Zurich Public Transport – Tips & Tricks For Visitors

Ready to jump on some public transport in Zurich? It is not as confusing as it looks!

Zurich’s public transport system is speedy, economical, and straightforward. Once you know a few tips and tricks

This guide will help you make the most of your stay by using this efficient transit system, so you can forget about the transport and get on with your day!

Types of Tickets

Zurich Public Transport has a range of tickets for commuters and tourists. These include

  • Single ride
  • Day pass
  • Monthly & Yearly pass

And many more. But let’s focus on the most used passes, so you can quickly understand how to use the ZVV.

Single Ride

A single ticket is usually valid for 1-2 hours, depending on how many zones it covers. The idea is that it will get you from A-B with just one ticket.

You should use one of these tickets if you are only going one way, or are coming back a completely different way that goes via other zones.

Day Pass (24-hour Ticket)

The ZVV day pass or 24 hour ticket is the ideal ticket if you are returning via the same route or zones, or want to do multiple trips within the same area.

These 24 hour tickets normally cost exactly double the price of a single ticket, so it makes sense to use one even if you are just returning exactly the same way. It saves you remembering to buy another ticket and allows you the freedom of potentially taking other trips throughout the same 24 hour period.

Zurich Card

Zurich Card free transport
Zurich Card free transport – Zones included

If you purchase the Zurich Card for use while you are in Zurich, you get discounted or free access to a huge range of museums.

On top of that, you also get zones 110 and a range of other zones ncluded in your ticket, which means you can travel for free within the majority of Zurich. You can see the zones I got when I used the ticket earlier this year.

Monthly & Yearly Pass

If you are working in Zurich and commuting every day then it makes sense to consider a monthly or yearly ZVV Pass. However, in my experience, if you are not traveling at least 3-4 days a week then it rarely makes sense to use a pass like this.

You have to organize these passes at an SBB ticket counter or purchased online. Just do the numbers before buying one as I know a lot of people who have bought a yearly pass only to decide to work more from home!

Zurich ZVV Zones

Zurich ZVV Zone Map
Zurich ZVV Zone Map

When you are traveling by public transport in Zurich, everything is controlled by “zones”. Almost everywhere you go downtown in central Zurich is in zone 110. This covers all the main areas such as:

  • Zurich HB
  • Bahnhofstrasse
  • Enge
  • Oerlikon
  • Seefeld
  • Hardbrücke
  • Stedelhofen

So, unless you are heading to the Zurich Airport, Uetliberg or anywhere else further afield, you should be ok with zone 110 in the majority of situations.

What this also means, is that when you by a ticket to a destination with the SBB App or machine, you will get zone 110 on your ticket. Check it and you will see :>

If you are heading elsewhere, it is best to just buy the ticket from/to the places you are going. Rather than trying to figure out the zones. The website/app/ticket machine can do the heavy lifting for you.

Purchasing Your Ticket

ZVV Ticket Machine at a tram stop
ZVV Ticket Machine at a tram stop

Buy your ticket to Zürich’s public transport with ease! There are two options:

  1. Use the ticket machines at each station. They accept cash and cards.
  2. Choose convenience and buy your tickets through the SBB website/App or ZVV app.

Choose your ticket type wisely – single, day pass, etc. Don’t forget to activate your ticket before boarding. Check official sources for any fare updates.

Pro Tip: Have your ticket on-hand throughout your journey to avoid any trouble. Ready to ride? Sit back, relax, and hope you don’t get a seatmate who doesn’t understand personal space!

How to Ride the Train in Zürich

Trains leaving Zurich HB
Trains leaving Zurich HB

The trains in Zurich are ideal for covering larger distances. Within the town center they are all underground, but as they move away from Zurich HB they slowly move above ground.

The local trains are called “S-Bahns” and almost all of them depart underground at Zurich HB. Just keep that in mind if you are catching them. Any platform with a 3 or 4 in the front (32, 43 etc) will be underground.

There are a variety of popular train stations you might wish to use to get around Zurich such as

  • Enge
  • Stadelhofen
  • Oerlikon
  • Wiedikon
  • Thalwil
  • Tiefenbrunnen
  • Schlieren

and of course, many more.

One of the more popular destination you can use the train for is the Uetliberg mountain, one of the best places to see the Alps and all of Zurich from.

So, how exactly do you ride a train in Zurich?

  1. Buy a valid ticket from your departure point to your destination
  2. Get to the station before your departure time.
  3. Find the right platform on the information board.
  4. Move to the right area of the platform for your class carriage.
  5. Get on the train and take any available seat.

Train Tickets

Please make sure you have a ticket before you get on any train in Zurich. You can do this via the machines, the SBB App or at the SBB information center (although that is painfully slow).

You do not need to validate, scan or do anything else with your ticket. But you do need to have one.

The train network in Zurich is so-called “self control”. Which sounds a bit odd in English, but means that there are random checks and fines given if you don’t have a valid ticket (usually CHF 110).

Don’t try to get away without having one. There are lots of checks and it always happens just when you don’t have a ticket. I know from experience :>

Train Schedules

The train schedules are best checked on the SBB.ch website or via the SBB App. There are yellow boards at every train station with timetable information. However, they are confusing if you have never used them before.

Alternatively, you can ask at the SBB travel information kiosks or just ask anyone on the platform and they will help you. Almost everyone speaks English in Zurich!

How to Ride the Tram in Zürich

Zurich Tram
Zurich Tram with ZVV map at the tram stop

Trams are the ideal way to move around Zurich. You just have to get to know which numbers go where.

Honestly, rather than try to figure it out as a visitor, I would either

  • Use Google Maps by selecting public transport in the options and giving your “from” and “to”
  • Use the SBB App

You can also spend time studying the ZVV tram map and timetables at each stop, but it is far easier to let a computer work it out for you :>

To get on a tram, you need a valid ticket before you enter. There are NO TICKET MACHINES on the trams.

So, how do you ride a tram in Zurich?

  1. Find out which tram you need and head to the stop
  2. Buy a valid ticket for the zones you will be traveling in
  3. Get on at any door in the tram
  4. Wait for others to leave, then enter and take any vacant seat (or stand)
  5. The tram stops at all stops, so keep an eye on Google Maps or the signs
  6. Exit the tram at your desired stop

I use trams about 90% of the time I need to get anywhere in Zurich. There are a few cases where a train gets me a lot closer, and faster to my destination. And sometimes, buses fill the gaps when there are no trams.

Pro Tip: Grab yourself a ZVV map or download one on your phone so you know where you are gong.

How to Ride the Bus in Zürich

I won’t spend much time on the bus system in Zurich, as it is very similar to the trams.

The only difference is that the buses tend to go where the trams don’t. As the trams criss-cross town often centered around Zurich HB. There are cases where you need to get across the tram lines too.

So, you will notice that the buses tend to fill the spaces where the trams don’t go or they link the trams together.

Many of the buses are electric and semi-fixed to their route.

You will have to push the button when arriving at your stop in the bus. Although they tend to stop at almost every stop anywhere.

Again, you need a valid ticket to ride any bus and there are often ticket machines in the bus. However, I recommend getting one before you get on, just in case!

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *