Switzerland by Train
Find out about travelling on Switzerland's rail transport network including domestic and international trains, and local trams and metro services...
Swiss Federal Railways, or SBB, is the main national train operator in Switzerland dealing with the majority of national and international travel. Its headquarters are in Bern. Its website includes route maps, timetable information, holiday and day trip ideas as well as station and train service information. A number of different types of ticket are available and can be purchased online and then printed by the buyer.
Mobile phone tickets can be purchased using a number of smartphone apps. A number of travel cards are available to make travelling more economical. Passes are available for frequent travellers, young people, the elderly and young children. The company offers significant discounts on standard fares.
Dogs are allowed to travel on SBB trains for a fee. Small dogs, of no more than 30cm in height at the top of their shoulder blades, can travel free of charge if they are in a suitable carrier or basket. A travel card which gives significantly reduced fares is available for people wishing to regularly travel with their dog.
Bikes can be taken on trains providing the owner has a valid bike ticket. Bikes can be taken free of charge as hand luggage if they are folded and stored in a suitable case. The number of bikes able to go on a train can be limited during peak travel periods. They can be taken into coaches providing there is sufficient space; otherwise they travel as unaccompanied luggage.
BLS is the other main Swiss rail company. It is a major regional railway which offers transport in the Swiss Midlands. The company offers a range of tickets and a number of railcards to make travel more economical. Some tickets can be purchased online. Users can also download the BLS mobil app for the latest travel information, timetables and to purchase tickets.
International train services
International train services offer a reliable and economical way to travel within Europe. A number of destinations in Germany including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Köln can be reached from Basel and Zürich, with high speed lines travel on InterCityExpress trains which travel at speeds up to 320 Km per hour. Travel to France is possible on fast efficient TGV services. Eurocity services provide trains from Switzerland to Italy. Services run from Geneva, Bern, Basel and Zürich to Milan and Venice. There are also high speed rail connections to other countries including Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark.
Tickets for international travel can be purchased online via the SBB website.
Intercity and long distance trains
Intercity train transport generally costs less than internal flights.
- Swiss Travel System: various discount packages for holidays, discounts and privilege cards
- Family car: some trains have a children's play area
- Families and children: tariffs reductions
- Quiet area compartments: personal stereos, mobile phones and talking are banned
- Business compartments: sockets for mobile phones and laptops (available on longer routes by advance reservation only)
- Fast Baggage: suitcases, luggage and winter sports equipment can be transported to the final Swiss destination
- Flight check-in at the train station for a flight from Geneva or Zurich up to 24 hours before take off
- Fly-Rail Baggage: luggage can be transported from any airport in the world directly to the final train station in Switzerland (Please note that advance check-in and baggage transfer services are not available for travellers for the USA)
Tram and Metro Services
Some Swiss towns and cities have tram or metro services. The Geneva tram system is run by Transports Publics Genevois, or TPG. The network is continually expanding. Tickets can be purchased from TPG offices, some newsagents and vending machines.
Lausanne is one of the smallest cities in the world to have a metro system. There are two lines. Timetable information for the two lines is available on the Transports Publics de la Région Lausonnaise website (in French). Tickets can be purchased from vending machines at all of the stops and at the Flon metro station, which is the metro hub, as well as at the main train station in Lausanne.
SBB/CFF has a comprehensive website in English detailing all facilities, services and discounts to the regular train traveller. Information covered includes:
- Online timetable
- Online tickets can be bought (proof of ID required on presentation of the ticket). It is a finable offence to travel without a ticket
- Dogs: all dogs may travel on Swiss trains but if over 30cm must have a half fare second-class ticket. Pets (including small dogs) under 30cm can travel for free as long as they are in a basket as they count as hand luggage. Season tickets are available for dogs
- Bicycles: if there is space in the carriage, a bike may be taken on a train, otherwise it can travel as unaccompanied luggage
- Disabled passengers: assistance available for boarding and alighting trains for people with restricted mobility. Special counters with amplifying equipment for the deaf and hard of hearing and the stations are marked with tactile warnings for the blind. Free travel passes available for carers. Assistance for disabled passengers can be arrange in advance via the SBB call centre.
A number of different travel cards are available.
- For more information see: travelcards and tickets
- SBB/CFF 24 hour Contact Centre
Tel: 0848 44 66 88 (CHF 0.08/min from Swiss landline)