Switzerland most of the times gets highest scores in the field of “Best rail system in the world” or at least in Europe. And not many countries actually fight for the title, maybe Japan? Here you can find some official numbers regarding rail system grading and Switzerland passes it with flying colors “Rail systems in Europe“.
Switzerland has one of the most extended rail systems in the world and it goes anywhere you wish: to the mountains up to more than 2000 meters altitude, through long tunnels (Switzerland has the longest tunnel in the world which leads to Milan), to the lakes, to some of the Swiss charming villages, big cities and many other places.
And do you know the famous saying “Works like a Swiss clock?”, well you can add another one “Works like a Swiss train”, because they are very reliable, very punctual and fantastic in all other ways.
So let us have a look how to travel in Switzerland with their famous trains.
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How to book and buy train tickets in Switzerland
The main place where you can book and buy train tickets in Switzerland is SBB.ch. It is the official website where you can buy any ticket you want in Switzerland. Over there you can choose any departure and destination place, any departure time and some other details (you may be eligible for some discounts).
Remember that just like any other place, you need to be careful with your luggage, though. Switzerland is a beautiful place, but nowhere is free of crime. So whether you foolishly left luggage Victoria Station when visiting London, or weren’t paying attention in Bern, there’s always the chance your stuff can be stolen, so stay vigilant.
If you do not have access to SBB website, you can buy train tickets in the big train stations and in ticket machines by each train stop. All the big cities have train station with possibilities to buy train tickets in the office, but if you are in a smaller destination (maybe some village or a simple train stop station) OR if you come in off work hours – you will be able to buy tickets in the ticket machine. These machines are pretty easy to use: you have to choose your destination, choose 2nd class (always remember to choose 2nd class, because otherwise you will pay much higher price for the 1st class), choose one way or return and voilia – you will get your ticket. In pretty much ticket machines you will be able to pay with credit card and cash. Still – if you are planning to travel in some rural areas with a train and get out in some isolated places, just in case, I would have some cash to buy the ticket if credit card option will not be available.
One more tip: if you buy 2nd class train ticket in Switzerland – in no way sit in the 1st class. Conductor will give you a fine right away. It is not allowed to use 1st class with a 2nd class ticket. And you won’t be even able to pretend that you mixed something up. That is simply not allowed.
Can you buy tickets on the train in Switzerland
Yes, but only IF in your starting point there was no other way to buy a ticket. Maybe there was no ticket machine OR it was out of order (that happens). If that is the case, you can tell it to conductor and he will be able to sell you a ticket right on the train. Most conductors have the credit card machine, so you can even pay with your credit card.
Do they check train tickets in Switzerland
Yes, they do. Always. I have had maybe couple of short trips when I was not checked, but sometimes even if a trip is just 5 minutes – conductor will come and ask for your ticket.
If you do not have a ticket – you will have to pay fine (sometimes right on the train) and buy a ticket as well. So it’s no joke and I strongly suggest NOT to travel in Switzerland without a train ticket.
How much is a train ticket in Switzerland
Well, it can get pretty costly, especially if you travel to some far away isolated places. And overall – trains do not come cheap in Switzerland. Especially if you travel just for one day or just to one destination. Later on we will discuss the possibilities to save some money on your tickets, but now let’s have a look at some prices.
Let’s say you landed in Zürich and want to travel to Basel city which is around 90 kilometers away:
Zürich – Basel ticket price: 34 CHF (from the city of Zürich).
Maybe you want to visit a famous village of Grindelwald?
Zürich – Grindelwald ticket price: 81 CHF (!) one way.
Or maybe you want to visit the most famous mountain in Switzerland called Matterhorn which is in Zermatt?
Zürich – Zermatt ticket price: 125 CHF (!) on way.
As you see, the prices can be pretty high.
How to buy cheap train tickets in Switzerland
There are couple of ways you can get cheaper tickets in Switzerland or travel cheaper overall.
- buy tickets in not so popular times;
- Buy a travel pass (if you are a tourist)
- Buy a half fare card (if you live in Switzerland)
Let’s have a look at first option and see an image below:
But if you choose to travel at a different time, let’s say in early morning at 6:32, you can get a ticket just for 106 CHF (you will save 19 CHF). That is not a bad deal.
This rule applies to quite many trips in Switzerland and in not peak times you can pretty often get a better price.
Swiss travel pass is the most amazing train ticket for tourists in Switzerland. And it covers not only trains, but buses, boats and even some cool gondola rides to Rigi, Stanserhorn, Stoos, Brunni, Klewenalp.
You can buy Swiss travel pass for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days.
If you are having a short trip in Switzerland, I highly recommend getting a Swiss travel pass for 3 days and that will cost you 232 CHF. And with this travel pass you will be able to travel all around Switzerland as much as you want for 3 days. Just remember – one way ticket to Zermatt is 125 CHF. If you go back – that is 250 CHF – so travel pass would already pay off.
If you are having a long stay in Switzerland, you can get a pass for 15 days and pay 513 CHF. I can guarantee you – in 15 days you will be pretty much able to travel ALL around Switzerland and visit Alps, small villages, beautiful lakes, try amazing hikes and so on.
What is as well very cool: with this pass you will get a free admission to more than 500 museums. 500! Once again – 500! You will never be bored in Switzerland with this pass.
If you are a tourist – that is one of the best things you can buy in Switzerland. That will make your stay much more easy going.
Find more information here: Swiss travel pass.
One note: you can buy this card ONLY if you are not a resident of Switzerland or Liechtenstein.
Swiss half fare card
I personally have this card and that cuts my train expenses in TWO. The card is pretty straightforward – you get it and you pay for any trip just half price. The card price is 185 CHF for one year and that pays off pretty fast if you even travel just once a month.
With this card you can travel all around Switzerland and do not forget to have it all the time with you as conductor will ask for it each time.
When you buy ticket in the ticket office – always show the card, if you buy a ticket in a ticket machine – always choose half fare, so you get your better price.
Does Eurail pass cover local trains in Switzerland
Yes, it does.
Just pay attention: Eurail pass do not cover city trains (if you travel inside Basel, you will have to pay your own new tickets).
Eurail pass gives some discounts to some amazing mountain gondola rides.
My tip: just to avoid some confusion or unwanted problems and fines – I would always ask in a local train station if your pass is eligible from one destination to another. There may be some local connections which are not covered, so always be aware.
Must do train rides in Switzerland
Switzerland is famous for the most beautiful train rides not only in Europe, but all around the world.
Swiss trains can go very high up through mountain passes and you may get the most exclusive views of the snow covered mountain peaks.
Let’s have a look at the most beautiful train rides in Switzerland:
Voralpen Express – it is a 2 hours train ride from St. Gallen to Luzern.
Lauterbrunnen – Wengen train ride – I personally really like this ride as it is very short (about 15 minutes), costs only few francs (6-7 CHF), BUT you get to see one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland on your ride to Wengen. This short ride connects to very beautiful villages.
Local trains and trams
Most of the cities in Switzerland have some local trains and trams: like Basel, Zürich and many others.
If you are using the local trains and trams, you must buy a local ticket in the city to use them.
You can get monthly pass, day pass and a simple one way ticket.
You can get tickets in the ticket office (mostly in the main station) or in a ticket machine (most of the tram stops have these machines).
If you are visiting the city and plan to visit multiple sites, I strongly suggest to buy a day ticket as it will pay off after 3-4 rides.
If you are living in a city and plan to travel each day to work or shop, I strongly suggest a monthly pass as it will pay of after a week or so.
Ticket prices (one way) depend on the city and the distance you are going, but it can start from 2-4 CHF.
Information about Swiss trains
Let’s dive into some other important information regarding Swiss trains.
Do trains in Switzerland have Wifi
Yes, most of the trains have wifi and you will as well be able to charge your phone or laptop as most trains have sockets.
How late do trains run in Switzerland
Usually trains ride late in the night: up to 1 – 2 or even later o’clock and starts again at 4-5 o’clock in the morning. That is more the case between some popular destination as Luzern and Zürich or Basel and Geneva.
Are trains in Switzerland conditioned
Yes, they are. You will feel comfortable in Swiss trains all year round.
Can dogs go on trains in Switzerland
Yes they can, but there are two things to consider.
If your dog is smaller than 30 cm and is in a transport box – it can travel free.
If your dog is bigger, you will have to buy a day ticket for 25 CHF OR if you travel a shorter distance, you simply have to buy a 2nd class ticket.
Can I keep luggage in Switzerland train stop
Yes, quite many train stops and stations have luggage boxes. Especially very popular in skiing destinations. You can load there all your luggage and pay few francs for the day. You will get a key and once you come back, freely take your stuff and travel further.
Can you drink on trains in Switzerland
Yes you can. Some trains even have restaurants or vending machines. Just of course be reasonable and not loud. Do not disturb others.
Do trains run on Christmas or Easter in Switzerland
Yes, they do. They run all year long. The train rides during winter holidays can be pretty splended.