5 Top Tips for Living in Zurich on a Student Budget – By Georgina Flaherty

  1. Invest in Swiss Transport Cards

As you have probably guessed, transport is extremely expensive in Zurich and even the locals think it’s overpriced! However, you’ll be impressed with the efficiency and punctuality of the transport system, which includes buses, trains and trams. The transport system can be accessible to students in the know with various transport cards that make this expensive city much cheaper.


If you are planning to take public transport in Zurich, a monthly student pass can help you save quite a bit of money. The monthly passes are at a significantly reduced price for students at 61 CHF. This card grants you unlimited Zone 1 travel in Zurich. If you want to travel to other zones, you need to buy a zone extension ticket, which can also be reduced if you invest in a Half Fare Card.


The Half Fare Card is an investment at first, however if you are looking to travel around Switzerland, this is a must-have. All Swiss train tickets are half price if you have the half-fare card, which includes zone extensions and transport in other cantons besides Zurich. Transport is extremely expensive in general here, for example a 45 minutes train from Zurich to Luzern could cost you 50 CHF return without the half fare card and 25 CHF return with the half fare card. So, it can make a substantial difference.


My favourite transport card though, is the Gleis Siben card. In order to purchase the Gleis Siben, you must have purchased the Half Fare Card. Honestly, this is an investment first up, but if you like to travel around Switzerland – this is your golden ticket! The Gleis Siben allows you to travel for free after 7pm around Switzerland on Swiss SBB trains. With so many beautiful places at your doorstep in Switzerland, this is an affordable shortcut to the usually extreme train prices.


  1. Grocery Shopping

First things first, COOP is not your friend, if you are on a student budget. The popular grocery store chain COOP is everywhere in Switzerland and their prices are uneconomical for students (despite COOP being conveniently located near some student housing and some University campuses). However, don’t despair, if you want a budget supermarket in Switzerland Aldi and Lidl are here to help. Aldi and Lidl both provide cheaper options to COOP. Migros is more expensive than Aldi and Lidl, but provides a huge ranges of Swiss treats, so it is a good place to pick one or two things up. Although, if you are really keen to save money and you have purchased the Gleis Siben card, discussed above, there is an alternative. Shopping in Germany is very popular among students and Swiss people in Zurich. After 7pm your travel will be free to and from border German towns such as Constance and Waldshut. The prices are significantly lower, just check out the customs restrictions for more information.


  1. Eat Vegetarian and have Lunch at the University Mensa

Meat in Zurich is very overpriced compared to tofu, beans and chickpeas. A vegetarian diet in Switzerland is a lot more economical and well, of course ethical in general. If you still want to eat some meat check out German border towns for reasonable prices or go to the University mensa. The mensa is like the University’s cafeterias and there are several around the University of Zurich campuses as well as a few at ETH. The food on offer is very reasonable, large portion sizes and there is always a hot main meal, with vegetarian or meat options. There is also a salad bar and snacks. It is also a cheap way to try new Swiss foods with great variety.


  1. for Student Books and IKEA for essentials

University books are always expensive and here this is no exception. The University has a student bookshop, but I found that Amazon prices were a lot cheaper. This was a huge saving! Also, if you need essentials for the kitchen or bathroom in your accommodation, IKEA is always a cheap alternative compared to other shops in Switzerland. Despite this, IKEA in Switzerland is still more expensive than IKEA in Australia. It’s still a good option if you need to pick up a few basic things and plus, you can get some cheap IKEA veggie balls or meatballs!


  1. Student Discounts

Ok, so there aren’t many student discounts in Zurich. The public transport options mentioned above are probably as good as it gets. However, various museums and art galleries have free entry for students on certain days of the week, so be sure to check that out. Many places don’t advertise their student discounts, so it never hurts to ask!

Georgina Flaherty

Swiss cows

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