Public Transportation in Switzerland: All You Need to KnowAbout the Swiss Travel Pass
“The journey is the reward.“
“The journey is the reward.“ This quote is never truer than in the case of Switzerland.
Switzerland is just stunningly beautiful AND getting around is super easy – to see all of the amazing places doesn’t take much effort. Riding a train is more than an inevitable evil to get from destination to destination – actually it is a fun thing to do and absolutely one highlight of a Switzerland trip.
Train rides that “whisk you through lovely towns and villages, over breathtaking mountains and past glaciers, pristine lakes, and rivers” is not a created image, but reality :).
Wondering what a STP is and what to know before going on a train ride in Switzerland?
If you visit Switzerland for more than two days, a Swiss Travel Pass (STP) might be a good way to discover the country.
This post provides you with all of the necessary information I gathered from my own Switzerland trips – useful facts that make it easier to decide on what kind of Swiss Travel Pass you need.
You´ll also find my personal thoughts and my own experiences from my time with my STP, and if you feel any question has not been answered feel free to leave a comment and I´ll get back to you.
What is a Swiss Travel Pass?
The Swiss Travel Pass is for tourists only, and it allows you to use all kinds of public transportation once you buy the pass.
You have unlimited use of 26,000 km of the public transport network in Switzerland- which includes the use of trains, buses, Postautos, boats, and even some mountain railways.
You can basically use all trains, buses, Postautos (the yellow buses that operate mostly in hilly areas or more remote places), and boats without extra charge.
With your STP, you can also use the world-famous panorama trains of the Grand Train Tour in Switzerland (more on that later on).
However, there might be a reservation fee for some panorama trains (like the Glacier Express or the Bernina Express), or a surcharge on some lakes (there is a 5 CHF surcharge for boat tickets on Lake Zurich, and to my knowledge, boat tours on Walensee are not included).
Other than this, I did not have any extra costs and used my Swiss Travel Pass without any extra fees (and, believe me, I used public transportation extensively during my time in Switzerland).
Without having to worry about tickets, I just hopped on and off from one train to another, from buses to boats, trams and even some mountain railways, and even got some discounts on other things.
More Extras – Mountains Trains With the Swiss Travel PAss
There are three mountain railways included in the STP, and they change every year. I took advantage of my pass and did all three amazing trips:
Mount Pilatus, Mount Rigi (both mountains are located in Lucerne), and Schynige Platte in the amazing region of Interlaken. In 2018 Schynige Platte and Mount Pilatus are not included but Schilthorn Mountain instead.
These trips alone are worth more than 200€.
Museums with the Swiss Travel Pass
You can use your Swiss Travel Pass for about 500 museums, castles, etc. without any extra admission, so always ask before you get a ticket to see if it is included in the STP.
What Else is Included in the STP?
Mountain railways are not cheap in Switzerland (this should not come as a surprise), but you get a 25-50% discount on most of the cable cars/mountain railways/funiculars, etc.
I used my STP to get a 50% discount several times- this included my trip to Ebenalp (to see the world-famous mountain guesthouse Aescher) and the cable car ride at Oeschinensee (Lake Oeschinen).
You can save tons of money if you use the pass for more expensive funiculars (e.g. save about 40€ when going up the Brienzer Rothorn, which, by the way, has been one of the absolute highlights of my numerous Switzerland trips), or save 25% when buying the quite expensive Jungfraujoch ticket.
AND, as if that was not enough, you´ll also get a 50% discount for the “Lost and Found” service. I admit that I wish I’d not had to find out, but I did because I (again) forgot something on the train. Luckily, it was found, and when I picked it up, I only paid 9€ instead of 18€ – how freaking cool is that? 🙂
Click here for a map of validity
How Long is a Swiss Travel Pass Valid For?
You can choose between 3, 4, 8, or 15 days – either consecutive days or you can get a flexible pass for those days (which you have to use within 30 days).
How Much Does the Swiss Travel Pass Cost?
The prices differ – depending on the class (1st or 2nd class available), the length of validation, and if you get a consecutive or flexible ticket.
Prices start from about 195€ for 3 days, though the STPs that are valid for longer are getting much cheaper.
Youth travelers (under the age of 26) get a 15% discount on the regular prices.
Children between 6-16 years pay 50% (if accompanied by one parent with a valid Swiss Travel Pass they travel for free)
Dogs could travel for free (if they are small and are carried in bags, otherwise they need a children‘s ticket).
P.S. Kids and dogs can always travel first-class with their 2nd class ticket, as long as they are accompanying a person who has a 1st class ticket.
For more information on prices click here.
First or Second Class?
First class sounds really fancy and I loved the fact that the compartments were quite empty. I never had to worry about seating (you still need a reservation for some panorama trains), and I loved that most trains had sockets next to the seats, so I could charge my phone, etc.
However, the second class is also fine. Space is not that generous, but enough and it is still clean. If you don’t travel at the busiest times, you should have no problem finding seats.
Tip: With a first-class ticket you´ll also get access to the first-class sections of the boats, which are pretty cool (normally, it is the upper deck with less people).
Where Can I Buy a Swiss Travel Pass?
You can buy the Swiss Travel Pass online.
My Review of the Swiss Travel Pass
As it has probably already become apparent, I have become a great fan of train riding and the Swiss Travel Pass. However, I had some highlights I would like to share and sum up, and I have even found some flaws.
Best Scenic Train Routes
Switzerland has an official train route it recommends called the Grand Train Tour.
The Grand Train Tour has the most beautiful train rides you can ask for, and though almost all of Switzerland is pretty beautiful, these routes are probably the most picturesque ones. The Grand Train Tour has recommended scenic routes that basically get you from northern Switzerland to the southern part, and also to the southeastern part as well. It mostly included train rides, but also some boat and bus tours.
If you do all of the tours, you should plan some days for it and, ideally, it would be 15 days 🙂 Since I know this might not be possible for all visitors, I have summed up my personal highlights from my Grand Train Tour.
Because I admit: Once in a while, you´ll pass some ugly buildings and even uglier graffiti on walls, but most of the time, it is pretty stunning. And if you have more time in Switzerland, you should do all of the train rides of the Grand Train Tour.
If you need to budget your time, I would suggest several train rides that you should not miss:
The Most Scenic Routes of the Grand Train Tour
The train ride from Zurich to Lucerne is a nice way to start or end the train trip (by the way, getting from one place to another via Bern is often the quickest, but not the most photogenic, way). You´ll have great window views of Lake Zurich, Lake Zug, etc.
TIP: Do a boat tour on Lake Zurich – and if you do the great boat tour, get out in Rapperswil, a very cute town, and have a quick pit stop before heading back to Zurich (it’s about a 5€ surcharge for a day ticket on Lake Zurich). Find out more about my recommendations for Zürich here.
If you are in Lucerne take advantage of the two amazing mountain trips which are included in the Swiss Travel Pass: Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus. A boat tour on Lake Lucerne should also be on your list – but more about that later on).
Another favorite train ride was from Lucerne to Interlaken East with the Express train – you do not need reservations here, even though it is a panorama train.
Officially, it is part of the GoldenPass Line, but you‘ll need to change in Interlaken East if you want to continue your journey to Montreux.
I loved this journey, in particular, because I think it is one of the most beautiful, and you´ll have great window views of the stunning lakes Thun and Brienz (gorgeous lakes rub shoulders in Switzerland). Unfortunately, you cannot open the windows and taking beautiful pictures was a challenge (and I failed 🙂
TIP: Definitely visit the Schynigge Platte – no extra admission with your STP and hop on a boat cruise on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz (or both) and definitely visit the Schynigge Platte – no extra admission with your STP
Continue your journey with the GoldenPass Line (reservations needed for some parts of the journey) from Interlaken to Montreux. Though there are vineyards in many parts of Switzerland, heading to Montreux from Zweisimmen gives you the best view of the vast vineyards, making this area even more special.
TIP: If you want to spend some time at Lake Geneva, Montreux is a great place to do so. I will probably never get over the fact how clean that water is.
After all, Lake Geneva is one of the biggest lakes in Europe – of course, I recommend hopping on a boat, as it is included in the STP. You can also use your STP to visit Chateau de Chillion and use public transportation to get to Chexbres to discover the vineyards.
With a dog, I could not take the Glacier Panorama Express, probably the most famous train as it is the slowest express train in the world. It takes about 8 hours to get from Zermatt to St. Moritz in about 8 hours (about 300 km). Other than the Glacier Panorama Express I was always allowed to take my dog.
To be honest, I was not unhappy though because I truly enjoyed the alternative train ride (as I could open windows in the “normal” trains”) – if you want to be more flexible or are also traveling with a dog, you can just hop on a regular train.
However, I admit that I felt a bit of jealousy though when a Glacier Express stopped next to our train at the train station. The huge panorama windows and the very new looking, and well-designed Glacier Express is quite impressive.
I truly, truly enjoyed my train ride from Visp to Chur: the canton of Graubünden is one of the most beautiful ones – and probably my favorite area when it comes to train riding.
This is for two reasons: Graubünden is, at least it seems to me, the greenest part of green Switzerland, and you´ll get the best window views.
If you get the chance, somehow try to catch the oldest trains of the Rhaetische Bahn. I know, we all love modernity but if you are into photography, you´ll appreciate the fact that you can open the windows quite widely – something I have not seen to this extent from the other train companies.
Riding along the Rhine Gorge is like a train dream come true, so do not miss out on this.
TIP: If you get the chance to stay in that area overnight for a few hours, see the Rhine Gorge from above as well. Find out how you can spend a wonderful day in Flims and see the Rhine Gorge from above.
There is still one highlight I need to talk about: The ride with the Gotthard Panorama Express was another great experience. I got from Bellinzona to Flüelen – a reservation for the Gotthard Panorama Express is needed though.
TIP: There is a compartment in the middle of the train where you can open the windows to take great pictures – this is so cool and should be compulsory in each train if you ask me :).
In Flüelen, we got off and hopped on a paddle steamer – the weather was fantastic and so this boat trip to Lucerne on Lake Lucerne became another highlight of my train time.
P.S. They have great food on board, so if you want to have fine dining on a Swiss boat, this would be a great option.
I seriously love the idea of the Swiss Travel Pass – if you travel within Switzerland, then a STP might be one of the smartest investments. The price seemed a bit high at the beginning but once I found out what was included, it seemed more reasonable and after having used it extensively, I think it is definitely a good investment and worth every penny.
If you plan to hike and stay in one city only, a STP might not be worth it. If you are ready to discover more than one part of Switzerland and get around, then the STP will be a great choice for any of you. If you are traveling within Europe a Eurail Pass would be a great option.
Swiss trains redefine punctuality – because Swiss trains are actually on time. I never had issues with punctuality or train cancellations. It was very easy to find my way around each train station (apart from the train station in Zurich which is just huge).
I mostly decided very, very spontaneously which places to visit and so I was a regular visitor of the SBB website to check out timetables – and could always rely on correct information.
If I had a few wishes free….
I wished that each train had a photographer´s compartment – where windows could be opened.
I also missed the fact that the trains, even first-class compartments, did not have any WiFi on board. Though I mostly looked out of the window or took, rather on my phone, it would be something that would make train riding even better.
Is train riding the only or ultimate way to get around in Switzerland?
I would not say it is the ultimate and only way, but it is definitely an amazing way – the best window views guaranteed.
I would and did recommend anybody to travel to Switzerland by train – if you stay in Switzerland for a few days are curious to see several places A Swiss Travel Pass quickly pays off – and I am already looking forward going on my next “Swiss Train Travel.
Disclaimer: Swiss Travel Pass AG provided me with a Swiss Travel Pass. But, as always, opinions are my own. For more information on the Swiss Travel Pass click here.
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