If you’re a budget-conscious traveler, visiting Interlaken – and Switzerland as a whole – can be a tough pill to swallow. With inflated prices on everything from food to transportation, it’s important to adequately plan financially for such a trip. But it’s not impossible to enjoy Interlaken on a budget.
Stay in Interlaken
Accommodations in Interlaken can be pricey but staying at least one night is worth the cost. If you try to see Interlaken on a day trip, you will spend a lot of money on a city-to-city train and not have enough time to enjoy much of anything. Most of the best things to see in the Interlaken area require traveling out of the town and deeper into the mountains. If you try to cram all that into one day, you’ll spend most of the time on expensive trains and cable cars rather than leisurely hiking around the area.
Use the free Interlaken Pass
Another good reason to stay at least one night in Interlaken is that you will get a free Interlaken Pass through your accommodation. This gives you unlimited free bus travel within the city and along with some towns on the banks of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. While it doesn’t include special transport like the Harder Kulm funicular, it provides you a convenient way to get around while saving you money.
Take advantage of free breakfast
Having local accommodation may also come with welcome perks like free breakfast. Though the cost of a hotel in Interlaken may be a hefty one up front, it can save you money on one meal per day.
Hike to save on transportation costs
Many of the most beautiful areas you can reach from Interlaken by train or even cable car are also accessible on foot. Granted, this requires a certain level of fitness in many cases and a whole lot of time in all cases. If you have both, you can save yourself up to half the cost of round-trip train or cable car tickets by taking transport on the way up and hiking on the way down – or do the reverse if you’re especially fit. For example, the cable car up to First from Grindelwald is 64 CHF, but if you only pay for the ascent, you can hike the 7.5 km back down which takes roughly two hours.
Carry a reusable bottle
Switzerland has some of the cleanest water on earth. Buying an 8 CHF bottle of water every two hours is not only expensive, it’s completely unnecessary. Bring either a reusable bottle or refill a plastic bottle throughout your trip, and you’ll be able to refill your bottle at fountains around the area.
Buy snacks for long days
If you don’t plan ahead, you might end up getting hungry at the top of Jungfraujoch or in pricey Grindelwald. If you want to avoid shelling out big bucks at tourist restaurants, stock up a backpack with light snacks and drinks for a long day of hiking and wandering around.
Research transportation options in advance
No matter how you dice it, you will invariably end up taking trains, cable cars, gondolas, boats, and funiculars in Interlaken and the surrounding Jungfrau area. One of the best things about Interlaken is how accessible transportation makes the incredible Alps. That being said, the cost will quickly add up. One way to enjoy Interlaken on a budget is to think ahead about how much transportation you will need. Several short-term passes exist like the Half Fare Card and the Jungfrau Travel Pass that can save up to half the cost of paying for everything individually.
Read more about the benefits of the Jungfrau Travel Pass here.
As with anything, you have to decide how much an experience is worth to you. But you also have to weigh the cost of certain Interlaken experiences with the trouble of going to Interlaken just to do nothing. For instance, transport to the glacier saddle Jungfraujoch is upwards of 220 CHF, but when else are you going to get to see one of the largest glaciers in the Alps? The scenic trains up are part of the experience, too. So in some cases, you will just have to bite the bullet to get the most out of your Interlaken visit. I can’t say that it won’t be expensive, but I promise it’ll be worth it.