Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Geneva on a Budget: Seeing the City on the Cheap

This is the second guest post by fellow wanderlust Oma. She was able to travel to Geneva, Switzerland last July and stayed there for almost 3 weeks.  All photos were taken by her. 

Sit back and relax while watching Geneva's iconic
 Jet d 'Eau, a 140-meter water fountain.
When I learned I got accepted to a graduate study program in Geneva, Switzerland, I became more excited of the fact that I would be able to travel to Europe.  Perhaps that feeling of excitement and elation steered me away from doing a very fundamental research – determining the cost of living in Geneva. It was too late when I found out that in various global surveys, Geneva would almost always make it among the top 5 most expensive cities in the world.  So for those of you who are contemplating of travelling to this quaint, multi-cultural, French speaking city in Switzerland, let this serve as a warning.

You won't forget that you're in Switzerland when you see this building
along Rue de la Corraterie. 
 You would need serious mental (and financial) preparation to fully enjoy the visual charm of Geneva.  So here are my few and (hopefully) helpful budget tips:   

1.      Accommodation – While a backpackers’ hotel is an obvious choice, dormitories run by religious organisations offer the cheapest rate.  I stayed at a female dormitory called Foyer L’Accueil.  At CHF 27/night, I had a room to myself and a basic breakfast – that is a piece of bread, spread and hot drink. (Sorry, no cereals or eggs.)  Toilets and kitchen were shared.  Other accommodations would give you a choice of either breakfast or daily transport ticket.

2.    Transportation – Since Geneva is a small city, most of the must-see places are close to each other. If you’re doing sight-seeing in the city, it is best to travel on foot.  If you’ll stay in the city for more than two weeks, it is wiser to buy the monthly pass which allows you unlimited travel around Geneva by tram, bus and to the airport by train.  If you want to go to nearby places outside of Geneva such as Montreaux and Lausanne, then buying train tickets online is way cheaper than purchasing them from SBB/CFF/FFS (Swiss Federal Railways) ticket office on the actual day of your travel. Even though the tickets sold in the office are flexi tickets (meaning you can take the train anytime within that day or you are not tied down to a fixed train schedule), you can save at least half the ticket price when you purchase it online.

In Geneva, walking is good for your wallet (and health).
3.    Food – A decent meal in restaurants whichever side of Geneva they are (business or student area) would cost at least CHF 18.  Of course, cooking your own food is the best way to save (although grocery is also expensive). If your accommodation does not allow you to cook, then there is a variety of quite good cooked meals in Manor La Placette, a department and grocery store, for at least CHF 10.  If that price is beyond your budget, you can always buy bread or sandwiches which cost between CHF 2 to 7. 

4.     Shopping – I usually do not shop when I travel (I'm a bit of a cheapskate) but I noticed that in Geneva, clothes (the unbranded ones, of course) are surprisingly cheaper than food.  There are quite a few shopping stores in the city but if you are in for a different treat, there is a weekend flea market at Plaine de Plainpalais that sell a range of interesting vintage or items and collectibles.  

This flea market at Plainpalais is also the best place to mingle with locals.

5.    Internet -  (Skip this tip if you booked a hotel or hostel with free WiFi). I learned that there's an increasing number of WiFi hot spots in Geneva. Do a quick online search of those spots before you leave for Geneva so that you can easily browse the net using your iPhone or laptop.  Geneva's airport, public library as well as some McDonald's stores also offer free WiFi. If you prefer to upload your travel photos while inside your budget accommodation, prepare to spend around 5 CHF for a week-long internet subscription.
              There's really no need to spend a fortune when exploring Geneva if you do your research ahead of time.

 Planning to go to Geneva? Got other budget tips? Feel free to share them below!

You might also be interested in:  Sydney on a Budget

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