If you’re planning any Switzerland travel, particularly if you are planning to travel Switzerland by train, you most likely have come across the Swiss Travel Pass for tourists. The Swiss Travel Pass is an all-inclusive Swiss travel pass which not only allows you to travel via the Swiss rail system, but also provides entry into a range of attractions and travel on buses and ferries as well.
Note: all information in this guide applies for Swiss Travel Passes purchased for use in 2019 except where otherwise noted.
The Swiss Travel Pass provides tourists with not only exceptional value but also makes travel within Switzerland extremely convenient. Whilst its initial outlay may appear expensive, once you add up the price of individual Swiss rail tickets, plus the entry to a few museums, you will see that in no time at all you have easily got value from this Swiss pass for tourists.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about making bookings, carrying around multiple train tickets and even being concerned with missing a train - because you can simply catch the next one!
Even the popular Switzerland scenic train routes are included in this pass! That’s right panoramic trains like the Glacier Express and the Golden Pass train are covered by the Swiss rail pass. So if you have been dreaming of doing one of the stunning Switzerland rail tours, you can use the pass to arrange your very own Switzerland train tour.
In this article I will provide a detailed summary of the Swiss Travel Pass so you know the various Switzerland rail pass options available and you can determine exactly which offers the best value for you. I will also cover off on all the Swiss pass inclusions as well as the Swiss pass price.
Just to avoid any confusion, the Swiss Travel Pass is also often referred to as a Swiss Pass, Swiss Railway Pass, Swiss Rail Pass and any similar combination of words - but they are all the same thing.
Cost of Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Pass cost depends upon the type of Swiss Travel Pass you purchase as well as the option you choose in terms of the number of days.
The table below lists the different Swiss train pass prices for the consecutive and flexible passes (all prices are in Swiss francs).
|3 days||3 days||4 days||4 days||8 days||8 days||15 days||15 days|
|2nd class||1st class||2nd class||1st class||2nd class||1st class||2nd class||1st class|
As mentioned above, the consecutive and flexible passes are available to people under 26 years of age with a 15% discount to the Swiss Travel Pass cost.
The Swiss rail pass cost for the Half Fare Card is CHF120 and of course, as mentioned below, the Swiss Pass Family Card is completely free of charge.
What is a Swiss Travel Pass?
Whilst the term 'Swiss Travel Pass' encompasses all the various different types of Swiss Travel Passes (these are discussed below), there is also a pass called the 'Swiss Travel Pass'.
Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel Pass is a consecutive travel pass, meaning you can use it every day it is valid for. These passes come in 3,4, 8 or 15 day durations and are available in either first or second class. Click here to check prices.
Swiss Travel Pass Flex
The Swiss Travel Pass Flex can be used on a set number of days during a 1-month period. The passes come in a 3, 4, 8 or 15 day durations - so for example you can use your pass on 3 days within the 1-month period - but not every day. The Swiss flexi pass is also available in either first or second class. Click here to check prices.
Swiss Travel Pass Youth
If you’re after a hefty Swiss Travel Pass discount and are under 26 years of age, then you are in luck. The Swiss Travel Pass Youth is available for people aged under 26 and is basically either the Swiss Travel Pass or the Swiss Travel Pass Flex but at a huge 15% discount.
Swiss Half Fare Card
If you’re not keen on the upfront investment of any of the Swiss Travel Passes mentioned above, another great option is the Swiss Half Fare Card. The Swiss half fare travel card allows you to purchase Swiss train tickets at a discount of 50%. You are also entitled to a discount on other public transport, but the discount is not always as much as 50%. Click here to check prices.
The Swiss half price card is valid for 1 month and, depending upon how long you intend on visiting Switzerland and how much train travel you will be doing, may well be the best option for you.
Swiss Family Pass / Swiss Family Card
If you’re traveling with children under the age of 16 year, then the Swiss Family Card is a must! The Swiss Family Pass is completely free of charge when a parent holds one of the Swiss Travel Passes mentioned above and allows children to travel for free.
If your children are under 6 years of age, they don’t require a Swiss Family Travel Pass as they travel for free regardless. But you will need a Swiss Family Card for children older than 6, simply go to anywhere the Swiss Travel Pass is sold or at any Swiss Federal Railways station and request one.
If a child under 16 years of age is traveling alone without a parent, they receive a 50% discount on the various Swiss travel system tickets and passes.
A Swiss Travel Pass is an economical way to enjoy your very own Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. Click here to see my suggested itinerary.
What are the Swiss Pass benefits?
As mentioned above, there are a stack of Swiss Pass benefits - it’s not just all about Swiss train tickets for tourists. The Swiss Travel Pass benefits are as follows:
- Without a doubt the biggest saving with the Swiss Train Pass for tourists is the inclusion of all long-distance bus, ferry and trains in Switzerland. This even includes all the Swiss Scenic trains, so you could plan your entire train travel in Switzerland by taking the most scenic route (note that some scenic routes require a supplement and / or reservation - see below for more information).
- The pass also covers the use of public transportation in Switzerland in 90 towns and cities.
- There are a stack of great attractions covered by the pass too. In fact the pass provides entry into over 500 different attractions in Switzerland. All the best museums are included. Click here for the full list.
- 2 of the most popular Switzerland mountain train day trips are also included. These day trips are Stanserhorn and Rigi. There is no limit to how many trips you do - do them all and go back again if you want to! Other mountain excursions receive discounts of up to 50%. (Note: until 31 December, 2019, the Stechelberg-Schilthorn cable car is free of charge with the Swiss Travel Pass. From 1 January, 2020, a 50% discount off the regular fare will apply.)
- One of the most popular mountain excursions in Switzerland is a visit to Jungfraujoch - the highest altitude railway station in Europe. You can even get discount Jungfraujoch tickets with Swiss Pass. Whilst the Swiss Travel Pass Jungfraujoch tickets are not completely included, you do get a 25% discount and of course kids travel free if they hold a Swiss Rail Family Pass.
- You can also receive a discount of up to 30% of the various SBB offers which are available at ticket counters across Switzerland.
Travelling the Switzerland Scenic Train Routes with a Swiss Travel Pass
If you’re interested in any of the scenic Switzerland railway routes, below is some brief information.
GoldenPass Line - included with Swiss Travel Pass
The GoldenPass Line, which runs between Luzern and Montreux, includes three different trains, takes in three different mountain passes including the famous 4000-metre Alpine peaks, as well as going past eight stunning lakes. If you ride all three trains, the entire journey will take around 5.5 hours.
From Lucerne to Interlaken Ost, the Luzern-Interlaken Express passes five stunning mountain lakes as well as waterfalls and rivers. You also might be lucky to see glimpses of Eiger, the Mönch and Jungfrau. This train journey takes just under two hours.
Between Interlaken Ost and Zweisimmen the BLS RegioExpress train passes through narrow valleys and alongside the River Simme as well as Lake Thun.
Between Zweisimmen and Montreux you have the choice of travelling on the Classic or Panoramic train. The Classic train has an old historical luxurious feel to it, whilst the Panoramic train is more modern. Regardless of which train you take, the journey is the same which sees you going through mountain villages, alpine forests and provides fantastic views of Lake Geneva
All trains on the Golden Pass are completely covered by the Swiss Travel Pass with no reservation or supplement required. However to avoid disappointment it is recommend to make a reservation.
For the Luzern-Interlaken Express section the optional seat reservation fees are CHF8 or CHF12 from 18 May to 27 October 2020, which includes a CHF5 credit at the bistro.
For the remaining sections, passengers may choose to book an aperitif with their reservation at the rate of CHF33.
Glacier Express - included with Swiss Travel Pass
All aboard the Glacier Express, also referred to the slowest express train in the world. At 8 hours, the journey between Zermatt and St Moritz may not be fast but it certainly is stunning.
The entire Glacier Express journey makes its way between the Alps, through narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels and across 291 bridges. However you don’t need to take the entire trip as the journey is split up into four different sections all with their own unique scenery: Zermatt to Brig, Brig to Andermatt, Andermatt to Chur and Chur to St Moritz or Chur to Davos.
Each section of the Glacier Express is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass with no supplement required, however a reservation is mandatory. Seat reservation fees are as follows:
- Low season (until 29 March 2020): Long section CHF23 and short section CHF13;
- Shoulder season (30 March – 29 May and 16 Sept – 13 Oct 2020): Long section CHF33 and short section CHF23; and
- High season (30 May – 15 Sept 2020): Long section CHF43 and short section CHF33.
Bernina Express - included with Swiss Travel Pass
The Bernina Express is a 4-hour train journey from Chur to Tirano. Across two sections, this scenic route takes you through alpine forests to the Poschiavo Valley in the Mediterranean.
Along the route you will pass right through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rhaetian Railway where you pass by glaciers as well as palm trees. The rail journey entails passing 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges.
Passengers can take the journey from Chur to Pontresina and / or Pontresina to Tirano. During the Summer months there is also the option of taking a 3-hour bus ride from Tirano to Lugano.
Each section of the Bernina Express is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass with no supplement required, however a reservation is mandatory. Seat reservation fees are as follows:
- Summer season (1 June–29 Sept 2020): CHF16;
- Shoulder season (2 Mar–31 May/30 Sept–27 Oct 2020): CHF14; and
- Winter season: (until 1 Mar/28 Oct–14 Dec 2020) CHF10
If you plan to take the Bernina Express bus connection between Tirano and Lugano, you need to make bus reservations, too!
Gotthard Panorama Express - included with Swiss Travel Pass
Up until recently this scenic route was known as the Wilhelm Tell Express. Now called the Gotthard Panorama Express, this 5.5-hour journey takes passengers from Lucerne to Lugano, with the first part of the journey being via boat on Lake Lucerne.
The train journey component of the trip will take you through the historical Gotthard route which passes by the Wassen Church and numerous tunnels including the Gotthard tunnel between Göschenen and Airolo, which opened in 1882. The last part of the trip takes travellers past stunning Mediterranean landscapes, complete with palm trees.
This train trip is only available to first class passengers, so if you only hold a second-class Swiss Travel pass you will need to upgrade your ticket. In addition, you will also be required to pay a surcharge of CHF16 per person.
Should I buy a Swiss Travel Pass or individual Switzerland train tickets?
In most cases you are always going to be better off purchasing at least some form of Swisspass rather than purchase individual Switzerland train tickets.
When it comes to purchasing individual tickets for Switzerland train trips, there are many variables that determine the price. The main factor is when you book the tickets as well as the timing of the actual train travel. Booking last minute tickets tend to be most expensive, which means you can’t be very flexible with your travel.
The benefit of having a Swiss Travel Pass is not only will you save money (which I can pretty much guarantee you will) but you can also be more flexible with your train travel. There is no need to snap up cheap tickets, because the pass will cover your train tickets regardless of the price.
You could even simply turn up at the station and jump on a train - however keep in mind that a seat may not always be available for you if you don’t make an advance booking.
If the majority of your time in Switzerland will be spent in the Interlaken region, you can compare the value of the Swiss Travel Pass to the Regional Pass Berner Oberland and Jungfrau Travel Pass to see which is the best value for your itinerary by clicking here.
Also remember that with the Swiss Travel Pass, museums and other attractions are also included, so you will get free entry into a range of places as well.
In order to determine whether you should book individual Swiss train trips or purchase a Swiss rail pass for tourists, I recommend you complete the following tasks:
- List out all the individual train trips in Switzerland you intend to take and using the SBB site find out how much it would cost for point to point tickets (just keep in mind that the cost of tickets tend to increase the closer to the time of travel);
- List out all the attractions you plan on visiting and look up the admission costs on the attraction’s websites; and
- Add up the totals from above and compare this total to the cost of the different Swiss train travel pass options mentioned above.
If the cost of the individual Swiss train journeys and attractions you plan on visiting are more than the Swiss Travel Pass price, then you will benefit from purchasing a pass.
Best place to buy Swiss Travel Pass
Whilst you can buy this Switzerland Travel Pass at most rail stations in Switzerland, in order to start using your pass as soon as you arrive in Switzerland, the best place to buy Swiss Travel pass is online.
Unlike some other European rail passes, with the Swiss pass you can print them out at home, which makes purchasing them online super easy and convenient. Click here to purchase your Swiss Travel Card and then as soon you arrive in Switzerland you can start taking advantage of all the benefits that comes with the pass.
Also just to note that the Swiss Travel Pass is only available for purchase by people who permanently live outside of Switzerland.
TIP: If you have the option to purchase a printed (paper) ticket or a e-ticket that is downloaded to your phone or device, I recommend taking the printed ticket option. This eliminates any problems if your phone is lost or damaged during your trip, or your battery goes flat.
Where and how do I have to get my tickets validated?
When you receive your Swiss rail travel pass, you are good to go and there is nothing you need to do to activate the pass.
However if you are traveling with a Swiss Travel Pass Flex, you are required to enter the date of the travel day before commencing your journey. If however you are travelling on a consecutive day pass you simply board the train and show your pass to the ticket inspector when requested to do so.
It’s important to know that your pass is valid from midnight from the first day of validity until 5 am on the following morning on the last day of validity.
Timetable/schedules for Swiss rail travel
With the fantastic Swiss train schedule, you’ll be able to get pretty much any where you want to go in Switzerland. However for precise times, you can look up the Swiss rail timetable on the SBB Mobile App.
This App will not only help you plan what Swiss train routes you need to take to reach your destination, but will also provide you with helpful information as to which platform you need to go to and provide real time updates, so you’ll know whether or train is going to be on time or late.
Swiss Rail Map
It is recommended that you download the Swiss train map so you know exactly where the Switzerland train pass applies. However as you can see from the Swiss travel pass map it is fairly comprehensive and most Swiss railway journeys are covered.
The Swiss Travel Passes are valid for train, boat and bus routes marked on the map with a continuous line, whilst travel on public transport is included in towns and cities marked on the map with a red/white dot.
Where a dotted line appears, travel is available at a 50% discount.
My experience using the Swiss Travel Pass
I’ve used a Swiss Travel Pass on numerous occasions when travelling in Switzerland and love the ease with which you can get around. Here are some of the reasons I love it:
- Arriving at the airport with a pre-purchased Swiss Travel Pass in hand, it is simply a matter of hopping aboard a train bound for the city. There’s no need to queue at the ticket counter to purchase a ticket.
- Getting around the city on public transport is easy, too. Again, there’s no need to buy tickets, you just hop on a local train, tram or bus (or boat, in some cases) and go where you want.
- With entry to so many museums covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, it’s great to be able to show your pass at the ticket desk and be waved through for free. Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva, Thun Castle, FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne are just a few of the 500 or so museums that are included with the pass.
- Being able to experience some of Switzerland’s panoramic train rides is another reason I love the Swiss Travel Pass. I’ve used it to travel for free on the GoldenPass Line and the Bernina Express.
- Mountain excursions play a big part in my visits to Switzerland, too and with the Swiss Travel Pass there are big discounts available. Excursions to Mt. Rigi and Stanserhorn are free for pass holders and rides on most other cable cars and funiculars come with a 50% discount.
- The Swiss Travel Pass is great if you are travelling with children, as we have done on many occasions. When purchasing our Swiss Travel Pass, we simply requested a Swiss Family Card and our two children travelled for free.
As you can see, there are many reasons that make buying a Swiss Travel Pass a good idea.
I hope you have found this guide to the Swiss Travel Pass useful and you can now confidently purchase the right pass - either Consecutive, Flexible or Half Fare Card - for your train travel in Switzerland.