Ah, Switzerland. Just the mere thought of it conjures up dreamy images in our minds of rolling hills, scenic lakes, and some of the best chocolates in the world. If it isn’t already on your bucket list, we only have one question to ask, why not?
Switzerland On A Budget
Previously, we spent a week in Switzerland, and not only were we completely floored by the picture-perfect landscapes all around us, but we also managed to uncover some awesome money-saving tips and tricks for first-time Muslim travellers to Switzerland. Of course, we’re not about to keep it all to ourselves, so here’s our budget-friendly guide for Muslim travellers to Switzerland✨
1. Save on transport costs with the Swiss Travel Pass (and free intra-city tickets!)
Even if you’re not an avid traveller, you’d probably know that transport often takes up a huge portion of your budget while travelling. More so, if you’re visiting multiple cities. The combined cost of all those train and bus rides is enough to burn a hole in your wallet. For instance, an inter-city train ride in Switzerland can cost up to CHF50 (RM210). If you’re planning to visit the famous Swiss Alps or any other Swiss mountains, your total cost is likely to skyrocket even higher.
Fortunately, travellers can take full advantage of the Swiss Travel Pass, which grants you unlimited rides on regular trains, buses and boats. It even gets you discounts on selected mountain excursions and free use of public transportation in more than 90 urban areas. Depending on the duration of your stay in Switzerland, you can get a 3, 4, 8 and 15-day pass. We got the 4-Day Swiss Travel Passes (Second Class) for CHF281 (RM1,183), which fit perfectly with our 7-Day Itinerary.
For the days when we didn’t have the Swiss Travel Pass, we explored the cities to minimise our transport costs, since intra-city travel is cheaper than inter-city travel. #HHWT Tip: In some Swiss cities like Geneva and Bern, tourists staying overnight will get a FREE intra-city ticket (like the Bern ticket) which grants access to all intra-city public transportation.
On a separate trip, we also explored Switzerland with an 8-Day Swiss Travel Pass (First Class) that costs CHF447 (RM2,022). It may be expensive, but we saved RM3,600 in total! Check out our 8D7N Muslim-friendly itinerary to Switzerland to see how we did it. If you’re still not sure whether the Swiss Travel Pass will be worth it, you can head to a Tourist Information Centre in Switzerland and ask for assistance. The Swiss Travel Pass can be bought on the spot in Switzerland itself. If you’d rather not buy it in advance, you can purchase it while you’re in Switzerland too.
Alternatively, a half-fare version of the Swiss Travel pass is available too, which allows you to use public transportation in Switzerland at half price. Click here to buy the Swiss Travel Pass online and find out more information about prices and validity.
2. Get discounts on scenic train rides and cruises with the Swiss Travel Pass
Take one of Switzerland's many scenic train rides for spectacular views
One of the best things about travelling by train is the beautiful views that you’ll get as you travel from city to city. While there are literally countless scenic train rides in Switzerland, go for the special Panoramic train rides for an experience you won’t soon forget. #HHWT Tip: Most panoramic train rides are covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, so you can travel for free on them if you’ve got it! Remember to make your seat reservations in advance! It also helps to read up a little online on which side of the train to sit on for the best views.
Hop on a cruise boat on Switzerland's gorgeous lakes
Switzerland’s tranquil lakes are some of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Framed against the backdrop of the Swiss mountain, one of the best ways to experience the lakes in Switzerland is to hop on a cruise boat which will take you to a tour of the lake itself! If you’re holding the Swiss Travel Pass, boat rides are completely FREE! All you need to do is check the boat schedule beforehand and show up at the dock with your Swiss Travel Pass in hand.
There are many lakes dotted all over Switzerland, but in our opinion, some of the most beautiful lakes in the country are found in Lucerne, Lugano and Interlaken, especially the latter because of the breathtaking views of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun that you’ll get on your boat ride! #HHWT Tip: During the winter, most boat rides are closed because of the weather, so we didn’t get to take any boat rides while we were there. If you’re visiting in the summer, it’s a definite must-do!
3. Enjoy discounts on Swiss mountain excursions with the Swiss Travel Pass
A trip up to the Swiss mountains is a must-do if you’re visiting Switzerland for the first time. Though ticket prices for mountain trips can get really expensive, the Swiss Travel Pass gives you up to 50% discounts! We can safely say that the highlights of our trip were the two mountain excursions we did up to Mount Titlis and Jungfraujoch (which is also known as the Top of Europe). With the Swiss Travel Pass, we managed to get our tickets for the revolving cable car ride up to the top of Mount Titlis and our tickets up to Jungfraujoch at 50% off each, which definitely saved a huge amount of our budget.
Mount Titlis is the highest peak in Central Switzerland and a stunning sight whether you’re visiting during summer or winter. If you’re a Swiss Travel Pass holder, you can get a 50% discount for all cable car rides to Mount Titlis. The normal rate is CHF47.86 (RM216.52) per person.
If you’ve only got time for one mountain excursion, go for Jungfraujoch! At a whopping 3,454 meters above sea level, Jungfraujoch is literally the Top of Europe and was definitely the highlight of our time in Switzerland.
While there are several attractions to visit on Jungfraujoch itself, the best ones are the Sphinx Observatory, one of the highest observatories in the world. Head to the open-air platform here for some of the best views of the mountain peaks surrounding you! #HHWT Tip: To maximise the value of your ticket prices, set aside an entire day to spend up in the mountains if you’re planning to travel up to them. This way, you can take your time to soak in the grandeur of the Swiss mountains. Trust us, you wouldn’t want to rush your way though!
4. Explore free things to do
Discover Switzerland's charming Altstadt (Old Towns) on foot
Every major city in Switzerland has an Old Town (Altstadt), and they’re often filled with historic buildings and sites that have lasted centuries! From pastel-coloured buildings to vibrant murals, you’ll find these Old Towns delightfully endearing and exuding a vintage charm that’s difficult to find anywhere else in the world. The best way to experience Switzerland’s old towns is on foot: most of these old towns are pedestrian areas, and it won’t take you more than two or three hours to explore the whole place.
Old Town of Zurich
One of the best things to do in Zurich is taking snapshots of the Old Town of Zurich. Wander around and admire heritage buildings, town squares and scenic river. If you have the time, cross the Limmat River, a scenic river that runs from Lake Zurich, which is situated in the southern side of Zurich city.
#HHWT Tip: For the best view of Old Town of Zurich and Limmat River, head over to Lindenhof Square. If you're lucky, you can capture a few boats cruising through the river too.
Old Town of Lucerne
Lucerne’s Old Town, in particular, is full of colourful murals that’ll greet you at every turn! The Old Town of Lucerne is super conveniently located. It’s just a 5-7 minute walk from Lucerne Train Station, Lake Lucerne and the iconic 17th century wooden bridges of Kappelbrucke and Spreuerbrucke, so you can cover all of them at one go! #HHWT Tip: The Old Town in Lucerne is super conveniently located. It's just a 5-7 minute walk from Lucerne Train Station, Lake Lucerne AND the iconic 17th-century wooden bridges of Kappelbrucke and Spreuerbrucke, so you can cover all of them at one go!
The Town of Rapperswill
You can find ancient castles (with FREE breath-taking views of the mountains surrounding them!) in some of the Old Towns! In Zurich, for instance, take the 45-minute train ride to the quaint town of Rapperswil, a lakeside old town which is home to the Schloss Rapperswil.
It only takes a 7-minute walk through Rapperswill to find yourself at the base of the hill where Schloss Rapperswil is situated. Take the short flight of stairs up to the top and you’ll get stunning views of the snow-topped roofs in Rapperswil with the backdrop of the Swiss mountains! #HHWT Tip: Try to plan your visit here on a bright, cloudless day for the best views!
Old Town of Bern
Of course, you can’t miss out on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town in Switzerland’s capital city, Bern. Though it may not be as well-known as the Old Towns in Zurich or Lucerne, it’s definitely quite underrated: the buildings here really look like they’ve been frozen in time. Stroll along Switzerland's picturesque promenades
One of the most pleasant experiences to have in Swiss cities throughout all the seasons is to take a stroll along the many picturesque promenades in each city, especially the ones lining the main rivers flowing through the city. Most of the time, these promenades are lined with different varieties of shops, classic cathedrals and quaint cafes, which really adds to the leisurely atmosphere. Zurich's Limmatquai, for instance, is lined with quirky murals and dozens of tiny antique shops, florists, and vintage clothing stores.
In stark contrast, the Bahnhofstrasse, which is located in Zurich’s main downtown, is a 10-min walking distance and decked with tons of luxury and designer stores. It’s also not surprising, considering how it’s also known as the most expensive street in the world.
Even if you're not planning to make any purchases here, it's worth a short stroll here for some window shopping, especially at night-time when it's at its liveliest, and when the storefront displays are beautifully lit up! #HHWT Tip: The Bahnhofstrasse starts right outside the Zurich Main Train Station, with popular retail stores like H&M located nearer to the start and the most high-end luxury stores located nearer to the end.
See Switzerland's iconic 17th-century wooden bridges for yourself
You've probably already seen pictures of the historical (and super Insta-worthy) covered wooden bridges of Lucerne floating around the internet at some point. Not only are these ancient structures incredibly photogenic, but it's also quite a tranquil experience to cross the bridges themselves in real life. If you're heading to Lucerne, the Kapellbrucke and Spreuerbrucke bridges will almost certainly be at the top of your to-do list!
Remember to look up and admire the gorgeous triangular paintings above you while you're on the bridge. Because of the fact that the bridges and the paintings are both centuries-old, a lot of the paintings have been removed or decayed over time. The ones that are still intact will still give you a glimpse of what the bridges would have looked like when they were first constructed all those years ago. Fun fact: The paintings were initially meant to tell a story so you could follow them from the start to the end of the bridge!
Both the Kapellbrucke and the Spreuerbrucke are just minutes away from each other on foot, and if you're here on a Saturday, be sure to check out the Saturday market stretching along the river between the two bridges!
5. Bring a water bottle and refill it at the water fountain
What's great about Switzerland's Old Town is the abundance of water fountains to refill your tumbler The water from the water fountain is suitable for drinking! Do remember to take only straight from the tap as the locals use the pool to bathe their pets.
6. Stay at Airbnbs to save on accommodation
Residence Jungfrau, our Airbnb in Interlaken.
When in Switzerland, you'll find that room rates at hotels (even three-star ones!) can get quite pricey. To save money on accommodation, it's best to stay at Airbnb while you're here! What's more, it isn't hard to find traditional Swiss houses that have been transformed into Airbnbs, like the one pictured above. In some cities, these Airbnbs even have views of the Swiss Alps right from your window, AND a few halal food options nearby!
If you're spending a few nights in Interlaken, we recommend choosing an Airbnb near Interlaken West station, or in the Unterseen neighbourhood, about 5-7 minute walking distance. We were pleasantly surprised to find so many halal eateries selling Turkish, Indian and Kashmiri food near the Interlaken West station. There are grab-and-go halal stalls perfect for a packed lunch on the go, and halal restaurants with seated dining areas if you prefer to take your time with your meals! Read on to find out more about affordable Muslim-friendly food in Switzerland!
Breakfast at our Airbnb
#HHWT Tip: Find an Airbnb that comes with a kitchenette so you can buy groceries (or pack them from home) and cook your own meals to save even more money. If you're coming in winter, most Airbnbs provide heating, so no need to worry about freezing while you sleep!
We saved money by making sure to have breakfast at our Airbnb before setting off every morning. Some kitchenettes in Airbnbs come complete with coffee machines, cereals, biscuits, spreads, and more! We also regularly bought croissants for CHF1-2 (RM4.20-RM8.40) from the local supermarkets and heated them up for breakfast as well.
In larger cities that have established Old Towns like Zurich and Bern, it's best to find Airbnbs located within the Old Town itself since this is where you'll likely be spending most of your time.
#HHWT Tip: For Zurich, try to find Airbnbs located in the Rathaus area of the Old Town (there's a halal kebab shop on the Rathausbrucke nearby!), and for Bern, try to find Airbnbs located near the Waisenhausplatz in the Old Town (there's a halal restaurant called Restaurant Shalimar nearby!)
7. Finding affordable Muslim-friendly food
If you're worried about where to find Muslim-friendly food while you're in Switzerland, don't fret. Halal kebab shops and halal Indian food aren't difficult to find in Switzerland, as we found out on our trip! What's even better is that a lot of the time these eateries are located within or around the main train stations, whether we were in Zurich, Lucerne, or Interlaken West. It was extremely convenient for us to grab a quick bite and continue with our sightseeing plans for the day! Note: We've personally verified the halal status of the eateries below with the staff themselves. Also, an average meal in Switzerland costs CHF10-12 (RM42-RM50.50), which was also the average cost of our meals in Switzerland!
Zurich: New Point Limmatstrasse
There are several New Point branches situated all around Zurich, but the one closest to Zurich Main Train Station is located on Limmatstrasse. Serving sumptuous but inexpensive Turkish cuisine, you can expect to dig into juicy chunks of warm kofte (meatballs) and huge plates of kebabs with tomato rice here! Plates here cost around CHF15 (RM63), while the durums (kebab rolls) are cheaper, at around CHF10 (RM42). The service here was excellent as well!
Lucerne: Little Istanbul
Situated within the Lucern Main Train Station itself, Little Istanbul is tucked away along a row of grab-and-go eateries in the station's basement, right next to the main escalator.
Prices here range from CHF11.50 (RM48.40) for a Classic Kebab (which is what we got) to CHF13.50 (RM56.80) for an Original Kebab. Servings are huge, so sharing is also a possibility if you want to save even more money! Since the serving is huge, we cut the kebab into two slices and shared to save money!
Interlaken West: Halal eateries around Interlaken West Station
Bruno's Pizza, Interlaken West Station.
Interlaken was THE most Muslim-friendly city in Switzerland, and a huge part of it was because of the fact that it was SO easy to find halal food here! If you've ever been to Seoul's "internationalised" Itaewon district, this is what Interlaken was like, except with gorgeous Swiss mountains flanking the area and beautiful views every way we turned ? There are lots of Arab and Korean tourists here, so the eateries in the area have adapted to cater to the crowd. We spotted our first halal eatery before even getting off the train at Interlaken West station: Bruno's Pizza is right outside the Interlaken West station. Serving a wide variety of pizzas and kebabs, prices here start from CHF12 (RM50.50).
Other halal eateries around the area are aplenty, and they're mostly around the same price, so you'll be really spoilt for choice when it comes to Muslim-friendly food here!
Halal eateries inside Switzerland's Altstadt (old towns)
You'll also come across halal eateries while wandering through Switzerland's Old Towns, which came as a surprise to us! In Zurich, head to the Rathausbrucke near the Altstadt and you'll find a halal kebab shop here. A doner kebab here only costs CHF10 (RM42), while a doner box costs CHF12 (RM50.50). In Bern, head to the Waisenhausplatz and take a short 5-7 minute walk to the nearby Restaurant Shalimar, which serves Indian and Pakistani cuisine at affordable prices! Unfortunately, it was closed for the duration of our time in Bern, so we couldn't check it out. Do check in advance before you head over!
8. Mosques & prayer spaces
One of the most beautiful things about travelling to a faraway country is visiting the local mosques there and interacting with the local Muslim community. While we met many Swiss Muslims over the course of our trip, our visit to the Bern Mosque (right across our Airbnb!) was one of our favourite things about the city.
Located within the complex of the Bern House of Religions, this mosque is open to both Muslims and non-Muslims as an open invitation towards inter-faith and intercultural dialogue!
While mosques and prayer spaces were slightly harder to find around Switzerland, we took the Prophet SAW's hadith to heart and took the opportunity to find quiet spots everywhere to pray in public. #HHWT Tip: If you're staying at Airbnbs, check-in time is normally at 3PM onwards, which is perfect because it allows you to combine zuhr & asar when you check into your Airbnb. Do check the prayer timings while you're there, though!
9. Wi-Fi on a budget
Credit: Travelers Wifi on Facebook
Staying connected while you're on the go is an absolute must, and while in Switzerland, you can make use of the Swiss Travelers Wifi for unlimited 4G/LTE data at just CHF6 (RM25) a day! You can either opt to have it delivered to your hotel or at selected airports and Main Train Stations across Switzerland. No more worrying about not being able to use Google Maps to find that halal eatery nearby! Switzerland was certainly a land of spectacular scenery and jaw-dropping landscapes, and we couldn't help but be amazed at every leg of our trip. If Switzerland has always been on your travel bucket list, don't wait any longer: winter's the perfect time to visit! With this handy budget-friendly guide for first-time Muslim travellers to Switzerland, you can bet that you'll be saving a whole lot of money without sacrificing any of the incredible experiences to be had here!