Public transportation in Switzerland is punctual, efficient, and clean, so there’s really no need to own a car. Here’s how to travel in Switzerland by bus, tram, train, and ferry.
Switzerland possesses one of the world’s most reliable public transport services, which makes reaching even the most remote parts of the country relatively easy.
Travel by trams and buses in Switzerland
The main Swiss cities boast efficient public transportation, with trams and buses forming the core of the urban network. A single short journey ticket costs around CHF 2.60 and is usually only valid for an hour. Depending on the travel required, it may be more economical to purchase a day pass for about CHF 8, a monthly pass, or a prepaid discount card.
There have been some complaints of overcrowding, although train ticket guards are now at liberty to upgrade passengers to first-class for discounted prices. Discounted upgrades depend on the trip and card type, ranging from CHF5 (for travel less than 30 minutes, with a half-fare card) to CHF20 (for more than 30 minutes with no half-fare card), representing significant savings for travellers. However, selection is at the guard’s discretion, available to space and used as a ‘spontaneous surprise’; however, the feasibility of this scheme to reduce overcrowding could see this scheme more widely use after this a trial period throughout 2017.
Trains in Switzerland
Switzerland has over 5,000 km of railroad track, of which about 60% is owned and operated by Switzerland’s government-run transport provider (Schweizerische Bundesbahn or SBB in German, Chemins de Fer Fédéraux or CFF in French, and Ferrovie Federali Svizzere or FFS in Italian). InterCity trains connect major cities, which run at least once every hour throughout the week. Switzerland doesn’t have its own high-speed railway line. However, foreign high-speed trains such as the French TGV and the German ICE run throughout Switzerland daily. Restaurants tend to be a standard facility on the main InterCity connections and international trains.
The SBB provides additional services such as educational hikes and day trips. Scenic trains are available for those who want to fully experience the beauty of the Swiss landscape; these routes include the Glacier Express, Chocolate Train, GoldenPass Line, and Bernina Express
Travel by car
Travelling by car in Switzerland is easy, as all villages and towns are clearly marked and accessible. Road surfaces are usually well maintained, although heavy snowfall in winter can lead to some closures. To drive on the motorways between the main cities, you must purchase a special licence (called a vignette) for CHF 40. Larger vehicles such as caravans can safely travel along the Alpine passes, with even lorries driving over mountain passes when tunnels are too busy. Note that traffic is heaviest during the summer months, especially on weekends. While most mountains are accessible by road, some mountain resort towns including Braunwald, Murren, Wengen, and Zermatt are completely car-free. Public transport in these locations is therefore exceptionally good.
Other forms of transportation
Other forms of transportation are also readily available. Ferryboats operate on all main lakes and it is also possible to rent bikes at most train stations. The only underground system in Switzerland is in Lausanne. As is the case across Europe, taxis are readily available in the centers of all cities, but can be expensive. The cost often doubles after 22.00, thus it is advisable to ask the price beforehand.
Prices and discounts
The high standard of public transport in Switzerland comes with high prices, especially for rail travel between larger cities. When staying in Switzerland for a long period of time, it is advisable to purchase a GA (General Abonnement) ticket. The GA provides unlimited travel on the entire Swiss network and is available in one-month, six-month and one-year durations. The next best option is to purchase a Half-Fare card (CHF 164), which entitles the bearer to half-price travel on the whole network. Finally, those younger than 25 who already possess a Half-Tax card can upgrade to a G7 (Gleis 7) card for CHF 129, which grants free travel on the whole network after 19.00. Bearers of these cards are also entitled to reduced-price products at a number of shops throughout the country.