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Transport

The Ultimate Guide to the Swiss Half Fare Card [2024]

February 12, 2023 Last Updated on May 14, 2024

If you’re planning a trip to Switzerland, then you may well have heard of the Swiss Half Fare Card. This Swiss Half Fare Travelcard does exactly what its name suggests – it entitles the holder to half price tickets for travel within Switzerland. 

If you’re considering buying the Half Fare Card in Switzerland for tourist purposes, then this article will tell you all you need to know. From where to buy your Swiss Half Fare Card and how to use the Swiss Half Fare Card, to the current Swiss Half Fare Card price for first and second class travel.

If you want to know is the Swiss Half Fare Card worth it?, read on so you can make up your own mind. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to decide whether or not the Swiss Half Fare pass is the best option for you. 

Let’s get started by taking a look at exactly what a Swiss Half Fare Card for a tourist entitles you to. 

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What is the Swiss Half Fare Card?

Bernina Express train crossing a viaduct in Switzerland.
Swiss train tickets can be purchased for half price with the Swiss Half Fare Card.

The Swiss Half Fare Card is also sometimes referred to as the SBB Half Fare Card. (SBB stands for Swiss Federal Railways.)

This Swiss half price travel card entitles the holder to buy half price tickets for all public transport in Switzerland which includes trains, buses, boats, trams and mountain railways. 

The Swiss Half Fare Card is valid for 1 month. Though it may seem best suited to those travelling around Switzerland by train, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Even those planning minimal train travel and some mountain excursions can benefit from having the card. It’s therefore a good option for those who are renting a car, too.

The SBB Half Fare Card for tourists entitles you to 50% off train tickets.

It also offers up to 50% off fares on other forms of public transport across the country, and covers more than 90 Swiss cities and towns. This includes travel by boat, bus and mountain railway. 

GET YOUR HALF FARE CARD HERE

Swiss Half Fare Card price

The Swiss Half Fare Card from SBB costs exactly the same whether you plan to travel in first or second class. The price for the Swiss Half Fare Card in 2024 is CHF 120 and you can buy the Swiss Half Fare Card here.

As a general guide, at the time of writing this converts to around USD 130, EUR 120, GBP 105 or AUD 185. (Though exchange rates will of course vary.) 

Whilst the initial cost of the Swiss Half Fare Card is the same regardless of the class of travel, fares for individual journeys differ. 

First class travel costs more than second class travel, but tickets for both classes qualify for a 50% discount with the Half Fare Card.

Swiss Half Fare Card validity

Travelling by train in Switzerland
The handy SBB Mobile app makes it easy to purchase tickets on the go. © Travel Switzerland.

The Half Fare Card in Switzerland is available to anyone who permanently resides outside the country of Switzerland and the landlocked microstate of Liechtenstein. 

Each SBB Half Fare Card gives the tourist up to 50% off travel for a full month.

It can be used to purchase tickets in both classes of travel, and can be bought all year round and the Swiss half fare travel card can be used as an e-ticket.

The Swiss rail half fare card is valid on much more than only trains. It can also be used to purchase half price bus, boat and mountain railway tickets during its validity.

To see a map of the area of validity of the Swiss Half Fare Card > click here.

This is why it can be worthwhile, even for those who will be travelling around Switzerland by car. 

The Swiss Family Card

Children look out the open windows of the Schynige Platte mountain train in Switzerland.
Accompanying children travel for free with the Swiss Family Card. © Travel Switzerland.

Adults buying the Switzerland Half Fare Card can also get the Swiss Family Card for free. The Swiss Family Card can be used as a pass for accompanying children aged under 16. 

Do note that this must be ordered at same time as the adults’ half fare card. 

Once you have a Swiss Family Card, kids aged between 6 and 15 inclusive can travel for free. This applies as long as they’re travelling with at least one parent who is a half fare pass holder.

Children aged 5 or under also travel for free within Switzerland but do not need a Swiss Family Card. 

If you do want to make a seat reservation for an adult or child, however, there will be an additional charge for this.

Switzerland Rail Pass Comparison Calculator

How you receive the Swiss Half Fare Card

The easiest way to buy this special Swiss pass half fare card is to order it online. Once you’ve done that, the card will be delivered by email to your inbox. 

You can then use it as you would any digital ticket – though we always recommend printing a copy just for back-up.

How to use the Swiss Half Fare Card 

The Swiss Half Fare Card does not require activation. This happens automatically when you use it for the first time. 

Just make sure you have your passport to hand as well when buying tickets for each journey. 

This is because you do need to be resident in a country other than Switzerland or the Principality of Liechtenstein to be eligible for the pass, and therefore the 50% discount. 

So let’s say you now have the Swiss Half Fare Card. Where to buy your actual tickets for travel?

Screenshot of SBB.ch website showing how to purchase tickets with a Half Fare Travelcard.
Make sure the Half Fare Card box is selected when booking your tickets for individual trips.

Tickets for each journey you want to make can be purchased via the SBB Mobile app, online, or at any Swiss train station via a machine or staffed counter.

However you choose to proceed, simply make sure you have your Half Fare Card and passport to hand when buying. 

Features and Benefits of the Swiss Half Fare Card

Tram in Zurich
Tickets for trams, boats and buses – in fact all forms of public transport in Switzerland – can be purchased for half price with the Swiss Half Fare Card.

For quick reference, here’s a brief summary of the key features and benefits of the Half Fare Card for Swiss travel

Features

  • Available to anyone who permanently resides outside Switzerland or Liechtenstein
  • Half Fare Cards can be bought and used all year round
  • Buy via the SBB app, at any train station in Switzerland, or online
  • Available for first or second class travel
  • Can be used as an e-ticket

Benefits

  • Valid for one month from the first date of use
  • Up to 50% off travel across all of Switzerland
  • A Swiss Family Card is free for accompanying children under 16
  • Holders can buy half price tickets for travel by train, local transport networks such as buses and boats, and mountain railways

> Get your Swiss Half Fare Card here.


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Swiss Half Fare Card FAQs

How long is the Swiss Half Fare Card valid for?

The Swiss Half Fare Card is valid for one month from the first date of use. You don’t need to validate the card before you travel. It can be bought and used all year round, and for first or second class travel. 

Does the Swiss Half Fare Card cover the Jungfraujoch region?

Yes, the Swiss Half Fare Card does indeed cover the Jungfraujoch region – mountain excursions in the region, as well as travel tickets, are 50% cheaper for card holders.

Can the Swiss Half Fare Card be used on premium panoramic trains like the Glacier Express?

For many people, taking a panoramic train journey within Switzerland is a must. So is there a discount for holders of the Swiss half fare card?

Tickets for the Glacier Express and other premium panoramic trains are available with a 50% discount for Half Fare Card holders. Simply show your Half Fare Card and passport when buying your tickets. 

Does the Swiss Half Fare Card cover cable cars?

Rotair rotating cable car pictured over a snow-covered Mt. Titlis in central Switzerland
The Swiss Half Fare Card also entitles the holder to 50% off most cable cars and mountain railways.

The SBB Half Fare Card gives the holder up to 50% off travel by train, bus, boat, tram, mountain railway and participating cable car services.

Can foreigners buy the Swiss Half Fare Card?

Yes, foreigners can buy the Swiss Half Fare Card. In fact, it’s only available to anyone who isn’t a permanent resident of Switzerland or Liechtenstein.

Once you have the card, always have your passport handy when buying tickets, in case station or train staff wish to check your eligibility.  

Are cancellations or refunds available with the Swiss Half Fare Card?

If you need to cancel your card before travel, you can contact SBB or the company you purchased it from to request a refund.

If you buy via Klook, for example, they generally allow cancellation for a full refund as long as you cancel 48 hours or more before the date of travel or validity. 

Are changes to the Swiss Half Fare Card allowed?

Once you’ve used and therefore activated your pass, it’s valid for one month. No changes are thus permitted after this date.

However as with all SBB tickets and passes, you can request a refund from SBB if you need to curtail your trip for a good reason. Evidence may be required, and refunds are entirely at their discretion. 

What is the difference between the Swiss Pass and the Swiss Half Fare Card?

The Swiss Half Fare Card differs from the Swiss Travel Pass. The Half Fare Card gives you half-price – rather than free or pre-paid – travel on Swiss trains, buses and some other forms of public transport such as mountain railways and cable cars. 

The Swiss Travel Pass covers all travel by public transport, rather than entitling you to half price travel. Both the Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Half Fare Card are available to non-Swiss residents. 

You can read more about the Swiss Travel Pass here >

The SwissPass is an entirely different product that is only available to Swiss residents. We explain the difference in more detail in this article.

Summary – Is the Swiss Half Fare Card worth it?

Lake Geneva boat cruise
Many boat trips are classified as public transport in Switzerland and are therefore available to Half Fare Card holders at a 50% discount.

If you’ll be in Switzerland for a month or less and plan to use some public transport services such as trains, buses, trams and mountain railways during that time, then a Half Fare Card is likely to save you a lot of money when buying tickets. 

There are a number of things to consider when deciding if this is the best travel card option for you.

The Swiss Travel Pass may be a better option if you plan to travel primarily by train.

Regional passes covering the Jungfrau region, the Bernese Oberland and the Lucerne area (the Tell Pass) may also be worth thinking about, depending on where you want to go. 

A Eurail Global Pass might also be a better choice if you plan to visit other European countries. 

Find more guidance on which Swiss Pass to choose in this article

The best way to work out whether it’s worth buying a Swiss Half Fare Card is to list the main journeys you will take. Then you can check the applicable fares for each trip to find out if the discount offered will cover the initial CHF 120 cost of the pass. 

Many travellers rate the Swiss Half Fare Card very highly, and you don’t need to make too many or very long journeys to benefit. 

If you travel as a family, don’t forget that the Swiss Half Fare Card entitles accompanying children under 16 to free travel, too. This applies when you claim a free Swiss Family Card at the same time as buying your half fare pass. 

Now that you’ve read our Ultimate Guide to the Swiss Half Fare Card are you ready to purchase yours? Buy it here!

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