Swiss Pass or Swiss Card?

Old Feb 18th, 2000, 11:40 AM
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Swiss Pass or Swiss Card?

Hello!! I am a bit confused on these 2 transportation cards that can be used in many of Switzerland's rail. We are staying in the Berner Oberland, specifically in Murren. We will go to the Jungfrau, the Schiltorn, First, Mannlichen and Kleine Scheidegg, some villages in the berner oberland, and a couple of days in Luzern. We don't plan to rent a car because we want to experience the Swiss transportation system. Which then is a better buy for us? We will be in that specific region for about 8 days. Thank you.
Old Feb 18th, 2000, 12:40 PM
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We went thru this last summer also. The choice is complicated by no one Web site giving comprehensive coverage of EXACTLY what is covered and how much it costs if purchased section at a time. We ended up having to cross reference many sites as well as asking many question in this forum. Next time even it might cost more, I would go for as much pass as possible. This is because the segments are time coordinated so that if you start traveling in one direction, unless you have purchased all the segment at the beginning of the trip, there is no time to buy the ticket on the way without having to wait for the next train.

I found following site providing description somewhat different from other sites (Rick Steves, Jungfrau railroad sites) to be uniquely useful.

Even so, I literally squatted in front of the ticket window at Interlaken to get info on passes I could not obtain beforehand. The ticket lady was glad to be done with me.
Old Feb 18th, 2000, 09:04 PM
Bob Brown
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Message: The question of which one of the many Swiss rail passes to buy appears frequently on this forum. It is a hard decision to make because exact cost information is hard to come by. The motivating factor is this: Will a pass save me money? My conclusion after several hours of searching is this: The Berner Oberland Regional Pass will save you money. The others might, depending on what you do. But, it is very difficult to predict how much you will travel in a nation where outdoor activity is the main attraction and weather is a major determinant. Also, getting exact cost figures on cable rides and private rail lines is not easy. The Swiss rail site gives many prices, but not all of them.

First lets consider the Berner Oberland Regional Pass. It comes in two prices:
7 days -- 165 chf
15 days - 205 chf

The 7 day pass gives 3 days of free travel on most routes and 50% discounts on the other 4 days. However, some legs of various trips are NEVER free. For example, the final leg of the Jungfraujoch trip, from Kleine Scheidegg to the Sphinx building, is not ever free nor is the final stage of the Schilthorn trip from Murren.
By emailing the BLS, the parent company for most of the private trains in the Berner Oberland, I was given these round trip costs for 5 popular, expensive rides:
1. Wilderswil-Schynige Platte CHF 48.00
2. Grindelwald-First CHF 45.00
3. Stechelberg-Schilthorn CHF 86.60
4. Grindelwald-Männlichen CHF 51.40
5. Lauterbrunnen-Kleine Scheidegg CHF 44.20

I figure the 7 day pass would save you 66.90 CHF on these 5 rides. Here is my logic: For the 3 free days, take rides 1, 2, 4 and 5. On the 4th day, take the Schilthorn ride at 50% off, or 43.30 (Remember, the last leg of that trip is never free.) The above 5 single ticket prices add up to 275.20. With the pass, the same 5 rides cost 208.30 (43.30 + 165)which yields a savings of 66.90 as derived by 275.20 - 208.30.

Also, the Swiss Card is worthy of consideration. It costs 150 chf 2nd class, or about $93, US, if bought in the Zurich airport. The card includes the train fare from your arrival point in Switzerland to your destination and return. It also yields 50% off on all SBB train rides and some private lines, including the Jungfraujoch trip, and 25% on cable rides. The undiscounted fare to the Jungfrau from Lauterbrunnent was about 150 chf when I did it in 1998. I saved half the cost of the Swiss Card on that run alone. If you throw in the round trip train fare from Zurich to Interlaken Ost, the Swiss Card had about paid for itself. The problem with the Swiss Card is that you either buy it in the States for $104.00 (Rail Europe Price), or you buy at the train station in the Zurich airport. It is available no where else in Switzerland.

The highly publicized Swiss Pass is available in several versions. I list the second class prices below. If you want to see all prices, go to -- the Swiss rail site.

The Swiss Pass is attractive if two people are inseperable when travelling because the pass is discounted 15% when bought in pairs. Here are some 2nd class prices:

4 days 230 singly 196 for two together
8 days 320 272
15 days 380 323
21 days 440 374

For comparison, Rail Europe sells the single 15-day second class pass for $265. The same pass costs 380 CHF in Switzerland or $235.60 at today's rate of exchange of 62 cents per franc -- about a 12.5% markup.

Now, how far would you have to ride to use up the 230 chf that the 4 day pass costs you? A 3-stage trip from Luzern to Interlaken, Interlaken to Bern, and Bern back to Zurich is 128 chf. Going round trip from Chur to Geneva via Bern and Lausanne is 168 CHF. St. Moritz to Geneva and back is 208, which would involve 14 hours of rail travel.
That is a long trip! So using up 380 francs to reach the break even point would involve considerable travelling.
Well this has gone on a long time.
But digging up the facts was fun.
I hope this helps someone make a better decision.
Old Feb 19th, 2000, 01:09 AM
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Thank you so much greg for telling me about your experience and Bob for your enlightening analysis. We are a family of 3 travelling together (me, husband and child). Although we would very much like to get the card in Zurich, our starting point will be in basel into the berner oberland and then to Luzern and finally flying out of zurich. Again thanks for your input because it will help us very much in deciding which one to get.
Old Feb 19th, 2000, 03:33 AM
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Caroline: Do note that the Swiss Pass is obtainable in Switzerland in 30+ train stations, among them Basel.

After almost a dozen extended visits to Switzerland we've found the Swiss Pass offers the most savings and convenience for us.

On the first few trips I did precisely record the cost of individual segments we rode and compared the total to what we actually paid including the pass. The pass came out ahead every time. Again ... for our visits.

Financially the BO pass would be very close (+/-). You'll pay less for the Swiss Card and get some savings for sure. From the description of what you intend to do, though, you'll likely save more with the SP, and you'll find it more convenient.

As to prices of individual trips, all but the fares on private rails and mountaintop excursions are at You'll find current prices for mountain excursions at Sample fares for trips in the Murren area and others are on They're 2-3 years old, but have increased by less than 3% a year.

On a convenience basis alone (fewer ticket lines to stand in) you'll find the Swiss Pass or the BO Pass better. The $ difference between the SP and the BO for your trip is basically the trip from Basel to the Oberland, the leg from the Oberland to Luzern and from Luzern to your exit from Switzerland.

Old Feb 19th, 2000, 02:00 PM
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Upsy daisy.
Old Feb 20th, 2000, 08:46 PM
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If you want to experience the Swiss transportation system, you really MUST get the Swiss Pass! It allows you to travel on boats, cable cars, cog railways, and especially buses that can take you to a lot of out of the way places. The transportation system is such an intricate machine it is wonderful to experience! The bus is always there to meet the train or the boat or whatever, so it is very easy to master the system! One particularly nice thing is that children under 16 travel FREE if they are with at least one parent. That means they are free even on the expensive trips to the Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch! Another nice thing about the Pass is you are free to change your plans on a whim and just jump on a passing train or boat or whatever without buying any tickets or making any plans. The Pass also is valid for most city transportation systems, but I am told not for Interlaken. We used it extensively in Berne and Lucern, in the rain! It is really nice to be able to just hop on the nearest conveyance and go somewhere else when the weather is not what you planned it to be. And that happens frequently in Switzerland!

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