Getting around Switzerland
Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
What’s the best way to get around Switzerland? If that’s the question on your mind, the answer's sure to make you smile. The Swiss public transport system remains one of the wonders of the modern world. It really is hard to overstate how good it is — you can get anywhere you want quickly, easily and relatively cheaply.
In a word, yes. Services almost always depart on the dot, and train timetables are well integrated with postbus schedules.
Postbuses operate on routes not covered by rail, including remote valleys — good news if you're planning to get off the beaten track to enjoy the best outdoor experiences in Switzerland.
Extensive ferry services run on Switzerland’s many lakes, and cyclists are well served by the Swiss instinct for green thinking.
If you're into cycling and keen to travel more sustainably in Switzerland, you might want to find out why Lake Lucerne is the ultimate slow travel destination.
Everyone relies on the Swiss public transportation system as a matter of course. It’s clean, safe, pleasant and punctual.
One point can’t be stressed enough, though — Swiss people virtually never pay full fare for public transport. Follow suit by investigating Swiss travel passes to make getting around Switzerland a whole lot cheaper.
There are several different Swiss travel passes. While they're all good value, it takes some untangling to decide which option best suits your trip — see My Switzerland for full details.
The convenience and universal validity of these passes are alluring, but it pays to do some sums before you splash out.
Depending on the kind of journeys you’re liable to take, you may find you’d be better off getting a Half Fare Card than forking out for a pricey Swiss Travel Pass.
If you’re based in one resort, investigate the terms of the local guest card, issued free when you check in at your hotel. These often give free transport on local buses and trains and – sometimes – cable cars and funiculars.
The most convenient way to consult the national timetable covering all rail, bus, boat and cable-car services.
This lets you research individual journeys on specific dates between any two points in meticulous detail, including complete information on every train — from platform numbers and onboard refreshments, to fare quotes and station maps.
While few Swiss journeys lack the kind of scenery that saw you vote Switzerland one of the most beautiful countries in the world, some routes are extra-special.
Though some require changing from train to boat, or bus to train, you never have to walk more than the length of a station platform, and timetables are designed so you never have to hurry.
Here’s a selection of top scenic routes in Switzerland — see The Rough Guide to Switzerland to discover more.
This spectacular — and very popular — route takes in 291 bridges and 91 tunnels in eight hours. Setting out from St Moritz or Davos, you head down to Chur, then up the Rhine valley to the Oberalp Pass and Andermatt.
From here, you enter a tunnel beneath the Furka Pass and scoot down the Rhône valley to Brig, before climbing to Zermatt.
Explore more of the best places to stay in Zermatt.
Board the world's highest cable car to explore the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
This flagship panorama route from Lucerne runs over the Brünig Pass to Interlaken and Gstaad.
Then there’s a spectacular descent through vineyards to the Lake Geneva shore at Montreux.
Explore more places to stay in Montreux.
For fairy tale charm, it doesn't get better than Chateau Chillon.
After travelling by boat to Flüelen from Lucerne, a train south corkscrews up into the Gotthard tunnel beneath the Alps
From here, you travel through the Italianate Ticino region to Lugano.
Browse more of the best places to stay in Lugano.
Book a boat cruise and walking tour of the Olive Tree Trail from Lugano to Gandria.
The Swiss are the most frequent train users in Europe – not surprising, given the quality of the network, which makes getting around Switzerland a pleasure.
Travelling through Switzerland by train is invariably comfortable, efficient and scenic — there’s a reason Switzerland features in our overview of the most scenic train rides in Europe.
A comprehensive bus system backs up the train network. These cover ground not served by rail, such as in the high mountains and deep countryside.
The bus and train timetables are coordinated, ensuring watertight connections from one to the other.
Bus stations are nearly always located beside train stations, and all Swiss travel passes are valid for travel on buses as well as trains.
Buses are also the most common form of transport within cities. Many cities also have trams, and a few have funiculars.
Driving gives you extra freedom to explore, and Switzerland’s road network is comprehensive.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein drive on the right, seatbelts are compulsory for all, and penalties for drink driving are tough — one glass of beer has you on or over the limit.
Beware of driving with sunglasses on — since there are hundreds of road tunnels, you can be plunged into darkness with little warning.
Swiss motorways/freeways are signed in green, while main roads are signed in blue.
Speed limits are 120kph (75mph) on motorways, 80kph (50mph) on main roads, 50kph (30mph) in urban areas, and 30kph (18mph) or less on residential streets.
If you hear an outrageously loud klaxon sounding on country lanes or twisting mountain roads, it means a postbus is approaching. It always has priority, so get out of the way.
Minimum driving age is 18 and third-party insurance is compulsory. You must carry a red warning triangle and the vehicle registration documents.
If you plan to drive on Swiss motorways, you have to stick a vignette inside your windscreen. This remains valid until January 31 of the following year.
Buy it from the customs officials when you first cross the border, or at post offices, petrol stations and My Switzerland.
Car rental can be expensive, so cut costs by renting in advance from the big international agencies.
To rent a car, you need a clean UK, EU or international driving licence that you’ve held for more than a year.
Metered taxis are always available, but given the density of public transport they’re rarely necessary. What’s more, you need to be on a Swiss salary to afford them.
Uber is available in nine cities across Switzerland — Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Bern, Fribourg, Sion, Winterthur, Zug and Zürich.
Inevitably the most scenic drives in Switzerland are over spectacular mountain passes — high routes that connect different parts of the country with each other or with neighbouring countries.
All except the Bernina route (open year-round) are closed for up to eight months of the year.
Here are a couple of sensational scenic drives in Switzerland — see The Rough Guide to Switzerland for more.
Linking Pontresina to Poschiavo in Graubünden, there’s no alternative road tunnel under this pass.
A prime artery between southeast Switzerland and northern Italy, it can be icy even in summer.
Browse more great places to stay in Graubünden.
Running from Andermatt to Gletsch in Valais, this pass is a key east–west route across southern Switzerland.
Its western limb switchbacks past the spectacular Rhône glacier.
Explore more places to stay in Valais.
All Switzerland’s bigger lakes, and many of its smaller ones, are served by regular ferries.
Most run only during the summer season – generally April to October – and are primarily pleasure-oriented, duplicating routes which can be covered more quickly by rail.
All Swiss travel passes grant free travel by boat everywhere except on Lake Maggiore, which is mostly in Italy.
That said, a leisurely cruise across Lake Geneva, or through the Alpine foothills to Interlaken in Switzerland’s Jungfrau region beats the equivalent train journey.
Discover more places to stay in Interlaken.
Though Switzerland is small, the presence of so many mountains can lengthen journey times, so it might sometimes make sense to take an internal flight.
Swiss flies between Geneva and Zürich several times a day.
Given that getting around Switzerland is so easy, you might be ready to book your trip — The Rough Guide to Switzerland and our run-down of things not to miss in Switzerland will help you plan.
Not a fan of planning? Book a hassle-free tailor-made trip to Switzerland, with customisable itineraries curated by local experts covering everything from unforgettable highlights of Switzerland, to touring the Grand Circle.
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