Getting Around Switzerland
You can book internal flights in Switzerland through Swiss (www.swiss.com). Domestic air travel is fast but expensive, and with the exception of the Geneva to Zürich flight (journey time - 45 minutes), many businesspeople prefer to travel by rail or road.
Road quality is generally good. Many mountain roads are winding and narrow, and often closed in heavy winter conditions; otherwise chains and snow tyres may be necessary. Traffic jams are also common in Switzerland. Roads also may close in the winter due to heavy snowfall.
To travel on Swiss highways and expressways, purchase a vignette sticker, which covers the swiss motorway tax. Rail is often more efficient than driving.
Side of the roadRight
Car hire is available in all towns from hotels and airports and at all manned rail stations. All major European companies are represented, including Alamo, Sixt and Hertz. Europcar has more vehicles in Switzerland for hire than any other operator.
Registered taxis are available in most major towns and cities in Switzerland. All taxis have meters for short and long trips, although it is advisable to agree the fare for longer distances out of town.
You can rent bikes at numerous railway stations through Rent a Bike (www.rentabike.ch).
Swiss Post (tel: +41 848 888 888; www.postauto.ch) runs regular PostBus services to much of rural Switzerland.
The minimum driving age is 18. Seat belts are obligatory and children under 12 years must travel in the back of the car. Dipped headlights are compulsory at all times.
Speed limits are 120kph (75mph) on motorways, 80kph (50mph) on main roads and 50kph (31mph) in towns.
On minor roads, traffic going uphill has the right of way. Road numbers on green signs indicate toll expressways, where a toll vignette (sticker) (Autobahn-Vignette) must be displayed. You can order one online before you travel (http://rail.myswitzerland.com). Stickers are valid for fourteen months.
Emergency breakdown help can be arranged through the Swiss Touring Club (tel: 0800 140 140, in Switzerland only; www.tcs.ch).
A national driving licence is sufficient. Green Card insurance is advised; ordinary domestic insurance policies are valid but do not provide full cover. The Green Card tops the cover up to the level provided by your domestic policy.
Highly efficient and integrated urban public transport systems serve as a model for other countries. There are tramways and light rail services in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Neuchâtel and Zurich. These and a further dozen cities also have trolleybuses. Transport is also available by boat, and some railways also run through many Swiss mountains for tourism purposes.
Fare systems are generally automated with machines issuing single or multiple tickets at the roadside. Tickets are also available at enquiry offices. Fares are generally zonal within SBB’s TNW network.
There is a day ticket for travel in one or more Swiss cities on any given day at a standard fare. Taxis are widely available but expensive, many of which include service charges in their ride fares. However, extra tips are appreciated.
Visitors can use public transport for free with an allocated mobility ticket, which is administered to individuals if they stay overnight in hotels, youth hostels or on camping sites in the canton of Basel-Landschaft.
Rail transport is particularly well developed in Switzerland, with excellent services provided by Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB, Swiss Federal Railways) (www.sbb.ch) and many other operators. Using a SwissPass is a superb way to view the scenery, although mainline services are geared to the needs of the hurried business traveller.
Trains run at least hourly from the major centres, and there is a countrywide timetable of regular services. There are dining cars on many trains and snacks and refreshments are widely available. Independent railways, such as the Rhätische Bahn in the Grisons and the Berner-Oberland-Bahn, provide services in certain parts of the country. The SBB has introduced specialised cars with low-floor coaches on regional trains for travellers using wheelchairs.
There are also a large number of mountain railways which are sometimes the only means of access to winter resorts. Some of these are attractions in their own right: the Gornergrat-Bahn in Zermatt is one of the oldest mountain railways and climbs to a height of over 3,000m (over 9,800ft) above sea level, offering a spectacular panorama of the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains. The panoramic train Gotthard Panorama Express train connects Flüelen with Lugano. Starting from Lucerne you can reach Flüelen by ship while enjoying the wonderful sights on Lake Lucerne with Gotthard Panorama.
Swiss Travel Pass: valid for three, four, eight or 15 consecutive days on rail, bus and boat services across Switzerland. Passes also allow free entry to more than 480 museums and offer 50% discounts on most mountain railways. Children under six travel free when accompanied by at least one person. Children between six and 16 can purchase a half-price ticket or a Junior Travelcard to use on Swiss public transportation. The Half-Fare Travelcard, which can be added to SwissPasses, cuts travel prices in half for SBB railway routes and most SBB boats, buses and trams. Available from SBB (https://rail.myswitzerland.com/#/en/product/swissPass).
Swiss Travel Pass Flex: similar to the Swiss Travel Pass, the flexi pass is valid for three, four, eight or 15 non-consecutive days in one month. Children aged 6-16 travel free of charge when accompanied by a parent.
InterRail One-Country Pass: offers travel for three, four, five, six or eight days in one month within Switzerland. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. Travellers between 12 and 27 years receive a reduction. Children under 12 travel free when accompanied by an adult using an Adult Pass. Supplements are required for some high-speed services, seat reservations and couchettes. Available from Interrail.eu (order support tel: +31 880 016 105; www.interrail.eu) or Oui SNCF (tel: +44 0844 369 0 379, in the UK; en.oui.sncf).
Eurail Global Pass: offers travel for 3 days within one month, 5 days within one month, 7 days within one month, 10 days within 2 months, 15 days, 15 days within 2 months, 22 days, one month, two months, or three months. Eurail does not offer a select or one-country pass for Switzerland, but the Global pass can be used between Switzerland and its bordering countries. Available to non-EU nationals from Eurail (www.eurail.com).
Browse our Video Guides