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Passport Requirements for Swiss Pass And SBB APP with T-Mobile

Hello, I have a two part question and was hoping for a bit of insight/suggestions from you guys.

My wife and I are headed to Switzerland next week: 2 nights Lucerne, 5 nights Murren, and 1 night Zurich. While we did attempt to tally up our anticipated travels to decide which combination of passes to get, we are leaning towards keeping it simple and getting an 8 day consecutive Swiss pass instead of a flexi/half fare combo since we would prefer to go where we want when we want without having to analyze when to use flexi-days and so on.

Question 1: From our research, I believe you always have to carry your passport when using the half fare-card, but is carrying your passport required when using the eight day consecutive Swiss Pass? (being able to travel with just my wallet and drivers license is preferable to having our passport with us while hiking etc.)

Question 2: Has anyone used the SBB Mobile App? The App. Seems to be very handy as it claims that you can simply purchase tickets through the app without bothering with ticket lines. We do have T-Mobile so our data would be free, IF there is at least decent coverage in the Berner Oberland.

Thanks

Jay

Posted by
1006 posts

Well a couple of different things:

  • First, it is a requirement of the Schengen area that you are at all times able to identify yourself to the authorities and show that you are legally entitled to be there. While the authorities are free to accept other documents such as a driving licence, but the only document the must accept is a passport. Now I travel on the train between Bern and Zurich daily and on two occasions I've seen people taken of the train because they could not meet this requirement - one being Swiss!

  • The mobile app is excellent, I use it on a regular basis. The only rule to remember is that the ticket must be bought before the time the train departs the station. Buying it during the trip (especially when the ticket checker enters the carriage ;-)) is not acceptable. In most stations you find free internet access for this purpose. However I doubt that this route is going to work out as well as buying one of the tourist tickets.

  • Note that most of the tourist tickets have restrictions and are not valid on some of the mountain railways etc.... so you still need to check.

  • For the Swisspass etc I don't know if you need your passport.. but I would not be surprised if you were asked for it, as it is the only way they can be sure that you are entitled to buy and use such a pass - one quarter of the Swiss population are foreigners and not entitled to buy the pass.

Posted by
16926 posts

Yes you should carry your passport, even while hiking. But in 4-2-week trips to Switzerland with family, and lots of train rides, we have never been asked to show passports, just the Swiss pass.

Posted by
8889 posts

Just to confirm. Whether you are on a train or not, the law says you must carry ID at all times. And, for a non-EU foreigner, the only legally acceptable ID is a passport. A Driving Licence is not legally acceptable ID.

If your Swiss rail pass, half fare card does not have your photo on it, then the ticket inspector may ask for ID as well. Since you already have your passport on you (as per above legal requirement), when the ticket inspector comes up to you just show both without asking. I have an annual ticket for local transport, and whenever I get ticket inspected I have to show the ticket and my Swiss ID card.

You can expect reasonable phone coverage in the valleys and any populated areas. Also at railway stations. When travelling by train it may have gaps between stations. Up in the hills, it depends whether you are in sight of a settlement or not.

Posted by
16894 posts

You must show your passport to activate a pass at the train station, if it was not pre-validated at the time of purchase. After that, occasions when conductors ask to see your passport are likely to be rare, but the pass is not valid without it. Rules printed on the ticket jackets for all rail passes state, "Passes are strictly personal and nontransferable. Presentation of a valid passport to European train personnel upon request is mandatory." See also http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/using-your-rail-pass.

Posted by
381 posts

Thanks everybody for your replies. Very helpful. Apparently my wife and I have Been running afoul of the law the last 10 years :).

Jim, you indicated that you use the SBB mobile app quite a bit. I like the idea of being able to use this app as it will save time and will be convenient, however, we are a bit confused on whether or not we can attach a travel pass or half fare card into the app profile. From going on the app website, it says the following:

"With e-vouchers, you can purchase all offers from the SBB Ticket Shop and from SBB Mobile. Whether this is a simple ticket or a half-fare card, a day ticket or a general season ticket: You can pay for all these things and much more completely or partially with an e-voucher. You can obtain e-vouchers of the value you select on line in SBB Ticket Shop or with the Smartphone via SBB Mobile. You can have your personal greeting text added to every e-voucher. After the purchase, you will receive an electronic document per Email (PDF file), which you can now pass on to the person receiving your gift."

We are a little nervous hitting "purchase "as we are still a bit unsure if we will be able to use the half fare card/swiss travel pass with the app. The options within this app appear slightly different than the options on the main website or rail Europe. If you have additional input on this, it would very much be appreciated. Thanks again everyone.

Posted by
9109 posts

In my personal experience 9 times out of 10 the conductors will not ask to see your passport when presenting the pass. But on every trip there has always been one stickler (usually training somebody) who insists on seeing it. Last trip it was a cable car operator at Lauterbrunnen. By chance I have always happened to have it with me, but I don't know what would have happened if it was back in my hotel room that day.

Posted by
1006 posts

Hi Jay,

I'm not sure why you would be using e-vouchers as these are just gift tokens....

When you buy the ticket you just indicate if you have a discount pass such as the half-tax etc.. you do not even have to have a valid pass at this stage.

When the ticket checker comes along with his reader, you show the ticket on the app and present them with a valid half tax ticket or where ever.

Jim.

Posted by
82 posts

For what it's worth, we just got back from 2 weeks in Switzerland, traveling all over with a Swiss Pass. We were asked by two different conductors to produce passports.