How to use the swiss travel pass_featured image

How To Use The Swiss Travel Pass On Trains, Buses &  Boats

Using the public transport system in Switzerland and Liechtenstein has never been easier or more hassle-free than with a Swiss travel pass. The greatest selling proposition is that the rail pass covers 95% of the country’s trains, buses, and boats.

Basically, all you have to do is present your pass to the ticket inspector, either in PDF or paper format, and sit back and enjoy the stunning views. 🙂 In this article, I already covered how to buy a Swiss travel pass and whether it’s worth it. 

In this article, we will cover in detail how to use the Swiss travel pass step-by-step to make the most out of it, how to make a reservation on premium panoramic trains, and much more. 

key takeaways

🚂 With a standard Swiss Travel Pass you can simply board most trains, boats, and buses in the country without worrying about purchasing a ticket.

🚂 With the flex option of the rail pass, you need to activate your ticket per day.

🚂 Most premium panoramic trains are also included with the rail pass, but a seat reservation is mandatory on some routes.

How To Plan Your Train Trips Around Switzerland 

The official SBB train map or the Swiss Travel Pass’s area validity map are great tools for pass holders to use when planning their trips. They allow you to see instantly what’s covered by the Swiss Travel Pass

I highly recommend consulting the SBB mobile app or website to help you plan your trip. With it, you can easily access the timetable from abroad, get information like live updates on potential delays, estimates on how crowded the train will be, and much more. 

For example, let’s say you plan to travel from Zurich to Interlaken on July 7, 2024 morning. In the search bar, you enter your point of departure and destination, the day of travel, and (roughly) the preferred time. You can indicate the desired departure or arrival time, and it will automatically search for the best connections for you. 

Zurich-Interlaken train sbb site

With a Swiss Travel Pass, you can use any connection you wish. I recommend considering the total travel time and the expected occupancy of the train. You will see the details on the right-hand side when you click on a connection. For example, if you take the train at 9.32 am, you must change trains in Bern

How To Use The Standard Swiss Travel Pass

SBB trains in swiss train station

Regarding the actual usage of the different types of Swiss Travel Passes, the standard train pass is by far the easiest one. It doesn’t matter if it’s an adult pass or a discounted Swiss Travel Pass Youth; as long as it is a standard pass, it is ready to use without additional activation

Since the standard pass is valid for 3- 15 consecutive days, you will choose the validity dates at booking (or the first validity date, to be more precise), and you’ll get the passes instantly at your e-mail address

Standard swiss travel pass_validity date

When you board a train, and the ticket officer shows up, he will scan the QR code of the pass, and that’s it. It is also possible that you won’t need to show your pass at all. Regular ticket controls only take place on long-distance trains and boats but on local buses, trams, etc. 

Whenever you see this symbol somewhere, you know it’s a self-control area. Ticket inspections can also occur here, but not as often as on long-distance trains. 

self-control symbol

How To Use The Swiss Travel Pass Flex

One of the benefits of the Swiss Travel Pass Flex is the increased flexibility. Therefore, you don’t have to choose your travel dates when booking; instead, you have to activate your pass for each travel day once you are here

So, if you purchased the 3-day flex pass, for example, you can generate three tickets valid for the date you choose. Please note that you must activate your pass before the train departs. You can also change or cancel an activation until 11.59 pm the day before. 

Let’s go over the exact steps to activate it now. 

1) Visit the Activation Site And Enter Personal Details

STP Login page

Go to activateyourpass.com and have your booking confirmation ready. You must enter the reference number, full name, and date of birth to log in to “your” account. Please note the required format for the birth date is DD/MM/YYYY. 

2) Manage Your Flex Days

You can now activate your pass by clicking on a date and then “activate your train pass.” Under the “my tickets” tab, an automatically valid ticket will be generated, which you can show for inspection on your travel day. 

3) Prepare For Ticket Inspection 

When requested, there are three ways to show the generated, valid ticket to the inspector. 

  1. Present the ticket directly on your smartphone or tablet so that the QR code can be scanned.
  2. Please print the ticket on a4 or letter-sized paper and present it for inspection. Please remember that you must print out a ticket for each day you plan to travel. 
  3. If you have a mobile device, you can save the ticket in your wallet and present it there. The wallet app is already installed on iPhones

How To Make A Seat Reservation On Premium Panorama Trains…

Image of Bernina Express

Although most trains are free, some popular tourist options require a mandatory seat reservation at an additional charge (usually between 10 and 50 CHF per person). Here is the overview of the most popular routes: 

🚆Panorama Train
🎫Swiss Travel Pass Included
💺Mandatory Seat Reservation
Glacier Express 
Yes 
Yes, 39-470 CHF per person
Bernina Express
Yes
Yes, 28-36 CHF
Gotthard Panorama Express 
Yes 
Yes, 16 CHF 
GoldenPass Express 
Yes
Mandatory in Prestige Class only but highly recommended for all travelers during high season
Lucerne Interlaken Express 
Yes
No
Looking for less-touristic but equally beautiful train routes in Switzerland?

Check out our article on Switzerland’s five best epic & non-crowded scenic trains.

…Like The Glacier Express

As the perhaps most famous panoramic train, it connects the village of Zermatt with the town of St. Moritz in south-eastern Switzerland. 

1) Visit the Glacier Express Shop Online

Glacier Express Shop Site

Open the Glacier Express Shop site and click on “Classic Glacier Express” to make a seat reservation in 1st or 2nd class. To make an Excellence Class reservation, select the middle option instead.  

2) Select Travel Date & Class

Glacier Express Travel Dates

Then scroll down a bit and select the route, travel date, and first—or second-class seats. In our example, I will choose to travel the entire route from Zermatt to St. Moritz in the second class in August 2024. 

3) Select Train & Seats 

Next, choose the train connection and departure time, and then select your seats. In our case, we could secure seats 51+53 next to each other. You can also change the number of travelers in your party here. 

Glacier Express seat selection

4) Enter Passenger Details & Apply Discount

In this second last step, enter the passenger details and ensure the data matches your Swiss Travel Pass. Very important, under reduction, make sure you select Swiss Travel Pass. Otherwise, you will be charged the full price of the ticket. Here is what it should look like. 

Glacier Express apply discount

5) Prebook Meals On the Train (Optional)

Menu option on Glacier Express

Optionally, you can also add a meal that will be served on your seat reservation. There are various menu options, from one to four-course meals at slightly below-average (Swiss) prices. However, you can always skip this step and order a la carte on your travel day

6) Proceed To Check-Out

Checkout Glacier Express

Proceed to check out as a guest, enter your payment details, and you will receive an instant e-mail confirmation. 

Side Note 

World-famous trains like the Glacier Express are also often sold out weeks in advance between June and September, so I recommend booking your seats early. 

…The Bernina Express

On the highest railway tracks in Europe and the steepest in the world, the Bernina Express takes its passengers on a unique journey through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges.

1) Open The website of The Räthische Bahn 

Bernina Express Train options

The first step is the same as if you were booking the reservation on any other premium panoramic train. Open the website of the Räthische Bahn. What makes it unique is the option to search for discounted last-minute ticket offers. But, it doesn’t affect the price for seat reservations, and since you are traveling on a Swiss Travel Pass, simply choose the first option. 

2) Select Route

Next, select your route and travel date to search for availability. In our example, we are looking to travel the route from Chur to Tirano in first class.

Route selection Bernina Express

3) Seat Selection 

Seat selection on the Bernina Express

Choosing an available seat is pretty self-explanatory. Choose the train connection, then select your seat(s) on the interactive map below. 

4) Add Swiss Travel Pass & Passenger Details

In addition to adding the Swiss Travel Pass in this step, discounts for other rail passes and children, for example, can also be added. 

Apply discount on the Bernina Express

5) Add Payment Details

The last step is to add your payment details and complete the purchase. You will get an e-mail confirmation immediately afterward. 

…The Gotthard Panorama Express 

The Gotthard Panorama Express is a unique combination of boat and train ride. For the train ride section from Flüelen to Lugano, it is important to know that it operates only with first-class coaches. This means with a second-class Swiss Travel Pass; you will need a class upgrade and a seat reservation. 

You can book these in the online shop. The principle and the steps are only slightly different from the two examples above. 

How To Use The Swiss Travel Pass On Mountain Excursions

The Swiss Travel Pass fully covers Stanserhorn, Mount Rigi, and Mount Stoos, three mountains in Switzerland. What you can do at all three attractions is show your Swiss Travel Pass at the valley station and exchange it for a valid day pass for the mountain excursion. But what about buying your ticket online? Here, the options and possibilities are different: 

Mount Stoos

Their online ticket shop allows you to get a free ticket with your Swiss Travel Pass Online, so you can avoid all lines at the cashier’s desk when traveling. All you have to do is choose the validity date and the number of travelers and select the Swiss Travel Pass as in the price category. 

Online Ticket Stoos

Stanserhorn

There is no option to pre-exchange your Swiss Travel Pass for a valid ticket online. Instead, you will have to exchange it at the ticket office. What you can optionally do instead to reduce your waiting time is prebook the time slow for your ascent online

This service costs Two Swiss Francs and is available until 9 am on the excursion day. It is a good option on busy days, but spaces are always available for spontaneous guests. 

Time Reservation Stanserhorn

Mount Rigi 

For Mount Rigi, you can’t make a reservation or exchange your Swiss Travel Pass online. But, on the positive side, this isn’t necessary because there are ticket inspectors on board, and you don’t need to exchange your Swiss Travel Pass previously. All you have to do is board the train and let the train staff scan the QR code of your pass. 

How To Secure Reduced Ticket Prices For Attractions With A Swiss Travel Pass

The same is true with the 500+ museums you gain free entrance to. The rules differ; the bigger a museum is, the better the chances you can book your ticket online. But generally, it’s easier to simply show your Swiss Travel Pass at the entrance and exchange it for a museum ticket. 

Conclusion: Unlimited Travel Made Easy With The Swiss Travel Pass

The Ease of use and the fact that most public transportation tickets are covered by the pass make it one of the most popular options among all Swiss train tickets. It sets the product apart from other discount cards, like the Swiss half-fare card, for example. 

Using the pass is generally very easy, especially with the standard pass; you don’t need to validate or exchange your pass on the railway network since you already determine the start date during the booking process. 

With a Flex Pass, you have more flexibility in selecting your travel day. However, you need to activate the validity dates on a separate website before you can board any train. This process is straightforward. 

Sorry to interrupt, but…

Did you enjoy reading this article?😎

On average, the research, writing, editing, and fact-checking of one article takes us 10-15 hours. Coffee makes us not only go faster, but we will also do our best to prioritize any article pitch YOU want to read about on our site.

Thank you for your support of our mission of creating the best expert-vetted travel guides while keeping our site banner ads free forever.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions.

The Swiss Travel Pass is a ticket that allows nearly unlimited travel on the Swiss public transportation network for a certain number of days. It includes travel on trains, buses, boats, and some scenic trains.

There are various options available, including the Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Half Fare Card, Swiss Family Card, and Swiss Travel Pass Youth. Each pass caters to different traveler needs.

You can easily purchase the Swiss Travel Pass online through official websites, authorized partners, or even at Swiss train stations. I would recommend to buy it in advance to avoid any last-minute hassles.

The Swiss Travel Pass offers convenience, flexibility, and cost savings for travelers exploring Switzerland. It allows you to hop on and off trains, buses, and boats without buying separate tickets. In addition, some mountain railways are also covered by the pass, or you will get a heavy discount. 

Yes, each traveler needs to have their own Swiss Travel Pass, as the pass is non-transferable and requires a photo ID. However, children under a certain age may travel for free with the Swiss Family Card.

Similar Posts