Switzerland is an excellent destination for interrailing. An extensive rail network reaches all corners of the country. Services are frequent and reliable. Many routes offer amazing views, often making the train rides as interesting as their destinations. With very few exceptions, there are no reservations in Switzerland, so there are no surprises and additional costs.
If you are traveling on tight budget, be warned though. Switzerland is relatively expensive comparing to neighboring countries. You will spend more on accommodation and food.
There are many train companies in Switzerland. Most, but not all, accept interrail passes, so you need to be a bit careful. The Rail Planner app contains an up-to-date list of companies that accept Interrail. Trains that always accept Interrail are:
- All trains operated by SBB-CFF-FFS, which includes the majority of Intercity trains.
- All trains operated by BLS.
- All trains operated by Südostbahn (SOB).
- All EC/RJX and NJ trains connecting to neighboring countries.
- All trains operated by Deutsche Bahn, like ICE high speed trains to Germany.
- Most S-Bahn services (trains named S-(number) like S2). Exceptions in the Zurich area: S4, S10 and S18 do not accept Interrail.
- All trains operated by Rhätische Bahn (the Glacier Express and Bernina Express require reservation).
- Boats operated by BLS. You can use your pass for a free trip on the boats on the Thunersee and Brienersee around Interlaken.
- BOB (Berner Oberland Bahn) trains between from Interlaken to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. (trains via Kleine Scheidegg are not included) New for 2024.
This list covers the vast majority of trains in Switzerland. Some other trains also accept Interrail, so if you are planning to take a train not listed here, check the pass validity in the Rail Planner app or ask the clerk at the ticket office. That information can also be found on the interrail website.
The map shows where you can travel: All lines where Interrail is valid are shown in red. Dotted lines means you will receive a discount.
The pass is not valid on:
- The train to the Jungfraujoch and Kleine Scheidegg
- Most if not all cable cars and funiculars.
- City buses, trams, Lausanne metro
- Heritage lines
A good rule of thumb is: Does my train serve any villages? If it does, Interrail is usually valid. If it does not and is catered to tourists, Interrail is usually not valid.
Even on trains where the pass is not valid many train operating companies offer a discount – typically 25% – if you have a Flexipass you can claim this discount at any point in your passes validity period, it does not have to be a travel day. Where you are claiming this discount trains should not be added to your trip/travel log. For a list of these companies see: https://benefitsportal.eurail.com/benefits/swiss-private-trains-benefits/
Reservations are almost non-existent in Switzerland. Even most international connections (EC, ICE, RJX trains) don’t require reservations. There are some exceptions though, you need reservations on the following trains:
- TGV trains on international journeys to France.
- NightJet sleeper trains.
- Luxery tourist trains like the Glacier Express and Bernina Express.
Switzerland has a lot to offer and you will find something interesting in every corner of the country. Here are some recommendations tailored for railfans:
Rhätische Bahn in Canton Graubünden
Graubünden is the largest of the Swiss Cantons, located in the south-east part of the country, bordering Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy. It offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes with many hiking trails and the Swiss National Park. It also has some of the most amazing train lines in Europe, some even listed by UNESCO as world heritage.
There is a local train company Rhätische Bahn (RhB) that operates a network of narrow-gauge (1000mm) rail lines in Graubünden. The main hub for RhB is the city of Chur. It is easily accessible by SBB InterCity trains.
UNESCO World Heritage
The RhB network is over 100 years old and consists of many beautiful bridges and tunnels cutting through the Alpine landscape. Part of it is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage. Those train rides can be destinations on their own.
Bernina Express is a service catering to tourists. You will need a reservation either in a regular car or in a dining car. It offers some additional services like fine dining, audio commentary and panoramic cars offering better views. There are other regular trains on the same route which don’t require reservations. Decide for yourself whether the additional services offered by Bernina Express are worth the reservation fee.
Glacier Express is a service similar to the Bernina Express. It connects Zermatt to Sankt Moritz and offers beautiful Alpine views during the whole ride. Glacier Express requires a reservation in a seating or dining car.
WARNING: this service is very expensive and doesn’t accept the pass. Check the price before making plans.
Jungfraujoch is a railway departing from Lauterbrunnen near Interlaken. It goes to the Jungfrau pass at the elevation of 3463m. It offers amazing views to the largest glacier of continental Europe and surrounding Alpine ridges.
However, the tickets for Jungfraujoch Bahn are very expensive. Interrail is not accepted. There is not much to do up there. There may be some hiking trails, but they require good fitness and skills due to extreme elevation. The only way back is to take the same train down to Lauterbrunnen. There is also a very expensive restaurant and souvenir store up there, an artificial ice cave and a viewing platform.
Locorama is a railway museum in Romanshorn, in the far east of the country.
Tram Museum Zürich has a collection of trams, streetcars, LTRs, whatever you want to call them. It might be the only museum in the world, entering which one has to validate a ticket.
Swiss Museum of Transport located in Lucerne covers the history of transportation engineering, not only trains.
Connections to neighbouring countries
There are multiple ICE connections between Germany (Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin) and Switzerland. All those train pass via Basel, some continue to Interlaken, Zürich or Chur.
There is an EC service connecting Munich to Zürich. Unfortunately there are only few trains per day and they tend to be overcrowded. While reservations are not mandatory, it is a good idea to book a reservation anyway, unless you feel like seating on the floor. The reservations can be purchased at SBB or DB ticket counters.
There are multiple cross-border S-Bahn or regional connections in border towns.
There is a night service operated by NightJet connecting Zürich/Basel to Hamburg/Berlin/Amsterdam. Reservations are mandatory and they sell out fast.
The best way to get to Liechtenstein is to travel to Sargans and then take a local bus connecting Sargans (Switzerland) to Feldkirch (Austria) via Vaduz (Liechtenstein). In Vaduz you can switch to buses to all corners of Liechtenstein (hint: for hiking and skiing go to Malbun).
There are some some train stations in Liechtenstein though. Those can be reached by train from Switzerland. Note that for Interrail they count as Austria – watch out for in/out days if you are an Austrian resident.
There are EC trains connecting Zürich, Bern, Basel to Milan. Follow the guidance in the Rail Planner as to whether reservations are required.
TGV Lyria service connects major Swiss cities (Geneve Lausanne, Basel and Zürich) to Paris. Reservations on TGV trains are mandatory in France.
There is a RJX service connecting Zürich to Vienna, some trains continue to Bratislava. Reservations are optional. There are also NightJet services to Graz and Vienna.
There are be direct daytime or night connections to other countries, including Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia.
What’s the deal with Basel?
There are two major train stations in Basel: Basel SBB and Basel Bad Bf. Both are physically in Switzerland, however Basel Bad Bf is owned and operated by German Railways (Deutsche Bahn).
If you are traveling from Germany to Switzerland and change trains in Switzerland, you most likely want to change at the SBB station.
For Interrail, Basel SBB and Basel Bad Bf counts as both German and Swiss stations. That means, if you are a resident of Switzerland, you can use the pass from Basel Bad SBB or Basel Bad Bf towards Germany without using your in/out day. Conversely if you are a resident of Germany you can use the pass from Basel Bad Bf towards Switzerland without using your in/out day.
Use the SBB App (Play store) (App store) to check the current status and occupancy of trains, buses, trams, ferries. You can also use that app to buy individual public transportation tickets for all services in Switzerland, including the ones not covered by Interrail pass.
Even if you are using an Interrail pass, it is good to find the connection in the SBB app, then click the three-dots-menu and select “add trip”. Once you do that, you will see real-time updates for your connection, including train delays and platform numbers.