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Which parts of Switzerland are most expensive for tourists?

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15 Jul, 2022 Updated Fri 15 Jul 2022 12:04 CEST
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The Swiss town of Montreux imposes the equal highest tourist tax of anywhere in Switzerland. Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash

Tourist taxes. Mandatory guest cards. Several parts of Switzerland have unique ways to squeeze a bit more cash out of visitors. Here’s what you need to know.

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Whether for skiing in winter, hiking in summer or visiting the old towns and villages the whole year ‘round, Switzerland is a popular tourist destination. 

It can also be incredibly expensive, with high costs for hotels, travel, food, drink and other expenses. 

In addition to these costs, many cities, towns and municipalities in Switzerland impose their own charges through tourist taxes and mandatory guest cards. 

These costs can vary widely across Switzerland. 

Swiss money services agency Comparis has put together a summary of the most expensive - and the cheapest - places in Switzerland. 

The following will take into account only tourist taxes, guest cards and similar expenses. 

What are tourist taxes and mandatory guest cards? 

Tourist taxes are charged by certain council associations as a way to raise revenue from visitors. 

In effect, tourist taxes ensure that tourists pay for the public facilities they use in a particular area rather than (just) Swiss taxpayers. 

Generally, this money goes into the town’s budgets to improve tourist services, along with ensure maintenance of tourist sites. 

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In outdoor areas such as ski fields and hiking paths, the money can be use to maintain environmental standards. 

Mandatory guest cards are similar, although they often come with tangible benefits which are targeted directly at tourists. 

For instance, while a tourist tax may go towards general costs like the upkeep of paths, the maintenance of signs and the removal of rubbish, mandatory guest cards will entitle the holders to discounts on certain services. 

The mandatory guest card in the mountain town of Interlaken provides free travel on public transport, discounts on certain mountain railways and funiculars, as well as discounts on a wide variety of tourist activities including spas, helicopter rides and escape rooms. 

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Where are they charged - and who has to pay them?

Tourist taxes are charged in towns and cities all across Switzerland - only a handful of Swiss towns and villages have elected not to charge a tourist tax. 

Swiss tabloid Blick notes that in recent years more and more communities have switched from tourist taxes to mandatory guest cards, while flat rate charges for second homes or on the basis of the amount of beds.

A location does not need to be a tourist destination in order to charge a tourist tax. In fact, they're also an important source of revenue from business and other travellers. 

Tourist taxes are not only charged on international tourists. 

Even Swiss residents and citizens will be charged some form of tourist tax when they stay in a destination they are not a resident of. 

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The most expensive parts of Switzerland to visit

The most expensive locations in Switzerland tend to be smaller tourist destinations - many of which are well known and incredibly popular. 

There is a tie between the two most expensive places to visit: Saas Fee in Valais and Montreux in Vaud, which both cost CHF7 per person per night. 

Leukerbad in Valais will set you back CHF6 per night, while the mountain retreats of Davos, Saanen and Klosters-Sernaus each cost CHF5.90. 

What about the cheapest? 

On the other hand, Comparis also listed the cheapest municipalities to visit in Switzerland on the basis of tax/mandatory gift cards. 

The canton of Zug has the lowest tourist taxes, charging just 90 cents a night. 

Zug is well known for its low-tax policies which attract the country’s (and the world’s) millionaires. 

READ MORE: Which Swiss canton has the most millionaires?

After Zug, Morschach (Schwyz) imposes a tax of CHF1.50 per person per night, while the cost is CHF1.80 in Oberkirch (Lucerne) and CHF2.35 in Chur (Graubünden). 

Zurich is in fifth place with a nightly cost of CHF2.50. 

The findings are largely similar to a 2021 survey done by Comparis on the highest tourist tax across the nation. 

Switzerland's highest and lowest tourist taxed communities. Image: Comparis.

Switzerland's highest and lowest tourist taxed communities. Image: Comparis.

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2022/07/15 12:04

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