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Old 30.10.2006, 15:16
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Travel Passes for Visitors

[Info updated January 2010, but only some 2010 prices were available at that time, so many prices below are still 2008 or 2009 prices.]

Virtually everyone on this forum must have friends or family visit them occasionally. Obviously, the most enjoyable way for everyone to get around the country is to use the superb public transport system. However, until one gets used to the system, it is difficult to know what kind of travel pass to recommend for visiting friends and family. That is what this thread is all about.

Litespeed already started a thread on Swiss travel passes that are appropriate for people living here permanently, so please put all comments regarding full-year half-fare cards, Gleis 7, General Abonnement, etc, on that thread. This one is only for the short-term passes. The info below is all for multi-day passes. There are also national and regional one-day passes available; I haven't included these below, but may try to add the info at some point.

(To keep things simple, I'll only quote prices for 2nd class; 1st class versions are approximately 50% more expensive.)

National Passes

The main web-site for all of these national passes is the Swiss Travel System website. This map (in pdf format) shows the applicability for most of these passes. This page gives current prices in your region of the world; the prices below were those quoted in Swiss Francs (CHF) in May 2008. See the section at the bottom of this post for information on children's tickets.

One Month Half-Fare Card
The simplest pass is the one-month version of the half-fare card (halbtax / demi-tarif) which costs 99 CHF. As the name suggests, it is good for a 50% discount on nearly all boats, trains and post-buses in the country, special prices on some cable cars, and discounts on most city buses and trams, and it applies for both 2nd class and 1st class tickets. If your visitors need a pass for more than one month or will visit more than once during the year then they should also consider the one-year version of the half-fare card for 150 CHF. These can be purchased at most train stations and from agents outside of Switzerland. Contrary to popular opinion, the one-year version IS available to everyone, including non-residents, for the same price.

Swiss Transfer Ticket
This is good for one trip from the airport or border to anywhere in Switzerland and then one trip back to the airport or border a maximum of one month later (each of which must be completed within one day). It is only available from agents outside of Switzerland. This isn't a good deal for most people, though, because it costs 127 CHF, and so each one-way ticket to/from the airport/border would need to cost at least 63.50 CHF at the full fare to make it worthwhile.

Swiss Card
This is a direct combination of the one month half-fare card and the Swiss Transfer Ticket. It is good for a free trip from and to the airport/border plus half-fare travel throughout Switzerland for the period in between, which can be up to one month. It is only available from agents outside of Switzerland. It costs 182 CHF, which means that in order for this to be a better deal than the basic half-fare card, it would need to cost at least 83 CHF full-fare to go each way from/to the airport/border – if the tickets would be less than this, then just get the one month half-fare card (although the added convenience of not needing to figure how to buy a ticket and which ticket to buy after just getting off of the plane should be considered).

Swiss Pass and Swiss FlexiPass
Both these tickets allow for a certain number of days of unlimited travel, and also give free entrance to over 400 museums and exhibits, anf 50% discount on many mountain-top cablecars. They are only available to people with a permanent address outside of Switzerland, but in addition to being available from agents outside of the country, they can also be bought within Switzerland at most major train stations. Before the passes can be used, they need to be validated at an SBB ticket counter. If two or more adults will be travelling together, the second and further tickets can be purchased at a 15% discount (an option called the 'Swiss Saver Pass').

The Swiss Pass is valid for 4, 8, 15, 22 days, or 1 month of unlimited travel on consecutive days. It costs 260, 376, 455, 525, or 578 CHF, respectively. These prices are reduced by 25% for people between 16 and 26 (a deal called the 'Swiss Youth Pass').

The Swiss FlexiPass is valid for 3, 4, 5, or 6 days of unlimited travel within one month, consecutive or non-consecutive, with all other days between the first and last unlimited-travel days at half fare. It costs 249, 302, 349, or 397, respectively. There is no youth discount.

Regional Passes

Most of the regional passes give free travel for a certain number of days within a certain period; for example, 3 free days of travel within 7 days; and the other days are half-fare, they also give special prices on some cable cars. However, the free travel only covers a certain region of the country and the half-fare travel a slightly larger region. These passes are also available at a reduced rate if you hold any other travel pass (e.g., the half-fare card, see links below for details), and so they can also be good deals for people living here permanently who want to explore one region of the country for a short period. Most of these tickets are available for children at half price, but see the section below explaining how children can travel for free or greatly reduced rates when accompanied by an adult.

Bernese Oberland Regional Pass
The cost is 230 CHF for 3 free days plus 4 half-fare days, or 277 CHF for 5 free days and 10 half-fare days. It is only available from May until October.
Ticket info. Network map.

Lake Geneva Regional Pass
The cost is 94 CHF for 2 free days plus 3 half-fare days, or 114 CHF for 3 free days and 4 half-fare days. It is available year-round.
Ticket info. Network Map

Graubunden/Grisons Regional Pass
They have split Graubunden and the surrounding regions into six zones for the sake of this pass. The pass can either be bought for one of the zones or for all six zones. The cost is 99 / 159 CHF (one zone / all 6 zones) for 3 free days plus 4 half-fare days, or 125 / 195 CHF for 5 free days and 9 half-fare days.
Ticket info. Network map.

Upper Valais Regional Pass
This is a little different to the other regional passes. It gives a certain number of free days that can be used at any time within a month, but no travel discounts on other days. It costs 95 CHF for 2 free days, 125 CHF for 3 free days, or 175 CHF for 5 free days. Family passes for 2 adults and up to 3 children (up to 16 years old) are double these prices.
Ticket info. Network.

(William) Tell Pass - Luzern/Lucerne Region
The cost is 165 CHF for 2 free days plus 5 half-fare days, or 227 CHF for 5 free days and 10 half-fare days. It is only available from April until October.
Ticket info. Network map.

City Passes
In many of the larger cities in Switzerland, if you stay at a hotel in the city then they will give you a pass for the local public transport for the duration of your stay. This is certainly true in Basel, Geneva, and Lausanne, and is probably also true in the other large cities, but I don't have any definite knowledge of those. Ask the hotel you will be staying at to confirm this information.

Children's Passes

Without a pass, children under the age of 6 can travel for free when accompanied by a parent (otherwise, they pay half-fare), and kids aged 6-15 pay half-fare (accompanied or not). Kids aged 6-15 can travel for free when accompanied by a parent if you have a Family Card or Junior Card. The Family Card costs nothing when bought in combination with one of the unlimited travel national passes, but you do need to ask for it when buying the pass. Otherwise, you can buy a Junior Card (junior-karte / carte junior) at a cost of 20 CHF for one child and 40 CHF for two or more children when buying one of the other passes, which is valid for one year. This all applies when it is a parent who is accompanying the child(ren), similar cards are available for grandparents. If you are neither a parent nor grandparent, then it appears that there are other options, see this post by Idgie below.

Comparing the Passes

I'll finish with some general guidelines regarding which pass is best in which situations. If your visitors plan to only use a small amount of public transport, then don't worry about a pass. If they plan to do several trips that are all within one of the regional passes, then these can often be ideal, but if they want to go outside of those regions even just once or twice then often the half-fare card is better.

If your visitors want to do a lot of travelling all over the country then the Swiss Pass or Swiss FlexiPass can be good deals. However, make sure that they do the comparison to the basic one-month half-fare card. For example, the Swiss FlexiPass for 4 days costs 302 CHF, which is 203 CHF more than the basic half-fare card. So, only if they expect to travel enough to warrant the extra cost in those 4 days (at half-fare prices) should they get this pass, otherwise the half-fare card and then buying tickets as they go will be better (although the extra hassle of buying those tickets should also be considered).

As I said above, the Swiss Transfer Ticket is rarely less than buying individual tickets, and the Swiss Card rarely works out better than just the basic half-fare card. In summary, the half-fare card is often the best deal, but there are exceptions.

One more thing to keep in mind when choosing a pass is that having a pass rather than just a half-fare card has advantages above the possible economic reasons. First, having a pass means that you don't need to worry about buying tickets all of the time – you can hop on and off any transport without worrying about the costs or always having the correct ticket (except to make sure that it is within the validity of your pass). Second, if you have the pass then it may encourage you to travel further because you've already spent the money, whereas if you have to think about the cost of each ticket then you may travel less and so enjoy the trip less.

Last edited by ChrisW; 04.01.2010 at 14:27. Reason: Prices & info updated
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  #2  
Old 30.10.2006, 15:36
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

great thread

My in-laws were here visiting last week and they got a 4 day Swiss Pass, it was great for them as they had no need to get tickets etc.. they could just hop on and off, plus I think they more than got their money back, just one trip to Schilthorn from Zurich more or less covered the full price. I'll definitely get my parents to get one next time they come and visit as we worked out thay would have saved half if they had got an 8 day pass when they visited last compared to what they spent on all their travel, plus the added hassle of obtaining the tickets which was all new to them and confusing at times

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Old 05.11.2006, 20:33
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

I just turned this post into an article at SwissWiki. If you'd like to add anything to this info then feel free to post it there also.
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Old 30.04.2007, 07:50
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

I just read this on the Telegraph's website:
"Book a Swiss Pass for travel between October 1 and December 23, 2007 exclusively at www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk and get a free upgrade from second class to first class on four and eight-day passes."
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Old 30.04.2007, 14:27
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

Cool, thanks for alerting me to this Chris.

Ok, so I've got a mate coming over for a long weekend in June and I think it'd be good/cheaper for him to get a 3-day 107CHF Lake Geneva Regional Pass. From the link it looks like he'll be able to buy one from the train station in Geneva airport - am I correct in thinking this?
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Old 30.04.2007, 14:53
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

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Ok, so I've got a mate coming over for a long weekend in June and I think it'd be good/cheaper for him to get a 3-day 107CHF Lake Geneva Regional Pass. From the link it looks like he'll be able to buy one from the train station in Geneva airport - am I correct in thinking this?
You can certainly buy the Lake Geneva regional pass from major train stations in the region, plus the CGN boat ticket offices and tourist offices. Therefore, I see no reason why he shouldn't be able to get one at the train station at Geneva airport. If for some reason he cannot then I believe that he may also buy it the next day and make it valid retroactively and get the refund on his used ticket. However, I'm not 100% certain on that, so you'd have to check.
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Old 30.04.2007, 14:58
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

Great stuff, thanks Chris.
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Old 02.05.2007, 07:03
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

I just updated the original post to include the current prices. Prices for the Swiss Pass and Swiss FlexiPass increased by about 2% and everything else stayed the same.
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Old 02.05.2007, 12:05
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Thank you!!

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If your visitors want to do a lot of travelling all over the country then the Swiss Pass or Swiss FlexiPass can be good deals. However, make sure that they do the comparison to the basic one-month half-fare card. For example, the Swiss FlexiPass for 4 days costs 292 CHF, which is 193 CHF more than the basic half-fare card. So, only if they expect to travel enough to warrant the extra cost in those 4 days (at half-fare prices) should they get this pass, otherwise the half-fare card and then buying tickets as they go will be better.

As I said above, the Swiss Transfer Ticket is rarely less than buying individual tickets, and the Swiss Card rarely works out better than just the basic half-fare card. In summary, the half-fare card is often the best deal, but there are exceptions.
This is the post that led me (via Google) here. The arithmetic is, in retrospect, obvious, but obvious things are often clearer after someone has pointed them out
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Old 06.05.2008, 09:15
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

The SBB have some special offers on travel passes during Euro 2008, see this page for details. Here's a brief summary:

A one-month half-fare card (valid June 1st-30th) is 39 CHF if bought by May 31st, 59 CHF from June 1st. This would normally cost 99 CHF. This allows you to pay half price on nearly all trains, coaches, and boats in the Swiss travel system, and half fare on the Austrian rail network.

A one-month general travel pass (general abonnement, GA or AG, valid June 1st-30th) is 299 CHF (459 for 1st class) if bought by May 31st, 399 CHF from June 1st (599 for 1st class). This would normally cost 578 CHF (867 for 1st class). This gives you unlimited travel on nearly all trains, coaches, and boats in the Swiss travel system (you'll still pay half price on most mountain railways), and pay half fare on the Austrian rail network.

If you have a ticket to one of the matches (lucky you!) then you get a free trip to and from the venue from your home address, hotel, or airport on the day of the match up to 12 noon the next day, see here for full info.
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Old 03.06.2008, 07:13
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

According to the e-newsletter that I just received from the SBB, it appears that normal GA/AGs and half-fare cards are also valid to get half-price fares on Austrian trains during June '08:

"Are you a regular customer who frequently makes use of your GA or Half-Fare travelcard? Then you too can take advantage of 50% off travel in Austria in June. So get ready to say a cheery "Servus" to all that this charming country has to offer. Continue."

Last edited by ChrisW; 03.06.2008 at 11:50.
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Old 05.06.2008, 14:17
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

Hi

So all the passes mentioned are great for visitors but somewhat expensive. if you live here and don't have a halb-tax and need to go somewhere it gets expensive too.

There is a TagesKarte day-ticket that can be used throughout Switzerland and its usually only availble to the Geminde. However if you live in Zurich you can get the tickets quite cheaply 25 - 45 CHF from the Kiosk (see below). However the numbers of tickets available are limited and its first come first served. You can usually get them one ortwo months in advance.

Stadtpavillon Urania auf dem Werdmühleplatz Zürich
SBB Tageskarten Gemeinde Evergreens Tourist-Service Zürich

Öffnungszeiten:
Sechseläuten-Montag offen wie normaler Montag
Sommerzeit: 09.30 - 17.30 Uhr Samstag: 09.30 - 16.30 Uhr Sonntag: 13.30 - 17 Uhr

Winterzeit: 10.30 - 17.30 Uhr Samstag: 10.30 - 16.30 Uhr Sonntag: 13.30 - 17 Uhr

Telefon: +41 (0)44 212 81 71 Stadtpavillon Urania Zürich
Telefon: +41 (0)44 212 81 70 SBB-Tageskarten Auskunft



Liam

Last edited by Scott; 11.10.2009 at 21:11.
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Old 05.06.2008, 14:49
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

Thanks for the info, Macaroo. For those of you interested in the 'tageskarte' deal, and the prices from the commune/gemeinde, just search this forum with the term 'tageskarte' or 'day-pass' and you should find lots of other info on this - this thread is not really the ideal place to discuss these passes which are intended for Swiss residents and not visitors.
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Old 09.08.2008, 10:02
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

I just had my cousins' three daughters visiting, and I was truly amazed at the good deal I got: As I have a Halbtax (same is true for GA), I can take up to four children up to 16 years with me on a full day ticket for CHF 15 each. This is valid for trains, ships and all, but not for the privately run mountain trains (for which, however, you get a better deal if you have this ticket). So, basically, they travelled around for CHF 45 per day, as much as we wanted. This ticket is called Kinder-Karte.

On top of that, I used the Migros voucher book which you can get as a Migros member (and which does not cost anything), and which gives further reductions.

Enjoy
Idgie
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Old 23.08.2008, 07:31
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

It is August now.
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Old 24.08.2008, 15:02
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

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According to the e-newsletter that I just received from the SBB, it appears that normal GA/AGs and half-fare cards are also valid to get half-price fares on Austrian trains during June
A half fare card entitles to a 25% rebate for tickets to and from Austria and Germany, if you buy the ticket in Switzerland. (Link)
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Old 25.08.2008, 09:02
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

if visitors stay in a hotel in Geneva or Lausanne, they will have a city pass for free.

if they plan to make short trips within the region, other solutions are available:

city ticket (1 day):
A return trip + a one-day pass for buses and tram in a selected city
http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/reisemarkt/...ity-ticket.htm

abonnement communautaire (1 day - 1 week - 1 month - 1 year):
Free travel within the selected community
http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/reisemarkt/...e/verbunde.htm

abonnement de parcours (1week - 1 month - 1 year):
Free travel along the selected route
http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/reisemarkt/...bonnemente.htm

abonnement Inter (1 month - 1 year):
Free travel along the selected route and the selected community
http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/reisemarkt/...e/interabo.htm
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Old 26.11.2008, 18:20
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

Hi all

I'm trying to find out if I can get a one day travel card for my visiting parents. So far, everything I've read on the SBB site says that day tickets are only for people who hold a half-tax card (which I do, but obviously they don't).

Here's the web page; it's really confusing:

http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/reisemarkt/...ageskarten.htm

At the top, it says: "To be able to benefit from a 1-day travelpass, you need to be in possession of a Half-Fare travelcard." But then further down the page, it says: "Since 1-day travelpasses and class upgrades for a day are not personal, they make excellent gifts. "

So can I buy them, showing my half-price card if requested, but then just give them to my parents? I wouldn't be travelling with them.

Has anyone done anything like this?

Thanks for any advice.

kodokan

PS: I'm talking standard full-price day tickets from the station, not the ones the commune does.
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Old 26.11.2008, 19:21
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

When the SBB says that the 1-day travelpass makes an excellent gift, I believe they are assuming that the gift is for someone who is already in possession of a half-fare pass (which almost half the people living in CH have). If your parents are going to be here for more than just a couple of days then it may pay for them to get the one month half-fare card for 99 CHF, then get a 1-day travel pass. Alternatively, if you know where you want to go and you will not be travelling during peak times then you can often get very cheap tickets by using the Click and Rail deal on the SBB website. Often, tickets are available for even cheaper than the normal half-fare price, but you don't even need a half-fare pass to use them.
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Last edited by ChrisW; 27.11.2008 at 08:01.
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Old 26.11.2008, 19:40
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Re: Travel Passes for Visitors

Thanks Chris, very helpful - that Click and Rail thingie is great; 9 CHFs to get from Lausanne to Geneva! Coo... (I assume I could just get on the train at Morges, providing the train stops there..?)

Anyway, back to my visitors. I know you're the travel guru round here, so do you happen to know of any other system that I could use to get them a day ticket, which could be purchased either here or via the UK and posted to them? It's to be a Christmas gift, you see; they don't really want 'stuff' so I thought I'd give them a day out, with a ticket and pocket money to buy coffees and lunch.

I suppose I could go with them to the station, buy the tickets and go da da! Happy Christmas! And that's your train, bye. But that's unlikely to be possible with the kids and school hours; I was looking for a one-stop card that they could just use to hop about on trains and buses for one day, at their leisure. So does this not exist..?

Many thanks for your help.

kodokan
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