Best Time of Year to Visit Switzerland
Its high alpine geography gives Switzerland two distinct seasons for tourists. Winter is a popular time for skiing at numerous resorts, including many popular destinations such as Zermatt and St Moritz. The short summer months provide excellent weather for hiking and viewing the landscapes via gondolas and cog trains at locations like Interlaken and Lucerne.
Switzerland – Visa Requirements
Switzerland participates in the Schengen Zone and Schengen Visa requirements. There are no border inspections by rail or vehicle when traveling from Switzerland to Germany, France, Italy, Austria or Liechtenstein. Some countries that are not members of the Schengen Zone require a Schengen Visa to enter Europe. Exemptions include citizens of Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Check your specific country at VisaHQ. For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.
Visit Switzerland – Swiss Travel Pass
If you plan to visit Switzerland, consider a Swiss Travel Pass in combination with a Eurail Pass. The big advantage of the Swiss Travel Pass is that it includes unlimited trains, trams, buses, cruise boats, hundreds of museum admissions and half off on most gondolas in Switzerland. The pass includes panorama trains like the Glacier Express and the full price up the Stanserhorn, Stoos and Rigi. The Swiss Railway SBB Mobile App is great for planning trips and storing travel passes, but you can’t book travel passes on it. To buy travel passes, you need to use a computer based website instead, which can be confusing.
Visitors to Switzerland can buy the Swiss Travel Pass, the Swiss Travel Pass Flex or the Swiss Half Fare Card. You need to see the word Swiss in the title. If you are looking at a GA Travel Card or a Half Fare Travel Card you are in the wrong place, as that is ticketing for people who live in Switzerland. The Swiss Half Fare Card means you pay 50% on all trains, buses, ships and most gondolas. Confused by the SSB site for buying a Swiss Travel Pass? You can find many other authorized dealers for Swiss Passes with a simple online search.
The SwissPass.ch website is where your information for your Swiss Pass is maintained, but you can’t buy a pass there. As mentioned, you buy them from online vendors such as swiss-pass.ch myswissalps.com or many others, even including the confusing sbb.ch rail web site. Your purchase will update to the SwissPass.ch site. Ultimately you want to activate your pass though a sync to one of their approved mobile apps. This will allow you to display your pass on your phone. As of 2022, the three approved mobile apps for displaying your Swiss Travel Pass are BLS Mobile, SBB Mobile and Public Transport Plus.
SBB Mobile App
The SBB Mobile App is amazing for easy trip planning. From anywhere in Switzerland, it can show you the entire schedule to any other destination. The app even shows the configuration and direction of the train cars and the route you will need to walk to transfer between trains during your journey. Plus you can make seat reservations and buy tickets if you bought the Swiss Half Fare Card. Amazing!
Visit Switzerland – Regional Passes
Now that you might think things are starting to make sense, it’s time to complicate matters with Regional Passes. The regional pass can be a better option than a Swiss Travel Pass if you are staying several days or a week at the same location. Some of the more popular ones are:
Tell Pass – Central Switzerland
Tell Pass – The Tell Pass covers all the trains, boats, buses and gondolas in Central Switzerland. Yes, unlike the Swiss Travel Pass, regional passes cover the entire cost of gondolas. You can visit Lucerne, ride all the boats on Lake Lucerne, or ascend Mt Pilatus, Mt Rigi and Mt Titlis. Even with a 10 day pass you won’t be able to cover all there is to do. You can also buy the Tell Pass from SBB on a computer if you use their search function.
Berner Oberland Regional Passes
Berner Oberland Regional Pass – The Berner Oberland Pass covers all the trains, boats, buses and gondolas around Bern / Brig / Interlaken, including the popular Jungfrau area. The Shilthorn is half price and the Jungfraujoch has special pricing, but all other gondolas and cable cars in the region are included without any surcharge. Like the Tell Pass, the Berner Oberland Regional Pass is so extensive that you can’t come close to covering everything, even if you buy the 10 day pass.
Ready for the strange twist on this pass? The Berner Oberland Pass provides a discount for holders of a Swiss Travel Pass. On an 8 day pass, they allow a discount of 130 Swiss Francs if you have a Swiss Half Fare Card worth 120 Swiss francs. You profit 10 francs and get a travel pass good in the rest of Switzerland, which is useful for travel to an airport like Basel or Zurich.
Jungfrau Pass – The Jungfrau Pass is a subset of the Berner Oberland Regional Pass. The Jungfrau Pass covers all the trains and cable cars in the Jungfrau area around Interlaken, except for the Schilthorn. The pass gives you one discounted trip up the Jungfraujoch and unlimited use everywhere else. The Jungfrau Pass also includes travel by boat on Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.
The Euro isn’t used in Switzerland, so be prepared to buy the Swiss Franc (CHF) if you need cash.
Switzerland Electrical Adapters
Switzerland uses a three prong Type J electrical adapter, but the standard European Type C electrical adapter will work there too.