Here's how you get to Lucerne. And once you are here, how to get around. In the city we recommend public transport, even for car enthusiasts: it's safe, reliable and gets you everywhere within no time - without having to worry about traffic jams and parking slots.
Lucerne’s public transport network includes buses and local trains. The ticket system is fairly simple: Lucerne’s regional network is divided into zones. You don’t buy tickets for a trip, but rather for a zone. Lucerne city is zone number 10 which includes all of the city and part of the agglomeration (e.g. municipalities of Kriens, Emmenbrücke, Meggen, Littau). Tickets are valid in the chosen zones on buses and local trains. As a visitor zone 10 is most probably all you'll need, as all the sights and even the bus ride to the valley station of the cable car to popular Mount Pilatus is within this zone. A day pass for zone 10 valid for a calendar day costs 8.20Sfr (half-fare 6.20Sfr), a single ticket valid for 1 hour 4.10Sfr. Children under 6 travel for free, 6 - 16 year-olds pay the so-called half-fare (which actually is 3.10Sfr). Short distance tickets for up to 6 stops wihtin half an hour are 2.50 (no half-fare). All these tickets can be purchased with cash or credit cards at the ticket machines you find at almost every stop (switch to English on the first screen). You can also purchase tickets via an App for your smartphne called ÖV-Ticket (available for iPhones and Androids). It's simple to use and available in English. If you get caught without a valid ticket, it’s 90Sfr. For all questions about public transport, get advice at the Lucerne City Transport (VBL) sales points at the main train station (in the underground shopping area) or at the bus stop Schwanenplatz.
City transport in Lucerne runs roughly from 05:00 - 00:30. There are night buses called nachtstern (www.nachtstern.ch) in the nights Fri/Sat and Sat/Sun to the surroundings (like Kriens or Littau) which leave at the main train station. The tickets for 7Sfr or 10Sfr can be bought from the driver only. Day passes and any other tickets aren't valid.
The punctuality of trains in Switzerland is legendary. You can almost set your watch to the departure times. The train network is fast, reliable and extensive. For getting around in Switzerland, trains are definitely best - from Lucerne there are connections to all the major Swiss cities at least once an hour. The state owned train company is called SBB. For time tables refer to www.sbb.ch. Tickets are sold on vending machines (switch them to English on the first screen) and at the counters in Lucerne main train station. You can purchase single and return tickets. Children up to 5 travel for free, from 6 - 16 years they pay the half-fare. If you plan on travelling around Switzerland a lot, get a half-fare card for one month for 120Sfr - and travel for half the fare on all public transport. Or get a Swiss Travel Pass which is valid for all kinds of public transport (216 - 458Sfr, depending on duration) and free entry to many museums (www.swisstravelsystem.com). If you plan on travelling a lot in Central Switzerland and pay a visit to more than one of the famous mountains a Tell-Pass is a good option for you. Ask for advice at the train station. If you board a train without a valid ticket, you will have to pay a fine of 90Sfr.
There are around 500 licenced taxis in Lucerne and in general they are clean, safe, reliable - and expensive. It’s usually easy to get one, even in rush hours. The city sets the following maximum fees for taxis: initial fee 6Sfr, 3.80Sfr/km up to 20Sfr, 3.50Sfr/km above 20Sfr, waiting time 66Sfr per hour. Most companies charge the maximum (exceptions: RFTaxi, initial fee 5Sfr, McTaxi, inital fee 5Sfr, 3.40Sfr/km). Taxi drivers have to and usually do use their metres. Cheating is rare. Two pieces of hand luggage are free, suitcases, dogs and extra hand luggage can be charged at 1Sfr/piece. You’ll find taxis at official taxi stands at the train station, at Schwanenplatz, behind Hotel National and in other places. You can hail them from the streets as well.
Here are some companies if you want to order a taxi:
RFTaxi, (+41) 41 320 18 18, www.rftaxi.ch
takes credit cards.
McTaxi, (+41) 76 577 66 55, www.mctaxi.ch
Taxi Hess, (+41) 41 310 10 10, www.hesstaxi.ch