Switzerland Tickets & Rail Passes

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OUR GENERAL EURAIL AND INTERRAIL GUIDE

This guide to Swiss train tickets and how to buy them online covers the basics of what you can expect to encounter when making bookings for journeys by SBB trains.

SBB is the national rail operator in Switzerland, but there also are many independent railway operators in Switzerland and a ticketing summary for those railways is available HERE.

So the information on this page refers to journeys by SBB train AND for journeys by SBB train + a train operated by an independent company.

Click on a question or grab a coffee and spend 5 -10 mins reading all the info and discover how to save money and stress!

How can I make savings when booking train tickets for journeys IN Switzerland?

What do I need to know about these discounted Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets?

How far ahead can I book SBB's tickets?

What do I need to know about ticket pricing when making journeys by SBB train?

What are 'Individual' tickets?

What are 'City' and 'City-to-City tickets?

How can I book seat reservations?


What about Child tickets on SBB trains?

What about bike tickets?


What if my journey involves a combination of SBB trains + and an independent/private operator's trains?

What else do I need to know when booking tickets on SBB?

Is there a rail pass that will save me money compared to buying tickets?

What is a Swiss Transfer Ticket?

Using Rail Passes in Switzerland - Summary

We have striven to ensure that the advice we present is as accurate as possible, but a guide cannot cover every combination of journeys.

So what we have set out to provide is some context for the tickets and journey options you will probably encounter when attempting to make a booking.

Swiss trains are rightly renowned for their efficiency, but if you're not Swiss then booking tickets in advance for train travel in Switzerland can be comparatively tricky - though using SBB's app is simpler than using SBB's website.

If you'll be travelling on SBB trains its worth persevering with an online booking as you can save more than 50% by booking in advance.

How To Book Tickets On The Desktop Version Of The SBB Ticket Shop - take a look at our GUIDE.

BOOKING TICKETS ONLINE FOR (SBB) TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN SWITZERLAND:

How can I make savings when booking train tickets for journeys IN Switzerland?

When looking up journeys opt for SPARBILLETTE (SUPERSAVER) tickets. 

These tickets are reduced by UP to more than 50% of the standard 'Individual Tickets' price, but unlike 'Individual Tickets', they are ONLY valid on the specific departure/train(s) you selected when booking.

When SEARCHING for a journey on the SBB website and app, look for the '%' symbolsthey're the only indication that Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets are available on a specific departure.

Discounted Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets are available on all ROUTES taken by IC and IR trains.

The Half Fare Card for Visitors:

If you will be visiting Switzerland you can purchase Half Fare Cards HERE that will be valid for 1 month.

They cost CHF 120 for adults, but live up to their name and give a 50% discount on most Swiss trains and public transport networks.

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What do I need to know about these discounted Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets?

(1) They can only be booked online - on the SBB website or its app.

(2) They are train departure specific, you can only use them on the departure you selected when making a booking

(3) If you subsequently opt to take an alternative train, you will have to buy a new ticket for the other train

(show both tickets to the conductor and you can claim a refund for your Sparbillette/Supersaver ticket, but the process costs 10CHF).

(4) On the most popular departures, particularly direct trains, these Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets can sell out days/weeks ahead, so early booking is highly recommended.

(5) They may not be available on all departures - particularly on the busiest IC express train routes, so it can pay off to be flexible with your departure/arrival times and avoid business hours.

For journeys between Zurich and both Geneve or Lausanne, they’re more likely to be available on the trains via Biel than on the trains via Bern.

(6) They're also more likely to be available on the slower IR trains when the IC trains and IR trains share the same route.

(7) Whether Supersaver tickets are available on a specific departure is indicated by the presence of a % symbol on a black triangle.

(8) A sliding scale of prices can be applied to Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets on the more popular routes – hence these tickets being UP to MORE than 50% cheaper.

The cheapest tickets for the most popular direct trains will sell out faster, so they're likely to be on sale for longer for journey options with a change of train.

Meaning that when you search, the Supersaver tickets for the direct trains, can be more expensive than indirect journeys that involve a change of train.

Or they can be sold out on the direct trains, but still available for the indirect journeys.

If you can flexible with your departure/arrival times, then it's worth taking the time to look up the prices of Supersaver tickets - what won't be obvious is that more heavily discounted tickets can be available, on the preceding OR next train to depart.

(9) You have to look up the prices of Supersaver tickets when making a booking, the price of the Supersaver tickets won't be shown unless you seek them out - as we explain on our booking GUIDE.

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How far ahead can I book SBB's tickets?

Tickets can be booked UP to a month ahead of the travel date.

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What do I need to know about ticket pricing?

When looking up journeys on SBB, don't pay attention to the prices you will initially see - these prices only apply if you have one of the discount cards, which only Swiss residents can apply for.

The price you will actually be paying for a journey will only become, once you have selcted a ticket - as explained in STEP on our step-by-step booking GUIDE.

So if will be using the Timetable functionality on SBB, to compare prices of Swiss train journeys to buses/flights, OR against the cost of using rail passes - you need to have take the trouble to have selected a ticket for the journey.

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What are 'Individual' tickets?

'Individual tickets' are standard priced (non-discounted) tickets.

Aside from the price, the other key difference with Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets is that 'Individual' tickets can be used on any departure on your date of travel.

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What are 'City' and 'City-to-City tickets?

These are similar to 'Individual' (non-discounted) tickets, but include the public transport networks in the city in which you will be commencing OR finishing a journey = 'City Tickets', or both cities = 'City-to-City tickets'.

Not only can these tickets save money*, they also save the hassle of trying to understand the ticket machines on the public transport networks.

Swiss cities don’t have subway/metro networks (Lausanne excepted), so staffed public transport ticket offices/counters are rare.

*A combination of Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets (when available) + a public transport ticket(s) is usually (much) cheaper.

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How can I book seat reservations?

When booking tickets online for journeys by SBB's Intercity IC trains it isn't possible to add an optional reservation to the booking.

Instead you need to book reservations for these trains separately online on SBB's seat reservation service.

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What about Child tickets on SBB trains?

If you're visiting Switzerland then the child tickets rules are different to those which Swiss citizens can benefit from.

For children under 6 years of age:

If you have a valid train ticket and are aged 16 or over, you can can take up to eight children aged 5 or younger with you

More info here.

Children aged 6-15:

A good option if you will travelling long distances in a day is a '1 Day Travel Pass for Children'

They cost just 16 CHF for 2nd class and 32 CHF for 2nd class but are only vlaid when the child aged 6-15 is travelling with an adult using a valid TICKET.

An adult ticket holder can be accompanied by up to 4 child pass users.

Or more simply children aged 6-15 and travelling with a person aged 16 and over, pay 50% of the adult rate per
journey.


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What about tickets for bikes?

You cannout just take a bike on board ANY train operated by SBB, you need to purchasse tickets for your bikes first.

And this can be surprisingly expensive
- the full details and prices are here.

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What if my journey involves a combination of SBB trains + and an independent/private operator's trains?

SBB’s website sells tickets for many journeys that involve a combination of SBB trains + trains operated by an independent railway.

Booking the end-to-end journeys on SBB won't cost any more than booking separate tickets and will save hassle. 

Most of the connections between SBB trains and the independent railways are tightly timed, so not having to book at an independent railway station against the clock is a big plus.

Some of the independent railways also don’t provide for online bookings and/or have ticket machines with little English translation.

So if your final destination is on an independent railway, it’s worth checking to see if SBB will sell a ticket(s) online for the entire end-to-end journey.

Popular destinations on independent railways that can be booked on SBB (tickets include the SBB train + the independent train) include:
Arosa, Engelberg, Grindelwald, Gstaad, Klosters, Le Chable, Scuol-Tarasp, Wengen and Zermatt:

Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets can be available, but when they are, only the portion of the journey by SBB train will be discounted.

Discounted tickets are hardly ever available for the standard trains on the independent railways -  even if you can book in advance online.

How To Book Tickets On The Desktop Version Of The SBB Ticket Shop - take a look at our GUIDE.

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What else do I need to know when booking tickets on SBB?

Three things are worth keeping in mind;

(1) None of the tickets that SBB sells online, Individual, City, City-to-City and Sparbillette/Supersaver can be fully refunded.

Though if you're changing trains and hold Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets for the train you are connecting into, you can still continue your journey in the rare event of a first train arriving too late to make a booked connection.

Seek out the conductor on the first train and they'll issue you with a paper that will validate your Sparbillette/Supersaver ticket on a subsequent departure.

(2) Once booked Individual, City and City-to-City tickets can't be exchanged to another travel date and Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets cannot be exchanged for alternative departures.

If you have booked a Sparbillette/Supersaver ticket and subsequently opt to catch a different train, you will have to buy a ticket at the station and then show the conductor on the train your new ticket and your Sparbillette/Supersaver ticket.

The conducutor will give you a receipt which you can use to refund your Sparbillette/Supersaver ticket online, but doing so will cost CHF 10.

(3) The prices you see on SBB will be in Swiss Francs (CHFs) and not euros.

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Is there a rail pass that will save me money compared to buying tickets?

SBB now sells 'Saver Day Passes'.

In common with multi-day Swiss Travel Passes (which is a different pass) they can be used to travel throughout Switzerland in a single day.

A sliding scale of prices is applied to Saver Day Passes, so the further ahead you book, the cheaper the price you will pay.

They can be booked up to a month ahead and the full rate/prices start from 70CHF 2nd class and 88CHF 1st class - these are the prices if you DON'T have a Half-Fare Card.

So if you're booking ahead it's UNLIKELY that Saver Day Passes, will save you money for journeys between two destinations on which you will ONLY be travelling on SBB trains.

That's because discounted Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets are LIKELY to still be available for such journeys.

Saver Day Passes are MORE LIKELY to save you money if you want to spend a DAY exploring a large area of Switzerland, including hopping on trains operated by the independent railway companies.

Saver Day Passes vs Swiss Travel Passes:

IF you can book 3 x Saver Day Passes at the cheapest possible rate then 3 Day Passes can be cheaper than a Swiss Travel Pass that is valid for 3 days.

Also 4 x 1st class Saver Day Passes can be cheaper than a 1st class Swiss Travel Pass which is valid for 4 days.

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Though the plus of the Swiss Travel Pass is the free museum and attraction access.

What is a Swiss Transfer Ticket?

This ticket offers a flat rate charge for a RETURN journey by train(s) between a point of entry into Switzerland (including the stations at airports or near the border) and another destination in Switzerland.

The prices of Swiss Transfer Ticket(s) may seem expensive, but actually it can be a good deal - particularly as it is a return ticket.

The flat-rate also matters - it means you can take any combination of trains and won't be tied to specific departures, so is particularly useful if you will be flying into Switzerland.

You won't have to worry about flight delays or exiting an Arrivals Hall against the clock!

The disadvantage of using discounted Sparbillette/Supersaver tickets when making a train journey from an airport to a final destination in Switzerland is that they are train specific.
Meaning that you will have to re-book at the full price if you are delayed on route to the station.

Will a Swiss Transfer ticket save me money?

The short answer is 'maybe'.

The longer your journey, the more likely you are to save - and the location of your final destination is also a factor.

That’s because you are more likely to save money if your final destination is on an independent railway

Some Swiss independent railways charge prices per km that aren’t that different to SBB’s, but others exploit their status as operators of some of the most incredible railways on earth, so are comparatively expensive.

A Swiss Transfer Ticket includes whatever combination of trains are required to reach any final destination, so SBB trains + a journey(s) on ANY independent railway AND the ticket also covers a RETURN journey.

A Swiss Transfer ticket is cheaper than 2 x Saver Day Passes - even if you can book 2 x Day Passes at the most heavily discounted rate.

It's worth checking the price of a return journey between your destinations on SBB’s ticket booking site - look at the 'Individual' tickets AND the 'Supersaver' tickets.

You can begin checking prices around 30 days ahead of your travel date.

But keep in mind that you won't be able to use Supersaver tickets if you don't allow any time for flight or airport delays - Supersaver tickets will only be valid for a specific train departure.

Swiss Transfer Tickets CANNOT be purchased on arrival in Switzerland, so also compare prices a minimum of a few days before heading off on your trip.

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Using Rail Passes in Switzerland - a summary?

There are three main types of rail passes that can be purchased for nationwide train travel throughout Switzerland.

1. The Swisss Travel Pass

These can be purchased by non-Swiss citizens and can be used on very nearly all trains within Switzerland at no additional cost, including nearly all the independent railways - as well as a few short routes from and to Switzerland.

It also enables free travel on the public transport networks and Swiss cities and on Swiss lake cruises and gives free or discounted access to many Swiss tourist attractions – including some funiculars and cable cars.

They are valid for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days of travel.


The big tick in the box for this type of pass is the inclusion of the museums/tourist attractions.

Swiss Travel Passes are more likely to save you money overall if you opt for the 8 day or 15 day versions as the cost per day of using the pass is lower.

Also think about making the first day that your pass will be valid for, the same date as your first long distance journey - you want to minimise the number of days that you'll only be using the pass to travel on local transport networks.

2. Saver Day Passes:

The same benefits as the Swiss Travel Pass, but they live up to their name by only being valid for a single day.

Also unlike the Swiss Travel Pass they can be purchased at a discounted rate if you book in advance.

3: InterRail Passes in Switzerland:

InterRail One Country Passes are available for use in Switzerland, and these are cheaper than the equivalent Swiss Travel Pass.

InterRail passes can be used on all mainline trains in Switzerland, including SBB and BLS trains at no additional charge.

Note that unlike the Swiss Travel Pass, an InterRail pass can't be used on local/city transport networks or on buses.

They also allow for free travel on many independent railways, including the four largest – the MGB, the MOB, the RhB and the ZB lines.

However, they cannot be used for free travel on as many lines as the Swiss Travel Pass and on some lines (and the lake cruises), InterRail passes only give access to a 50% discount.


One country Eurail Passes are NOT available for Switzerland.


MORE INFO on using rail passes in Switzerland.

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Rail Passes


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