Switzerland Transportation Guide

Switzerland is truly the most breathtaking of countries. In my opinion, the Swiss are some of the world’s smartest people. The union of the 2 facts implies that most of Switzerland is highly accessible by public transit, including some engineering marvels. Every time we look back at our pictures, all we want to do is hop back on a Swiss train. Sigh.

Writing this post is a bit easier than other countries because the train takes you to so many places so efficiently. The only other thing to know about are buses that connect to rural Switzerland. Swiss rail tickets may cost a small fortune if not carefully planned, so I hope the following tips will help.

When to buy Tickets: *DO NOT* buy tickets for fixed journeys more than 30 days in advance for Swiss train travel. This contradicts most other countries. For flexible ticket needs, it might make sense to buy it before arriving in Switzerland.

Where to buy Tickets: Get the SBB Mobile app (   ), it’s the best way to buy train, bus & even local transit tickets. It’s also the best channel with English language support. Otherwise use the SBB website (whose English language support is a bit flaky).

1. Trains

  • Switzerland has the best railway system in the world owned & operated by the Swiss Federal Railways. It’s abbreviation SBB CFF FFS stands for Swiss Federal Railways in German, French & Italian respectively (the 3 languages spoken in Switzerland)
  • The tourist trains (like the Glacier Express & other mountain trains) are generally operated by private companies. But that does not mean that we cannot score a deal on them.
  • You can take a regional train that runs on the exact same route as a tourist train.
    • Cons: No panoramic windows.
    • Pros: Regional trains have pretty large windows, cost less, more frequent
    • Example Fare: Bernina Express route Chur – Tirano costs 31 CHF supersaver, 62 CHF normally & 72 CHF on Bernina Express.
  • Supersaver Tickets (50% off now up to 70% off as of April 2018)
    • For fixed travel plans buy Super Saver tickets that are available starting 14 days before departures. There are only a limited number of these tickets so snap them up as soon as the 14 day window opens. In the best case, they will be available the day before you travel, but we are yet to see that happen.
    • Supersaver tickets can be bought for regional trains that run on scenic routes.
    • We’ve seen that sometimes when buying more than 2 tickets, the Supersaver option does not show up. Just buy the ticket 2 or 1 at a time (2+1 for 3 tickets). It’s possible that the latter tickets are slightly more expensive than 50% (and now 70%) off.
    • Tickets are non-cancellable & non-refundable so not the most suited for an airport journey to a faraway destination (ex: Geneva Airport – Zermatt). See section below for better options.
    • The new Saver Day Pass is excellent value starting from 52 CHF in 2nd class without a half fare card for unlimited day travel in the GA region. This is the idea day ticket for airport transfers now. Buy 30 days in advance to get the lowest cost.
  • Swiss Rail Passes / Flexible Airport Transfers
    • Transfer Ticket: For 141 CHF, return journey from airport/border to your final destination, offering full flexibility on those 2 days. Details.
    • The only thing that’s asked of is to go via a reasonable route. However, it’s easy to create a layover at transferring stations (if any) to sip a coffee & take in some scenery.
    • Other Swiss Travel Options: They are worth it if taking many flexible journeys. The other advantage is they provide a 50% discount on many attractions & cable cars. Full list can be seen here. Swiss Half Fare card is attractive for long term stays.
  • Scenic Railway
  • Check out SBB’s instagram for fantastic shots like the following

2. Buses


PostBus in Valais

  • Some major ski destinations (ex Saas-Fee) & parts of rural Switzerland do not have trains going to them. You can be assured that there exists a PostBus connection to them.
  • We wholeheartedly recommend doing a rural Switzerland trip due to its unspoilt beauty, low cost & fewer tourists.
  • PostBus tickets can be bought from the SBB app too & in case a rural destination is a part of your journey, you can buy combined train + bus tickets from the SBB app/website.

3. Flights

  • Get into Switzerland using flights & reach major train stations using the following connections.
    • Basel Airport (RyanAir) to Basel Bahnhof : Bus 50 from the Airport
    • Zurich or Geneva airport to respective city centre: Multiple SBB trains

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