Every multi-day hiker dreams of completing a journey through the European Alps. Unfortunately, fulfilling those dreams come at a cost, especially if your hiking destination is Switzerland which has been ranked the second most expensive country in Europe for consumer goods, 59% higher than the European Union average. But don’t be dismayed, hiking in paradise does come at a cost but maybe not as high as you think…
With this in mind, it may not surprise you that one of the most common questions I’m asked is how much it costs to hike the Walker’s Haute Route. Armed with my accounting background and mission to make every hikers self-guided dreams come true, I’ve dug deep into the numbers across all the different accommodation types, food and services available to provide firm guidance on what it costs to hike the Walker’s Haute Route.
Using actual costs as of the 8th Jan 2019, I’ve determined that once you arrive in Geneva Airport, you can hike the Haute Route from 1,250 CHF per person! This isn’t some trick (like suggest you bivouac/camp the whole way!), it’s what you can expect by planning your trip yourself, in combination with using our booking portal - transfers to/from the trail, accommodation in huts/hotels and eating delicious 3-course meals of local delights, as you self-guide your way across one of the legendary trails of the world.
Before I get too carried away with telling you how amazing the Haute Route is, I want to show you how I arrived at that number and outline the additional services or options which will increase the cost above ‘1,250 CHF’.
This table lists the price for different accommodation, food and service options which are used to determine the total cost for each hikers trip. Before providing the total cost, I thought it was important to torture you with how I arrived at each of these profiles and amounts so you can arrive at the most accurate estimate for your trip :)
Click here if you'd prefer to skip ahead and see some examples of what the total cost estimates of hiking the Haute Route are. Otherwise, buckle up and get ready to geek out on the numbers!
I’ve designed the table above in such a way that you don’t need to fit squarely in one of the profiles, however, it is best to choose the same accommodation and food option (will explain more below). So you could be a couple that wants a little luxury when it comes to accommodation and food, however, are planning to catch the national bus service and carry all your bags the whole way. Therefore, you could switch the Chamonix transfer cost and remove the luggage transfer completely when estimating the cost of your trip.
The per day costs have been derived using the Haute Route Hiking booking portal to identify the actual accommodation costs for each of our top itineraries: Elite 8-day, Speedy 11-day, Steady 12-day, Steady 13-day and Wanderer 14-day All Highlights.
The 3 hiking profiles
The hiking profiles chosen are the most common I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They also have a set of preferences that show the range of options available for the various accommodation, food and services on the trail.
Lone Wolf On A ShoeString
This profile is someone who wants to keep costs down as much as possible. That means that their accommodation choice is always shared and they stock up on food at every supermarket they pass to save money on lunches, snacks and other meals which are not provided by the accommodation.
Couple After some Peace and Quiet
These hikers want some privacy at night and have a little bit bigger budget to enjoy a lunch on the trail each day and shared private transfer to their Chamonix hotel. If a private room isn’t available at their finish location, they’ll opt for the dorm.
Couple after a little luxury
This profile is for a couple that would like a private room with en-suite (when available) and will only opt for dorm when nothing else is available. They have a bit bigger budget to spend on food at hotels and restaurants when its not provided with their accommodation and require baggage transfer support along the trail.
The categories I’ve chosen are based on my own experience of not just hiking the Haute Route but also apply to any multi-day hiking trip I’ve done.
I have omitted 3 costs which each individual hiker will need to estimate based on their location and requirements. These are;
Flights to Geneva/Europe: Depends on where your coming from and what class you fly :)
New hiking gear: I provide a gear list in the booking portal to help you do an inventory check
Travel Insurance: Based on location, age and coverage/excess preferences
All the costs in the table have come from advertised rates as at 8th Jan 2019 and may fluctuate or change based on availability (mainly accommodation!). I’ll have another look at costs in Spring of 2019 and update if necessary.
Here is how each of the cost categories have been derived:
Accommodation (per day)
As mentioned above, the per day costs have been derived using the Haute Route Hiking booking portal to identify the actual accommodation costs for each of our top itineraries: Elite 8-day, Speedy 11-day, Steady 12-day, Steady 13-day and Wanderer 14-day All Highlights. This means that I’ve used the actual accommodation cost of 58 nights (across the 7 itineraries) to identify the average of each accommodation type.
At each of the finish locations, I identified the cost of the accommodation type for each of the hiking profiles;
Shared dorm room
Double private room & shared bathroom, otherwise dorm
Double private room & bathroom, otherwise a private room, otherwise dorm
If an accommodation type wasn’t available at a finish location, I assigned the cost option to that hiking profile. For example, if the only accommodation options at a finish location is a dorm and private room with shared bathroom, The lone wolf is assigned the cost of the dorm and the two couple profiles are assigned the private room with shared bathroom option. If there is only a dorm available at the finish location (Cabane de Prafleuri), all three profiles are assigned the dorm accommodation cost.
In the Alpine huts, where there is the option to pay a little bit more to stay in a smaller dorm room (often 4 bed room), I have chosen this option for the two couple profiles. Where there is no dorm accommodation at the finish location, the lone wolf profile has been assigned the cheapest alternative (private room with shared bathroom).
Where the same finish location appears in multiple itineraries, the same accommodation provider/cost has been counted more than once. For example, all 5 itineraries stay at Cabane de Moiry so this cost appears 5 times in the 58 nights I’ve used to determine the average. This is the best approach given a location more likely to appear a hikers itinerary should have a higher contribution to the average cost.
I have also selected half-board accommodation rates where it is an option so the cost isn’t a pure bed expense. I decided doing this and reducing the food cost for dinner and/or breakfast would be easier given nearly all hikers choose this option anyway.
With all of this in mind, you should arrive at the same average per night cost for your trip by following the approach I’ve laid out. As all the accommodation providers used are in the booking portal, I’m happy for those that have access to fact check me. No fake news here!
Food (per day)
I’ve made an estimate on the food costs based on my own experience and assumes you are buying everything on the trail.
Snacks: Assumes you’ll buy them from supermarkets (Biberli, fruit, nuts, chocolate, bread, cheese) and occasionally have a slice of fruit pie that has just come out of the oven! I like snacks so the 10 CHF estimate might be a bit high for some :)
Breakfast: When not included with accommodation, it has been assigned at 5 CHF for supermarket/bakery (fruit & yogurt or pastry & coffee) or 12 CHF which is the typical continental breakfast cost at a hotel
Lunch: Always have to buy so assigned a generous 10 CHF for supermarket/bakery (drink, bread, meat, cheese & fruit or quiche, sandwich & coffee) or 12 CHF per person to take the packed lunch option from the hut
Dinner: When not included with accommodation, have assigned 20 CHF which is enough for a main and drink or 30 CHF which would be an appetiser as well.
I haven’t factored in alcohol into any of the meal estimates. The alpine huts sell beer and wine for about 5-7 CHF per bottle/glass
As I’ve mentioned above, where breakfast is included or half-board (3 course family style dinner + breakfast) is available, I chosen this option for the accommodation cost and not assigned any amount to dinner and/or breakfast this day. The total food cost across the 58 hiking days has then been averaged to arrive at an estimated per-day cost. These reduced amounts for dinner and/or breakfast is why you can’t add the individual snack/meal costs to arrive at the average per day food amount.
Now that I’ve gone through the food cost methodology, you can now select which hiking profile best represents your accommodation and food preferences. Because of the relationship I’ve just mentioned between accommodation and food costs, the estimate will be most accurate if you choose one profile for these two costs. If you want to chose accommodation and food from different profiles, I would suggest you apply your own discretionary increase or reduction. I’ve tried to write some guidance on how you could do it but I think it goes too deep and won’t materially impact your total cost estimate!
Now that we’ve covered the per day costs, lets take a look at the one-offs
Airport Transfer from Geneva to Chamonix (one-off)
There are lots of different providers that offer transfers between Geneva Airport and Chamonix. In the booking portal, I suggest 4 which have different levels of service, flexibility and cost. Once they depart Geneva Airport, they all take about the same time (1 hr 40min) to reach Chamonix.
The 3 options I’ve used in the table show the range of choice available are;
For the lone wolf (24 CHF): National bus company with a service scheduled approximately every 2-4 hours that will take you to the Chamonix bus depot. Once you reach the bus depot, you can either walk to your accommodation or catch one of the local buses that leave every 30mins between 7am and 8pm, taking you around the valley
Couple after some piece and quiet (60 CHF for 2 ppl): Shared minibus transfer to your hotel in Chamonix that leaves about every 1 - 1.5 hours
Couple after a little luxury (86 CHF for 2 ppl): Premium shared van transfer to your hotel in Chamonix that leaves about every 1 - 1.5 hours. It includes a drink, you usually get dropped at your hotel sooner being a van vs a minibus and many of the drivers are ski guides that have toured the winter Haute Route!
An option not listed in the chart is a dedicated private 8 person van transfer which costs about 225 CHF.
Haute Route Hiking Products (one-off)
The itinerary, mobile map and booking portal have been designed for Haute Route hikers to plan their trip with confidence and feel well supported navigating the trail. Therefore, I have not factored in any other additional costs for guidebooks or topographic maps in the estimate.
Celebratory end of Hike Meal in Zermatt (one-off)
I thought it was well worth a line in the cost estimate :) This could be a gross under-estimate for hikers that are really going to let their hair down…!
Transport from Zermatt to Geneva Airport (one-off)
There is a new pass available on Swiss public transport which gives you unlimited access to their network for a day. Provided you buy it ahead of time, it is offered as cheap as 52 CHFs which is a very good price considering how expensive (but also efficient!) the Swiss public transport system is. Allow half a day for the travel as you’ll be catching 3 trains.
Baggage Transfer (one-off, if required)
This is listed as an ‘If Required’ cost because carrying everything you need makes this line 0 for you! It can also be 0 cost to leave your bag at your Chamonix hotel while you hike the Haute Route, however, you need to factor in the cost and time to get back there and retrieve. The Chamonix hotels I’ve recommended in the booking portal have confirmed they’ll hold my guests bags for free.
If you’ve done any research or read my page on baggage transfer, you’d see that it can be very expensive for solo, couples or small hiking groups. I’ve worked with local partners to create a cost-effective solution that leverages different transport options with economies of scale you can tap into across the full distance of the trail. It may require some effort to book and drop off on your part along the way, however, it will be significantly less than using private baggage transfer services. The options I list are the most common requested;
Send bag from Chamonix to Zermatt: I recommend using a reliable courier company I’ve used many times to send bags around Europe. 100 CHF is the cost to send 1 x 20kg bag from your Chamonix Hotel to your Zermatt hotel in 4-5 days, a second bag is about CHF 65. Haute Route Hiking customers get a 5 % discount code in the booking portal.
See bag every 2-3 days using Swiss Post/ local taxi strategy (2 x 15kg bags): This uses my strategy to leverage the economies of scale of the Swiss Postal system and local taxi providers. I can create a baggage transfer plan using these services for all booking portal customers. I help you book the taxis ahead of time and provide you with the information on the post locations, opening hours and service you need to meet your plan. The 470 CHFs may go up or down depending on the length of your itinerary.
See bag every location possible using Post/ Local Taxi strategy (2 x 15kg bags): This uses my strategy of the Swiss Postal Service and local taxis again, however, does need to use private transfer companies for some sections too. There are some locations where it is not possible for your bag to reach you. I would suggest you opt for the custom package if you’d like to see your bags at every possible location. That way I can ensure your hiking itinerary has finish locations where there are local post and taxi providers that can save you money on baggage transfers.
It is no problem for me to refer you to the private baggage transfer companies if you’d prefer dedicated support or have a large self-guiding group where it becomes cost effective.
Swiss Alpine Rescue Membership (one-off, if required)
Some insurance policies can be vague regarding the evacuation method in case of an emergency. To remove any ambiguity, I suggest a membership to a Swiss Alpine Helicopter Service that has you covered throughout the entire country. I’ve got more details on this and other tips on what to look for in insurance policies to ensure you have adequate coverage for hiking the Haute Route.
3 cost Estimate ExAmples
I’ve selected 3 different examples to show how the total cost of the Haute Route can be calculated using the cost inputs table.
In order to put it all together, each hiker should choose the following;
Which profile best represents their accommodation & food preferences
Transport to Chamonix
Celebratory Zermatt meal estimate
One-off costs if required
Swiss alpine rescue membership
Number of nights/extra nights at:
Chamonix Before Hike: It is recommended to stay at least one night in Chamoninx for acclimatisation and to enjoy the Mont Blanc massif before starting
Zermatt after finishing hike: One extra night in Zermatt to give more chance to wake early and see the Alpine glow on the Matterhorn to finish your adventure.
Remember that the other costs you will need to add are flights, insurance and any gear upgrades you need to do - I haven’t accounted for any of these!
Scenario 1 - From 1250 CHF per hiker
This scenario assumes a Speedy hiker using an Speedy 11-day is coming to Switzerland just to hike the Haute Route. No extra bags to transfer nor do they have time for an extra night in Zermatt at the end;
Scenario 2 - From 1470 CHF per hiker
This scenario assumes a Speedy hiker using an Speedy 11-day makes no adjustments to the suggested profiles in the original cost table at the top of the blog post. The increase in cost compared to scenario 1 is driven by the inclusion of costs for baggage transfers, Swiss alpine rescue membership and an extra night in Zermatt.
Scenario 3 - from 1650 CHF per hiker
This scenario assumes a Steady hiker using an 13-day itinerary makes no adjustments to the suggested profiles in the original cost table at the top of the blog post. The increase in cost compared to scenario 2 is driven by the two additional days for the longer itinerary length.
That was fun! I hope I didn’t bore you too much and it helps you work out how full your piggy bank needs to be to hike the Haute Route. If it’s more than you can afford this year, maybe it’s trip you can work towards for 2020. As I mentioned above, I’ll recheck the costs in Spring and do a refresh if necessary. I’ve also completed a cost breakdown for camping/bivouacking the trail which you can check out if it’s more your style or fits within your summer 2019 travel budget!
I’m here to help you self-guide the Haute Route with confidence. Contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org