Few who have visited or lived in Switzerland will be particularly surprised to hear that Switzerland is the most expensive place in Europe. However the price differences are quite eye opening. The recently published Eurostat price level study ranks Switzerland as the most expensive overall, well ahead of second and third placed Iceland and Norway.
Overall Switzerland is 61% more costly than the EU average. Second placed Iceland is 47% and Norway 40% above the EU average.
Digging into the detail it becomes clear that while some things are extremely expensive in Switzerland not everything is. Food and beverage costs 73% more than the EU average, making it the country’s most costly category. Not far behind are hotels and restaurants (+67%), clothing (+43%) and alcoholic beverages and tobacco (+28%). But there are two bright spots. Personal transport (+3%) and consumer electronics (-3%) are both close to the EU average.
Switzerland is the most expensive in Europe for food and beverage, hotels and restaurants, and clothing.
For most things, the best neighbouring country to head for to avoid price shock is Germany. Food and beverage (+6% of EU average), alcoholic beverages and tobacco (-5%), clothing (+3%), and restaurants and hotels (+9%) are all substantially cheaper. Personal transport equipment (-1%) and consumer electronics (-2%) are similar.
For food and beverage crossing any international border will save you a bundle. Germany (+6%), France (+12%), Italy (+12%) and Austria (+23%) are all much closer than Switzerland (+73%) to the EU average in this category.
Cross-border clothes shopping yields similar savings. Germany (+3%), France (+4%), Italy (+4%) and Austria (+2%) are all much closer than Switzerland (+43%) to the EU average in this category. The UK (-11%), Hungary (-18%) and Bulgaria (-19%) are the cheapest for clothing.
To save on hotels and dining, Germany (+9%), France (+17%), Italy (+4%) and Austria (+3%) will all leave you less out of pocket. Although if you can get there cheaply, Bulgaria (-56%), Romania (-47%) and the Czech Republic (-44%) will save you the most.
If you want to save on alcohol and tobacco, avoid Norway. Prices there are 223% of the the EU average. The UK (+62%), Ireland (+75%) and Iceland (+96%) are also expensive, all making Switzerland (+28%) look like a bargain. Neighbouring countries, Germany (-5%), France (+4%), Italy (-3%) and Austria (-9%) all offer savings over Switzerland however.
The survey looked at the prices of more 2,400 goods and services in 2016.
Eurostat report (in English)