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Public transport

General information on public transport in Switzerland

Switzerland has a very well developed public transport system. The rail network is very dense, the trains run regularly and the well-known Swiss punctuality is particularly beneficial here. Delays are rare, so please don't be surprised if even three minute delays are followed by an apology and an announcement for every disturbance. Larger delays are even worth an article in the press. Even in cold and snow chaos does not break out immediately. The cleanliness is also exemplary. Smaller villages are often connected by intercity buses. These are called Postautos and are also painted in the typical yellow of the post office. In Switzerland there is much more travel by bus and train than in other European countries.

SBB - The Swiss Railway

The Swiss Federal Railway (Schweizerische Bundesbahn: abbreviation SBB) has, like many things in Switzerland, a German, French and Italian name. The French is "Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses" (CFF) and the Italian is "Ferrovie federali svizzere" (FFS). So there are always three abbreviations on the trains, but all three ultimately mean the same thing. This multilingualism is also applied to the announcements on the trains and this is not only the case at the airports.


Halbtax-Abo (Half-Fare travelcard)

Even if you only want to travel by train from time to time, it can be worthwhile to buy a so-called Halbtax-Abo. With this card, you get 50% discount on all routes, in 1st and 2nd class. You can even use the Halbtax-Abo on the mountain railways and ships. You can also save on urban bus services with this card, but the savings are smaller. You can even use the Halbtax-Abo for journeys to Germany; the reduction for the German network is 25%. The Halbtax can only be purchased with the SwissPass and is valid for 1 year. Please note that if the Halbtax is not cancelled, the validity period is automatically extended by a further year. However, SBB will remind you in good time of the cancellation period.

GA Travelcard (Route season ticket)

If you travel a lot by train, a general season ticket, or GA for short, can be worthwhile. The GA travelcard gives you free travel on all trains, trams, buses, post buses and even on all ships throughout Switzerland. Only the night supplement is not included and must be paid separately. Even on some mountain railways you can travel free or at least get a discount. However, the GA travelcard for 2nd class is not quite cheap at CHF 3,860 and for 1st class at CHF 6,300 (Status 2019). Nevertheless, more than 400,000 general season tickets are sold every year. This figure alone shows that this is nothing unusual in Switzerland and that people in Switzerland like to travel by train a lot. 

Two trains at Lucerne railway station.

1st class

The 1st class does not differ much from the 2nd class in terms of comfort. The difference is more in the selection and more peace and quiet. Because the railway is used very well, it can get quite crowded and noisy during rush hour. If you want and it is worth it, you can avoid this in 1st class.

Combined offers

Anyone wishing to travel to concerts, open-air events or sporting events by public transport should contact SBB in advance. Combined tickets (admission ticket and train ticket) are often offered. Finally, if you don't want to or can't drive, public transport in Switzerland gets along very well.

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