Information, costs and tips on means of transport in Switzerland

Everything you need to know TO USE public transport in Switzerland

For me – and for many Swiss and tourists - using public transport in the country is a huge comfort. I confess that I often prefer traveling by train to traveling by car, especially on a winter itinerary in Switzerland. The comfort and punctuality of public transport here are the envy of other countries.

  • Information, costs and tips on means of transport in Switzerland

  • Information, costs and tips on means of transport in Switzerland

  • Information, costs and tips on means of transport in Switzerland

In this article, I gathered all the information and tips about public transport in Switzerland. I've even included some ways to make tickets cheaper (like using the Half Fare Card or the Swiss Travel Pass).  

In this article you will read:


How to buy public transport tickets in Switzerland

To facilitate your purchase of tickets, I strongly recommend that download the SBB app (the company responsible for public transport in the country). I will reinforce this throughout this entire article. Through it you can check routes, see prices and buy bus, train and boat tickets. The download is free. Every Swiss has this app on their cell phone. You can use it both to see schedules, only, and to buy tickets too (for that, I set up your credit card or apple wallet in the app).

Do I need to buy train tickets in advance?

The answer is no! Train tickets do not sell out. There are no assigned seats* (unless you make a paid reservation… but that's not very common). You can buy your ticket as soon as you arrive at the station, for example, at a kiosk or via the SBB app, without worrying about availability.

* There is even this need for specific trains like the Glacier Express, for ex. But don't worry about that now. This does not apply to common routes.

In Switzerland, your ticket purchased good for 24 hours. This means that you don't necessarily need to board at the chosen time of purchase: you have 1 day to travel on the chosen route. You can, for example, buy the 15:15 pm train and travel on the 30:20 pm (if you arrived late at the terminal), or even the XNUMX:XNUMX pm. Great huh? There is only one caveat, with passages Super Saver. I explain below.

Are there any advantages to buying in advance?

The answer is “maybe so”! Buying in advance can help you find a cheaper rate, called Super Saver. It is often only a few francs cheaper, but in others the difference is quite significant. Unlike the regular ticket, however, the Super Saver ticket is only valid for the purchased time slot.. You buy cheaper but lose the benefit of flexible schedules.

Price of public transport in Switzerland

Like everything else in Switzerland, train and bus tickets are expensive.. In fact, I wouldn't even say “guys” because the system is so efficient and comfortable that it's worth what it weighs. But yes, the price is high. To give you an idea, here are some examples of fares (full and promotional) on some routes, both in first and second class:

There are a few other good strategies – besides keeping an eye out for Super Saver rates – to lower these costs. Shall we talk about them?

How to make traveling in Switzerland cheaper

Passes and discount cards for public transport

Tourists in Switzerland can benefit from some cards and passes to get a discount on public transport in the country. There are 4 super famous and often very advantageous options – mainly the Swiss Half Fare Card. I'll explain the four.

  1. Swiss Half Fare Card (CHF 120)

that card guarantees you 50% discount on all public transport in the country. You pay half price on all train, bus and boat tickets you buy, regardless of class (1st or 2nd). Validity is 1 month. You can buy it online at this link. Afterwards, simply register it in the SBB app and the discount will be automatically applied to your purchases. See below an example taken from my app (with my registered card):

  1. Half Fare Travelcard 1 year (CHF 185)

It offers the same benefits as the card above and works the same way. the difference is the validity, which instead of 1 month is one year and of course, the price. I recommend you buy it at an SBB store at any train station. One option is in Zurich, upon landing. Learn more about purchasing this card here. If you go to Switzerland a lot or spend more than a month in the country, this is the option I recommend. I had this card for 2 years before opting for GA.

  1. Swiss Travel Pass:

The Swiss Travel Pass is a pass that allows you to make unlimited trips in days in a row. It's a huge comfort!! In addition, you get free access to several museums, 50% discount on cable cars and special mountains and free passage (with payment only for the seat reservation) on specific trains such as the Glacier Express. Unlike the cards above, it is not necessary to buy tickets for your trips – the pass is already your ticket. This is what you will present to Control when he requests your ticket during a train journey. (You take with you a printed paper or the virtual version on your cell phone, with a QR CODE).

Be sure to read our text on the subject: How does the Swiss Travel Pass work? Worth to buy?

There are options of 3, 4, 8 and 15 days. Read more in the official SBB FAQ. Buy online on the official RailEurope website.

  1. Swiss Travel Pass Flex:

It offers the same benefits as the pass above but with the difference that it does not need to be used on consecutive days. This is a great option for those who will travel a lot in Switzerland, but not during all the days of travel. As the name says, it gives you more flexibility. If you stay, for example, 10 days in the country and travel by train only 4 of those 10, you will benefit more by purchasing the flex pass. There are options of 3, 4, 8 and 15 days within 1 month. See the price list below. Buy online on the official RailEurope website.

To find out which option is more worthwhile – and if any are really worth it -, simulate the trips you would take on the SBB website, check ticket prices and make calculations and comparisons.

Traveling with a Suitcase on Public Transport in Switzerland

Another very important tip: if you choose public transport in Switzerland, travel light! One suitcase per person is ideal – and nothing too heavy. Remember that you will probably have to take care of a bag or backpack + a suitcase and even often + your cell phone in hand to check routes and change trains. So it's better to make your life easier and not carry too much weight! Sometimes the train is also very full, and you end up crammed with more than one suitcase. Trust me: a bag and it's great!

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