Cost of Living in Switzerland

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Cost of living in Switzerland
Switzerland is almost as famous for its high cost of living as it is for its ski slopes. Three Swiss cities featured in the 2017 Mercer Cost of Living Survey's top ten – Geneva, Zurich and Bern – and rural areas aren't necessarily that much cheaper.

On the other hand, Swiss salaries and living standards are also among the highest in the world. Thanks to efficient public services and well-maintained infrastructure, most expats feel like the high costs are worth it.

Expats moving to Switzerland should still try to anticipate what their living expenses will be and negotiate their contracts accordingly.

It's also important to keep in mind that taxes differ in every canton and costs can differ even between villages.

Cost of accommodation in Switzerland

Most people in Switzerland rent property, and a shortage of apartments has developed as a result. The situation in Zurich and Geneva is especially stark, and stiff competition has resulted in sky-rocketing rental prices – expats should expect accommodation to take up at least 20 percent of their salary. In many cases, they'd also need to pay a three-month deposit up front. 

Paying for refuse collection

In Switzerland, special garbage bags that are priced according to their size are required for trash collection, so households that produce more waste will pay more. Recycling is free, and even expats who aren't especially environmentally conscious can count on a greener life in Switzerland. Exact costs and conditions differ between municipalities.

Cost of transport in Switzerland

Switzerland's extensive and efficient system of public transport can be expensive to use.

Expats who live in an urban centre and plan on commuting regularly should consider purchasing multi-ride passes. For example, a Half Fare pass costs up to 185 CHF per year and entitles commuters to (up to) a 50 percent discount on public transport throughout the country.

Transport costs can be cut down by using bicycles, a popular mode of transit in Switzerland. In order to be allowed to use a bicycle, a person must be of school-going age and be able to pedal with both feet while sitting in the saddle of the bicycle. 

Owning a car in Switzerland is more expensive thanks to supplementary fees and many who can go without a car do. In addition to the cost of importing, buying or leasing a vehicle, expats will need to pay for monthly insurance, canton tax, a parking permit, highway sticker and petrol.

Cost of education in Switzerland

Swiss public schools have high standards and are free, but the teaching language will be the respective canton's official language. Some bilingual schools exist, but tuition at these institutions can be very expensive.

It gets even pricier for expats who'd rather send their children to an international school that teaches their home country curriculum in their home language. Price increases as students age, and can peak at over 35,000 CHF per year.

Cost of health insurance in Switzerland

Swiss health insurance is also likely to take up much of an expat's bank balance. Medical cover is compulsory and can be expensive, although the government does grant subsidies in certain situations. Premiums are based on geographic area rather than salary, so CEOs and regular workers can end up paying similar amounts depending on their package. Premiums can cost anything from about 300 CHF to more than 500 CHF a month.


Cost of living in Switzerland chart 

All prices listed in Swiss Francs (CHF). Based on average prices in Zurich in August 2017.


Furnished two-bedroom house
CHF 3,900
Unfurnished two-bedroom house CHF 3,500
Furnished two-bedroom apartment CHF 2,900
Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment CHF 2,400


Eggs (dozen) CHF 8
Milk (1 litre)  CHF 1.76
Rice (1kg)  CHF 2.63
Loaf of white bread  CHF 2.64
Chicken breasts (500g) CHF 12
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)  CHF 8

Eating out

Big Mac Meal CHF 14 
Coca-Cola (330ml) CHF 4
Cappuccino  CHF 5.50
Bottle of beer (local) CHF 7
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant CHF 100


Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute) CHF 0.40
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)  CHF 50 
Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment) CHF 150


Taxi rate (per kilometre) CHF 3.80
Bus/train fare to city centre CHF 3.15
Petrol/gasoline (per litre)   CHF 1.5

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