Sunday, November 2, 2014

Getting around on the Swiss Travel System (with Swiss Pass)

For travelers who are only visiting Switzerland alone without going to another EU country, best option is to get the Swiss Pass. The Swiss Pass allows unlimited travel on the Swiss public transport network (trains, buses, ships and tramways) for a consecutive number of days (4, 8, 15, 22 or one month), as well as free or discounted entry to many Swiss museums. Fare Reduction (50% or 25%) is applicable to mountain transports (lifts/cable cars, funiculars, cogwheel trains etc.). The Swiss Pass covers some of the Panoramic train routes, reservation is required. Details here.

Swiss rail map

Check the solid lines and dotted lines carefully for validity

Jungfraujoch route valid for 25% fare reduction

Gornergrat route valid for 50% fare reduction

The Swiss Pass can be purchased at Swiss train stations or over the internet. I bought mine in SG from the RailEurope website, and collected the passes from their local office in Chinatown. Details at RailEurope website. Remember to validate the passes (together with your passport) at the Travel Center at Zurich airport or at ticket counters at major train stations.

My Swiss Pass and discounted Jungfraujoch ticket

From Wiki - The Swiss Pass will be replaced by the Swiss Travel Pass on January 1, 2015. The Swiss Travel Pass allows unlimited traveling for 3, 4, 8 or 15 consecutive days.

The Swiss Flexi Pass operates exactly like the Swiss Pass, but is limited to 3, 4, 5 or 6 days of travel within one month.[5] The Swiss Flexi Pass will be replaced by the Swiss Travel Pass Flex on January 1, 2015. The Swiss Travel Pass Flex allows 3, 4, 8 or 15 days of unlimited traveling within one month.

Swiss train network is well known to be extremely punctual. Do plan your journey ahead using their online trip planner and get to the correct platform on time. My observation is that the train always arrives at the platform a few mins before planned departure time, and they do depart on time most of the time! Train service runs regularly at 30mins or 60mins intervals for most routes. Many trains I've traveled on are quite new and very stable and quiet when they run. Some trains have power points for travelers who need to use their laptops or even charge their phones/cameras. Train conductors check tickets pretty regularly, so always have your Swiss Pass ready to show them.

SBB train

Die Zentralbahn train

BLS train

Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn

2nd class cabin

1st class cabin

Power points onboard train

At the platforms, check the display for info on 1st class and 2nd class cabins. The platform is divided into A, B, C, D sectors. Longer trains will occupy all 4 sectors when they stop at the platforms. Some trains are shorter, so do try to wait at the correct sector as indicated on the display. Audio announcements will also happen a few mins before train arrival in German, French and English. All audio announcements at European railways are informative (unlike in SG), do listen to them carefully!

Bern train station platforms

Digital display showing 2nd class cabins at sectors A/B, and 1st class at C

Non digital display, 2nd class at A/B/D and 1st class at C

Train Stations
Major train stations has underground shopping streets with Fast food chains, cafes, supermarkets, bakeries, pharmacy, money changers etc.) Many shops and supermarkets are open on Sundays (they're closed outside the station). We also saw an indoor carnival going on in Zurich station on a Sunday. Larger train stations provide free wifi for all visitors.

Geneva station

Zurich station

Bern station

Interlaken Ost station

Smaller Interlaken West station

Thun station

Zermatt station

Gornergrat bahn station

Inside Geneva station

Geneva station

Geneva station

Supermarket at Geneva station

Geneva station

Bern station

Bern station

Sunday carnival inside Zurich station

Sunday carnival inside Zurich station

Sunday carnival inside Zurich station

Mountain Trains
Two of the most popular mountain trains I've taken are Gornergrat Bahn that brings you nearer to the iconic Mt Matterhorn, and the Jungfrau Bahn to the Top of Europe, Jungfraujoch. A tip for visitors who wanna take nice scenery photos for these two routes, grab the seats on the RIGHT hand side on your way up the mountains. You'll miss out a lot of breathtaking sights if seated on the left side.

Gornergrat bahn

At Gornergrat

Gornergrat bahn passing by the foot of Matterhorn

Gornergrat going into tunnel

Berner Oberland Bahn, Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen

Berner Oberland Bahn, Grindelwald to Interlaken

Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg

Jungfrau bahn at Kleine Scheidegg

Montreux-Rochers de Naye railway

Buses & Trams
With the Swiss Pass, urban public transport such as buses and trams in major cities are fully covered. I've traveled on some of these in Bern, Montreux, Geneva & Zurich. Usually one city only either has the bus or the tram network but Bern is different, it has both and the network is so busy that trams, buses and people are fighting for spaces in the city's old town!

Massive tram & bus stops at Bern station

Bern's busy urban network

Bern bus #12

Montreux bus #201

Tram stop at Zurich Bahnhofstrass

Ticket machine and ETA display for trams

The Zoo tram at Zurich

Tram at Geneva

Both tram and bus runs on electricity, so major Swiss cities are rather 'smoke free'. However, Swiss people really really really like to smoke! So technically it isn't really smoke free for me, I especially dislike waiting for trains on a smokey platform! I usually stay away from trash bins as it is the place where smokers would congregate.

Being a mountainous country, Switzerland also has many bite size transportation that brings people to a local peak directly and quickly. Some of these century old funiculars I've taken are Harder bahn, Giessbach bahn and Territet bahn. Some of them are covered by Swiss Pass, some are half price and some are privately owned and not covered by Swiss Pass at all. Do your homework or ask your hotel concierge before using them.

Harder bahn to Harder Kulm, Interlaken

Territet bahn to Glion, Montreux

Territet bahn

Giessbach bahn to Giessbach falls and hotel

Polybahn at Zurich, brings people to the university uphill

Ship/Cruise Boats
Despite not being near to any ocean, Switzerland do have some of the most scenic lakes around the region. Take advantage of the free travel provided by the Swiss Pass, and get on a boat for a leisurely cruise!

Motor boat at Lake Brienz, Interlaken

Paddle steamer boat at Lake Geneva, Montreux

Lifts/Cable Cars
Many of these are mountain routes and are available for travel at discounted rates. Remember to show your Swiss Pass when purchasing tickets.

Matterhorn Express cable car to Furi, Zermatt

Furi cable car station

Mürrenbahn cable car at Lauterbrunnen

That sums up my travel experience on the Swiss Travel System, I hope my readers benefit from the information I've documented here. May your Switzerland holiday is as fun as mine!

1 comment:

  1. thank you so much with all the information. i enjoy ur photo.