Going to Switzerland soon but not sure of the best way to travel around? Don’t fret, we’re here to help. The aim of this guide is to give anyone considering train travel in Switzerland a solid understanding of how the Swiss rail system works and how easy it is to travel by train.
Whether you’re going to Switzerland on a business trip, visiting with your family or studying there for a semester, we’ve got you covered. From the train companies that operate in Switzerland to the types of trains and tickets, keep reading our guide to learn all you need to know about trains in Switzerland.
Here's a quick summary of what's below – click on one of the topics you're most interested in to jump down to the relevant section.
Getting around Switzerland by train is super easy. Thanks to SBB, the main Swiss national railway company, you can, for example, enjoy the finest chocolate in one of Zurich’s chocolate shops at 10:00 and eat fondue in Geneva’s old town by midday. Sounds tempting? Have a look at our Swiss rail map below and start planning your next train trip to Switzerland with us.
Whether you want to reach the centre of the main cities with high-speed Intercity and Eurocity trains, or prefer a slower yet still exciting journey with the InterRegio and Regio trains, travelling by train in Switzerland is a great opportunity for you to see some of the most spectacular views from the comfort of your seat.
Want to discover the beauty of the Swiss Alps? Take the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz or the Bernina Express from Tirano to Chur and get ready to enjoy some of the most breath-taking scenic train routes.
And if you’re thinking of travelling from Switzerland to other parts of Europe, there are also frequent cross-border train routes to popular destinations across Italy, France, Germany and Austria from train companies such as Trenitalia, TGV Lyria, Deutsche Bahn and ÖBB. The world is your oyster when you travel by train.
There’s a wide range of high-speed and regional trains you can choose from, whether you’re travelling around Switzerland or cross-border. Read on for more details about each train type:
SBB offer the following regional and Intercity services within the country:
The following high-speed trains cover routes to and from Switzerland:
The Intercity Tilting Trains (ICN) are Switzerland’s domestic high-speed trains – they’re mainly used by commuters travelling from one major city to another.
Switzerland is well-known for its stunning scenery. The following scenic trains in Switzerland offer the most panoramic train routes:
If you’re taking the train in Switzerland, it’s very likely you’ll be boarding an SBB service as they’re the main railway company in the country. If you’re travelling from Switzerland to Italy, France or Germany instead, there are several train companies you need to know about. Keep reading for more information about the different services, including which routes they operate on and what train types they use.
As the main Swiss train operator, SBB provide both high-speed and regional trains which connect the country’s major cities and airports. The main types of SBB trains are the high-speed InterCity (IC), InterCity Tilting Trains (ICN) and EuroCity (EC) trains – which can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h – and the slower InterRegio (IR), RegioExpress (RE), Regio (R) and S-Bahn trains (S) – which connect different regions and make a few more stops.
Find out more about SBB.
Covering Switzerland’s second-largest rail network after SBB, BLS are regional trains operating in the area between Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Lucerne, the Jura Mountains and the Simplon Massif. They also serve most routes of the Bern S-Bahn, as well as some routes of the Lucerne S-Bahn.
The Rhaetian Railway (RHB) operates all train connections in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. The main types of RHB trains are Regio and RegioExpress trains, including the well-known panoramic trains, the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express.
Find out more about the Rhaetian Railway.
The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MG Bahn) covers a rail network of 144km between the cantons of Valais, Graubünden and Uri, with Zermatt - Brig - Disentis and Andermatt - Göschenen as the main routes. The MG Bahn are mainly regional trains, including the Glacier Express, which is run jointly by the Rhaetian Railway and the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn.
The Montreux–Oberland Bernois Railway (MOB) is a train company operating in southwestern Switzerland. All MOB trains are regional trains with panoramic windows that travel between Montreux and Château-d’Oex, covering the panoramic route known as the ‘Golden Pass’.
Part of a collaboration between SNCF and SBB, TGV Lyria trains connect the Swiss cities of Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich to the French cities of Paris, Dijon and Marseille in no time at all.
Find out more about TGV Lyria trains.
The main train operator in Italy, Trenitalia provides 32 direct Eurocity services from Geneva, Basel and Zurich to Milan and Venice. Enjoy comfortable and quick cross-border train travel, perfect if you’re on a country-hopping holiday.
Find out more about Trenitalia.
The German train company Deutsche Bahn offers over 40 daily Intercity (IC) and Intercity Express (ICE) services between Switzerland and Germany, connecting for example Lucerne to Munich, Interlaken to Hamburg or Bern to Frankfurt. Leave the car home and take the train from Switzerland to Germany.
Find out more about Deutsche Bahn.
The Austrian railway company ÖBB provides high-speed Railjet trains, which connect Switzerland to Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck at speeds of up to 230km/h.
Find out more about ÖBB.
Wondering if it's worth spending that extra cash to travel in First Class? Or will Standard Class do just fine? Keep reading to discover what you can expect to find in each class when travelling by train in Switzerland.
Available on all trains in Switzerland
Second Class is the most common Class people travel on in Switzerland, that’s why it can be more crowded than First Class. You can expect to find the following in Second Class carriages:
Available on most trains in Switzerland
Depending on the train you’re travelling on, First Class on Swiss trains can include the following extras on top of Second Class amenities:
There are six train ticket types in Switzerland and their prices are usually based on the route, not the train type. Read on for more information, we've broken down the different ticket types for you.
Best for budget travellers
These discount tickets are available for many SBB routes and are up to 70% cheaper than regular ticket prices. Available to buy online 30 days before the departure date, there’s usually a limited number of tickets per journey, so book in advance to avoid disappointment. These tickets can’t be exchanged nor refunded.
Best for one-off journeys or long weekends away
Standard tickets are single or return tickets with a fixed price based on the route and not the train type. For example, you can board an Intercity or RegioExpress train to travel from Zurich to Bern, and still pay for the same price.
However, their validity varies based on where you purchase your tickets, either online or at the ticket office. While all one-way tickets are valid for one day only, return tickets for a distance over 115km are valid for 10 days if bought online and one day each way if bought at the station.
Best for exploring different cities
This train ticket includes a one-day public transport pass from either your city of departure or arrival. Valid for one day, you can buy this ticket either online or at the station. If you want to use public transport in both your departure and arrival city, book a City-City ticket – it’s only available online.
Best for travelling with a group or taking the same route multiple times
This ticket offers a discounted price for six single journeys on a specific route – for example, Geneva to Lausanne – and can also be used for a group of six people travelling together.
You can buy your ticket online, but if you’re travelling on a regional train you’ll need to validate it – the ticket will be valid for 4 hours. If you’re travelling on a long-distance trip, your ticket will be valid from the moment it’s validated until 05:00 the following day.
Best for one-day cheap travel across the country
If you have limited time and want to see as much as possible of Switzerland, buy a Saver Day Pass – you’ll get unlimited travel at any time and anywhere in Switzerland. This Pass is valid to travel in both First and Second Class, but it’s not refundable nor exchangeable.
Best for travelling on a longer trip
If you’re planning on travelling around Switzerland for more days, the Swiss Travel Pass is the right option for you. With this Pass you can travel on all regular trains, buses and boats for a certain number of days (3 to 15 consecutive days). You can also travel on the scenic Glacier Express with this ticket, get free entry to over 500 museums and up to 50% off some mountain railways, cable cars and eBikes.
As trusted sellers of SBB, TGV Lyria and other cross-border services in Switzerland, we’ll show you train times and highlight the cheapest ticket prices in our Journey Planner or app. Here’s a step-by-step guide to booking Swiss train tickets:
Did you know the price of train tickets in Switzerland increases as the date of travel approaches? Our goal is to help you save money, so we’ve explained below how to find and buy cheap train tickets in Switzerland and all over Europe.
For more information, visit our cheap European train tickets page.
In general, SBB tickets and those of the majority of European rail operators go on sale three months in advance. Try to book as soon as possible to find some of the cheapest tickets, such as the Supersaver tickets and the Saver Day Pass, as they get snapped up quickly.
Try to avoid rush hours in major Swiss and European cities. At busy times, tickets are usually more expensive and the trains are more crowded.
There are a few discounts that can help you save money on ticket prices. For example, children under 6 travel for free, and those aged between 6-16 can purchase a half-price ticket.
Boasting a prime location in the heart of Europe, Switzerland welcomes trains from many neighbouring countries and greets them with views of mountains, lakes, waterfalls and vineyards on their journey. We’ve recommended some of the top destinations to visit during your trip to Switzerland.
Known by many as the headquarters of several international organisations, Geneva is a city that surprises its visitors. Travelling by train to Geneva Cornavin station, you’ll arrive at a recently renovated terminal featuring many shops and restaurants. You can easily reach the city centre in around 15 minutes on foot or by hopping on a tram or bus. The entire main area of the city is surrounded by the impressive Lake Geneva, easily recognisable by its 140m water jet – one of the highest in Europe.
Next, continue your visit to the Palais des Nations – European headquarters of the UN – and take a wander around the large park that surrounds it, or visit the Cathedral Saint-Pierre or the Bains district, with its galleries and contemporary art shops.
Main train stations
The train ride to Switzerland's economic capital, located in one of the German-speaking cantons of the country, sees passengers alight at Zürich Hauptbahnhof (HB for short) train station. Known as Zurich HB, the station is the largest terminal in the country and connects Switzerland to major European cities. It also boasts a privileged location in the central district, between the Limmat River and Shil, directly opposite the Swiss National Museum.
One of the main advantages of travelling into Zurich station is that you’re within walking distance of most of the city’s main attractions. Be sure to take in the contrast between the modern avant-garde buildings and charming historical churches. Don’t miss out on a stroll around the lively Zurich Lake to admire its typical medieval middle-class houses.
Main train stations
Often a lesser known destination than the previous two cities, Bern is the historic capital of Switzerland. Both domestic and international trains run frequent services through Bern train station, and although it’s a large building, everything is well signposted with lots of shops to browse before your journey. The terminal is also located in the heart of the city near the old town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – so make this your first stop!
Wander through Bern and experience first-hand the medieval architecture of Europe. Check out the cobbled streets, charming fountains and the famous Zytglogge (Clock Tower) with astronomical spheres moving over time. The city also has a modern side though, which you can see by visiting the Zentrum Paul Klee museum – totally avant-garde and worth the detour.
Main train stations
If you hold a valid US, UK, AU, NZ or CA passport, you won’t need a visa if you’re staying in Switzerland for less than 90 days.
If you’re studying in Switzerland, you’ll need to apply for the visa that covers the amount of time you’ll be spending there. Short stay visas are for courses not exceeding 3 months. Temporary long-stay visas are for courses between 3 and 12 months.
Discounted train travel
If you know your travel plans ahead of time, book a Supersaver ticket or a Saver Day Pass to travel on SBB trains, or a Non-Flex ticket to travel on TGV Lyria trains. Both train companies release their tickets up to 3 months in advance – the earlier you book, the more you’ll save!
If you’re staying in Switzerland for less than 90 days and and hold a valid US, UK, AU, NZ or CA passport, you don’t need to apply for a visa.
If you’re travelling from the US, you’ll just need to show proof of sufficient funds and a return ticket to enter the country.
First Class or Second Class?
Onboard services in First and Second Class can vary based on the train you’re travelling on. The Business Zone is only available on SBB’s InterCity trains on specific routes, such as Basel to Lugano and Zurich to Lucerne.
If you’re taking the TGV Lyria from Switzerland to France, you can travel in Business Class all week except on Saturdays.
If you’re visiting Switzerland for less than three months, you won’t need a visa to enter the country if you hold a valid UK, US, CA, AU or NZ passport.
Travelling with children
Children up to 6 years old travel for free on all Swiss and cross-border services. They won’t be able to have their own seat, so will have to sit on your knee during the journey.
Fares for children aged 6 years and older vary depending on the rail company. In generally, children around that age are given half-price tickets.
SBB’s Intercity and Intercity Tilting trains on long-distance routes come with a Family Zone in Second Class, where there’s more space for buggies. On some routes, a family coach is also available – children can play freely in a colourful playground area.
Wondering how much luggage you can take on board Swiss trains or when to buy your train tickets? Check out our answers to some of your most frequently asked questions below.
Not always. Standard tickets are available in unlimited numbers and are valid on any train covering Swiss domestic routes. However, you can often save money with the Supersaver fares if you buy them online – they’re usually released three months ahead of time and have limited availability, so make sure you book your tickets as soon as possible.
Yes, you can. If you book with us you can decide to receive your ticket as an eticket where it’s available. We’ll email it to the email address you provide when booking. Just present the ticket’s barcode (in our app) when asked.
You’ll also have the option of printing the ticket at home or showing the six-letter reference code to the ticket inspector, which they can use to look up your ticket.
Children up to 6 years old travel for free on all Swiss and cross-border services if they don't have their own seat. Children aged between 6 and 16 are entitled to a half-price ticket.
Seat reservation is not always possible on many Swiss trains, however you can reserve a seat on some long-distance trains for a small fee.
You need a seat reservation only if you’re travelling on a scenic train like the Bernina Express, Glacier Express or Golden Pass trains.
There’s no luggage limit nor any baggage fee on most Swiss trains – unlike planes, you don’t need to check your bags in, you simply take them with you and place them on the onboard racks.
Most long-distance trains have at least a bistro car serving snacks and drinks, whereas some also provide a table service (usually in First Class).
Yes, you can take your bike on most SBB trains. You can transport your bike free of charge only if you fold it and store it in a transport case, otherwise you’ll have to buy a ticket for it and book a space before your travel date.
So you’ve come to the end of our guide to train travel in and around Switzerland. We’ve covered the types of trains you can travel on, their classes and who operates them. You should now also know how to book your Swiss train tickets with us and which ones can save you the most money.
If you feel ready to book your tickets, start your search in our Journey Planner at the top of the page. If not, check more travel guides and get inspired for your next trip in Switzerland and beyond.