Thursday, August 30, 2018

Trains in Switzerland: Should I take the Swiss Travel Pass or the Half Fare Card?

Like many other things in the country, travelling in Switzerland is expensive - particularly if you're spending at least a week or more there. That means that you'll probably be visiting several different cities or tourist attraction hubs, racking up hundreds of Swiss Francs on train, bus or ferry rides.

The easiest, least-planning-required way to reduce these fares are via purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass, which allows you 'free' travel on the majority of Switzerland's public transport network - with some caveats, of course. However, if you're willing to do put in just a little more planning legwork, the Half Fare Travelcard could save you even more money!

Swiss Travel Pass or Half Fare Card

Note: This is not meant to be a comprehensive Swiss travel post, I'm far too inexperienced for that. What this post is, is a simple comparison for my own personal one-week journey in Switzerland between the Half Fare Card and the Swiss Travel Pass starting from Geneva and ending in Zurich, with stopovers in a couple of the country's most popular tourist destinations in between!

Swiss Travel Pass or Half Fare Card

In the table below, I've compared the price difference between buying individual tickets with the Half Fare Travelcard, vs having the 8 consecutive day Swiss Travel Pass, versus having no discount card at all. We see that the Half Fare Travelcard has the lowest overall cost, but why? A few reasons:

a. For many of the more touristy trains and gondolas, holders of the Swiss Travel Pass still need to pay 50% of the fare - identical to the Half Fare Travelcard.
b. For (arguably) the most touristy train - the one to Jungfraujoch - holders of the Swiss Travel Pass pay 75% of the fare, instead of the 50% paid by Half Fare Travelcard holders.

Swiss Travel Pass or Half Fare Card

c. As tourists, we can sometimes take advantage of 'super saver tickets' during lower-peak timings, which are discounted further on top of the 50% off from the Half Fare Travelcard. In the Zermatt to Wengen itinerary below, for example, the super saver train ticket stacked with the Half Fare Travelcard ends up with a cumulative 70% discount over the full fare ticket.

That's pretty reasonable for a 3 hour train journey!

Swiss Travel Pass or Half Fare Card Swiss Travel Pass or Half Fare Card

Of course, the Swiss Travel Pass does have its advantages other than price - for example, on trains, buses, and ferries which are 'free' you don't have to worry about checking schedules or buying at ticket: You can just hop on and hop off as you desire. And these calculations change significantly based on your own specific travel plans, so there really is no one size fits all.

Nevertheless hopefully this quick comparison helps to give you an idea of what sort of options you have available when planning travel in Switzerland ... and how much it might cost in general (yes, I really did spend over 500 Francs in a week). Happy holidaying!