Switzerland is almost as famous for its high cost of living as it is for its spectacular ski slopes. Three Swiss cities featured in the 2021 Mercer Cost of Living Survey's top 10 – Zurich, Bern and Geneva – and rural areas aren't necessarily that much cheaper.

On the other hand, Swiss salaries and living standards are also among the highest in the world. And, thanks to efficient public services and well-maintained infrastructure, most expats feel that the high costs are worth it.

Expats moving to Switzerland should still try to anticipate what their living expenses will be and negotiate their contracts accordingly.

Cost of accommodation in Switzerland

Most people in Switzerland rent property, and a shortage of available apartments has developed as a result. The situation in Zurich and Geneva is especially dire, and stiff competition has resulted in sky-rocketing rental prices – expats should expect accommodation to take up at least 30 percent of their salary. In many cases, one will also need to pay a three-month deposit upfront. 

In Switzerland, special garbage bags that are priced according to their size are required for trash collection, so households that produce more waste will pay more. Recycling is free, and even expats who aren't especially environmentally conscious can count on a greener life in Switzerland. Exact costs and conditions differ between municipalities.

Cost of transport in Switzerland

Switzerland's extensive and efficient system of public transport is, unfortunately, rather expensive too. Expats who live in an urban centre and plan on commuting regularly should consider purchasing multi-ride passes.

Owning a car in Switzerland is more expensive thanks to supplementary fees. Many who can go without a car do. In addition to the cost of importing, buying or leasing a vehicle, expats will need to pay for monthly insurance, canton tax, a parking permit, highway sticker and petrol.

Cost of education in Switzerland

Swiss public schools have high standards and are free of cost, but the teaching language will be the respective canton's official language. Some bilingual schools exist, but tuition at these institutions can be very expensive.

It gets even pricier for expats who'd rather send their children to an international school that teaches their home country's curriculum in their home language. Prices increase as students get older.

Cost of health insurance in Switzerland

Swiss health insurance is also likely to take up much of an expat's bank balance. Medical cover is compulsory and can be expensive, although the government does grant subsidies in certain situations. Premiums are based on geographic area rather than salary, so CEOs and regular workers can end up paying similar amounts depending on their package. 

Cost of living in Switzerland chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Zurich in January 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

CHF 3,000 – 6,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

CHF 2,100 – 3,500

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

CHF 1,500 – 3,000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

CHF 1,100 – 1,900


Eggs (dozen)

CHF 6.60

Milk (1 litre)

CHF 1.70

Rice (1kg)

CHF 2.80

Loaf of white bread

CHF 2.80

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CHF 28.40

Pack of cigarettes

CHF 8.75

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 CHF 15

Coca-Cola (330ml)

 CHF 4.50


 CHF 5

Local beer (500ml)

 CHF 7

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

 CHF 120


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

 CHF 0.30

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

 CHF 52.30

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

 CHF 211


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

 CHF 3.80

Bus/train fare in the city centre

 CHF 4

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

 CHF 1.70

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