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Traveling to Switzerland

I'm traveling to Zurich, Interlaken and Geneva in late May and I was hoping for some advice on a few things. I'm coming from the United States, and have been doing some research and just want to verify some things.

So I have heard the train cost is 0.08 CHF per minute, is that true even for me as a foreign US citizen?

How easy is it to get from place to place? How are the train times? Do trains run often? What about trains from Geneva to southern France?

I hear there is some sort of pass you need in order to get access to the parks, specifically Grindelwald/ Cable car/ hiking/ overlook. What is the most worth seeing and what are the prices like?

Anything else I should know about traveling to Switzerland? What's your favorite part about this country?

Any resources or advice will be great. Thank you!

Posted by
11480 posts

Welcome to the Forum! Switzerland is a wonderful country and amazingly beautiful! You’ll love it!

Train pricing and schedules can be easily researched at the SBB site. Note the initial fare shown on a search will assume you have a Half-fare Travel Card. Trains run at least hourly on all routes. Trains to the south of France from Geneva can be researched also on SBB.

Passes or tickets can be purchased for mountain lifts and trains also. Grindelwald is in the Berner Oberland and one of several fabulous destinations with high mountain destinations for hiking or simply viewing. Do you have a good guidebook? Rick Steves’ Switzerland guidebook was my initial source for all things Swiss and particularly the Berner Oberland and he covers transportation very well, better than we volunteers can do here in short posts. Perhaps read that then come back with more specific questions.

Posted by
8889 posts

Dear Namesake,

So I have heard the train cost is 0.08 CHF per minute, is that true even for me as a foreign US citizen?

I don't know where that came from. Train tickets are priced by distance. And your citizenship makes no difference to the price (why should it?).
There are some discounts available to temporary visitors (short-term) and others designed for residents (long term). For tourists the two main offers are:
Tourist Half Fare Card (CHF 120 for 1 month): See here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-halffare-card.html
Swiss Pass: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-travel-pass.html

You DO NOT need to buy tickets in advance, nor make reservations. Normal tickets, which you buy at the station (from the ticket machine or manned ticket counter if there is one) are valid on any train on that date.

How easy is it to get from place to place? How are the train times? Do trains run often?

Very Easy. There are 1839 rail stations in Switzerland. Every single one of them has at least one train in each direction per hour, often 2 per hour. Plus feeder buses to and from the stations, connecting with the trains.
It is designed to be a "turn-up-and-go" service. You just walk into any of the 1839 stations at any time, buy a ticket to any other of them, and you are on your way in less than an hour.
For times and prices, use the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) website: https://www.sbb.ch/en

Here is a rail map of Switzerland. Red lines are rail (nearly all rail lines shown, obviously only a selection of stations). Yellow are feeder buses providing an in-fill. Lots more local buses not shown.
Map: https://www.sbb.ch/content/dam/sbb/de/infotexte/uebersichtskarte-sts.pdf

What about trains from Geneva to southern France?

The High Speed trains, mostly to Paris, are run by a company called "TGV-Lyria". Website: https://www.tgv-lyria.com/fr/en
Timetable for 2020 is here: https://www.tgv-lyria.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/LYRIA-Timetables-15.12.19_12.12.20-EN.pdf
There is one daily direct train Geneva to Marseille, in July or August only. You can get anywhere else in the south of France by changing trains, just choose your destination and look it up on the above-mentioned SBB website.

I hear there is some sort of pass you need in order to get access to the parks, specifically Grindelwald/ Cable car/ hiking/ overlook. What is the most worth seeing and what are the prices like?

Don't know what you mean by "parks". Most of the mountains are public land, anybody can walk anywhere, no charge. There may be animals grazing (cows, unfenced).
You have to pay for transport (cable cars etc.) Most tourist areas have a local transport pass to save you buying individual tickets. Info on that will be on local websites.
For Grindelwald see link below for Jungfrau region.

Anything else I should know about traveling to Switzerland? What's your favorite part about this country?

I think I've covered most of it.
Favourite part, Jungfrau region of the Berner Oberland. Local tourist website: https://jungfrauregion.swiss/en/summer/
Important question: What time of the year are you visiting?

Posted by
7209 posts

Thank heavens you came here to get facts instead of relying on what you’ve “heard” from others.

Posted by
768 posts

If you want know about hiking in the area (Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, etc.) click on my name to find a link to our dozen favorite trails.

In May the higher trails will still be closed due to snow, but the local tourist info office will tell you which those are.

Posted by
32264 posts

Is there a particular reason you chose those three locations in Switzerland? None of them would be on my list for a visit to Switzerland. You might also look at Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen Valley and perhaps Lausanne or Montreux.

As others may have mentioned, I would highly recommend having a look at the Rick Steves Switzerland guidebook as there's an enormous amount of good information there. That will answer a lot of your questions about transportation, passes, destinations, etc.

Be sure to budget accordingly for Switzerland, as it's expensive!

Posted by
1101 posts

What Ken said. Zürich and Geneva don’t have that “wow” factor. Get up into the Alps (Murren, Wengen) as fast as and as much as you can! Interlaken is pretty lake-wise but not “holy huge mountain!”-wise.

I echo others who say to read the RS Switzerland book; it’s fantastic. Get at library if you don’t want to buy.

Posted by
4012 posts

I suggest you look at more than one travel guide book to plan ANY overseas visit. One I recommend besides RS is Fodors. We absolutely adore Geneva and we last visited Geneva at the end of May in 2014. Rick Steves may have no interest but other travel experts like Samantha Brown & Burt Wolf love Geneva. Burt Wolf lived in Geneva for many years. Their programs are on PBS. Anyway the end of May will be fabulous!

You can take day trips to Lausanne, Chillon, Gstaad, Gruyères, Bern, etc. The trains are absolutely convenient and you can save money by purchasing Saver Day Passes as soon as they become available which is 60 days prior.

I am returning to Switzerland in April for 6 days and will be based in Lucerne. I have never been there and I am very excited about it. I am using multiple travel guides as well as the Swiss Tourism office here in New York. Their website is www.myswitzerland.com