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How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Switzerland? The Cost of Living in One of the Most Expensive Countries in Europe

Beautiful nature, a high level of economic development, efficient government actions, and modern healthcare – all of these and many other advantages entice expatriates from different parts of the world to Switzerland. This alpine country consistently ranks among the top countries in various lists of the best places to live. However, it is worth noting that cities like Zurich and Geneva regularly make it into the world’s top ten most expensive cities. This means that the cost of living in Switzerland is quite high. How much does it cost to live in Switzerland? Our experts will answer this question below.

cost of living Switzerland

Average salary in Switzerland in USD

Switzerland does not have a concept of minimum wage at the national level. However, many cantons set their own minimum wage rates. In most cantons, the minimum wage stands at CHF 20 CHF per hour (approximately USD 21).

What is a good salary in Switzerland? The salary figures presented in the article for reference pertain to Geneva and are sourced from up-to-date data obtained by Teleport:

ProfessionAnnual salary (in USD)
Cashier22,178
Copywriter61,189
Financial analyst108,840
Graphic designer35,586
Mobile app developer120,717
Sales network manager85,098
Administrator46,288
Software engineer71,953
Teacher42,715
Web developer64,591

The average salary level across Switzerland, after deducting tax payments, amounts to approximately CHF 6,300, or USD 7,051 per month. Over the past ten years, this indicator has experienced a growth of 13.2%.

Cost of living in Switzerland cities

Cost of living in Switzerland in USD for a family of four in different cities across the country (excluding housing expenses):

GenevaUSD 5,301.01 or USD 1,443.45 per each family member
BaselUSD 6,139.78 or USD 1,671.26 per each family member
ZurichUSD 6,205.88 or USD 1,680.89 per each family member
LausanneUSD 5,677.41 or USD 1,550.87 per each family member

To compare the cost of living in Switzerland vs. US: a comfortable life in the American city of New York for a family of four would cost a minimum of USD 6,703.61 per month, or USD 1,826.94 per person. In the case of San Francisco, a standard family would need USD 4,529.15 to feel relatively comfortable. It is important to note that these calculations do not include the cost of rental housing. They only cover expenses such as food, health insurance, entertainment, clothing, etc.

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How much is rent in Switzerland

It is worth noting upfront that renting an apartment or house in Switzerland constitutes a significant expense.

Due to this, many expats prefer small Swiss provinces over bustling and expensive major cities. Some even choose to reside in neighboring France or Germany, commuting to Switzerland for work on a daily basis.

Switzerland rent prices:

CityRent for a one-room apartment in the city center (in USD)Rent for a one-room apartment in the suburbs (in USD)Rent for a three-room apartment in the center (in USD)Rent for a three-room apartment in the suburbs (in USD)
Basel1,465.401,161.682,747.082,141.97
Geneva2,196.601,723.404,407.113,135.53
Lausanne1,636.621,320.403,268.922,856.9
Zurich2,155.561,560.134,053.922,860.59
Average price1,628.761,268.512,952.742,290.52

Note: data is current as of February 8, 2022 (Numbeo).

Cost of utilities (electricity, gas, waste disposal) for an 85 sq. m apartment:

CityCost of utilities (in USD)
Basel250.20
Geneva196.82
Lausanne224.64
Zurich229.64
Average price225.32

How much does a house cost in Switzerland?

Many people are interested in real estate in Switzerland, considering purchasing a house in this country as a profitable investment or for their own residence. We present a report on the cost per square meter of a house in major Swiss cities.

CityPrice per square meter of a house in the center (in USD)Price per square meter of a house in the suburbs (in USD)
Basel1,089.481,089.48
Geneva1,386.01996.33
Lausanne1,385.611,135.75
Zurich1,369.62936.76

Swiss cost of living: entertainment

Is living in Switzerland expensive in terms of entertainment? The monthly budget for entertainment in Switzerland will depend on each individual’s personal preferences. Some enjoy dining at fine restaurants on weekends, while others prefer active leisure activities or attending concerts. It is worth noting that the expenditure category related to entertainment in Switzerland is much higher compared to other European countries. And this means that the Swiss love not only to work but also to relax.

EntertainmentCost (in USD)
Standard lunch at a fast food restaurant14.30
3-course lunch in a mid-range restaurant for one person65.80
3-course lunch in an elite restaurant for one person109
1 glass of beer at a local pub6.60
1 glass of wine at a local pub7.6
1 cocktail at a local bar22
1 cup of coffee at a local cafe4.95
Cinema ticket21
Lift pass (per day)35-70
Concert ticket of world-famous musician117
Monthly gym membership93.30

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How much do groceries cost in Switzerland?

It is commonly believed that prices for groceries in Germany or France are significantly higher compared to, let’s say, Poland or Slovakia. However, Switzerland living cost is even more expensive in this regard. Many Swiss residents living in border regions prefer to visit neighboring Germany to shop for groceries. This choice allows them to save nearly 50% of their budget.

Depending on dietary preferences and other factors, the average Swiss individual spends an estimated USD 337 to USD 540 per month on groceries. Consequently, a family of four would need approximately $1,200 to $2,000 for a basic set of food items.

Average cost of living in Switzerland in terms of food spending:

ProductPrice (in USD)
Tomatoes (1 kg)4.30
Apples (1 kg)4.22
Bananas (1 kg)3.25
Oranges (1 kg)4.20
Milk (1 l)1.75
Rice (1 kg)3.10
Onion (1 kg)2.99
Homemade beer (500 ml)1.95
Ground beef (500 g)12.70
Chicken fillet (500 g)20.02
Eggs (10)4.90

Health insurance system in Switzerland

Historically, medical insurance in Switzerland was provided by small private insurance companies. After several attempts to introduce a universal insurance system, in 1994, the government enacted the Swiss Federal Law on Health Insurance, based on a model of private insurance. The objectives of the law were as follows:

  • strengthening equality between households with low and high incomes
  • expanding the range of benefits and ensuring high standards of medical services
  • controlling the growing costs of the healthcare system.

Since its implementation in 1996, medical insurance coverage in Switzerland has approached 100 percent. Citizens are legally obligated to purchase insurance, and the cantons ensure compliance with this requirement. Working Swiss individuals must obtain separate policies for themselves and their dependents.

Swiss residents are required to purchase insurance from private non-profit insurance companies. Taxpayers also pay annual deductibles in addition to co-insurance (with an annual limit) for all services. The coverage includes:

  • visits to doctors
  • inpatient treatment
  • pharmaceutical drugs
  • home care
  • medical services within the scope of long-term care
  • physiotherapy.

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Cost of health insurance in Switzerland

Having medical insurance in Switzerland is a mandatory requirement for everyone. Expats must arrange insurance coverage within three months of arriving in the country. By the way, insurance coverage is applied retroactively from the date of arrival.

Is it expensive to live in Switzerland in terms of healthcare? Health services in Switzerland are considered among the most expensive worldwide, surpassed only by medical services in the United States. The Swiss government allocates 12% of GDP annually for healthcare and medical expenses. In 2018, for example, the total expenditure on healthcare amounted to CHF 81.9 billion (USD 84.4 billion).

In 2023, the cost of medical insurance increased from USD 354 to USD 376 per month. For an average income in Switzerland of USD 7,000, the insurance cost for an adult individual would be USD 446.

However, even with medical insurance, individuals still have to pay out-of-pocket for doctor visits and other services. Of course, the amounts, in this case, are significantly lower compared to being uninsured.

ServiceFull price (in USD)How much you will have to pay out-of-pocket (in USD)
Visit to a therapist142 – 16414.2 – 16.4
Simple on-site treatment (dressing, vaccination, blood test, etc.)32832.8
General health examination2,729 – 4,912272 – 491
Hospital treatment14,192765
Childbirth5,459 – 5,580545 – 558
C-section7,642 – 9,8280
1-week dose of over-the-counter cold medicine1616
A pack of antibiotics3838

Cost of education 

Expats have the option to enroll their children in international schools, of which there are many in Switzerland. A significant number of these educational institutions are concentrated in Geneva and Zurich. The cost of education can range from USD 13,513 to USD 33,768 annually per child.

Childcare 

Childcare is another significant expense for parents living in Switzerland. These services can cost nearly half of their average equivalent salary.

Parents can expect to pay around USD 146 USD per day or USD 2,926 per month for childcare for one child. However, these expenses can be reduced through various tax benefits.

Public transport costs

Public transportation is the optimal mode for those residing in the central areas of major cities.

A one-way ticket in Zurich costs USD 5, while in Geneva, it is USD 3.40.

For a monthly pass in Zurich, you need to pay USD 95, whereas in Geneva, it is USD 80.

Taxi services 

Taxi services in Switzerland are quite expensive, with fares starting at around USD 8 per kilometer, plus an additional USD 5 fee. For a 20-minute taxi ride, you can expect to pay approximately USD 125.

How much does it cost to own a car in Switzerland 

Below is an overview of the average prices of Switzerland’s five most popular car models.

Car modelPrice for a new car (in USD)Price of a used car (3 years in use, in USD)
Skoda Octavia32,625 – 38,06014,100 – 27,200
Volkswagen Golf30,450 – 34,80014,100 – 19,600
Volkswagen Tiguan44,600 – 58,70027,200 – 38,000
BMW X376,000 – 98,00032,625 – 43,500
Mercedes C Class60,000 – 70,70038,060 – 43,500

On average, Swiss residents pay around USD 2500 per year for a comprehensive car insurance package.

Summary 

Is Switzerland expensive to live in? The prices for renting apartments, groceries, entertainment, and medical insurance in this country are among the highest in the world. However, they are in line with the high standard of living in Switzerland and citizens’ security. Expats wishing to relocate to Switzerland and live there comfortably should expect to earn a minimum of USD 3500 per person, taking into account rent and other expenses.

Are you dreaming of moving to Switzerland? Seek assistance from our experts by sending a request to [email protected].

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