For years we’ve steered clear of these pricey cities (and the country in general), assuming that Switzerland was simply inhospitable to budget travelers. With many hotels starting north of $250, how could any Cheapo afford to visit?
It’s the kind of budget travel challenge we love, however. After pounding the (immaculately clean) pavement in both cities, we’re thrilled to announce our new guides. Here are a few things we found along the way:
We found several Geneva hotels under $125 a night, (CHF 125) including some in the heart of the Old Town. Visit during the spring and fall for the lowest rates, and remember that, as Geneva’s hotels are often packed with business travelers, weekends tend to be cheaper.
Although Zurich can even be more expensive than Geneva, we found 10 central hotels in Zurich with rates under $130 a night (CHF 130), including some three-star hotels. Rates are similarly cheaper during the shoulder season and weekends, and clear of convention dates. (Check out the convention schedule ahead of time on Zurich’s Web site.)
Easy ways to save
We were happy to find that most museums in Geneva charge less than CHF 10 (about $10) for admission, and many charged quite a bit less. Even better, as we note in our budget tips article, many museums are free to enter, including the Maison Tavel, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Musée de Carouge and the Natural History Museum!
Zurich’s museums are surprisingly affordable, with most charging about CHF 10-15 (about $10-15). However, we recommend that serious sightseers spring for the ZurichCARD, which covers admission to all city museums and public transportation, and even offers some shopping and dining discounts. Read more in our Zurich budget tips article.
Geneva’s efficient public transit is a gift to budget travelers: Anyone staying in a hotel, hostel or campground is given a Geneva Transport Card, granting free transportation on the city’s buses, trams and trolleys. Read more about getting around Geneva.
Zurich charges CHF 5.20 (about $5) for a daily transportation pass (or CHF 25.60 for six days, about $25), although many sights are accessibly by foot. However, Cheapos are encouraged to hop on Zurich’s free bike program. Pedal off some of that delicious rösti! (Read more about Zurich transportation.)
What are you waiting for? With a little advance planning, both Geneva and Zurich can be on your budget travel itinerary. There’s simply no reason to miss Swiss.