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Swiss Train Pass

I realize someone just posted something similar but I thought I’d ask some more specifics in regards to the Swiss Travel Pass. Rick Steves posts “The Swiss Travel Pass is a particularly good deal, as it covers nearly all transport in Switzerland — not only trains, but buses, boats, and many high-mountain lifts.” And when I go into the STP site it’s says with the pass you only pay the reservation fee for the Glacier express. There is also a 50% discount on other routes which looks like the cog trains/cable cars out of Lauterbrunnen. I guess what I’m most confused about is different posters saying that it really isn’t a great deal because it doesn’t cover anything but public transport. Isn’t that what I want though? We will be visiting Switzerland next July/August and using train travel. Zurich to Appenzel. Appenzel to Chur to catch the Glacier Express to Zermatt. Zermatt to Wengen. Wengen to Basel. Any clarification on what I’m missing would be greatly appreciated. Sometimes things that seem simple to some aren’t always that way when it’s a new experience, like realizing this year that others were right, all we needed was to tap a credit card to ride the London tube….no loaded Oyster card needed anymore!

Posted by
4690 posts

In some cases, the Half-Fare Pass is a better deal, once you pencil everything out. But that takes work, and one still needs to buy tickets before boarding.
The convenience of the STP is priceless to me, personally, because there's no need to buy tickets- one simply boards the train, boat, cogwheel, museums, etc. Often I have found more uses for the STP once I'm in country, and I discovered something else that's covered. If you ride the Bernina Express regional trains ( not panoramic) for example, the route is covered, and no seat reservations are required. In Lucerne, the boat and cogwheel train to the summit of Mt Rigi are completely covered, ( but Mt Pilatus partially covered. ) The trip to Mt Stanserhorn, with the Cabrio open air cable car, is completely covered.
If you're in the country longer, such as two weeks, the math for the STP gets more advantageous.
When you buy the STP in advance, you can have both a digital and hard copy. With the digital copy, there's no threat of losing the pass.
It depends on how many different ways/ times you'll be using the STP, and how important your pennies are to you. In the last few years, there has been a sale on the various passes in early spring. Maybe you'll get lucky. Safe travels!

Posted by
749 posts

Thanks Pat. There will be six of us, two of which will be seven and ten. Right now just looking at approximate costs of the different routes and the amount of days traveling, it looks like passes saves close to half. I put a value on ease of travel and time so that seems to add that much more to the value.

Posted by
756 posts

We are big fans of the STP, but only think it is worth it at the 15-day level. The cost per day works out to be the most advantageous and makes the most sense. Once you get the cost per day down to that level, it is pretty easy to recoup the expense if you use it every day. And if you really, REALLY use it every day, then you can actually come out ahead. By that I mean taking day trips, riding ferries, using cable cars (whether half or full price), visiting museums, etc.

You say your group is six people including a couple kiddos. Really think about the dynamics of your group. Are they likely to say "lets just enjoy the pool today"? In that case, you're not using the STP at all, and have given a whole day's worth of value back to the vendor.

But if you are like us, and want to go (even in bad weather) out doing and seeing every day, then the STP is not only a potential value, but also so convenient. And if you love trains, and can enjoy the experience of long train rides (or boat rides) it is also a great product. We love being able to turn our brain off and just show the QR code everywhere.

Hope that helps....

Posted by
16240 posts

The simplest way to understand the Swiss Pass coverage is to look at it as transport to villages, not a recreational pass to mountain peaks. So it will cover your ride from Lauterbrunnen up to Wengen or Mürren, even though it is not a standard train; but beyond that you pay.

The issue raised above (unused days on the pass) can be solved by buying a Flex Pass instead of a consecutive-day pass, and use it to cover your main travel days (moving between locations), plus maybe one or two others. We did this for our first 4 or 5 trips to Switzerland and it worked out well. But we go mainly to hike, and do not ride a lot of the high mountain lifts, so did not miss the 50% coverage on those that a STP covering every single day would have provided.

Note that the two children will be entirely free on every ride, whether it is a train or boat to a village, or a cablecar up the Schilthorn, if you get the free Family Card that comes with either a Swiss Travel Pass (including Flex) or a Half Fare Card.

Posted by
4690 posts

Margie, when pricing for individual routes, note that the Swiss system assumes that travelers have at least a half-fare pass, so you are seeing the reduced rate.
The SBB app is friendly and easy to use.
If you have a flexi- day pass, and you show the pass to receive a reduced rate on a mode not completely covered, that's counted as a use day.
Safe travels and enjoy this beautiful country!

Posted by
749 posts

Thank you. Sounds like a flex pass for the main travel days is the way to go. And yes, traveling with two kiddos, as we learned this year, means you have to be flexible although there were times I was the one saying “Whoa, can we just sit for a few minutes!”

Posted by
16240 posts

Looking at the predicted 2024 prices on the website Carrie posted, I have to agree that a regular (consecutive-day) Swiss Pass might be the better option. Prices on the Flex Pass have gone up, and benefits have been reduced, since we used that pass.

I am assuming your trip is more than 8 days, so the next-level Swiss Pass is for 15 consecutive days. That price is predicted to be 459 CHF next year. The Flex Pass for your 6 main travel days will be 384, but that leaves a lot of mountain lift rides uncovered (unless you do them on the travel day you are already using). The 8-day Flex Pass would cover at 50% 2 days of lift use (Schilthorn, First Gondola at Grindelwald, Gornergrat at Zermatt, for example) and cost 405 CHF. The extra 54 CHF for the full 15-day Swiss Pass might be worth it if you need more than 2 days’ worth of 50% coverage for mountain lifts and trains.

Posted by
749 posts

We’re going to be in Switzerland 17 days with 5 days in the Wengen area and 3 in Appenzel and being the areas where we will be hiking and using trams to get up from the valleys. I always envy the people that love to figure this stuff out and probably why we’ve been fans of the RS tours for so many years. :) And my husband and I have been to Switzerland 4 times now as he has Swiss relatives so it’s not that we don’t know where we’re going but that we’ve rented a car when we were on own so we never used the train system. We’re using the train system this time because it’s not fair that the driver doesn’t get to enjoy the scenery, too.

Posted by
2311 posts

I didn’t see the regional passes mentioned. Since you’ll be in the Berner Oberland area for 5 days, you might consider a Half Fare Card, plus the BO Pass. That’s what we used when we stayed 5 nights in Wengen. The BO Pass is the most comprehensive pass for the area, including the “recreational” trains/gondolas (above Wengen and Murren) and the lifts like the First gondola, Mannlichen and Eiger Express. Basically it covers almost everywhere you could possibly go 100%, with a few exceptions: Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn are discounted, and the funicular on Lake Brienz to the Hotel Geisbach is not included.

Posted by
749 posts

Hi there, neighbor! Thank you for the recommendation. Three of the 6 of us have not been up to the Jungfrau and I remember it as being pretty spectacular but expensive. I think I picked the wrong thing to be in charge of for this trip with the travel passes turning out to be a bit more complicated than I thought but the big kids are proficient with the Apps. I will figure this out…..in the mean time, where’s all our snow?