A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Budgeting for a two weeks trip to Switzerland

Budgeting for a two weeks trip to Switzerland

Everybody loves reading about travel posts. I believe it is due to the imagination it gives us when we are not physically able to be present in another country.

With global travel slowly recovering to pre-pandemic levels, I too, went on a two weeks trip to Switzerland recently with my other half.

I have been to Switzerland on two previous occasions due to work, so I’m pretty familiar with the surroundings there. For my other half, it will be her second time there so we were excited to be spending two weeks in one of the cleanest and safest countries in the world.

Below is a quick summary of how much we spent on the various segments per person:

Flights (SQ): $1,092

Transport: $560

Accommodations: $1,462

Travel Insurance: $122

Food and Beverages: $600

Attractions: $132

SIM card: $22

Total: ~$4,000

The focus of this post won’t be on my itinerary as all these can be Googled easily, but rather on the budgeting aspect. That said, places we covered include Interlaken – Grindelwald – Lauterbrunnen – Zermatt – Geneva – Zurich.

Flights:

We first made the decision to go for a two weeks holiday back in January 2022, when the Omicron variant situation had just emerged. Nothing seemed certain at that point in time, and everything felt like a gamble. However back then, tickets from Singapore Airlines were still fairly reasonable and they had a policy to amend dates should the situation gets worsened. So we felt that there was not much risk involved. We paid a total of $1,092 including airport taxes which we felt it was a good deal. This could have been even cheaper if we did not choose the forward seats, but we wanted to disembark the plane as soon as possible.

Source: Finance and Toast. Breakdown of the air ticket.

Of course, anxiety still crept in nearing our travel dates as we saw many people around us getting COVID, but thankfully all went well up to the day we were scheduled to travel.

At the airport, I brought my other half to the temporary Krisflyer lounge and we were shocked that there were totally no seats for two. The lounge, which temporarily allowed Krisflyer Elite Gold members to enter, felt like a mess. However, after about 30 minutes of walking back and forth, we managed to find a nice, quiet spot. Do note that typically if your flight is late at night and you enter the lounges at around 9-10pm, it is likely to be quite full since there will be many flights departing Changi Airport between 10pm-2am. For an accurate depiction of what happened back then, you can read this post by Milelion. Thankfully, Singapore Airlines recently announced the opening of the new First Class SilverKris Lounge and the new KrisFlyer Gold Lounge which will ease congestion.

On the plane, we were informed that it was full capacity. We thought we could have the whole row to ourselves but unfortunately couldn’t. We also had to wear masks throughout the 13-hour journey, but thankfully, everyone wore it too (except while eating and drinking) so it felt safe.

Transport:

If you are travelling extensively to see numerous parts of Switzerland, it is recommended to get the Swiss travel pass. Individual train tickets alone will set you back by a hefty amount. Also, don’t bother trying to “cheat” the system by not paying for train or bus tickets. They have conductors on almost all trains and buses to check for fares. The Swiss government is extremely strict on this front, so if you are caught not having a ticket with you, you will be fined CHF 100. Don’t take the risk on this.

The Swiss travel pass covers most trains, trams, and buses, and also includes discounts on certain attractions. Also, having a Swiss travel pass will save you precious time from purchasing each ticket individually and we wanted our trip to be as fuss-free as possible. Trains, trams, and buses are relatively punctual and reliable, so you can gauge the timing from Google Maps.

Do also remember to print out your physical copy of the Swiss travel pass as conductors will check it from there.

Tip: We bought our Swiss travel pass from KKDay and were entitled to 10% off. Do check periodically for ongoing promotions. It’s all about saving money, isn’t it!

Source: Wiki, SBB CFF FFS. If you have ever wondered what does SBB CFF FFS stands for, it is actually the initials of its German, French, and Italian names for the Swiss federal train. Schweizerischen Bundesbahnen (SBB), Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses (CFF), Ferrovie Federali Svizzere (FFS).

Accommodations:

We just had one criteria when it comes to accommodations – that is to adhere to approx CHF 100 per night per person. In most cases, we manage to stick well below the budget, except for Zurich where prices were significantly higher. Why CHF 100? Simply because it was the budget that I’m comfortable with and having a guideline like this keeps me disciplined in my spending. We chose hotels instead of Airbnb as the price difference was not significant and we preferred the cleanliness standard that the hotels have to adhere to. That said on my previous trips to Switzerland, I have stayed in Airbnbs before and they worked out just fine too.

Also, one tip that my other half recommended was to choose packages with hotel breakfast. This saved us the headache from thinking about what to eat every morning, and in hindsight, it actually made our day better on a full stomach. Furthermore, most hotels in Switzerland offer the typical western breakfast that includes coffee, tea, pastries, selection of meat and cheese so you’ll never go wrong with it.

In terms of booking the actual accommodations, we took a gamble and booked our hotels around March, which was 1+ months before our trip. Doing so gave us the visibility to assess the COVID-19 situation. While most hotels allow you to cancel 3-7 days before your credit card is charged, it was still a risk for us because what if one of us had contracted COVID-19, we would have likely forfeited part if not all of the costs of the hotel. Another tip that I discovered – should you decide to prepay accommodations in advance and/or book through Agoda or Booking.com, you can be entitled to ShopBack’s cashback. See below for some of the savings we accumulated through our bookings from Agoda and Booking.com.

Source: Finance and Toast. Fun fact: Agoda is a subsidiary of Booking.com.

Travel Insurance:

Travel insurance is a must, especially in uncertain times like these. We used Moneysmart’s best travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage as a guide, and ultimately decided on the AXA Smart Traveller for a total cost of $122 for a two weeks trip as it does provide good overseas hospitalization coverage and quarantine allowance if touch wood, something happens. Price wise, it was also very reasonable for our budget.

Travel insurance Premiums COVID-19 Medical expenses   COVID-19 Overseas hospital cash  COVID-19 Overseas quarantine allowance COVID-19 Trip cancellation
FWD $124 $200,000 $100 per day up to 14 days $50/day (max 14 days) Up to $5,000
AIG $158 $100,000 $50/day (14 days) Up to $2,500
Allianz $179 $1,000,000 None Up to $15,000
AXA $153 $75,000 $1,000 max $350 max Up to $1,000
Sompo $201 $100,000 $50/day

$700 max

(separate from overseas quarantine allowance)

$50/day

$700 max

(separate from overseas hospital cash)

Up to $2,000
NTUC Income $444 $150,000 $100/night

$1,400 max

Up to $2,000
Starr $129 $100,000 Up to $1,000

Source: Moneysmart. For detailed comparison, do kindly visit their blog post https://blog.moneysmart.sg/travel-insurance/best-travel-insurance-singapore/

Food and Beverages:

It is no surprise that food and drinks are particularly expensive in Switzerland. They are ranked the second most expensive European country behind Iceland in terms of consumer goods.

We managed to dine out on most days/nights and since food portions are huge in Switzerland, we also managed to share a main and a side for some meals. This helped us to save quite a bit of money and we managed to spend about $600 per person in total.

Also, on some occasions, we went to the Coop supermaket and bought the half chicken which was delicious. Personally, I would recommend Lidl for groceries and snacks, but during our trip, we didn’t manage to chance upon it possibly due to the fact that they are not really in the city centers. Migros is another supermarket option but I found them to be slightly more expensive with a smaller selection of food choices.

Beer and wine are relatively cheaper in Switzerland compared to Singapore. So for those of you who loves to drink, you’ll get to drink to your heart’s content (without having a hole in your pocket).

A restaurant that I would recommend in Zurich is Restaurant Zeughauskeller. Housed in a 15th-century building, it serves very authentic swiss dishes and draft beers. To some it may seem touristy, but at we 3pm when we went there for lunch, it was close to full house. Food was also fantastic and the portion was huge. We ordered the pork knuckle with rösti which only serves in limited quantities each day. Story time – there was a couple beside us and the guy wanted to order the pork knuckle as well but unfortunately, we had ordered the last one. He was so distraught and was seen “begging” the waiter to let him have the chance to try the pork knuckle. His spouse cited that he almost cried because he couldn’t get to eat this. How dramatic.

P.S. the waiter came out a few minutes later and said to him that they have the “last last” pork knuckle just for him.

One highly recommended tip is to bring along some cup noodles for your trip. I initially did not believe in this tip as I had loved Swiss food. However, there will be days when you’ll just get so sick of eating Swiss food and felt like you would have spent a lot. The cup noodles will bring out a good change and also ease the ache in your pockets.

Attractions:

As there were a lot of free activities to do in Switzerland, we did not spend much on attractions. On those that we did, we made use of our Swiss travel pass to take advantage of discounts and to enter the following attractions.

Harder Kulm – $25 [50% off with Swiss travel pass] 

If you are in the Interlaken region, it is worthwhile to go to Harder Kulm which offers breathtaking views at a viewpoint of 1,322 metres. When we were there, the weather was clear which allowed many photo taking opportunities. It’s worth noting that from 11am-1pm, queues were extremely long. But when we went at around 2pm, the crowd has eased slightly. Of course, this will be dependent largely during which period you go as well.

Source: Finance and Toast. View atop Harder Kulm

Grindelwald First – $48 [50% off with Swiss travel pass]

Grindelwald First is another place that we wanted to go to. It is a mountain located in the Bernese Oberland. In April, there weren’t many people there at all and we spent around 2.5 hours there. It is better known as a summer hotspot for trekking. Do note that the last timing for the cable car descent is at 5:30pm.

Gornergrat Bahn to see the Matterhorn – $63 [50% off with Swiss travel pass] 

When we were in Zermatt, it was mostly raining and cloudy which means there was very little chance of seeing the Matterhorn. Unexpectedly, on the second last day, it snowed overnight making the whole Zermatt area look magical. We took the Gornergrat Bahn from Zermatt and was greeted by snow everywhere on our way up. I heard that it is very rare for it to snow in late April in Switzerland. Going to see the Matterhorn is a must and a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list experience.

Zermatt Matterhorn Museum – Free with Swiss travel pass

Don’t let the exterior of the Zermatt Matterhorn Museum fool you. It is not as small as it seemed from the outside. The museum is actually underground and showcases history since the first ascent, the various artifacts, and the equipment of people who climbed the Matterhorn. Worth going if you have the Swiss travel pass and have 30-45min to spare.

Source: Matterhorn Museum

Rhine Falls – Free

In my previous two trips to Switzerland, I have never visited the Rhine Falls. This time around, I had to go there with my other half. The Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen is Europe’s largest and most powerful waterfall. We went there in the late afternoon and the views were spectacular. You can even walk a trail which leads you to a long bridge, up to the castle area.

Source: Finance and Toast. Viewing point at the Rhine Falls

SIM Card:

Lastly, we decided that it was better to buy our SIM card early so that we can change it immediately at Zurich Airport. We bought ours from Shopee from a seller called ICCtravel for $22 and it worked well throughout the trip.

Overall, it felt good travelling again after two years. In Switzerland, life is as though it is back to normal. Most people are not wearing masks on the streets and even on public transport. It was such a liberating feeling. Are you travelling any time soon and how would you budget your trip? Share with us in the comments below.

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Best wishes,

Finance and Toast



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