Updated on: April 2, 2024

5 budget-friendly alternatives to the Swiss Travel Pass

2  comments

As I'm writing this post, I ask myself: How many articles about the Swiss Travel Pass can one write before it gets boring? Or overkill? Or just sad?

I don't really have the answer to this question.

But since I only have two articles where I talk about this beauty so far, (here in my Swiss Public Transport Guide and here in my post about whether or not you should buy a Swiss Travel Pass) I figured there's plenty of room for one more.

Especially since this one doesn't exactly talk about the Swiss Travel Pass itself, but about its alternatives instead.

As a budget traveller myself, I'm aware that, despite all its wonderful features and upsides, the Swiss Travel Pass is a little pricey and certainly not for everyone. If you've read my article where I talk about whether or not you should get this thing and have come to the conclusion that it's just not for you, maybe the following alternatives might suit you more.

So let's dive right into your potential substitutes.

Zurich train station

Visiting Switzerland by train is super convenient.

1. Swiss Half Fare Card + pay as you go

More than a third of the Swiss population owns a so-called Half Fare Card.

It's valid for a full year and entitles its owner to a whopping 50% discount on every public transport ticket. Which is pretty cool. Definitely too cool to only make it available to the Swiss.

Luckily, they created the Swiss Half Fare Card for tourists. It's valid for 30 days and might just be what you need. For 120 CHF, you can use it on all means of public transport on this map throughout Switzerland. As you can see, this includes trains, buses, boats, trams and even cable cars.

The Swiss Half Fare Card pays off quite quickly. Especially if you're planning on heading up to Jungfraujoch or any other mountain with a pricey mountain railway. With the Swiss Half Fare Card, you already save more than 90 CHF on your Jungfraujoch ticket.

My advice is to do the following if you decide to opt for the Swiss Half Fare Card:

  • Download the SBB App on your iPhone or your Android phone
  • Buy regular tickets as you go. You can do so though the app, on a ticket machine or online though the SBB website.
  • Or, even more budget friendly, try and buy Supersaver Tickets . Find out more about these tickets in chapter 4.4 of my Public Transport Guide)

2. Saver Day Pass

This one works with or without the Swiss Half Fare Card. And it's definitely worth looking into. Especially if you're planning ahead and already know when you'll be travelling.

The Saver Day Pass entitles you to unlimited travel across Switzerland, like the Swiss Travel Pass does. (This also includes the five most popular scenic trains in Switzerland, by the way.) Except that it's a lot cheaper if you book it early enough.

Its prices are dynamic. So the pass becomes more expensive the more spontaneously you buy it. As you can see, it pays off to be quick here.

The lowest possible price for a Saver Day Pass in combination with a Swiss Half Fare Card is 29 CHF for a 2nd class ticket and 52 CHF if you don't have a Swiss Half Fare Card. Once the cheapest tickets are sold out for a specific date, the next lowest price becomes available.

And so on.

You can buy the Saver Day Pass six months ahead of time. You give up some flexibility by getting it as it's only valid on a specific date. But it's absolutely worth it and I never plan a trip with friends from overseas without checking for a good deal on this pass first.

Things to be aware of if you opt for the Saver Day Pass:

  • This ticket is non-refundable, non-transferrable and can only be used on the day you bought it for.
  • Not all mountain railways accept this ticket. If you plan on using the Saver Day Pass, getting a Swiss Half Fare Card as well might be a good idea. Two exceptions are Rigi and Stanserhorn. Here, you can use the Saver Day Pass and travel for free.
  • Normally, buying a Swiss Half Fare Card in combination with Saver Day Passes only makes sense if you buy at least five Saver Day Passes.
  • Buying Saver Day Passes instead of a Swiss Travel Pass is only cheaper if you get them at 70 CHF or lower (without Swiss Half Fare Card) or 40 CHF or less (with a Swiss Half Fare Card). If you only find them at higher prices, just buy a Swiss Travel Pass instead.

3. Friends Day Pass

Oh to be young again. And travel through Switzerland for only 20 CHF a day!

This is possible for everyone that hasn't reached their 25th birthday yet. The Friends Day Pass is valid for up to four (young) people travelling together. And it only costs 80 CHF in 2nd class and 120 CHF in 1st class. It's the absolute best value any backpacker can ever get in Switzerland for their money. Forget about the Swiss Travel Pass and just get a Friends Day Pass for each day you catch a train, bus, tram or boat.

All you need to do is grab the ticket and off you go. Enough said. It's the best thing the SBB has ever invented in my opintion.

4. Supersaver Ticket

This one doesn't necessarily make your life easier. But it is technically an option.

The Supersaver Ticket, like the Saver Day Pass, comes with dynamic prices. The earlier you buy it, the cheaper it is. So in case you already know exactly when you'll be catching wich train, checking for Supersaver Tickets can pay off. They're available six months in advance and you can save up to 70% if you're lucky.

The biggest downsides are that Supersaver Tickets are non-refundable and tied to a specific train journey. But if you don't mind that, then looking into this ticket is a good idea. I've found some serious bargains that have saved me big time in the past.

Things to be aware of if you opt for the Supersaver Ticket:

  • You can only use the Supersaver Ticket on the exact train you bought it for.
  • If the train gets cancelled or you miss it without it being your fault, tell a staff member as soon as possible and they'll give you a confirmation so you can catch the next available train.
  • The easiest way to buy a Supersaver Ticket is through the SBB App.
  • Sometimes tickets in 1st class are only slightly more expensive or even cheaper than tickets in 2nd class. So make sure you always check both options.
  • If you spend more than 240 CHF on train tickets, buying a Swiss Half Fare Card makes sense.
Lake Brienz

Boats are a big part of the Swiss public transport system.

Boat on Lake Brienz

Boat on Lake Brienz

5. Rent a car

Not something I've ever really recommended to anyone coming to Switzerland because we have such an amazing network of public transport. Honestly, you can travel through the whole country without ever setting foot in a car.

But I understand that a lot of people enjoy driving their own vehicle to be more flexible. Especially if you're travelling with a group of friends or your family, it might work out cheaper to rent a car instead of buying train tickets for everbody.

Since I'm really more of a train-rider than a car-driver, I like to leave the recommendations and expertise to someone who knows a lot more about this subject than me. This is why I've found this article with 20 car rental tips in Switzerland for you. I'm pretty sure you'll find all the inspiration and information you need in there presented by the bloggers at The World Pursuit.

Street by Lake Thun

Rent a car and drive along Lake Thun.

Furkapass

Or cruise up to windy Furkapass

And this concludes my third, and most probably last, article on the subject of the Swiss Travel Pass. I hope I was able to give you some good alternatives for your trip to Switzerland.

Happy planning! And don't let yourself get overwhelmed by all the options.🙂 

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  1. hi there !
    I wanted to know maybe you can help me to understand if the swiss travel pass is the right product for me and my family. I am planning our trip to Switzerland this upcoming October. we are 2 adults and 3 little kids, 4 / 9 / 12 years old. My plan is:

    Day 1-3: Zurich (October 14th – 16th)
    *October 14th: Arrival in Zurich*
    – Morning: Arrive in Zurich and check into your hotel.
    – Afternoon: Visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate in Kilchberg to satisfy your sweet tooth.
    – Evening: Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant and rest after your journey.

    *October 15th: Exploring Zurich*
    – Morning: Take a scenic boat ride on Lake Zurich to enjoy panoramic views of the city.
    – Afternoon: Explore the Old Town (Altstadt) of Zurich, visit the Grossmünster church, and stroll along the charming streets.
    – Evening: Have dinner at a restaurant overlooking the lake or at a cozy Swiss bistro.

    *October 16th: Rhine Falls and Shopping*
    – Day Trip to Rhine Falls: Take a train to Schaffhausen to see the majestic Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Switzerland. Enjoy the views and take a boat ride to get closer to the falls.
    – Afternoon: Return to Zurich and spend the rest of the day shopping along Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world's most exclusive shopping streets.
    – Evening: Relax in a local park like Platzspitz Park or Rieterpark.

    ### Day 4: Day Trip to St. Moritz (October 17th)
    – Early Morning: Take an early train from Zurich to St. Moritz, enjoying scenic views of the Swiss Alps along the way.
    – Day in St. Moritz: Explore the town, visit Lake St. Moritz, and take in the panoramic views.
    – Evening: Return to Zurich by train.

    ### Day 5-7: Lucerne (October 18th – 20th)
    *October 18th: Travel to Lucerne*
    – Morning: Take a train to Lucerne, known for its picturesque Old Town and stunning lake views.
    – Afternoon: Explore the Old Town, visit the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), and the Lion Monument.
    – Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant.

    *October 19th: Mount Pilatus Adventure*
    – Day Trip to Mount Pilatus: Take the cogwheel train or cable car to the summit of Mount Pilatus for panoramic views, hiking trails, and family-friendly attractions.
    – Afternoon: Return to Lucerne and relax.

    *October 20th: Swiss Museum of Transport and Lake Cruise*
    – Morning: Visit the Swiss Museum of Transport for interactive exhibits and activities for kids.
    – Afternoon: Enjoy a scenic boat cruise on Lake Lucerne, taking in the breathtaking surroundings.
    – Evening: Dinner at a lakeside restaurant.

    ### Day 8-10: Interlaken (October 21st – 23rd)
    *October 21st: Travel to Interlaken*
    – Morning: Take a train to Interlaken, situated between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
    – Afternoon: Explore the town and take in the views of the surrounding mountains.
    – Evening: Dinner at a local restaurant.

    *October 22nd: Adventure in Interlaken*
    – Day Trip to Jungfraujoch: Take the cogwheel train to Jungfraujoch, the "Top of Europe," for breathtaking views and family-friendly attractions like the Ice Palace and Snow Fun Park.
    – Afternoon: Return to Interlaken and relax.

    *October 23rd: Outdoor Activities*
    – Morning: Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or a boat trip on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz.
    – Afternoon: Visit a local adventure park or take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque landscapes.
    – Evening: Dinner at a traditional Swiss restaurant.

    ### Day 11-12: Zurich (October 24th – 25th)
    *October 24th: Return to Zurich*
    – Morning: Take a train back to Zurich.
    – Afternoon: Spend your last day shopping for souvenirs or exploring any attractions you missed.
    – Evening: Farewell dinner in Zurich.

    *October 25th: Departure*
    – Morning: Depart from Zurich, ending your unforgettable Swiss adventure.

    So basically I would like to know if the pass is the best option for us for all the train tickets we need + 2 boats + going to some museums and the Jungfraujoch.

    Thanks a lot !

    1. Hi Matias

      Thank you for your message. Sounds like you have a very cool trip planned to Switzerland! Sounds amazing. Congratulations on working out such a detailed itinerary.

      Deciding whether or not a Swiss Travel Pass makes sense for you is not an easy question to answer. I normally don’t do this because it’s a very time consuming process figuring out the cheapest option for my readers. Between my studies and work, I sadly don’t have much time for my blog. But with your itinerary being so detailed, I took a look and I can say the following:
      It almost doesn’t make a difference whether you buy a Swiss Half Fare Card (plus buy tickets as you go) or a Swiss Travel Pass. Depending on the boat trips you take, the difference per adult between the two options are roughly 50 CHF. Your children travel for free when they’re accompanied by you with the free Swiss Family Card. So if I had to make a recommendation, it would be this:
      To save yourself the hassle of having to deal with buying single tickets every day, on every tram, boat, bus or train, you could just get the Swiss Travel Pass. It’s an all-in-one ticket (you still need a ticket for Pilatus and Jungfraujoch, but all your other trips are covered) and saves you a lot of trouble. It gives you full flexibility to jump on any means of transport without having to worry. You might be spending 50 CHF more than you would if you bought the Swiss Half Fare Card and bought seperate tickets for each journey. But if just you take one extra trip, catch some local transportation that wasn’t in your itinerary like a bus or a tram or you spend some more time on a boat than planned, it almost works out the same.
      Long story short, the Swiss Travel Pass will make your life easier. The Swiss Half Fare Card could be a very slightly cheaper option, but with more hassle. And your kids travel for free either way. So if I were you, the Swiss Travel Pass for 15 days would be my go-to ticket.

      I hope this helps. I wish you and your family the happiest trip to Switzerland. You’ve got some really cool things on that list.

      All the best,
      Seraina

      PS: If this has been helpful, it would mean so much to me if you could buy your Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Half Fare card through one of my links. This way, I would earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you, of course!) which helps me fund this blog. Here’s the link for the Swiss Travel Pass and here for the Swiss Half Fare Card. Thank you so much!

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