With a booming economy, rich culture and insanely delicious chocolate, it’s no wonder Switzerland regularly tops the global quality of life index. Who could be unhappy living there?
But even more remarkable are the lush landscapes. Crystal clear lakes, sprawling greenery and picturesque mountains make Switzerland one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world.
I discovered the country by chance after befriending a Swiss local who invited me to visit. I couldn’t get enough of the fantastic food and freshwater swimming.
On the downside, this desirable destination doesn’t come cheap.
As one of the most expensive countries in the world, it’s important to make the most of your budget. Saving money on flights will give you more pocket money to spend during your visit.
Airports in Switzerland
Switzerland’s central European location makes it a great hub for European travel. You can hop over to France, Italy and Germany, and the rest of Europe is only an hour or two away by plane.
The country has four major airports, serving as a popular starting point for travelers looking to explore Switzerland and the surrounding countries.
The volume of flights also means you’re more likely to find competitively priced tickets in these larger airports.
Serving Switzerland’s most populous city, this is the largest airport in the country and the main hub of Swiss International Air Lines and Edelweiss Air. The airport is located eight miles north of central Zürich, where people mostly speak Swiss-German.
This airport is also called Kloten Airport, so you could hear locals refer to it as one or the other.
Located in the town of Belp, this airport serves Bern, the nation’s capital. It’s also the base for Helvetic Airways and the Federal Office of Civil Aviation.
EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg
Technically located in the Alsace region of France, this unique airport is jointly operated by both the Swiss and the French.
It’s just over two miles northwest of the city of Basel, Switzerland, 12 miles southeast of Mulhouse, France, and 29 miles southwest of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. It serves as the base for easyJet Switzerland and is popular with tourists and holidaymakers.
Found in the French-speaking part of the country, this airport serves Switzerland’s second-largest city and is popular with both business travelers and tourists.
It’s still locally referred to as Cointrin Airport (its former official name) and offers both European and long-haul routes.
Switzerland is also home to Lugano Airport, Sion Airport and St. Gallen–Altenrhein Airport.
These locations are great choices if you’re planning a trip to these specific cities, but flights to these places might not be as cheap as to some of the larger hubs.
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Do I need a visa?
Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, but most EU citizens won’t require a visa to visit.
It’s also located in the Schengen Area, meaning passports won’t be checked if you’re traveling within this zone (although I still recommend you travel with a passport or government issued ID).
Visitors from outside the EU should check visa and permit requirements before traveling.
5 Simple Ways to Find Cheap Flights to Switzerland
1. Use comparison sites
Comparison sites like Skyscanner are a great tools for finding an overview of prices. By simply typing “Switzerland” as your destination, you can see which airport will be the cheapest to fly into. You can even set alerts to receive emails when prices for your desired routes are at their lowest.
If you’re flexible about your trip schedule, you can select “whole month” instead of specific dates. This strategy allows you to see which days are the cheapest to fly and book accordingly.
Be aware that some sites will raise prices if they see you looking at the same flight or destination several times. To avoid this, just switch your browser to incognito mode prior to searching.
2. Fly with budget carriers
They might not have some of the luxuries of other airlines, but budget carriers are a sure fire way to reduce your ticket cost. Some of the main low-cost carriers serving Switzerland include easyJet, Ryanair, Eurowings, Vueling and Swiss International Air Lines.
The first flight out in the morning will often be the cheapest, but make sure you can reach the airport by public transit or have an alternate mode of transportation to get there. You might need to be there before trains and buses start running, which can result in costly taxi fees.
Extras like checked luggage, seat selection and in-flight food can bump up the price of budget carriers, so be sure to research any additional charges before you go. Certain airlines, such as Ryanair, have even started charging for taking cabin baggage and printing tickets, so it’s important to read the fine print to avoid being misled.
3. Search for error fares
I recently found a flight from Switzerland to London for only 12 euros (just under 14 USD). How? An error fare!
An error fare occurs when airlines post the wrong price by accident. This might be due to human error, mistaken currency conversions or forgotten taxes. Sometimes the prices will be canceled and the cost refunded, but occasionally an airline will honor these accidental low fares.
The best way to find these great prices is through dedicated sites like Secret Flying. In my experience, flights in or out of Switzerland pop up once or twice per month, so it’s not ideal if you’re planning a trip for specific dates. However, for spur of the moment getaways, this option is perfect!
4. Book ahead
It’s a common misconception that there are last-minute deals to be had when booking flights. In fact, last-minute sales rarely occur, especially to popular destinations like Switzerland.
Normally, the cheapest seat class will be available several months in advance. Once the low-cost tickets are gone, they’re gone.
You’ll also get better prices if you can be flexible with dates and times. Try to avoid traveling during the Swiss summer school holidays (early July to mid/late August) when prices will be at their highest.
If possible, avoid booking flights for Monday morning and Friday evening, when business travel is at its peak.
5. Compare currencies
Savvy travelers can take advantage of currency fluctuations to get cheaper deals when buying tickets. Occasionally, it’s more affordable to pay in other currencies. But be sure to factor in conversion rates and card fees when doing your calculations!
I live in France. But at the moment, I’m booking all my European flights in British pounds, as prices are generally lower than their euro equivalent. When traveling to Switzerland, it’s worth checking the price in both your local currency and Swiss francs before finalizing your purchase.
There are plenty of tools online to help you with currency conversions at the real-time rate.
Compared to the rest of Europe (with the exception of Scandinavia), the prices of entertainment and eating out are extremely high in Switzerland. Be sure to save up before you go and to use these tips to hunt for cheap flights.
By spending some time searching for bargains, you’ll have enough cash to cushion the blow when you get the bill for your first round of drinks!
Emma Brooke is a travel writer and serial expat currently living in Paris.
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