Travel Guide to using Swiss Travel System for International Travellers in Switzerland | How to make best use of Swiss Travel Pass
To say that Switzerland has one of the best public transport systems in the world would be stating the obvious. However, it came as a surprise to me when many people asked me how I travelled all through Switzerland using public transport, when I wrote about my self-planned holiday in Switzerland. I realised that many people are unaware about Swiss Travel System and how to make best use of Swiss Travel Pass. So here is my detailed guide in form of Question & Answer (Q&A) session to share all information on Swiss Travel System and guide on buying & using Swiss Travel Pass, based on my extensive research when planning for the trip and experience during the trip.
Question – What is Swiss Travel System (STS)?
Answer – Swiss Travel System is the comprehensive range of public transport services offered to travellers by the Swiss Federal Railways to foreign travellers/tourists in Switzerland. The Swiss Travel System comprises services of Railways, Trams, Boats, Cable Cars and Buses. One has to buy a Swiss Travel Pass to avail of the services.
Question – What is Swiss Travel Pass ?
Answer – The Swiss Travel Pass is all-in-one ticket to travel by rail, road and waterway offered as part of the Swiss Travel System through whole of Switzerland. It is only available for foreign travellers and residents of Switzerland cannot book this Pass.
Read about my Self-Planned Switzerland summer holidays here.
Question – What are all the services included in Swiss Travel Pass?
Answer – The Swiss Travel Pass includes all travel on regular trains, buses and railways , which includes travelling on panoramic trains such as the Glacier Express. Please note that reservations are required on panoramic trains, and these have to be booked separately. The Swiss Travel Pass also provides discounts of up to 50% when you use mountain railways, cable cars and ski lifts, renting eBikes at rail stations, and on railway combined offers for many tourist attractions. For example, the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne was included in our Swiss Travel Pass package (which otherwise costs 80 francs if booked separately). Most of all, the Swiss Travel Pass includes free entry to over 500 museums, up to 50 % discount on many other mountain excursions and free use of public transportation in more than 90 urban areas. (information source : Swiss Travel Pass website). We were based in Basel during most part of our Switzerland trip and having the Swiss Travel Pass enabled us to travel within the city on public transport for free (i.e. Buses and Trams). Also note that Children aged 6 to 15 travel free of charge with the Swiss Family Card.
Question – Is buying Swiss Travel Pass economical ?
Answer – It depends on how one looks at it from cost benefit ratio. There are many fare options available in Swiss Travel Pass and also different categories of Swiss Travel Pass (i.e. Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Travel Pass Youth, Swiss Travel Pass Flex, Swiss Travel Flex Youth). We had opted for Swiss Travel Pass adults package for 8 days consecutive travel on 2nd class which cost 376 francs per person (comes to roughly around INR 25000). It may look like a big amount but we had calculated the cost benefit ratio of taking the different routes, the independence to choose routes as we like on different days, cost of the individual golden round passes to the popular routes of Mount Pilatus & Jungfrau, cost of museum tickets, etc and realised that for an 8 day pass, this cost is quite economical and will also give us a huge flexibility to travel as per our plans or any changes in plans. We were infact quite satisfied at the end of our Switzerland trip and patted ourselves on the decision to opt for Swiss Travel Pass.
Question – How can one buy the Swiss Travel Pass ?
Answer – The easiest way to Buy Swiss Travel is online, check out the website here. One can also buy Swiss Travel Pass on arrival in Switzerland at the Airport and designated Rail Station Booths. If you buy Swiss Travel Pass online, you will get an email along with pdf copy of your ticket, which you need to take print and keep with you during travelling, the ticket checkers just scan the ticket code. The ticket can also be saved in your mobile. Also, please carry your passport at all times when travelling in Swiss Travel System, as the ticket checkers may want to see/check the same, along with ticket. We were asked to show passport only once, but carried it all times with us.
Question – What is the difference between buying first class and second class ticket on Swiss Travel Pass ?
Answer – The price is the big difference and there are some minor services which are added on to the ticket. However, in terms of the rail travel or Boat rides etc, there is not much difference in the services offered in the train coaches (actually hardly felt the difference checking out the first and second class coaches). The second class coaches are air conditioned and have toilet facilities too. On the boats, the upper deck is reserved for First Class passengers but the views and seating are infact same from the lower deck too.
Question – How easy/convenient it is to travel in Switzerland using the Swiss Travel System – i.e. Railways, Buses, Trams, Boats and other means?
Answer – I would say that travelling via public transport in Switzerland is not only easy, convenient but also very safe. Having done multiple routes (even the non touristy ones) within Switzerland using railways, trams and buses, I can safely say that its completely safe for solo woman travellers too! As mentioned above, there are toilets and drinking water facilities in the railway stations and on the trains. Pantry cars on most of the trains and other services in the most metro town railway stations.
Read about my day trip to Thun in Switzerland.
Question – How will a traveler know about the routes, which trains to take and timings of the various public transport ?
Answer – The easiest way to know about the routes and train timings is through the SBB mobile app. We had downloaded the mobile app and planned out the timings of our day trips on the basis of the train timings and journey time each day. The stations have help desks and one can get information there, in case of any confusion. But we did not feel the need to ask as the Swiss Rail System is so efficient and the mobile app, along with the announcements at stations are so precise that its actually a breeze. There is wifi internet facility also available at most major train stations and passengers can use the internet to find train timings at the station itself too.The rail system in Switzerland is very timely, so all trains are on time and if there are delays, prior announcements are made a day in advance. For some destinations, there are no direct trains available and one has to interchange at stations, the mobile app gives information on which stations to interchange and we did not face any difficulty, for e.g. Travelling to the Fribourg region, we had to change trains three times and the timings and process was seamless. One can also search online (google) to see the train timings, boat timings etc, on the website.
Question – What is the difference between Golden Round Trip Package tickets and Swiss Travel Pass ?
Answer – Now I had the toughest time looking this up on the internet while planning for my Switzerland holiday. There was no clear answer and at the end of all the research I did, it was even more confusing. So let me tell it in the most easy way for benefit of my fellow travellers – Golden Round Package for Tourist destinations (of Mount Pilatus, Jungfrau and some other routes) are one time round ticket package one can buy for these specific routes. For example, Golden Round Trip package for Mount Pilatus is Boat-Cog Wheel Train-Cable Car-Bus ride to and from Lucerne. The Swiss Travel Pass on the other hand is a comprehensive on time ticket for all kinds of public transport throughout Switzerland and it includes many of the golden round trips packages (100% to 25% discount depending upon the destination/package). So if one is planning on travelling multiple destinations, taking the Swiss Travel Pass is actually economical.
I hope to have shed some valuable light on the Swiss Travel System and Swiss Travel Pass for all readers. In case anyone has queries, please feel free to write in to me/put queries in comment section and I will reply back as soon as I can.