Cost of living in Switzerland: Your guide

TransferWise content team
08.31.17
4 minute read

Switzerland is a perennially popular expat destination. It's a European and global hub for finance, technology and life sciences, which means there are great, well paid jobs for foreigners in all the major cities. However, it's not cheap. Actually, Zurich is ranked as the most expensive city on the planet (21% more pricey on average than London), and Geneva comes in at number three in world, too.

It's expensive - but the salaries are typically high to match the costs. However, if you’re retiring, temporarily relocating or moving to Switzerland for good, it’s helpful to have a picture of what life there will cost as an expat. Here’s a quick guide to help you avoid surprises later.

How expensive is Switzerland in comparison to the USA, the UK, the EU and Australia?

The official currency in Switzerland is the Swiss franc (CHF on currency exchanges).

You can find out the exact value of your money in CHF, using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide:

  • 1000 GBP = 1,248 CHF
  • 1000 AUD = 732 CHF
  • 1000 EUR = 1,098 CHF
  • 1000 USD = 965 CHF
Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)Transportation (monthly pass)
Geneva, SwitzerlandCHF 1,743CHF 100CHF 70
Bern, SwitzerlandCHF 1,214CHF 100CHF 77
London, UKCHF 2,105CHF 69CHF 165
Sydney, AustraliaCHF 1,916CHF 59CHF 117
New York, USACHF 2,897CHF 72CHF 115

One major factor that adds expense for expats in Switzerland, is the cost of converting money to CHF from your home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, you can be sure that its cut is rolled up in the exchange rate it uses. To get the best deal, you should use an exchange service like TransferWise, which applies the same mid-market rate you’ll find on Google and Reuters. Here, you can find a quick service, and low flat fees to transfer your money, this can be a much better deal than using your bank at home.

What are the general living expenses for Switzerland? How much can you get by on?

Life in Switzerland is pretty pricey. With several cities ranked among the most costly on the planet, you’ll need a healthy bank balance to make the most of your time there. Rent plays a big role in this. Naturally, however, choose to live outside of the cities, and you’ll find the cost of living is much lower.

Living expenses in Switzerland (excluding rent)Geneva average costBern average cost
Single person, per monthCHF 1,444CHF 1,378
Single person, per yearCHF 17,328CHF 16,536
University student, per monthCHF 1,062CHF 1,011
4 person family, per monthCHF 5,362CHF 5,192
4 person family, per yearCHF 64,344CHF 62,304

What are the average salaries for Switzerland?

In keeping with the cost of living, salaries all over Switzerland are high. The salaries shown for reference here are for Geneva. Here, you’ll find some of the best paid dentists, IT managers and financial analysts in the world.

Salary averages for SwitzerlandAverage annual salary
CashierCHF 21,264
CopywriterCHF 58,668
Financial analystCHF 104,355
Graphic designerCHF 34,120
Mobile developerCHF 115,743
Product managerCHF 81,583
ReceptionistCHF 44,381
Software engineerCHF 68,989
TeacherCHF 40,955
Web developerCHF 61,930

How expensive is housing and accommodation in Switzerland?

The amount you pay in rent is a big driver of your overall cost of living. If you’re on a budget, consider life in a smaller city or town, or become one of the many people who work in Switzerland but live over the border in Germany, France or Italy.

Renting in SwitzerlandAverage monthly cost (Geneva)Average monthly cost (Bern)
One bedroom apartment (city centre)CHF 3,003CHF 1,214
One bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)CHF 1,896CHF 851
Three bedroom family home (city centre)CHF 5,832CHF 2,363
Three bedroom family home (outside of city centre)CHF 3,318CHF 1,711
InternetCHF 60CHF 42
Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)CHF 128CHF 126

What about healthcare and dental costs in Switzerland?

It's compulsory to have private health insurance in Switzerland. As an expat you have to arrange that within three months of arriving, and can choose from different policies which range from basic to comprehensive coverage.

Healthcare serviceAverage cost to you
Family doctor check-upCHF 121
Cold medicine for 6 daysCHF 12
Antibiotic prescriptionCHF 34

How much is travel and transportation in Switzerland?

Public transportation in Switzerland is excellent. As you'd expect, in a country famous for their clock making, it runs punctually - but can be expensive.

Transportation and vehicle prices for SwitzerlandAverage cost
Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)CHF 1.51
Monthly bus/transport passCHF 70
Bus ticket, single useCHF 3
Taxi tariff, 8km/5mile journeyCHF 36
Toyota Corolla, newCHF 25,983
VW Golf, newCHF 25,000

How much does education cost?

The Swiss education system is world renowned. Private schools are excellent but expensive, and there are two of continental Europe's best ranked universities here, too (ETH Zurich and EPFL). Foreign students in most cases pay the same (fairly low) tuition fees for universities, plus an additional surcharge.

SchoolAverage cost
Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)CHF 1,980
Private school for lower grades (annual)CHF 23,710
University tuition (University of Zurich)CHF 720 per semester plus additional fees of CHF 500 a semester for international students
University tuition (ETH Zurich)CHF 580 per semester for local and international students alike

Switzerland is a fantastic expat destination, for a permanent move, or just to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new. From picture perfect alpine scenes, to the buzzing, beer fuelled festivals celebrated throughout the country, there's something for everyone in Switzerland. Just measure your finances to make sure you have the budget to enjoy it.

Good luck with your new life in Switzerland!

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