Swiss Alps on a Budget

Visiting the Swiss alps can be very expensive, especially if you want to visit the most famous places. While locals get discounts with the SBB Half-fare and Junior cards, visitors are stuck with full fare. I always feel bad when we take our visitors hiking and one of their tickets costs more than for my whole family combined. But there are many spectacular Swiss mountain experiences that are much more affordable, even without regional travel passes and discount cards. Here are a few of our favorites and some tips on stretching your budget while traveling in Switzerland.

Overview

This reference chart shows the locations listed in this post compared with more expensive options in their region (in red). I’ve focused on the most popular tourists areas, but I’ve also included a few less popular areas that are every bit as beautiful as the others.

I’ve listed the costs for:
> Average Family Full Fare: return trip, full fare and discount, for an average family with 2 adults and 2 children aged between 6 and 15. Your family cost will vary.<
> Average Family Discount: includes use of SBB Half-fare and Junior cards, explained below.

These prices were updated in early 2017 and may vary. Below the table are short descriptions, pictures and links to reviews for everything in the table.

Location   Avg Family Full Fare Avg Family Discount
1. Arosa CHF 45 same
Zermatt-Gornergrat CHF 282 CHF 94
   2. Zermatt-Riffelalp CHF 132 CHF 66
   3. Zermatt-Sunnegga CHF 72 CHF 24
Jungfraujoch CHF 568.80 CHF 189.60
   4. Allmendhubel CHF 109.80 CHF 36.80
Pilatus CHF 216 CHF 72
   5. Mount Rigi CHF 100 CHF 50
   6. Stoos CHF 84 CHF 64
Titlis CHF 276 CHF 92
   7. Brunni Tickle Trail CHF 86 CHF 60
Other affordable favorites:
   8. Hoch Ybrig CHF 52 same
   9. Ebenalp CHF 55 CHF 20
  10. Walensee Waterfalls CHF 36 same

Swiss Half-fare cards & Travel Passes

Locals should definitely buy the SBB Half-fare card, which gives you a 50% discount on most mountain transport and public transportation. In 2017, this costs CHF 185 for one year, discounts for renewal and multiple year subscriptions. For short-term travel, locals and visitors can buy a 1 month Half-fare card for CHF 120 (in 2017). It could pay for itself rather quickly if you go up a lot of expensive mountains.

For children 6 to 16, you can buy a SBB Junior Card for CHF 30 per year, which means they travel free on mountain transport and public transportation when traveling with a parent with a valid ticket. In 2017, this Junior card is temporarily discounted to only CHF 15 – what a bargain! Children under 6 are usually free on everything.

There are a variety of regional Swiss travel passes for tourists but these usually are only worth it if you are staying in one area and heavily using the public transportation and mountain. MySwissAlps.com has a good explanation of all Swiss travel passes.

If you are traveling by train, check the SBB combo discounts, where you get a discount on both the travel to your destination and your destination, usually about 10% but can be up to 50%.

Now let’s get hiking…

1. Arosa

Arosa might have the best deal in all of Switzerland. They offer an all-inclusive family day pass for CHF 45 (2 adults, unlimited children) that covers all mountain transport, bus service, entry to lake swimming area, ropes course, pedalo rental, mini golf, and more. If you stay overnight in a participating hotel, you get this card for free! It seems too good to be true. We haven’t used all the services included in the card, but have hiked the big mountains, which we can certainly recommend. We plan to go back this summer to take advantage of the whole package. >> Read my Arosa review here.

Cost: All-inclusive day pass – Family CHF 45, Adult CHF 18, Child CHF 9, free for overnight guests

2. Zermatt – Riffelalp

It’s an expensive trip to see the Matterhorn, including the long trip to get there, the parking, the mountain transport, the food, the hotels, etc. Our favorite hike is from the Gornergrat train, but one full fare adult round trip is CHF 94. You can save about 50% by only riding halfway up the Gornergrat railway to Riffelalp, CHF 44 for a full fare return ticket. Then hike up a couple km to see the Matterhorn, as shown in the pic below, then hike back. It’s a wonderful trail and this part is devoid of tourists, unlike the top of Gornergrat. >> Read my Gornergrat Riffelsee review here.

Cost: Adult CHF 44, Child CHF 22. SBB Half-fare and Junior cards accepted. Current prices.

3. Zermatt – Sunnegga Paradies

An even less expensive option in the Zermatt area is Sunegga Paradies, where you’ll find a fun playground with a wonderful view of the Matterhorn. An adult full fare return trip is only CHF 24 to this middle station. It gets more expensive the higher you go up the mountain.
>> Read about Sunnegga from Mom In Zurich and my Rothorn-Sunnegga post for hiking options here.

Cost: Adult CHF 24, Child CHF 12, SBB Half-fare and Junior cards accepted. Current prices.

4. Jungfrau Region – Allmendhubel Flower Park

The Jungfrau region is famous for good reason. It’s packed full of wonderful views and hikes, not all of which will break the bank. While an adult return trip to the popular Jungfrau glacier costs CHF 190, I like to take visitors to the Allmendhubel above Mürren, which only costs CHF 36.50 for a full fare adult return ticket. a fantastic playground for the kids, with get amazing views of the famous Eiger and Jungfrau, as well as several beautiful family walks in the area. >> Read my Allmendhubel review.

Cost: Adult CHF 36.50, Child CHF 18.40, SBB Half-fare and Junior cards accepted. Current prices.

5. Mount Rigi

Kudos to Rigi for offering such an affordable option compared to the other big mountains in this area, “only” CHF 50 to go up Rigi compared to Pilatus (CHF 72) and Titlis (CHF 92). Plus the hiking options are Rigi are much better for families. We love the easy Panorama trail, suitable for strollers and a fun playground with trampolines at the end to reward good hikers. This trail is also groomed in winter and doesn’t require snowshoes, only hiking boots. >> Read my detailed Rigi review

Cost: CHF 50 for adult return ticket from Vitznau or Goldau to top at Rigi Kulm. SBB Half-fare and Junior cards accepted. Children aged 6-16 ride free in July and August when accompanied by an adult. 20% discount for overnight guests. Swiss Pass and other travel passes accepted.

6. Stoos Panorama Trail

I love taking visitors to Stoos, which has breathtaking views over Lake Luzern and all the surrounding alps. It’s not on the tourist route, so you practically have the whole place to yourself. There is an easy obstacle-free panorama trail at the top and longer hikes suitable for families.  >>> Read my full review of Stoos.

Cost: Return trip Adult CHF 42, Children to age 15 are free in summer, SBB Half-fare accepted.

7. Brunni Tickle Trail

Kids will have more fun here than at the top of the much more expensive Titlis and the views are still fantastic. There’s a barefoot path around a little pond, a treasure hunt trail, and a huge playground with trampolines, slides, climbing structures and water play. >> Read my Brunni Tickle Trail review.

Cost: Return trip Adult CHF 43, Half-fare CHF 30, children under 15 free with adult.

8. Hoch Ybrig

Hoch Ybrig is one of our favorite mountain resorts close to Zurich, with fantastic panorama views and an easy hike for little kids and strollers. There’s a playground with bouncy castles and a little pond with fire pits for a picnic. The lift pass is relatively inexpensive for adults and kids of all ages are free.
>> Read my Hoch Ybrig review.

Cost: Adult CHF 26, kids free under 16. SBB Half-fare cards not accepted.

9. Ebenalp near Appenzell

Even though this place is famous for the restaurant built into the cliff, it’s still quite affordable to visit. There are short and long hikes in the area suitable for a variety of hiking abilities. Below the cliffs, there’s a beautiful lake for strolling, restaurants, a playground, and even a boat for rowing across the water. >> Read my Ebenalp Seealpsee review.

Cost: Adult CHF 20, Child CHF 7.50. SBB Halbtax accepted.

10. Walensee Waterfalls

This is my sentimental favorite. We’ve visited this lake south of Zurich many times and driven by it many more on our way to other places. The super blue lake water, bright green meadows and spiky peaks are a magical combination. The views are classic Swiss and the waterfalls are spectacular. Your only cost is a ferry ride to reach the hike, which is part of the fun. On hot days, we bring our swimming suits and all take a dip in the lake.  >> Read my Walensee Waterfalls review.

Cost: Return ferry ride Adult CHF 12, Child CHF 6. SBB Half-fare and Junior Cards not accepted.

So many great options! I hope you enjoy them.

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10 spectacular hikes in the Swiss alps that won't break the bank. Suitable for families.

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13 comments

  1. Aloha Tanya! My wife and I and three kids are visiting Switzerland June 8 to about the 14th we would love to do a two or three night hut to hut easy to moderate difficulty 3 to 4 hours hike a day. Can you recommend a loop trail somewhere that is reasonable in cost…. kids are 14, 16 and 17. at $75 a night can it really be nearly $500 a night to stay at a hut??? And we thought Hawaii was expensive??? ha ha any thoughts for us??? what pass should we get, shall we go to austria for price break? Sean

    1. Hi Sean, sorry for the late reply. Yes, Switzerland is very expensive, even the mountain huts! One reason the huts are so expensive is that many have their supplies brought in by helicopter. Plus you are usually also paying for dinner and breakfast, not just the overnight. You can save money by bringing your own food. You can save by being a member of the SAC Hut association, but that’s probably not worth it for a couple nights.

      I haven’t stayed in the Austria huts, but a quick check of prices shows that it’s definitely cheaper. I saw one Austria hut that was 20 euros/adult 17 euros/youth for overnight (not including food). If you are a member of the hut touring club (Alpenvereien), you get a discount (at this hut 10 euros off each person). Here’s the club for Germany: http://www.alpenverein.de and for Austria: https://www.alpenverein.at/ The sites are mostly in German but I noticed the membership pages are available in English. These sites list all the huts and some give hut to hut walk suggestions. Good luck!

  2. Top of Europe (Jungfraujoch) is crazy expensive, and I get altitude sickness every time!
    Love your alternatives, and of course, as always, the gorgeous pictures!

  3. I love this post. Great ideas for summer when friends and family are visiting. Good tips to save some money. I still need to work on getting the tages karte from our Gemiende for those special long trips.

  4. Your blog is my bible! I don’t even know where to start to tell you how much I love it. It is so useful and full of amazing tips. And when I think it couldn’t get any better you come up with a post like this! AWESOME!

    1. Wow, that’s so nice to hear. So glad you found this post useful. Wishing you a wonderful hiking season this summer.

  5. A great post as always! We made use of the 1 month half fare care (120 chf) for my parents when they visited last summer. Such a great investment! We took them to Zermatt-Sunegga, Mt Rigi, Jungfrau region, stayed clear of the June frau peak. Allmendhubel sounds incredible! We have been to Männlichen above Wengen a couple of times and absolutely love the views from there. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I’ve only been to Mt.Rigi from the places on your list, but it’s my sentimental one. I’d love to take my parents there. For saving money I’d also recommend for buying only one way tickets up and then hike down to the valley (or to the middle station – if there is any). Of course that depends on your (and your co-hikers) hiking skills and condition 😉

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