Swiss Rail Pass

We will be in Switzerland in September for 6 days. Arriving in Zurich then traveling to Lucern,Interlaken perhaps a day trip to Bern and ending in Basel airport. Is the Swiss pass the best pass for this trip? Is it a necessity? We plan on using trains to travel between cities and the cable cars, boats etc in Interlaken and Lucern. Once the pass is purchased are the train fairs included? Are the discounted fares worth the cost of the Swiss Pass?

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

This question comes up on a weekly basis. Go up to the right side of this page and enter Swiss Passes in the search box, you will find numerous answers. Generally you will need to do a little math, add up your point-to-point charges and see if a pass is more economical. The big "IF" here is, if you plan to do Jungfrau and Schilthorn, you may want to consider a one-half fare card, which covers any rail, boat, bus for one half price. It can be confusing so be patient. We have several posters on this board who may be better able to explain the various passes.

Posted by julie
owings mills, usa
4 posts

Thank you for your reply. I did a point to point estimate and it was much less expensive not including our trips in the Interlaken vicinity. I will research those costs more.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Hi Julie-depending where you look for fares for p2p tickets, your estimate may be too low. The Swiss rail website (SBB.ch) shows half-fare prices on the opening page. So, for example, from Luzern to Interlaken Öst, it will say "from 15.50 CHF" but that is with a Half -Fare card. The regular fare is 31 CHF. For short hops like Zurich to Luzern and from there to Interlaken, a Swiss Pass is not a good value, because tickets cost less than the "pass day". This is particularly true in your case, since there is no 6-day Swiss Pass. Maybe a 4-day pass would be cost effective, for the last four days so it would cover the trip to Basel as well as boat trips and day trips, and would give you 50% off lifts (including Schilthorn but not the Jungfrau trip). The only passes that will give you a full 50% discount on the Jungfrau are a Half-Fare Card, Swiss Card, Berner Oberland Regio Pass, and Jungfrau RailwY Pass. If you are definitely going up the Jungfrau you should consider one of these, as the full Rt fare from Interlaken is 197 CHf unless you do the early morning trip. A Half Fare Card will almost pay for itself with this trip, and will give you the discount on boats, other lifts and trains as well. But you will still have to buy tickets for each trip. If you want the convenience of a pass, the 4- day Berner Oberland Pass might work for you (but on your travel day to Basel it will only cover as far as Bern).

Posted by julie
owings mills, usa
4 posts

Lola, Thank you for your help. This is very confusing may I pick your brain?? Am I understanding correctly that once you purchase the swiss pass or the Berner Oberland all train and boat costs are included and you get a discount on some or all cable cars, and lifts? (except the trip to Basel.) We are staying in Interlaken and plan on going up to the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Murren and the Schilthorn, my husband is going to skydive I will stay grounded perhaps a bike ride. We also may take the boat excursions on the lakes. In Lucern we thought to go to Mt Pilatus. Would this be redundant if we are heading to the Schilthorn. We are not planning to take the Jungfrau trip. I am trying to do as much as we can without overdoing and spreading our activities too thin! With the saver pass costing almost $500 dollars It may be worth the 4 day pass. Should we purchase here or in Switzerland? On another note, we are traveling to Basel because I could only find reasonable airfare to Amsterdam on EasyJet from there. Many cities don't fly there or were VERY expensive. We do not want to take the time for train travel. Any Suggestions on that trip??
Julie

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Hi again-yes, it is confusing! In our four 2-wweek trips to Switzerland we have used a different pas each time, and I still don't know if I got it right. But I will point out some things to consider, now that you have clarified your plans. Pilatus-yes, it is worth doing in addition to the Schilthorn as they are very different (golden Round Trip to Pilatus includes a lake cruise and cogsheel train). A Swiss Pass will reduce the cost from 97 CHF to 34 CHF. A Berner oberland Pass does not cover this trip. Yes a Swiss Pass will fully cover trains and boats; for recreational lifts it will cover 50% except for the Jungfrau. Going up the Schilthorn, your pass will take you as far as Mürren for free and beyond that it is 50%. If your Pilatus trip and travel to Basel could be made within a four-day period then the 4-day Swiss Pass might be the answer. That is, lets say you arrive on Day 1 and travel to Luzern (buy a ticket). Spend Day 2 around Luzern. Day 3 you go up Pilatus and then head to Interlaken on the first effective day of your Swiss Pass. Days 4 and 5 are covered for trains travel and lake boats; Schilthorn is 50% above Mürren. Day 6 your trip to Basel is covered. Now try addiing up the full cost of these trips that the pass could cover. I can list some: Pilatus Golden RT, 97 CHF; travel Luzern to Interlaiken Ost, 31 CHF; Schilthorn RT from INterlaken, 124.60 CHF; Interlaken Ost to Basel, 58 CHF. That is 310 CHF right there, before you add the other things you want to do from Interlaken.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

If you can't fit the Pilatus trip and the travel from Luzern to Interlaken into Day 3, then that won't work. In that case, maybe a 3-Day Flex Pass would be the way to go. This would allow travel over a 5-day period, but to be effective you would still do Pilatus and travel to Interlaken on the same day (Day 2 of your 6-day trip in this scenario). With this one, you would use the second Flex day for your most expensive day around Interlaken and the third Flex day to travel to Basel. On the other two days in between, everything (including the Schilthorn) would be 50% off. As for where to buy, you would have to compare the price in Switzerland to the $250 price you can buy it for on this website. Swiss Travel System shows the Swiss price as 231 CHF for the 4-day Saver Pass. I beleive that is a bit more than you would pay buying it on this website. Plus, you save money by buying here in dollars (no foreign transaction fee) and you would save time by avoiding the (sometimes long) lines at the train station window to buy the pass. And with railpasses bought on this website, you get a 20% off coupon for travel gear---nice if you need any luggage.