Let’s use the SBB Swiss Travel Pass! A handy guide to Swiss train travel

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The Swiss railway system is one of the most efficient in Europe, in fact you could almost say it runs like clockwork. There nothing I love more when visiting my favorite alpine country than taking a Swiss train. Except maybe hiking through it. There are fast commuter trains connecting cities in Switzerland and the rest of Europe, while smaller trains link pretty Swiss towns and villages. Scenic routes glide through stunning Swiss mountains and valleys of views and waterfalls. The Swiss railway network is part of a modern public transport system that also includes buses, boats, cable cars and even ski gondolas!

Like most things in Switzerland, train tickets can be expensive, but luckily there are some easy ways to keep your costs down. This travel guide will provide some useful tips on traveling by train in Switzerland and show you how to save money on rail travel in Switzerland with the Swiss Travel Pass.

red swiss train in field of yellow wildflowers

Swiss Travel Pass: traveling by train in Switzerland

Train travel in Switzerland is easy and convenient but there are a few things that are handy to know before you travel to Switzerland. 

The SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) network operates three different types of train:

  • IC and ICN InterCity trains are fast and stop at major cities and towns
  • S-Bahn trains are commuter trains that run frequently between cities and their suburbs
  • R, RE and IR regional trains are slower but stop at most stations

There’s no difference in ticket prices between the different trains, only in the speed of your journey. 

Seat reservations aren’t generally required on domestic Swiss trains, so you simply need to get on board and find a spot. On board your train, you’ll find that you have easy access to electrical outlets and USB chargers for your convenience. There may be a restaurant car serving Swiss food, either with table service or a bar that offers light snacks and drinks. Some long-distance InterCity trains also have a family-friendly coach. 

A conductor will scan your ticket or pass during your journey, so make sure you have it handy at all times. And digital signs will indicate the next stop, which will give you plenty of time to gather your belongings before you reach your destination.

As well as the SBB rail network, there are also several scenic train routes in Switzerland such as the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express. These can be quite expensive but your journey will give you some absolutely unforgettable views of the scenic Swiss mountains and countryside. If you are travelling on a Swiss train pass, you may have to pay an additional reservation fee for these routes.

train in swiss country side in summer

What is the SBB Mobile App?

SBB Mobile is used by more than three million people, making it Switzerland’s most popular public transport app. The app makes it really easy to check timetable information and buy your tickets, and you can also load your travelcard or Swiss rail pass onto the app so it’s always close at hand. 

The SBB Mobile app provides very useful information about your journey, like notifications about platform changes, train delays and cancellations. And it will even let you know when it’s time to board or change trains.

How to buy Swiss train tickets

Buying point-to-point tickets might be the easiest option if you are only taking a few trip. You can buy tickets on the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) website or at any SBB railway station. You can choose one-way or round-trip rail tickets to suit your plans, and there may also be the option for a City Ticket. These include travel to a specific Swiss city like Lucerne, or the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bern, plus a one-day Swiss travel pass for public transport in that city.

Swiss railway trains are clean and comfortable, so although First Class upgrades are available, you may prefer to save your money and travel in Second Class. 

Supersaver tickets are also available on some routes at certain times. These can be up to 70% cheaper than standard tickets, which makes it worth checking if they’re available for your journey.

red swiss train over stone bridge

What does the SBB Swiss Travel Pass include and how much does it cost?

If you are planning several journeys on the Swiss rail network, the Swiss Travel Pass can work out cheaper than buying individual train tickets. This Swiss trains pass is only available to non-residents of Switzerland or Liechtenstein and allows free unlimited travel on the Swiss travel system in more than 90 towns and cities. 

Planning a family trip to Switzerland? Train travel is free for children under 6 years old and children aged 6-15 travel for free if they are accompanied by at least one parent with a valid pass. For children traveling alone, the Swiss Family Card can be purchased at nearly every Swiss railway station. With this card, children from their 6th up to their 16th birthday not accompanied by a parent receive a 50% discount on the Swiss Travel System range of tickets.

child on swiss train pointing to village

So, is the Swiss Travel Pass worth it? Well, as long as you will be taking several journeys by train during your visit, you could certainly save money compared to buying train tickets in Switzerland. The Swiss Travel Pass also gives you some excellent discounts on any routes that aren’t covered by the pass, together with a 50% discount on most mountain excursions and free entrance to more than 500 Swiss museums. 

If you’re planning a longer visit to Switzerland, the Flex pass could be more suitable for your travel plans. As the name suggests, these Swiss rail passes offer a more flexible option that allows travel on a set number of non-consecutive days within a 30 day period. 

You can buy the Swiss Travel Pass and Flex Pass from the SBB website, as well as from every major railway station in Switzerland. It’s also available from the Zurich, Berne, Geneva and Lucerne tourist offices.

Swiss Travel Pass Prices (November 2022)

                                    Second Class           First Class

3 Day Pass                CHF 232                    CHF 369

4 Day Pass                CHF 281                    CHF 447

6 Day Pass                CHF 359                    CHF 570

8 Day Pass                CHF 389                    CHF 617

15 Day Pass             CHF 429                    CHF 675

Prices are in Swiss francs (CHF)

Swiss Travel Pass Prices (November 2022)

                                    Second Class           First Class

3 Day Pass                CHF 267                    CHF 424

4 Day Pass                CHF 323                    CHF 514

6 Day Pass                CHF 384                    CHF 610

8 Day Pass                CHF 409                    CHF 649

15 Day Pass             CHF 449                    CHF 706

Prices are in Swiss francs (CHF)

Once you have bought your ticket or Swiss Travel Pass, you’ll be ready to start exploring Switzerland from the comfort of your train!

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Claudia Laroye
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