One glance at a map of Switzerland’s transportation and it’s clear: The railroads dominate. Rail lines run through regions, cities, mountains and everywhere in between, making a group tour of Switzerland an uncomplicated experience. With a whole train system running with the accuracy of a Swiss watch, groups will find it easy to hop aboard a train and head to their next desired destination.
When planning a group travel excursion, organizers understand that transportation can be a cause for concern. What’s the best way to get around? The Swiss Travel System will be there to guide guests every step of the way. From the moment travel groups step off the plane in Switzerland, they will notice the ease and comfort of riding the rails. Ticket desks and information services are readily available at the airports, where the various Swiss Rail Passes can be purchased (if not purchase ahead of time).
Depending on where groups want to go, there is a pass that will suit their every need. For unlimited access to train travel in Switzerland, groups should opt for the Swiss Pass from Rail Europe. Stress melts away with this all-access pass, letting groups utilize every railroad line whenever they want. Groups can choose between the Consecutive Pass, available for 4, 8, 15 and 22 days or 1 month of consecutive travel; or the Flexi Pass, available for 3, 4, 5 or 6 days of consecutive or non-consecutive travel. Swiss Pass holders also get 50 percent discounts on the genuine mountain railways and aerial cableways, plus free admission to more than 400 museums throughout Switzerland. The Swiss Travel System also provides the Swiss Transfer Ticket, which provides roundtrip travel from any Swiss airport to a single location, and the Swiss Card, which also offers roundtrip fare as well as a 50 percent discount on locally bought Swiss railway tickets. Once travelers have purchased their ideal pass, the transportation experience only gets easier from there.
Train services from the airport await travel groups, ready to take them to the nearest city center. Once groups arrive, they can connect with a whole network of railroads to various locations around Switzerland in a timely fashion. The trains are guaranteed to be on time thanks to the operation of synchronized timetables. Nothing less should be expected from Switzerland.
“A train departs every 12 minutes in Switzerland, mostly on a fully electrified network. For user friendliness, trains leave regularly every half-hour and are synchronized with trains and buses at the 28,000 stations,” says Ursula Beamish-Mader,
media relations coordinator for the Switzerland Tourism office in Canada. “No less than 9,000 trains run daily on the 5,000-km/3,125-mile network of all national and regional railroad companies.”
Not only does the Swiss Travel System run efficiently, it offers convenient services that can lighten the load for tourists, literally. Fast Baggage in Switzerland lets travel groups check their baggage, skis, snowboards and various other luggage at the train station, and they can pick it up again at their destination. No more lugging suitcases onto the train, trying to fit oversized bags in tight storage spaces.
Intercity, InterRegio and RegioExpress are the main train categories that travelers have the privilege of riding. Travel groups will embark on a truly memorable journey aboard air-conditioned cars, cruising through charming country towns and towering mountains. Most InterCity trains, which typically travel between major cities, feature dining cars where groups can enjoy a drink, light snack or full meal. Most trains, whether traveling regionally or between larger cities, feature a Minibar, a mobile bar that brings the food and beverages right to passengers’ seats. The mobile coffee machine, present on all Minibars, brews fresh coffee for riders, and can even whip up a delicious espresso. These services, however, are not limited to the InterCity and InterRegio trains. They can also be enjoyed as travelers venture through the beautiful Swiss landscape on a mountain railway.
Climbing aboard one of the many scenic railroads, travel groups will get an unobstructed view of Switzerland’s alluring scenery. Scenic routes take tourists through every region of Switzerland, from lush country farmland and pristine lakefronts to high mountain valleys and frozen glaciers. Some of the most popular Swiss rail lines travel across various regions of Switzerland, giving tourists an opportunity to see a variety of environments in the span of a couple hours. The Palm Express begins in the glacier-covered area of Engadine and ends with travelers sitting under swaying palm tress in Lugano. The GoldenPass Line is one of the best railways for travelers to get a glimpse at the stark contrast between Switzerland’s regions. Speeding through the French region along Lake Geneva, past vineyards and gardens, the train then moves into the wooded valleys and mountain pastures of the German region.
For a slow and leisurely trip, the Wilhelm Tell Express is the perfect option, taking almost six hours to travel by boat and train, but time will melt away on this picturesque ride. It’s no secret that Switzerland is known for its delectable chocolate, and the Swiss Chocolate Train will satisfy any traveler’s sweet tooth. The unrivaled service of the Swiss Travel System continues to impress on this quaint route through the Montreux Vineyards and into medieval Gruyères, where guests will sample local cheese. Then the train is off again to Broc, home of the Nestlé Chocolate Factory. All along the way, riders can enjoy coffee and croissants if they haven’t already had their fill with chocolate and cheese.
The glaciers are a must-see when visiting Switzerland and the train system is the best way to reach them. Tourists can hop on the Bernina Express and relax in the panorama coach cars as the train ascends 7,435 feet above sea level to the glacier of Bernina. Probably the most popular scenic railroad is the Glacier Express, the slowest-moving express train. The seven-and-a-half-hour ride takes travel groups over 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and seven valleys, all while showcasing exemplary Swiss landscape. Passengers can dine on freshly prepared meals with the ever-changing scenery as their backdrop.
With the highest train density in Europe, Switzerland reigns supreme with its transportation system. And with the number of railroads, it’s no surprise that most residents rely heavily on trains to get around. In fact, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, on “average each Swiss travels 1,248 miles or 44 trips a year by train. Including other public transit modes, that’s 19% of all trips taken on public transit.”
And if the locals trust the punctuality of the system to get them where they need to go, then it must be good. In recent years, the Swiss Travel System approved a project to build a new rail link, the Gotthard, through the Alps, featuring two large tunnels. The Lötschberg tunnel opened in 2007; the Gotthard Base Tunnel, at a length of 57 km, is the world’s longest tunnel and is set to open in 2017. This pioneering achievement will only improve the current transportation system in Switzerland and Europe, making it even easier for tourists to reach almost any point in the country.
Every Swiss town is connected through the railroads, and with the help of an accurate, comprehensive transportation system, tourists are free to roam and discover every destination.