7 Mistakes Tourists Make On Swiss Trains

mistakes trains switzerland
Catching the train in Switzerland can be a little confusing.

Especially if you want to avoid making any silly, or even costly mistakes!

These tips will help you avoid the most common mistakes I see Swiss tourists making on the train.

1. Not Having A Valid Ticket

sbb ticket inspector
SBB Ticket Inspector (Back in the day)

Rule number one of catching a train in Switzerland – Always have a valid ticket.

When the ticket inspectors come down the aisle on your train, have your ticket and ID ready (if you are traveling with a pass).

The ticket inspectors are friendly but big rule followers!

If you don’t have a ticket, it can cost you over 90 CHF (that is around $100) plus the cost of the ticket you did not buy.

2. Missing Connections

The train has gone (Zurich airport)

A lot of train rides in Switzerland require you to change trains along the way. And sometimes, those connections can be quite tight.

So, I recommend a few things to my clients when catching trains in Switzerland:

  • Minimize the train connections when you plan (see the image below)
  • Be ready ahead of time when your train arrives for the next connection
  • Sit in the center of the train (middle carriages) if it is not busy so you can reduce connection times
The “dots” on the SBB timetable show you how many changes. There are two connections above with one change, one with two changes and the last one has no changes – which is ideal.

3. Not Buying A Train Pass

Jungfraujoch Railway

One of the simplest ways to save money or reduce the stress of buying tickets for trains is to have a train pass.

With the right pass, you can often just jump on any train, tram, bus or boat and relax. No fines are coming your way, and you can sit back and enjoy your trip.

On top of that, if you travel a lot during your trip, you can also save a lot of money by using a train pass instead of buying lots of expensive tickets.

I have a guide that walks you through choosing the perfect pass for your trip in the simplest terms possible. A quick flow chart, some examples to help and you should be good to go!

4. Not Keeping Your Luggage Close By

There are lots of options when it comes to storing your luggage on a train in Switzerland.

Sure, you could leave it by the door of the carriage, where there is often space for suitcases and the like.

But why not store your smaller luggage overhead

Overhead is great for small backpacks and hand luggage, just be careful in the two-story trains when the space is tight.

and your medium-sized luggage between the seats?

It might look small, but you can squeeze in a small-medium suitcase between the seats when you slide it in sideways!

If the train is not full you can potentially keep your larger cases with you in the seated area, but keep in mind you will look quite selfish if the train fills up and you are blocking empty seats!

5. Not Finding The Toilets

sbb toilet sign

In most of Europe and Switzerland, toilets are generally referred to as WC, which stands for Water Closet (a throwback to their invention—don’t ask!).

There are usually a couple of WCs on each train in Switzerland, even the local trains in the cities. So, if you did not manage to go before you boarded the train (and be aware Swiss train station toilets are always paid, and often require coins) you just have to follow the WC signs in the train.

It might require you to wander between carriages, or asking someone where they are – but they are on the train, somewhere!

Pro tip: don’t seat near the toilets as they often stink. And make sure you have time to use it before your next connection or arrival!

6. Not Using This App

If you have not heard of the SBB Mobile App, or have not downloaded it yet – then head off and do that now (or once you finish the whole post :>).

The SBB App allows to do all your travel planning on the fly. And check your connections, travel information and even plan future trips on the go.

Of course, you can also do most of this on their website, but having this at your fingertips, especially when you are on the go in Switzerland, is key!

7. Ignoring Swiss Train Etiquette

Swiss train seats

When you are traveling in a new country, there are a lot of social norms – aka social etiquette you may not be aware of.

The same is true when you are on a train in Switzerland.

So, rather than annoying the locals, why not learn some of the train etiquette you need for a pleasant swiss train trip:

  1. Don’t block the train doors when it arrives – stand at the sides and let people get off before you try to get on
  2. Don’t put your feet on the seats (it may seem obvious, but I saw some parents letting their kids do this last year – and they were not locals)
  3. Don’t block four seats when the train is full – locals will expect and ask for a seat if you are taking four seats in a full train (but there are only two of you). Make space when the train fills up and put your small bags above you or at your feet. It’s only fair.
  4. Don’t talk loudly in quiet carriages – there are not many of them, and you will notice if it is quiet (plus the universal sign of “shhhh” on the window”)

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

One thought on “7 Mistakes Tourists Make On Swiss Trains

  1. I used the Swiss Pass extensively on my trip in April taking day trips every day. A couple were of three hours or more one way. I would say more than a third of the conductors waived my Passport aside without looking at it, one saying I didn’t need to show it to her. It happened often enough that I didn’t even get out my Passport a few times, until it trapped me into having to be asked for my ID, however he was quite nice about it. After that, the Passport was always out.
    Just thought I’d bore you with my story.

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