Here’s how we summited 6 mountains across 11 destinations over 10 days in Switzerland under S$2.3k with the Swiss Travel Pass
Train travel in Switzerland can be pricey, and trust me, we had our share of budget shock when we tallied up the costs for our 10-day Swiss adventure.
Hold onto your seat, because the transportation portion alone added up to a jaw-dropping S$1,913.97!
But with the legendary Swiss Travel Pass we managed to slash our transport expenses S$843.87. Yep, that’s more than 50% off!
Here’s the guide we wished we had while planning our Switzerland trip — and we hope it’ll be helpful for planning your own.
Travelling With The Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel Pass comes in options between 3-15 days. There’s also the option of ‘Flexible’ or ‘Consecutive’ — the latter being the cheaper option.
Since we had 10 days in Switzerland, we got the 8-day Swiss Travel Pass, rented the car for the first two days, and activated the Swiss Travel Pass on day 3.
Check out this detailed breakdown of our trip!
Areas we covered: Lucerne, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Jungfrau, Grindelwald, Montreux, Vevey, Zermatt and St. Moritz, Felisur, Zürich
Mountains: Pilatus, Rigi, Schilthorn, Jungfraujoch, Grindelwald First and Gornegrat
Scenic Trains: Golden Pass Route (Lucerne – Montreux) and The Glacier Express (Zermatt – St.Moritz)
Getting Around Switzerland With The Swiss Travel Pass
1) Local and intercity trains are free — some express trains like the ones mentioned below require a top-up reservation fee (see ‘Premium Panoramic Train Rides’)
2) Buses are free — including the hourly bus from Leuk to Leukerbad (for Leukerbad Thermal Pools), which is a 30-minute ride up the scenic mountain off Leukerbad town.
3) Cogwheels & Mountain Cableways are partially covered — Rigi & Schilthorn are free, while others are available at a 25 – 50% discount. More on that later!
4) Boat rides are free — other than getting from point to point, some boat rides are extra scenic and worth the ride even if it’s long and doesn’t really go anywhere. Scenic rides worth checking out: Lake Lucerne, Lake Brienz and Lake Geneva.
How to use the Swiss Travel Pass
Once you’ve purchased your Swiss Travel Pass online, you’ll receive a QR code which will be your e-ticket. Save it on your mobile phone so you can show it to the train conductor on board.
For Flexible Passes, register your travel dates so your pass will be valid on the days you’re travelling.
For Consecutive Passes, your Swiss Travel Pass will be automatically activated on the date selected during booking.
Some trains like the Glacier Express will need reservations beforehand — read more about Premium Panoramic Trains below!
*Pro-tip: Download the SBB mobile app to look up train, boats, and bus timings on the go.
Getting up the most beautiful Swiss Mountains with Swiss Travel Pass
Let the sights (not the hike) take your breath away 😉
While most Swiss mountains can be hiked up for free, the train rides are experiences of their own. From the iconic ‘Toblerone’ mountain (Matterhorn) to the highest train station in Europe (Jungfraujoch), here are the six mountains we managed to fit into our Switzerland itinerary.
*The Swiss Travel Pass covers all transportation to the starting points listed below.
1) Matterhorn (Zermatt)
Better known as the Toblerone mountain, climbing to the peak of Matterhorn is a bucket list item for many. But personally, seeing the sunrise light up Matterhorn turned out to be core memory.
The best viewing spot would be from Rifflesee, up on Gornegrat. Even better if you arrive at dawn before the sun even peaks through the horizon. If the winds are minimal, the lake serves as a perfect mirror of the mountain top.
If you don’t want to hike in the dark (or catch more sleep), the fastest way up is via the Gornegratbahn. The station is just outside the Zermatt Bahnoff.
Get off Rotenboden station, and take a 5-minute walk to Rifflesee. This view was one of the best payoffs given its accessibility. After you’re done at Rifflesee, hop back on the funicular up to Gornegrat station for a panoramic view of the surrounding Swiss Alps.
The hike down is incredibly scenic and straightforward. It takes about 3.5 – 4 hours but you can decide to take the train from any of the four stations along the way (Rotenboden – Riffleberg – Rifflealp – Findelbach). Each station is about an hour’s hike to the next.
When you’re tired, just purchase a one-way ticket down from any of the stations. The lower the station, the cheaper the ticket so it depends on how much you want to hike.
Cost: CHF63 (~S$90)(one-way up to Gornegrat Station)
Starting point: Gorgnegratbahn base station just outside Zermatt train station
Swiss Travel Pass: 50% off the Gornegratbahn (CHF31.50, ~S$45 one-way)
2) 5-Seenweg (Zermatt)
If you have more time in Zermatt, the well-marked 5 Lakes Trail (Seenweg) is also worth the hike. The trail passes through five lakes (Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grunsee, Moosjisee and Leisee) with Matterhorn consistently in the background.
You can begin the hike from Zermatt or, save 3 hours by taking the funicular to Sunnegga, followed by the gondola lift to Blauherd where the hike begins. The hike from Blauherd to Sunnegga (which passes through the five lakes) is mainly downhill and should take around 2.5 hours. From Sunnegga, you can take the funicular back to Zermatt.
Cost: CHF39 (~S$56)
Starting point: Zermatt
Swiss Travel Pass: 50% off the funicular from Zermatt to Blauherd and cable car from Blauherd to Sunnegga
3) Pilatus (Lucerne)
Overlooking the city of Lucerne, Mount Pilatus is famous for its Golden Round Trip, which covers five different forms of transport to ascend and descend the mountain.
This route is possible both ways, starting clockwise from Lucerne: take a boat/train to Alpnachstad and take a cogwheel* train up to Pilatus Kulm. This cogwheel is famous for being the steepest in the world!
*Note: The cogwheel railway only runs from mid-May to mid-November. Check the exact dates on the site to be sure!
On the descent, take the cable car down to Fräkmüntegg where you’ll find the longest Toboggan sled in the world (CHF8/ride, ~S$11.40). Don’t worry about walking back up as you’ll be dragged on your Toboggan with an attached wire.
From Fräkmüntegg, continue down to Kriens station to catch bus no. 1 back to Lucerne station.
*Pro-tip: Check the weather before taking the boat ride — if the weather isn’t great, save time and take the train instead. The lake tends to fog up on most mornings.
At the top, there are various hikes ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours. We highly recommend the 40-minute hike on Tomslihorn, accessed from the right side of the Pilatus Kulm Restaurant.
Cost: CHF108 (~S$155)(Round trip from Lucerne)
Starting point: You can start from either Alpnachstad or Kriens. To Alpnachstad, either take a boat (1h18m) or train (17m) from Luzern. To Kriens, it’s a 5-minute ride on bus no. 1 and short walk to the cableway station
Swiss Travel Pass: 50% off the cogwheel from Alpnachstad – Pilatus Kulm – Kriens (CHF36, ~S$52)
4) Rigi (Lucerne)
Slightly lower than Pilatus, the peak of Rigi is at the perfect height for a 360° panoramic view of the surrounding Swiss Alps as well as Lake Lucerne and the city below. But the best part? Swiss Travel Pass holders get to travel up entirely free!
Cost: CHF72 (~S$103)
Starting point: Arth-Goldau or Vitznau
Swiss Travel Pass: Free — cogwheel trains from Arth-Goldau and Vitznau are fully covered
5) Jungfrau (Interlaken/Fiesch)
At 3,454m above sea level, Jungfraujoch is the highest railway station in Europe and is covered in snow all year round. At the peak, there’s the Spinx Observatory where you’ll get a close-up panoramic view of Mt Eiger and Mönch. On top, there’s also an Ice Palace to explore, and one of the most iconic mailboxes — yes you can actually mail out postcards from it!
But perhaps our favourite part of the experience wasn’t so much arriving at the top of the station, but the entire hour-long journey on the train. The views were simply breathtaking, and in hindsight, given more time, it would have been enjoyable as a hike too!
Cost: CHF189.60 (~S$272)(roundtrip from Lauterbrunen)
Starting point: From Lauterbrunnen, take the train to Kleine Scheidegg
Swiss Travel Pass: 25% off the train from Wengen Station to Jungfraujoch (CHF132, ~S$189 round trip from Wengen). The first two stops from Lauterbrunnen (bef Wengen) are covered.
6) Schilthorn (Lauterbrunnen) *free with the Swiss Travel Pass
Schilthorn is one of the few mountains fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass! From the top, you have a panoramic view of the Bernese Alps and the three big mountains of Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger. On a clear day, you can even spot Mont Blanc.
Try the 200m Thrill Walk on glass floors and wire ropes across the vertical face of the cliff.
You might say this looks right out of a movie scene, because it is! At the top of Schilthorn is a revolving restaurant, the Piz Gloria which was featured in the 1969 James Bond movie. Restaurant meals in Switzerland are expensive so if you could only pick one place to splurge, the menu at Piz Gloria is worth the experience. It’s also not a lot more expensive than regular restaurants in the city.
Cost: CHF131.40 (~S$188)(Round trip from Interlaken)
Starting point: Stechelberg or Mürren
Swiss Travel Pass: Free — cable cars from both Stechelberg and Mürren are fully covered
7) Grindelwald First
If you’ve done the first five in this list, you must be wondering by now if this is “just another mountain”. But there are a few reasons why Grindelwald First is worth the trip.
For adventure seekers, the famous route is to first take the gondola up to First Station, then take a glider, mountain bike, and Trottibike scooter down to each station till you reach the base. This is a dream for kids, and kid-at-heart 😛
If you’re keen to take on all the rides, there’s an adventure package (CHF120, ~S$172) that includes all the activities and unlimited use of the gondola.
But before you start your descent, check out Bachalpsee. It’s an easy 40-minute hike from First Station (one-way) and a great place to set up a picnic.
At the top, there’s also the First Cliff Walk by Tissot which I can imagine to be quite pretty, if not for the thick fog that we were engulfed in that day.
Cost: CHF120 (~S$172)(Adventure Package). CHF60 (~S$86)(gondola roundtrip)
Starting point: From Grindelwald train station, walk 10 mins to Grindelwald Firstbahn, or take 2 stops on bus no. 121, 122, or 123
Swiss Travel Pass: 50% off the Gondola from Grindelwald – First Station (CHF30, ~S$43)
Premium Panoramic Train Rides
Travelling by train in Switzerland isn’t just about getting from one point to the next but an experience of its own. I don’t sit still well for long but I was constantly glued to the views beyond the large panoramic windows.
There are five Premium Panoramic Trains in total but here are three we managed to include in our 10-Day Switzerland Itinerary.
1) Luzern–Interlaken Express (Luzern – Brienz – Interlaken) *free with the Swiss Travel Pass
This route passes through some of the most dazzling lakes, waterfalls, and rivers. The good news is that it doesn’t require reservations, and runs once every hour from 6AM. (check the SBB mobile app to confirm the exact timing)
Interlaken is a great base for many outdoor adventures including paragliding in Lauterbrunnen, hiking in Grindelwald, or even experiencing the world’s steepest funicular!
Frequency: Every hour from 6:06AM
Swiss Travel Pass: Fully covered, no reservations required
2) Golden Pass Route (Interlaken – Zweisimmen – Montreux) *free with the Swiss Travel Pass
The MOB Panoramic train only runs from Zweisimmen to Montreux, but combined with the route above (Lucerne – Interlaken), this makes up the Golden Pass Route and is known to be one of the most accessible yet scenic train rides around. This train doesn’t require reservations, and is fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass. The train runs 6 times a day, every 2 hours from 8:25AM.
Swiss Travel Pass: Fully covered. Reservations not mandatory but recommended during peak seasons in July and August.
From Montreux, the MOB Panoramic train also has special day excursions on the Chocolate Train to Gruyères, known as the land of chocolate. Swiss Travel Pass holders get a discounted rate of CHF70 which includes th etrain journey to Montbovon, onboard coffee, and chocolate croissant, as well as entry to the cheese and chocolate factories.
Schedule: 9:50AM – 5:15PM (May – Sep)
Swiss Travel Pass: CHF70
3) Glacier Express (Zermatt – Chur – St Mortiz)
It’s also the “world’s slowest express train” at ~39km/h; but no one’s complaining because it’ll give you ample time to take in the varied landscapes while dining on board. From valleys and canyons to rivers and towns, the train passes through 91 tunnels and 291 bridges!
Frequency: 1 – 3 times/day depending on season
Swiss Travel Pass: Reservations are compulsory and not included with the pass — CHF33 (~S$47) for the entire route, CHF22 (~S$32) for shorter sections of the route. Optional meals are sold separately.
*Pro-tip: For the best views of the Landwasserviaduct, reserve a seat on the right side of train between Chur – St-Moritz. Seats for this train sell fast so book as soon as the window opens (up to 3 months in advance).
Other Premium Panoramic Express Trains
The two other scenic trains covered by the Swiss Travel Pass are the Gotthard Panorama Express (from Luzern) and Bernina Express (from Chur). Both trains end up in Lugano and require reservations. Note that some of these trains don’t run during the winter season (Mid-October to end March).
We hope this Swiss Travel Pass guide was useful! For a list of all the trains we took with the Swiss Travel Pass, click on the image above!
FAQs about the Swiss Travel Pass
1) How do I purchase the Swiss Travel Pass?
We got our Swiss Travel Pass via Klook. Confirmation for the e-ticket was almost instant and all you need is to save the QR code on your phone. The train conductors will ask for it on board.
2) Where can I find the train timings and routes?
If you’re planning on a computer, check out the SBB website. When you’re on the go, download the SBB app on your phone — available on both the App Store and Google Play — so you can check the train timings on the go.
3) How do you enter the train stations with a Swiss Travel Pass?
In Switzerland, there are no gantries at train stations so it runs quite heavily on trust. However, scenic trains — especially those that ride up the mountains — almost always have rail staff walking through the cabins to check for tickets/rail passes. Just have your rail pass or phone ready when you’re on the train.
4) Are train reservations required?
Only selected premium panoramic trains like the Glacier Express require it. You can hop on and off any of the local trains and buses without reservation or extra tickets.
Reservation fees are not included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
5) Is the Swiss Travel Pass valid on local buses?
Yes! The great thing is you don’t have to fumble for your pass/ticket when boarding. Just board from any of the doors. In our entire trip, there was only one occasion we were asked to show our Swiss Travel Pass on the bus.
6) Is there luggage storage on the trains?
The premium panoramic trains usually have luggage racks with ample space near the doors, but the intercity ones have limited storage. Only cabin/compact-sized luggage can comfortably fit between the seats and overhead compartments on intercity trains.
Surprisingly, it’s actually a lot more convenient to travel around Switzerland with a backpack, especially if you’re staying in Airbnb apartments and hostels because they often don’t have elevators.
7) Misc: Eating on trains? Pets? Toilets?
One of the best things about long train rides is having your lunch with an ever-changing panoramic view at the side. Food is allowed but you might want to avoid bringing food with strong smells. No one will tell you off because the Swiss are nice that way, but it’s good social etiquette nonetheless!
For pets, dogs are allowed on all transportation and 99% of them are really obedient!
Apart from the city trains in Zürich, all other trains we took had toilets.
I dare say if you didn’t hop on a train in Switzerland, you’ve not been to Switzerland. It truly is the quintessential way to experience the country.
This article was first published on 18 November 2018.
This post was brought to you by Klook.