For members


EXPLAINED: How to save money on holiday in Switzerland

Yes, this may sound like an oxymoron, since ‘Switzerland’ and ‘money saving’ are not usually used in the same sentence. But despite what you may think, you can cut some of your costs while vacationing in this expensive country.

EXPLAINED: How to save money on holiday in Switzerland
Renting in the Austrian Alps - even in the countryside - will set you back more than many rents in Vienna will. Photo: Pixabay

The first thing to note is the situation may be tricky for visitors from the eurozone, as well as the United States, as the exchange rate is not favourable if you convert your currency into francs.

At the exchange rate at the time of this writing, the euro is worth 98 (Swiss) cents, which for 1 USD you will get  90 cents.

This means you will get less bang for your buck (or euro) this year, but you can still bring your costs down while visiting Switzerland.

This is how.

Choose your accommodation carefully

If you stay in a 5-star hotel in notoriously expensive cities like Zurich or Geneva, then don’t expect any real bargains (though they may offer some discounts).

If you really want to cut corners, however, choose small hotels outside of city centres, or AirBnB rentals, which you will do well to book in advance.

An even better (in terms of cost) alternative may be the ‘Zimmer Frei’ option — which are equivalent to Bed and Breakfast lodgings in other countries.

Many of these are rooms rented out in private houses in rural locations. This will give you not only cheaper accommodation, but also a better sense of how people live in Swiss countryside.

Another affordable (compared to conventional hotels) option is camping — the only costs you will incur if you travel in your own motor home are fuel and camping ground fees.

There are over 100 motorhome camping sites spread out across all regions of Switzerland. 

READ ALSO: Is wild camping allowed in Switzerland?

This may be your cheapest ‘housing’ option. Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

Guest card

If you do opt for a hotel, many, especially the ones in cities, offer a free ‘guest card’ that will allow you to use public transport in that location for free and to benefit from discounts on numerous attractions and activities.

This link provides information on some of the places where this card is available, and what it entitles you to. 

If your hotel doesn’t provide these cards to their guests, you can buy one from the local tourist office for a discounted price.

Public transport discount

You can purchase a Swiss travel pass for fixed, consecutive number of days, for unlimited travel on the public transport network, which includes trains, buses, boats, or all of them combined.

The price for three days in second class is 232 francs for an adult, 164 francs for young people from 16 to 24 years of age, and 116 francs for those aged six to 15 (kids under six travel for free when accompanied by an adult).

These fares are available only to people who live outside of Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

You may argue (and you’d be right) that those prices are not exactly low, but then you didn’t come to Switzerland because everything here is cheap.

However, if you know how much unlimited travel by public transportation usually costs —150 francs per day for an adult without a half-fare card — then you’ll see the difference.

Supersaver tickets

If you don’t plan to travel in Switzerland on fixed, consecutive days, and are flexible about the dates and times, you can do it quite cheaply.

With the so-called ‘supersaver tickets’ (Sparbillette / billets dégriffés / biglietti risparmio), you can save up to 70 percent off the regular price, travelling all over Switzerland on most public transportation, with the exception of routes within a regional fare network.

This is how you can buy your supersaver ticket online, according to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB): 

  • Enter the route and day of travel
  • You can see whether supersaver tickets are available.
  • Select the preferred connection, and pay and print out your supersaver ticket.

Each time you make a timetable enquiry, supersaver tickets will automatically be displayed, provided they are available.

You can travel by boat with your public transport card (here a steamboat on Lake Geneva that travels between Switzerland and France). Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay


If you are not staying somewhere where you can buy and prepare your own food, then your best bet are supermarket restaurants.

While they may not be ideal venues for a romantic candlelight dinner, both Migros and Coop have self-service restaurants (although not at all locations), where you can eat relatively cheaply.

A meal there (depending on what you take) can cost less than 15 francs — which is a good deal in Switzerland.

Manor department stores will also have their own eatery called Manora. They are bit more expensive than the former two — but still cheaper than regular restaurants.

Is anything actually free in Switzerland?

Surprisingly, yes.

Aside from a number of landmarks and other attractions you can see without paying, you can fill your bottle with clean, cold potable water from nearly every public fountain in Switzerland.

Only the few which have a “no drinking water” sign (L’eau non potable/ Untrinkbares Wasser/ Acqua imbevibile) clearly posted should be avoided.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the drinking water in Switzerland

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For members


What makes Switzerland’s Alpine pasture season worthy of global recognition?

Switzerland's Alpine pasture season has been included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. But what makes it so special?

What makes Switzerland’s Alpine pasture season worthy of global recognition?

Why are Swiss Alpine pastures in the news?

On Wednesday, UNESCO announced it had inscribed 45 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its annual session held in Kasane (Republic of Botswana).

The list comprises cultural “practices and expressions [that] help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance.” 

Among this year’s new elements were two Swiss entries, one of which is the country’s popular Alpine pasture season.

What is Switzerland’s Alpine pasture season?

As an exemplary tradition of the Swiss mountain areas, the Alpine pasture season combines traditional skills, customs and rituals related to Alpine farming in Switzerland.

The Alpine pasture season takes place from around May to October in Switzerland when various cattle, sheep and goats are relocated to high-altitude pastures (between 600 metres and 2900 metres) to graze on fresh forage and herbs that thrive in the summer months.

The Alpine farmers, or Alpacists, then look after the livestock and their surroundings, produce different dairy products, and even invite visitors to observe the animals and farming practices.

“The practice contributes to the preservation of natural landscapes and creates economic and social ties between the local populations and the Alpine farmers. It has given rise to the knowledge and skills needed to maintain the sites, as well as to a variety of social and religious practices such as rituals, prayers and blessings, traditional clothing, livestock competitions and local festivities,” UNESCO writes.

Some of these practices also include “traditional clothing, livestock competitions and local festivals” like the Alpine cattle ascent (inalpe) and the Alpine cattle descent (désalpe) where – depending on the region – the most beautiful cow of the herd is crowned.

Festivals to celebrate the herd animals heading to their summer pastures play a vital role for farmers and locals as they highlight craft practices that are otherwise rarely observed in Switzerland.

“The knowledge, skills, and customs of the Alpine pasture season, including farming and cheesemaking, are often transmitted informally, within families and their seasonal employees or among members of Alpine societies and cooperatives. They are also transmitted through regional training centres, cultural events and tourism,” UNESCO says.

READ MORE: Why are cows so important in Switzerland?

UNESCO also recognises Swiss irrigation technology

Switzerland’s cattle weren’t the only ones to join UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity this year.

Its centuries-old irrigation technology from Bern and Lucerne also made the cut.

The multinational agricultural technology was proposed for inclusion on the UNESCO list by Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Germany, zentralplus reported.

According to UNESCO, traditional irrigation involves temporarily digging small ditches and channels to distribute water from as springs, rivers, streams, and glaciers to meadows.

This sustainable form of water supply, which serves to cultivate dry areas, also has a positive effect on biodiversity.

In Switzerland, this technology is celebrated with various social gatherings and other festivities to mark the start and ending of the water season.

UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity also includes six other Swiss entries.

These include the Craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics (2020), the Holy Week processions in Mendrisio (2019), Alpinism (2019), the Avalanche risk management (2018), Art of dry stone walling, knowledge and techniques (2018), the Basel Carnival (2017), and the Winegrowers’ Festival in Vevey (2016).

Since 2020, the craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation – which include Switzerland – also joined UNESCO’s Register of Good Safeguarding Practices and falls within the agency’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

READ MORE: The 13 world heritage sites in Switzerland you need to see