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My husband and I recently moved to Geneva. We both will be working and sometime travelling within Switzerland for sightseeing on weekends. We will be mostly visiting different parts but for only two nights at a time, so obviously we don't need a Swiss Pass. Our first plan is to visit Montreux and Lucerne.

What is the cheaper option, bus or train?

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    If you are happy with one answer, please tick the accept answer ✔ next to that answer. – Willeke Oct 9 '16 at 19:57
  • If you need to save more on the train, try and find day tickets from your local commune or from other people. With those you pay a fix price and you can travel on the whole rail network for a day. – Ciprian Tomoiagă Oct 9 '16 at 22:13
  • You can also buy a Flex pass which gives your 3/4/8 non-continuous free days in a month. You can combine it with the half-fare card for half price (60 CHF rather than 120 CHF last I checked) which is valid between first and last days of use of your flex pass. – RedBaron Oct 10 '16 at 5:17
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Well, most often you can't choose. Often you need the train to get from one city to another and then the bus to get to your final destination that might be a small village. Even though private bus companies try to get into the market, the trains between cities are at the moment still way more frequent and reliable.

In particular for you first two journeys, to Montreaux and Lucerne, I would take the train. As far as I know, there is not even a bus connection available, and even if there would be one, it wouldn't be faster than the direct train that takes 1 hour to Montreaux, respectively three hours to Lucerne, without the need of changing trains.

Check out sbb.ch for up to date time tables. In any case, think about buying a half fare card. You pay 150 CHF and then every ticket that you buy within a year costs only half its original price.

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Last year I was also checking Swiss bus tickets online but couldn't find anything better. Switzerland has a very pristine rail network and maybe that is a reason Swiss government just focuses on rail network rather than buses.

I visited Switzerland last year and bought Swiss individual super saver tickets and found really cheaper as a tourist. Here is the link for that website:

http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/supersaver-tickets.html

And you have just mentioned that you have currently moved to Switzerland and you have a longer stay there. The half-fare travel card is the best option for your travel within Switzerland. you could get all the required information from this website:

http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/railpasses/half-fare-travelcard.html

Also the route just mentioned Geneva-Montreux-Lucern is really worth to travel through Train. It is a spectacular scenery specially from Montreux to Lucern

There is also a website where you can find buses fares and connections in Switzerland:

https://www.postauto.ch/en

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You can't take a bus between major towns/cities in Switzerland, as buses are not allowed to compete with the train system.

In der Schweiz dürfen Fernbusse Passagiere nur über die Grenze, aber nicht innerhalb der Schweiz von einem Ort zum anderen transportieren.

which translates to

In Switzerland, long-distance buses can only transport passengers over the border, but not from one place to another within Switzerland

The Post Auto buses supplement and extend the train network, but don't act as competition to the existing train routes.

International bus routes starting in Switzerland exist, and are an option for visiting cities in neighbouring countries, but by law you can't get off the bus until you cross the border.

  • This is noteworthy. I would have thought that some bilateral EU contract would have disallowed that law as it was disallowed in Germany but of course why should it? =) +1 – Jan Oct 10 '16 at 12:30
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    @Jan, exactly, with Switzerland being non-EU, it is possible for the Swiss-EU bilateral contract to be different to the rules among EU members. I think this is the relevant bit of the contract admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/19994647/index.html#a20 – Fil-let's GoFundMonica Oct 10 '16 at 13:06
  • @Jan: No, this is perfectly valid even in the EU. Public Transport is normally a regulated monopoly. Specific connections are publicly tendered, with conditions, and only the winner may operate that connection. And for cities connected by rail, the usual tender notice include that such connection must be by rail. Hence, any company may tender for such a contract, but if they win they cannot run a bus service. – MSalters Oct 10 '16 at 13:53
  • @MSalters There was actually a law in Germany stating that no long-distance bus connections where allowed if a long-distance train connection exists. No buses meant absolutely no buses. But it has been abolished a few years ago — in my understanding due to EU nondiscrimination regulations. But this is derailing ;) – Jan Oct 10 '16 at 13:59
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If you are open to other options, consider car sharing. It doesn't have to be your car. You can look up on any version of blablacar (linked to the UK one for english) and find really cheap rides to big cities of Switzerland.

If you don't find a ride to where you want to go, you can rent a car and then get some other passengers to share the ride and split the cost. While car renting in Switzerland is quite expensive, since you live in Geneva you can rent the car from neighbouring France, which is considerably cheaper.

Keep in mind there is a constant stream of new people in Geneva and everyone wants to travel for cheap, so it's easy to find fellow passengers. Just post in the facebok groups of the area.

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    I don't see how this can be downvoted in 2016. Is someone here working for Switzerland's transport monopoly? – kagali-san Oct 10 '16 at 15:48
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In addition to the existing advice (especially about the half-fare travelcard), if you're going to really use public transport a lot (for at least 4 months), you may also want to see whether it's worth it to get the GA (Generalabonnement) travelcard. If you have the half-fare travelcard, it's also possible to get the 1-day travelpass.

Note that it's quite common for municipalities to offer those 1-day travelpasses for a discounted price to their residents, but they are available in limited quantities and only for the local residents. (see here for Geneva)

  • Each municipality can have its own rules for the 1-day travelpasses, and some allow non-local residents to buy them (some can even send them by post for a small extra fee). Search online for "AG-flexi" or "carte journalière commune" to find out what's available – Najkin Oct 10 '16 at 7:18
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As for Geneva bus system (TPG)- if you use the bus to go to work at least 3 times a week - get a monthly abonnement for 70 CHF. I work as a freelancer, so I don't commune anywhere - for me just getting a full fare for 3 chf from time to time is better.

For train system: there are also supersaver tickets http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/supersaver-tickets.html - discounted tickets but time and date are fixed, also they are non-refundable.

You might also benefit from Carte journaliere (full day pass for all means of transport in whole Switzerland for 42 CHF) http://www.ville-geneve.ch/demarches-administratives/mobilite/carte-journaliere-cff/ (purchase in advance)

Count what works for you better - sometimes just paying full price is cheaper than getting an abonnement.

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I have very good memories of using one of the Swiss rail websites, but I can not find anything on long distance buses, Rome2Rio does not give them, google does not give them.

Buses in Switzerland do the short distances from the railway station towns to the villages, sure. But I can not find long distance buses online.

So the answer to your guestion is: Trains are likely the cheapest option for long distance travel where you do not want to use a car, as buses do not connect places far apart. When booking early, do check flights and travels via other countries.

Which train and how much it costs you can find on any of the rail sites that give prices for Switzerland.

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Most of Swiss residents who use public transport have the half price card ("halbtax") that reduces the price as much as twice. It is valid in all trains and most of the buses.

As you have the living address in Switzerland, I would strongly recommend to obtain such a card first thing to do. It may look expensive but will pay itself in a first few journeys.

Also, when using the city transportation system, be aware that tickets are valid in all zones indicated on the ticket, regardless of the travelling direction or anything the like. These systems cover a huge areas (for instance, Zurich system also covers all Winterthur and good piece of land around). You can buy 24 hour ticket for all zones and spend all day on the way in any direction.

  • Reyssor suggestion is bundled with other ideas I do not recommend. – h22 Oct 10 '16 at 7:18

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