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Switzerland was an absolute joy to visit and a big reason for that was how easy the Swiss Travel Pass made it to explore the country by public transportation.
For my two week trip to Switzerland, I decided to utilize the Swiss Travel Pass since it was inclusive of many different types of transportation, straightforward and easy to use, with a range of benefits I hadn’t seen from other travel passes. Most of all, I was excited about the potential to save money and make travel in Switzerland more affordable.
Swiss Travel Pass Guide- Tips for Buying and Using the Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel Pass is worth considering if you will primarily be travelling by train in Switzerland. The Swiss Travel Pass can also be worth buying if you plan on doing mountain excursions and scenic boat cruises, visiting museums, and using local public transportation.
To help you decide if the Swiss Travel Pass is worth buying for your trip, I used my personal experience to put together this guide. In it I answer some frequently asked questions about the Swiss Travel Pass, break down what I spent and saved, and share my review of the Swiss Travel Pass.
I hope this Swiss Travel Pass guide helps you decide if the Swiss Travel Pass is worth buying for your trip.
What is the Swiss Travel Pass?
The Swiss Travel Pass is an all-in-one ticket for foreign travellers to explore Switzerland by train, bus, and boat, for a period of 3, 4, 8, or 15 consecutive days.
Who Can Buy the Swiss Travel Pass?
The Swiss Travel Pass is designed for foreign visitors to Switzerland. It’s available to anyone except residents of Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Where Can I Use the Swiss Travel Pass?
The Swiss Travel Pass can be used throughout the entire country on all railways, boats, and buses.
What are the Benefits of the Swiss Travel Pass?
The Swiss Travel Pass is very comprehensive with numerous advantages for travellers in Switzerland. The main benefits of the Swiss Travel Pass are:
- free unlimited travel in Switzerland by train, bus, and boat
- free unlimited use of public transportation in more than 90 towns and cities
- free unlimited travel on premium panorama trains (mandatory reservations cost extra)
- free mountain excursions to Rigi, Schilthorn, Stanserhorn, and Stoos
- a 50% discount on many other mountain lifts
- free admission to more than 500 museums
Some bonus perks of the Swiss Travel Pass are:
- up to 30% off SBB RailAway leisure activities and holidays (available at ticket counters in Switzerland)
- discount of CHF 5.00 for bike rentals at Rent-a-Bike shops (about 200 locations, 80 which are at railway stations)
What are the Types of Swiss Travel Passes?
There are two things you need to decide when buying a Swiss Travel Pass- what class of ticket you want and how many days you want to use the pass.
You can choose between a first or second class Swiss Travel Pass and both options have validity periods of 3, 4, 8, or 15 consecutive days.
First class passes allow travel in first class cars, which are less crowded and have slightly larger seats. I travelled with a first class pass and loved being able to spread out and keep my luggage close.
Second class passes are for travel in second class cars, which are more crowded as that’s the class of ticket locals tend to buy.
An alternative to the standard pass is the Swiss Travel Pass Flex. The flex ticket allows you to use your pass for the selected number of days over a 1 month period (you’re not limited by consecutive days). For example, if you buy an 8 day flex pass, you can travel as much as you want on 8 days during the 1 month period. The flex pass can be beneficial for people who are spending a few days in each destination.
How Much Does the Swiss Travel Pass Cost?
Prices shown are accurate as of February 2019 and are subject to change.
First Class Swiss Travel Pass
3 day: CHF 369.00
4 day: CHF 447.00
8 day: CHF 663.00
15 day: CHF 810.00
Second Class Swiss Travel Pass
3 day: CHF 232.00
4 day: CHF 281.00
8 day: CHF 418.00
15 day: CHF 513.00
Travellers under age 26 can buy a Youth Swiss Travel Pass for 15% less than the regular pass.
How Do I Buy the Swiss Travel Pass?
You can buy the Swiss Travel Pass at service desks in Swiss train stations or, more conveniently, purchase the Swiss Travel Pass online and have it emailed to you ready to use as soon as you arrive in Switzerland.
If you purchase the pass online, you will be sent a PDF ticket that you can print off at home and save to your phone for safekeeping. The Swiss Travel Pass Flex is only available as a physical ticket.
When buying the Swiss Travel Pass you will need your passport number and the date you want to start using your pass. This information will be printed on your ticket.
The pass comes with a map of validity so you can easily see all the railways, buses, boats, cable cars, and urban areas where you can use your pass for free travel. The map also shows mountain lifts where you get a price reduction as well as the few lifts where no discount applies.
How Do I Activate the Swiss Travel Pass?
When you buy a Swiss Travel Pass, it comes activated and ready to use. You would have chosen a start date at the time of purchase, so simply begin using it on the date printed on your pass.
How Do I Use the Swiss Travel Pass?
With a Swiss Travel Pass you can just hop on a train and go. When the ticket inspector comes around, present your pass to be scanned. Technically, you’re supposed to show your passport along with your pass, but I was only asked for ID once. Still, it’s best to make sure that both your pass and passport are easily accessible for when the inspector comes around.
Are Seat Reservations Included in the Swiss Travel Pass?
It’s not necessary to make seat reservations for most trains in Switzerland. Exceptions to this are premium panorama trains like the Bernina Express, Glacier Express, Gotthard Panorama Express, and Palm Express. For these trains a mandatory seat reservation and/or supplement are required, even though the Swiss Travel Pass covers the cost of your journey ticket.
Will the Swiss Travel Pass Save Me Money?
Whether or not the Swiss Travel Pass will save you money depends on your itinerary and what benefits you plan to take advantage of.
A good way to check if the Swiss Travel Pass will save you money, is to use the SBB Mobile app or website to get ticket prices for your route. Once you find the cost of all individual tickets you’d need, compare that to the price of your desired Swiss Travel Pass.
In my case, the Swiss Travel Pass did save me money. After I got home, I calculated how much I would have spent without the pass compared to with the pass. Here’s a breakdown of what I spent and saved using a 15 day Swiss Travel Pass.
15 Day First Class Swiss Travel Pass: CHF 810.00 (in 2019)
15 First Class Train Trips: Without pass= CHF 953.20 With pass= CHF 61.00 (for seat reservations on Glacier Express and Bernina Express)
4 First Class Boat Trips: Without pass= CHF 193.40 With pass= Free
3 Mountain Excursions: Without pass= CHF 160.00 With pass= CHF 80.00
Final Verdict: If I had bought individual tickets for all my trips, I would have spent CHF 1,306.60. With the Swiss Travel Pass, I spent CHF 141.00 plus CHF 810.00 to buy the pass, for a total of CHF 951.00.
This means I saved CHF 355.60 by using the Swiss Travel Pass. With the exchange rate at the time of writing, this works out to be $467.35 CAD. So as you can see, the Swiss Travel Pass saved me a significant amount of money. I didn’t even factor in the money I saved using local buses and the discounts I got on bike rentals, so in actuality, the savings are even higher.
Part of the reason I saved so much with the pass is because I was always on the move. I travelled all over the country visiting many destinations, ascending mountains, cruising on boats, and renting bikes.
Also, many of the train trips I took were quite expensive. I rode both the Glacier Express and Bernina Express panoramic trains, and had a four hour journey from Locarno to Zermatt.
Would I Buy the Pass Again?- My Swiss Travel Pass Review
The Swiss Travel Pass made getting around during my first trip to Switzerland a breeze. I avoided the hassle of buying individual tickets, didn’t waste time standing in line at stations, and had the flexibility to make impromptu trips without it affecting my budget. I spontaneously took a few boat cruises knowing I wouldn’t have to dip into my spending money. Such great freedom for sightseeing!
Convenience aside, the Swiss Travel Pass saved me a lot of money compared to buying individual tickets. For that reason alone, the Swiss Travel Pass was worth buying. I would definitely use it again on a future trip to Switzerland.
For me, the best thing about the Swiss Travel Pass was how comprehensive it was (so much more than a typical rail pass). I wasn’t limited to one type of transportation and could travel for free on boats, buses, trains, and some cable cars. Even when certain mountain lifts I used weren’t included in the pass, I still got a significant 50% discount for most of them.
The Swiss Travel Pass wasn’t just beneficial for long distance travel and mountain excursions. I got a small discount when I rented bikes and used the pass to travel for free on local buses in most towns I visited. I appreciated being able to use the pass for urban transportation, as it meant one less thing to worry about figuring out and paying for!
I honestly wish that every country’s travel passes were as extensive, uncomplicated, and good value as the Swiss Travel Pass. Of all the transportation passes I’ve used so far, I’d rank this one as the best. Just another reason to love Switzerland!
Is the Pass Right For You?- Should You Buy the Swiss Travel Pass?
Since I had such a great experience using the Swiss Travel Pass, I have no hesitation recommending it. It was a stress-free, easy way to save money while travelling in Switzerland.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t do some calculations before buying the Swiss Travel Pass, as potential savings will depend on your itinerary and how you intend to use the pass.
The Swiss Travel Pass may be worth buying if:
- You will mainly be travelling by train in Switzerland.
- You will be travelling long distances by train.
- You will be visiting many different places, making frequent trips on public transportation.
- You plan on sightseeing from premium panoramic trains like the Glacier Express and Bernina Express.
- You want to save time and avoid the hassle of buying tickets for each trip.
- You like the freedom to take spontaneous side trips without it affecting your budget.
- You plan on doing some mountain excursions and boat trips.
- You want to visit museums.
Buy Your Swiss Travel Pass Online
If you’ve decided that the Swiss Travel Pass is right for you, here is a trusted, leading retailer where you can purchase your Swiss Travel Pass online and have it sent to you ready to use. Passes sold through the included link earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you, and help support this website. Thank you!
I was hosted by Switzerland Tourism in order to bring you this story. As always, I speak only the truth and hosts have no editorial influence on articles.