Buckle up Edi students, we’re doing Geneva and Bern for £66!

Apparently Switzerland is even more expensive once you get there!


In the face of 18 days of no university being announced at the end of January and an insatiable escapism fantasy, I did what only the most economic-minded students do, and hopped on Google flights. I’m on a quest to explore as many countries as possible while here in the UK, so while I’d love to revisit my favourite destinations, I needed somewhere new. Upon discovering flights to Geneva, Switzerland for £66 roundtrip (not exactly a budget flight, but they would have been cheaper had I gotten them more in advance), I was quickly booking and not looking back.

This was also going to be my first solo trip, so I didn’t even have to wait for the approval of a companion on any of the hostels I booked. Fun fact, the minimum wage in Switzerland is around £21 per hour, so everything only got more expensive after I paid for flights.

I was too swept up in the rush of retail therapy to do any research on what I might expect to pay once I got there, so I did end up having leftover chocolate for dinner once or twice on my trip (and the phrase “leftover chocolate” had never existed in my life before this trip, too).

Anyway, my hostels weren’t cheap, and my flights were pretty average, so this isn’t the ideal minimal budget trip. It was, however, a fabulous time, so here’s what I did.

Day One: Geneva

The first thing I like to do in a new city is walking around until my feet bleed, and my 14.5 mile day in Geneva to fully explore the city centre and walk all around Lake Geneva was the ideal first day of travel. I checked into my hostel, a stinky, moist place, but one of three on Hostelworld, and the best rated one. It was clean, and my roommates were pleasant, so I can’t complain, but a room had never smelled so much like feet.

I’m married to a slow morning, so after a quick TikTok perusal of cafes and brunch places in Geneva, I made my way up to Old Town, where I got breakfast at FERDINAND Coffee Shop. It was a very cute place, and my pastry and coffee were great. After more walking to see the city centre, lake, and the Jet d’Eau, a ridiculous water spout in the middle of the lake that’s really just there for the vibes, soooo me, I really just wandered around for the next four hours. I stopped for hot chocolate, walked along the Arve River, and explored the entire city in a day.

I’m married to a slow morning, so after a quick TikTok perusal of cafes and brunch places in Geneva, I made my way up to Old Town, where I got breakfast at FERDINAND Coffee Shop. It was a very cute place, and my pastry and coffee were great. After more walking to see the city centre, lake, and the Jet d’Eau, a ridiculous water spout in the middle of the lake that’s really just there for the vibes, soooo me, I really just wandered around for the next four hours. I stopped for hot chocolate, walked along the Arve River, and explored the entire city in a day.

I got a cute flatbread pizza for dinner from this restaurant I’d found on TikTok, ByLÙ. My pizza and a drink were 30 francs, the first of many realisations of just how unaffordable this country was going to be, but unfortunately, I was already there, my fate sealed.

Day Two: Geneva

Okay, so not really exciting. I had done everything there is to do in Geneva on day one, which meant my agenda had been cleared. I wandered around the entire city again, finally making time to see the UN in the daylight, but it was cloudier on day two, so all my photos are grey. However, the UN was really cool and had I thought to do so early enough in advance, I’d have booked a tour.

After, I made my way back to Old Town, where I stumbled upon the world’s most adorable cafe, Pages & Sips, a combination English book store and cafe. They offered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, this place was me-coded, “all year long because a pumpkin spice latte is always a good idea.” Yeah. Absolutely. Take my money forever. They also kept each table’s bowl of little cereal chocolates full. So me-coded.

I tried to be cheaper that day, finding a chain sandwich shop, but my sandwich there was still 14 Swiss francs. With that knowledge, I gave up and started my self-guided chocolate tour. I walked all over town, stopping at four or five chocolatiers, and each one was insane. I get everything anyone’s ever said about Swiss chocolate. It really is the best. The first stop, a cute little shop in Geneva’s Old Town, Confiserie Arn, ended up being my favourite. By the end of my tour, I’d fulfilled my childhood dream of living off nothing but chocolate.

In the evening, I walked over to a restaurant on the docks on the western side of the lake, where I got an entire pot of fondue all to myself. It was fabulous, and I love the Swiss lifestyle and culinary scene, but I won’t be able to afford another day in Switzerland until I’m thirty.

Day Three: Annecy, France 

Sorry to all of Switzerland, but within twenty minutes of exploring Annecy, considered the “Venice of France”, though I wasn’t harassed or served bad food in Annecy, so the trip had been made. The French Alps are all around, and the river running through Annecy leads to gorgeous streets and views straight onto the lake. And the lake was so blue.

Seriously.

I walked around like a gaping fish all morning, wanting to soak up every view and sight. I was obsessed, and I am so sorry to Paris and Barcelona and all the other European cities I’ve adored, but Annecy wins it all. Seriously.

I let myself forget about lunch too long that all the good lunch places had closed by the time I went to eat, but I still had an alright crepe in the main part of town, and it was close to the boat company where I’d booked an hour’s tour of the lake. Always book the boat tour, guys. They’re maybe €20, and they’re always worth it. The views on this boat were insane, and I’d picked up a pain au chocolat before boarding, which meant nobody was more vibey and French on that boat than me. It was perfect, and I will be retiring in Annecy.

After, I found a cute cafe (that very well might be a chain) called Slake, had a coffee, and asked the barista for dinner recs. My day in Annecy had been a third of the price of any of my Swiss days, and I was thoroughly enjoying what it feels like to be able to afford food again. The barista recommended an expensive French bistro or a cool Peruvian sushi fusion place, and I went with the sushi after another lap around the lake and city centre as the sun was going down. The mountains were every shade of purple and blue, and the sky was the dream sunset. Seriously. I’m forever obsessed with that little city.

Dinner at the sushi place was delicious, and I was sad to leave Annecy. It surpassed any expectation I could’ve had about a spontaneous side trip, and it was also affordable. The next time I fly into Geneva, it’ll be for a trip to the French Alps.

Day 4: Bern

I had high expectations for Bern. It looked insane, and apparently, there are three bears kept in a central habitat for public viewing. I was also hoping there was any sort of affordable meal in Bern, since Geneva is more touristy anyway.

Bern was beautiful, with the bright river and the pretty orange buildings built on a hill. However, the bears were not in the habitat, I checked twice, and the meals were just as expensive. I splurged on one last fondue meal, and this one came with apples and potatoes, so that was well worth it, but my dinner was leftover chocolate.

The highlight of Bern, and arguably one of the best parts of the whole trip, was this little apple-themed cafe about fifteen minutes from the city centre, Apfelgold. Genuinely the best apple pie I’ve ever had in my life, and a fabulous chai. I went again the next morning before my train, but I’ll be thinking about those apple pies for the rest of my life. That was the best meal of the entire trip, and I’d go back solely for another slice.

My hostel in Bern was the sweltering one, and there was a rude girl in the bunk above me that yelled at everyone else for making noise at 8pm, so overall, not the best day, but I did walk the entire city in about three hours, so I didn’t have much less to do, especially with the bears on Skyebattical. It’s fine! No offence taken.

However, Bern did have a sunset rivalling Annecy, so its beauty shouldn’t be missed. Maybe pack your own food for a trip to Switzerland, though.

Day 5: Bern/Geneva/Glasgow/Edinburgh

On my last day, I did another lap around Bern, a beautiful city, but tiny, and my third attempt at seeing the bears still resulted in a bearless existence. Bern was cool, and I’m sure getting to swim in the river when it’s nicer is bucket list-worthy, but I was cold, and I’d depleted my bank account on expensive meals and horrible hostels. Seriously. I’d never slept in scratchier sheets or a hotter room, and while the British resident in me truly appreciated the gift of heat, I was sweating in a t-shirt and shorts.

Around 2pm, I hopped on the train back to Geneva, killed some time at the Geneva train station Starbucks (where a little pre-packaged smoothie was EIGHT SWISS FRANCS), and then decided I simply could not afford to waste another minute around money-spending places. I took the train to the airport, where security took all of 2 minutes (love you Geneva airport why can’t everyone be like you), and flew back to Scotland.

However, I’d made the really smart decision to save all of £10 by flying to Glasgow, not Edinburgh, which meant I had to rush to get the airport bus back to Edinburgh right before midnight. Those fluorescent blue lights are cruel in the wee hours of the morning, but after 90 minutes, I’d made it back home.

Switzerland was amazing. It was so beautiful, and everywhere there was water, it was crystal clear and blue. The food was good (fondue is self-care!), and I’d never felt safer and less worried about strangers while travelling. Seriously. I wasn’t stupid with my belongings or behaviour, but nobody came up to me or crowded me on public transport, and there wasn’t one creepy interaction with a man (unlike Italy, where every other interaction was creepy). The people were friendly, and the mountains were insane.

The best part about my trip was the day I spent in Annecy, so unfortunately, my Swiss memories will be dominated by my love of France (xx smooches), but if anything, my lesson there is just to take the day trip. Go on the side quest, hop on a cheap bus, and kill some time on a boat. Nobody ever regrets time on a boat.

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