Being railroaded through the magnificent countryside by the Swiss Rail System is extremely convenient. You don't have to worry about sitting in the traffic, negotiating narrow and unfamiliar town streets and searching for a parking spot.
It is the best and greenest way to criss-cross Switzerland. The Swiss Travel System will bring you from the cities to the tiniest hamlets in the Alps. Where there are no rail tracks, there is a postal bus that will bring you to your vacation spot.
I am hocked on train travel. The first job I took was with the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). As a railway employee, I was eligible for steep discounts; even received a certain amount of free national and international rides each year. I can't even tell you how often I hopped on an overnight train to spend my free days in neighbouring countries. I was out of free tickets come midyear.
Of course, the olden days of train travel are gone. No more wooden seats in Swiss trains, and even the old-fashioned train compartments are mostly a thing of the past. Still, as soon as I enter a train, I relax. There is absolutely nothing I HAVE to do. I just enjoy the ride and the marvellous scenery, stretch my legs, read a book or have a friendly chat with a fellow traveller.
Swiss trains are extremely reliable. In fact, my father never owned a watch. He knew the time just by observing trains passing through our valley. The train will get you on time directly into city centres. There, trams or busses are ready to take you to your final destination.
Train stations in bigger cities are also small shopping centres. Shops, Kiosk and Restaurants are open even after hours, and on weekends too.
Trains bring you from the main airports Zürich and Geneva into the heart of the city or directly to your final destination. Basel Mulhouse Airport (Europe Airport), and Bern-Belpmoos are served by Airport-Buses.
Families enjoy special themed coaches on InterCity trains that make the trip more enjoyable for kids (check timetables for family pictograms or ask at the stations). Most of the trains offer a special coach for your stroller in front or at the end of the train. More info here.
If you decide to use the Swiss rail, boat and bus system to explore Switzerland, consider one of the Swiss Rail Passes offered only to visitors.
All trains, busses and ships - be they privately operated or by the State - are connected through the Swiss Rail System and you can use one pass for everything. Not all funiculars, gondolas and specific mountain trains (such as the Jungfrau railway) are included but you receive up to 50% discount with any of the passes. The validity map shows where you can travel for free and where you get a discount.
InterCity trains bring you from city to city in 30 minute or hourly intervals; regional trains - from express to trains that stop at every station - connect you with smaller cities, towns and rural areas.
Postal buses serve the rest of the country. Most Swiss Lakes have regular passenger ships and ferries as well as tourist cruise ships and steamers. They run on a regular schedule just as trains and buses do.
We are our own best clients when it comes to train and bus transportation. In fact, we travel more kilometres on trains per year and person than the Japanese. Just think about it: the train takes us from Bern to Zürich and Lucerne to Bern in about an hour; from Geneva to Zürich in just under three hours and from Chur to Geneva with a change of trains in Zürich in four and a half hours, depending on the train. That's a hen's race in North American terms.
No matter where the train takes you, you always enjoy a scenic view out the window.
However, there are a few classical scenic routes that offer you the best of Switzerland's diverse landscape.
The most popular routes include Glacier and Bernina Express that connect the Canton Graubünden with the Canton Valais and the Italian part of Switzerland respectively; the William Tell Express brings you from Central Switzerland to the Ticino via ship and rail; The Golden Pass Line connects Montreux with Lucerne and one of the most dramatic scenery is covered by the Centovalli Express in the Canton Ticino.
The Palm Express is a Postal Bus route that brings you from the rugged mountainous Engadin in Graubünden to the Palm trees of Lugano in the Canton Ticino.
Don't be alarmed by the name express. They are not quite in a hurry as the name implies; the Glacier Express is even proud to be called the World's slowest express train.
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Switzerland Train Travel Tips
Logistical nuts and bolts for planning your Switzerland train trip. Our public transport system is reliable and brings you from the city to the smallest mountain hamlet. Enjoy the marvellous scenery from the window of your train. Is there a better way to enjoy stress free travel?
Discover Switzerland with the Swiss Pass
Do you plan to use mostly the train as mode of transportation for your Swiss Vacation? The Swiss Pass offers great value for its price and heaps of extra bonuses. If a Swiss Pass is not for you, you might want to check out the Swiss Card, Swiss Half Fare Card or the Transit Ticket.
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