Swiss Travel Pass 2016 review: Is it good value or not?

InterlakenViewWhen it comes to city passes and travel cards, it’s usually fairly easy to figure out whether they would be worth it for you or not. For things like the Paris Pass or London Pass, they have a list of the most popular attractions and how much they cost, right there for you to see. The Swiss Travel Pass, however, is shrouded in mystery, or at least it was until I spent several days tracking down all of the prices and benefits.

A great many of the visitors and commenters on my popular page about where to go in Switzerland on a short visit are wondering whether the Swiss Travel Pass is a good deal. Embarrassingly, I’ve always had to answer that I found the pass too confusing to confidently advize people on. Now that has all changed, after literally days of research.

The Swiss Travel Pass seems quite expensive at first, so it felt like it might be hard to get your money’s worth out of it. As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to get good value, and it’ll be a good deal for many visitors.

Is the Swiss Travel Pass a good deal? Here’s the short version

CogwheelTrainIf you plan on taking at least 2 of Switzerland’s famous scenic train rides within a 3 or 4-day period, a Swiss Travel Pass can easily pay for itself. If you take 3 or 4 scenic train rides, as well as use the pass for a 50% discount on one or more of the famous cable cars such as Schilthorn or the mountain train up to Jungfraujoch, the pass is definitely worth it.

The bottom line is that the scenery, train journeys, and cable car rides in Switzerland are stunning and not found anywhere else in the world. They are also quite expensive if you pay for them one at a time. So no matter how you visit Switzerland, you are going to be paying quite a bit, or skipping the absolute best things that you’ve come there to see.

With good planning it’s quite easy to get great value out of a Swiss Travel Pass, but it might be a poor choice for those who don’t like to plan ahead. You can easily do a scenic train ride and a cable car in the same day, and still have time to do a scenic hike in the process.

Is a Swiss Travel Pass right for you?

GimmelwaldCowDetermining whether a Swiss Travel Pass is a good deal for you is simply a matter of figuring out which of the scenic rail and cable car journeys you plan on doing while in Switzerland, and seeing whether the price of the pass will cover the benefits. Below in this article you’ll see a long list of every one of the most expensive and most popular scenic journeys and cable cars, along with how much they cost without the pass, and how much you can save.

Most people only visit Switzerland for 5 or 6 days at most, so the 3-day and 4-day passes are the ones to focus on. But if you are staying for 8 days or more, those longer passes are almost certainly a great deal for you.

Long story short, if you plan on doing 2 of the more expensive scenic trains and the Jungfraujoch railway or the Schilthorn cable car, then the pass will save you money. Switzerland is expensive, but it’s worth it, and the travel pass can help make it a bit more affordable.

What the Swiss Travel Pass includes

  • Free rail travel on normal trains and most scenic trains
  • Discounted travel (about 50%) on popular tourist mountain trains
  • Discounted travel (about 50%) on popular tourist cable cars
  • Free travel on public transport in 75 towns and cities
  • Free entry to around 500 museums in Switzerland

The Swiss Travel Pass covers the fare on the most popular scenic and panoramic trains. You can choose a normal seat in a regular carriage for no additional cost, but there is a supplement of CHF8 to CHF49 for a reserved seat in one of the special panorama carriages on these routes.

Prices of the 2016 Swiss Travel Pass

1st Class

  • Adult 3-day Pass: CHF336
  • Youth (16 to 25) 3-day Pass: 286
  • Child (6 to 15) 3-day Pass: 168
  • Adult 4-day Pass: 402
  • Youth (16 to 25) 4-day Pass: 342
  • Child (6 to 15) 4-day Pass: 201
  • Adult 8-day Pass: 581
  • Youth (16 to 25) 8-day Pass: 494
  • Child (6 to 15) 8-day Pass: 290
  • Adult 15-day Pass: 704
  • Youth (16 to 25) 15-day Pass: 598
  • Child (6 to 15) 15-day Pass: 352

2nd Class

  • Adult 3-day Pass: CHF210
  • Youth (16 to 25) 3-day Pass: 179
  • Child (6 to 15) 3-day Pass: 105
  • Adult 4-day Pass: 251
  • Youth (16 to 25) 4-day Pass: 213
  • Child (6 to 15) 4-day Pass: 125
  • Adult 8-day Pass: 363
  • Youth (16 to 25) 8-day Pass: 309
  • Child (6 to 15) 8-day Pass: 181
  • Adult 15-day Pass: 440
  • Youth (16 to 25) 15-day Pass: 374
  • Child (6 to 15) 15-day Pass: 220

Where to buy the Swiss Travel Pass

>>>Buy the Swiss Travel Pass online

Popular Swiss panorama scenic trains

ScheideggViewThe 5 train routes listed below are the best and most popular of Switzerland’s scenic train routes. With a Swiss Travel Pass, you can ride for free in normal carriages or pay a small supplement for a reserved seat in one of the special Panorama carriages. If you are going to do one of these as a journey unto itself, the Panorama carriages are highly recommended, and worth the supplement.

  • Glacier Express
  • Route: Zermatt to St. Moritz
  • Train type: Panorama
  • Journey time: 8 hours 3 minutes
  • Distance: 291km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF262
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF149
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 13 to 33 for panorama carriage
  • Bernina Express
  • Route: Chur to Tirano and Lugano
  • Train type: Panorama and bus
  • Journey time: 4 hours 13 minutes and 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Distance: 148km and 90km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF176
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF129
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 10 to 14 for panorama carriage
  • GoldenPass Line
  • Route: Lucerne to Montreaux
  • Train type: Panorama
  • Journey time: 5 hours 8 minutes
  • Distance: 191 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF125
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF71
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 8 to 15 for panorama carriage
  • Wilhelm Tell Express
  • Route: Lugano or Locarno to Lucerne
  • Train type: Panorama and boat
  • Journey time: 5 hours 21 minutes
  • Distance: 182 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF197
  • 2nd Class fare: N/A
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 39 to 49 for panorama carriage
  • Swiss Chocolate Train
  • Route: Montreux to Broc round trip
  • Train type: Panorama or First Class
  • Journey time: X hours X minutes
  • Distance: 82 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF89
  • 2nd Class fare: N/A
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 39

Popular Swiss scenic and theme trains

The scenic trains below are also extremely popular as sightseeing journeys rather than just as transportation, but can be used as both.

  • Jungfraujoch round trip
  • Route: Interlaken to Jungfraujoch
  • Train type: special mountain train
  • Journey time: 4 hours 41 minutes, round trip, plus time on top
  • Distance: 73 km
  • 1st Class fare: N/A
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF204.40
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 128 (so, a saving of CHF76.40)
  • Gornergrat Railway
  • Route: Gornergrat Railway
  • Train type: Cog railway
  • Journey time: 44 minutes return
  • Distance: 10 km
  • 1st Class fare: N/A
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF90
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 45
  • Rigi round trip
  • Route: Lucerne to Rigi
  • Train type: Cog railway
  • Journey time: 3 hours 25 minutes, plus time at the top
  • Distance: 58 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF84.40
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF74
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: None (this one is free with the pass)
  • Lotschberg Mountain Route and Centrovalli
  • Route: Bern to Locarno
  • Train type: Narrow gauge
  • Journey time: 4 hours 40 minutes
  • Distance: 212 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF158
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF90
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 5
  • Jura round trip (Watchmaking Tour)
  • Route: Neuchatel through Jura
  • Train type: Regular
  • Journey time: 3 hours 0 minutes
  • Distance: 143 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF168
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF108
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 0
  • Pre-Alpine Express
  • Route: St. Gallen to Lucerne
  • Train type: Regular
  • Journey time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Distance: 146 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF83
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF47
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 0
  • Jura Foot Line
  • Route: Basel to Geneva
  • Train type: Regular
  • Journey time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Distance: 248 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF132
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF75
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 0
  • Lavaux-Simplon-Centrovalli Line (Wine Route)
  • Route: Geneva to Brig to Locarno
  • Train type: Regular
  • Journey time: 5 hours 20 minutes
  • Distance: 317 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF132
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF75
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 0
  • Three City Line
  • Route: Lucerne to Zurich to Chur
  • Train type: Regular
  • Journey time: 2 hours 1 minutes
  • Distance: 174 km
  • 1st Class fare: CHF69
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF59
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 0
  • Mt Rigi Excursion
  • Route: Lucerne to Mt Rigi
  • Train type: cogwheel train and/or cable car
  • Journey time: 45 minutes up
  • 1st Class fare: N/A
  • 2nd Class fare: 50
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 0

Popular Switzerland cable car rides

CableCarThese are the two most popular cable car rides to obvservation peaks in central Switzerland. The Swiss Travel Pass offers a 50% or more discount, but not the whole fare.

  • Schilthorn
  • Route: Stechelberg (Lauterbrunnen) to Schilthorn
  • Train type: cable car
  • Journey time: 1 hour
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF112
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 40
  • Engelberg to Mt. Titlis cable car
  • Route: Engelberg to Mt. Titlis
  • Train type: cable car
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF89
  • Supplement for Swiss Pass holders: 44.50

Popular general train line routes for tourists to Switzerland

LauterbrunnenTrainThe following train routes are the ones that most tourists to Switzerland will be using. They are all free with a Swiss Travel Pass.

Note: In some cases, a Supersaver fare might be available, which can be a savings of up to 50% off the regular fare. However, they are for a fixed journey at an off-peak time, and they are non-changeable and non-refundable.

  • Basel to Zurich (for trips to or from Paris)
  • 1st Class fare: CHF58
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF33
  • Geneva to Zurich
  • 1st Class fare: CHF153
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF87
  • Bern to Zurich
  • 1st Class fare: CHF88
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF50
  • Zurich to Interlaken
  • 1st Class fare: CHF88
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF50
  • Zurich to Lucerne
  • 1st Class fare: CHF44
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF25
  • Bern to Interlaken
  • 1st Class fare: CHF49
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF28
  • Bern to Lucerne
  • 1st Class fare: CHF67
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF38
  • Interlaken to Zermatt
  • 1st Class fare: CHF142
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF81
  • Lucerne to Lugano
  • 1st Class fare: CHF105
  • 2nd Class fare: CHF60

The Swiss Travel Pass also includes free museum admission, but…

SchilthornViewWhile it’s true that the Swiss Travel Pass includes free admission to around 500 museums all over Switzerland, it’s probably best to just ignore that when you are determining whether to buy a pass or not. Most of the included museums cost between CHF5 and CHF10 without the pass, although a few are closer to CHF20.

The problem is that the museums are only free on valid travel days, and almost no one would visit more than one or two museums with a Swiss Travel Pass. The trains and cable cars are so expensive that the pass gives very good value to cover those, so you don’t want to waste precious sightseeing time walking through a museum that only costs CHF10 anyway.

In other words, calculate the value of a Swiss Travel Pass on the travel savings only, and if you visit a museum here or there, then great. Most people are better off trying to squeeze in an additional train ride each day, and ignoring the museums. Switzerland is all about the outdoor scenery. As nice as the museums may be, they are not why you are there.

The pass includes free public transport in most Swiss cities

Similar to the free museum part of the offer, it’s best to ignore or minimize the value of free public transportation. It could be helpful in Zurich, but in most other Swiss tourist towns you won’t need much public transport. In fact, in Interlaken, each hotel or hostel guest automatically gets a card for free public transportation within the town (including between the two train stations).

So you might use a ride or two each day on public transport, but that won’t add up to much in terms of value of your Swiss Travel Pass.

Where to buy the Swiss Travel Pass

>>>Buy the Swiss Travel Pass online



16 Responses to “Swiss Travel Pass 2016 review: Is it good value or not?”

anne Pounds says:

At your website, the price for an 8-day Swissflexipass is $363 per person. When Iclick on the link to RailEurope, the price jumped up to $429 per person. Why? I have not found the sme price twice, and every time I go to a website, the price seems to go up. I need help!

 

    Anne,

    For one thing, this site lists prices in Swiss francs (CHF) and Rail Europe shows them in US dollars for US citizens. Still, those currencies are similar so that only accounts for about US$15 of the difference. It appears that Rail Europe (which is owned by the French and Swiss railways) adds in the service charge early in the process, while on the main site they add it in later. Try another site and hopefully you can find a lower price. I’ll look into this. -Roger

     
SylviaJ says:

Hi Roger, would appreciate your input on my trip planner.

Basically, my mum and I will be based in Lauterbrunnen for 4 nights, we’ll be coming from Salzburg. Ideally we’d like to take a day trip to Lucerne besides sightseeing in Murren, Gimmelwald and Schilthorn.

I’m probably getting too overwhelmed with flows of information and cannot seem to work out which Pass to purchase. I thought about purchasing 4dys Jungfrau/Schilthorn Holiday Pass and then pay single tickets for all other destinations.

In your opinion, would you recommend I purchase combined passes of Half Fare Pass & Holiday Pass or stick with above plan.
thank you in advance!

Sylvia

 
Zhi Hao says:

Hi there,

Me and my wife will be travelling to Switzerland for 5 days 4 nights, but not sure which pass (swiss travel pass or half fare travel pass) we should get for better deal. Below are our itinerary:

Day 1 – Zurich airport – Interlaken Ost

Day 2 – Interlaken Ost – Murren – Gimmelwald – Lauterbrunnen – Interlaken

Day 3 – Interlaken Ost – Jungfraujoch – Interlaken Ost

Day 4 – Interlaken Ost – Lucerne

Day 5 – Lucerne- Zurich airport

Thanks a lot for the advise. 🙂

 

    Zhi,

    For the train journeys on your list, just buying tickets as you go will be your best option. The Swiss Travel Passes are really only good value for people who want to do at least two of the long scenic rail journeys. Jungfraujoch is a private railway and you could get a discount for that, but not a free ride. And all your others are fairly short (2 hours or less) normal train rides. The fares in Switzerland aren’t exactly cheap, but they are always the same price and the distances are mostly short so they aren’t too expensive either.

    The cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to Murren is only about CHF10 each way. If you want to go all the way up to Schilthorn and the observation deck, it’s around CHF150 return, and it’s highly recommended and worthwhile if the weather at the top is good. But even on that, you also only get a discount with the Swiss Pass.

    If you are sure of your travel days you can check the SBB.com website for the train fares. In some cases they’ll show a “supersaver” price that is about half the normal price, but those are rare. Otherwise, just buying the tickets as you go will be the cheapest way. The trip is going to be amazing and the trains are incredibly nice, so it doesn’t feel like a ripoff when you are there. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Steven says:

Hello there,

Me and my partner are intending to travel to Switzerland in mid Feb next year and the good thing here is Australia promoting 8 days Swiss Pass plus 2 bonus days free so we have 10 days/9 nights and going to take advantage of it and this is the following intinerary we plan to do and I would like to ask your comment of what you think of it?

Feb. 13 – Arrival Zurich Airport 10 AM, transfer to Lucerne, check -in at hotel and then Mt. Rigi excursion, overnight in Lucerne
Feb. 14 – Excursion to Mt. Titlis (morning) and Mt. Pilatus (afternoon), overnight in Lucerne
Feb. 15 – Transfer from Lucerne to Interlaken Ost in early morning, check-in at hotel, then Schilthorn excursion, overnight in Interlaken Ost
Feb. 16 – Transfer from Interlaken to Montreux via Golden Pass. Promenade and Water Castle, possibly Roche de Naye. overnight in Montreux
Feb. 17 – Transfer from Montreux to Zermatt, rest of day at leisure, overnight in Zermatt
Feb. 18 – Excursion to Gornergrat and Glacier Paradise, overnight in Zermatt
Feb. 19 – Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz, overnight in St. Moritz
Feb. 20 – Transfer from St. Moritz to Appenzell, overnight in Appenzell
Feb. 21 – Transfer from Appenzell to Zurich. Check in hotel & drop baggage. Visit Berne for the day. Overnight in Zurich
Feb. 22 – Sightseeing in Zurich. Flight back home in the evening for 7pm

Thank you once again and great blog you have =)

Cheers

 

    Steven,

    Thank you. Your itinerary looks fantastic and filled with nearly every highlight in Switzerland that I am aware of, except for perhaps Jungfraujoch. Since you have enough time to do all of this, and you will be doing so many of the more expensive scenic train rides and attractions, the Swiss Travel Pass will be a great deal for you. I envy this trip and I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Steven says:

Hi Roger

Thank you very much! I would love to do the Jungfraujoch like you said but unfortunately, as you can see they are filled pretty full, and i have to choose one or the other, can’t do both so maybe will go next time!

Oh sorry Roger for envying me because i thought you had been there before! But I beieve you will have this chance later on so hopefully this day will come to you soon =)

Thanks once again

Cheers

Steven

 

    Steven,

    I understand that you can’t do it all. And I have been to almost all of the places on your list. It’s just that Switzerland is one of those places where you can go back again and again and enjoy it each time. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Jeannie says:

Hello Roger,

First thing first, thank you for such a generous blog! It answered most of my questions. I just wanted to share our itinerary to get your expert advice.

Aug 13th – landing in Geneva and spending the night in Montreux
Aug 14th – take the Golden Pass train from Montreux to Interlaken and transferring to Gimmelwald
Aug 15th – Staying in Gimmelwald & exploring the area
Aug 16th–Schilthorn
Aug 17th – reaching Lucerne – spending the day exploring Lucerne
Aug 18th – Taking the day trip to Mt.Titlis
Aug 19 – reaching Bern
Aug 20th – catching the train to Paris rom Bern

Most of the time people are starting their journey from east and going to west where as we are landing in Geneva and then trying to make our way to Bern. We still have to decide which Travel pass to go for. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

 

    Jeannie,

    Thank you for the kind words. Your itinerary looks fantastic and very well balanced. Montreaux has a gorgeous location so it should be a nice quick stop.

    One comment I’ll make is that as long as the weather is clear, which it usually is in August, then you can easily do Schilthorn and the walking tour of Gimmelwald and Murren in the same day. If you are staying in Gimmelwald then it takes about 60 minutes to be up top of Schilthorn. Even if you have lunch there (the revolving restaurant has normal prices and good food in spite of the amazing location), and you spend 30 minutes in the James Bond attraction, you can be back in Murren by 2pm. You can spend two hours walking around that town and then 15 minutes walking down the hill to Gimmelwald. Gimmelwald itself is a gorgeous place that you’ll never forget, but you can literally walk the whole town in 20 minutes. It will be nice to walk around and see it before having dinner at one of the restaurants up there. After that, you’ve seen the whole area and you could spend the other day exploring something else in the Lauterbrunnen or Interlaken area.

    As for the Swiss Travel Pass, it looks like you are borderline for it being good value. If you add another train ride or the Jungfraujoch train, it’s probably good value. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Jeannie says:

      Fantastic :-)! Thank you for the valuable and quick response :-)!
      We are going to take your advice and combine the activities for Aug 15th & 16th into one day and do Jungfraujoch on Aug 16th. I still have one question though, Should we go in for the Golden Pass train while going from Interlaken to Lucerne or just stick to the normal train?

      Cheers

       

        Jeannie,

        If you are referring to the special panoramic carriages, they are nice but the normal carriages are also really nice and the views are great from them as well. If you can get a reservation for a special carriage it would be fantastic, though I’m not sure how much extra they are worth. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
Meenakshi says:

Hello Roger, this is really a nice blog. I can plan a good trip now. Me and my friend will be reaching Geneva airport on 2nd Dec afternoon and our return flight from Geneva is on 4th dec, evening.
Can you please assist us in planning what best we can see in this short period?
Also, please suggest should we buy Swiss travel pass then or not?
Regards
Meenakshi

 

    Meenakshi,

    If you only have two days I’d definitely recommend spending them in the Interlaken area, as mentioned in the article above. Many of the hotels in the Gimmelwald and Murren area are closed until the snow season begins in mid December, but some will still be open. If the weather is clear you should go up to Schilthorn or do the Jungfraujoch railway, or both. They are expensive but you’ll never forget them. If you don’t want to do those or if the weather is cloudy you should still go up to Gimmelwald and Murren for a look around, and you can do some of the other walks and see the Interlaken sights.

    I wouldn’t recommend a Swiss Travel Pass unless you want to do at least two scenic rail journeys, and you don’t have time for those. -Roger

     

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