The cost of living in Switzerland

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A Swiss red train going through the mountains
Switzerland is one of the best countries to live in, in the world, due to it's high quality of life. In 2022, it actually ranked number 1, out of 85 other nations, in the Best Country rankings, however this all comes at a price. 

The cost of living in Switzerland is known to be relatively high, so much so that three of Switzerland's major cities: Bern, Zurich and Geneva were featured in the 2021 Mercer Cost of Living City Ranking. In saying this, the high cost of living doesn't stop British expats from moving here. These greater costs allow those living in Switzerland to have access to a range of benefits such as the highest salaries in Europe, exceptional healthcare facilities, low crime rates and a great range of job opportunities, especially in the finance, science or technology industry. 

This blog post will guide you through the cost of living in Switzerland so can you budget accordingly for your upcoming move. 

The general cost of living in Switzerland

Like any country, the cost of living varies depending on where you live, however overall a Swiss households expenditure is significantly higher in comparison to other European countries. 

The cost of living in Zurich makes it the most expensive city to live in,  in Europe. As mentioned previously, Zurich was ranked in the Mercer 2021 report, where it came out as the world's fourth most expensive city to live in. Surveys have concluded that Zurich have higher costs in all the following categories: eating out, shopping for groceries, fitness clubs and transport, including taxi fees. As well as this, it is estimated that Zurich is 28% more expensive to live in than New York and an astounding 56% more expensive than London, and this doesn't include rental prices.

To put this into context, a family of four living in Zurich could be spending up to £5,000 a month, on groceries and other living essentials alone, not including rental prices. The same principle applies to a single person, who should expect to pay a monthly sum of up to £1,600. 

In comparison, the general cost of living in Geneva is a little cheaper. However, when you compare this to other cities around the world, it still seems expensive. In the Mercer 2021 report, Geneva ranked as the world's eighth most expensive city, being 38% more expensive the London and 13% more expensive than New York. 

To put this into content, a family of four living in Geneva could be spending up to £4,500 a month, not including the price of rent. Similarly, a single person is estimated to pay around £1,400 monthly.

Property costs in Switzerland

A very low number of people own their own property in Switzerland which poses larger problems when finding an affordable place to rent. The demand for rental properties is also high in cities like Geneva, Zurich and Bern as these are popular places for expats to settle in. Due to this high demand, you should expect to pay at least three months worth of rent upfront. 

Zurich is the most expensive city in Switzerland to rent in. In the city centre, for a one bedroom apartment, you could be looking at paying around £1,800 a month. Just outside the city, the rental prices are a little cheaper so for the same one bedroom apartment it might cost you around £1,400 a month.

One positive thing about living in Zurich is that rent prices are, on average, 2% lower than the prices in London. 

In terms of rent, Geneva is similarly priced and, like Zurich, there are cheaper properties available outside the city. To give you an idea of how much it might cost to rent in Geneva, a one bedroom apartment in the city centre could cost you £1,800 a month, the same as Zurich. In comparison to this, outside of the city you could get the same property for £1,400 a month. 

When you look at renting larger properties and apartments in Geneva, the monthly fee is higher that what is offered in Zurich. For example, for a three bedroom apartment in Geneva's city centre you could be expected to pay around £3,996 a month, whereas the same property in Zurich would cost you £3,200 per month. 

This drastic increase makes Geneva's rental prices approximately 9.47% higher than the prices in London. 

However, the solution to this rental issue is to be flexible. There are a range of services that have been purposefully designed to help expats find somewhere to live. The most important thing is to start your planning and research early. The sooner you start looking for accommodation, the higher the chances are of you finding something that you like.

In terms of purchasing a property in Switzerland, the Swiss government don't make it terribly easy. They have implemented a number of restrictions which pose difficulties for non-Swiss nationals to buy a property. This is particularly difficult if you are moving to Switzerland from a non-EU country, like the United Kingdom. However, purchasing a property in Switzerland is not impossible, you will just need to factor in the cost of purchasing a license. 

If you are thinking about purchasing a property, then bare in mind that Zurich is the most expensive place with one square meter costing around £10,000. However, in saying this, the property prices vary from place to place and so it is best to do your research before deciding if you want to purchase a property in Switzerland. 

Healthcare costs in Switzerland

In Switzerland healthcare insurance is mandatory which can be expensive. The average premium could set you back around £280 a month, although this is worth it when you have access to one of the best healthcare systems in the world. 

There are healthcare packages available, which can offer you a lower premium, however these low-cost insurance plans can result in you having to pay more than you expected. For this reason, make sure you do your research and choose the right healthcare package for you. You should also check with your employer to see if they offer any subsides when it comes to healthcare insurance. Some may offer to cover the whole thing and others may offer discounts, but whatever incentive it is, every little helps. 

Healthcare insurance prices can vary depending on the economy of  where you live in Switzerland and on the insurer. These prices are announced by Switzerland's Federal Public Health Office (the OFSP), which allows you to compare the prices between different areas. 

Grocery costs in Switzerland

Like grocery shopping in the UK, your monthly supermarket bill depends on the size of your household and your preferred brands or shops, with some being more expensive than others. However, in terms of the general cost of food in Switzerland, residents are advised to budget between £350 and £600 a month, per person.

The price of buying groceries in Switzerland is around 25% more expensive that other European cities, such as London, Paris and Munich, with Zurich and Basel being where the prices are the highest. 

Transport costs in Switzerland

The most popular method of transport in Switzerland is cycling, especially if you live in cities like Zurich, Bern and Geneva. This is due to the fact that public transport can be relatively expensive. For example, if you live one of the Swiss cities and require a travel pass, you will be looking at spending around £60 on this a month. This may seem expensive, but single fares are around £3.11 and if you are using public transport frequently, having a travel pass is the more cost effective option. These travel passes are valid on the trams, trains, buses and even ships. 

There are also other travel discounts available to residents, including the Swiss Half Fare Card or the Junior Card, which allows children to travel for free with an accompanying adult. 

If you are looking to travel by taxi, you will be expected to pay a carriage charge of approximately £6, as well as an estimated £3.50 for every kilometre you travel. This cost can easily rack up and so we recommend using taxi services sparingly and look into cheaper transport alternatives. 

Many people in Switzerland also own their own cars and vehicles, but this can be a costly investment. As of March 2022, fuel prices were around £1.48 per litre, but, as well as this, other charges will apply. One of these additional charges is for registering your car. The registration price will vary on where you live but it could set you back between £50 - £100. As well as this, you will need vehicle tax which will also depend on the area in Switzerland you live in and the charges will be based on a list of criteria. You will also need to keep in the mind that you cannot drive on a motorway without a motorway charge sticker, which also comes at a cost. This will only be around £35 but it is mandatory. 

Salaries in Switzerland

The big question you may be asking is how people survive with these high living costs and this is simply explained for their high paying jobs. 

Switzerland has a reputation for having some of the highest-paid workers in the world. In January 2022, it was reported that Switzerland's average income is around CHF 64,824, according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). This is around CHF 36,487 higher than the OECD average. The country also has a greater employment rate than most other countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA. 

In terms of a nationwide minimum wage, Switzerland don't have anything like this in place. However, several areas of Switzerland have their own minimum wage requirements and these are relatively high too. For example, if you live and work in Geneva you could earn one of the highest minimum wages in the world of 23 Swiss francs an hour. 

If you have chosen Switzerland to be your new home and are interested in learning more about the international removals process then check out our removals to Switzerland page.