Zurich on a budget: Money saving tips for remote workers

Zurich on a budget: Money saving tips for remote workers

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With more and more people embracing the digital nomad lifestyle, Zurich, with its unique blend of urban life and natural beauty, is emerging as a popular choice for remote workers. Armed with just a laptop and a thirst for exploration, these adventurous souls are redefining what it means to have a “home office”. And speaking of home, Homelike makes it easy to find that perfect, cosy nook or bustling city apartment in Zurich to call your temporary home.

Zurich: a city that conjures images of pristine lakes, snow-capped mountains, and architectural grandeur - but if you're a digital nomad, you might also be seeing dollar signs. It's no secret that Zurich, lauded as one of the world's most liveable cities, also comes with a hefty price tag. At times, the high cost of living can seem nightmarish.

But here's the good news - living in Zurich doesn't have to drain your finances. With some savvy strategies and local insights, you can experience the best of this Swiss gem without breaking the bank. 

Affordable housing in Zurich: Does it exist?

As you set your sights on Zurich, one of the first hurdles you might encounter is finding an apartment. Don’t stress! While it may initially seem like a formidable task, given Zurich's reputation for high living costs, there are numerous resources and strategies to help you navigate this challenge.

If you're a digital nomad planning to touchdown in Zurich, Homelike is an excellent choice. This online platform is a one-stop shop for furnished apartments, designed with the needs of remote workers in mind. Often offering flexible leasing terms, inclusive pricing, and a wide range of options, platforms like this simplify the process of finding a suitable apartment to call home during your stay in Zurich.

Living in Zurich doesn't have to break the bank

Shared living spaces are another practical and less expensive option, particularly for those keen on meeting new people and immersing themselves in the local culture. Websites such as WG-Zimmer and Flatfox can guide you towards the best shared living arrangements in Zurich, offering both affordability and a sense of community.

For shorter stays or transitional periods, consider hostels or budget hotels, which offer private rooms and often include co-working spaces. Platforms like Hostelworld can help you compare options and secure the best deals. Finally, while staying in the city centre may offer convenience, exploring neighbourhoods just outside can lead to significant savings without sacrificing accessibility. Thanks to the public transport network, living outside of the most expensive areas is possible while still benefiting from what central Zurich has to offer.

Food and dining options in the Swiss metropolis

Zurich is a food lover's paradise, offering a delectable mix of traditional Swiss cuisine and international flavours. Despite this wide selection, dining out in this gourmet city can quickly add up. So, how do you savour Zurich's culinary delights without swallowing your budget whole?

First off, consider embracing the local traditions of "Znüni", a mid-morning snack, and "Zvieri", an afternoon snack. These are smaller meals that can be enjoyed at local bakeries or takeaway stands at a fraction of the cost of a full restaurant meal. 

When it comes to main meals, self-catering is your best bet for saving money. Grocery stores like Migros and Coop offer a wide variety of fresh produce, dairy products, and ready-to-eat meals. They also regularly offer deals and discounts for their products. 

However, if you want the benefits of a gourmet meal, but don’t want to break the bank, consider visiting the various Äss-Bars dotted around the city. In an effort to combat food waste, these locations receive close-to-expiring food from all the top bakeries and restaurants around the city, and sell the food at a cut price.

However, high prices don't mean you should skip dining out entirely. After all, experiencing local cuisine is a big part of travelling. The trick is knowing where to go. Casual dining restaurants, known as "Beizli" in Swiss German, offer hearty local dishes at reasonable prices. Also, look out for daily specials, or "Tagesmenü" at restaurants, which are often cheaper than regular menu items.

Saving money on drinks in Zurich

As for drinks, tap water in Zurich is not only safe to drink but is of excellent quality. So, carry a refillable water bottle with you and save on buying drinks as all water fountains in the city are drinkable unless stated otherwise. If you're a coffee lover, bear in mind that hot beverages can be pricey. Consider making your own in the morning, or look for cafes that offer discounted refills.

Lastly, alcohol, especially in bars and restaurants, can be very, very expensive. If you do want to enjoy a beer or glass of wine, consider buying it from a grocery store and enjoying it at your accommodation or in one of Zurich's beautiful parks (where it's legal to drink in public). There's nothing more Züri than buying a six-pack of beer from Coop and heading down to China Garden (Chinawiese) for a drink and a swim with friends.

Transportation in Zurich

Navigating Zurich, and Switzerland at large, is made easy by its world-class public transportation system. However, without careful planning, transport costs can quickly add up. Here are some strategies to keep your transit expenses in check.

Zurich's efficient public transport system, ZVV, includes trams, buses, boats, and trains, all under one ticket. Short-term visitors can save with a Zurich Card for unlimited travel and discounts at museums and stores. For longer stays, a monthly ZVV pass offers unlimited travel within selected zones. If you plan to make Zurich your home for longer than a year, consider getting a "Halbtax-abo" or half-fare travelcard from SBB - this halves the price of all adult transport tickets!

Walking or cycling are also great ways to explore the city, with bike rentals available from outlets and "Züri rollt" stations - where non-e-bikes can be rented for free (alongside a deposit). Rideshares like Uber are an option, but they can be pricier than public transportation. Although driving offers scenic views, the costs of petrol, parking, and rental fees can add up, so opting for public transport, walking, or cycling can be more economical.

Free or inexpensive things to do in Zurich

Zurich offers a wealth of affordable activities. Enjoy a scenic stroll down the Limmat River, admire the architecture of the Grossmünster Church, and take in panoramic city views from Lindenhof or Uetliberg. 

Join a free walking tour for insights into Zurich's history and culture. Rent a free bike and explore the city at your own pace, or visit the University of Zurich's Botanical Gardens to see over 9.000 plant species.

Discover medieval architecture in the Old Town (Altstadt), enjoy a local picnic in one of the city's parks, and don't miss Lake Zurich, perfect for swimming, walking, or simply enjoying the view. A visit to the free Wildnispark at Zürich Langenberg offers all the joys of a zoo, entirely free of charge.

Working in Zurich: Coworking spaces, affordable cafes, and public WiFi

Zurich boasts numerous coworking spaces with diverse amenities. Among them are Citizen Space, centrally located with flexible packages, Impact Hub Zurich, offering workspace and networking opportunities and Spaces, providing versatile office space in various locations around the city.

Public WiFi

While Zurich doesn't offer free public WiFi in parks and squares, there is a hotspot at Limmatquai, between Central and Rudolf-Brun Brücke. You simply connect your device and follow the instructions. Keep in mind that under Swiss law, users must register to access any public WiFi network. Once you have completed the brief registration process, you can access the internet free of charge in many places.

Additionally, public WLAN hotspots are available in Switzerland, allowing users to access the internet with their laptops, cell phones, or tablets. You can pay an hourly, daily, or monthly fee to use this service. The two leading providers are Swisscom and Monzoon.

Life in Zurich doesn't have to break the bank

All in all, we believe Zurich offers an enriching experience for digital nomads with its robust digital infrastructure, range of coworking spaces, and numerous WiFi-equipped cafés. Despite being one of the world's most expensive cities, it provides a variety of affordable options for working remotely.

Embracing the digital nomad life in Zurich? Homelike makes it a breeze to find an apartment that suits your needs. Offering a wide range of options, from modern flats to cosy homes, it's your go-to platform for hassle-free accommodation. With Homelike, setting up your new home in Zurich is as easy as a few clicks.

Preethi Jayasree


Preethi Jayasree

Preethi Jayasree, born in 1984, is an Indian expat living in Germany. She spent some time in Switzerland working as a digital nomad. With a deep interest in global cuisine,...

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