Luzern Interlaken Express beside Lake Lungern
Transport

How to Choose the Best Swiss Rail Pass for Your Trip

May 17, 2022 Last Updated on May 17, 2022

Many visitors to Switzerland choose to travel around by train and with such an extensive public transport network right across the country, that’s an excellent decision.

But buying individual tickets for each train journey – and mountain top excursion – that you plan to take in Switzerland can be rather expensive.  Let’s face it – Switzerland is not one of the cheapest countries to visit. 

That’s why purchasing a rail pass can be a smart financial move but which Swiss rail pass should you buy?  This is by far the question I get asked the most in the Switzerland Travel Planning FB group and by readers of this website.

With a variety of different Switzerland transport passes available, it can be overwhelming trying to determine which one is the best to buy – and unfortunately, there’s no quick or easy answer. Every traveller’s itinerary will be different and there are numerous factors that can help to determine the right Swiss transport pass for your trip.

Just because a particular pass offers the best value for one traveller, that doesn’t mean it’s the best value for you.

So before you spend your hard-earned cash on a Swiss rail pass, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying the right one.

In this guide, I’ll run through the most popular Swiss rail passes that are available for tourists and the factors to consider to determine which is the right pass to purchase for your trip.

[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]

Quick summary of the most popular Swiss rail passes

Swiss Travel Pass

  • Free public transport throughout Switzerland, including premium panoramic trains
  • 50% discount on most mountain excursions (25% off Jungfraujoch)
  • 5 mountain excursions & admission to 500 museums for free
  • Available in multiple durations and in 1st and 2nd class
  • Available for travel on consecutive or non-consecutive days
  • Available all year round
  • Accompanying children travel free with the Family Card

> BUY IT HERE

Read our detailed guide to the Swiss Travel Pass here.

Glacier Express crossing a bridge in winter
Image Swiss Travel System

Regional-Pass Berner Oberland

  • Free travel on public transport in the Bernese Oberland and on the Luzern-Interlaken Express and the GoldenPass Line from Interlaken to Gstaad
  • Free travel on 25 mountain excursions (discounted travel to Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn)
  • Discounted admission to numerous regional museum and attractions
  • Available in multiple durations and in 1st and 2nd class
  • Travel on consecutive days only
  • Available from 1 April to 31 October, 2022
  • Accompanying children travel for free with the Junior TravelCard or CHF 30 each

> BUY IT HERE

Read our detailed guide to the Regional-Pass Berner Oberland here.

Brienz Rothorn Bahn

Jungfrau Travel Pass

  • Free public transport in the Jungfrau Region
  • Free travel on most mountain excursions in the Jungfrau Region (discounted travel to Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn)
  • Available in multiple durations
  • Travel on consecutive days only
  • Available from 25 April to 23 October, 2022
  • Accompanying children travel for CHF 30 each

> BUY IT HERE

Read our detailed guide to the Jungfrau Travel Pass here.

Jungfraubahn

Top of Europe Pass

  • Free public transport in the Jungfrau Region (excluding boats)
  • Free travel on most mountain excursions in the Jungfrau Region (excluding Schilthorn)
  • Available in multiple durations
  • Travel on consecutive days only
  • Available from 15 April to 23 October, 2022
  • Accompanying children travel for CHF 30 each

> BUY IT HERE

Eiger Express cable car

Tell Pass

  • Free public transport in Lake Lucerne region and on the Luzern-Interlaken Express and the Gotthard Panorama Express
  • Free travel on mountain excursions in the Lake Lucerne region
  • Discounted admission to numerous regional museum and attractions
  • Available in multiple durations
  • Travel on consecutive days only
  • Available all year round
  • Accompanying children travel for CHF 30 each

> BUY IT HERE

Read our detailed guide to the Tell Pass here.

Mt Rigi cogwheel train

Swiss Half Fare Card

  • Half price travel on public transport and most mountain excursions throughout Switzerland within a 1 month period
  • Available in 1st or 2nd class
  • Available for use year round
  • Valid for 1 month from the date of first use
  • Accompanying children travel for free with the Family Card

> BUY IT HERE

Eurail Global Pass

  • Free travel on public transport in the countries in which the pass is valid
  • 25% discount on most mountain excursions
  • Free travel on premium panoramic trains
  • Available in multiple durations and in 1st and 2nd class
  • Available all year round

> BUY IT HERE

Read all about the Eurail Global Pass here.


Step-by-step guide to choosing the best Swiss rail pass for your trip

GoldenPass train near Montreux, Switzerland

When it comes to deciding which Swiss rail pass to buy for your trip, it can be quite overwhelming knowing where to start. In this four step guide, I help you to focus on what exactly your trip will entail so that you can choose the right pass for your itinerary.

You’ll find my step-by-step instructions listed below.

Step 1 – Your itinerary

Make a list of all the destinations you would like to visit in Switzerland including the things you consider are ‘must-see’ and ‘must-do’. This list should include any premium panoramic train rides and mountain excursions you would like to take.

To your ‘must-do’ list, add the excursions and rail journeys that would be ‘nice to see and do’ if time permits.

Now, mark all your ideal destinations on a map. Are they mostly located in one region or are they spread around the whole of Switzerland?

Visualising the location of each of your ideal destinations will give you some idea of whether or not to focus on a regional pass or a pass that covers all of Switzerland.


Step 2 – Elimination

In most cases it is too time consuming and not appropriate to compare every different rail pass so it’s best to eliminate any passes that won’t be a good purchase for your trip.

Are you spending the majority of time in one location? Then consider a regional pass – the Tell Pass for Lucerne region or the Jungfrau Travel Pass, Top of Europe Pass or Regional Pass Berner Oberland for the Jungfrau region.

Are you travelling from November to March? Some regional passes are seasonal so if you are travelling outside the main tourist season (April to October) you can eliminate the Bernese Oberland and the Jungfrau region passes mentioned above.

Check validity dates carefully. Whilst the Regional Pass Berner Oberland, the Jungfrau Travel Pass and the Top of Europe Pass are all valid for travel from April to October, the exact start and finish dates of the passes are slightly different.

The Regional Pass Berner Oberland has a slightly longer validity period than the Jungfrau Travel Pass and the Top of Europe Pass.

GoldenPass panoramic train

Step 3 – Decide what you need covered

Once you have eliminated any passes that aren’t suitable for your trip, it’s time to reconfirm exactly what you need your pass to cover.

You can use these general rules as a guide to choosing the best pass for your trip:

>> Swiss Travel Pass – best for mostly train travel throughout the country, especially if taking any premium panoramic train rides

>> Regional Pass Berner Oberland – best for mostly mountain excursions in the Bernese Oberland

>> Jungfrau Travel Pass or Top of Europe Pass – best for just Jungfrau Railways excursions

>> Tell Pass – best for travel and mountain excursions in the Lake Lucerne region

>> Half Fare Card – best for minimal train travel and mountain excursions / is a good option for those who are renting a car


Step 4 – Compare prices

Now that you have decided which passes to compare, you need to calculate the cost of purchasing regular tickets versus purchasing a pass and paying any additional supplements. To do this:

a) Make a list of each rail journey you plan to take with the regular fares for each sector using the SBB mobile app or SBB.ch website (*see notes below).

Write down the regular cost of each mountain excursion you wish to take. Read on to find out where to find these prices.

Tally up the regular cost of all the trips you plan to take.

b) Next, compare the price of the rail pass/es you are considering purchasing plus any supplements for mountain excursions you plan to take.

For example, if you are planning on purchasing a 4 day Swiss Travel Pass and taking two mountain excursions, you need to tally up the cost of the Pass, plus supplements for any of the mountain excursions.

Then, compare the total of a) and b).  You should also take into account any admission fees that are included or discounted with your pass (eg. Chillon Castle, FIFA World Football Museum) and/or boat trips you would like to take.

After comparing one or two rail passes against the cost of purchasing individual tickets, you should now know which is the best Swiss rail pass to purchase for your trip.


You can find a list of prices for the most popular mountain excursions in the Interlaken/Jungfrau Region using the various rail passes on my free rail pass comparison spreadsheet – enter your details below and we’ll email you a free copy.

Interlaken Region Rail Pass Comparison Spreadsheet

Useful things to know before you buy a Swiss rail pass

Two passes may be better than one!

In some instances, it is also worth considering purchasing two different passes. For instance, if you are travelling with a Eurail Global Pass, the discounts offered for most mountain excursions is 25% but you can get 50% off with the Half Fare Card.

If your trip includes numerous mountain excursions, it might be worthwhile to purchase a Half Fare Card for CHF 120 in addition to your Eurail Global Pass. In this example, let’s say you plan to visit Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn and Harder Kulm whilst in the Jungfrau Region and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise in Zermatt.

The Eurail Global Pass will include free travel on public transport throughout Switzerland but the Half Fare Card can offer savings for the mountain excursions as you’ll see in the following examples.

The supplement to reach Jungfraujoch is around CHF 175 with the Eurail Global Pass but with the Half Fare Card you pay just CHF 118 – a saving of CHF 57. You can save around CHF 35 on the Schilthorn excursion with the Half Fare Card instead of using the Eurail Global Pass, and CHF 8 on the trip to Harder Kulm.

In Zermatt, you’ll save CHF 60 off the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise excursion if you use the Half Fare Card instead of the Eurail Global Pass.

After taking into account the cost of the Half Fare Card (CHF 120), this results in overall savings of CHF 40.

The Regional-Pass Berner Oberland and Jungfrau Travel Pass can also be purchased at reduced rates if you also hold a Swiss Half Fare Card but only if both passes are valid on the same dates.

Swiss train travelling to Zermatt

Where to check prices

Finding the fares for each trip you plan to take does take some effort.

You can find the fares* for intercity journeys on the Swiss Federal Railways website or on the SBB app.

To look up the fares of each of the mountain excursions, you can visit the website of each mountain. Some mountain railways (cable cars, trains and funiculars) offer a discount for holders of Swiss rail passes, but the discount can vary widely for each pass.

For instance, the Brienzer Rothorn excursion costs CHF 94.00 return for a regular ticket but is free for holders of the Regional-Pass Berner Oberland. If you hold a Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Half Fare Card, the cost to you is CHF 47.00.

*When checking fares on SBB.ch, be aware that the lowest possible fare is always displayed as the ‘from’ fare. This usually refers to limited Super Saver fares or fares for holders of the Swiss Half Fare Card. You should click the ‘Select Ticket’ button in order to view all fares.


Ready to purchase your Swiss rail pass?

I hope this step-by-step guide has helped you to decide which is the best Swiss rail pass for your trip and you can now confidently hit the BUY NOW button and make your purchase.

Use the following quick links to buy your pass:

Happy travels!


Switzerland Travel Essentials