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The whole country in one ticket

February 25, 2011, 13 Comments

Today my new GA started. If you’re reading this outside Switzerland you probably have no idea what that means. If you’re in Romandie or Ticino, you need to think AG not GA. Either way, it means a travel pass that covers every form of transport across the whole of Switzerland. Imagine that – with one ticket I can catch a train, tram, boat, bus, cable car or funicular wherever I want. A weekend trip to Lugano? Included. Paddle-steamers across Lake Geneva? Included. All day zipping round Zurich? Included. And these days even the rack-railway ride up Rigi is included. The Swiss not only have great public transport, they certainly know how to market it properly.

Now I know Switzerland isn’t that big (twice the size of Wales), but I still find it amazing that one ticket covers the whole country. And also a bit beyond: places like Konstanz, Domodossola and Evian are included even though they are all across the relevant border. This is because they are linked into the Swiss transport network purely thanks to their locations; so shopping in Germany and lunch in Italy are also possible with a GA – short for Generalabonnement (or Abonnement général in French and Abbonamento generale in Italian, hence the AG). With every Swiss town and village connected to the transport system in some way, there’s nowhere you can’t go.  Well, almost. Most mountain trains aren’t included, sadly, because such services are there for pleasure, either to go up and enjoy the view (for tourists) or to bring you down after you have walked up (for the Swiss). There’s no logical reason for them to be part of the GA as no-one lives up there permanently, though these trips are at least half price.

Such travelling freedom doesn’t come for free. A 2nd-class GA costs 3300Fr a year, or 5150Fr for 1st class, though both are much cheaper if you’re over 65 or under 25, or if you buy two together as partners (which is exactly what Gregor and I do). The Swiss are very fond of their GAs – over 5% of the population has one. And in terms of value for money, it’s actually not a bad deal: for that 3300 francs, or about £2200 at the current rates, you get the whole country; for the same price you only get zones 1-7 in London.

The GA is such a splendid idea that you can also buy one for your dog. It’s not a daft as it sounds since, unless it can be carried as hand luggage, a dog has to have a ticket to travel on a train. Dogs are charged at half the normal fare and, since they need a ticket, they can also have a GA, which is a snip at 700Fr. Unlike a human GA, the dog version is valid in any class; clearly man’s best friend doesn’t need to pay for lying on the superior flooring in 1st.

I got my first GA because I had to research my book, which clearly involved travelling around most of Switzerland. Now I wouldn’t be without one. Cheaper than a car, and much greener, it can take me anywhere and everywhere. I love my GA, and of course never leave home without it.

13 Comments on "The whole country in one ticket"

  1. Rebecca Friday February 25th, 2011 at 03:51 PM · Reply

    nice photo!

  2. Peter Rechner - Oberdiessbach Friday February 25th, 2011 at 05:15 PM · Reply

    Dear Diccon,
    Your wonderful book Swiss Watching was given to us by our friend Ursula, who is the mother of Christina Warren who lives in the same building as you and Gregor (please say hello to her even though I have never met her in person yet). I have given it, which is your wonderful book, to a few friends as a gift, Swiss and Americans who like CH.
    Your writing is excellent. You have a ‘süffige’ style (by now you know what that means in this context. I’m sure you have come across the term in connection with Fendant or another wine) but your research is also absolutely first class. I’ve gleaned many a useful tidbit about my country and for that I want to thank you. We had some catching up to do since we lived in England, the US and Italy for some 30 years. Today I learnt that our day passes we sometimes get from our village office is valid all the way to Domodossola and that bus line down to Tirano and Chiavenna and back into CH. I’m looking forward to the next email from your blog.
    Have a good weekend and all the best. – Gruss – Peter

    • swisswatching Friday February 25th, 2011 at 06:34 PM · Reply

      Thanks Peter, and so glad you like both the book & the blog. Aren’t the Gemeindetageskarte great? We buy them sometimes when my parents come to visit.

  3. Fergus Miller Friday February 25th, 2011 at 07:56 PM · Reply

    Did you know the Swiss Rail System has its very own power network? only the Swiss would do this!

    • Silvia Friday February 25th, 2011 at 10:24 PM · Reply

      A different frequency makes that necessary.

      • Patrick Sunday February 27th, 2011 at 05:40 AM · Reply

        Well, the frequency (16,7 Hz) is indeed different from standard mains frequency (50 Hz), but I think that Fergus is referring to the fact that SBB-CFF-FFS have a lot of (water) power plants of their own and therefore produce a fair share of their electric power themselves, as opposed to converting “standard power” to “railway power” (which they also do, but to a far lesser extent than railways in other countries, I think). By the way, there are virtually no thermal power plants in Switzerland (about 60 percent are hydroelectricity and most of the rest is nuclear, I think), so travelling by train in Switzerland is truly carbon neutral – except when “foreign” power has to be imported, which is sometimes the case.

  4. Silvia Friday February 25th, 2011 at 10:27 PM · Reply

    Oh yes, GAs are addictive… I don’t want live without one anymore. It’s just so comfortable. No thinking about what way to go to reach a place, no musing if a trip is really worth it or not to expensive. No, you just do it if you have the time!

  5. Slicely Sunday February 27th, 2011 at 06:56 PM · Reply

    I have no car and love my GA too. Never have to buy a ticket. Hopp on the train and enjoy the trip. 🙂

  6. Rebecca Tuesday March 1st, 2011 at 10:11 AM · Reply

    Diccon,

    Great post again. I am Swiss living abroad, married to a Brit. I like how you expose little particularities, such as: “… either to go up and enjoy the view (for tourists) or to bring you down after you have walked up (for the Swiss).” Couldn’t be said better. Made me laugh!

    Rebecca

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