Three good reasons why I like trains:
- They are roomier than airplanes (though I still have a thing for flying).
- I don’t have to think … I can just sit back and relax.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Every 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.