Bern is the capital of Switzerland and the country’s fourth-largest city. It’s a picturesque mediaeval city which has been lovingly maintained. Bern has glorious views of the Alps and the River Aare – which, together with its history, architecture and success as a major business centre, attracts professionals from around the world.
If you are considering moving to Bern, the various costs listed below will help you make an informed decision on what costs are involved when moving and living in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Quick Bern Facts:
- Population: 141,762 (2016)
- Official Language: Swiss German (de facto) with many other languages being spoken at home, including English, French, Italian, Romansch, Polish, Russian and many others.
- GDP Per Capita: $75,734 USD (2015)
- City of Fountains: The city of Bern has over 100 fountains.
- Currency: Swiss Franc or CHF. As of early 2023, $1 USD = 0.94 SFR, €1 EUR = 0.99 SFR, $1 CAD = 0.69 SFR, $1 AUD = 0.63 SFR
1. Moving and Shipping Costs to Bern
Sample international container shipping rates to Switzerland from various other countries
2. Bern Housing Costs
House and flat prices in Bern may not be as expensive as in Zurich and Geneva, but they are more expensive than in many major cities around the world. Prices vary from area to area, but the figures below will give you an indication of what’s available at what price.
Monthly Rental Prices in Bern:
- 1 bedroom flat (apartment) in City Centre: 1,233+ SFR
- 1 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: 940.00+ SFR
- 3 bedroomed flat in City Centre: 2,300+ SFR
- 3 bedroomed flat outside the City Centre: 1,690+ SFR
Bern Home Purchase Prices:
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy in City Centre: 9,200+ SFR
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy outside City: 6,000+ SFR
Bern Housing Cost Comparison:
This is how rents in Bern compare with other cities around the globe.
- London is 42.7% more expensive
- New York is 62.2% more expensive
- Los Angeles is 48.9% more expensive
- Toronto is 22.3% more expensive
- Vancouver is 27.7% more expensive
- Sydney is 32.8% more expensive
- Melbourne is 4% more expensive
- Paris is 12.4% more expensive
- Dubai is 23.4% more expensive
How to Save on Housing Costs:
- Share a Flat or House: Like any city in the world with high rental costs, flat and house sharing in Bern is the route to affordable accommodation. With a house/flat share you will have your own room, or, for a cheaper option, you can share a room. The bathroom/s will be shared with other people in the house/flat. Have a look at Comparis, Erasmusu, Housing Anywhere and Gabinohome and find someone you can get on with to share the costs with you.
- Different Areas – Different Prices: Like all cities around the world, Bern has its expensive and cheaper areas, although nowhere is cheap. It’s a city full of green spaces and hills, with attractive areas to live in. Steigerhubel is one of the cheapest areas to live in Bern. Altstadt (Old Town) is expensive and attracts high-flying professionals. Länggasse, Breitenrain and Lorraine are popular with rich couples and families. Kirchenfeld is where all the embassies are, so house prices here are naturally high. Elfenau is just as expensive as Kirchenfeld.
3. Bern Food, Grocery and Restaurant Costs
Like all Swiss cities, Bern has a good selection of international and Swiss restaurants. If you are a dog owner, you will have the added bonus of being able to take your dog into many cafes and restaurants.
- Inexpensive Restaurant: 20.00 – 25.00 SFR
- Takeout Coffee: 4.60 – 5.00 SFR
- Bottle of Coke: 3.80 – 4.00 SFR
- 1L of Milk: 1.60 – 2.00 SFR
- Loaf of Bread: 2.70 – 3.00 SFR
- 12 Eggs: 5.30 – 5.50 SFR
- 1kg Chicken: 25.00 – 30.00 SFR
- 1kg Beef: 50.00 – 60.00 SFR
- 1kg Apples: 3.70 – 4.00 SFR
- 1kg White Rice: 2.60 – 3.00 SFR
This is how restaurants and food prices compare with other major cities in the world.
- New York restaurants are 5.2% cheaper and groceries are 12.1% cheaper than Bern.
- Los Angeles restaurants are 18.5% cheaper and groceries are 47.5% cheaper than Bern.
- London restaurants are 37.8% cheaper and groceries are 109.7% cheaper than Bern.
- Toronto restaurants are 38.9% cheaper and groceries are 67.7% cheaper than Bern.
- Vancouver restaurants are 47.5% cheaper and groceries are 61.5% cheaper than Bern.
- Sydney restaurants are 34.5% cheaper and groceries are 46.4% cheaper than Bern.
- Melbourne restaurants are 40.7% cheaper and groceries are 44.9% cheaper than Bern.
- Paris restaurants are 52.8% cheaper and groceries are 53.1% cheaper than Bern.
- Dubai restaurants are 46.7% cheaper and groceries are 131.9% cheaper than Bern.
Bonus Tips for Cheaper Food, Restaurants and Groceries:
- Know Your Supermarkets: Manor Supermarkets are generally the most expensive supermarkets, where you’ll find exclusive, luxury goods. Migros is Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain and, together with Coop forming the middle of the road when it comes to prices. Denner is Switzerland’s third-largest supermarket chain and is also reasonably priced. Aldi, Lidl and Spar are the cheapest supermarkets in Switzerland. Every Tuesday and Saturday in Bern, there is an excellent fruit, vegetable and flower market which sells a wide range of organic and fresh food.
- Find Cheap Eats: Trip Advisor, Fodors, Timeout and Lonely Planet all have suggestions for restaurants which offer affordable meals.
4. Bern Alcohol Costs
Bern has a great selection of bars and nightclubs. The following is a list of basic prices of beer and wine from the supermarket and restaurants.
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a restaurant/pub: 6.00 SFR
- Bottle of imported beer at a restaurant/pub: 5.00 SFR
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a supermarket: 1.90 – 2.00 SFR
- Bottle of imported beer at a supermarket: 2.00 – 2.20 SFR
- Mid-range bottle of wine at a supermarket: 13.50 – 15.00 SFR
How To Drink For Less in Bern:
- Keep an eye on the local papers and websites for specials over weekends and public holidays.
- Yelp and Glocals have a few suggestions for finding cheaper drinks in Bern. Unfortunately, Happy Hour isn’t a Swiss tradition.
- Scour the areas around Bern University and other tertiary institutions to find the best alcohol deals.
5. Bern Transportation Fares
Bern has an efficient transport system consisting of buses, trams and local trains. Like all transport in Switzerland, it is of a high standard and always on time.
Here are some example ticket costs.
- Adult single – 3.60 SFR
- One-day ticket for bus, tram and train – 10.00 SFR
- Monthly season ticket for bus, tram and train – 79.00 SFR
How To Save Money on Public Transport:
- You will receive a Bern Card, which entitles you to free travel around the city, if you are staying in any sort of paid accommodation in Bern, including a campsite.
- Buy a bike. There is a good system of cycle lanes all around the city and cycling is popular with people of all ages.
- Walk. Bern is a small city and an absolute pleasure to walk in.
6. Cost of Internet in Bern
Here are some sample broadband internet prices from early 2023 for unlimited downloads, based on a 12-month contract:
- Sunrise: 49.90 CHF a month (Fiber broadband, up to 1GB of data)
7. Cost of Clothing, Personal Items, Gym and Leisure
The hottest month in Bern is July with an average temperature of 17°C. However, don’t be fooled by that temperature, as highs of 35°C are common. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of -1.5°C. The wettest month is June, with an average of 119mm falling during the month.
Like most places in Switzerland, rain is always a possibility, so it’s wise to carry an umbrella or a fold-up waterproof jacket.
Here are some clothing prices, together with other useful prices.
- Pair of Jeans: 100.00 – 140.00 CHF
- Summer Dress: 40.00 – 60.00 CHF
- Running Shoes (Trainers): 110.00 – 160.00 CHF
- Business Shoes: 150.00 – 200.00 CHF
- Short Doctor’s Visit (15 mins): 115.00 CHF
- Deodorant: 7.00 CHF
- Shampoo: 5.00 CHF
- Toilet Paper (4 rolls): 3.00 CHF
- Gym Membership: 65.67 – 150.00 CHF per month
- Movie (cinema) Ticket: 18.00 – 20.00 CHF
Source: Numbeo and Expatistan
8. Cost of Owning a Car and Driving a Car in Bern
Everyone in Switzerland drives on the Right. Driving in Bern is not a problem as long as you obey the rules of the road. Fines are very high and the traffic police and parking attendants are very vigilant.
If you’re moving to Bern from within Switzerland, you’ll be able to keep your licence but need to update your address to your new Bern one. You can drive on a foreign licence for 12 months, after that you will need to obtain a Swiss license. Your foreign licence must be in either English, French, German or Italian. If it isn’t, then you either need a translation or an International Driver’s Licence. People from the EU/EEA don’t need to take a test to get their Swiss Licence. This list details non-European countries where you only need to take a driving test and not a theory test to gain your licence. Everyone else must take a theory test and a driving test. Each Canton has its own traffic office where you can organise your Swiss licence.
Here are some other sample costs of owning and operating a car in Bern:
- Volkswagen Golf: 40,000 SFR
- 1 litre (¼ gallon) of Gas (petrol): 1.93 SFR
- Registration Fee (if any): Varies from Canton to Canton and also depends on the vehicle
- Motorway Fee: CHF 40 per annum
- Other Fees (if any): MOT every four years. Price varies from Canton to Canton and vehicle to vehicle
Source: Expatistan, CH
Ways To Save Money on Driving in BernL
- Car sharing or pooling is one way to save money. Try Carpoolworld and BlaBlaCar.
- Taxis can sometimes be a cheaper option, especially if you are going to have to park all day. There is no Uber in Bern.
9. Taxes in Bern
No matter where you live in Switzerland, you will pay the same rate of tax. Sales Tax is 8% in Switzerland and is added to most goods and services throughout the country. Unlike in some countries, it is always included in the marked price.
Whether you own or rent your home, you will be subject to council tax based on the area in which you live and the size of the property you live in. Switzerland has a complex system where areas of a city with wealthy residents and commercial areas often pay lower taxes than areas whose residents earn an average income.
Finally, if you decide to buy a flat or house in Bern you should expect to pay 5% of the sale price to pay fees – 0.2 – 1% notary fees, 0.3 – 3% property transfer tax and 1 – 1.5% for registering the property deed.
10. Flight Costs from Bern
If you do make the move to Bern, here’s approximately how much it will cost to fly to other major world cities based on lowest, one-way fares from Skyscanner as of early 2023. Flights are priced for Zurich.
- New York: CHF 300
- Los Angeles: CHF 400
- London: CHF 44
- Paris: CHF 80
- Toronto: CHF 316
- Vancouver: CHF 490
- Dubai: CHF 250
- Sydney: CHF 700
- Melbourne: CHF 770
- Cape Town: CHF 400
- Hong Kong: CHF 600
Other Tips on Moving to Bern:
The costs and pricing above should give you a good idea of the cost of living in Bern but perhaps the following extra tips will make your move go smoothly.
11. Moving to Bern Alone
Moving anywhere can be a lonely experience, but moving to a new city can be rather daunting. Here are a few tips about settling into Bern.
- Meetups: Bern has lots of free meetup groups you can find on Meetup.com. Find groups that do what you love, such as DevOps Bern, Bern Hiking, WordPress, Long Dinner Tables and many more.
- Attend Local Events: There are always events going on in Bern at any given time. Find out what’s happening from Trip Advisor, Bern.com, Things to do Everywhere, The Culture Trip and Planetware.
12. Moving to Bern with a Family
Bern has a lot to offer families. It has a great history which can be explored in the museums and buildings throughout the city. The river becomes the place to be in the summer months and, of course, there are the Alps on your doorstep with everything they offer throughout the year. Here’s some extra food for thought.
- New Parents (or parents to be): Check out Birthlight, AngloInfo and Mamamundo.
- Live in a Family-friendly Area: Like all cities in Switzerland, Bern is a family-friendly city. Steigerhubel is one of the cheapest areas which is popular with families. There aren’t that many green spaces but it’s close to Könizerberg Forest and there’s a public swimming pool for the kids. Westside is an upmarket area with many new apartments which attract families. Kirchenfeld is the most expensive area and is full of embassies, museums and high-priced accommodation. Families that can afford it love this area. Eifenau falls in the same price bracket but the houses are large and there’re lots of green spaces. Other areas where families choose to live include Breitenrain, Lorraine and Länggasse.
- Find Things To Do With The Kids: Bern, MediocreMum, Trip Hobo and Trip Advisor all have great ideas for activities and events your kids will love.
13. Moving to Bern for Work
Moving to Bern for work is one of the most common reasons people choose to move. The majority of people already have a job when they move to Switzerland as acquiring a residence permit is almost impossible without a job. Bern has very high professional standards in all spheres of work. Some of the biggest employers are in the IT, telecommunications, food, precision (watches and machinery), medical, agriculture and viticulture fields. There are also jobs available in the hospitality and tourism fields, and environmental science.
Here are a few things to consider when moving for work:
- Salary: Salaries in Bern are high. You can check salary ranges on sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale.
- How to Find Work: To find a job before you move to Bern, have a look at the following sites: Jobs in Bern, Xpat Jobs and Find a Job in Switzerland. You may also want to google recruiters in your industry, as they can often help land you some initial interviews as well.
14. Moving to Bern from Australia
There are a number of Australians living in Bern. If you are considering joining them, here are a few added pointers.
- Size Comparison: If you compare the population size of the city of Bern with a town in Australia, you’d be looking at Darwin.
- Join Expat Groups: Both InterNations and Meetup.com offer ways of meeting up with other Australians in Bern.
15. Moving to Bern from Canada
There are a few Canadians living in Bern If you’re considering making the move from Canada here are a few things to consider.
- Size: Bern’s population is around the same as Guelph.
- Expat Groups: InterNations and Expat.com will give you a chance to meet other Canadians already living and working in Bern.
16. Moving to Bern from the United States
There’s a small American contingent living in Bern. If you’re considering moving to Bern, here are a few bonus tips:
- Size: Bern’s population is roughly the same as Bridgeport, Connecticut.
- Expat Groups: InterNations and Americans Welcome will introduce you to fellow Americans already living and working in Bern, helping you to settle in with ease.
17. Moving to Bern from the United Kingdom
There’s a small group of Brits living and working in Bern. If you’re considering joining them, here are a few bonus tips
- Size: If you compare the population size of Bern with a city in the UK, you’d be looking at Windsor and Maidenhead.
- Expat Groups: InterNations and Expat.com both offer opportunities for you to meet fellow Brits already living in Bern.
Hopefully, the tips and costs above are helpful. If want to get started pricing out how much it will cost you to move to Bern you can start by comparing moving quotes here.