The punctuality of trains in Switzerland is legendary. You can almost set your watch to the departure times and many Swiss trust the station clocks more than any others. The train network is fast, reliable and extensive. For getting around in Switzerland, trains are definitely best - from Zurich there are connections to all the major Swiss cities once or twice an hour. The state owned train company is called SBB - there are regional private networks, but you don’t have to worry about this, as tickets are valid on all trains. 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 the main hall at Zurich main railway station - clerks usually speak English. For longer distances tickets are valid for a trip on any train throughout the day. You can purchase single and return tickets. Children up to 5 travel for free, from 6- 16 years they pay the so-called half fare.
If you plan on travelling around Switzerland a lot, there are different options: Get a half-fare card for one month for 120Sfr - and travel for half the fare on all public transport (excepts some cable cars) for one month. A good deal if you want to head to the mountains and to Lucerne for example. Or get a Swiss Travel Pass, available for 3 to 15 days. The pass gives you unlimited transport on the whole Swiss network and free entry to most museums (incl. city transport, 179 - 704Sfr, www.swisstravelsystem.com). Swiss Passes are also available for different number of days free to choose within a period. Ask for advice at the travellers centre at Zurich main railway station.
Be aware that train tickets within the Zurich cantonal network are zone tickets. These tickets are valid either for 1 hour or 24 hours within the zone you choose.
Buses and Ships
Public buses get you from the nearest train station to most every village in the country. The time tables are integrated in the database on www.sbb.ch – use the online timetable tool or ask at the counter at many stations. Buses for longer distances are mostly used in the mountains where there are no trains. A lot of these lines are operated by PostBus Switzerland. They were originally part of the postal service and now offer comfortable travel in modern, mostly yellow buses. Tickets can be bought on board or at vending machines. You can also buy through tickets which cover all trains and buses all the way to your destination at the SBB vending machines or ticket offices. There is only one operator for each trip - so there’s no point comparing prices.
There are ships on all the larger Swiss lakes – they are usually used more for pleasure trips than for getting from A to B quickly. Services are reduced in winter (Nov-Apr), some lines even close in winter. For information about ships on Lake Zurich, click here.