Ashley and I have been in Lausanne for less than one month - so we are by no means experts - but during this time we've had to figure out a lot of different things, and I thought it might be useful to share some of what we learned during our initial efforts to settle in. Hopefully it will help paint a picture of what's been keeping us busy, and maybe help others who may be coming to Lausanne!
Get the 1/2 off rail card
This is a very nice deal that we didn't know existed before got here. For an up-front fee of CHF 175 you can purchase a pass which saves you 50% on every rail trip you take (it also gives you some savings on the buses/metro, but not always 1/2 off). The price seems a bit steep at first, but it pays for itself ridiculously quickly (for us, with our weekend trips, it's already made it worthwhile!).
Get the Migros cumulus card
I'm a sucker for discounts, coupons and finding the lowest price. Some may call it cheapness, I call it being resourceful! I found out that Migros, one of the main grocery store chains, has a membership discount card. It's free and it just takes filling out a form. The harder part for me was to ask about the existence of such form in French! The benefit is that you get CHF 5 for every 500 points accumulated (at the rate of CHF 1 per point I believe, with some items that may have special multipliers). And you also get some nice coupons on the mail. Even if the discounts are small, I figure it never hurts! I also understand the Coop, the other major grocery chain, has a similar card. I am looking into signing up for that one as well.
Sign up for Mobility
I really love Mobility - it's a car sharing service similar to ZipCar in the US, you can rent a car by the hour at very reasonable rates. How reasonable? We paid CHF 40 for a four-month membership (which was CHF 30 off of the orginal price, thanks to our Mirgos Cumulus card!), and we pay by the hour and kilometer each time we reserve a car. Unless you go very far, it shouldn't cost more than CHF 30 or so. There are pick-up stations all over the city, which is very convenient. The one downside is that most of the cars seem to have manual gearshift... For those from the US who have always driven automatic cars like me, it can be a challenge, and hey it's been a good opportunity to learn! Even better, your Migros Cumulus card can get knock down CHF 30 from the "trial" price of CHF 70 for 4 months.
The ticket patrol unit does exist!
It was surprising to us at first that we could get in and out of any metro train or bus in Lausanne and never once have to display a ticket. After taking several trips I was starting to think the local transportation operated purely on an honor system. But one day Ashley and I did see the ticket patrol folks in a bus, and then again a different day saw them at a metro stop, so they are indeed out there!
The grocery store isn't always the cheapest
Coming from the US, my mentality is kind of locked into that mode that the grocery store will always be the cheapest place to buy every day items like water, cleaning products etc. Here that doesn't seem to necessarily be the case. One day I noticed that in the cornershop across the street, bottled water was significantly cheaper than at the grocery store. I've started to pay more attention since!
IKEA *is* the cheapest. And reachable by train!
For household goods, especially the kind of stuff we needed when we first moved in, we did find that IKEA proved to be the cheapest place and best value. Bathmats, lamps, kitchenware, bedding, everything was cheaper than alternative. (The other option we had heard was Coop City - the department store in the city center which had also been recommended as a place to buy these things for fairly reasonable prices). The cool thing about IKEA is that it is reachable by a 15-minute train ride - It was a first for us, to do an IKEA trip without a car!
Always remember to bring your bags with you
Once again this could be one of those things that I don't think about because I am a bit spoiled after coming from the US. I never remember to bring bags with me when I go shopping. Here, you can usually buy bags at the checkout but they aren't super cheap, and it always feels frustrating to do that when you have perfectly good bags at home!
The Coop has a hardware store, reachable by metro
I was a bit worried that without a car, it would be impossible to find simple things for house work like tools, screws or other hardware that you will need when you first move in somewhere, but may not find in a regular grocery store. I recently learned that there is a "Coop Brico+Loisirs" store, which sells all kinds of DIY goods and hardware. It's been a "handy" discovery (ha ha!). Anyway, the store is walking distance to the Riponne metro, and the prices weren't awful.
I'm sure I'll learn a lot more over the next few weeks, but I thought I'd share what I've figured out so far!