Monday, May 25, 2009

Swiss Budget Hotels

I was recently enjoying a long weekend in Lausanne and staying at the lovely Hotel Regina, which, despite the price, is apparently considered a "Swiss Budget Hotel."

In Switzerland, CHF 188 ($174) a night for a hotel is "budget."

As most Americans who have visited or attempted to live in Switzerland know, the Swiss have a very different definition of the word "budget." The Swiss Budget Hotel guide is a great example of this. Here, the hotels listed include places that cost CHF 250 ($230) a night. And I don't know about you, but I find that far from the "budget" I used to know.

Another crazy thing about Switzerland is what people consider a sale. Getting excited about a 50% discount is one thing. But in Switzerland, people get excited about 10% off.

For example, RailAway often has some deals on trips and places within Switzerland, but these involve buying the tickets at the departure station from the counter, which, more often than not, is filled with lines of confused people and usually not worth the 2 CHF I might save on the entrance to the Ballenberg Museum, for example. If I'm going to wait in a line the length of a Swiss bus, then I want to save more than 2 CHF.

When friends and family visit with their American perceptions of "budget", I always find myself apologizing for the high prices. I mean, you can't eat dinner for less than about CHF 50 for two people. But, nevertheless, if I pay CHF 50 for a meal for two now, I remark, "what a great deal." I guess I'm becoming slightly less price sensitive in my old expat status.


Romy said...

The only thing that's good about the prices here is that everywhere else you go looks cheap! Well, that and the fact that quality is usually higher here too, so you do get what you pay for in the end.


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M'dame Jo said...

I agree with the hotels and the weird notion of budget, I agree about the perception of bargains in general, but I'm not that convinced about eating out.

It may be because I travelled in expensive places in the US - but you also living in the extended Zurich area, which is also as expensive as it gets in Switzerland - but I don't think that food is that cheap in the US - I don't consider junk food, 1$ burgers, and anything that makes you nauseous and gives you pimples as food.

An entree is, let's say, 10 bucks. You add the taxes and a cheap tip, it's 12.50 bucks, converted into swiss francs, it's about 15 CHF - and it's only because the dollar dropped in the last few years. A Tagesteller is a couple of francs more than that.

Drink are somewhat cheaper and you get refills, but a simple beer, or wine? I've rarely seen a glass under 10$ - or that's the wine you don't wanna drink. And it includes places in the SF bay area, NYC, Dallas, Portland, Seattle, and Albuquerque. Where I went for work, eaten out all the time, and where I've stayed long enough to actually get to try many places. Here a glass is about half that, you get decent stuff for a few francs a glass.

In Albuquerque, I've had cheap and absolutely gross food and also fine fine food, delicious meat, yummy side orders, I really didn't think I'd eat that well in NM... but in those places where food tasted like food... no entree under 20$. An entree and a glass of wine, tax and tip, that'd would have been a nice meal here in Lausanne...

Ok, sushis. Sushis are actually much much cheaper and often better. Sushis with free tea, as cheap as it gets. And asian food in general. Good, tasty, cheaper.

But again, add tax, tip, currency... I don't think it's that such a big difference if you count everything.

Chantal said...

I have to disagree about that because in general, you can find much better deals on eating out in the US. I am still shocked over the prices of food here (and in all of Switzerland). All of my American visitors are too. You can definitely eat cheaper in the US despite tax/tip, not to mention free water saves $5 right there. I've had some pretty bad meals in Switzerland that cost over $20. In fact, I can't seem to go out for less than that--even for lunch whereas in the US you can still get lunch for less than $10. Prices in CH are pretty much double for everything of similar quality. It may be because buying in bulk is not a concept in Switzerland.

M'dame Jo said...

There may be better deals in the US or you can actually get a meal under 10$, but everytime I actually convert into CHF with tax and tip and realize that it's not as cheap as it looked "naked" in the menu... I've rarely eaten for under 20CHF in the US. That's my experience.

Plus I do take into account drinks and a glass of wine costs more than an entree... Having the option of not ordering any drinks does lower the price significantly.

On a side note: you may not get tap water if you don't order any other drink, but if you order a drink, restaurant cannot refuse you tap water. There was this big discussion about some places who would charge 2.- for tap water, but it's illegal. I do agree that it's absurd to have to pay more for mineral water (like 5.-) that for a beer (generally under 4.-) though. All restaurants must offer 3 drinks cheaper than the cheapest alcoholic drinks and post them in the restaurant. And generally it says : milk, apple juice, sirup. How appealing to youth.

And I was not saying that you eat well everywhere in switzerland, there are bad places everywhere.

(Restaurants buy in bulk in shops such as, but Swiss bluk is probably still more expensive than Amercian bulk. You need a card to shop there, but everyone can shop in places like I have no interest in shopping in bulk - I have not enough room to store stuff - but you may be interested. )

Tilly Carter said...

We’re planning to rent a house and move into Switzerland next year and I’m afraid it can be postponed because of the cost of living in there. Reading your post makes me think twice if we’re gonna manage living in there.

M'dame Jo said...

Tilly > you want to rent an apartment or a house? the percentage of people that can afford living in a house is very low, you know...

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