All about Swiss Public Transport System
Switzerland's public transport network is safe and efficient. Trains, trams, buses and boats cover the entire country. There are also extensive cycling routes.
High Speed Trains in Switzerland
Switzerland's public transport system is known to be one of the finest in the world.
A dense network of railroad, bus and tramway lines and a systematic timetable allow to reach almost any point in the country once per hour. In most cases one ticket is enough for one journey even if numerous railway, bus and ship operators are involved.
The punctuality of Switzerland's public transport system is supervised and the goals of 95% arrivals with less than 5 minutes delay and 75% with less than 1 minute delay are regularly achieved in the monthly statistics.
Switzerland's main railroad lines are operated by Swiss Federal Railways (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen SBB, Chemins de Fer Fédéaux CFF, Ferrovie Federali Svizzeri FFS), owned by the Swiss confederation, but there exist a number of so-called privately owned railway companies. In reality, the Swiss confederation, the cantons [federal states] and communes concerned hold a vast majority of the capital of these railway companies (typically more than 90%) and also subsidise infrastructure and operation.
The standard gauge (1435 mm / 56.5 in) main line railway network is extended by meter gauge lines in narrow alpine valleys (Grisons, Valais, Unterwalden, Bernese Oberland). Among these are the "slowest fast train of the world" (Glacier Express) linking St. Moritz with Zermatt in a one-day scenic journey and Golden Pass linking Montreux, Interlaken and Lucerne.
Switzerland has the highest train density in Europe, a higher proportion of the population uses public transport and they travel longer distances than in any other country except Japan.
Excellent Intercity train connections from city center to city center make public transport a preferred choice for business people and politicians.
Switzerland has three international airports: Zurich-Kloten (ZRH), Geneva (GVA) and Basel-Mulhouse (BSL) and several smaller, Local Airports. The airports of Zurich and Geneva do have their own railway stations providing fast and frequent transfer into the very heart of downtown Zurich and Geneva and to all other major Swiss cities.
The Euro-Airport Basel-Mulhouse is shared with the French city of Mulhouse and actually on French territory, but passengers may reach Basel on a short extraterritorial highway without formally entering France. Public Buses connect the airport with the central railway station / tramway hub.
Two more airports, Bern-Belpmoos (BRN) and Lugano-Agno (LUG) do offer a relevant number of scheduled passenger flights to European destinations, but they are too small for aircraft used for intercontinental flights. Downtown Bern is reached from Zurich Airport in just 1¼ hours by 2 Intercity trains per hour. Another 61 airports and airfields, among them St. Moritz and Gstaad, may be used by smaller aircraft.
While the normal-gauge railway network is primarily used by millions of business people, commuters and students, some narrow-gauge railway lines are specifically scenic and most of their passengers are tourists - both foreigners and Swiss. Especially when the weather is nice, you will find thousands of pensioneers on excursions to the alpine regions. Some of the most scenic railroads are:
Glacier Express ("world's slowest fast train")
connects St. Moritz (Engadin), Disentis (Rhine valley), Andermatt (Urseren valley), Brig and Zermatt (Wallis)
connects Lucerne (central Switzerland), Meiringen, Interlaken, Gstaad (Bernese Oberland) and Montreux (Lake Geneva).
Jungfraubahn ("Top of Europe" - Europe's highest railway station at 3,454 m [11,332 ft])
(Interlaken - Zweilütschinen - Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen/Wengen - Kleine Scheidegg) - Jungfraujoch
(Lucerne - ) Alpnachstad - Mount Pilate (world's steepest cogwheel train)
Arth-Goldau - Rigi / Vitznau - Rigi
Chur - Tiefencastel - Bergün - Samedan - St. Moritz
St. Moritz - Pontresina (Engadin) - Poschiavo - Tirano (Italy)
Major Swiss cities Zurich, Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchâtel and Zug do have extended S-Bahn networks [fast metropolitan area trains with frequent stops running at short intervals from 10 to 30 minutes] and/or tramways networks.
In these regions, all providers unite in a so-called "Verkehrsverbund" [transport association], and the same tickets are valid on trains, tramways, buses and even ships.
Ticket Machine in Zurich
Basel, Bern, Biel/Bienne, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen, Vevey and Winterthur operate trolley-bus networks and additional diesel bus networks to suburbs. Many smaller towns operate a local bus network.
Almost any village in Switzerland can be reached by a regional bus line several times a day, most of them even once per hour. Swiss post operates many of these bus lines with their famous yellow post buses.
Schedules and tickets of all cross-country buses are integrated into Switzerland's unique system of integrated public transports, so you may plan your journey at one portal website www.sbb.ch, get all necessary information where to change and even print out a through-fare ticket online.
There are no public long-distance buses in Switzerland, however: Long-distance trains provide more capacity, are faster, more reliable (not affected by traffic congestion), cheaper and more comfortable than bus-travel.
For any long-distance route within Switzerland there is at least one train per hour from early morning to midnight, while cross-country buses are operated on routes with very little traffic.
You can spend a whole day in post-buses running on some scenic alpine routes (for example Meiringen - Grimsel pass - Gletsch - Furka pass - Andermatt - Schöllenen canyon - Göschenen - Susten pass - Meiringen) from spring to autumn.
In some regions, there are both urban and cross-country night buses on weekends: Party people may, for example, return from Zurich to Lucerne at 1:04 a.m., 2:32 a.m. and 4:04 a.m. by bus, but only on early Saturday / Sunday morning, not on weekdays.
Ice and Snow, Pass Roads
Please mind that roads may be covered by wet leaves in autumn and by ice or snow in winter (from October to April, depending on the altitude) - especially on bridges.
On alpine pass roads above 2000 m [6500 ft] snow-chains may be required in autumn, many pass roads are closed in winter (especially if there is a tunnel available).
Those using heavy recreational vehicles (or trailers) should be aware that engines do need some power reserve when operated in high altitudes due to low air pressure (diesel engines in particular). It is strongly advised to use low gears both uphill and downhill to avoid excessive use of brakes leading to overheating.
Cars with automated gears should be operated in positions "1" or "2" instead of "D" on the descent, so that you need not use the brakes too often.
The alps, once a massive barrier between Italy and central Europe are still a key traffic bottleneck, though hundreds of bridges and tunnels have been constructed over the last 150 years. The Saint Gotthard (16 km, opened in 1882) and Lötschberg / Simplon railway tunnels were masterpieces of engineering at their time. Since the opening of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel (16.3 km [10.1 miles]) road traffic crossing the alps has considerably increased, causing heavy air pollution.
Passenger Boat on Zurich Lake
Although Switzerland is landlocked, it operates its own merchant marine consisting of 25 large vessels on the seas and numerous barges connecting seaports with harbors in Switzerland.
River Rhine has been made navigable from the North Sea up to the Swiss border in Basel and plays a major role in imports and exports of heavy goods. To be precise, the wateray continues for 19 more km [12 miles] along the Swiss-German border up to Rheinfelden, a second harbor for the Basel region.
The French canal du Rhône au Rhin actually links rivers Rhine and Doubs in the Alsace region (just northwest of Basel) and opens access from Basel to river Rhône and thereby to the Mediterranean Sea.
Waterways inside Switzerland do no longer play a key role in transportation. A short section of river Rhine at the lower end of the Bodensee [Lake Constance] is navigable, too, but as it is separated from Basel by the famous Rhine Falls at Neuhausen / Schaffhausen, freight transports are not interesting there.
The section is used as an extension to passenger lines on Lake Constance which serve mainly touristic purposes.
Twelve major lakes in Switzerland are navigable. There is a limited amount of freight transport, especially of gravel deposited at the upper end of the lakes by the alpine rivers feeding the lake. Public passenger ships mostly serve the same purpose as dedicated privately owned pleasure cruise boats. People just wanting to get to the other end of the lake are usually faster by train or bus.
Useful information on public transport in Switzerland
Paying for tickets and boarding
Public transport vehicles in Switzerland are equipped with modern automatic passenger-operated doors. Buttons are generally situated alongside the outside door and on the pillar inside the door. Doors remain open for 3 seconds unless the passenger is standing on the footboard or pressing on the button. Please note that many trains, buses and trams do not have ticket machines onboard so it is important to pre-purchase your ticket because fines are steep.
On yellow post-buses however, tickets can be purchased from the driver.
Children under 6, prams, and luggage are free
Holders of Half-Fare travelcards and children aged 6–16 pay half price fares
Dogs pay half price
Places to see- Travel and Activities
Zurich Old Town
Getting around - All about Transportation in Switzerland and how to use it
Online Train and Tram Tickets Shop
Switzerland Guide App
The Zurich Card
For 24 CHF provides you with free Public transportation in the City, including Trip to Airport, for 24 Hours. Includes Access and Discounts at Museums, Restaurants and various Tourist Attraction
How to get from Zurich Airport to Zurich.
Zurich Airport is only 10 km (6 miles) away from the city center, so it is quick and easy to get there after your plane has landed. There are various ways of traveling from the airport to Zurich.
How to Travel from Zurich to Interlaken
The best way to reach Interlaken from Zurich, and eventually Lauterbrunnen and Jungfrau Mountain, is by Train.