Transportation cards and Swiss rail passes for international visitors give savings when traveling on trains, buses, boats, trams, and cable cars in Switzerland.
Travelers to Switzerland can save on transportation costs by using special travel cards and passes that are valid on trains, buses, boats, and cable cars. Many of the international offers include a half-fare travel card and free travel for children, which make these Swiss passes more valuable than most regular rail passes. The savings options are at first glance very confusing but the possible savings make it well worth working through the various savings deals. Trainline and Omio are easy to use and often have great deals on train tickets. SBB quotes half-fare prices as default.
The Swiss international transportation savings offers are only available to travelers not resident in Switzerland or Liechtenstein and often must be bought outside Switzerland. Swiss residents and foreign travelers may enjoy many other savings on Swiss public transportation.
A quick glance at the validity map (PDF map) shows that the international Swiss travel cards and passes are valid on virtually all modes of transportation in the Swiss parts of the Lake Geneva region.
Savings Deals for International Travelers on Swiss Trains, Buses and Boats
The basic savings options for international travelers, i.e. visitors not resident in Switzerland, are as follows:
- Swiss Family Card – allowing children under 16 to travel for free with parents.
- Swiss Travel Pass – a typical European railway pass available in a variety of versions.
- Swiss Half-Fare Card – gives 50% discount on almost all public transportation tickets in Switzerland.
- Regional Passes – saving passes on transportation (and sightseeing) in various regions of Switzerland.
The previous Swiss Transfer Ticket that provided return transportation from the port of entry to the final destination in Switzerland has been dropped.
Savings for Children with the Swiss Family Card
Families traveling with children 6 to 16 may add for free the Swiss Family Card to any of the international card offers mentioned below. This allows children to travel for free on almost all trains, buses, boats, trams, and cable cars in Switzerland. The Swiss Family Card must be added at time of purchase – otherwise, a Junior Card must be bought separately for CHF30. The card is valid in the class of travel of the parent’s ticket.
Children aged 6 to 16 not traveling in the company of parents, may buy any of the passes or cards, except the half-fare card, for half the regular adult price. If traveling without discount cards or passes on Swiss railways and buses, children aged 6 to 16 pay only half the regular fares while children under 6 travel for free.
The similar Children’s Co-travelcard (CHF30) allows a child to travel for free with a named accompanying adult other than parents.
Save with the Swiss Travel Passes and Swiss Travel Pass Flex on Transportation in Switzerland
The Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Travel Pass Flex are typical European rail passes that allow for unlimited travel on almost all trains, buses, trams, boats, and many cable cars in Switzerland — some cable cars give only 50% discount. The Swiss Travel Pass is available for consecutive days of travel ranging from 3 to 15 days while the Swiss Travel Pass Flex allows for unlimited travel on 3 to 15 days during a one-month period.
Both the Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Travel Pass Flex are available in First and Second Class versions with discounts available for youth passes for travelers under 25 years.
The Swiss Travel Pass is a good deal for visitors planning extensive journeys on public transportation or planning to use the most-expensive mountain railways and cable cars. (Seat reservations and surcharges are not included in the pass but only needed for a few very special panoramic journeys such as the Glacier and Bernina Express trains and for the mountain railway to Jungfraujoch.)
The Swiss Travel Pass is also a Swiss Museum Pass, which gives free admission to most museums in Switzerland. The Swiss Travel Pass Flex gives the same benefit only on days selected for unlimited travel. (A half-fare card may be added separately.)
The Swiss Travel Pass is available for travel in first or second class as a standard Swiss Travel Pass or a Swiss Youth Pass for travelers up to 25 years old.
The Swiss Pass and Swiss Flexi Pass are available in Switzerland but are best bought in advance. The Swiss Travel Pass is easily bought online from Get Your Guide but it may also be bought directly from Swiss Railways, although it is quite well hidden in the current website design.
- See Save with the Swiss Travel Pass on Trains and Transportation in Switzerland for more details on these passes.
Save with the Swiss Half-Fare Card on Transportation in Switzerland
A very popular savings option that pays for itself very quickly is the Swiss Half-Fare Card. The Swiss Half-Fare Card gives 50% discounts on almost all forms of transportation in Switzerland including trains, buses, trams, boats, and cable cars.
The international Swiss Half-Fare Card is valid for a month and cost CHF120. The Half-Fare Card is not class-bound and gives 50% discount whether traveling in first or second class. The Swiss Family Card may be added for free to the Half-Fare Card at time of purchase. No half-fare card is available for children under 16 as they travel for half price anyway.
Travelers staying in Switzerland for longer than a month or visiting more than once during a twelve-month period, should consider buying the regular Swiss Half-Fare Card. Many of the additional savings available to regular Half-Fare Card bearers are also extended to the international one-month Half-Fare Card but not the right to buy a monthly GA card or to add Track 7.
The Swiss Half-Fare Card is easiest bought from any Swiss railway station – the one-month card (no photo required) is issued on the spot while a temporary card for immediate use is issued for half-fare cards with a longer validity (photo essential). The annual Swiss Half-Fare Card requires a free Swiss Pass, which is often a bit of a hassle to arrange from outside Switzerland.
For more savings deals on Swiss transportation available to both international travelers and Swiss residents see Cheap Swiss Transportation Tickets and Railway Passes.
More Tips for Saving on Swiss Transportation:
- Swiss Transportation Savings Deals (include information on dogs and bicycles too!)
- Omio and Trainline sell train and bus tickets for Switzerland and most of Europe. Both are easy to use and often have very good deals for specific trains.
- How to Get and Use the Swiss Pass Card
- Swiss Railways English website for timetables and online tickets — note half-fare tickets are the default choice.
- Switzerland Transportation Map (PDF File showing where the discount deals are valid)
- Save with the Swiss Half-Fare Card on Public Transportation
- International Savings Passes on Swiss Transportation (including information on the Swiss Family Card and international Half-Fare Card)
- Families Save with the Cheap Junior Card on Swiss Public Transportation
- Using the Swiss Travel Pass and Flexi Swiss Travel Pass.
- Buying Swiss Travel Passes from Get Your Guide.
- Book holidays by train from Great Rail Journeys (UK).