What You Need to Know About Relocate to Switzerland

Ask any visitor who has travelled to Switzerland and they will all say that it exceeded their expectations. Everything you heard about living in Switzerland is probably true: the breathtaking views, the charming towns, the efficient public transportation system, the best chocolates and watches.


Ask any visitor who has travelled to Switzerland and they will all say that it has exceeded all their expectations. Everything you heard about living in Switzerland were probably true: the breathtaking views, the charming towns, the efficient public transportation system.

Switzerland is famous for many things, one of them being the very high cost of living. Whether it be the cost of housing or the amount a Swiss national is willing to pay for healthcare, it is a guarantee that everything comes at a premium.

Expats moving to Switzerland will need to familiarize themselves with the many regional differences of each specific canton. Switzerland is composed of 26 cantons, each having their own laws.

Public Holidays in Switzerland

Aside from the national holidays, every canton in Switzerland has their own specific holidays which expats will need to familiarize themselves with.

New Year’s Day January 1
Good Friday The Friday before Easter Sunday
Ascension Day 40 days after Easter
National Day August 1
Christmas Day December 25

Holidays Celebrated in Most Cantons

Berchtolds Day January 2
St. Joseph’s Day March 19
Easter Monday Monday after Easter Sunday
Swiss Federal Fast Third Sunday in September.
Immaculate Conception Day December 8
St. Stephen’s Day December 26

Main Embassies in Switzerland

Embassy of Canada to Switzerland in Bern
Kirchenfeldstrasse 88
CH-3005 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 31 357 3200
[email protected]

Embassy of India in Bern
Kirchenfeldstrasse 28
3005 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 31 350 1130
[email protected]

United Kingdom
British Embassy in Bern
Consular Services
Thunstrasse 50
3005 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 31 359 77 00
[email protected]

United States of America
U.S. Embassy in Bern
Sulgeneckstrasse 19
CH-3007 Bern, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 31 357 7011
[email protected]

Main Airports in Switzerland

Zurich International Airport is the largest airport in Switzerland. The other two main airports travelers can use are Geneva International Airport, Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport, which is located in France but services Switzerland. Moving, Settling-In, and Other Essential Service

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Switzerland varies from canton to canton. It goes without saying that the bigger the city, the higher the cost of living. Demand for housing in the bigger cities, coupled with the limited availability, continues to drive the price of rentals up. More than anything, housing will be taking the biggest chunk out of an expat’s salary.

The most expensive cities are Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and Bern. The cheapest places are Uri, Glarus, and Appenzell Innerrhoden.

Average Cost of Living in Basel, Bern, Zurich, and Geneva

Single Person Household

Geneva 3,450 3,510
Zurich 3,290 3,350
Basel 2,700 2,740
Bern 2,430 2,470

Four Person Household

Geneva 9,050 9,200
Zurich 8,900 9,000
Basel 8,040 8,170
Bern 7,270 7,400

Food and Alcohol Prices in Switzerland

Living in paradise doesn’t come cheap, as food prices in Switzerland can attest. The smart expat may want to cut down on eating out and instead learn to cook the many scrumptious local dishes. Here is a look at Swiss food and alcohol prices in Geneva. (At these prices, CHF to USD are the same.)

One dozen eggs 7 CHF
One loaf of bread 3 CHF
One liter of milk 2 CHF
Domestic beer 8 CHF
Bottle of wine 12 CHF

Utility Costs

Basic utilities such as water and electricity are included when renting an apartment in Switzerland. It is usually your obligation to call the utility company to take over the previous tenant’s place, unless you rent a house, wherein you will most-likely have to set-up all of your utilities from scratch. Basic utilities such as electric and water average around 180 CHF per 85 square meters. Wi-fi will run around 60 UHF. There is a mandated licensing fee of 15 CHF per month for radio and television.

Cost of Education

While almost nothing in Switzerland comes cheap, the cost of education is reasonable. It is no surprise that the majority of its citizens are choosing to send their children to study in public schools. Not only is it free, but the educational standards are identical to those of private schools.

College education is cheap compared to other European countries or the U.S. The yearly tuition cost averages around 2,000 CHF for both undergrad and graduate programs.

Rent Prices

Swiss prefer renting over home ownership. The lack of available housing coupled with high demand has pushed the price of rent to exorbitant levels. Although not ranking as high as places like Los Angeles or the UAE, rent alone will take a sizeable amount of the expat’s wages. One-Bedroom Apartment Monthly Rent

Switzerland’s Main Cities CHF USD
Geneva 2,000 2,400
Zurich 1,800 2,500
Basel 1,200 1,220
Bern 1,000 1,020

Three-Bedroom Apartment Monthly Rent

Switzerland’s Main Cities CHF USD
Geneva 3,720 3,790
Zurich 3,320 3,380
Basel 2,500 2,550
Bern 2,100 2,140

Healthcare Cost Swiss residents are required to avail of private health insurance, even with a universal healthcare system in place. Infants are expected to be signed up for their own healthcare plan within three months of birth and adults are expected to keep paying their premiums well after retirement. As with almost everything else, your canton plays a big part in how much you will be paying, whether or not you opt for a basic or a premium plan. The average healthcare plan for an adult range from 200 CHF (206 USD) to 500 CHF (515 USD). Travel and Transportation Cost Traveling around Switzerland is painless. The different cantons are connected via an efficient system of trains and buses. Save money by checking the different cards and passes available and choose one that is most suited to your needs. For example, a GA travel card allows for unlimited travel by public transportation for a year. If your work requires a lot of travel, then this would be the smarter option. Depending on the mode of transportation and destination, fares cost anywhere from 10-100 CHF (10-102 USD). A bus trip from Zurich to Bern for example, costs around 50 CHF (51 USD). Culture and Social Etiquette Geographically speaking, Switzerland is a country situated in the confluence of Western, Central, and Southern Europe. Although historically known for being politically neutral, its bordering neighbors have influenced its culture in many different ways- specifically Germany, Italy, and France. Proof is in its four official languages and culturally diverse cantons. Expats moving to Geneva, for example, will discover that it is the French-speaking canton and that almost everything French has influenced this side of Switzerland. The same can be said of Zurich, except that this time, it is shaped by German customs and traditions instead. The dominant culture of each canton heavily influences the laws and politics within its jurisdiction. The Swiss government grants each canton a lot of authority, so it is wise to check your canton’s website for specific mandates and regulations. Punctuality One can say that Swiss have an exalted attitude towards time. Not only because of the painstaking work detail they put into their watches, but also their high regard for punctuality. Expect meetings, social engagements, everything- to start exactly on time. Not only is it considered unprofessional to be late, but tardiness is considered rude. Bring a Gift It is common courtesy in Switzerland to bring a gift for the hostess should you be invited to someone’s home. It is expected of everyone to bring a bottle of wine or flowers for example, even if it’s a friend’s home. Toasts In Switzerland, celebrations or gatherings are incomplete without a toast. Not only is it a great way to offer good tidings to its drinkers, but a great way to collectively spread good cheer and camaraderie in general. It is the traditional benchmark before eating or drinking. Make sure to maintain eye contact with your host throughout the toast. It would be impolite not to do so. Greetings Following hierarchies are important in Switzerland. It is important to address someone with their corresponding title, especially when you are in business with them. Whether it’s Mr. or Mrs., Monsieur or Madame, Herr or Frau, they are all used to address people with respect. If the person is a doctor, be sure to address them as such. Greetings are expected to be formal and direct. A firm handshake with eye contact or quick kiss on the cheek is the standard. The number of kisses, two or three, depends on your canton. Dogs are Allowed Everywhere Pets are regarded highly in Switzerland. It is not uncommon to see dogs accompany their proud owners inside shops and restaurants. They have come to symbolize a high level of affluence. Personal Space The common courtesy of respecting someone else’s “personal space” is a strange proposition in Switzerland. Everything and everyone seem to be in a state of constant haste. Maybe it has something to do with the Swiss preoccupation with time and efficiency, or maybe people simply just have a lot of things on their mind. Whatever the case may be, don’t take it personally if people cut in line or press up against you in public places. It’s just how things operate in beautiful Switzerland. Personal Life  In direct contrast with the lack of awareness in matters of personal space, the Swiss can often appear aloof and emotionally unavailable. Sharing personal matters at work or to a new acquaintance is shunned and considered crass. It will take awhile before you get invited to social gatherings and you might not feel necessarily welcome around groups of people. Maybe it has something to do with the German influence of being careful and calculating or maybe it is a matter of respecting privacy. Swiss culture values friendships conceived from deep bonds. Maybe this is the reason why trust is not given away lightly. Everything opens up in Switzerland once you form meaningful affinities. Driving in Switzerland Traffic regulations are strictly enforced in Switzerland and infringements are dealt with hefty fines. Obey traffic rules during your stay to avoid any stain on your records. Facts about Driving in Switzerland

  • The minimum age for driving in Switzerland is 18.
  • Driving in Switzerland is on the right side of the road.
  • Your headlights must be switched on during all hours of the day, even in daylight.
  • The speed for motorways is typically 120 km/h and for highways it is 100 km/h. In towns it is 80 km/h.
  • Traffic on the right side has the right of way.
  • You must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.
  • A one-year pass for 40 CHF enables you to freely use the motorway and are available for purchase online.

Driving in Switzerland with a Foreign License Switzerland will permit foreign drivers to use their respective licenses for up to 12 months if it can be proven that they have been legally driving for over a year and that their license contains Roman letters and numerals. Otherwise, you will need to obtain an International Driving License. In special cases, expatriates may need a particular document from their consulate stating that they have been driving for over a year. It is a good idea to keep this document inside your vehicle. Residents with a UK or EU licenses are allowed to drive in Switzerland for their first year of staying there. How to Get a Swiss Driving License For most nationalities, securing a Swiss driving license will only involve the usual paperwork and a fee. Others might have to pass the written and practice tests after taking a driving course. It is best to secure your license as soon as you have your residency card and a place to stay. To get a driving license in Switzerland you will need:

  • An “exchange of driver’s license” form from your canton’s government website
  • Certified Swiss optician eye test (note that a Swiss optician will need to fill out a section of your ‘exchange of driver’s license’ form)
  • Passport
  • Passport photo
  • Residency permit

Renting a Car in Switzerland To rent a car in Switzerland, you must be 20 years old or over and have proof that you have been driving for longer than a year. Your car should come with a vignette pass and it is a good idea to get insurance. Free Process with Our Essential Relocation Services. Public Transportation in Switzerland The Swiss public transportation system is a lesson in efficiency and reliability. All public transport in Switzerland comes free with a Swiss travel pass and several other rail passes. Purchasing a Zurich Card allows free public transport throughout the city as well. Whether travelling inter-city or intra-city, you can rely on Swiss trains to get you anywhere on time. Its public transport system runs like clockwork, with everything arriving and departing on time. Cities and towns are well connected with its system of trams, buses, trains, etc. and there is no remote location throughout the country that cannot be reached by public transportation. How’s that for efficiency? How is Public Transportation in Switzerland? An interconnected network of trains and buses are at the heart of the Swiss public transportation system. Together, they cover over 5,000 km of road. Switzerland does not have its own high-speed railway system. Instead, high-speed trains from neighboring countries pass through the country on a daily basis and make frequent stops at Swiss cities and towns. Cost of Public Transport in Switzerland Here are the various fare options for public transportation in Switzerland such as one-day passes, unlimited monthly passes, or half-fare passes. Public transportation costs in Switzerland at a glance.

Fare Type Fare Cost CHF Fare Cost USD
Single journey tram/bus ticket 3–4.50 3–5
Tram/bus day pass 6–9 6–9
Half-fare pass* 165–185 170–190
Monthly General Abonnement (GA pass)** 340–545 350–560
Yearly General Abonnement (GA pass)** 3,860–6,300 3,940–6,440

* Allows for half-priced travel on entire public transport network.
** Best for frequent public transportation use.

Taxi Average taxi fares start at 6.50 CHF (7 USD) and charge about 3.50 (3.50 USD) per kilometer and may also depend on the canton.

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