Hallo Basel answers your questions about moving to Basel

Shopping in Basel and the Surrounding Area

Regarding shopping, one of the first complaints you might hear or read about Switzerland is how expensive it can be there to live and shop!

As with all our topics, this page aims to inform you of the options available to you regarding shopping in Basel and the surrounding area.

Because Basel is so close to the Swiss borders with France and Germany you will discover that many people decide to do part of the weekly or monthly shop there. Some people have strong opinions that money should be spent where it is earned, but on any trip to the neighbouring towns you will see many Swiss vehicles in the car parks. Like everything else, you will make decisions that are best for you and your family. The goal of this page is to let you know what options are available for shopping in Basel.  

Shopping in Basel


You may notice that Swiss products often cost more than foreign products. Swiss-produced products have a reputation for quality and longevity. Products labelled ‘Swiss garantiert’ demonstrate the value of the Swiss brand in this way. Certainly, there is truth in the excellent craftmanship of many Swiss-made products, and this excellence can be reflected in the price of goods.

Another reason for the greater cost of products can be government subsidies in other countries, or differences in working practises. For example, Swiss meat is more expensive than meat from neighbouring countries because farmers are often subsidized in those originating countries resulting a reduction in the cost to the end consumer. Additionally, in the case of meat, animal welfare standards differ in Switzerland than in the neighbouring countries and the resulting increased costs are passed on to the consumer. 

There may be many good reasons for shopping in Basel. Switzerland has supermarkets of various sizes (although perhaps not as large as some of the hypermarkets in France, Spain and the USA). Butchers, bakers, florists, and produce markets and farm shops are still visible in towns and villages too.

Some tips to help stay within your budget when shopping in Basel

Different shops and supermarkets frequently offer price reductions for certain goods at certain times (for example cleaning products after Christmas and at the end of the summer) so waiting to make purchases at those times may be helpful. Different supermarkets are known for better prices than others for certain products, and you will soon get to know what to buy where.  Also,  winter and summer sales can be a great way to get good deals for seasonal goods in Switzerland. The longer you live here, the more you will get used to shopping in Basel and how to make it work for you.

Shopping in Basel: Supermarkets & Buying Groceries

Swiss Supermarkets

The two biggest supermarkets in Switzerland are Migros and Coop. Both have stores of a variety of different sizes and offer online shopping with delivery to most areas.

Both stores offer loyalty schemes (via their app or a card) which give discounts and allow you to collect points for future promotions. Both supermarkets stock a wide range of goods, both fresh and shelf-stable. Many of stores, especially the bigger ones, sell a selection of international groceries. 

Slightly cheaper than Coop and Migros is Denner, which is actually owned by Migros. Denner is known for its excellent special offers on wine!

SHopping in BAsel


There are also two big discount supermarkets in Switzerland: Aldi and Lidl. They often have a narrower selection of goods but prices are typically lowest of all the supermarkets. 

Smaller towns and villages often have their own independent grocery stores, or a Volg or Prima supermarket. Prices may be higher than the larger stores elsewhere, but you are paying for the convenience of a place to shop in a less populated area. 

Coop and Migros supermarkets both offer online grocery shopping too either via their apps or on their website. You may have your shopping delivered to your home or collect from selected stores. Both stores’ shopping websites are available in English language in addition to German and French.

German and French supermarkets

Because of the price levels in Switzerland, many people in the greater Basel area choose to shop in the bordering countries. Both France and Germany have their ‘specialties’ as compared to the other: French wines, bread, cheeses and turkey, but also German wines, dairy, beers and meats. 

You will find mid-range supermarkets like Géant, E.Leclerc, SuperU over the border as well as the discounters Aldi and Lidl. In general, prices are lower than in Switzerland, even in the mid-range supermarkets, but of course you must keep your eyes wide open when you’re shopping.

In Germany, you will see the mid-range supermarkets including Kaufland, Marktkauf, Reweyou and the higher-end Hieber, together with discounters like Aldi and Lidl. Prices in the discounters are significantly cheaper than the high-end Swiss supermarkets in Switzerland but even in the mid-range supermarkets, prices are lower than their counterparts in Switzerland, even when compared to Aldi Schweiz.

Be aware, however, that things you buy abroad are subject to limits and duties when you bring them into Switzerland. Details of the import limits are listed below, together with details on how to claim the VAT back on what you bring over the border. 

(Do It Yourself) DIY in Switzerland

If you enjoy DIY or simply want to repair something, the greater Basel area has several places to find what you need:

  • OBI (part of the Migros company) stock most DIY supplies. Often the OBI has a garden centre attached together with cleaning supplies, and hobby and handicraft materials.
  • Jumbo (part of the Coop company) includes handicraft and hobby supplies. Gradually Jumbo are taking over and rebranding all the Coop Bau+Hobby stores.
  • While there are Hornbach DIY stores in Switzerland there are not yet in the greater Basel area.
  • There are smaller DIY stores in various locations.

Closeby in Germany, there are DIY stores in Binzen (Hornbach store), a Lörrach (Bauhaus) and in Rheinfelden (Toom). The bigger DIY stores in France are further away in Mulhouse and but some of the larger French supermarkets carry a small selection of tools and consumables.

As with many things, prices in the German DIY stores are significantly lower than in Switzerland.

Shopping in Basel: Buying Electronics and Appliances

One thing that doesn’t have a big price difference in Switzerland compared to Germany and France are electronics. They’re rather comparable.

In the greater Basel area, you will find Fust (a Coop-subsidiary), Melectronics (a Migros subsidiary), Media-Markt, Interdiscount and STEG (who also do repairs).

There is an official Apple store in Basel together with a number of Apple resellers.

A few things to consider when you’re buying electronics or appliances:

  • The Swiss plug is different to the EU plug. If you buy electronics outside of Switzerland, you will need an adapter plug to use it in Swiss sockets.
  • The Swiss keyboard is different to the US/UK keyboard. You can activate the US/UK keyboard software, but of course the physical keys will remain the same.
  • If what you want to buy is under CHF300 then you can get 19% MWS (VAT) back when you buy from Germany. For information on import duties and processes, see below.
Shopping in Basel

Online Shopping

Switzerland’s online retail environment may not match bigger markets but exists and is growing.

Many major international retail and high-street brands have regionalised shopping websites that ship to Switzerland and accept Swiss payment methods. In addition, many of the larger Swiss retailers have their own shopping websites. 

Department Stores & Electronics

The Swiss department stores Globus, Pfister and Manor all have websites offering a selection of goods for sale online with the option for delivery or to collect in-store.  

Galaxus is an online department store selling a variety of goods from a variety of companies. Their advertising tagline is: ‘pretty much everything’ and that sums it up quite nicely. Their delivery is fast and their returns policy is straightforward. Another online department store is Fnac which sells electronics, appliances and home goods.

Galaxus’ electronic branch is Digitec and you may notice when shopping how similar the two websites are. Prices are usual for Switzerland and their delivery is good.

Amazon does not have its own Swiss website but ships all books and many other products directly to Swiss addresses from its German site. Each item page indicates whether that product can be shipped to Switzerland and automatically adjusts the VAT.

Clothing & Homewares

Many stores and brands that you see on the streets in Basel have a corresponding online presence from which you can buy items and have them shipped to your home address. Even when online shopping in Basel from home you can often return items to the physical store or via a post-office.

The clothing retailer Zalando has a Swiss site selling clothes, shoes and accessories for men, women and children from a variety of brands. Delivery is fast and you can pay by card or invoice. Returns are simple at the Post Office or by arranged collection from your home. French clothing and homewares company LaRedoute also has a Swiss shopping website selling its own goods and certain other brands. They offer free delivery with orders over a certain price and free returns when packages are dropped off at a designated Packlipunkt (many kiosks).

Otto’s is a smaller online retailer selling a variety of homewares.

**Hallo Basel is not affiliated with these retailers in any way and does not earn any commission from sales on any websites. These links are provided simply for easy reference.

Import Duties & Post Boxes

If you need something shipped from a company who will not deliver to Switzerland, there are several companies that offer delivery addresses or postboxes in Germany for a small fee.

In general, when you order online from outside Switzerland, you should assume that Swiss customs will charge you Swiss VAT on your purchases and, depending on the products’ shipping location, sometimes additional import duties. There are exceptions (for example, books) but it is best to look up the limits and duties on the official customs site.


Getting Your Tax (VAT) Back

Purchases in Germany and France, include VAT (Value Added Tax, or less correctly called ‘sales tax’). For necessities such as food or drinks , in Germany it is 7%, and in France 5,5%; for all other goods, VAT is 19% in Germany and 20% in France. In contrast, Switzerland’s VAT is 2,5% on life-necessities and 7,7% on all other goods.

When you shop in Germany and you take the goods into Switzerland, you can get the German VAT back (in Germany called MWS or Mehrwertsteuer). The money is reimbursed by the shop itself when you present them with proof from the German customs that you did export the goods to Switzerland.

The process for claiming the German VAT back as a resident of Switzerland is:

  1. When you pay the bill in the shop, you ask for an Ausfuhrschein (an export receipt). This is a special receipt for the German customs officer to stamp when you leave Germany.
    Some shops require you to register beforehand and will give you a card you must present when you ask for the Ausfuhrschein (for example in Aldi and Hieber). Other shops don’t require this but print a special payment receipt from their cash register system. Your purchase at a shop must be €50 or higher. Below that, you cannot get the VAT back.
  2. You fill in a number of things on the Ausfuhrschein like your name, address and your passport or Aufenhaltsbewilligung (visa) number.
  3. Just before you enter Switzerland, stop and find the German custom counter and present your Ausfurschein and your passport and Aufenhaltsbewilligung. They’ll stamp your Ausfurschein.
  4. Next time you go to the shop, you present your stamped Ausfurschein at the cash register or the customer service and they’ll deduct it from your next purchase or they’ll pay out the VAT in cash.
    As simple as that!

While it is a little bit of an effort to go through these steps, when the amounts are bigger or you’re looking at 19% MWS, it can be worth the effort.

However,  be careful:

  • You can only import a value of goods into Switzerland per person per day of CHF 300. Above this amount, the Swiss Customs will charge you Swiss VAT and possibly import duties.
  • If you did not report the goods yourself (but are perhaps stopped for inspection as you cross the border), you might also be looking at a fine for avoiding taxes. So, make sure you stay within the limit of CHF300!
  • For some goods, there are additional restrictions on the quantity you can bring into the country.
    For meats, there is a limit of 1 kilo per person per day.
    For alcoholic beverages, butter, cream and kitchen oils there are separate limits.
    The fine for meat per kilo is CHF17! 
    This link explains the limits. 

Can you get your TVA (French VAT) back when you shop in France? In theory: yes, you can. But the French shops do not readily supply the right documents and the process is more complicated than in Germany.

Do You Have More Questions About Shopping?

If this page did not answer all your shopping related qestions, at Hallo Basel we can offer more help.

Ask us your question and we will call or email you back, completely free of charge. No strings attached. We are not affliated with any shop or agency, we simply offer a helping hand from those a few steps ahead on a similar journey.