Taking Advantage of the Swiss Travel System

Swiss Travel System Train AppenzellThree good reasons why I like trains:

  1. They are roomier than airplanes (though I still have a thing for flying).
  2. I don’t have to think … I can just sit back and relax.
  3. I love slow travel because I think that the journey can be just as rewarding as the destination.

Add to that three good reasons why I learned to love the Swiss rail system in just one week:

  1. Like the rest of Switzerland, it is ridiculously clean. No curious spots on the floor or sticky seats. It makes it that much easier to sit back and relax.
  2. The network system is so interconnected and thorough throughout the country that you can rely completely on the rail system to get you where you need to go. No vehicles needed.
  3. It is unbelievably punctual. This system is exactly on time 91% of the time, and according to a representative for the rail system, they’re working on improving that number.

I often bemoan the sad state of America’s railway system. It’s no wonder that few people in the United States have really explored their country. It’s big and difficult to get around. In marked contrast, the railroads that run throughout Switzerland consist of hundreds of miles of national and regional lines that reach even the farthest corners of the country. Sure, some of the lines in the farthest reaches of the country have limited hours, but it seems to me that you can pretty much get anywhere you need to go on one of these trains.

During the week I was in Switzerland, I only utilized the railway for transportation purposes, but I love the fact that the country has established lines for leisure travel purposes as well. There are seven routes that have been designated as “scenic.” They include the Glacier Express (which connects St. Moritz with Zermatt and passes over 291 bridges as it winds its way through the mountains) and the GoldenPass Line (which passes by a myriad of lakes and through several distinct regions of the country). Though not technically a scenic line, I want to ride the Swiss Chocolate Train, which departs from Montreux and travels into Gruyere country, where Caliller chocolate originates.

Train in SwitzerlandEvery time I rode on the train in Switzerland, it was utterly relaxing. I love that the trains are so punctual and predictable. I rode in first class most of the time but I did spend some time in second class, which was also extremely spacious and comfortable. The windows in the cars were huge, and I loved being able to watch the lakes and mountains pass by as I mindlessly scribbled in my journal.

The rail lines in Switzerland are just a piece of the full transportation system established in the country. Known as the Swiss Travel System, this interconnected operation also offers users access to several buses and boats throughout the country. Holders of certain passes are also eligible for a significant discount on most cable cars and mountaintop excursions.

Ahhh … the passes. So I’m a bit confused about all of the options that are available for purchase. Everything is laid out well on the Swiss Travel System website and agents at the stations are very well informed about all of the different passes, but the options seem a bit overwhelming to me. Certain passes may limit the lines you can ride on, and others limit the number of days you can ride. I was advised by the rep at the Swiss Travel System that having a rail pass for the European train system limits your movement within the country and if you’re planning on spending more than three days in Switzerland specifically, an in-country pass might be a more viable financial option for you.

Beyond that, though, and maybe because of it, the Swiss Travel System and the railways in particular are just about as close to perfect as you can get. You can bet that the next time I’m planning a trip to Switzerland, this will be one of my very first travel purchases.

Have you taken advantage of Switzerland’s transportation system? What did you think?

My ability to experience Switzerland’s rail lines was generously sponsored by the Swiss Travel System and the Switzerland Tourism Board, however all opinions in this post are completely my own.

12 Responses to “Taking Advantage of the Swiss Travel System”

  1. Pam Stucky

    Swiss public transportation is AMAZING. I remember one time I needed to ride a cogwheel train, followed by a regular train, followed by a bus, to get where I wanted to go. Everything was timed as though they’d planned the arrivals and departures specifically for my trip. I’d arrive at one station, walk at a leisurely pace to my next transportation, and it would leave minutes later. Beautiful!!

    We had Swiss Passes, which worked perfectly. The two couples in our group bought the Saver Passes (I haven’t looked up these names to double check, but I think I got them right), which meant they either traveled together, or only one person could use their pass if they separated, but it worked fine for all of us.

    Reply
  2. Gray

    Well, of course they’re punctual. As punctual as a Swiss watch, I imagine. (Come on, somebody had to say it.) And OMG, there’s a CHOCOLATE train?!? Sign me up…

    Reply
    • Pam Stucky

      The Chocolate Train is DEEEEELIGHTFUL!!! It also stops at a cheese factory, and the fabulous town of Gruyeres, at which one MUST try berries with double cream. Scrumptious!

      Reply
      • JoAnna

        I can’t wait to ride on that Chocolate Train someday. You know that if a country devotes a train to food, it means business!

        Reply
  3. Zoë Dawes

    I really enjoyed your article. My son went to Switzerland this summer with the Scouts & thought the trains were ace 🙂 Whenver I go to London I love travelling by train so I can relax, gaze out of the window & get magic glimpses of people’s lives via their back gardens …
    If you don’t know him, check out Jools Stone’s excellent site
    http://www.trainsonthebrain.com/

    If you are ever in Lancashire visit Carnforth Station for the setting of Brief Encounter’s famous fond farewells
    http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/2010/03/a-brief-encounter-with-carnforth-station

    Cheers – Zoë

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Hi Zoe! Thanks for the links to other people who love traveling by train. It is, by far, one of my favorite modes of transportation.

      Reply
  4. Linda

    Ah, this makes me homesick.

    My mother is Swiss and I have dual citizenship and have spent lots of time there, on all the transportation systems. In 2005, I studied abroad in Geneva and got a “Track 7” pass, which you can get if you’re under 25. It lets you travel for free on any train after 7 pm, which is very effective for weekend trips. If you’re staying a month, you can get a “1/2 Day” pass (I think that’s what it translates to), which gets you 1/2 off on trains and also possibly trams, buses and some cable cars. Very useful. I love the trains.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I loved everything about Switzerland except the fact that it was so expensive. I have to say that I’m a little jealous that you have duel citizenship. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Forest Direct

    Those seats really do look relaxing. I honestly have never ridden in a train before. I live in Florida, US, and its pretty difficult here if you don’t have your own car :\ Thanks for sharing this though. I would love to experience that in Switzerland!

    Reply
  6. Sonja

    Have ridden Swiss trains, and others, many times. LOVE the European train system. People who haven’t experienced it don’t know how convenient and wonderful it can be!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I agree. Trains in other parts of the world often pale in comparison to the convenience, efficiency, reach and cleanliness of trains in Europe.

      Reply

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