So Switzerland budget hacks you say? How much will I actually be able to save on train tickets? 5 Bucks?
By taking advantage of the strategies showcased in this post, you’re going to save so, so, soooooo much more.
If you’ve read some of other posts about Switzerland, you’ll already know just how deeply obsessed I am with the country. The Alps, the chocolate, the Christmas Markets, the fondue – I love it all!
So when I decided to move back to Canada, I knew that I couldn’t move across the Atlantic without paying Switzerland one more visit.
But I also knew that I had to keep the cost of the trip as low as possible since I was planning on visiting the country just a few weeks before my transatlantic move. For accommodation, I stuck with hostels. I frequented supermarkets for food (Coop is seriously great), and Easyjet’s Stockholm-Basel route helped me keep airfare costs ridiculously low. So then, I faced one last obstacle: transportation within Switzerland. I initially looked into buses, but I was unable to find any operating bus routes within Switzerland in December. Renting a car wasn’t even remotely a budget-friendly option, so I was left with the train.
My first few ticket searches on SBB’s website definitely had my heart rate rising. The prices for 1-hour train rides seemed to be sky high. But with Switzerland’s northern neighbours, Germany and France, offering so many reasonable train fare deals, I was convinced that Switzerland had to have them too. And after some website digging and phone calls, I found them.
All in all, I saved over 65.00 CHF on the 5 train tickets I bought from SBB – that’s over $70.00 USD!
For some of these tickets, I even managed to get over 40% off the initial price. And I’m going to let you see how it all works, so that you can travel around Switzerland for less too.
So now, let’s get right to it.
Here are 6 SBB booking hacks for getting cheaper train fares in Switzerland!
Where to Start
When booking train tickets for trips in Switzerland, you can go straight to the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) website. You can also search your journeys on SBB’s site when booking trips into or out of Switzerland.
Right at the top of the railway company’s homepage, search for your desired train trip. Even if you’re not planning a trip to Switzerland at the moment, you can still visit SBB’s site and test out these hacks for yourself.
Grindelwald, Switzerland’s train station – you definitely don’t come across train stations with these views everyday.
IMPORTANT: BAE – Before Anything Else
When you search for and select your desired train journey, you will be redirected to a booking page where you need to enter your name, birthday, etc.
Quite often, SBB automatically applies a “Half-Fare Travelcard” discount to the initial train fare shown. If you’re just visiting Switzerland for a short period of time, chances are that you don’t own a “Half-Fare Travelcard” (or any other Swiss travelcard). Put in the passenger details, select “no discount” from the “Discount Cards” dropdown menu, and wait for the page to update. It’s important to reset the discount setting, so you don’t accidentally purchase a fare you don’t have the right to use (…and end up getting fined).
Yes, after updating the discount settings, you will see your train fare double. What you see now is a Standard Fare Ticket, and I’m going to tell you how to drop the price back down in just a few moments.
1. The “Secret Powers” of an SBB Standard Fare Ticket
Before we drop down the price of SBB’s Standard Fare Ticket, there are a few things you need to know about it. In certain situations, a Standard Fare Ticket may actually save you quite a bit of money.
You see, even though you have already searched different trains from Point A to Point B and selected a specific train at a specific time, a Standard Fare Ticket isn’t only valid for that one train.
SBB Standard Fare Tickets are actually valid from 0:00 (midnight) of your selected travel day to 5:00 am of the following day. A Standard Fare ticket actually gives you the flexibility to take any train from Point A to Point B within a 29-hour period of time.
Just take a close look at the details in the “Outward Journey” box.
And it gets better.
With a Standard Fare Ticket, you can actually disembark the train at any stop on the way from Point A to Point B and hop on a later train heading towards your final destination (within the ticket’s period of validity, of course). This ticket gives you the opportunity to explore more destinations in Switzerland without additional cost.
I took advantage of the Standard Fare Ticket when travelling from Bern to Interlaken. On my way to Interlaken, I stopped for a few hours to explore the beautiful towns of Thun and Spiez.
Downtown Thun is undeniably gorgeous, and it’s only a 10-minute walk away from the town’s train station.
Another impressive view from a Swiss railway station. Town featured? Spiez.
2. Supersaver Discounts (Lowering the Price of that SBB Standard Fare Ticket)
Sometimes, we just need to get from Point A to Point B at a specific time without any detours. It these situations, we would rather not have to pay the full price of a Standard Fare Ticket. I get it.
So to get a pretty satisfying discount on that Standard Fare, scroll down that bookings page and open up the “Options for outward journey” menu (screenshot shown below).
Occasionally, you will have the opportunity to select a “Supersaver” Ticket. Once you do, watch your train fare go down.
If there are no Supersaver tickets available for the time you have selected, chose another train at a different time.
What is a SBB Supersaver Ticket?
In contrast to a Standard Fare Ticket, an SBB Supersaver Ticket is valid for the specific time and the specific train you have selected. It takes you from Point A to Point B, and you cannot hop off at any destinations along the way without having to purchase another ticket.
Inside a SBB train’s fancy dining cart. Oh, Switzerland. I am obsessed.
3. Not All Supersaver Discounts are the Same
Not all Supersaver Tickets offer the same discount off of Standard Fare Tickets. Finding the most favourably priced ticket with the greatest discount can take a little bit of research. For instance, when booking a train back from Interlaken to Basel, I noticed that one supersaver discount offered 15% off Standard Fare while an earlier train offered a 45% discount. In order find the best discount, you may have to select and check different train journeys.
Generally, it’s easier to find better discounts outside of peak travel times, such as early mornings and evenings.
4. Book Supersaver Tickets in Advance
Supersaver Tickets either become entirely unavailable or the discounts are minimal if you book too close to your desired travel date. For the best discount, I found booking a few weeks in advance worked best.
Train views (around Interlaken).
5. Arrive in Advance (especially, if you have a Supersaver Ticket)
Train cancellations happen.
Arriving up to an hour ahead of your scheduled departure can help you to easily re-organize your travel plans. (Major train stations in Switzerland are pretty massive and just a tad chaotic).
If you have a Supersaver ticket for a cancelled train, arriving in advance will give you the chance to find and talk to an SBB staff member, who will be able to issue you a ticket for an alternative train free of charge.
6. Take Advantage of Seasonal Travel Discounts and Deals
From time to time, SBB offers pretty desirable train fare deals. When I visited Switzerland at the start of December, the railway company was offering discounts on round trip fares to certain Christmas Market hotspots, such as Colmar and Strasbourg. The catch was that in order to get a 30% discount on a ticket to Colmar and back, I had to purchase my ticket in person at a SBB ticket counter. I could also make the purchase over the phone, but I would not receive any discount if I bought the ticket online.
Apparently, Christmas Market fares, amongst other ticket deals, are an annual occurrence, and to some extent, they are considered common knowledge. You won’t be bombarded with too many online advertisements about these fare deals.
For more information about Christmas Market fare discounts, you can visit SBB’s Christmas Market information page by clicking here.
To inquire about other ongoing or upcoming promotions, I suggest contacting SBB directly. You can also take a look at SBB’s Leisure and Holidays page to check out reduced train fares that are combined with discounts to current events and attractions.
Colmar was nothing short of a Christmas Winter Wonderland.
There’s no denying that Switzerland is an expensive country to visit. However, it’s also one exceptionally beautiful nation to explore with an abundance of breathtaking landscapes to see, historical towns to discover, foods to indulge on, and adrenaline-pumping activities to try. It’s why I keep going back.
With these 6 SBB Train Fare Hacks, you can make your dream Switzerland trip more budget-friendly and affordable than before! (I know I definitely did).
Want to know more about visiting Switzerland on a budget?
- Check out how you can explore Lucerne, Switzerland for less!
Note: This post is based on research completed and train tickets booked between November 2017 and March 2018. For the most up-to-date information about SBB Train Fare policies, please visit the SBB website.