Not buying a car

When I came to St.Gallen years ago, I sold my car in the UK but only because it had right-hand side steering. I fully intended to buy a new one in Switzerland once I got settled. Living within the city limits meant that I didn’t need a car urgently as the bus and train network is excellent. But for certain things like day trips to the mountains or shopping for bulky items mean that you need to have a car.

The answer is Mobility for most of these occasions.  Mobility is a car share system that works remarkably well. I have been using it for 6 years now and have never once had a problem with the cars or the hire system. Cars are scattered around the city with a large selection at the train station. Once you have signed up (at the main post office) the whole system is remarkably easy to use, particularly as the whole booking system works smoothly off their smart phone app. I calculated that for the number of times I actually need a car, it is cheaper just to hire than to buy in Switzerland. The cost of upkeep, parking, taxes, winter/summer tyre changes is just so much higher.

In addition, they have the website all in English and their help desk have always been able to help in English as well. In addition, they will let you sign up for the first year with a foreign driving licence but after that you need to switch to a Swiss licence.

There is one downside though. The Mobility system works by charging per hour and per kilometer. This is perfect for day trips but once you go much beyond 24 hrs, it is no longer cost effective and you need to look at regular car hire. For example, I needed a car recently for 9 days and 1000 km which would have cost just over 1000 CHF with Mobility. Europcar charge around 900 CHF for the same period and vehicle but the service is shoddy and it takes ages to get the paperwork done and get hold of the vehicle. Hertz is all the way over by Bruggen which is fine if you live there, but also doesn’t give a great choice of vehicles or service.

The trick is with Mobility again though. On the Mobility site there is ‘Hire Car’ option. If choose this you will see that there is a discount booking rate for both Hertz and Avis (Avis being marginally more expensive. Now, Avis doesn’t exist in St.Gallen – they use a local garage (Zil Garage) as a partner. Amazingly Zil don’t even advertise that they work with Avis. So I followed the links and booked a car for 9 days at only CHF 580, turned up and got a really quick friendly service, and all done in English. In addition, the car they gave was a brand new Peugeot 308, far better than I would have got at Hertz or Europcar for a fraction of the price!


Thanks for all the e-mails!

When I started this blog, it was intended to be for the small number of expats like myself moving here from overseas. But I have been really amazed to see how the number of visits is growing – already 3500 this year! I hadn’t realised how many people were interested in this little town…

Thanks as well to everyone who has e-mailed me and sorry if I haven’t answered all of the questions quickly. I get there eventually 🙂

Thanks for the support!

Shopping in Austria: Dornbirn Messepark

It’s no secret that shopping in Switzerland is expensive. It can also be difficult to get bargains. Normally I would shop online, but there is no and many items on amazon won’t ship to Switzerland.

The most useful and one of the closest shopping centres for St.Gallen is in Dornbirn, Austria.

Before I talk about the benefits, there are a couple of problems with this though.

1) The connections to Dornbirn by train are ok, but you will need to get yourself on to a bus the other end. This means that aside from the cost of transport, the journey will be the best part of an hour on public transport. if you go by car, it is a 25 minute drive. Not bad, but if don’t already have a car, it will be cheaper just to do all your shopping in St.Gallen.

2) The Swiss border guards know what you are up to. They are probably doing it themselves! Often the, border crossing you use is going to be empty, and if it isn’t they will probably stop anything from about 1/5 to 1/10 cars. You can either take a risk or download a list of what your limits are and don’t go over. Meat in particular is great to buy in Austria, because it is so much cheaper. Unfortunately you can only carry 500g back without paying import tax. If they do stop you and charge you, it will definitely cost more than just shopping in St.Gallen.

Dornbirn Messpark
This is a regular shopping centre a few minutes from the Swiss border. Compared to e UK or US, it is nothing special in terms of size or selection. But it has everything you need for a low cost shopping trip:
– Interspar (groceries). Go once, compare the prices and consider that you could easily save CHF 20-30 on your regular weekly shop. Not everything will be cheaper though.

– Mediamarkt (electronics). Mediamarkt have a big shop in St.Gallen as well and if you compare prices online, there is very little difference. However in Dornbirn, the store seems to always have more discounts and specials.

– Hervis Sports. The place to go if you want any sportswear or equipment. You’ll get most things for less than half the price you’ll find in St.Gallen. Just this weekend, they had bikes on special for as little as €199.