Cost of living for international students in Switzerland

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In the last post, I shared with you some steps to follow when applying at a Swiss university, but now you might be wondering about the cost of living. Therefore, I decided to write (from my experience studying in the German part of Switzerland) about the usual expenses students have, so you can plan ahead of time and have an idea of how the ideal budget could look like, but obviously it all depends on your preferences and lifestyle… (grab your calculator).

Switzerland is known for being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and also for providing an outstanding quality of life, which makes it quite expensive. Semester fees at public universities are considered cheap compared to other countries like The US,  The UK, and even Colombia, but the cost of living for students can be relatively high.

Accommodation. One of the first steps after receiving your visa approval is to search for a place to live. This can be shared rooms at the university, rooms at someone you know, share flat etc… The prices in general can vary, but in a city like Lucerne price range is around CHF 540 and 700 for a room.  I suggest you to try to find a place near the university, some towns outside of the city can be cheaper, but you must take into account the transportation costs that are very high.


  • Start looking early and apply to established student houses. These houses tend to be more reliable.
  • University accommodation usually offers a good price, but it is necessary to register on the waiting list (check the rental periods).
  • Have in mind that the deposit and rent must be paid in advance.

Transportation. Public modes of transportation in Switzerland include buses, trains, trams, shared cars, ships, long-distance buses, scooters, public bikes…(I hope I’m not missing one). SBB is the main train company used, they also provide an SBB app where you can purchase tickets for buses, trams, trains and even tickets to destinations outside Switzerland.

SBB offers the option to acquire a Half Fare Travelcard, this one has a cost of CHF 185 per year, and sometimes can be less if you are between 16- 25 years old. The benefit of the card is that you pay half price and have also access to different partner services.

Another way to save money is to purchase a travel card for a specific zone, the price of a monthly city card can cost between 60 and 90 CHF,  which can be cheaper than buying daily tickets.

Additionally, exist the GA travel card, which can be used to travel through whole Switzerland and also offer other additional discounts. The price for young adults is CHF 245 per month and adults 25 and over CHF 340 per month.


  • When it comes to transportation a suitable option is to use a bicycle, they are easy to get around and you can definitely find a parking spot. (Check bicycle prices in the links below)
  • When the tickets are bought thought the app and in advanced, there is the chance to find discounts and offers.
  • For the GA they offer a minimum of 4 months contract, some people take advantage of this and just buy it for four months to travel everywhere around Switzerland.

Health insurance. Insurance prices range from around CHF 690 six months, it can be paid in installment payments of  CHF 120 per month.  Prices can also vary based on the age and nationality. Some of the available insurances are Swisscare, Student care (recommend by my university), and Academic care.

Food and other living expenses. Like in many countries eating out tends to be more expensive, but universities offer the option to buy lunch for a low price, that varies between CHF 7 and CHF 10 (el corrientazo), also it’s very common that students buy food from supermarkets like Coop or Migros, where you can buy snacks or lunches from 10 CHF to 20 CHF. Just to give you an idea some other prices:

  • A McDonald’s meal is around CHF14.
  • Water can be drank from the tap.
  • Litter of milk: Around CHF1.60.
  • Six of eggs: From CHF 3.30 to 5.
  • Chicken (1kg): around CHF 10.
  • Meal at a restaurant that is not so expensive: CHF 25.
  • Meal at a mid range restaurant: CHF 50.
  • Bottle of wine: between CHF 10 and 30 (a reasonable one)
  • 1 glass of wine is approx. CHF 7.
  • A beer around CHF 2 to 3  in a supermarket  and between CHF 5 and 8 in a bar.
  • Cellphone bill can be the lowest of CHF 60 per month with unlimited internet.
  • The gym can be a minimum of CHF 90 per month.
  • Cinema costs around CHF 18 per ticket.

In total buying groceries could be around CHF 75 to 100 per week. This can vary based on your preferences (Organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free etc…).


  • Usually students will prefer to have some drinks at home before going to a party. It helps to save money.
  • With the student ID you can get discounts in some places (restaurants, events, clothing stores, etc…).

To sum up, this is an idea of how your budget could look with CHF 1500 per month:

  • CHF 500 for food
  • CHF 120 for insurance
  • Around CHF 600 for rent
  • CHF 280 left

Remember that you have the opportunity to work part-time while studying, and this could help with some of the expenses.

Although Switzerland is an expensive place to live, you will be amazed of how beautiful and organized this country is, everything is super clean, transportation system is extremely punctual, people are very polite and in general everything seems to work so smooth, that makes this place worth to come.

Check the links below for additional information. Next week I’ll be writing about the Swiss culture, stay tuned … thanks for reading me!


Do you want to take a closer look to the rooms and prices? complete apartment)

Do you want to get an idea of how much a bicycle can cost?

V. Correal

Colombian living in Switzerland and studying a MSc in Online Business and Marketing. Passionate about international food, dancing and learning about cultures through unique experiences.

View all posts by V. Correal →

One thought on “Cost of living for international students in Switzerland

  1. Great article!

    I would like to add a relevant piece of information!

    A liability insurance for international students in Switzerland is highly recommended to protect against possible financial claims resulting from damage caused to others. For example, to cover the costs associated with property damage or bodily injury that the student may accidentally cause to others.

    Have a nice day,


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