Guide to the cost of living in Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne is the economic and cultural hub of central Switzerland, attracting British expatriates to its pretty lakeside location. While many expats are drawn to the bigger financial cities of Geneva or Zürich, for those looking to find a high quality of life in Alpine country, moving to Lucerne could be a better fit.
While Lucerne itself isn’t part of the Mercer Cost of Living Rankings, three other cities in Switzerland are. Bern, Zürich and Geneva all hold spots in the top 15 most-expensive cities. In comparison, London came in at 19th in the 2018 rankings.
It’s fair to say that moving to Switzerland means accepting an overall higher cost of living. However, with low taxation and high earning potential, professional expatriates living in Lucerne enjoy high disposable income and an opulent lifestyle.
The chance to live in one of the most beautiful cities, with world-class infrastructure, healthcare and education, comes at a price. But it’s a price worth paying for the 2.1 million foreign nationals living in Switzerland.

Daily expenditure

For British expatriates moving from London, the cost of living will rise. Using the user-generated comparison website Numbeo, it’s possible to directly compare the cost of various day-to-day expenses between Lucerne and London.
Consumer prices, groceries and eating out are all significantly higher in Lucerne than in London. Groceries, for example, comes in almost double the cost of London. This includes even the most basic of staples, such a fresh fruit and vegetables. However, rental figures are lower in Lucerne than the UK capital, which offsets some of the difference in the cost of living. The cost of transportation, either using public services or running a car, is broadly similar.

The big costs

As with any international relocation, the biggest costs to consider are accommodation, healthcare and education. Most British expats opt to rent when they first move to the city, to give them a chance to get to know the area. The average cost for a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around £1,600 per month (source: Numbeo). In London, a three-bedroom city centre apartment would be closer to £3,300 per month. Yet the quality of living space is very high in both cities.
Anyone living in Switzerland is required to have at least basic health insurance, but a more comprehensive policy is always recommended. With a large private insurance market, there is a lot of choice for expatriates. Each canton will have its own approved insurers to choose from, but this includes both national and cantonal providers, as well as international providers. Expect to put around 10% of your salary into a healthcare scheme to cover you and your family at a high level.
For those moving to Lucerne with family, education is another big cost to consider. There are some excellent international schools in the city, popular with expatriates from around the world. Expect to pay around 29,000 CHF (£22,000) per year for primary school, rising to in the region of 35,000 CHF (£26,500) for high school.
While Lucerne is an expensive city to live in, it offers so much more in terms of career progression, family friendly lifestyle and work-life balance. If you’re considering an international move to Switzerland, find out how Cadogan Tate can help you prepare and plan your shipping and logistics.