The Swiss Railways Half-Fare Card gives 50% discounts on tickets for trains, buses, trams, boats, and cable cars in Switzerland.
The Swiss Half-Fare card is a fantastic savings deal for travelers in Switzerland using public transportation. Bearers can use almost all trains, buses, trams, boats, and cable cars for half the normal ticket fare. The half-fare card quickly pays for itself even if using trains and public transportation only sporadically. The Swiss Half-Fare Card is added to a Swiss Pass and valid for one year and renews automatically if not canceled. A cheaper youth card is sold for travelers aged 16 to 25. Non-residents may also buy a one-month international half-fare card online or at any Swiss train station for immediate use.
The Swiss Pass Card
The Swiss Pass is a transportation and travel card system used in Switzerland for almost all forms of public transportation passes and discount cards for trains, buses, and ski passes. It is credit-card size and a physical card is essential. After purchase, the card is mailed within two weeks to a mailing address in Switzerland — orders are also possible (but more complicated and slower) to many addresses outside Switzerland. The Swiss Pass itself is not a traveling ticket but various passes and discount offers are linked to the card.
→ See How to Get and Use the Swiss Pass Card for more details.
Save with a Swiss Half-Fare Transportation Card
The main advantage of using a Half-Fare Card is saving 50% on virtually all forms of public transportation in Switzerland – this saving is also applied to many private railway lines, boats, and cable cars. When buying tickets, simply select the ½ fare button, or the child fare, which is usually half the regular ticket price. (For very short journeys or cheap tickets, the savings may be less than 50%.)
See the Switzerland transportation map (PDF File) for the area of validity of the Swiss Half-Fare Card. The card is referred to as the Halbtax Abo in German or Demi-Tarif in French – press the ½ button on vending machines to get the discounted tickets.
The 50% savings apply to any class of travel as the Half-Fare Card is not class-bound. Families with children age 6 to 16 can save by using the Junior Card, or Swiss Family Card for international travelers. Children under 6 travel for free.
Buying the Swiss Half-Fare Card for Discounts on Swiss Transportation
The Swiss Half-Fare Card can be bought from any Swiss train station or online through Swiss Railways as part of the Swiss Pass travel card system. Identification and a photo are required. Anyone may buy the Swiss Half-Fare Card – a Swiss address is not required but the Swiss Pass card linked to the half-fare savings will only be delivered through the mail. If required, a temporary half-fare card is issued that may be used immediately for travel savings.
The Swiss Half-Fare Card is CHF190 per year and automatically renews (CHF170) for the next year if not canceled at least a month before its expiry date. The previous savings for multiple year cards and the Halbtax with Visa cards are no longer offered. A new Halbtax PLUS is a good option for travelers willing to pay between CHF800 and CHF2100 in advance.
The Half-Fare Travelcard Youth is a good deal for travelers between 16 and under 25 years: it is CHF120 for the first year and CHF100 for the following years.
Non-Swiss residents may buy the standard one-year card for CHF190, or an international Swiss Half-Fare Card valid for a month for CHF120. This card may include for free the Swiss Family Card, which functions as a Junior Card but only if the child’s name is added at the time of purchase. The one-month travel card can be bought from any Swiss train station or online from SBB – it is issued immediately and no photo is required.
Further Advantages of Traveling with the Swiss Half-Fare Transportation Card
Bearers of the annual Swiss Half-Fare Card (not the international 30-day version) also enjoy further benefits not available to all travelers. These advantages include:
- Day Travel Passes – only bearers of the Half-Fare Card may buy day tickets (Tageskarte / Carte journalière), which is valid for unlimited travel on the Swiss transportation network. These day travel passes are CHF75 in second class and CHF127 for first-class travel. (The cheaper after 9 am card is no longer sold.)
- Cross border journeys – discounts of 15% on German and Austrian rail tickets for cross border journeys provided that the tickets are bought inside Switzerland. 15% discounts are also given on TGV-Lyria journeys in France. (Better offers may be found across the borders though.)
- Small discounts on bike rentals, Europcar car rental, and discounts on railaway offers.
More Tips for Saving on Swiss Transportation:
- Swiss Transportation Savings Deals (include information on dogs and bicycles too!)
- Trainline sells train and bus tickets for Switzerland and most of Europe. It is easy to use and often has 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).