Public transport in Switzerland
With a reliable, efficient, clean and safe public transport network, it is easy to get around without a car in Switzerland. Train, tram and bus networks cover the entire country, and there are also extensive cycling routes, with bicycles easy to organise.
Buses, boats, trams, trains, and cable cars are all part of a coordinated and well organised infrastructure, with information and timetables available online and from tourism information centres.
Switzerland is one of the most environmentally conscious nations in the world, so being green is an integral part of life.
The alpine nation's central European location makes destinations throughout Europe easy to reach, by air, rail or road. A day trip to Milan, a weekend in Paris or a break in Barcelona are all easy options with public transport.
Swiss train travel
The rail network in Switzerland is well organised, convenient, and takes you almost everywhere. Whether travelling for business or pleasure, the Swiss Federal Railways, known as SBB in German, CFF in French, and FFS in Italian, offers a multitude of options.
There are 1st and 2nd class tickets. Validity depends on the means of transport and the distance travelled. "City tickets" from Swiss Federal Railways (SBB/CFF/FFS) include a one-day travel pass for buses or trams at the destination.
Tickets cannot be bought on Swiss trains so make sure to purchase them before boarding. Fines for travelling without a ticket are steep. If you forget your travelcard (see below), you have to pay the fine but will be able to request a refund minus a service charge of CHF 5.
Recommended: SBB/CFF/FFS has an indispensable app for iPhone and Android.
The Half-Fare pass allows half price travel on the entire Swiss public transport network. This includes all SBB/CFF/FFS railway routes, many private and mountain railways, boat and ferry crossings, and even post-buses (which provide connections in more remote areas). It is worth the investment if you are planning to be in Switzerland for more than just a short stay. There is a choice of one, two, or three years' validity. Passes can be purchased online or at railway stations. Bring a valid passport or identity document and a recent photograph.
The GA pass (General Abonnement)
If you use public transport frequently, the GA pass is worthwhile. The pass allows unlimited travel on public transport throughout Switzerland, not only on SBB/CFF/FFS and the many private railways, trams, buses, and boats, but also on certain cable cars and funicular mountain railways. With the GA pass, the cardholder additionally benefits from travel discounts on many Swiss mountain railways and from discounts in neighbouring countries such as Germany and Austria. Several options, including annual, monthly, and daily, are available. A GA entitles the holder to reductions on car rentals in Switzerland and discounted participation in car sharing schemes.
Note: The GA is often referred to as an AG, which refers to the French term abonnement général.
Day passes, one-day travel passes, or 9 o'clock cards enabling unlimited travel on the entire Swiss transport network can be bought from SBB/CFF/FFS or from local communes at varying rates. Communes only have a certain number available each month, so try to contact them early. For those interested in travelling at off-peak times, a limited number of Supersaver discounted tickets are also offered.
Track 7 is a special offer for young people under 25, who hold a Half-Fare pass and are happy to travel at night. Travel in 2nd class is free from 7pm to 5am throughout the entire SBB/CFF/FFS public transport system.
Travelling with children
Children between 6 and 16 travelling with at Half-Fare pass or GA cardholder are entitled to a special day ticket. Certain trains have special family coaches with a free play area reserved first for families.
The Junior pass costs just CHF 30 a year, and allows children from 6 -16 to travel free of charge when accompanied by parents or grandparents holding a valid ticket. If there are more than two children in the family, any further children travel for free!
Tickets can be purchased at ticket counters, machines, online, by mobile app or by the rail phone service 0900 300 300. Most stations have touch screen ticket machines operating in several languages. Most, but not all, machines accept cash and credit cards, so check first.
Multiple trip cards
Weekly, monthly or yearly season tickets for specific zones are also available. These are useful for regular travel on the same route, for example to and from work. An annual season ticket costs about the equivalent of nine monthly tickets. Cards are valid for six one way trips and must be stamped before boarding the train.
Using taxis in Switzerland
Taxis in Switzerland are expensive. The initial charge is on average CHF 6.50 plus CHF 3.50 per kilometre. The exact charge may depend on the canton, time of day, weekday, luggage, animals and whether you are crossing a cantonal border or not. Fares are state supervised and subject to change. A service charge is included in the fare so tipping is not obligatory. Taxis are available at public taxi stands but are difficult to hail in the streets.
Useful information on public transport in Switzerland
Paying for tickets and boarding
Public transport vehicles in Switzerland are equipped with modern automatic passenger-operated doors. Buttons are generally situated alongside the outside door and on the pillar inside the door. Doors remain open for 3 seconds unless the passenger is standing on the footboard or pressing on the button. Please note that many trains, buses and trams do not have ticket machines onboard so it is important to pre-purchase your ticket because fines are steep. On yellow post-buses however, tickets can be purchased from the driver.
- Children under 6, prams, and luggage are free
- Holders of Half-Fare travelcards and children aged 6–16 pay half price fares
- Dogs pay half price
Regional transport & getting around articles
Hello Switzerland has detailed regional articles about local public transportation, and also tips for driving, cycling, and walking around town. Click the links below for your regions of interest.
Swiss public transport vocabulary helper
GA (General Abonnement)
AG (Abonnement generale)
Swiss Federal Railways (SBB)
Schweizerische Bundesbahn (SBB)
chemins de fer fédéraux (CFF)
Photo: © swiss-image.ch/Simon B. Opladen