Our announcement that we were heading to Switzerland for a mini break with the kids was met with the inevitable comments about how expensive it would be. There’s no denying that it isn’t a cheap country to visit, however, it is possible to visit Geneva on a budget. Here’s how we did it:
We decided on Geneva as a destination because there were cheap flights available from London on the dates we were looking to travel. If you want to travel to Geneva on a budget then ideally you should look to plan your trip in the shoulder seasons. The same flights I booked are currently available in August for twice the price. You will also likely pay more if your dates fall in the ski season.
We flew with a budget airline (Easyjet) and we were able to further save cash by travelling with just hand luggage and by not reserving seats. Both of these can be scary options when flying with young children but it turned out OK. Going hand luggage only wasn’t as bad as I feared and we booked the flights last minute so I knew I could check-in online straight away and get our seat allocation while there were still plenty available.
Another unusual way of saving money on these particular flights was by booking a seat for our under 2. I had planned to do this anyway as she is big and wriggly (and 23 months old). It worked out that the price for a seat on both the outbound and return flights was significantly cheaper than the ticket price for a lap baby. The process wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped (Easyjet’s online chat were very helpful) but it was definitely worth doing.
If you are travelling off peak then accommodation is comparable to other European cities and the occasional bargain is available. For us an apartment was essential so we could cut down on food costs and so the children had enough space. Airbnb is my go to and this was where I found the cheapest, central apartments (if you’re new to Airbnb click here for your introductory discount). However, at short notice it proved to difficult to organise anything.
My second port of call is booking.com where we had accrued some discounts and we were able to book a good sized flat within walking distance of the central tourist areas.
Geneva is not short of hotel beds but they can be pricey so shop around.
Public transport is clean, quick and easy in Geneva. You may find you never need to pay a penny for it either but even if you do it’s inexpensive.
Airport transfers are easy if you know what you are doing. All public transport from the airport to the city centre is free with a valid plane ticket. However, you must take a ticket from the machine in the baggage claim hall. The machine is located next to the ticket machine where you can purchase tickets to travel further afield and near the information desk. From here it’s a 5 minute walk to the bust and train station. All trains go to the central train station in 8 minutes. The bus takes a little longer but your route may drop you closer to your accommodation.
If you book into a hotel you will receive a free pass to use Geneva’s extensive tram and bus system. This makes it super easy to get around the city. Even if you don’t receive this with your accommodation it’s still inexpensive to use public transport. Ticket machines are located at every stop, they take cash and card and have instructions available in English.
It is also worth noting that Geneva is a small city so getting about on foot is very much an option. If you’re cheap (like us) you may find you only end up spending money to get to the airport.
If you are trying to visit Geneva on a budget it is important to note that food is expensive in Switzerland. Usually when we travel, we grab lunches on the go from a café or bakery but (as we suspected) everything was too pricey. Instead we made use of our apartment’s kitchen and bought food for all our meals from a local supermarket. The good news is there are small supermarkets all over Geneva and although prices were still higher than supermarkets at home, we were able to get by without completely blowing the budget. It was great to eat fresh fruit and vegetables and we didn’t have to worry about our dietary requirements.
My top tip for taking the kids out anywhere is to make as many jam sandwiches as you can to sustain them through the day. Other than that the kids pretty much survived off strawberries and bananas. We ate fresh bread with swiss cheese in the park during the day and finished off the meal with swiss Easter chocolate. It turns out that the week after Easter is a great time to visit for discounted chocolate.
The good news for anyone visiting Geneva on a budget is that many of the attractions are free or low cost. Here is my post on free things to do in Geneva with kids. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of expensive tours for you to spend you money on but if you are on a budget there’s still a lot to keep you busy.
In summary, the best things to do in Geneva on a budget are parks (there are many), the tallest fountain in Europe (you can’t miss it) and many of the museums are free.
We really loved our trip to Geneva and we never felt we were missing out because we were on a budget. If Switzerland is on your radar I can highly recommend this beautiful city.
Do you have any tips for Geneva that I’ve missed? Pop them in the comments below.