The cost of living in Zurich is high, even by the standards of an expensive country. Aside from accommodation, transport, food and education, expats will also have to pay various taxes, licence fees and insurance premiums.

The Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2023 ranks Zurich as the third most expensive of 227 cities around the world. That said, competitive salaries and an excellent quality of life mitigate the high living expenses. It's important for expats to anticipate their living expenses in Zurich to negotiate a good salary and plan ahead.

Cost of accommodation in Zurich

Most residents, including locals, rent accommodation in Zurich, so competition is stiff for the relatively few available properties. Expats could spend between a fifth and a third of their income on monthly rent.

Renters will also have to pay their own utility bills, which are usually equivalent to about 10 percent of the rent. Although it's possible to apply for exemptions, TV and radio licence fees are also something worth taking into account when considering utility payments.

Expats living in Zurich should get into the habit of recycling. The council taxes residents per rubbish bag, and one can save a considerable amount by separating their rubbish into plastic, glass and aluminium and disposing of these at free recycling sites around Zurich.

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. Health insurance is by no means cheap in Switzerland, and it is worth shopping around to find a suitable package for one's individual needs. 

The cost of health insurance will largely depend on the level of coverage one chooses, where they live and if they have supplemental cover. Expats on any form of long-term medication should check whether this is covered by their health insurance policy. It's also important to note that dental treatment is not covered by health insurance.

Cost of transport in Zurich

While Zurich's public transport network is excellent and extensive, it isn't cheap. Regular users should invest in monthly and annual transport passes, which will save them a considerable amount of money in the long term.

The city is divided into transport zones. 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, allowing them to commute by bicycle. That said, residents will need to buy an extra ticket if they wish to transport their bicycles on the train.

Owning and maintaining a car in Zurich is costly and quite unnecessary for most expats. Public parking fees quickly add up. Drivers also have to pay to park in residential areas, so expats planning on getting a car should check the rates for residential parking in different areas and suburbs when they are searching for a home.

Cost of education in Zurich

Public schools in Zurich have high standards and are free, but the language of instruction will be Swiss German. This makes them an unsuitable option for most expats. That said, those who are planning on settling down in Zurich long term and have children young enough to quickly adapt may want to consider this option.

Some bilingual schools exist, but tuition at these institutions can be costly – and 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. While international schools offer many benefits, including excellent teaching standards and facilities, tuition fees are also fairly steep. 

Cost of groceries in Zurich

As is the case with most things in the city, groceries are expensive in Zurich. Still, expats moving to Zurich can make the most of their grocery budgets by shopping at cheaper supermarkets. As expats are likely to cook more at home than they may have in their home countries, it's essential that they plan their meals to avoid any food waste. Additionally, expats can buy non-perishables in bulk and visit supermarkets after 5pm for perishables, as the stores will likely lower prices to sell the day's stock. 

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Zurich

With a few Michelin-starred restaurants in the city, Zurich's culinary scene is an exciting adventure waiting to be explored. Unfortunately, the cost of eating out in Zurich is quite high, and it's a pleasure expats are likely to only experience occasionally. That said, there are a few strategies that budget-conscious expats can employ to make their entertainment budget stretch further. Eating out at lunchtime when restaurants offer set menus at lower prices and ordering from the kids' menu are some of the ways expats can save money. 

Thanks to its beautiful and diverse natural landscape, Zurich offers its residents plenty of opportunities to be outside. As such, much of the lifestyle in Zurich is centred around hiking and skiing in the Swiss Alps. The city also boasts an eclectic nightlife scene, but expats will find that drinks at bars and clubs, particularly cocktails, are quite steep. Revellers who are looking to enjoy a night out on the town regularly are advised to budget well. 

Cost of living in Zurich chart 

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Zurich for October 2023. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

CHF 4,300

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

CHF 3,040

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

CHF 2,700

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

CHF 1,750


Eggs (dozen)

CHF 6.70

Milk (1 litre)

CHF 1.78

Rice (1kg)

CHF 3.50

Loaf of white bread

CHF 3.15

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CHF 26

Pack of cigarettes


Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 CHF 16

Coca-Cola (330ml)

 CHF 5


 CHF 6

Local beer (500ml)

 CHF 8

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

 CHF 140


Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data

 CHF 40

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

 CHF 56

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

 CHF 294


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

 CHF 5

Bus/train fare in the city centre

 CHF 4.40

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

 CHF 1.93

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