Switzerland

The Ultimate Guide to the Swiss Travel Pass 2023

December 5, 2022 (Last Updated: April 25, 2023)
by Carolyn
Glacier Express at Oberalp Pass

If you’re planning any Switzerland travel, and particularly if you are planning to travel Switzerland by train, you most likely have heard about the Swiss Travel Pass for tourists.

The Swiss Travel Pass is an all-inclusive pass which not only allows you to travel via the Swiss rail system, but also provides entry into a range of attractions and travel on buses and ferries as well. 

In this article, I will provide a detailed summary of the Swiss Travel Pass so you know the various Switzerland rail pass options available and you can determine exactly which offers the best value for you.  I will also cover all the Swiss pass inclusions as well as the Swiss pass price. 

To avoid confusion, the Swiss Travel Pass is also often referred to as a Swiss Pass, Swiss Railway Pass, Swiss Rail Pass and any similar combination of words.

Voralpen Express train on a bridge high above the Swiss countryside.
Voralpen Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]

Is the Swiss Travel Pass Worth It?

The Swiss Travel Pass provides tourists with not only exceptional value but also makes travel within Switzerland extremely convenient.  Whilst its initial outlay may appear expensive, once you add up the price of individual Swiss rail tickets, plus the entry to a few museums, you will see that in no time at all you have easily made the cost back in value from this Swiss pass for tourists.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about making bookings, carrying around multiple Switzerland train tickets, or being concerned with missing a train – because you can simply catch the next one!

Even the popular Switzerland scenic train routes are included in this pass!  That’s right, panoramic trains like the Glacier Express and the Golden Pass train are covered by the Swiss rail pass.

So if you have been dreaming of doing one of the stunning Switzerland rail tours, you can use the pass to arrange your very own Switzerland train tour.

The Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Travel Pass Flex are available for a number of different durations. In addition to the traditional 3, 4, 8 and 15-day passes, a 6-day pass was also introduced in 2022.

>> Buy your Swiss Travel Pass here. <<

Swiss train traveling over a bridge above a rushing river.

What is a Swiss Travel Pass? 

Whilst the term ‘Swiss Travel Pass’ encompasses all the various different types of Swiss Travel Passes (discussed below), there is also a pass just called the ‘Swiss Travel Pass’.

Swiss Travel Pass

The Swiss Travel Pass is a consecutive travel pass, meaning you can use it every day it is valid for. These passes come in 3, 4, 6, 8 or 15-day durations and are available in either first or second class. > Check Swiss Travel Pass prices.

Swiss Travel Pass Flex 

The Swiss Travel Pass Flex can be used on a set number of days during a 1-month period.  

For example, you can use your pass on 3 days within the 1-month period – but not every day.  The passes come in 3, 4, 6, 8 or 15-day durations. The Swiss flexi pass is also available in either first or second class. > Check Swiss Travel Pass Flex prices.

Swiss Travel Pass Youth 

If you’re after a hefty Swiss Travel Pass discount and are under 25 years of age, then you are in luck.  The Swiss Travel Pass Youth is available for people aged under 25 and is basically either the Swiss Travel Pass or the Swiss Travel Pass Flex but at a huge 30% discount. > Check Swiss Travel Pass Youth prices.

Swiss Half Fare Card

If you’re not keen on the upfront investment of any of the Swiss Travel Passes mentioned above, another great option is the Swiss Half Fare Card. This allows you to purchase Swiss train tickets at a discount of 50%. You are also entitled to a discount on other public transport, but the discount is not always as much as 50%.

The Swiss half price card is valid for 1 month and, depending upon how long you intend on visiting Switzerland and how much train travel you will be doing, may well be the best option for you.  > Check Swiss Half Fare Card prices.

Swiss Family Pass / Swiss Family Card 

If you’re traveling with children under the age of 16, then the Swiss Family Card is a must! The Swiss Family Pass allows children to travel for free and is completely free of charge when a parent holds one of the Swiss Travel Passes mentioned above.

Children under 6 years of age don’t require a Swiss Family Travel Pass as they travel for free regardless. You will, however, need a Swiss Family Card for children aged 6 to 15 years. You should request one when you purchase your Swiss Travel Pass.

If a child under 16 years of age is traveling alone without a parent, they receive a 50% discount on the various Swiss travel system tickets and passes.

Swiss Travel Pass Cost

The cost of the train pass in Switzerland depends upon the type of pass you purchase as well as the number of days you choose.

The tables below list the different Swiss train pass prices for the consecutive and flexible passes (all prices are in Swiss francs).

Swiss Travel Pass prices [2023]

Duration 1st class2nd class
3 days CHF 369CHF 232BUY NOW
4 days CHF 447CHF 281BUY NOW
6 days CHF 570CHF 359BUY NOW
8 days CHF 617CHF 389BUY NOW
15 daysCHF 675CHF 429BUY NOW

Swiss Travel Pass Flex prices [2023]

Duration1st class2nd class
3 days in 1 monthCHF 424CHF 267BUY NOW
4 days in 1 monthCHF 514CHF 323BUY NOW
6 days in 1 monthCHF 610CHF 384BUY NOW
8 days in 1 monthCHF 649CHF 409BUY NOW
15 days in 1 monthCHF 706CHF 449BUY NOW

Both the consecutive and flexible passes are available to people under 26 years of age with a 30% discount off the regular Swiss Travel Pass cost. The discounted passes are known as the Swiss Travel Pass Youth and Swiss Travel Pass Flex Youth. > Buy your Youth Pass here.

Boat cruising on Lake Thun.
The Switzerland Pass includes travel on trains, buses and boats.

What Are the Swiss Pass Benefits?

As mentioned above, there are a stack of Swiss Pass benefits – it’s not just all about Swiss train tickets for tourists.  The Swiss Travel Pass benefits are as follows:

  • Without a doubt the biggest saving with the Swiss Train Pass for tourists is the inclusion of all long-distance buses, ferries and trains in Switzerland. This even includes all the Swiss Scenic trains, so you could plan your entire train travel in Switzerland by taking the most scenic route (note that some scenic routes require a supplement and / or reservation – see below for more information).  
  • The pass also covers the use of public transportation in Switzerland in 90 towns and cities.
  • There are a ton of great attractions covered by the pass too. In fact, the pass provides entry into over 500 different attractions in Switzerland.  All the best museums are included.
  • Three of the most popular Switzerland mountain excursions from Lucerne are also included. These day trips are Stanserhorn, Stoos and Rigi.  There is no limit to how many trips you do – do them all and go back again if you want to!  Other mountain excursions receive discounts of up to 50%.
  • One of the most popular mountain excursions in Switzerland is a visit to Jungfraujoch – the highest altitude railway station in Europe.  You can even get discount Jungfraujoch tickets with Swiss Pass. Whilst the Swiss Travel Pass Jungfraujoch tickets are not completely included, you do get a 25% discount and, of course, kids travel free if they hold a Swiss Rail Family Pass. 

Should I Buy a Swiss Travel Pass or Individual Switzerland Train Tickets?

In most cases you are always going to be better off purchasing at least some form of Swisspass rather than purchasing individual Switzerland train tickets.

When it comes to purchasing individual tickets for Switzerland train trips, there are many variables that determine the price.  The main factor is when you book the tickets as well as the timing of the actual train travel. 

Booking last minute tickets tends to be most expensive, which means you can’t be very flexible with your travel.

Swiss rain traveling next to a river and snow-covered trees.
Swiss Railways operates the length and breadth of the country. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

The benefit of having the rail pass Switzerland is not only will you save money (which I can pretty much guarantee you will), but you can also be more flexible with your train travel. There is no need to snap up cheap tickets, because the pass will cover your train tickets regardless of the price. 

If the majority of your time in Switzerland will be spent in the Interlaken region, you can compare the value of the Swiss Travel Pass to the Berner Oberland Pass and Jungfrau Travel Pass to see which is the best value for your itinerary.

Also remember that with the Swiss Travel Pass, museums and other attractions are also included, so you will get free entry into a range of places as well.

In order to determine whether you should book individual Swiss train trips or purchase a Swiss rail pass for tourists, I recommend you complete the following tasks:

  • List out all the individual train trips in Switzerland you intend to take and using the SBB site find out how much it would cost for point to point tickets;
  • List out all the mountain excursions and attractions you plan on visiting and look up the admission costs on the attraction’s websites; and
  • Add up the totals from above and compare this total to the cost of the different Swiss train travel pass options mentioned above.

If the cost of the individual Swiss train journeys and attractions you plan on visiting are more than the Swiss Travel Pass price, then you will benefit from purchasing a pass.

Best Place to Buy Swiss Travel Pass

Do you need to buy a Swiss Travel Pass in advance? Whilst you can buy this Swiss rail pass at most rail stations in Switzerland, in order to start using your pass as soon as you arrive in Switzerland, the best place to buy Swiss Travel Pass is online.

Unlike some other European rail passes, you can print the Swiss pass at home, which makes purchasing them online super easy and convenient. Purchase your Swiss Travel Card and then, as soon as you arrive in Switzerland, you can start taking advantage of all the benefits that come with the pass.

Also, note that the Swiss Travel Pass is only available for purchase by people who permanently live outside of Switzerland.

TIP: After receiving your Swiss Travel Pass by email and downloading it to your phone or device, I recommend printing out a copy and carrying this with you at all times.  This eliminates any problems if your phone is lost or damaged during your trip, or your battery goes flat.

Swiss train in snow.

How to Use the Swiss Travel Pass

When you receive your Swiss rail travel pass, you are ready to hit the rails.

If you are travelling on a consecutive day pass you simply board the train and show your pass to the ticket inspector when requested to do so.

However, if you are traveling with a Swiss Travel Pass Flex, you are required to enter the date of your first travel day before commencing your journey.  You can do this at activateyourpass.com

It’s important to know that your pass is valid from midnight from the first day of validity until 5 am on the following morning on the last day of validity.

Timetable/schedules for Swiss rail travel

With the fantastic Swiss train schedule, you’ll be able to get pretty much anywhere you want to go in Switzerland.  However for precise times, you can look up the Swiss rail timetable on the SBB Mobile App.  

This app will not only help you plan what Swiss train routes you need to take to reach your destination, but will also provide you with helpful information as to which platform you need to go to and provide real time updates, so you’ll know whether the train is going to be on time or late.

Swiss Rail Map

It is recommended that you download the Swiss train map so you know exactly where the Switzerland train pass applies. However, as you can see from the Swiss travel pass map, it is fairly comprehensive and most Swiss railway journeys are covered.

The Swiss Travel Passes are valid for train, boat and bus routes marked on the map with a continuous line, whilst travel on public transport is included in towns and cities marked on the map with a red/white dot.

Where a dotted line appears, travel is available at a 50% discount.


Swiss Travel Pass Mountain Excursions

If you’re interested in any of the scenic Switzerland railway routes, below is some brief information.

GoldenPass Line – included with Swiss Travel Pass

The GoldenPass Line, which runs between Luzern and Montreux, includes two different trains. It takes in three different mountain passes (including the famous 4000-metre Alpine peaks) and goes past eight stunning lakes. If you ride all three trains, the entire journey will take around 5.5 hours.

Luzern Interlaken Express on a bridge over a river.
Luzern Interlaken Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

From Lucerne to Interlaken Ost, the Luzern-Interlaken Express passes five stunning mountain lakes as well as waterfalls and rivers.  You also might be lucky to see glimpses of Eiger, the Mönch and Jungfrau.  This train journey takes just under two hours.

Between Interlaken Ost and Montreux, you will travel on the brand new GoldenPass Express. You’ll travel through narrow valleys and alongside the River Simme, mountain villages, alpine forests and of course, you’ll get fantastic views of Lake Geneva.

Both trains on the Golden Pass Line are completely covered by the Swiss Travel Pass with no reservation or supplement required.  However, to avoid disappointment it is recommended to make a reservation.

For the Luzern-Interlaken Express section, the optional seat reservation fees are between CHF 10 and CHF 14 depending on the date of travel.

For the section between Interlaken and Montreux, seat reservations cost CHF 20 in 1st or 2nd class. In this sector, seat reservations are compulsory in the new Prestige Class, and they cost CHF 40.

BUY YOUR SWISS TRAVEL PASS HERE

Golden Pass Panoramic train near snowy mountains.
Golden Pass Panoramic. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Glacier Express – included with Swiss Travel Pass

All aboard the Glacier Express, also referred to as the slowest express train in the world.  At 8 hours, the journey between Zermatt and St Moritz may not be fast, but it certainly is stunning.

The entire Glacier Express journey makes its way between the Alps, through narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels and across 291 bridges.  

However you don’t need to take the entire trip as the journey is split up into four different sections all with their own unique scenery: Zermatt to Brig, Brig to Andermatt, Andermatt to Chur and Chur to St Moritz or Chur to Davos.

Glacier Express Train traveling over a bridge in Switzerland.

Each section of the Glacier Express is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass with no supplement required, however a reservation is mandatory.  Seat reservation fees are as follows:

  • Low season (10 December, 2022 until 12 May, 2023): Long section CHF 39 and short section CHF 29;
  • High season (13 May until 15 October, 2023): Long section CHF 49 and short section CHF 39.

Please note: There will be no Glacier Express trains running from 16 October to approximately 9 December, 2023 (date to be confirmed.)

BUY YOUR SWISS TRAVEL PASS HERE

Bernina Express – included with Swiss Travel Pass

The Bernina Express is a 4-hour train journey from Chur to Tirano.  Across two sections, this scenic route takes you through alpine forests to the Poschiavo Valley in the Mediterranean.  

Along the route you will pass right through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rhaetian Railway where you pass by glaciers as well as palm trees.  The rail journey entails passing 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges.

Bernina Express traveling next to a beautiful river.
Bernina Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Passengers can take the journey from Chur to Pontresina and / or Pontresina to Tirano.  During the Summer months there is also the option of taking a 3-hour bus ride from Tirano to Lugano.

Each section of the Bernina Express is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass with no supplement required, however a reservation is mandatory.  Seat reservation fees are as follows:

  • Summer season (1 June to 30 September, 2023): CHF 26;
  • Shoulder season (1 Mar to 31 May, 2023 / 1 October to 31 October, 2023): CHF 24;
  • Winter season: (1 November, 2022 to 28 February, 2023 / 1 November to 9 December, 2023): CHF 20

All prices are per adult, one way.

If you plan to take the Bernina Express bus connection between Tirano and Lugano, you need to make bus reservations, too! Seat reservation fees for the bus are CHF 16 during summer season, CHF 14 during shoulder season, and CHF 10 during winter.

BUY YOUR SWISS TRAVEL PASS HERE

Gotthard Panorama Express – included with Swiss Travel Pass

Up until recently this scenic route was known as the Wilhelm Tell Express.  Now called the Gotthard Panorama Express, this 5.5-hour journey takes passengers from Lucerne to Lugano, with the first part of the journey being via boat on Lake Lucerne.

The train journey component of the trip will take you through the historical Gotthard route which passes by the Wassen Church and numerous tunnels including the Gotthard tunnel between Göschenen and Airolo, which opened in 1882.

The last part of the trip takes travellers past stunning Mediterranean landscapes, complete with palm trees.

Aerial view of Gotthard Panorama Express next to a tall mountain and lake.
Gotthard Panorama Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

This train trip is only available to first class passengers, so if you only hold a second-class Swiss Travel pass you will need to upgrade your ticket.  In addition, you will also be required to pay a surcharge of CHF 16 per person.

The Gotthard Panorama Express does not operate year round. It will recommence service on 14 April, 2023 and operate until mid-October.

BUY YOUR SWISS TRAVEL PASS HERE


My Experience Using the Swiss Travel Pass

I’ve used a Swiss Travel Pass on numerous occasions when travelling in Switzerland and love the ease with which you can get around.  Here are some of the reasons I love it:

  • Arriving at the airport with a pre-purchased Swiss Travel Pass in hand, it is simply a matter of hopping aboard a train bound for the city.  There’s no need to queue at the ticket counter to purchase a ticket.
  • Getting around the city on public transport is easy, too. Again, there’s no need to buy tickets, you just hop on a local train, tram or bus (or boat, in some cases) and go where you want.
  • With entry to so many museums covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, it’s great to be able to show your pass at the ticket desk and be waved through for free.  Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva, Thun Castle, FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne are just a few of the 500 or so museums that are included with the pass.
  • Being able to experience some of Switzerland’s panoramic train rides is another reason I love the Swiss Travel Pass.  I’ve used it to travel for free on the Glacier Express, GoldenPass Line and the Bernina Express.
  • Mountain excursions play a big part in my visits to Switzerland, too and with the Swiss Travel Pass there are big discounts available.  Excursions to Mt. Rigi and Stanserhorn are free for pass holders and rides on most other cable cars and funiculars come with a 50% discount.
  • The Swiss Travel Pass is great if you are travelling with children, as we have done on many occasions.  When purchasing our Swiss Travel Pass, we simply requested a Swiss Family Card and our two children travelled for free.

As you can see, there are many reasons that make buying a Swiss Travel Pass a good idea.

I hope you have found this guide to the Swiss Travel Pass useful and you can now confidently purchase the right pass – either Consecutive or Flexible – for your train travel in Switzerland.

Top image courtesy Swiss Travel System.

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