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My wife and I will fly to Geneva soon. We need to go across to Zurich and return to Geneva a couple of days later.

I have found the Omio site. I could just buy a ticket from them but, before doing so, I wondered whether there is any better option.

We want the train partly because we expect that it would be more pleasant than other options but also it needs to be fairly quick. We need to be in Zurich by 13:00 and don't want to leave Geneva at a crazy time. This means that we could have breakfast in the hotel. It is only 2km from the station.

We are both over 60. The website asked for ages but, without saying that we had a railcard, it did not seem to make a difference. I don't expect that a UK railcard will be any use.

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    An excellent resource for train travel is Seat61.com, which has a dedicated page addressing train travel within Switzerland. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 15:27
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    The journey takes about 2h 45 so whether you can have breakfast depends on how long it takes to get from your hotel to the station.
    – mdewey
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 15:31
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    You can use the dedicated swiss railways website sbb.ch/en
    – AlexB
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 15:33
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    The restaurant cars on Swiss trains are better than anything I've seen since the 1990s. I don't know what goes on at breakfast time but I would look into it if I were trying to get an early start.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 23:04
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    @phoog I have considered that but first I need to check whether our hotel deal includes breakfast. Also, when it's available.
    – badjohn
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 23:34

3 Answers 3

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The best way to buy a train ticket in Switzerland, is the official website for the SBB (national rail operator) :

https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

EDIT: My assumption of overcharging was false, as SBB was stubborn in putting the half-fare card

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    @badjohn The Swiss one, but it can never be worth it at 120CHF/person/month Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 15:54
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    @badjohn a Swiss half fare card costs CHF 180 for the first year and CHF 160 for subsequent years. Nicholas Formichella where do you get CHF 120 a month??? Badjohn, super saver tickets are based on demand for the specific train. Check the schedule for other return journeys if your return is flexible. You might see a super saver fare available. They show these on the search results page as "from 48.75" or whatever in the lower right corner.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 23:07
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    I think see what's going on with the half fare card: the monthly one is only available for nonresidents so I suppose the annual one is only available for residents. Still, a round trip between Geneva and Zurich is CHF 176, so with the monthly half fare card it's 88+120=208, only 32 francs more. If you're going to make just one more trip of a significant distance it would make sense.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 1:51
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    @phoog: the annual Halbtax is definitely available to nonresidents of Switzerland - I have been living in Germany and holding a Halbtax for 13 years now. Small correction to the price, it's now 185 CHF for the first year and 165 CHF for subsequent years. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 7:38
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    @StephanKolassa thanks for both the clarification about residence and the correction on the price, which I had forgotten to mention in my previous comment. (I am left puzzled, however, by the existence of the monthly half-fare card. Also, for the benefit of anyone in francophone or italophone Switzerland, the names are demi-tarif and metà-prezzo, respectively.)
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 8:28
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In general, the best place to book Swiss train tickets is the website of the Swiss Railways at https://sbb.ch/en/ or the SBB app. For international journeys, you may find booking portals like thetrainline.com or raileurope.com (or Omio, which you already found) to be more convenient. These sites usually charge a small booking fee in addition to the ticket price.

Some options worth considering besides a regular ticket:

  • Foreign visitors have access to the Swiss Travel Pass offering, of which the "Flex" version costs CHF 267 for 3 days of unlimited travel within a month. This pass may quickly be worthwhile if you are planning some trips from Zurich. Besides trains, it also includes city transit, most buses, some boats etc. You can buy it from swisstravelpass.com or SBB.

  • There are supersaver tickets, only valid for a specific connection, at a discount. Rarely available for busy intercity lines unfortunately.

  • There are also "supersaver day passes" available in limited numbers, you should see them as an alternative option when buying a single ticket from SBB.

Note that the Swiss Railways give no discount for senior citizens (except for some travel passes and promotions not relevant here). Also there is no discount on round trips.

Regardless of the type of ticket you buy, I'd recommend that you make a seat reservation for your journey as Geneva-Zurich is one of the busiest lines in Switzerland. Tickets cannot sell out and you will never be denied boarding, but you may find it hard to find empty seats.

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Actually, if one of the stations is close to the Swiss border, it is (surprisingly) usually cheaper to buy an international ticket. In this case, buying a ticket from Geneve to Singen in Germany on https://bahn.de gives cheeper prices although this ticket includes the same train to Zürich.

The reason are some special offers for connections inside Europe, while trains in Switzerland are more expensive than in neighboring countries.

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  • Travelling by train seems to get ever closer to flying when it comes to pricing schemes...
    – arne
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 14:54
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    there may be the additional advantage of paying in euro (advantage wrt to currency conversion of the credit card). @arne when you talk about dbahn, they are absolutely there: same pricing schemes as no-frill low-cost airlines, same likelihood of having your trip cancelled/delayed, but the overall trip is slower ...
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 15:05
  • @EarlGrey Sadly, this is very, very true...
    – arne
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 15:12

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