Fast Food Doesn’t Mean “Cheap Food” in Switzerland

Right off the bat, you probably already know that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries to visit in the world, and that visiting the scenic Alps comes at a cost. Now you might be thinking “ehh… I’ll go on a budget and just eat fast food”. I’ll say right now, that you should rethink your plan…

Right off the bat, you probably already know that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries to visit in the world, and that visiting the scenic Alps comes at a cost. Now you might be thinking "ehh... I'll go on a budget and just eat fast food". I'll say right now, that you should rethink your plan...

My first awakening at this fact came when I was riding the SBB Train from Zürich to Zermatt. My lips were parched after drooling so much at the beautiful rolling hills and lakes, so I decided to get three bottles of Coca-Cola. These three bottles (which were just a bit smaller than the typical US sized 20-oz bottle) cost 17 CHF which equals... ~$18. So yeah, throughout the whole country, I felt like I was paying stadium-priced premiums on food.

Let's Budget

So let's try our hypothetical "budget" and eat as cheaply as possible for a meal. In the States, where can we get the cheapest hot meal when traveling? Oh, I know! Let's try McDonald's!

Ok.... so we know that 1 CHF is about $1, so let's just look at these prices face-value and assume 1 CHF = $1.

Item NameSwitzerlandUnited StatesΔ Price
CH: Big Bang Menu
Double Cheeseburger,  small fries AND salad, and a 0.4l (14 oz) drinkUS: Extra Value Meal
2 cheeseburgers, medium fries OR salad, and any soft drink size
$8.90 $3.89 [1] $5.01
CH: 22 Chicken McNuggets
US: 20 Chicken McNuggets
$16.90
($0.77 / nugget)
$5.85
($0.29/nugget)
$10.52
(22-piece)
CH: McWrap Chicken Tasty
US: Premium McWrap Chicken & Bacon
$11.90$5.14$6.76
CH: Caesar Crispy Chicken Salad$11.90$5.39$6.51
CH: Big Mac with Fries, 0.5l drink (Medium Portion)
US: Big Mac Meal
$13.00$6.79$6.21
Happy Meal (Cheeseburger)$7.20$3.26$3.94
McFlurry$3.90 $2.80$1.10

[1] A 2-cheeseburger meal is $4.89; a single entree of 2 cheeseburgers is $2, so I excluded the cost of one cheeseburger to compare apples to apples... err burgers to burgers

So maybe it was because I was in a touristy part of town... the ski resort of Zermatt. Could Zürich be any cheaper? I went to a Burger King to find out.

Simply put... NOPE. On the bright side, they sell beer for ~$5, which is almost how much I'd pay in the US at a bar. But $15 for a Whopper combo or $13 for a 4-piece chicken strips? The 2:1 ratio of pricing between fast food in Switzerland and the US at both McDonald's and Burger King is about the same.

At that point, you might as well indulge and try some authentic Swiss chocolates or fondues by paying a little bit extra! Just be aware of your wallet and budget for food, as you'll have a hard time ordering a cheap meal throughout the country.

TLDR: Expect to pay twice as much for fast food as you do in the States 

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