All you need to know about Switzerland: regional passes

May 7, 2014, 1 Comment

Schynige Platte train

Swiss transport is not cheap so why not explore the country in affordable chunks? Regional travel passes are a great way to save money and discover one area in detail. After all, not everyone can afford a national rail pass and most visitors aren’t here long enough to warrant an annual Half-fare card. So what’s the deal with the various regional passes?

Generally they offer unlimited and discounted travel within a defined region of Switzerland for a set price and a set time period. Anyone can buy them – residents or tourists – and some have reductions for those who already have a Half-fare cards or rail passes, and children get special rates. If you’re staying (or living) in that region and want to take a lot of trains, boats, buses and cable cars, then they really can save you heaps of money.

The main drawback is that they are usually valid for consecutive days so once you start you have to hope the weather’s good for you to use them every day until they expire. There are no rainy-day refunds!

Here’s a look at Switzerland’s main regional passes (prices given are for 2nd class):

Tell Pass for Lake Lucerne. Valid for unlimited travel in most of central Switzerland (map here), from Interlaken to Zug and down to Andermatt. It includes big rides like Pilatus, Titlis and Rigi, plus normal trains & lake boats, so is quite pricey for 2 consecutive days (170 francs) but good value for 10 days (280 francs). Accompanying children are 30 francs each. Use the Tell Pass well and you can save a lot: eg the round trip from Lucerne to the top of Pilatus costs 97 francs alone, while the Rigibahn is 66 francs return.

The Eiger

Berner Oberland Pass. A big pass offering unlimited travel from Bern throughout the Oberland plus down into Valais and across to Lucerne (map here). Not everything is included, eg you can ride for free up to Kleine Scheidegg but then get 50% discount to Jungfraujoch, but a lot is: for example, Schynige Platte and the Brienzer Rothorn. It’s valid for 4 consecutive days (230 francs) up to 10 days (370 francs), with reductions for Half-fare cardholders and children. The Berner Oberland Pass looks expensive but a return from Bern to Kleine Scheidegg is 131 francs and the trip up Brienzer Rothorn is 84 francs.


Lake Geneva Pass. A simple pass for boats and trains on and around Lake Geneva but with slightly more complicated rules. Passes for 5 consecutive days (105 francs) give unlimited travel on 2 days of your choice plus 3 days at 50%; 7-day passes (130 francs) give 3 unlimited days plus 4 days at 50% (prices are for 2013). Some routes are always only 50% rather than included, while Half-fare cardholders and children get cheaper rates. The Lake Geneva Pass is cheaper but also more limited in scope.

Bernina Express on a bridge

Graubünden Pass. The most complicated pass as it has similar time restrictions to the Lake Geneva Pass but also divides the region into six zones. So the Graubünden Pass is valid for unlimited travel on 3 days out of 7 in one zone (76 francs) or all zones (129 francs), or on 5 days out of 14 (100 francs for one zone, 160 francs for all). There are no reductions on other days but children and Half-fare cardholders get discounts. The most useful zone is possibly Zone 5 which covers the Engadine, St Moritz and the Bernina Railway.

There are some more localised passes on offer:

  • the Jungfrau Railways Pass (250 francs for 6 consecutive days) covers the Jungfrau region from Interlaken upwards, though not all the way up to Jungfraujoch
  • the Ticino Discovery Card includes entry to some sights as well as public transport and mountain cable cars during 3 days out of 7 for 89 francs
  • the Adventure Card covers parts of Valais and Uri, including the Matterhorn Gotthard railway, and is valid for 2 days in a month (99 francs) up to 5 days (179 francs).

All you have to do now is buy a pass and start exploring!


One Comment on "All you need to know about Switzerland: regional passes"

  1. TJ Martin Wednesday May 7th, 2014 at 10:01 PM · Reply

    An additional note for anyone considering traveling to CH from the US . For what ever reason .. all the available Swiss rail passes are cheaper when purchased here in the US rather than in CH . Many if not most substantially so . It makes no sense [ to me ] but thats how it is .

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