Cost of Living in Zurich

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housing costs in Zurich are high
The cost of living in Zurich is high, even by the standards of an already expensive country. Aside from accommodation, transport, food and education, expats will have to pay various taxes, license fees and insurances premiums.  

The 2015 Mercer Cost of Living survey ranks Zurich as the third most expensive of 207 cities around the world. But its high living costs are mitigated by high salaries, high purchasing power and a good quality of life. It's important for expats to anticipate what their living expenses in Zurich will be, so they can negotiate a good salary and plan ahead.

It's important for expats to anticipate what their living expenses in Zurich will be, so they can negotiate a good salary and plan ahead.

Cost of accommodation in Zurich

Most residents rent in Zurich, so there’s stiff competition for relatively few available properties. Expats could spend between a fifth and a third of their income on monthly rent. They’ll also have to pay their own utility bills, which generally amount to about 10 percent of their rent.

Cost of healthcare in Zurich

In line with Swiss law, private healthcare is compulsory in Zurich and expats will need to get covered within three months of their arrival.

Unique expenses in Zurich

  • Residents need to buy an extra ticket to transport bicycles on a train
  • Annual dog taxes and compulsory dog training sessions (price depends on location)
  • Council-taxed garbage bags
  • Television and radio licence fees
  • Health insurance, not including dental care
  • Public parking, even in front of ones own residence (price depends on where a person live) 

Saving money in Zurich



  • Buy unpackaged goods and avoid pre-packaged fruit and vegetables.
  • Don’t buy bottled water – Zurich’s pristine tap water makes it unnecessary.
  • Meat can be expensive and is usually packaged in small portions aimed at immediate consumption. Shop at supermarkets with a discounted meat section –the meat is usually nearing its expiry date, but can be frozen and consumed later. But remember that Swiss freezers tend to be small, so expats may want to purchase a separate, larger one.
  • Look out for discounts on items like toiletries, and consider buying in-house brand products which are often cheaper than other brands.
  • Expats should reconsider shopping in the city centre. The Bahnhofstrasse is centrally located and has an appealing range of products, but it’s one of the most expensive retail areas in the world. Prices at the few shopping malls around Zurich can be markedly less.
  • Purchase English books and take out magazine subscriptions online. Newsagents and English language bookshops in Zurich are well-stocked but can be pricy. 

Getting around

  • Expats who plan to visit museums, use public transport and enjoying river cruises frequently should consider buying a Zurich Card (48 CHF for 72 hours). Holders get free entrance to numerous museums and galleries, can travel on all public transport for free and get discounts at attractions across the city. Other passes are available through ZVV, the city’s public transport company, and SBB, the federal railway service.
  • Public transport in Switzerland is expensive. The city is divided into transport zones, and travelling between two zones can cost 14 CHF. There often isn’t a big difference in rental prices between Zurich and its outskirts – so many expats find that living closer to work is the best way to save, and gives them the option of commuting by bicycle.


  • Choose where to live carefully. Taxes in Switzerland differ according to location, and urban centres will have their own specific rates. City areas with wealthy residents and commercial zones often have lower tax rates. This can benefit individuals who aren’t as well-off if they find the right property. Smaller areas with average-income residents might have lower rentals but higher taxes. 

Rubbish disposal

  • Recycle. Zurich residents need to purchase taxed, council-approved garbage bags. To reduce waste and save, expats should separate plastic, glass and aluminium and dispose of them at free recycling sites.

Cost of living in Zurich chart (2015)

*All prices listed in Swiss Francs (CHF)

Furnished two bedroom house CHF 3,500
Unfurnished two bedroom house CHF 3,000
Furnished two bedroom apartment CHF 2,500
Unfurnished two bedroom apartment CHF 1,900
Dozen eggs CHF 6
Milk (1 litre) CHF 1.50
Rice (1kg) CHF 2.50
Loaf of white bread CHF 3
Pack of chicken breasts CHF 24
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) CHF 8
Eating out
Big Mac meal  CHF 13
Coca Cola (500ml)  CHF 4.50
Cappuccino   CHF 5
Bottle of beer (local)  CHF 6
Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant  CHF 50
Utilities/household (monthly)
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)  CHF 0.50
Internet (Uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month)  CHF 50
Electricity (average per month for standard household)  CHF 325
Taxi rate per kilometre  CHF 3.90 
City centre bus fare  CHF 4.30
Petrol/gasoline (per litre)  CHF 1.60

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