SBB, ZVV: Public Transport in Switzerland and Zurich

Before you buy clothes, or even food, the one thing you need to buy is a travel pass.

Zurich is a small little city, but vast at the same time, and if you don't live in one of the main areas then you'll have to walk 20 minutes to find a cash machine or supermarket. So, as you can see, the travel pass is vital.

This is the magic page. I'm pretty sure I go on it every day, looking at one thing or another. It's got everything in English too, so don't worry if you don't speak German. With English or German, you'll get by in Zurich. Most people know some French as well, but it's not the best.

In Switzerland, there's two different networks, those for the whole of Switzerland and those for the cities. Remember, they are two different networks, so you'll need different travel passes for each one, or just buy individual tickets.

The way you can buy the travel pass or tickets are: on the internet, at the station, ticket booths (there's a few dotted around the city) or from the ticket machines at every station. The last option being the best way.

SBB, ZVV: Public Transport in Switzerland and Zurich

They're installing touchscreen machines at every stop in Zurich at the moment, and you'll also be able to use these to renew your travel pass.

But yeah, baby steps.

Travelling in Zurich

With a single you can travel between two points, whichever route you want. But if want a return style ticket, it's better to buy a 24h ticket that covers the zones you need. With this you can use the S-Bahn (overground trains), trams, buses, and boats. Yes, boats... to cross the lake.

Remember, if you buy one of these tickets (24h) they don't start from the moment you buy it, but the first time you register it using the yellow machines at the stations. Although, I don't think there are any you can use at the bus stations, so I'm not really sure how you activate them there.

But anyway, if you're going to travel often there are monthly passes. The one for u25s is 57 Swiss francs/month (for zone 10). The one for over 25s is more, but not by much.

If you're going to be there for more than 8 months, you should buy the year long pass, as you get about 3 months free (maybe two, you can work it out). This pass is also really handy if you're going to turn 25 during your stay as as long as you buy it when you're 24, it will last for the year, regardless of when you turn 25.


These are so confusing when it comes to buying tickets. Zurich is divided into zones, there's zone 10 which is the city centre, and tons of others, that go as far as Winthertur for example. When you buy a ticket, or even travel pass, you have to say how many zones you're going to use. The one for two zones includes the centre, you can go from there to any other that is one zone away. Basically, you can only go to as many as your ticket tells you.

A quick thing, zone 10, in the centre, costs double.

There's also a monthly pass that lets you travel from 09:00 onwards.


There are trains, buses, etc. from 5:00 until 00:30. It's pretty pointless buying the 09:00 pass as if you go out, you're usually getting home about that time, haha. In all seriousness, it's not that bad, but on Fridays and Saturdays there are night buses and night trains, albeit not many, but at least there's a few. They stop running at 04:00, depending on the zone. You also have to pay an extra 5 francs (although if you've got a ZKB account you can send a text for 20 cents instead. Bargain. ).

It's Switzerland, there aren't many ticket inspectors. But if you do get caught without a ticket, the fines are pretty hefty. There are rarely any inspectors on the night trains, even though there are so many passengers. For me, in the two months I spent in Switzerland, and the 6 different types of transport I used, they only asked me to show my pass twice: once using the boats in the centre (really touristy) and the other time using the bus in Oerlikon.

The public transport is easy to use. You buy a ticket, get on, wait to get to your stop, and then get off. You don't have to learn much.

Travelling in Switzerland

You can buy passes for the Swiss network, but not for the cities (each city has its own travel passes etc). But if you buy singles, even returns, it's going to cost a lot.

If there are more than 10 of you travelling, the best thing to do is to look for group travel discounts (60%). Better than Half-Fare.

It never hurts to check if there are any Supersaver tickets either,

If you're going to travel around a bit, 5 journeys or so to make it worth it, go and buy a Half-Fare pass: It's simple, works on all public transport, and all tickets are half price.

If you don't mind coming home later than 19:00, are younger than 25 (only when you buy it like I mentioned earlier), it might be worth buying a Gleis 7 pass (even cheaper if you buy it with Half-Fare).

How does Gleis-7 work?

Easy. Starting from 19:00 you can use any train (well nearly any, there's a map that tells you exactly which ones). Simply get on, and when the ticket inspector walks by, show him the Gleis pass, and that's it. All without buying a ticket. And, if you start your journey before 19:00, you can buy a ticket for where you'll be at that time, then after that the Gleis pass will be enough.

But, both Half-Fare and Gleis 7 have a minimum one year subscription.

Other offers

There's something else called General Abonment, GA, that lets you travel for free throughout Switzerland. But, you pay a yearly lump sum, that's why it seems to cost loads.

It's also worth having a look at offers if you want to go skiing, Rail'nSnow for example. There are also others in some cities with entry to museums included.

Travelling outside of Switzerland

A return to Paris, from Zurich, costs 50€ with TGV. Things like this, if you look hard enough, are possible. Also have a look on the SBB page.

If you've got Half-Fare, you get a 25% discount for any trains direct from Switzerland. Something like that anyway, the important thing is, you still get a discount.

You should download the SBB mobile app, it's really useful as it gives you timetables so you can plan your journeys. But don't trust it too much. It stopped working for me once and I was standing around at 00:00 not knowing how to get home.

One last thing, Swiss transport is always on time. Always. Even when they told me it was going to be 5 minutes late...

Photo gallery

Comments (0 comments)

Want to have your own Erasmus blog?

If you are experiencing living abroad, you're an avid traveller or want to promote the city where you live... create your own blog and share your adventures!

Want to have your own Erasmus blog?

Don’t have an account? Sign up.

Wait a moment, please

Run hamsters! Run!