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.
Swiss Rail Train Station Lockers
Swiss Rail Train Station Lockers can be found at almost every rail station in Switzerland. Smaller stations will only take cash, but you can get change at the station during the day. You will usually find a bank machine at the station too. Search the SBB website for "lockers" to find requirements for every station.
For larger stations, credit cards will work. The system at larger stations is quite high tech. After inserting your credit card and the locker number, the system will lock the door and give you a paper bar code. When you return, you scan the bar code and your door pops open. Too cool!
The availability of Swiss Rail train station lockers provides you will the opportunity to stop and visit places while you have your luggage. Switching your accommodation from Lucerne to Interlaken? Stop along the way in Brienz, store your luggage and ride the Brienzer Rothorn Cog Train. Traveling between Zurich and Geneva? Stop along the way in Fribourg, store your luggage and take a stroll through this quaint village. Most routes in Switzerland operate every half hour, so it's easy to continue your journey. Just make sure your rail ticket hasn't expired by stopping too long.
Swiss Rail - Express Trains
The rail network in Switzerland has so many Swiss Rail Express Trains that a separate web page is needed to explain them all. Be aware that the term "Express Train" in Switzerland usually refers to special trains with large windows that cater to tourists. These express trains are typically slow, as they concentrate on providing views for tourists instead of speed for commuters. The Glacier Express proudly claims to be the slowest train in the world, with an average speed of 18 mph on its 8 hour journey.
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 no matter where you are. From the SBB App, first login to the SwissPass.ch website to make sure any travel passes or Half Fare Cards are synced to the SBB App. After you have logged in, go to the Profile section of the SBB App to ensure you have set up a credit card set up with SBB. Buy a second class ticket or upgrade a travel pass journey to first class while you are standing on the rail platform. 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. Once you buy the pass, it will show up in the SBB app on your phone.
Berner Oberland Regional Pass
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.
Geneva - Alps Regional Pass
- Rail between Geneva Airport, Geneva, Lausanne and Montreux
- Rail travel on the scenic GoldenPass Line as far as Zweisimmen
- Rail travel to towns such as Villars and Gruyères
- Cruises aboard the boats on Lake Geneva, including trips over to French resorts
- Local city bus travel and PostBus travel in the wider region
- Train from Montreux to Les Rochers-de-Naye
- Train from Montreux to Les Avants and funicular to Sonloup
- At Vevey between Montreux and Lausanne, ride the Funicular to Mont Pèlerin or the Star Train to Les Pléiades
- Train to Territet and funicular to Glion
- Train to Champery
Local Tourist Passes
You will find many different local tourist passes throughout Switzerland. Buy a Zurich Card which covers buses, trams, boat rides and museums in the city. In the upper Rhone valley of the canton of Valais, you can buy a Erlebnis Card Regional Pass that offers free transit and 50% discounts on many gondolas and cog train attractions like the Gornergrat Cog Train.
Many areas offer tourist passes exclusively to visitors who stay in local accommodation. If you stay in the Appenzell area for 3 nights, the Appenzeller Card gives you free transit, 3 different gondola rides for free and some museums too. If you stay in the canton of Ticino for one night, you are eligible for a Ticino Ticket. The Ticino Ticket offers free transit plus minor discounts on boats and gondolas.
Be sure to check carefully for savings opportunities wherever your visit might take you in Switzerland.
Driving in Switzerland
Driving in Switzerland doesn't make much sense if you are a visitor. The buses, trains and boats are fully integrated. With a Berner Oberland Pass or a Tell Pass you also get unlimited access to gondolas and cog trains. These discounts make the Swiss transportation more convenient and less expensive than driving a car.
The one advantage of driving in Switzerland would be to travel the mountain passes. A great roundtrip circuit to take is the loop through the Susten Pass, Gotthard Pass, Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass. You can start at Innertkirchen east of Interlaken or from Goschenen south of Lake Lucerne. Add on the Klausen Pass out of Altdorf too, but it's a one way extension off the circuit.
Car Trains in Switzerland
Switzerland offers several car trains, where you drive your own car on to a flat bed rail car. You then stay in your car as it travels through a tunnel to avoid a mountain pass. One of the best know is the Lötschberg car train between the Kandersteg and Goppenstein, which connects the Berner Oberland with Valais. Car trains also can be used to avoid the Furka Pass, the Oberalp Pass, the Flüela Pass (Verreina Tunnel) and the Simplon Pass to Italy. Car trains in Switzerland are very popular in winter when the roads through these passes are typically closed by snow, but the tunnels remain open.
The Euro isn't used in Switzerland, so be prepared to buy the Swiss Franc (CHF) if you need cash. Switzerland accepts credit cards everywhere, so the only place you might need cash is for storage lockers at remote train stations.
Electrical Adapters for Switzerland
Switzerland uses a three prong Type J electrical adapter, but the standard European Type C electrical adapter will work there too.