Living in Neuchâtel: A guide for foreign students - 1

10.10.2023 | Vie sur le campus | Roxane Mazery


UNINE_BLOG-vivre_NE.pngYou've just been accepted at UniNE. Congratulations ! A wonderful adventure is about to begin. But moving to a foreign country to study is not an easy task. So where do we start?


Episode 1: From passport to packing, getting ready for your Neuchâtel adventure


Gathering documents

The first thing to do before you arrive is to prepare the documents required to legalize your stay in Switzerland. If you are a European citizen, you don't need to obtain a visa, and an ID card or passport will be enough to enter Switzerland. You will then need to register with the Residents' Registration Office within 14 days after arrival to obtain your residence permit. Before you leave, make sure you have all the necessary documents ready.

If you are not a European citizen, you must obtain a visa. Plan several months in advance to make sure you receive it on time. You'll probably be asked to translate the documents you need: make sure you provide a certified translation. Also gather all the documents you need to obtain your residence permit, and check the conditions carefully: if you don't have a scholarship, you'll be asked to provide a sponsor living in Switzerland, or a certain amount of francs in your bank account, to prove that you have the financial means to live in Switzerland.

When you first arrive at the university, you will be asked to present the diploma certifying that you have successfully completed your previous studies (e.g. Bachelor's degree). Make sure you bring the original document with you, along with a certified translation. Don't hesitate to contact the university's registration office, they will be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Looking for accommodation

Once you've sorted out all your administrative worries, it's time to start looking for accommodation. It's important not to leave it to the last minute, as the availability of student accommodation can be quite limited, especially at the start of the academic year. In terms of budget, you can expect to pay between 400 and 800 francs rent on average, depending on the type of accommodation you choose. You have several options: you can try to get a room in a student residence (the Alfen residences, Facchinetti Campus, La Résidence...), which is the cheapest option, but often faces a high demand. 

You can also look for a shared apartment, which can also provide you with relatively affordable accommodation, or a studio, which would likely be on the higher end of your budget. You will find plenty of advertisements on Facebook, Anibis or the UniNE forum, but always be careful with scams. It's best to choose furnished accommodation when you arrive, to avoid overcharging yourself and adding to the already high costs of the first few months.

UniNE also has a program called Appart'âges, which enables students to share a flat with an elderly person for around 100 francs rent, in exchange for a few services defined together with the host. 

Most landlords will ask you to pay a deposit, which can sometimes be quite high. If you don't want to or can't deposit this amount at the bank, you can find out more about organizations like Swiss Caution. And if your accommodation doesn't seem ideal at first, don't panic: it will be easier for you to find another once you've settled in. Just be careful about the minimum length of the lease in case you want to suddenly move out.



Packing depends, of course, on individual needs. But make sure to find out about the weather: depending on where you're coming from, the climate can be fairly different, especially in winter. Make sure you pack appropriate clothing, although you may be able to buy certain items in Switzerland. Make sure you bring clothing suitable for snow and cold, but don't worry, it won't snow all year round, and you can expect temperatures up to around 30°C in summer. 

Take note, however, of baggage weight limits when traveling by plane. If you need to take medication, take it with you in its original packaging, along with a prescription and, if necessary, a letter from your doctor explaining why it is necessary. Find out about their equivalents in Switzerland and the budget you should plan for it.

Speaking of budget, it's also important to be aware of the expenses your life in Switzerland will represent before you leave. It's no myth that life in Switzerland could be relatively expensive, and it can be useful to calculate the budget you will need. You will find tips on how to reduce your expenses in the next episodes, but before you leave, you can already take a look at the supermarket websites (Migros, Denner, Coop...) to get an idea. Depending on your habits and needs, you can expect to spend between 1000 and 2000 francs a month all included, at least at the beginning.


Last details

Your suitcase is packed, your visa and documents are ready and you've found accommodation: you're ready to go! Or almost.

If you don't speak any French before you leave, feel free to download Duolingo and learn some basic sentences so you can deal with basic daily activities during your first days. While most locals can speak English, it's always best to master the basics.

Don't hesitate to arrive a few days or even weeks before your classes start. This will give you time to get used to your new environment and take part in the welcome activities organized by the university. And if you're arriving for the start of the new academic year in September, make sure you can make it to the fête des vendanges! It's a great way to start the year. ;)



Documents to provide for non-European students (in french) :

European students (in french) :

Student residences (in french) :

UniNE forum (in french) :

Appart'Ages Program (in french) :

Budget simulation (in french) :