Cost of Living in Zurich

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Cost of living in Zurich
The cost of living in Zurich is high, even by the standards of an already expensive country. Aside from accommodation, transport, food and education, expats will also have to pay various taxes, licence fees and insurance premiums.  

The 2017 Mercer Cost of Living survey ranks Zurich as the fourth most expensive of 209 cities around the world. However, its high living costs are mitigated by high salaries, high purchasing power and a good quality of life. It's important for expats to anticipate what their living expenses in Zurich will be, so they can negotiate a good salary and plan ahead.

Cost of accommodation in Zurich

Most residents, including the locals, rent in Zurich, so there’s stiff competition for relatively few available properties. Expats could spend between a fifth and a third of their income on monthly rent.

It is important for expats to choose where they live in Zurich very carefully. Taxes in Switzerland differ according to location, and urban centres will have their own specific rates. City areas with wealthy residents and commercial zones often have lower tax rates. This can benefit individuals who aren’t as well-off if they find the right property. Smaller areas with average-income residents might have lower rentals but higher taxes. 

Renters will also have to pay their own utility bills, which generally amount to the equivalent of about 10 percent of the rent. TV and radio licence fees are also something worth taking into account when considering utility payments. 

Expats living in Zurich should get into the habit of recycling. The council taxes residents per garbage bag and one can save a considerable amount by separating their rubbish into plastic, glass and aluminium and disposing of these at free recycling sites around Zurich. 

Cost of healthcare in Zurich

In line with Swiss law, private healthcare is compulsory in Zurich and expats will need to get covered within three months of their arrival.

Health insurance is by no means cheap in Switzerland. However, it is worth shopping around to find a suitable package for one's individual needs. Expats on any form of long-term medication should check whether this is covered by their health insurance policy. Furthermore, it is important to note that dental treatment is not covered by health insurance.

Cost of transport in Zurich

While Zurich's public transportation network is excellent and extensive, it is by no means cheap. Regular users should invest in monthly and annual transport passes which will save them a considerable amount of money in the long term.

The city is divided into transport zones. There often isn’t a big difference in rental prices between Zurich and its outskirts – so many expats find that living closer to work is the best way to save, and gives them the option of commuting by bicycle. However, residents will need to buy an extra ticket if they wish to transport their bicycle on the train. 

Owning and maintaining a car in Zurich is very costly, and quite unnecessary for most expats. Public parking fees quickly add up. Drivers also have to pay to park in residential areas, so expats planning on getting a car should check the rates for residential parking when they are searching for a home. 

Cost of education in Zurich

Public schools in Zurich have high standards and are free, but the language of education will be Swiss German. This makes them an unsuitable option for most expats. Those that are planning on settling down in Zurich in the long term and have children young enough to easily adapt may want to consider this option though. Some bilingual schools exist, but tuition at these institutions can be costly – and 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.

Cost of living in Zurich chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for August 2017.
Furnished two-bedroom apartment in city centre
CHF 3,500+
Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment in city centre
CHF 3,200+
Furnished two-bedroom apartment outside city centre
CHF 2,400+
Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment outside city centre
CHF 2,100+
Eggs (dozen)
Milk (1 litre)
CHF 1.80
Rice (1kg)
CHF 2.80
Loaf of white bread
Chicken breasts (1kg)
CHF 29
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
Eating out
Big Mac Meal
 CHF 14
Coca Cola (330ml)
 CHF 4.30
 CHF 5.80
Bottle of local beer
 CHF 7
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
 CHF 116
Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)
 CHF 0.40
Internet (Uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
 CHF 56
Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)
 CHF 171
Taxi rate (per kilometre)
 CHF 3.80 
Bus/train fare in the city centre
 CHF 4.20
Petrol/gasoline (per litre)
 CHF 1.50

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