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Yesterday, I took a train from Zurich to Engelberg, and bought a ticket from a ticket machine at the station for the journey. I was running a bit late for the train, so there wasn't time to queue up to ask for advice, I just had time to put the machine into English, tell it where I wanted to go, and pay for the return.

On the way there, there was a ticket check on both trains. Based on those around me, I appeared to be the only person with a regular paper train ticket! Everyone else had either a credit card sized card they showed, or a card with a long ticket, or an A4 printout, or a pass.

That made me think that perhaps there were railcards / rail passes / special tickets / etc that I could perhaps have bought instead, if I'd only known about them....

For someone who's only going to Switzerland for a few days, what railcards / rail passes / etc should you be aware of, to investigate if they'll save money?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The credit card format ticket was either a Halbtax Abo, a Generalabonement or a Gleis 7. The Halbtax Abo is basically a subscription that is valid for 1, 2 or 3 years and that will reduce all train tickets by 50%. The subscription itself costs around 150 CHF per year. The Generalabonement is is a ticket for one year that allows you to use any train, and almost any local bus, ship, boat, tram, etc. But be aware, there are some exceptions, especially in cities or partly-private owned cable cars. The Generalabonement costs around 3550 CHF for a second class ticket. The Gleis 7 is an subscription that you can purchase either seperately (around 300 CHF) or in combination with a Halbtax Abo (around 120 CHF). It allows you to use any train, bus, etc. that leaves after 19:00. Be aware that the scheduled departure time according is important. For example, when a train is scheduled to leave at 18:59, but due to a delay leaves at 19:01, you're still not allowed to use this train with a Gleis 7.

The A4 printout tickets are just print-at-home tickets that you can purchase over the Internet, pay with credit card and then print them out. A card with a long ticket is probably a multiple journey ticket. With this ticket, you pay once for six journeys and then you can use it whenever you want. This ticket is also non-personal and therefore transferable.

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3  
I would add that about 2 1/2 million Swiss have a Halbtax, and almost half a million have a Generalabo. Many others have regional passes. So especially during rush hour you won't see a lot of people with regular tickets. –  Krist van Besien May 6 '13 at 11:43
    
Note that as far as the original question is concerned, in the case of a person who is only visiting Switzerland for a few days, only the multi-journey and print-at-home tickets are possible, and neither of them offer any discount. The other options are not cost-effective for short stays, and in any case, I believe they're not even possible if you don't have an address in Switzerland. –  Benjol May 7 '13 at 6:26
1  
Both is not true. You can order your half tax online and even use a print at home temporary half tax immediately after paying. And even if you're here for a few days, it can already be wort it, it really depends on your travel plans. –  RoflcoptrException May 7 '13 at 8:03
    
@RoflcoptrException, wow, I stand corrected. Maybe that's changed, or maybe I just made a false assumption. So yes, you can get a 'demi-tarif' if you're abroad, but you'd still have to be spending more than two times its price on tickets for it to be worth while. –  Benjol Nov 1 '13 at 9:33

Swiss Pass could be a very good option. When I went to Switzerland for 4 days, I paid in pounds (£153 if my memory serves me correct), and traveled the whole Swiss network for 4 days. They have some limitations, but the cost is worth it.

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For tourists there exist passes and reduction cards. See www.swisstravelsystem.com

The best offer, in my opinion, is the "Swiss Half Fare Card", which gives half price travel on the whole network (including also 50% of on mountain railways), for 120,- CHF, for a whole month.

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