In Managing your finances: more ways to keep down costs, we cover these expenses:
Housing in the Geneva area
Your largest, and largely unavoidable, expense is a place to lay your head. Whether you rent or own your property, housing costs are significantly higher in and near Geneva than in most other European cities.
According to Mercer’s Cost-of-Living Report, it costs twice as much to rent in Geneva as in Amsterdam and Brussels. Even Paris and New York are marginally cheaper, with only London exceeding Geneva’s average rental costs.
Expect to pay between CHF2,000 and 3,500 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in Geneva. If you choose to rent a house, you will have to more than double your expenditure. A four-bedroom house will cost from CHF7,000 up to 16,000 per month. You can find apartments for less, according to journalist Laila Rodriguez: “If you search GHI.com, naef.ch or anibis.ch, or any other website that doesn’t cater just to expats, and start a two-bedroom (4 pieces) apartment search at CHF1,000 you’ll find apartments at around CHF1,500 in Geneva (Rue de Lyon, Servette, Charmilles) and also in Meyrin or near Carrefour. They’re not technically the city of Geneva but they are serviced by the TPG.”
If you are moving to the area and intend to rent, you will need to allow for a deposit of up to three months’ rent in Switzerland. This “caution” is usually two months’ rent in France, although it can climb even higher. Tip: read about SwissCaution, an alternative, in part one of this financial guide.
If you intend to live in the region for more than five years, you may be better off purchasing a property (if you have the right to buy and the financial means to do so).
Vaud and Lausanne housing
One clear way to save a great deal of money if work takes you to Geneva or Lausanne is to move away from the city. Expect to spend CHF1,500-3,000 for a two-bedroom apartment in the canton of Vaud or in neighbouring France. Renting a house will cost between CHF4,000 and 8,000. Lausanne is marginally higher than surrounding towns.
Prices in Vaud are 10 to 30% lower than in Geneva. And in neighbouring France, prices can be 20 to 40% less but keep in mind that housing is only one part of the equation. Taxes are higher in France, for example. Financial consultants and accountants can be helpful in putting housing costs into the perspective of your overall expenses.
Other related housing expenses
High heating costs are an essential part of life here. Electrical heating is more expensive than gas in France, but the opposite can be true in Switzerland: be sure to ask for a copy of the previous renters’ recent bills. Think about allocating CHF10-150 a month for electricity and CHF150-200 for heating and hot water. These are generally lumped under “charges,” which sometimes covers other costs. Ask what is included so you’re not comparing apples and oranges.
Renting a garage can cost CHF25–400 a month. This varies enormously depending on your location. Consider on-street parking, generally safe but ask yourself if weather is an issue, probably yes if you drive a Porsche. Watch out for horse chestnut trees in October, famous for denting cars in the region. Some towns and cities have “macarons,” or stickers for monthly or annual fees. In Geneva, for example, you pay CHF180 a year for the right to park as long as you want in certain blue zones.
When viewing rental properties, consider whether the kitchen comes equipped with major appliances or if you will have to spend money on other necessities or fittings such as extra cupboards.
Check out the English-language classifieds on the website of World Radio Switzerland. A social networking site, Glocals, has ads on its forums. Their exclusive offers section has discounts that vary from insurance to plane flights and hair-styling, depending on current sponsors. Anglo-info is another source for classifieds.
The most significant saving you can make is to forgo the purchase of a car. Depending on its size, age and distance driven, the cost of owning a car in this region ranges from CHF150–300 a week.
According to the Swiss Touring Club, known by its French abbreviation TCS, it will cost you around CHF10,800 CHF a year to drive a medium-sized car 15,000 kilometres. If you don’t need a car to get to work, or if you drive less than 12,000 km a year, consider the alternatives.
The TCS has a wealth of information on cars, including cost calculations and tables on the cost of petrol in European countries, useful for travel.
If you must have a car, consider leasing, which can be cheaper. Good news: Switzerland is one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe for petrol, certainly cheaper than in France or Italy. Petrol stations near borders, on the autoroute and in resorts tend to have higher prices. Diesel is somewhat cheaper than regular petrol in Switzerland but significantly cheaper in France and diesel cars get better mileage and the engines last longer.
Photo, right: toy train at Schilliger, Gland, part of its Christmas toys display
The Swiss train system is known for being clean, efficient and reliable. If you are a regular train traveller, you will save considerably by buying an unlimited travel pass called a general abonnement, which gives you free travel on the SBB train network as well as other public transport services in Switzerland.
One of the most frequently recommended savings is the half-fare card. It costs CHF150 for a year but you would recoup the costs in just nine trips between Geneva and Lausanne, for example. Take a look at the real-life cost comparison conducted by Geneva Lunch writer Catherine Nelson-Pollard.
The Junior Card is also great value at CHF20 for one year. It entitles children under 16 to travel free with a paying parent. And a great deal for those aged 16-25 is the Voie 7 (also reassuring for parents to see teenagers on trains instead of using cars) free travel evenings and nights.
Three good sites for special rates: CFF commuter, Geneva’s Unireso for the new inter annuel subscription and Lausanne and Vaud’s new Mobilis which finally lets you buy one ticket for most of the region’s transport systems.
Cross-border transport: A good place to start investigating your options is the regional public transport website for the entire Geneva region.
Park & Ride
To avoid parking costs and traffic jams, those in the know leave their cars in any one of several towns and take public transport. City parking is expensive: a day can easily cost you CHF20. If you need a car at either end of your commute, particularly if you need to cross the border to reach the train station, then investigate a subscription to P+R.
Share the load or consider cycling
The concept of car sharing was started in Switzerland in the 1980s and now serves as a model for other car-sharing schemes around the world. Mobility CarSharing Switzerland now has almost 2,000 vehicles available at 1,050 locations throughout Switzerland. While public transport is still the cheapest mode of transport at just CHF0.19/km, car sharing averages just CHF0.87 per km and is particularly cost-effective when used in combination with public transport.
Consider linking up with others who commute the same route.
Another way to extend your transport options without a car is to combine public transport with cycling. Geneve Roule offers bikes for practically no cost! An excellent country-wide rental system with a variety of offers is Rent-a-bike. And Cycling in Switzerland has comprehensive information about cycling routes and other transport.