What to take with me to Zurich?
June 26, 2020 2:21 AM   Subscribe

I will be staying in Zurich for three months or so, working (but with no per diems). I'll be staying in a serviced apartment with a kitchen, which is great, but I know even for groceries/toiletries Zurich is known for its eye-watering prices. I'm currently in London — is there anything day-to-day I should bring with me that is outstandingly expensive to buy in Switzerland? I'm a woman, mid-thirties, looking forward to the great outdoors.
posted by teststrip to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
PS, I am bringing my cat with me — so will be bringing some kibble and bowls, but buying a litter tray, wet food and litter there.
posted by teststrip at 2:45 AM on June 26, 2020

Over-the-counter medicines are especially expensive here. Bring paracetomol, ibuprofen, antihistamines, and any multivitamins you take. If you use anything containing coal tar (e.g. T-gel shampoo), bring that too, as it's banned here.

Books are particularly expensive, too. If you're only coming for three months, I guess you'll be able to bring enough to read with you, but be aware of that.

I'll answer again if I think of anything else. In the mean time, welcome to Switzerland!
posted by daisyk at 3:59 AM on June 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

one of the serviced apartments I stayed at charged me 50 chf to wash and dry a load of clothes
posted by brujita at 4:02 AM on June 26, 2020

the machines were in the unit
posted by brujita at 4:02 AM on June 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

I recently learned that many Swiss travel to Germany to buy lower-priced groceries. Zurich is only about an hour from the border, so If that's an option for you, it might be worth consideration.
posted by ourobouros at 4:54 AM on June 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

You can check prices and products at 2 hypermarts and 2 supermarkets. All have branches in Zurich. Migros has the most.

The Coop site link is in English, Migros in German. The others give you a choice of German, French or Italian. Chrome browser translates.

Hypermarkets: Coop, Migros
Supermarkets: Lidl, Spar
posted by Homer42 at 6:00 AM on June 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Toiletries are quite dear so bring new deodorant, toothpaste etc. Absolutely any OTC medication and any clothes, sports or outdoor equipment you may need.

There is a very real price difference between the discount supermarkets and the others so absolutely find your local Aldi or Lidl.

Fresh fruit, veg, meat will feel a lot more expensive. The meat is of better quality in my view. You’ll also find fruit and veg to be a lot more seasonal - things that have to be imported anyways are all year like bananas but I was walking round the other day and realised that I had missed spring fruit...

I live in Zurich, I do sometimes shop in Germany - this is not for the faint hearted because the border towns get very busy, you’re either waiting for public transport for a very long time (because it is full and the trams/busses are stuck in traffic, not because of the wrong kind of leafs on the line....) or you sit in traffic if you have access to a car. And one of the benefits is that you can claim back vat at the border....that queue is even longer. And you do have to pay to get there and back. So for three months I‘d probably shop in discounters as much as possible, make good use of offers and not spend my spare time doing this. Cook at home/pack lunches and enjoy your time here.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:27 AM on June 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

And be prepared for prices for anything that involves you paying for somebody’s labour and/or space - eating/drinking out or on the go, personal services like hair cuts, massages, manicures to feel like daylight robbery. People get paid more here and rent is a lot more so it is what it is.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:32 AM on June 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hi - I have spent a week or two in Geneva (also in serviced apt) and have colleagues living there (well, actually over the border in france because it's cheaper to buy a house) and have also spent extended periods in other places with higher costs of living than the UK - hopefully this will be useful even though not Zurich.

In Geneva, the supermarket Denner was significantly cheaper than other places for basic food and drinks, but not as 'nice'. Lidl not as cheap as UK but maybe only 10% more expensive. Vegetables etc. were more expensive, but not as much as in, say Norway or Iceland. Overall, I found day-to-day stuff not too bad - there are always budget versions of toothpaste, shampoo etc. I wouldn't bother to bring them from the UK but I'm not picky about that kind of thing. Pads, tampons etc. (if you use them) can also be had off-brand and weren't too bad (marked up to similar prices you'd find in central london smaller stores). If you are already bringing a cat and accesories, I'd just try to prepare for slightly higher costs for food to eat in (my feeling was round 20% or so, rather than up to 50% in Norway for groceries). Eating out is significantly more expensive than the UK, as is drinking alcohol, apart from beers you can buy from the shop and drink outside.

Other things that were significantly more expensive were electronics, books, kitchen implements, and other outdoor gear. So I would worry less about shopping for food, but make sure you bring equipment for outdoor activities. For example, I forgot a hat when it was really hot, and a bog-standard baseball type cap was about £30! Same if you wanted to get a cheap pair of sandals/croc-type shoes if you go into the water - much more expensive than in the Uk.

I'd strongly recomend bringing some of your own boxes/flasks for packing lunch too, as they were super expensive. Having done a few stints living in serviced apts, I tend to bring: decent sharp knife (89p at ikea in the uk); cheap chopping board; spatula; reusable food containers for leftovers/packed lunch; coffee making aparatus if it's not provided. Maybe even a frying pan if you have space.

My general impression in Switzerland and southern Germany was that transport and trains were expensive compared to, say, Spain, but amazing value compared to the UK and so much better in terms of punctuality and connections to bus lines. I would do as much exploring as you can, even if it means you're mostly staying in and eating bread and cheese!

Agree OTC medicine is much more expensive, so if you use things like hayfever tables regularly, take a few. Also, books!

Hope you have a great time (covid-excepted) and I would always err on the side of taking less, and just expecting some extra costs if you can. Especially if you're bringing your cat as well! honestly, the only place I really found a shock in terms of groceries/cooking, was Norway, and I got used to it (and hopefully next time will get a funding boost for cost of living). I explained to my Norwegian colleagues that I couldn't really eat out very much, and would rather meet for a picnic or some beers, and they really understood. Enjoy!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 8:28 AM on June 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I buy my cat food online from a company called Zooplus, which is based in Switzerland (I buy via its UK website). They sell all the major brands, litter trays, etc.

I don't know if you speak another language, but the Swiss website is only in German or French, but assuming it sells the same things as the UK website, you should be able to work out what is what, and there's photos of everything anyway.
posted by essexjan at 11:55 AM on June 26, 2020

Sunscreen! If you’re planning on spending time outdoors, bring all the sunscreen! I spent two very hot weeks in Geneva a few years back and the price of sunscreen (compared to where I live in Australia) was eye-watering.
posted by Salamander at 11:58 AM on June 26, 2020

I don't think you will find Zürich all that more expensive than London. I'd bring a three month supply of favorite toiletries and soaps though; that may save some money and also you want familiar things.

Some tips for saving money while in Zürich. Get a transit pass; I rode the trams everywhere all the time. Also if you want to explore Switzerland via it's phenomenal train system, get a Halbtaxe. You pay a one time fee and then all train travel is half price. Maybe things have changed or there are better deals, but back in 2005 we got a whole lot of use out of ours.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on June 27, 2020

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