Swiss Rail Tickets and Reservations
If you don’t really want a pass for free travel, or don’t have time to get one before you go, you can always buy point-to-point tickets for your trip. As a very general rule of thumb, if you have trips of 3 hours or more, it’s probably worth it to buy a pass that covers those journeys. If you’re just making short 1-2 hour trips, you may still want a pass for the convenience, the museum privileges and the mountain railway discounts, but your point-to-point travel might be slightly cheaper buying individual tickets. My advice, other than the very shortest trips, is to not sweat the details and just get a pass. It’s easier, and is usually a good idea. At the very least, you can still get a one-month Half Fare Card upon arrival in Switzerland. This gives you no free days of travel, but 50% discounts for a month on all regular trains, boats and busses, as well as on most of the high-mountain cable cars and scenic trains. It will generally pay for itself with just 2 days of train travel, and is a much better option than having no pass at all. You can buy them at the airport train station ticket counters. In fact, any of the passes except the Transfer Ticket can be bought at Swiss train stations. But in general, there is no absolute need to buy tickets or passes in advance. Almost all Swiss trains (with the exception of the special panoramic trains) run on open seating system. There are no reservations required or even available. You can buy a ticket right before getting on the train, either at the ticket counter, or at the easy-to-use ticket machines found at most train stations. Pre-planning is nice, but there is room to be open and flexible in Switzerland, and just buy train tickets as you go!