Cost of living in Switzerland: Your guide

Zorica Lončar

Thinking of moving to Switzerland, or spending time there for work, study or business? You’re not alone, as the country is a perennially popular destination for expats.

It's a European and global hub for finance, technology and life sciences, which means there are great, well paid jobs for foreigners in most of the major Swiss cities. The country regularly tops quality of life rankings, has vibrant multicultural cities and is famous for its pristine natural scenery.

So, Switzerland is clearly a great place to live - but how much does it cost to live there? In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the cost of living in Switzerland. This includes how much things like rent, transport and restaurant meals cost, along with average salaries and lots of other useful pieces of information.

We’ll even throw in a quick tip to help you manage your money in Switzerland - the Wise multi-currency account. You can use this to manage 50+ currencies at once, including GBP and CHF, and send money all over the world for low fees¹ and the mid-market exchange rate. There’s even a Wise card for spending in Swiss francs from the moment you land.

¹ Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

How expensive is Switzerland in comparison to the USA, the UK, the EU and Australia?

Let’s start off by comparing the cost of essentials like rent, meals and transportation, to see how Switzerland compares to other countries like the UK and US.

The first thing you need to know is that the official currency in Switzerland is the Swiss franc (CHF). You can always find out the exact value of your money in CHF, using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide at the time of writing:

  • 1000 GBP = 1,131 CHF
  • 1000 AUD = 631 CHF
  • 1000 EUR = 979 CHF
  • 1000 USD = 952 CHF

Now, how do major Swiss cities compare with the likes of London and New York when it comes to basic living expenses? Let’s take a look²:

Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid range restaurant)Transportation (monthly pass)
Zurich, SwitzerlandCHF 1,928CHF 120CHF 90
Geneva, SwitzerlandCHF 2,007CHF 120CHF 70
Bern, SwitzerlandCHF 1,190CHF 100CHF 79
London, UKCHF 2,192CHF 73CHF 170
Paris, FranceCHF 1,256CHF 59CHF 73
Sydney, AustraliaCHF 1,577CHF 73CHF 138
New York, USACHF 3,676CHF 95CHF 124

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, it’s likely to add a margin to the exchange rate it uses. Wise offers a more transparent deal, using the fair mid-market exchange rate with no mark-up added on top.

What are the general living expenses for Switzerland? How much can you get by on?

Life in Switzerland is pretty pricey. With several cities ranked among the most costly on the planet³, you’ll need a healthy bank balance to make the most of your time there. Rent plays a big role in this. As you’d expect though, if you choose to live outside of the cities, you'll find the cost of living is much lower.

Take rent out of the equation, and here’s roughly how much you’ll need to live in either Geneva or Bern:

Living expenses in Switzerland (excluding rent)Geneva - average cost⁴Bern - average cost⁵
Single person, per monthCHF 1,366CHF 1,438
Single person, per yearCHF 16,392CHF 17,256
4 person family, per monthCHF 5,035CHF 5,325
4 person family, per yearCHF 60,420CHF 63,900

What are the average salaries for Switzerland?

As you might expect from its high living costs, salaries in Switzerland are also pretty high. This is good news if you’re planning to work in Switzerland while you’re there, or are moving there specifically to take up a new role.

Take a look below for examples of average salaries for certain roles, although remember that it can vary depending where in the country you live. For example, you can usually expect to be paid more if you live in a big city like Zurich or Basel compared to rural parts of Switzerland. And interestingly, there’s no nationwide minimum wage in Switzerland⁶.

Job rolesAverage annual salary in Switzerland⁶
TeacherCHF 87,500
NurseCHF 68,000
Postal workerCHF 66,600
IT systems specialistCHF 117,000
Marketing officerCHF 90,500
Product managerCHF 105,000
Account managerCHF 95,550
Graphic designerCHF 55,000

How expensive is housing and accommodation in Switzerland?

For most people, rent (or mortgage payments) is one of the biggest monthly outgoings, followed by bills. So, if you’re thinking of moving to a new country, this is a critical cost to factor in. But how much does it cost to rent in Switzerland?

Here’s a quick look at average monthly rent for Geneva, Bern and Zurich, comparing prices for apartments and houses both in and outside of city centres²:

Property typeAverage monthly rent - BernAverage monthly rent - GenevaAverage monthly rent - Zurich
One bedroom apartment (city centre)CHF 1,190CHF 2,007CHF 1,928
One bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)CHF 944CHF 1,605CHF 1,531
Three bedroom family home (city centre)CHF 2,339CHF 4,069CHF 3,694
Three bedroom family home (outside of city centre)CHF 1,609CHF 2,999CHF 2,718

What about healthcare and dental costs in Switzerland?

It's compulsory to have health insurance in Switzerland⁷. On average, this costs around CHF 372 a month⁸, although of course it can vary hugely between providers and depending what type of cover you take out.

You may also need to pay towards accessing certain health services, such as hospital stays and other treatment, where insurance only covers part of the cost.

State health insurance covers around 80-90% of your medical costs, although you’ll be required to pay the first CHF 300 of annual treatment costs. This is known as the excess. If you’re admitted to hospital, there’s a standard charge of CHF 15 per day⁸ to pay.

However, treatment related to pregnancy, giving birth and postnatal care are exempt from excess charges⁸.

Dentist treatments aren’t covered by state health insurance, so many people choose to opt for private dental insurance. This can cost anywhere between CHF 20 and CHF 250 a month⁹. Although again, it varies between providers and on the level of cover you’d like to take out.

Alternatively, you can pay for dental treatment as and when you need it. A basic dental checkup and clean tends to cost around CHF 300, while more extensive treatments such as getting a crown fitted could cost anywhere up to CHF 1,700⁹.

How much is travel and transportation in Switzerland?

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.

Let’s run through the average cost of hopping on public transport, taking a taxi and filling up the tank if you plan to drive in Switzerland. Although remember that prices can vary from city to city.

Transportation prices in SwitzerlandAverage cost¹⁰
Public transport - single ticketCHF 3.50
Public transport - monthly passCHF 80
Taxi - 5 km journey (standard tariff)CHF 25.75
Gasoline (1 litre)CHF 1.91

Plan to buy a car while living in Switzerland? While it can vary hugely depending on age, make, model and condition of vehicle, it can be useful to know the average cost of purchasing your own set of wheels.

So, here you go - a brand new Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (or equivalent model) costs around CHF 30,000 in Switzerland. Buying a new Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97 KW Comfort (or equivalent model) will set you back around CHF 32,423¹⁰.

How much does education cost?

The Swiss education system is world renowned. Public schools (including kindergarten) are free, while private schools are excellent but expensive.There are two of continental Europe's best ranked universities here, too (ETH Zurich and EPFL).

If you do want to go private, or plan to study at a Swiss university, here’s a rough guide to how much it costs per semester or year:

SchoolAverage cost
Private preschool/kindergartenCHF 12,000 a semester¹¹
Private school for lower gradesCHF 15,000 to 40,000 a year¹²
University tuition - undergraduateCHF 850 to 1,310 a year¹³
University tuition - mastersCHF 1,600 a year¹³

Wise - the easy, cost saving way to manage your money in Switzerland

Now that you’re all clued up on how much it costs to live, work and study in Switzerland, it’s time to think about how you’ll actually manage your money while you’re there.

Open a Wise multi-currency account online before your move as this can be super handy because you won’t need to open a Swiss bank account from the moment you land.

With a Wise account, you can send, spend, convert and manage 50+ currencies at once - including CHF, GBP, USD, EUR and many more.

There’s even a Wise card, which automatically converts currency at the mid-market exchange rate whenever you spend. So, you can start spending in CHF at the airport, without needing to worry about converting currency or carrying cash around.

Before your move, you can use Wise to securely send money over to Switzerland to cover things like a deposit on an apartment. You’ll only pay a tiny transfer fee¹ and are guaranteed the mid-market exchange rate. It could work out much cheaper than using your bank.

Join Wise today

¹ Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

Switzerland is a fantastic expat destination, either 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.

But before moving there, it’s important to take careful stock of your finances to make sure you have the budget to enjoy it. Quality of life and salaries in Switzerland are pretty high, but so is the cost of living - across everything from rent and bills to food and drink.

Hopefully after reading this guide, you now have a fairly good idea of how everyday living costs in Switzerland compare to the UK and other countries. Don’t forget to factor in things like healthcare and transport, and of course tuition fees if you’re going overseas to study.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge, the very best of luck with your new life in Switzerland!

Sources used:

  1. Wise - terms and conditions & pricing
  2. Numbeo - Cost of Living - Prices By City
  3. Numbeo - Cost of Living Rankings
  4. Numbeo - Cost of Living in Geneva
  5. Numbeo - Cost of Living in Bern
  6. Expatica - Average Salary in Switzerland
  7. - Healthcare in Switzerland
  8. Expatica - A Guide to Swiss Health Insurance
  9. Expatica - Dentists in Switzerland
  10. Numbeo - Cost of Living in Switzerland
  11. Expatica - Education in Switzerland
  12. Expatica - Schools in Switzerland
  13. Internations - Switzerland Expats - Guide to Education

Sources last checked on date: 22-Nov-2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

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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