Upon arrival to Geneva we roamed a bit through the airport to find a place to eat. We were stopped by a friendly old man who asked us if he could be of any help. We responded by saying that we are looking for a cheap place to grab a bite. His answer was straight forward: ‘There is nothing cheap about Switzerland, but we might be able to find something that is somewhat affordable’.
He was absolutely right. Switzerland is not one of those budget destinations where you can survive on few Euros a day, but I had a budget to stick to. Incredibly I managed it, even though we were spending a week in one of the most expensive tourist destinations of Europe, Zermatt.
So how did I manage to spend only 200 Euros, on a 7 day holiday, in one of the most expensive countries in the whole world? Here is a breakdown for you.
The biggest trick was saving money on a transport. My plan from the very start was to hitchhike. I'd read a few different accounts on the internet before arrival, some of which said that Switzerland is great. Others warned me that the Swiss are not that trustworthy and don’t pick up vagabonds like us. We hitchhiked all together 3 times, twice travelling only short distances and the third time from Täsch back to Geneva (234 km). All three times we managed to get a ride, we did so, with non swiss nationals. Luckily for us though Switzerland is a big tourist destination and there are plenty of opportunities to hitch a ride with someone other than a Swiss.
How did we get to Zermatt? We arrived to Switzerland with 2 friends of ours who rented a car at the aiport for a whole week and were doing a little road trip, so we just hitched a ride with them to Zermatt and split the cost of the car rental and gas between 4 of us. When it comes down to travelling with a car (which isn't electric), Täsch is as far as you can go, which is situated 6 km away from Zermatt. From there you have to get the train or walk. A round trip on the train costs 16 Francs (ca. €13). The reason being is that Zermatt is a car free, and therefore pollution free city. The only cars that you will see are small electric ones that are very quiet so be careful not to get run over by them!!!
Another form a transport that we used around Zermatt to take us up to the mountains was the gondolas. Sounds good right? Well here's the downside; single prices for the Gondolas are brutal, a one way ride can cost you up to 60 Euros!!! If you want to save money you will have to do a lot of trekking, which wasn’t really a big problem for us, because that was the purpose of our trip!
To make a long story short we took 2 trips on the gondolas:
From Furi to Trockener Steg – Cost 0 Francs/person (I found 2 unused tickets lying on a trekking path the day earlier. I felt like I just won a lottery ticket!)
From Riffelalp to Zermatt – Cost: 31 Francs/person = Ca. €26/person
Before even going to Switzerland I already knew that even hostels won’t be affordable for us if we wanted to stick to the budget. Hostels in Zermatt cost around 30-50 Euro/night, so we just went for camping.
Very close to the train station in Zermatt there is a good size campsite with great facilities; hot showers, cleanish toilets and 24 access to electricity. This is available for just 12 francs (€10) per person/day. We just showed up there with our tent without a reservation, found a good spot for pitching and we were all set. The campsite is managed by a very old guy, who is somewhat forgetful so make sure to always keep the receipts of your payments. That was the advice we got from other campers and I am glad we stuck to it. The reception is open only for a few hours in the morning and late afternoon so if you happen to arrive late in the evening then just set up your tent and register the next day!
If you are planning a budget trip to Zermatt then forget about luxuries like eating out in restaurants or drinking in bars. The prices are ridiculous. The starting price of a meal is around 25 francs (ca. €20). There is McDonalds on the main street, but even that wasn’t cheap (12 francs/€10 for a Menu, which we said no to!). Throughout the whole stay we were getting supplies in the Supermarkets. There are 3 of them in a close proximity to the campsite and one (Coop, opposite of the train station) even had a microwave. Whilst the food prices in supermarket are much higher in comparison to Germany, they were still much lower than restaurant prices. We were spending 20 francs (ca. €16) a day for both of us. That is less than one meal in a ‘budget’ restaurant in Zermatt!
My recommendation would be to bring with you a small camping cooking set, but since we only had carry-on luggage with us on the plane, including our photography equipment, a cooking stove was something we couldn’t take. Looking back on it now I would have probably booked one check in luggage. Lesson learned.
There are loads of outdoor activities in Zermatt like paragliding, mountain biking, year round skiing etc. but they are all very pricey, so we went for the cheapest option: hiking. It is completely free and gives you a chance to experience the stunning views of the Matterhorn and other peaks at your own pace, plus provides you with an overwhelming sense of achievement upon reaching the destination. We did 4 treks altogether, that I will write about in another post.
If you are a travel blogger like me, then it is probably important for you to stay connected with the world. There is free internet in the tourist office right next to the central station. It works very well. There are also Ipads that you could use for checking your emails, but they were rather slow. I just used my own device. If that fails buy small fries from McDonalds and use the wifi there.
So how much did I actually spend in a week?
Transportation: 47 Francs
Accommodation: 72 Francs
Food: 70 Francs
Miscellaneous: 30 Francs
Total* 220 Francs = ca. €200
As you can all see, even countries like Switzerland can be affordable to budget travellers like myself. You just have to be willing to make sacrifices and be open to new experiences. Seeing a new place is going to be enough of a reward.
* The total doesn’t include the flight from Berlin which was 66 Euro roundtrip between Berlin – Geneva - Berlin with easyjet airlines.
Have you ever been to Zermatt or Switzerland in general? What was your experience? I would love to hear it in the comments!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am Marta Kulesza - the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me somewhere in the mountains.