Train travel in Switzerland is easy: the country is small and distances between major cities are short, trains are punctual and comfortable, and the scenery is always stunning. Famous scenic train journeys in Switzerland include the Glacier Express between Zermatt and St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps. Normal train fares can be expensive, but there is a variety of discount passes for train travel.
The Swiss Pass for Visitors
Visitors to Switzerland who are not residents in the country can buy the Swiss Pass, a public transportation discount pass that can be used in Switzerland’s trains, buses, boats and other forms of public transportation. It allows unlimited travel on most trains, buses and boats, local buses and even cable cars in the mountains. It also gives you free entrance into hundreds of museums around Switzerland, as well as discounted sightseeing tours and hotel discounts.
Passes are available for second-class or first class travel (although in Swiss trains, the second class is as good as the first class in many countries), and there are several travel options. A consecutive pass is valid for train travel on consecutive days, and the flexi-pass allows for a specific amount of travel days over a period of time.
The Half Fare Travel Card
The Half-Fare travel card (Halbtax Abonnement) entitles the owner to a 50% discount from most train tickets, in both first and second classes. Both Swiss residents and visitors can buy a half-fare card and options include a one, two or three-year cards. The one-year card costs CHF150. If you’re planning for a lot of train travel in Switzerland, or are planning to visit several times over the next year or two, this card pays itself back quickly. The card is valid on all the public SBB train routes in Switzerland and also many private trains and mountain railways. It can be used on some boats and bus services, and gets you cheaper bus and tram tickets in many cities.
Half-Fare pass owners can also buy a Day Card (Tageskarte), a day pass that is valid for unlimited train travel (as well as travel on buses and boats) on a specific day. Different varieties of day cards are available including the slightly cheaper weekday cards, and the more expensive cards that are valid on weekends too.
All discount passes and normal train tickets can be bought from ticket offices at train stations. Many travel agencies abroad also sell the Swiss Pass.
Photo of Lucern by SachimKamdar