A Trip to Switzerland from Salamanca (on a BUDGET)

Woohyun Kwen headshot
Woohyun Kwen
September 19, 2023
A view of the Swiss Alps with a cow on the hiking trail!

During a break I had before classes started, I planned a long trip to Switzerland for 5 days. There were definitely cheaper options, but Switzerland was the No.1 destination on my travel list, and I was determined to take this opportunity.

Getting to Madrid:

  • Salamanca does not have an international airport so I booked my flight out of the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (closest)
  • If you plan on taking multiple trips to Madrid from Salamanca (either to fly out of the airport or to visit), I 100% recommend the Renfe Abono Pass!
  • You can go on the Renfe website (Spain rail system) and purchase an Abono (commuter) Pass, which will be 20€ for unlimited train rides between 2 stations of your choice (I chose Salamanca and Madrid Chamartin)
    • TIP: You can buy multiple Abonos if you wish to do multiple trips to and from another destination!
  • WARNING: You need to validate your trips using the Abono pass either on the Renfe website or app for the specific rides (date and time) to receive a ticket and seat on the train
  • There are 1hr 45min trains but you must validate these rides EARLY (I did it the night before so my only option was a 3hr train ride at 5AM!)
  • From the Madrid train station to the airport I took the metro: 5€ (make sure to keep the metro card to use in the future without having to pay for it again!)

In Switzerland:

  • Flight:
    • I flew into Zurich airport, and my biggest tip is to book tickets IN ADVANCE before the prices go up! (From Madrid, I found that tickets to either Zurich or Geneva were the most affordable)
  • Currency: Switzerland is not in the EU therefore they have CHF instead of Euros!
    • To be honest, I did not exchange for any CHF and was fine.
    • Grocery/souvenir stores in the smallest villages all took credit cards.
    • Even a street donut stand in a small town took credit cards so I personally don’t recommend exchanging too much cash (CHF)
  • Cell Service: If you are using Orange like me, Switzerland is not covered since it isn’t in the EU.
    • eSIM is the most affordable option if you do it in advance/your phone is compatible with it
    • I bought a prepaid SIM card
      • I went to Sunrise in the Zurich airport and got unlimited data for 10 days and 20CHF credit for calls/texts (20CHF)
      • Swisscom is better for shorter trips (located right next to Sunrise) as they are 2CHF/day for unlimited data but they ran out of SIM cards when I got there around 5 pm

Transportation in Switzerland

  • SBB train system was the best public transportation system I’ve ever experienced
    • Trains to destinations at least every hour (most were every 10min or 30min)
    • Covers trains + cable car rides in most places!
  • Getting Friends Pass for Youth allows you to get unlimited rides to literally anywhere in Switzerland for a whole day 80CHF for up to 4 people (only 20CHF/person)
    • Definitely take advantage of this even if you are alone, because a single long train ride can go up to 120CHF!


  • I really recommend getting individual beds or private rooms (with a group) at YOUTH Hostels
  • You can meet other students traveling which is a unique and fun experience
  • TIP: Book in locations that are a station or two away from the destination city/village
    • Ex. I was stopping in Zermatt for a day but I booked my room in Tasch, a town that was a 10min train ride away for ½ the price (train every 10 or 30 min for 24hr)


  • Switzerland is EXPENSIVE (Ex. I was looking for a place to eat and a hamburger was 37CHF)
  • My solution: sCoop or other grocery stores
    • They sell premade meals (hot&cold) that can either be microwaved or sold warm to eat right away (~5-8CHF)
    • If you want to try local food, I recommend street stands or premade local food in grocery stores as they are more affordable than restaurants

I appreciate you for sticking around through such a long blog, and I hope you find the info above helpful! I visited Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Zermatt, Bern, and Zurich during my trip and I had a wonderful time.

Until next time, ¡hasta luego!

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Woohyun Kwen

Hi! I am a junior studying Education Studies and Psychology on the pre-health track at Amherst College. In my free time, I love to paint scenery, go on long walks, and sing my heart out to my favorite pop songs.

2023 Fall
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