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Switzerland is known for a lot of things: Swiss banks, Swiss cheese, the Swiss Alps, etc. What it’s NOT known for is being affordable. In fact, this small country is the most expensive in Europe.
If you want to yodel the Sound of Music tunes across the Swiss Alps but don’t want to give up your firstborn, you might want to consider a trip across this country in a campervan.
That’s exactly what we did when we found ourselves on a train from Milan, Italy to Geneva, Switzerland. We’d purchased a ticket to GENOVA, Italy, but made the true American mistake of boarding the wrong train to GENEVA. Same time, one different letter.
But no fear! Luckily, we travel with full freedom and flexibility, with just backpacks on our backs and nowhere pressing to go. We decided to just head to Geneva and get a campervan rental in Switzerland to see this beautiful country.
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How We Scored a Cheap Campervan Rental in Switzerland
I’d previously rented from a German campervan rental company called Roadsurfer, which has locations all across Europe and one in the United States. Through my rental process, I discovered that Roadsurfer has special deals every fall, typically in October and November.
This is called the Roadsurfer Rally.
The Roadsurfer Rally is an amazingly cheap campervan rental that helps the company move vans from their home station to Germany, where they’ll be fixed and maintained. You’ll get a campervan for just $99 for 7 days, which boils down to $14 per night, minus gas and campground fees.
You can search by departure city, and then a list of arrival cities and dates pop up. Once you click “Search”, you’ll see the type of van available for the trip. Roadsurfer vans range from small minivan-type campers, to larger Class B Plus-style campers. They are ALL just $99 for the trip with unlimited miles.
On our train ride to Geneva, I quickly thumbed through the upcoming Roadsurfer Rally rentals and found a Family Finca (VW Grand California) available from Geneva to Stuttgart. We were in luck, about to take the cheapest campervan trip ever across the most expensive country in Europe.
Keep in mind that with a Roadsurfer rental, you’ll need to add on a Bedding Kit if you aren’t traveling with your own sleeping bags and pillows. Bedding kits are 29 euros per person.
Our Switzerland Campervan Itinerary for Our 7-Day Trip
We picked up our Family Finca at the Geneva Roadsurfer station, which is actually right across the border in France. One thing to know about Roadsurfer is the earliest you can pick up your van is at 2pm. You can pay to pick the van up earlier, but we didn’t want to do that.
The 2pm pick-up time means your first day in the van is finding somewhere to spend the night; you aren’t getting much sightseeing in.
We drove over the north side of Lake Geneva, past Lausanne and Montreux. I’d say if we had more time we should have stopped at Montreaux, as it looked simply stunning perched on the edge of the lake, with towering mountains in the distance.
Day #1: Gampel
- Spot on Park4Night app: https://park4night.com/lieu/253718/
- Cost: Around $30 without hookups
We spent our first night at an unassuming campground off Highway 9 just south of the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. It was basically a large grassy field with a few scattered power box hookups, and a building that resembled a cargo trailer with bathrooms, fresh water, and places to dump and rinse your cassette.
We chose NOT to use the power box as the VW Grand California can last a day or two with it’s leisure battery. Prices went up a few euros per night to plug into power.
You can hear the highway noise and the tinkling of bells hanging from cows from this campsite, but overall it felt safe and pleasant. There isn’t all that much to do in the area, so this is best used as a stopover on your way to the Alps.
Day #2: Grindelwald
- Spot on Park4Night app: https://park4night.com/lieu/110861/
- Cost: Around $50 without hookups
We woke up in the morning and decided to cut across the Swiss Alps to head to the popular areas of Grindelwald and the Lauterbrunnen Valley. As we drove up the steep road to crest to the summit, we realized we were being redirected to a line for a TRAIN.
I had no idea they put VEHICLES on TRAINS in Switzerland in order to cut through tunnels in the Swiss Alps. We were in for a shock, and endured the longest, dark tunnel of our lives.
We survived the tunnel train ride, and were headed toward the Bernese Alps, which I figured wouldn’t be as popular in October.
Boy, was I dead wrong!
There are a few campgrounds in Grindelwald and they are all about $50 per night for a parking-lot-type place with access to hookups, bathrooms and garbage cans. The campgrounds were nothing special, and we experienced a bit of sticker shock after traveling around very affordable Italy.
We did do much but walk around the EXTREMELY TOURISTY town of Grindelwald and also went into a wellness sauna experience at the Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof. This cost 30 euros per person for access to a variety of saunas. It was a VERY relaxing experience that we both loved!
Grindelwald is VERY popular with tourists so we wanted to get the heck out of there as soon as possible. However, it’s the jumping-off point for some amazing hikes and lifts, including a day trip to Jungfraujoch, known as the Top of Europe. These are some of the most popular touristy things to do in the Grindelwald areas:
Day #3: Lauterbrunnen Valley and Interlaken
- Spot on Park4Night app: https://park4night.com/lieu/110861/
- Cost: Around $50 without hookups
We ran out of Grindelwald the next morning, hoping to find a spot in the Swiss Alps that was LESS touristy. So we headed over to the Lauterbrunnen Valley, a short 30-minute away. This is a beautiful glacier-carved valley known for its waterfalls, scenic lifts and tiny towns perched on the edge of cliffs.
Once again, it was swarming with tourists.
I wanted to take a lift up to Murren and hike around, but once we saw the line for the lift we hiked from the valley floor all the way up several thousand feet. It was an incredible climb and we lost tons of tourists along the way. In Murren, we enjoyed a beer and a snack before we started our three-hour hike back down to the valley floor.
We ALMOST spent the night in the valley but the only campground available was cash only, so we drove to Interlaken to stay by the lake for $50 per night for another parking-lot style campground. We couldn’t plug in because the Swiss use a different adaptor, so I was frustrated that I couldn’t charge my computer.
At this point, we were feeling a little bit over the sheer number of tourists in the area, and just how dang EXPENSIVE everything was. So we headed away from Interlaken on the next leg of our campervan trip through Switzerland.
If you want to stay and linger in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, check out these popular activities:
Day #4: Highway 11 Scenic Drive and Bad Ragaz
- Spot on Park4Night app: https://park4night.com/lieu/44199/
- Cost: Around $65 with a hookup
Again on another attempt to escape the tourists and prices, we left Interlaken to start heading toward our final Roadsurfer drop-off destination of Stuttgart. We were excited to get to Germany so we could pay less for campgrounds and food.
Highway 11 is a known windy road and mountain pass popular for motorcyclists. It offers stunning glacier views and a few hikes if you’re inclined.
We enjoyed the views and whizzing sports cars as we drove our campervan through Switzerland. Finally, we stopped for the night in the town of Bad Ragaz, not far from Germany.
This was our most expensive campground yet in Switzerland: around €64 per night with a hookup. We got a €20 tiny take-away pizza from a restaurant in Bad Ragaz and ate it with some salad in our van.
Day #5: Tamina Therme and Constance, Germany
- Spot on Park4Night app: https://park4night.com/lieu/13539/
- Cost: $25 for 24 hours, no hookups or amenities
When we woke up, we headed to Tamina Therme to soak in the mineral tubs and use the sauna. This is a HUGE facility with outdoor and indoor baths of a variety of temperatures and sizes. Kids are allowed in this therme, so don’t expect a relaxing experience with the sounds of screeching and yelling echoing through the building. We thought this resort was overpriced, sadly, and only spent 90 minutes.
After, we drove to Constance, Germany, grossing the border with ease. There’s a small rest stop walking distance from town, and we joined a row of other campers.
This was our least favorite rest stop area in Europe – it smelled, was loud, and it appeared someone dumped their pee container on the pavement. GROSS.
We wandered around Constance and enjoyed a €7 Asian noodle bowl to share. Right away, prices were WAY BETTER than what we encountered in Switzerland.
Day #6: Stuttgart, Germany
- Spot on Park4Night app: https://park4night.com//lieu/10850/
- Cost: $7, plus extra for getting fresh water and electricity
We opted to return our Roadsurfer Rally a day early in Stuttgart so we could make it to an appointment in Milan, Italy. Our final night was spent outside Stuttgart near our friend’s house in a simple and very affordable campground.
There were only spots for four campers, and everyone stayed quiet and respectful. It cost a little bit extra to get fresh water and electricity, but we really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of our campsite.
Why a Campervan is the Cheapest Way to Travel in Switzerland
As we drove our Roadsurfer Rally campervan through Switzerland, over and over again we were astounded by the prices. Meals were typically €30 for something as simple as a burger and fries. A small coffee was €5.
A campervan rental will let you store and prepare your own food and coffee, which saves TONS of money.
To combat high food prices, we visited the Coop, a member-owned Swiss grocery store that you see as often as you see 7-11s and Starbucks in the U.S.
We loved shopping at Coop and finding a variety of prepared foods and typical groceries. We lived out of Coop for the several days we were driving through Switzerland, and only ate out once or twice.
I remember when we stopped one time as we were road weary, and ended up getting a side of fries that cost €13 and a bottle of water for €9. That cemented the fact that we had to get out of Switzerland, and fast. After living in San Francisco for many years, I don’t have much patience for areas that are even MORE expensive.
My mom recommended this book for traveling in Switzerland. Rick Steves is amazing at giving itinerary and location ideas, plus ways to save money when visiting such an expensive country. We didn't read this book, but I definitely would if I were to spend more time in the Swiss Alps.
How Much are Campgrounds in Switzerland?
I got this question a lot over on my The Van Life Collective Facebook page. In our limited experience in Switzerland, campgrounds in the alps areas seemed to be between €50-60 per night.
This was sticker shock to us after visting the very affordable Dolomites in Northern Italy.
Plus, we saw lots of No Camping signs in Switzerland like we’re used to seeing in the United States. It seems they frown on “wild camping”, and we didn’t find sostas (camping rest stops) like we found in Italy, and that I’ve also heard are popular in France.
We mostly found places to park using the Park4Night app.
Tips on Visiting Switzerland by Campervan
There are just a couple things to keep in mind when traveling in Switzerland that took us by surprise.
Tolls in Switzerland
If you are renting a campervan to drive through this beautiful country, make sure it already has a Swiss motorway vignette. This sticker allows you to travel on any toll roads and highways in the country. Luckily, I found out about this before we picked up our Roadsurfer Rally van and I looked at the windshield and spotted the vignette. Otherwise, you’ll have to buy one for your trip.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, we were also shocked by boarding a car train in Switzerland as we had no idea this was a thing. The train moves cars quickly from one destination to another in mountain tunnels. We must have been inside the tunnel for almost 15 minutes, but it felt safe, although a bit freaky. It cost us €30 to board the car train.
Swiss Half Fare Pass
If you’re planning on staying in Switzerland for awhile and using the lifts, rails and buses, you should definitely get a Half Fare Pass. Lift tickets can be very expensive at €100 per person to visit various locations, so the half price card will really help you save some money.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Switzerland by Campervan
If you’re dying to visit the Swiss Alps and experience Swiss culture, a campervan rental is the most affordable way to do it. You’ll not only have your own form of transportation, but you can cook your own meals and make your own coffee. Even with a campervan rental priced at around €120 per night plus a campground fee of €40, that is STILL cheaper than many hotels in Switzerland.
We lucked out by getting the €99/7 Days Roadsurfer Rally rental, but those are only available in October and November, and you might not get the exact route you desire to cross the Swiss Alps.
I hope enjoy your trip to Switzerland and please comment below if you have any further tips or questions!