Can I travel to Switzerland on a budget?
Switzerland is without a doubt one of the most expensive countries to travel to, so it makes sense that people regularly ask us if it is possible to travel to Switzerland on a budget. Good news: Yes, you can!
We traveled to Switzerland in July and had to start planning about 3-4 months in advance to make our two-week trip affordable, but it worked - and we kept our accommodations and adventures quite cheap!
Switzerland is a adventure lovers dream, and the landscape is simply mind blowing. No wonder it has been the filming location for a number of hits such as a number of James Bond films (the Contra dam in the Vezasca Valley from Goldeneye, Schilthorn mountain from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Furka Pass from Goldfinger, and the slopes of St Moritz from The Spy Who Loved Me) as well as Star Wars Episode III (the mountains around Grindelwald in the Jungfrau region for Alderaan), Iron Man 3, X-Men: First Class, and even Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Additionally, you can learn more about Switzerland’s culture by reading Switzerland - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture.
The key to making this work is a little-known fact: a large boy scout camp that offers its activity and accommodations to everyone! You can find that information near the bottom of this article.
Here is what we recommend as:
— The Best DIY Switzerland Itinerary —
Keeping to a budget, we opted to utilize the “Programme & Adventure” guide at the Kandersteg International Scout Center (KISC) while staying at an Airbnb in Kandersteg. We were required to walk about a mile from the Airbnb to KISC on each day that we had activities planned with them - which is through the town and village of Kandersteg (actually a huge highlight of a picturesque Swiss village)! Some of these links will lead to other articles that we have written about - for each of the specific experiences.
NOTE: (ind) = independent of KISC - we booked these activities separately
Flight to Zurich (ind) & Travel to Kandersteg B&B via Train (ind). How can you travel to Switzerland and not try out the iconic trains? You get to relax while enjoying the beautiful Swiss countryside as you travel down to Kandersteg. It was gorgeous and we didn’t even have to pay attention to the roads! Although, we did have to transfer when we made it to Spiez.
Paragliding (CHF 160), Kandersteg Trail (FREE). There is a trail around Kandersteg that passes by Almenbachfalle Waterfall (which is gorgeous!), and you can even go Paragliding nearby (book in advance) after going up the Luftseilbahn (lift in Kandersteg) with AMAZING views of the mountains in all directions!
Spend a day in Interlaken doing some of the wild stuff! We decided to take the White Water Rafting & Canyoning Combo (CHF 179). Rafting goes down some rapids that are formed by glacier water, meaning it is cold water, so prepare with neoprene gloves if you have them (they give you wet suits). You will get to experience level 3 and some level 4 rapids. Next, go on a full-scale (but intro level) canyoning course. It is seriously amazing and a completely different experience than anything we’ve ever done before! We even spent the evening here enjoying the scenery and the white and blue rivers!
Switzerland is known for their cheese and their chocolate. Why not take a day tour to see what it’s all about? We picked the Chocolate & Cheese Trip (CHF 80) and they brought us out to Gruyere to experience this charming town as well as the Cheese & Chocolate factories nearby. These are the “La Maison du Gruyere” in Gruyere and the “Maison Cailler” in Broc (nearby). It was quite an experience!
Days 5 & 6
The Swiss Alps are no joke, but they should definitely be on any itinerary to Switzerland! Serious Swiss mountain hiking combined with some into-level rock climbing? Now we’re talking! We grabbed the Three Valleys Hike’n’Climb (CHF 50) – which included a hike to the Ueschinen Hut with a more-or-less intro level Rock Climbing experience on Day 5, then an overnight at Ueschinen Hut. On Day 6 we continued up the mountain to complete the Three Valleys Hike (this required a few additional food packages). Challenging but one of the biggest highlights of our trip!
Seeing the highest snow-capped peaks of Switzerland and enjoying an afternoon down in Grindelwald is a must do while in Switzerland! We picked the Jungfraujoch & Eiger Trail Day Trip - Top of Europe (CHF 190). You will take a special train up through the Eiger mountain (yes, inside the mountain!) to the top. There are a number of stores and a few restaurants there as well (we had some amazing soup at the fancy one with the views!). You can even walk outside and take photos of Switzerland from the top of Europe! Amazing.
For a little bit of relaxation, we decided to visit Oeschinensee Lake on Day 8 by taking a quick cable car (gondola) ride and a short (child friendly) hike from Kandersteg. The round-trip lift does have a small cost, but you could hike up as well (not difficult). There is even a strange tube-like roller coaster thing up there called the Rodelbahn. It is definitely worth trying, but don’t go faster than you can handle (there are no safety nets or straps!). Oeschinensee Gondola (CHF 22.40), Rowing Boats at Oeschinenesee Lake (CHF 15), & Rodelbahn (ind)
As it was raining for us on Day 9, we went to the Wellness Center at Waldhotel Doldenhorn, but we would highly recommend going to Blausee Lake if you can - which is just a train stop away. As it stopped raining in the evening, we managed to catch Swiss Culture Night (FREE). It was a great addition to experience real culture while in Switzerland - this included yodelers, alp-horn players, and Swiss dancers!
We couldn’t miss going to Zurmatt to see the Matterhorn, so we took a day trip out in the morning and saw a goat parade there! We also enjoyed hiking around the Furi Wanderweg (ind), took a cable car to a viewing location for The Matterhorn (ind), and then detoured out of Switzerland to stay overnight in Stresa, Italy (ind) - but you could just as easily head back into Kandersteg!
Yes, we took a day off in Italy to see the amazing lake and The Borromean Islands of Stresa, Italy (ind). You could do the same or use the extra day to pack in another special day for Switzerland! If you’re staying in Switzerland, we would probably recommend going to Lucerne if you can!
Some of the most iconic photos of Switzerland come from Lauterbrunnen - so we had to plan a day to travel to this small village and see Trummelbach Falls (ind), then we headed west on the train to Thun, to see Thun Castle (CHF 6). The history of Switzerland is rich and beautiful! Lastly, we took a Ferry on Lake Thunersee from Thun to Spiez (ind) - Interlaken (ind). It was gorgeous and we would highly recommend it for the views alone!
Sadly, all great adventures come to an end at some point. We were able to see more of the landscape and mountains of Switzerland as we traveled across the country back to Zurich via Train (ind), and then took our Flight back Home (ind)
See more photo highlights from our trip in the Switzerland Gallery.
— OUR SECRET BUDGET LOCATION —
If you’re looking for a budget itinerary that you can build yourself in Switzerland, look no further than the Kandersteg International Scout Center (we are in no way affiliated with KISC - it is just an honest recommendation). Use their “Programme & Adventure” guide as it is open to anyone - even people who aren’t scouts and aren’t staying at their accommodations! It does cost 10% more for people not staying in their accommodations, but the cost of your trip to Switzerland is likely to be more than 60% cheaper than if you were to put it together elsewhere. You can even save that 10% by reserving a camp site or by staying in one of their lodge-type accommodations for as little as CHF 10.00-38.00 per adult per night!
We were staying for 12 nights, but opted to get a Bed & Breakfast about a mile away near the Kandersteg city center instead (it is a small town), so we did need to pay the 10% premium for the activities - but they are QUALITY ACTIVITIES at steeply discounted prices. Additionally, the walk to the camp is very pleasant in the mornings - a road with sidewalks will bring you directly there - just make sure to greet people who ware walking by in German by saying “Morgen” as they pass by. The area is extraordinarily safe, even in the evenings – plus, the camp has a number of fun outdoor day and night activities that you are invited to which occur year-round – most of which are FREE. Yes, there are loads of things to do for free, but here are some that cost less than CHF 10.00 as well.
If you’re looking for cheap Day Trips, like the ones we scheduled outside of KISC, you can find a number of them here: “Best Switzerland Tours”. Additionally, you explore some alternate itineraries and tours here: “Great Deals on Switzerland Vacation Packages”.
If you need help with planning your trip, feel free to contact us! See below for a number of the activities and adventures offered at KISC.
— FREE THINGS TO DO —
— AFFORDABLE THINGS TO DO —
— Uniquely Swiss & Adventure Activities —
Then there are some of the Uniquely Swiss activities and some of the more serious adventures and day trips. These are the serious Swiss Mountain Hikes, White Water Rafting, Canyoning, Skiing, Paragliding, and Rock Climbing type of activities. It is really amazing how much they offer to do here - and I haven’t shown even half of them!
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore