Cost of Living in Switzerland

Switzerland is almost as famous for its high cost of living as it is for its ski slopes. Two Swiss cities featured in the 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Survey's top ten – Zurich and Bern – 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. Thanks to efficient public services and well-maintained infrastructure, most expats feel like 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.

It's also important to keep in mind that taxes differ in every canton and costs can differ even between villages.

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 stark, 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 up front. 

Paying for refuse collection

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 can be expensive to use.

Expats who live in an urban centre and plan on commuting regularly should consider purchasing multi-ride passes. For example, a Half Fare pass entitles commuters to (up to) a 50 percent discount on public transport throughout the country.

Owning a car in Switzerland is more expensive thanks to supplementary fees and 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. Price increases as students age.

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 

All prices listed in Swiss Francs (CHF). Based on average prices in Zurich in April 2019.

Accommodation (monthly rental in a good area)

Unfurnished two-bedroom house

CHF 4,500

Furnished two-bedroom apartment

CHF 5,000

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

CHF 4,200


Eggs (dozen)


Milk (1 litre) 


Rice (1kg) 


Loaf of white bread 


Chicken breasts (500g)

CHF 13

Pack of cigarettes


Eating out

Big Mac Meal

CHF 14 

Coca-Cola (330ml)




Bottle of beer (local)


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

CHF 100


Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

CHF 0.50

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

CHF 57

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

CHF 180


Taxi rate (per kilometre)


Bus/train fare to city centre


Petrol/gasoline (per litre) 

 CHF 2

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna International

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