The Swiss Travel Pass is the best way to explore Switzerland | What to know, and how it works

by W. Andrew Powell
Swiss Travel Pass - Switzerland trains

One of the toughest things about any vacation is getting to your next destination. There are a few options in Switzerland, and I love a good road trip, but the country’s public transit works so well, it’s absolutely the best way to travel.

Connecting cities to towns, villages, and even mountain tops, Switzerland’s SBB delivers the most effortless travel, and it’s easily one of the best transit systems in the world.

From trains, streetcars, buses, and boats, to cable cars, and funiculars, the transit options will connect you far and wide. As just one example, you can book a trip from Zurich to Mürren with one ticket.

There’s an even better way to travel though, and that’s SBB’s Swiss Travel Pass, an all-in-one ticket to travel almost anywhere on Switzerland’s impressive public transportation network, for one price.

With a full travel pass, travellers can step onto nearly any SBB transit and ride all day long. The passes offer unlimited travel on public transportation in over 90 towns and cities, even on panoramic trains in some areas, and all you have to do is show the pass.

Passes are available for 3, 4, 6, 8, or 15 days, and they include access to more than 500 museums for free, too. Not to mention mountain excursions in Rigi, Stanserhorn, and Stoos. With the pass you can also get discounts on a number of other mountain excursions.

Here’s everything that you need to know about the Swiss Travel Pass, how to use it, why it’s so helpful, and some of my favourite benefits.

How to get a Swiss Travel Pass

SBB offers the Swiss Travel Pass on their website, with special deals for youth, anyone under 25, and it’s free for children under 16 when they’re travelling with an adult who has a valid ticket or pass.

The easiest way to get your pass is to buy it online before you travel, and then you can save a digital copy on your phone, and print out a copy to bring with you.

You can also purchase the passes in Switzerland at major railway stations and some airports, but if you want to save time, I always recommend buying passes in advance.

Current prices for the Swiss Travel Pass are CHF 244 for 2nd class, and CHF 389 for 1st class, as of 2024. I’ll get into those classes further below.

What’s included with the pass

There are lots of routes available with the Swiss Travel Pass, and you can find more on those with SBB’s map of all the included routes. The map is extensive, and the further in that you zoom, the more you’ll find every route and option.

Most of the transit network is completely free with the pass, and any options that are discounted are marked with a dashed-line. For instance, you’ll find some cable cars and funiculars are included at 50% off, so you just have to show your pass when you arrive to get this deal.

As one example, the train to Mürren is included with the pass, but the funicular to Allmendhubelbahn, or the cable cars to Schilthorn, are 50% off. Otherwise, any routes that are not shown are an extra cost, or included in separate travel passes.

While there are a few cable cars and mountain routes that are not included, the vast majority of travel in Switzerland can be accomplished with just a Swiss Travel Pass, making it convenient, easy, and more affordable than a lot of other options.

Switzerland also has numerous museums, and 500 of them are included with the travel pass. A few of the best museums that are included is the Château de Chillon, Matterhorn Museum, National Museum in Zurich, Glacier Garden Lucerne, Thun Castle, and for the cheese lovers, La Maison du Gruyère.

With a pass you also get up to 30% off on SBB RailAway offers, which includes tickets to activities around Switzerland.

How to use the Swiss Travel Pass

This is the easy part. Once you have your pass, you just show it when you’re boarding included public transportation, or when SBB staff ask for your pass or ticket.

On some trains and boats, you may be part-way through your journey before they come around to check tickets, and at other locations you may have to show your pass as you’re entering an area or boarding.

If you purchased your pass online, you can print it out or show the digital version of the pass on your phone. To be safe, I would recommend having both a print out and a digital version on your phone. That way, if your phone runs low on battery, you’ll always have a way to show your pass.

If you purchase the pass from a train station or other physical location, you’ll have a printed copy to show during your travels.

What to know about SBB classes

SBB trains offer both 1st and 2nd classes, and those are simply levels of service.

With 1st class coaches, travellers will enjoy more leg room and spaces between the seats, power sockets for charging and computers, single or double seats, and quieter travel. This class is slightly more expensive, but if you want a little more peace on your trip, or more space, it’s well worth the price.

SBB’s 2nd class travel tends to be busier, but it’s still comfortable, free Wi-Fi is included throughout the trains, and you can find a food and drink car on most trains to get tea, coffee, soft drinks, and other snacks or even meals on some routes.

More information

While the Swiss Travel Pass means that you can get on any train, it’s possible that seats may fill up, especially during peak travel times, and depending on the route. To be safe, you can purchase a specific seat on trains for an additional fee. For more information on this process, read this guide from SBB.

If you’re planning a trip in Switzerland, visit Switzerland Tourism for travel ideas, and details on destinations, experiences, and where to stay. I’ll have full guides and videos on visiting Zurich, Bern, Interlaken, Murren, Schilthorn, Lauterbrunnen, and Harder Kulm.

Swiss Travel Pass - Switzerland trains

Top photo courtesy Schweiz Tourismus/Renato Bagattini, photo #2 Switzerland Tourism/Jasmin Frei.

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