- Travel Topics
Is it worth it to buy a Swiss rail pass?
This question plagued me for days. There are many different passes to choose from and since my decision making skills have been progressively getting worse I really couldn’t make a decision.
The Swiss Pass not only covers rail journeys, but also includes admission to many museums, free travel on public transportation, and 50% discounts on the more scenic and picturesque mountain railways in Switzerland.
There are regular Swiss passes with 4, 8, 15, 22 days and 1 month consecutive passes, along with discounts for companion passes (if you always travel with a partner) or the flexi day pass where you choose 3, 4, 5, or 6, travel days within a month.
Aaaahh so many choices.
How to go about this?
Before we got to Switzerland I looked up prices for individual journeys on the rail website. Just be careful here because when you see the price pop up on the right hand side, this is really the price if you have a 50% reduction card, which most likely you won’t so the price will be 24 CHF instead of the 12 indicated here.
After I added up the prices of each individual leg of our Swiss route I needed to factor in an estimate for daily public transportation costs.
If you are planning to do any of the more adventurous mountain railways check to see what kind of discount is offered with the rail pass. Some of the railways, like the Golden Pass which we were planning on doing offers a 50% discount with the Swiss Pass, whereas others only offer a 25% discount.
Also if you are under 26 you qualify for the youth pass which offers a significant discount over the adult pass!
After a quick look through the museums that are covered I saw that none of the ones we were interested in were on the list so this wasn’t a factor in my decision.
In the end I decided against the Swiss rail pass and we just purchased train and public transport tickets as we went.
How did we fare?
With the Golden Pass ticket included I spent a total of 355 CHF on transportation over the course of 8 days, while Dave spent 287 CHF (he didn’t go quite everywhere with me and skipped a few excursions).
With the Golden Pass ticket included had I purchased the Swiss Youth pass I would have spent 327 CHF , but for an adult pass I would have paid 425 CHF , and for a companion pass would have paid 366 CHF.
Had I purchased the Swiss youth pass for both of us I would have saved 28 CHF but since Dave did not take as many train trips he would have lost 40 CHF, so for us, buying tickets as we went proved to be the best option.
Had we been over 26 and purchased the adult or companion pass we both would have lost money by purchasing the rail passes.
In some countries it might be a clear deal to purchase a rail pass but in Switzerland I found that it really depends on your specific route and how expensive each leg of your journey is if purchased separately.
As we were only traveling one way from Zurich to Geneva with stops along the way (in Rhine Falls, Luzern, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Berne and Lausanne) we did not have any super expensive train tickets. If we were seeing all corners of the country or even traveling back to Zurich the Swiss Pass would definitely have been the better option.
My piece of advice — do the research. Look up the prices for individual journeys on the Swiss rail website, look into which mountain railways you want to take, and set aside several CHF each day for daily public transport. See what your total adds up to and then see if the Swiss Pass is still worth it.