7 Tips for eating more cheaply in Switzerland
Switzerland conjures up many images. On one side, there are majestic mountains, big banks sheltering people’s money, precision watches, an orderly society; and, of course, delicious chocolates.
Switzerland is a foodie’s paradise, famous for its delectable platters. Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, and sterling good quality wine are all available in abundance in all of the city’s food outlets.
But those majestic mountains, stunning scenery, and delicious foods come at a price: Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world.
So, how do you get all that Swiss goodness into your stomach without shelling out hundreds of Swiss francs? Here is all you need to know about how to eat cheaply in Switzerland so that you can avoid breaking the bank on your trip and make the most of your stay:
1. Avoid Restaurants In The Cities
You would essentially find it expensive to eat at a trendy restaurant in larger cities like Geneva and Zurich. A hearty steak would run you anything from 35 CHF to 150 CHF (Swiss currency-Franc symbol), and spaghetti or mushrooms would cost at least 20 CHF (Swiss currency-Franc symbol).
The first low-cost option is fast food restaurants. If you don’t care too much about your health, MC Donalds can be a moderate option for not a cost-effective one. A Big Mac could cost you between 12 and 13 CHF (Swiss currency-Franc symbol). There are plenty of Doner kebab shops, and the food there is likewise reasonably priced. Either of these restaurants should serve you a satisfying supper for less than 10 CHF.
2. Shop at Local Groceries
If you’re on a tight budget, you can buy groceries and prepare your own meals. Buy raw materials from the nearest Migros. It is Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain. The chain provides a wide range of fresh foods and other necessities. Search for Action (discounted items) or M-Budget items (which are essentially permanently on discount).
Aside from Migros, there are other budget Swiss supermarkets you can choose from such as Coop, Denner, Aldi and Lidl.
A week’s supply of basic staples such as pasta, rice, bread, and eggs costs between 65 and 95 CHF. Cooking in bulk and eating multiple meals (or sharing with others) is the way to go. Just make sure to book accommodations that include a kitchen.
3. Research is Your Friend
It may sound like an obvious tip, but the kindest thing you can do for your budget is plan which foods you want to try and then figure out the best way to get them cheap. Also, look up popular restaurants in the area where you’re staying and see what people are saying about them on TripAdvisor or even Google Maps.
In general, look for smaller establishments with a high number of positive reviews from locals. They always know where to go to find the best food at the best prices, which is exactly what you’re looking for. Alternatively, ask your Swiss friends if you have any. Nobody should walk into a posh restaurant blindly.
4. Drink from the Public Fountains
A bottle of water costs about $5 in a cafe. You could also save money by drinking from one of Switzerland’s thousands of picturesque fountains. Nearly every town has a fountain where you can fill up pure water straight from the mountains. Some Swiss will tell you that the water served in some restaurants comes from the same fountains.
One golden rule for daytime exploring: carry a reusable bottle with you to save money and reduce your plastic use. It is recommended that you drink water from public fountains because the water is clean and has a balanced ph and will not cause digestive problems. The water is also free of toxins such as arsenic, bromine, and others. The fountains can be found in almost every famous and well-known location throughout the city.
Switzerland has the world’s best tap water.
5. Skip the Tip – Service is Included
No tip is expected. Swiss restaurant prices include a service fee. So the Swiss do not leave a huge tip but usually round up, giving the server a couple of extra francs. On a bill of CHF 57.50, I’d round up to CHF 60 on a bill of CHF 57.50. It’s strange for an American, but it’s completely normal.
If you want to leave a little money that is fine but rests assured that the waiters don’t rely on tips but instead get paid a decent wage for their work.
6. Book Accommodation With Free Breakfast
Free breakfast is key when travelling to expensive countries. Many hotel chains offer a substantial free breakfast with an overnight stay. These breakfasts may not scream amazing, but they’ll give you the fuel you need to take on the day. If you eat right you can skip right through lunch with just a snack and can potentially save more money to splurge on an epic tour covering so many places.
7. When in the Mountains, Eat From the Farms of Local Farmers
Farmers who live in the mountains or the Alps’ foothills grow organic vegetables and fruits that taste good and are healthy enough. Even though there is the option of homestay, which includes food and lodging, they are less expensive than those sold in supermarkets. As a result, it is recommended to eat directly from local farmers because the food is tax and duty-free while also being organic.
This will also give you an authentic Swiss experience.