Switzerland for Under £300? Sounds impossible, right? Switzerland is famous for being one of the most expensive countries in Europe. So how could anyone possibly spend three nights in one of it’s biggest cities, travel around AND still have money to spare? Well, lucky for you, it can be done, and all while not having to survive on McDonald’s for four days! (Tbf I deffo did eat in there…)Back in February 2016, my friend and I decide to take a little city break together. I had never been abroad with a friend before, so the idea was quite daunting, but exciting. After hours of trawling through Expedia in Pizza Hut, we settled on Geneva, though neither of us actually knew where it was. After eventually discovering it was Switzerland, we were super excited and began to research all we could about the country… I have to admit, I knew very little about Switzerland. But our research was looking promising, it all looked great. Except for one thing. The prices of everything in Switzerland.
“Oooh, you don’t want to go there. A meal costs three times as much,” people were saying. I even read in a guidebook that you’re not allowed to walk around the streets of Geneva with no money on you- what?! I was beginning to panic. My friend and I were only students. But the price of the flight and the hotel seemed reasonable. It couldn’t be that bad, could it?
Expedia’s price for the return flights from Bristol to Geneva, along with a hotel in the city centre were coming in at £160 each. Bargain, right? So we booked. As quick as we could. But, oh. Our hotel, it turned out, was in the red light district. Many Trip Advisor reviews told us that we’d be fine. As long as we were back at the hotel by sundown. What have we let ourselves in for? Was our main thought for many days and weeks to come.
With all the scaremongering, I’d over-prepared, and ordered over £500 worth of Swiss francs (NOT EUROS- which confuses a lot of people.) We set off on our super early Easy Jet flight, landing in snowy Geneva just in time for breakfast. I’d like to tell you that catching the train from the airport to the city centre’s main station, Genève, was easy. It was not. For future reference, the train station, although attached to the airport, is not actually sign posted throughout arrivals; this is where my messy French came into practice. Eventually we managed to find it, and the correct train, with the help of some English people (whoops!!). The 30 minute train ride cost just £8. One of the best things about out hotel was the travel pass. A lot of Geneva hotels offer a free travel pass which is included in the price of the room. It covers travel on all trains, buses and boats on the lake, within the city, and is valid for the entire length of your stay. So once we paid for the one train to the hotel, we had all other city travel for free.
Once we’d arrived into the centre of Geneva, our hotel was super easy to find. The centre of Geneva is actually really tiny and I’d barely call it a city. It’s a really well-organised and tidy place with everything in walking distance.
Okay, so the red light district. Out hotel was sat slap-bang right in the middle of it. But, honestly, if I hadn’t read that Trip Advisor post (and if my Instagram location didn’t say ‘Geneva Red Light District’, I would’ve had no idea. It was quiet and clean and classy. The Swiss really know how to do it. Everywhere seemed high-end, nowhere seemed unsafe or a bit dodgy.
On the first night, we were cream crackered. We went for a little stroll to survey our surroundings and happened upon a cute little restaurant, again, in the red light district. They advertised pizza for 9 francs (about £6.80) and they smelt delicious! They did not disappoint. The restaurant was lovely, as were the staff, and the food, and we felt so welcome and safe there. Such a perfect start to the long weekend.
Saturday, and having revitalised after a great night’s sleep and the hotel’s breakfast (which was included in the price), we decided to explore Geneva city a bit more. Crossing a bridge over the lake, we found ourselves in the main shopping district of the town. And the shops there are incredible. Gucci, Givenchy, Prada- you name it, they’ve got it. Of course, if you’re armed with a little bit more spending money, then you can go absolutely spend-crazy there. But seeing as we’re trying to keep it low budget (and I was) AVOID AVOID AVOID. However, I couldn’t resist Zara and a teeny bit of Swiss skincare products. That day, we lunched on paninis and hot drinks from that well-known Starbucks. And in the afternoon, we explored the lake. However, it started to get freezing cold later on, so we promptly retreated to our hotel and we’re sat on our cosy beds watching Moomins with (sorry) a McDonald’s meal from down the road (we like our home comforts)!
Sunday was our adventure day, and after another great hotel breakfast, we headed to the train station (Genève). We bought return tickets to a place called Montreux, which is on the opposite side of lake Geneva to Geneva. The train journey lasted for about an hour and followed the northern lake-side all the way. Out one window was the beautiful blue lake, and out the other were the snowy Swiss Alps. The return ticket cost 60 Swiss francs (£48); we had to pay for this ticket as we were travelling outside of the city. The ticket price came in at quite a chunk of the budget, but worth it. (*Disclaimer*- donning do what I did and lose your ticket, as you’ll have to pay 30 francs for a new one for the journey home…)
Montreux was honestly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and I can safely say I will definitely be back one day. My friend and I are huge Queen fans so we went to visit the Freddie Mercury statue and do the Queen studio tour, which was free but has a suggested donation of 10 francs (£8), which we paid between us. We ate lunch in a little lake-side café which came to 12 franc each (£9.60). Apart from having to buy my ticket again, it was a very cheap day, even though it was quite an adventure and a long way out of Geneva.
Monday, and our last day. We decided to make use of the hotel facilities, so we put on our bikinis and spent most of the morning in the sauna before heading to the airport at around midday. We were able to use of travel cards for the train back to the airport too! We are lunch on the plane… a £5 Croque Monsieur and a coke.
And that was the end of our Swiss adventure. It was wonderful and chilled and cold, but that’s what I loved about it. As well as it’s class and beauty.
So, the moral of the story is, it is a myth that everything in Switzerland will cost you a fortune. It’s simply not true. It can be done on a reasonable budget, and without feeling feeling like you’re skimping on anything. Here’s the maths-y bit.
Food on flight- £5
Train to hotel- £8
Train to Montreux- £48
Queen Studio Experience donation- £8
Lunch in Montreux café- £9.60
Lunch on plane- £5
Total per person- £267.40.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Swiss experience and it has encouraged you to give this country, that you may not have necessarily considered, a go!