How to Ride The Train in Switzerland

Arriving in a strange place with people and signs that speak a different language than you can be intimidating. Nevermind having to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

If you speak English you’re probably okay, since airports and most major transit stations in most developed countries have their native language and English. But this doesn’t alleviate the confusion and uncertainty of using trains, buses, and boats in a foreign land.

I was intimidated and unsure of the Swiss transit system at first but once I did the research, read through some blogs and experienced it myself. I can confidently say everything will be okay when you visit Switzerland. Truly.

The Basics

Switzerland is, by comparison, a fairly small country covering about 41,000 sq km vs the USA which is 9.8 million sq km. This size allows the country to run an inclusive transit system.

It is possible to purchase transit passes at a city level for a trip, day, or other periods. If you’re going to be in the country for any amount of time the Swiss Travel Pass is the way to go. Giving you access to local city transit, as well as the major trains between cities.

I discovered that many of the hotels included a city transit pas when I checked in, this wasn’t useful to me since I had my Swiss Travel Pass but it is nice to know this happens. If you plan on visitng a city and have booked a hotel, email or call them to ask if they inlude a city transit pass for the duration of your stay, if so you’ll be covered while in that city at least.

More information on these options is available online or on their apps at https://www.sbb.ch. Below is a map of the transit systems, you can quickly see that getting from one place to another is pretty easy with all these tracks and I can vouch for that fact as well.

Transit map of Switzerland

Transit map of Switzerland

Swiss Travel Pass

The SwissPass is the easiest option when it comes to getting around Switzerland, if you’re only going to be in one city, then you’ll likely just want a pass for that local city, as it will cost you less.

The SwissPass allows you unlimited travel between cities and in most cities, on local transit. There are options for having several consecutive days of travel or a set number of travel days within a month. You’ll need to explore the options to find which one best suits your travel schedule and needs.

For my trip to Switzerland, I purchased the 8-day consecutive travel pass starting the day I needed to leave Zurich and ending a day or two before I depart home from Geneva. The cost of a day pass in Zurich was cheaper for the couple days I’m there, versus getting the 15-day SwissPass and I was perfectly happy to walk everywhere the last day or two in Geneva.

Available in 1st and 2nd class I opted for 2nd class, since, really, Swiss trains in 2nd class are closer to 1st class in some European countries.

Product Price in CHF in

2nd class

Price in CHF in

1st class

Swiss Travel Pass 3 days 225 358
Swiss Travel Pass 4 days 270 429
Swiss Travel Pass 8 days 398 631
Swiss Travel Pass 15 days 485 765

Ensure you’ve created a profile on the website before purchasing, this way you can log in to the app on your phone and your SwissPass will show up on your mobile. Eliminating the need to carry a piece of paper you might lose.

Finding and Booking Trains

The best method by far is to install the SBB App on your phone. This will allow you to search for connections, show you the track info and onboard you get! When you need to flash your ticket as proof you’ve paid you can open the App and show them the barcode and all is well.

If you’ve booked a ticket on its own (not with SwissPass)  you’ll have the option to reserve a seat as well, this is good if you’re going to be on a busy route during a busy time. If you’re traveling with the SwissPass a seat reservation not no necessary unless you’re taking one of the special scenic trains.

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