Living and Working in Zurich

In this section, you will find some basic comments about income levels, taxes and insurances needed when you live in Switzerland. If you are employed with a salary, you are also entitled to the coverage in the schemes of pension funds, unemployment insurance (time requirements apply) and accident insurance.

Everyday Life

Zurich, with 370,000 inhabitants -or almost one million in the greater metropolitan area- is the largest city in Switzerland. While Bern is the political capital, Zurich is considered the business capital: formerly an industrial town, its focus is now shifting to commerce. With schools of all levels, theatres, concert halls, museums, art galleries, libraries, and bookshops, Zurich is also a centre of cultural importance. Its location on Lake Zurich, surrounded by hills and within easy reach of the Alps and other places of interest, makes Zurich one of the most pleasant cities in the world in which to live.

Zurich has excellent air, railway and road connections. EuroCity and InterCity trains from all directions stop at the central station (Hauptbahnhof). Within the metropolitan area there is a combined network of public transportation (called Verkehrsverbund), which comprises a rapid suburban railway (S-Bahn), trams, buses and boats.

The "Handbook for International Students" provides useful information about Zurich and studying at ETH Zurich.
Handbook for International Students (PDF, 1.7 MB)

Accommodation

The housing market in Zurich is very tight. As a result, accommodation in Zurich is expensive and hard to find. Neither ETH Zurich nor any of the universities in Zurich own or let any student accommodation. Housing for students is offered by various institutions connected with, but independent of ETH Zurich.

The conditions for renting a room/studio or an apartment in Zurich vary widely. There are rooms/studios available with/without cooking facilities; it is also possible to share a house or flat; some prices may/may not include cleaning and laundry, bed linen and meals.

Prices for a single room with shared facilities range between CHF 400 to 1'000 per month. The cost of renting a one- to 2.5-room flat is significantly higher – between CHF 800 and 1'600 per month depending on location and furnishings.

More detailed information about accommodation can be obtained from Welcome Center of ETH Zurich or Housing Office of the University of Zurich/ ETH Zurich.

Expenses per month (rough guide)

  • Accommodation: rooms between CHF 400-1´000, flats between CHF 800-1´600
  • Study materials (books, chemicals, …): CHF 50 to CHF 100, depending on field of study
  • Excursions: up to approx. CHF 50
  • Food: approx. CHF 400
  • Public transport (buses, tramways within the city of Zurich): approx. CHF 55 to 100, depending on age
  • Health insurance: between CHF 100 and CHF 300

Total: ca. CHF 1790 per month

Individual expenses such as clothing, telephone calls, leisure activities etc. are not included.

For a more detailed overview of the living expenses, you may have a look at Welcome Center of ETH Zurich

Health insurance

Swiss law requires all persons residing in Switzerland for more than three months to be covered by adequate health insurance. The basic insurance offers all those insured the same benefits and each person is free to choose their own health insurance provider. There are approximately 90 health insurance companies and premiums vary according to company and age of the person, it is therefore advisable to compare insurers before making an agreement.

Under certain circumstances, you may be exempt from having to take out compulsory health insurance in Switzerland. To check for the exemption criteria and have more information about Swiss Insurance System, you can have a look at the following links.

Guidelines to an exemption from compulsory health insurance
Health Insurance Advisory Service of the University
Insurance information supplied by the ETH Zurich 
Information provided by Federal Office of Public Health (PDF, 0.6 MB)

Language

One of the difficulties researchers face when they arrive in a foreign country is the language barrier. It is therefore essential for the integration into the host country to become acquainted with the foreign language.

The joint Language Center of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich offers courses in German as a Foreign Language at all levels of proficiency. Apart from that, there are more than 300 language courses in Zurich that vary in duration, frequency and price. You can search for a suitable one according to your criteria at this link.

Childcare

The demand for childcare facilities in Zurich exceeds availability. Many of the Day Care Centers have long waiting lists; therefore you are advised to explore childcare options well in advance of your actual move to Zurich. A further surprise may be the costs involved. Childcare in Switzerland, particularly in comparison to the U.S.A. is very expensive. Full-time care of a pre-school child may cost up to CHF 2000 per month. Would you like to know the charge for care at a nursery or day-care centre? To calculate the contribution fee see the official form of the City of Zurich: (German only). Additional information on the school system can be downloaded from Kidscorner (German only).
The kihz Foundation - the foundation for childcare at the University and ETH Zurich runs its own childcare facilities: kihz on demand and  kihz holiday clubs
A good overview on education in Switzerland you find on the faculty affairs site of ETH Zurich:

More useful links