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Purchasing train tickets, SBB app for tourists?

Hello all,

I will be traveling from Zurich to Wengen and back over 8 days. I think I will get the Half-Fare Card and am curious about purchasing the physical tickets each step of the way. I see an SBB app which seems to require a Swiss Pass ( for people living in Switzerland, account and physical photo id card). Am I wrong about that? Is there another app available for tourists?

My concern is how much ticket buying will be going on. To go from Zurich to Wengen looks like 4 different trains. Can I purchase just one physical ticket to use the whole way through?

The Swiss Pass (for tourists) would let me travel without dealing with ticket machines, but the 8 day pass is about 100chf more than I expect to spend. Too much to pay for the convenience for me. Is there a way for tourists to do ticketing all on an app?

Thank you for your help,

Posted by
7007 posts

I have the SBB app and signing in is not mandatory. You can buy tickets as a guest.

Posted by
33140 posts

just buy a ticket from A to B. Be careful about which Zurich you use. If you are in town, perhaps off another train or boat or tour and you will get on at the main station, that is Zürich HB. If you are at the airport, that is Zürich Flughafen. So buy, say, Zürich Flughafen to Wengen. It will be about 3 hours.

Posted by
1999 posts

You actually can’t buy “train” tickets in Switzerland. Tickets are for travel, not for particular trains. You can buy a ticket between any two locations in Switzerland, irrespective of how many trains, trams, busses, boats or cable cars or other conveyances are involved.

And then just take whatever you need to get to your destination. Tickets are valid a whole day.

Do however create an account on the SBB site, use that to purchase the HFC, and use it to log in to the app as well. It is possible to buy tickets for multiple persons in a single app instance, but you will need to indicate that the other passengers have the HFC as well. Do print it out as well, and carry a paper copy. The train conductor will happily check the tickets on one phone but wants to see everyone’s HFC.

Posted by
45 posts

@WengenK this is great information. Do you have post anywhere with all the do's and don'ts of your experience? I pick up bits and pieces from your replies but one centralized post with all of the information would be great since you are a wealth of knowledge to people who are trying to prepare for a trip to a new country.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you all for your answers, this is very helpful.

I have seen many posts about which pass to get and not much about the logistics of using them.

I think I understand now. Tourists can use the app. Purchase one ticket for the trip and that ticket covers whatever number of lines there are. Printed copy of everybody's Half-Fare may be necessary, but otherwise tickets can be confirmed by showing them on the app.

Again, many thanks.


Posted by
11453 posts

WengenK this is great information. Do you have post anywhere with all the do's and don'ts of your experience? I pick up bits and pieces from your replies but one centralized post with all of the information would be great since you are a wealth of knowledge to people who are trying to prepare for a trip to a new country.

Jeanine, Rick Steves’ guidebook is a great source of basic logistics for any country he covers. Some guidebooks tell what sites there are, point out restaurants and hotels, but Steves covers “how-tos” better than any other source I have found. Even experienced travelers after don’t know what they don’t know. A guidebook is essential, IMO.

Posted by
5046 posts

There is a sale on the STP starting April 15, where one gets extra free days. That may help- - or confuse things more.

Posted by
45 posts

Yes, I have his guidebook for Switzerland but even after reading it, I didn't pick up the little tidbits that I see in these replies. You are right, though, they are a great starting point for planning and for having once there.

Posted by
2782 posts

There is some info. here on how to use the app:

I found downloading the app ahead of time and playing around with it was very helpful. Plug in some of your journeys to see the length of the journey, the times, etc. I always pick the journey with the least amount of train changes.

The app will also show you info. about the train—which train cars are 1st and 2nd class and where to stand on the platform to get to a 1st or 2nd class car.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you all again,

A little more if anyone is following this thread.
It seems there are no ticket gates at stations, you can just waltz in and have a seat. Tickets are kept for any spot checking.
The SBB app has a feature called EasyRide which- I think you simply start when you board and stop when you get off, the app keeps track of the rest and get you paid up once the journey is complete. You need to keep location services on and some kind of activity monitoring as well so the app can keep an eye on you and notify you if you forget to stop it once you get off the trains.

I watched the link in the SBB site on how to use the app, still not helpful for tourists who have no idea about anything. I swish SBB had a very clear explanation of buying-boarding-exiting on their site. I guess it keeps a little edge to the adventure.

I'll write a little guide like that for the trip reviews forum once I get back.

Posted by
2782 posts

It seems easier to me to just purchase your ticket before you board the train. And if you have the Swiss Travel Pass, there is no need to purchase tickets. You will just show your Pass when the conductor comes looking for tickets.

Posted by
10 posts

I started this thread wondering more about the How-To's for train tickets than the Which Ones.
Which one is a little complicated and a lot of math. The how to isn't so bad though.

There are no ticket gates at the stations- train, bus, what have you. There are ticket vending machines, you can get your tickets there for point-to-point travel. Zurich Airport-Wengen was on my mind, that would be 1 ticket and around 5 different changes. You use the 1 ticket for the entire trip.

The vending machines would not accept my American credit card, so I had to buy the ticket from a human at the ticket office and sign off on it. ( The self-checkout machines at COOP also would not accept my American credit card. Everywhere else was fine.)

A ticket inspector will be on the trains asking to see your ticket on each leg of the journey.
Generally the tickets are not tied to a specific departure but valid for a certain period, i.e. use sometime that day.

There is an app for this. I used the app as well, SBB. Starting it up is a little confusing because tourists are not the target customer for the app, you have to poke around a bit to find the Half Fare Card and Swiss Pass for visitors. (I forget where but there is a section for Overseas Visitors (?)) There is a TIMETABLE button on the app, no BUY button. As you look at the timetable the option to buy a ticket will pop up. The ticket shows as a QR code. You can add users to the same app. As long as you stay together that part works out fine.

I had the Half Fare Card. A QR code for it in the app and a paper print-out. I presented it to every conductor, sometimes they seemed happy to see it, other times it felt like they didn't really care about it.

All the staff were proficient in English and very friendly and helpful.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you, missybon, the summary of your experience with the train ticketing was enlightening!

Posted by
530 posts

Hi Missy,
I use the SBB app all the time and any visitors that we have use it also. I am a bit confused about some of your points.

you have to poke around a bit to find the special tickets for visitors

What tickets are these? At first I thought that you meant full fare prices, but you had a Half Fare Card.

Is there a reason you didn’t purchase your tickets with the app? When we have guests they always do that (using their own, out of country credit card) so I wonder why you weren’t able to/didn’t.

Generally the tickets are tied to a specific departure but valid
for a certain period, i.e. use within 24 hours.

The only tickets tied to a specific departure time are the discounted tickets (shown with % by the price of the ticket). Regular priced tickets are valid for the day of travel.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you, @myswisslife
You are a better reader than I am a writer. I left out a critical NOT regarding the period of validity for the tickets.

The Half fare Card and Swiss Pass for foreign tourists were the ones I had trouble finding at first, until I searched through for "For Overseas Visitors" is what I think the link was labeled. At first I was looking at passes for residents of Switzerland that require photo id's.

The app was ok with my American credit card, the vending machines at train stations were not.

Thank you for correcting me. I have made changes to the post to try and make it clearer.