May022016

World’s most expensive country for tourist is Switzerland, so how am I planning under $1000 for 7 nights?

Switzerland is the most expensive travel destination in Europe for a tourist in 2016. This is my assessment according to the World Economic Forum Travel & Tourism Report 2015 and several other sources.

So how am I planning a week in Switzerland for under $1,000?

Factors to consider are I am traveling solo and I will stay in highly ranked TripAdvisor hotels, mostly 4-star rated. I plan to visit Locarno and Zermatt and ride mountain cable car trams, hike in the Alps and take trains across the country. And eat food for a week.

Transportation is a budget killer in Switzerland

What I have learned after five days studying travel in Switzerland is hotels are expensive and food is expensive, but those are travel budget expenses I am expert at discounting. What I can’t get around are the high transportation costs to use the Swiss Rail network of trains, busses. boats and cable cars. There are plenty of lakes to cross and mountains to climb in Switzerland.

Transportation is the extraordinary expense for a traveler in Switzerland that far exceeds my typical expectations for a travel destination. Basically the way I found to minimize travel expense for Switzerland is go to a destination and hang out there for a while. Any travel between cities and towns in Switzerland using trains will average $20 to $40 on a deeply discounted train ticket, $40 to $70 on a half-price ticket, and $80 to $140 on a regular fare ticket. Mountain cable cars are $50 to $100+ per round trip to get high up on Alpine peaks from valley floor ski resort villages.

The way around the high cost of train travel in Switzerland is stay put in one region and buy a local regional pass. Geneva has a fantastic 3-day travel card deal for 40.50 EUR or about $45 that gives all local transportation free and admission to dozens of museums for free. I was all set for a Geneva museum and lakeside vacation, but I cannot find a hotel deal under $120 USD per night for Geneva.

Where Hotel Deals are in Switzerland

Zurich has the hotel deals. The city may rank most expensive in international travel city lists, but my observations reveal hotel rates in Zurich are about the lowest priced place in Switzerland in September 2016. I found far better deals in Zurich than Geneva.

Zurich, Switzerland

Friday to Sunday September 9-11, 2016 (2-for-1 Club Carlson Gold elite rate).

  • Radisson Blu Zurich Airport = $120.29 per night.
  • Park Inn Zurich Airport = $62.51 per night.

Hard to beat $65 per night rate (after city tax) for September in Zurich, Switzerland.

Radisson Blu Zurich prices Sep

A ZurichCard is $50 for 3-days with free local transportation and many museum admission benefits.

In a place like Zermatt, the 7-day Matterhorn Peak Pass offers one week of local train transportation and unlimited rides on several mountain cable cars for under $20 per day, compared to $104 USD for a single day return ticket on one cable car up to Matterhorn glacier paradise. There are restaurants, hiking trails in summer, alpine lakes, and different vistas to photograph from high peaks. Switzerland ranks as global leader for environmental sustainability and many villages in Switzerland are car-free. .

While $1,000 for one week may sound like a a lot to some travelers, in Switzerland this means finding some serious discount prices for hotels and transportation.

The typical travel budget for a tourist is disproportionately spent on food and hotels. These are the two factors that seriously skew the findings for any travel-oriented survey like ones frequently cited in travel publications and articles.

The World’s Most Expensive Cities – The Telegraph UK

# 2 Most Expensive City: Zurich, Switzerland $503.46 daily travel expense

  • Hotel 195.87 GBP ($287.30)
  • Taxi 25.55 GBP ($37.48)
  • Dinner for Two 99.07 GBP ($145.33)
  • Cocktails for Two 22.75 GBP ($33.37)
  • Total 343.24 GBP ($503.46)

That is a business executive’s day of spend.

As a traveler, my spend for Zurich is projected to be more like this:

  • Park Inn Zurich Airport $62.51
  • ZurichCard ($17 pro-rated 3-day pass)
  • Dinner (and food all day) for one (from markets) $25.00
  • four 500 ml beer $4
  • Extraneous spend money $20
  • Total: $130 USD.

Food and hotels are something I find easy to budget, primarily by eating grocery store food just like I do at home in California.

Booking hotels using hotel loyalty points has geographical limitations as any Hyatt Gold Passport loyalist knows. The advantage of programs like Best Western Rewards and Wyndham Rewards is there are hundreds of hotel properties in places around the world where there are no other chain brand hotels for miles. Best Western Rewards has 2,000 hotels outside the USA. That is their competitive advantage in the hotel loyalty program world.

Best Western Plus Alpen Resort Hotel, Zermatt, Switzerland

September 1-5, 2016 = 8,000 points per night or $226 to $308 per night for paid rate.

32,000 points for four nights or more than $1,000 for four nights.

Best Western Rewards points were sold this month on Daily Getaways 10,000 points for $55.

32,000 BWR points were sold for $176 through Daily Getaways one-day sale.

Best Western Zermatt

Loyalty Traveler – Going to Switzerland? Consider buying Best Western Rewards points (March 29, 2016).

Switzerland with Best Western Rewards, Club Carlson and Wyndham Rewards

Budget travelers heading to Switzerland will find Best Western Rewards, Club Carlson and Wyndham Rewards offer far better value and many more hotel choices relative to Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood points for hotel stays using points. Those upper upscale and luxury hotels in Switzerland like W Verbier or Park Hyatt Zurich come with both luxury hotel rates and high reward prices. Sure, your Marriott hotel points will put you in a downtown chain hotel like Marriott Zurich, but you are going to burn through a lot of points to spend 7 nights in Switzerland.

This Loyalty Traveler targeted Switzerland as my primary destination for a September two week trip. My tourist wallet is armed primarily with hotel points and a low limit credit card. I will find out if I can spend seven nights in Switzerland at 4-star hotels using mostly points and some cash, while staying within a total travel budget under $1,000, including the price of acquiring hotel points redeemed for the seven hotel nights, the price for food, all in-country transportation, including activities, and at least a couple of cable car mountain rides to places like the Matterhorn (time to go ride the real thing since Disneyland dismantled the aerial tram from my youth).

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. Use blablacar to move between cities for cheap. There was a swiss VRBO kind of site which listed pretty cheap rentals. My parents visited September, 2014. Stayed in Montreux for $65. 2 nights in GImmelwald for $120/night and one night near Interlaken for $85/night. They were really happy with the apartments.

  2. Hello. I am only commenting on this post seeing that it’s your most recent. I just read the article about your lost luggage with spirit airlines. I’m having that same problem as of this morning after a nonstop flight from LAX to Phoenix. The agent in Phoenix only gave me a number for LAX to call for myself and still has yet to file the report for all of the locations to view. I am getting more and more stressed out about this. I noticed someone was able to help you reach customer service. Do you still have a contact number or do you have any tips? My bag was not left behind at LAX and the only other spirit flight near the same time as mine was headed to Houston. I tried calling someone at that location but it’s going to voicemail.

  3. I am going through a Switzerland planning exercise RIGHT now. Talk about great timing!

    The 2-4-1 Club Carlson hotel is a good find. It’s available in July too.

    Too bad I don’t have best western points…about the only program I dont have any in…

    What happened to your idea of using Wyndham points? Did you decide on Best Western Zermatt instead (or in addition)?

    One way we will try to save money is to fly into Lyon and rent a car from there–we will need to pay about $40 for a Swiss highway sticker but I like having my own wheels.

    Annency is very close to Geneva, FR and a relatively cheap stay.

  4. For the Wyndham Rewards hotels, have you found a single unified map with all of the various brands listed? As far as I can see, there’s no such thing, so you have to search each brand individually. In fact, there is no map, only a listing by country and city!

    Help! Please tell me you found something!

  5. I found that Basel wasn’t exorbitantly priced when looking around (it helps that you can go to Mulhouse, which is REALLY cheap for Accor, and Freiburg is not all that expensive as well).

  6. You guys should use awardmapper.com. You can filter by chain and/or points amount and it shows Best Western, Choice and Wyndham as well as the majors. I’ve messaged the guy who runs the site when I’ve found something out of date and he’s very responsive.

  7. @Lisa – that is kind of useful, although I quickly noticed several Best Western hotel locations in Switzerland marked for properties that are no longer part of Best Western chain.

  8. I’m sitting in the Basel Radisson Blu right now. We are finding the food expensive and haven’t seen a $1 beer anywhere.

  9. @Asar – I checked BlaBlaCar and did not see Switzerland as one of the countries.

    @j – Beer was the equivalent of $3.50 USD for a six-pack in 2013 in the Coop grocery store. Numbeo.com shows 0.5L bottle of beer at $1.83. That is quite a jump in price.
    http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Switzerland&displayCurrency=USD

    Have you checked beer price in markets?

    @Lisa – AwardMapper.com made me aware of several SPG Design hotels I did not know about in Switzerland. Too pricey for me, but good to know.

    @kara – Sorry to hear about your bag. I don’t have a Spirit contact number anymore. That Spirit flight four years ago was the first and last time I flew the airline.

  10. @Bas – Realize after reading this again that I never mentioned Swiss Pass. That is what the Swiss Toruism Board pushes. It is over $300 for four days of transportation. I am going to Switzerland to hang out and hike, not to spend four days on a train.

    Anyway, my analysis quickly went beyond Swiss Pass to look at Swiss Transit Pass giving two days travel for the arrival day to your destination and departure date out of Switzerland for about $150 USD.

    The best deal for me is probably a Swiss transit pass and Half-Price Pass for what I plan to do.

  11. I bought a euro pass a few years ago for 15 days which you can use for 15 days in switzerland too. that is a bargain though sounds expensive at first sight. btw i bought the youth one that’s cheap

  12. I just finalized my plans for a week this summer. My son and I will be flying in to ZUR and out of GVA. One-way car rental for the week was $250. We have 2 nights in Einsiedeln (from where we visit Liechtenstein and Luzern) and 2 in the Berner_Oberlander area (we park the car in Lauterbrunnen).

    To save some money, we will skip Swiss cable car rides to the top of mountains and, instead, do that in Chamonix, FR, where we spend the next 3 nights.

    With the car, we had the freedom of switching around the locations. I suspect that, for a person travelling alone, the trains would be the cheaper option.

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