Statistics released by the European Union in 2002 showed that Switzerland was the third most expensive country in Europe, after Norway and Iceland. The Swiss pay particularly high prices for meat, cooking oil, fish and vegetables.
Nevertheless, Swiss wages take the cost of living into account. A survey of 71 cities round the world carried out by the Swiss bank UBS in 2006 showed that it takes less time for workers in Switzerland to earn enough to buy a loaf and a hamburger than it does in many other countries.
Food and clothing accounts for an ever smaller proportion of household budgets, dropping from 16% in 1992 to 12% in 1998 to just under 11% in 2005.
Housing is expensive, and most people live in rented accommodation. Switzerland has by far the lowest rate of owner occupiers in Europe: in 2000 only 34.6% of homes belonged to the people who lived in them.
Taxation is relatively low in comparison with the neighbouring countries. On the other hand, the Swiss spend a lot on insurance, including compulsory health insurance, which alone accounts for over 5.6% of their expenditure. They spend another 5% on private insurance; the more people have, the more they want to - or must - insure.
Tourists from North America or Australia will find all of Europe more expensive, and the pain in Switzerland only marginally worse.
The biggest expenses for tourists while in Switzerland are likely to be long-distance public transport, accommodation and eating out. In the most modest hotels, a tourist can expect to pay at least CHF 70/100 .-per single/double. A full meal with 500ml of house wine for two can easily cost CHF 50.- to CHF 60.- and up per person.
Swiss francs are divided into 100 centimes (Rappen in German-speaking Switzerland, Centesimi in Italian-speaking Switzerland). There are notes for 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 francs, and coins for five, 10, 20 and 50 centimes, as well as for one, two and five francs.