The Best Swiss Rail Passes to Travel Around Switzerland

The Best Swiss Rail Passes to Travel Around Switzerland

Buying a Swiss Rail Pass is one of the best ways to travel around Switzerland. The train network is one of the best in the world. It offers eco-friendly transport with easy access to hundreds of train, boat and bus routes.

The trains are clean, comfortable, and the staff are very helpful and friendly. You can see as much of Switzerland as you want. Seek out local towns, climb mountain peaks and cruise aqua blue lakes.

But choosing the best rail pass can be a bit of a minefield. With so many great options, it can be difficult to work out which pass is best. Budgets, itineraries and activity choice all need to be considered.

We spent two weeks in Switzerland staying in a small town in the Swiss Alps called Frutigen. As we are ‘living’ normal lives whilst we slow travel, we actually didn’t plan to travel around Switzerland too much.

Our weekdays were dedicated to a normal week of remote study and work. We spent all of our break-out time during the week exploring Frutigen and its local surrounding area. Which left us with just 2 weekend days to explore beyond our homestay location.

Things to Consider when travelling in Switzerland

Map of the Swiss Travelcard GA Area of Validity
Map of the Swiss Travelcard GA Area of Validity (sbb.ch)

When choosing a travel pass we had to consider a number of things. First, the unpredictable weather, we visited in September where we experienced four seasons in one day. Second, the fact we don’t like to plan our day trips too far in advance, so we didn’t really have an itinerary in mind. Last, the cost. Switzerland isn’t the cheapest of destinations, and our slow travel budget has its limits.

I spent hours and hours trawling the Swiss rail website sbb.ch. It is a great website with lots of helpful information. They recommend you to have an idea of where you want to visit, then work out the most cost-effective solution. But this wasn’t so easy for us because we didn’t have set plans.

Most Swiss travel passes offer unlimited travel on the majority of Swiss train, bus and boat routes in the GA Swiss Travelcard Area of Validity. Including some panoramic routes and with discounts on selected routes and mountain cable cars.

I searched and searched, back and forth, trying to find the most suitable pass for our needs and budget. Eventually, I found exactly what we were looking for.

So, here’s the low-down on the Swiss pass we ended up using, and other great passes available to help you travel in Switzerland efficiently and cost-effectively.

 

Choosing the Best Swiss Rail Pass for you

Swiss SBB and BLS trains

Super Saver Day Pass

This was the pass we chose and by far the most cost-effective and flexible pass for us.

Available up to 30 days before the date of travel. The idea is ‘the earlier you buy, the less you pay’. Adult fares start from CHF52, and gradually increase up to CHF106 the closer you get to the travel date. So you can see the benefit in buying the pass early.

Why was this pass best for us? Well, we knew the exact days we wanted to travel. We only wanted a pass for two days. It gave us the flexibility to travel anywhere in Switzerland we wanted to go (when we eventually decided on a plan of action). It turned out to be the cheapest option.

Ideal for you if…

✓ you know the exact dates you want to travel within Switzerland

✓ you plan to travel for less than 3 or 4 days

✓ you are able to purchase the pass from 30 to 12 days prior to the travel date

Things to consider…

? you need to purchase the pass no later than 12 days prior to the travel date to get the best price

? you will still need to factor in the cost of mountain cable cars (most are discounted by 50% with this pass)

? your name will be on the train ticket so you will need to show ID to the ticket inspectors

SBB Super Saver Day Pass

 

Swiss Travel Pass

This pass is great if you are travelling around Switzerland for 3 or more consecutive days and if you have a good idea of the places you want to visit. The pass is valid for 3, 4, 8 or 15 consecutive days ranging from CHF216 to CHF458. The pass offers the same as the Super Saver Day Pass plus free cable car transfers to Pilatus, Rigi and Schynige Platte and free admission to 500 museums.

As well as this, if you are travelling with children under 15 years, simply obtain a FREE Swiss Family Card to use alongside the Swiss Travel Pass, and the children travel for free.

A Swiss Travel Pass Youth is also available for adults under 26 years.

Ideal for you if…

✓ you plan to travel in Switzerland for more than 3 days

✓ you are travelling with children or teenagers under 15 years

✓ you want to visit lots of museums or the inclusive mountain locations

Things to consider…

? you must travel on consecutive days

? you will need to specifically choose 3, 4, 8 or 15 days to make it cost effective

? you will still need to factor in the cost of mountain cable cars (most are discounted by 50% with this pass)

 

Flexi Swiss Travel Pass

This pass offers the same benefits as the Swiss Travel Pass, but you can travel on non-consecutive days. The pass is valid for the same 3, 4, 8 or 15 non-consecutive days within a one-month period ranging from CHF248 to CHF502.

A Swiss Travel Pass Flex Youth is also available for adults under 26 years.

SBB Swiss Travel Passes

 

Boat ride on Lake Luzern
(Photo: Brett DeWoody)

Half Fare Travel Card

If you are staying in Switzerland for more than 15 days and travelling regularly on the Swiss transport network, a Half Fare Travel Card may be the best option. The card costs CHF185 and is valid for a year. It entitles you to a 50% discount on regular train tickets, the super saver day pass, the regular day pass and a one-month travelcard.

Ideal for you if…

✓ you plan to travel in Switzerland for more than 15 days, up to one year

✓ you want to take advantage of other great discounts and benefits

Things to consider…

? you will need to provide ID and a passport photo to purchase the card (this can also be done online with a digital passport photo)

? If purchasing online, allow at least 10 days for delivery

? you will still need to factor in the cost of mountain cable cars (most are discounted by 50% with this pass)

SBB Half Fare Travel Card

 

Regional Travel Pass

If you want to stay put in just one area, a regional pass is the best way to travel. All regions offer free travel on trains and buses. Some regions offer free travel on boats, cable car and cogwheel routes, others offer only certain discounts. Only some regional passes Children can travel for free, but all offer travel for children at a fixed lower rate.

Regions to choose from include Bernese Oberland, Upper Valais, Lake Geneva, Lake Lucern, Graubünden and Jungfrau.

Ideal for you if…

✓ you plan to only travel in one region of Switzerland

Things to consider…

? find out about the junior travelcard so children can travel free

My Swiss Regional Rail Passes

 

Swiss Transfer Pass

If you are arriving and departing by train, the Swiss Transfer Pass will get you from the arrival airport or border railway station to your destination, and back again for when you depart. It is valid for one month and costs CHF146. Children aged under 15 years travel free with a Swiss Family Card.

Ideal for you if…

✓ you are only travelling to and from border stations or airports and your destination

✓ you are travelling with children or teenagers under 15 years

Things to consider…

? If travelling on valid routes and you book early enough the Super Saver Day Pass may be a cheaper option

? The pass can only be purchased online or at Swiss travel points of sale outside Switzerland

SBB Swiss Transfer Pass

 

We wouldn’t travel any other way

So hopefully, this quick guide has shed some light on which pass best suits your travel needs. Travelling by train in Switzerland is definitely a great way to get around and see some stunning places.

The passes may seem expensive, but that is simply the cost to visit this country. Without a pass, you look at paying far more, so a pass is a sure way to save some money and see as much as you want.

We wouldn’t have travelled any other way!

 

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