Read Caption
A colorful Swiss train in Vaudois, Switzerland. (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

Golden Ticket

Confession: I traveled the entire past month on a single ticket.

That’s the huge secret behind my grand journey around Switzerland. I traveled here, there and everywhere — I crossed whole lakes and rode cable cars to the uttermost peaks in the Bernese Alps, hopped trains to the remotest Swiss villages and rode trams and metros through Geneva, Lausanne and Zürich — and I did it all with just one flimsy paper ticket.

Those of you who know me well know that I heartily dislike any kind of over-itinerized travel, preferring the spontaneity of a blank calendar and the freedom to roam the open road — or in this case, the open track. The miracle of the Swiss Travel System is that I could do just that— I could hop on and off the network as much I liked, and best of all, I could travel everywhere using ONLY public transportation, specifically train, bus and boat.

. . . and the beauty of Switzerland is that there is always a train. Always. Like clockwork.

My all-inclusive, covers (almost) everything golden ticket wast the Swiss Pass, which gave me open access to all of the different kinds of transportation and allowed me to explore Switzerland independently, without any pre-planning on my part. I kept the ticket in my backpack and every time kontrolle came by, I whisked it out and flapped it in their faces. In thirty days of checks and re-checks on the Swiss Travel System, not once did I get questioned. My Swiss Pass actually worked.

With my single golden ticket, my traveled 1,073.5 miles (1,717.6 km) on public transportation, which is saying a lot given that from its eastern to western border, Switzerland is just over 200 miles wide.

Other travelers in Switzerland may not want to go as crazy as I did with my month-long pass. (They also sell single-day Swiss Passes, or for 4, 8, 15, 22 days.) All I can say is that it’s totally worth it.

I’ll break it down for you—

My Swiss Trip in Numbers:

  • Trains: 51
  • Trams: 16
  • Cable Cars: 9
  • Bikes*: 7
  • Buses: 6
  • Boats: 3
  • TOTAL Distance: 1,073.5 miles (1,717.6 km)

View Switzerland in a larger map

*Bikes are NOT included in the Swiss Pass but were a big part of my travels around Switzerland. No matter how you choose to travel, I highly recommend a bit of biking.