St. Gallen, I would take a boat across Lake Constance / Bodensee to shop for groceries in Germany.
TRAVEL IN SWITZERLAND:
When it comes to getting around this country, you must have a pass that allows you to use the trains. They take you in and out and around everywhere and anywhere you need to go. I’m so impressed by the intricacy of the system! Literally, you can reach any corner of land through a combination of busses, boats, trains, and trams (street cars). The trains are quite prompt and are scheduled down to the minute. They arrive on time or within 3 minutes of it, never depart earlier, and 95% reliable. Download the SBB app for total country-wide transport. Here are the best passes (instead of buying single tickets; you won’t be able to afford Switzerland unless you’re not traveling much within the country) to get and their pros and cons:
- Convenient; allows you to hop on and off with flexibility on any(unless it’s a private one); bus; train, tram, and boat. Never have to worry about purchasing a ticket for the ride.
- Includes discounts for Cable Car excursions when you go up mountains (some are totally included; most are 50% off)
- Includes the Swiss Museum Pass membership so you can visit over 500 different museums in the country!
- Most popular amongst tourists
- Same features as the Swiss Travel Pass except it’s valid for an entire month (or year if you choose to go wtih the yearly payment) except it doesn’t include the museum pass
- Pay for a pass that allows you to purchase single-tickets for half the price. (Basically a discount card)
- Worth it if you’re not traveling daily, or if you are but only locally. Best used for travel inbetween cities (aka longer distances)
- Great for those that are used to the SBB system
- Single tickets that are puchased prior to the start day of your trip at a discount (% ranges) that is specific to a day and time of the train
- Best used if you are a planner; you’ll know exactly where you will be and when.
- Not flexible. Only available to use at the specified time on the ticket.
- Always check a minimum of the day before your travel (doesn’t have to be 24 hours, as long as it’s 11:59pm or earlier than the day that you’re traveling) for these tickets.
BOTTOM LINE: Trying to afford travel in Switzerland will cost you one of the most expenses. Even the locals think so. Get something that allows for the most flexibility + convenience. I got the Swiss Travel Pass Flex 15 days (you can use the pass 15 days out of 30) and then later on in my trip I got the GA card. I wanted a pass that allows me to have leeway if I wanted to take a detour along the road; and if I made a mistake and missed my stop by getting off too early or late, I wouldn’t need to worry about buying another ticket to make the rest of my trip; this is really important especially if you’re new to the country. I value stress-free travel.
Word of advice: There is no mercy for having the wrong ticket. If the inspector catches you not having a valid ticket, sitting in the wrong seat (1 class or 2nd), or not having a ticket, you are fined 100CHF. For the mental sanity, just skip the headache and get a pass. Hey, I call them the Super B*tchy Boss (SBB) for a reason.
ATTRACTIONS IN SWITZERLAND:
There are many attractions in Switzerland, a lot of them includes museums; that’s why I advise for first time travelers to get the Swiss Travel Pass which includes it so you can afford to experience Switzerland’s culture more. But amongst all the museums, which ones are actually worth visiting?
Trust me, I’ve traveled far to some places that were very underwhelming. Learn from my mistakes! Here are a few tips:
- Visit the Landesmuseum Zurich, Kunstmueum Luzern, Luzern Garden, Bern Historical Museum, Kunstmueum in Basel, Ballenburg Open Museum (I did not visit this because I didn’t have the chance, but man what I’d give to see it!), Abbey District of St Gall (especially their Harry Potter-esque library!)
- Swiss Transport Musuem in Luzern –> only interesting if you’re into automobiles
- There are a TON of historical, natural, and art museums. At some point, they all start to look the same and it gets a bit of a blur. Not every one of them is worth visiting. Pick and choose 1-2 you’d like to spend time in, and preferably big ones so you make the most of your time and trip there.
- Same tip as above with churches/cathedrals.
- Do a mountain excursion! You’re in the land of the alps; at least visit a few hikes like Rigi, Stanserhorn, Titlus, Jungfraujoch…etc! The views are stunning.
- Take a boat trip.
- Appenzell District is very quaint and traditional. I spent a lot of time around here hiking to my heart’s content.
- Browse old towns.
- Browse old castles, like Chillon (the best castle of them all, in my opinion)
To see some more key features of places I’ve visited, see some of my previous posts and also youtube videos!
Bottom line; BE PREPARED TO SPEND. Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries out there, there’s no escaping it; it’s hard to be frugal. Remember that you didnt travel all this way to live a half-assed experience! You’ve come too far and spent too long on the plane already. Allow yourself some forgiveness and leeway to expand your threshold for spending.
Money you can always earn back; time you will not.
Hopefully you’re more optimistic about affording Switzerland now with these tips. So…when are you thinking about visiting Switzerland? Are you at all daunted by the price of living here? You can afford to spend more in Switzerland. You deserve it.
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