Tickets in Switzerland allow you to access all forms of public transport on the way to your destination. The cost of each ticket is dependent on its type. Typically, tickets bought in advance and tickets that restrict your route make your fare up to 50 percent cheaper.
Swiss half fare cards and general cards
If you would like to reduce or eliminate the cost of a Swiss transport ticket, it is a good idea to apply for a half rail fare card (Halbtax abo) or general card (Generalabonnement). As the name suggests, half rail fare cards allow you to purchase tickets at half the regular price, the same fare as someone under the age of 16. The cards cost around 500 Swiss francs a year but can save you hundreds in rail fares.
A general card is a season ticket that allows unlimited travel on all forms of public transport. These cost around 3.000 Swiss francs a year and are good value if you travel between cities regularly. It is also possible to purchase a general card for specific zones of a city.
Point-to-point ticket for public transport in Switzerland
The cheapest fare for travelling between cities is the point-to-point ticket. This allows you to travel to a specific station or bus terminal once. These tickets will often restrict you to the fastest route between you and your destination. You are not allowed to travel to another location within your destination’s zone without a zonal ticket.
Swiss zonal tickets
Zone tickets are fares that allow you to travel anywhere within the zones you have purchased. Every county (canton) is divided into travel zones. Zonal tickets allow you to pick which zone(s) you wish to travel to, paying for each zone in between. These tickets allow for unlimited travel on any mode of transport in the zones you have paid for. Tickets are valid for either one, two, or 24 hours. Zone tickets can range from one zone to the entire network of your county.
A short trip ticket (Kurzstrecke, Lokalnetz) only allows for travel within a single zone. These tickets are the cheapest but do not allow for travel outside the zone in which they are purchased. You can extend your short trip ticket to another zone by purchasing a zone extension ticket (Anschlussbillette).
Swiss council tickets
If you would like a cut-price all-zone ticket, your council (Gemeinde), will offer a discounted ticket to people who are residents there. The tickets are booked in advance and will allow you free zonal travel in your county for a day. These tickets must be applied for at your local council and are limited in number. Check with your local council to see if they have any on offer.
How to buy a travel ticket in Switzerland
Every train and large bus stop will contain a ticket machine. The machines are in English and will allow you to select a specific ticket. For point-to-point tickets and tickets in advance, it is advisable to either go to a ticket office in a main station or to book online. You can also pay for any type of ticket on a bus.
Swiss ticket inspections
S-Bahn trains and buses operate a self-inspection policy for validating tickets. This means that you are expected to possess a ticket, but you will not be routinely checked. However, do be warned that checks occur on occasion. If you are caught without a ticket, fines can range from 60 Swiss francs to 20 percent of your annual income for regular infringements. You will always be checked for tickets on Intercity, Regio and RegioExpress trains.
Taking a bike on public transport in Switzerland
The rules for taking a bike on a train are dependent on the type of public transport.
- Bikes must have a half-fare ticket for your journey.
- Bikes are allowed on buses if there is room to hold them. Some buses will not allow bikes during rush hour periods, especially in large cities.
- Trams do allow bikes so long as there is still room. Bikes must be held at the back of trams and must be monitored at all times.
- Bikes are not allowed to travel on S-Bahn trains at peak times. This is 6-8am and 4-7pm, Monday - Friday. At all other times, bikes may travel on S-Bahn trains. Do look out for the bike symbol on the train to show you where you can store your bicycle.
Intercity, InterRegio, Regio and RegioExpress trains always allow bicycles. However, for certain routes or days bicycle spots must be pre-booked in order to be accepted. These are:
- Any intercity train going through the Gotthard base tunnel (Zurich to Ticino).
- Any intercity train with the code IC 5 and 51.
- Any intercity train on public holidays in Switzerland.