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Which parts of Switzerland are most expensive for tourists?

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.

The Swiss town of Montreux imposes the equal highest tourist tax of anywhere in Switzerland. Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash
The Swiss town of Montreux imposes the equal highest tourist tax of anywhere in Switzerland. Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash

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. 

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. 

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. 

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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TRAIN TRAVEL

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it also has a great location right in the centre of Europe, making it an ideal starting point for train travel. Here are five destinations you can reach in less than five hours from Zurich.

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

As summer is still in full swing and there are many vacation days (or free weekends) to enjoy the sunny weather, it’s not the wrong time to do some travelling. Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it’s also centrally located in Europe. This means that many major European cities are reachable in just a few hours.

If you are located in Zurich, for example, then you are very near Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. In less than five hours, visiting beautiful cities in these five countries is possible by taking a comfortable train ride.

So, select your final destination, get your ticket, and enjoy the ride.

READ ALSO: Switzerland’s ten most beautiful villages you have to visit

From Zurich to Strasbourg

It will take you just about 2 hours and 30 minutes (including time to stop and change trains in Basel) to get from Zurich’s mains station to the beautiful and historical city of Strasbourg, in northeast France.

Prices vary depending on several factors, but we found one-way tickets for just around CHF 23 on a Friday.

From Zurich to Munich

The capital of Bavaria can be reached from Zurich’s central station on a direct train in just 3 hours 30 minutes, allowing for short stays.

Munich may seem quite far away on a map, but the fast trains without stopovers actually make the journey quick and pleasant. We found one-way tickets for around CHF 70 on a Friday trip.

From Zurich to Vaduz

The capital of Liechtenstein is easy to reach in less than 2 hours from the Zurich central station. In fact, some journeys will take just about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The lovely town bordering Switzerland has many tourist attractions, from its pedestrian historical centre to castles and parks. Train ticket prices always vary, but we found tickets for a one-way journey on a Friday costing CHF 20.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

From Zurich to Milan

Depending on the train you take, you can get from Zurich to Italy’s fashion capital in three to four hours with a direct train.

Before 2016, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened to rail traffic, a trip from Zurich to Milan took an hour longer. It’s possible to find tickets for about CHF 70 for a one-way trip on a Friday.

From Zurich to Innsbruck

From Zurich, it is possible to hop on a direct train and, in just over 3 hours and 30 minutes, arrive in the beautiful town of Innsbruck, in the mountains of Tyrol.

Ticket costs vary, but we found tickets for a relatively short-notice one-way trip on a Friday (without discounts) for CHF 84.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Cost:

Fares depend on several factors, such as time of the day and day of the week when you travel.

While a rock-bottom cheap fare may be available one day in the morning, it won’t necessarily be offered the next day (or week) in the afternoon, or vice-versa.

Prices also depend on whether you are entitled to any discounts and which wagon you choose.

If you are interested in travelling farther afield, including with night trains, or if you are in other Swiss cities, these articles provide more information:

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