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Is buying a Swiss Pass the best thing?

We are wondering if we should get the Swiss Pass given that we will be in Lucerne for 3 days with plans to use the train, boat on Lake Lucerne and other day trips we might decide on. Is it worth getting this pass for the 3 days?

Also we are taking the train from Lucerne to Salzburg. Does the Swiss Pass cover this trip in part or in full? Does it cover the Swiss part and then what happens when you go over the border. Are we better off just getting a regular train ticket from Lucerne straight to Salzburg.

Thank you!

Posted by
16462 posts

The 4 day Swiss Saver Pass at 245 chf per person 2nd class is pretty pricey. You'd need to travel constantly to make it pay. Travelling to Salzburg, it would only cover you as far as Buchs, and would only save you 20 chf per person over buying a nonrefundable ticket. You really need to sit down and add up the cost of the trips you want to take and see how much you will spend. Another option is the Half Fare Card for 120 chf pp. Research the prices at www.sbb.ch. Keep in mind that the first price you see is the "half fare" price. Without a Half Fare Card the cost is twice what is shown. There are a few other benefits with the Swiss Pass, like free museum admissions, free local transit on buses and trams, and hotel discounts for stays of 3 days or more.

Posted by
80 posts

Thanks Sam. Interestingly enough, the Swiss Pass is for 4 days is 279 and the Super Saver Swiss Pass is 266. The Half Fare card is 120. So what are the benefits of one over the others?

Posted by
11280 posts

I haven't been to Switzerland, but I'm going in September and so have been researching this.

The Half Fare Card (per Rick's page on it) "Gives you 50 percent off on all Swiss trains (including private railways and high-mountain routes, including the Jungfraujoch), postal buses, city trams and buses, mountain lifts, and lake and river boats within a one-month span." That's it. But it's only 120 CHF. So, if your trips would add up to more than 240 CHF at full fare, you would save money with this.

The Swiss Pass completely covers almost all "lowland" transit (things that are not high mountain lifts or special scenic trains like the Glacier Express). That includes trains (regional and long distance), postal buses, local buses and metros in cities, and boats. It does cover most of the cost of the scenic trains, but you have to add mandatory reservation fees (or you can take regular trains on the same routes, fully covered by the Swiss Pass). It also gets you 50% off most high mountain lifts (only 25% off the Jungfraujoch train, while the Half Fare Card gets you 50% off this very expensive ride). It also acts as a museum pass (free entry to many museums all over the country; only half off the expensive Swiss Transit Museum in Luzern).

Of course, the Swiss Pass costs much more than 120 CHF. So figuring out whether it will save money is harder. But there's also a convenience factor. For any ride that's fully covered, you don't have to buy tickets; you just flash your pass. With a Half Fare Card, you still have to buy tickets every time. And there's the peace of mind of knowing that if you decide to take more trips (like going up Mt. Rigi in addition to Mt. Pilatus while in Luzern) or if you see an extra museum because of a rainy day, it's mostly or completely already paid for.

As Sam said, remember that the default price shown on the Swiss Rail website is with a Half Fare Card; you have to go a couple of screens in to see the price without a card.

Here's Rick's Switzerland pass page with more information: http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes

Posted by
16462 posts

Hmm. I'm getting my prices of 272 for the Swiss Pass and 245 chf for the Saver Pass from the SBB website. Thinking about it, the Half Fare Card, at 120 chf would not be worth it, as it would not start to pay until you reached 240 chf worth of full fare tickets, virtually the same hurdle as the Saver Pass.
So assuming you are staying 3 nights in Luzern, you have your arrival day, 2 days in Luzern and vicinity, and your departure day to Salzburg. If arriving in Switzerland at Zurich airport, its 28 chf to Luzern. Departing, you save 20 chf by buying a nonrefundable ticket from Buchs over a nonrefundable ticket from Luzern. That leaves 197 chf of tickets to use over a 2 day period. That is possible, but you will need to spend a lot of time on trains and boats in 2 days.
The Swiss Passes and Half Fare Card give only a 50% discount on mountain railway excursions like Mt Pilatus. The difference between the regular Swiss Pass and the Saver Pass is that one is for an individual or groups traveling independently, while the Saver Pass everyone is always traveling together on the same itineraries. As I said, the Swiss Passes have the extra benefits of free museum entry, and free local transit in Luzern.

Posted by
16883 posts

It's easy to buy a ticket for the Austrian portion of the trip from the border at Chur to Salzburg. For instance, you can buy it at a Swiss train station when you get the pass activated (or buy the pass). You might also get it with an advance discount from OEBB. Are you flying into Zurich or coming by train from another country? If coming by train with the Swiss Pass already in hand, then it again will cover you once you cross into Switzerland at any border. For purchase from this Friday, expect the price for the 4-consecutive-day Swiss Pass in 2nd class to be $310 for a single traveler or $279 per person for the saver/group discount (for 2 or more people traveling together).

Posted by
80 posts

OOOOOOH! Well we are coming by train:
-Start Bonn Germany
-To Luxembourg (is that Switzerland in this world?)
-Lux to Lucerne
-Lucerne to Salzburg
-Salzburg to Vienna

That is our trip! I feel like this is so confusing but that we are getting closer!

Posted by
16462 posts

Coming from Luxemburg, you will most likely enter Switzerland at Basel, then it is a 42 chf ticket to Luzern, You will exit Switzerland at Buchs, and that is a 32 chf ticket. so with a 245 chf 4-day Saver Pass, that gives 171 chf of day trips over 2 days at Luzern. That is easy to do. It is 136 chf round trip for the combination boat/rail to Mt Rigi.
When leaving, you can get an advance purchase Saver fare from Buchs to Salzburg on the Railjet train. You can board the Railjet at Zurich, travel to Buchs on your pass, and as soon as you cross into Liechtestein (remember Liechtenstein?) your Saver ticket kicks in. You could actually spend an hour or so in Liechtenstein, as the next Railjet stops at Buchs exactly 2 hour later.

Posted by
80 posts

Sam I can't thank you enough. I had just decided NOT to buy a pass but now I have definitely changed my mind based on what you wrote. It was all the information I was looking for. It is very appreciated!

Posted by
39 posts

I think Sam's right, it's hard to squeeze all the value out of a 3-day Swiss Pass--the one except that came up in another thread is if you have kids under 16--they can travel for free in Switzerland with an additional Family card (free of charge).

I'm not sure how much you're planning on spending traveling through all four countries, so this may not be worth it, but there is also a 4 country Euro-rail pass for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and something called Benelux (which is Belgium, Netherlands & Luxumberg together as one).

It's $573/person for 5 travel days in 2 months (or $834/person for 10 travel days in 2 months) with a $50 discount until July. The travel is unlimited in those four countries and doesn't have to be consecutive. Also you can get a 15% saver discount if 2 or more people always travel together with a "saver pass":
http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/select-pass
http://ricksteves.raileurope.com/rail-tickets-passes/eurail-select-pass/index.html

The main restriction is that it's not available for residents of Europe.

Posted by
80 posts

Right, I looked at the 4 country Eurail pass and it was very not worth it. I just can't decide if the Swiss Pass is. We will be there 3 nights. There are 4 adults and if we get the Swiss Pass we will have the train from Basel to Lucerne covered and the train from Lucerne to Buhr (?) before entering Austria covered. We will do the boat/train/cogwheel to Mt. Pilitus, I'm sure train to Zurich for an evening and I'm not sure if we will also do some other trains short distances away or not. I imagine we will. So is the Swiss Pass worth it?

Posted by
39 posts

Well, the Swiss Pass seems pricy to me for only 3 days in Switzerland. The 1/2 fare card may be a better deal.

Posted by
80 posts

OMG! Is it expensive even if we do a boat, cogwheel to Pilitus? That seems quite pricey.