Switzerland has vibrant cities, a refreshing natural environment, and some of the highest standards of living on the planet. It’s no surprise that it’s a...
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.
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 onlinecurrency 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 living
|1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)
|Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)
|Transportation (monthly pass)
|New York, USA
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 Wise, which applies the mid-market rate. With a quick service, and low flat fees to transfer your cash, this can be a much better deal than relying on your home bank.
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 cost
|Bern average cost
|Single person, per month
|Single person, per year
|University student, per month
|4 person family, per month
|4 person family, per year
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 Switzerland
|Average annual salary
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 Switzerland
|Average monthly cost (Geneva)
|Average monthly cost (Bern)
|One bedroom apartment (city centre)
|One bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)
|Three bedroom family home (city centre)
|Three bedroom family home (outside of city centre)
|Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)
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.
|Average cost to you
|Family doctor check-up
|Cold medicine for 6 days
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 Switzerland
|Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)
|Monthly bus/transport pass
|Bus ticket, single use
|Taxi tariff, 8km/5mile journey
|Toyota Corolla, new
|VW Golf, new
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.
|Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)
|Private school for lower grades (annual)
|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!
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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