Though it may only cost a few dollars a ride, public transport can quickly weigh on your vacation budget if you’re planning on moving around a lot.
But in Switzerland, visitors who stay at least one night in a hotel can benefit from free bus, train and tram rides in most places in the country. Here’s how it works and how you can save on your Swiss break.
To be eligible for free public transport in Switzerland, visitors just need to book at least one night in tourist accommodation, including hotels, hostels and campsites. On arrival at your place of stay, you will receive what is known as a ‘guest card’. This provides free access to trams, trains and buses within a city or local area.
The card is handed over during check-in and issued in paper or digital format, depending on the destination. If you are staying in non-eligible accommodation (an Airbnb, for example) or with friends or relatives, this card can be obtained for a few euros from the tourist office.
Different places have slightly varying names for the card, such as the Zurich Card, Cityticket Baden and Simmental Card. The offer is available in most major Swiss cities as well as some villages and mountain resorts. With this system, the only ticket you need to pay for is for your journey on the day of arrival to reach your accommodation.
The guest card also comes with a lot of other benefits, including discounts for tourist attractions. In Zurich, you can take advantage of free or discounted admission to 43 museums. In Brienz, you get a free village tour and discounts on cable cars. If you stay in Diemtigtal, the Nature Park Card gives you access to free travel by PostBus and a surprise gift made of Diemtigtaler wood. Head to Basel and you’ll get free Wi-Fi and half-price city tours, while the Aargau Wellness Pass makes you eligible for 15% off thermal spa entrance fees.
The Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, in the south of the country, was the first to launch the guest card on a regional scale to promote more eco-friendly travel and develop sustainable tourism. The Ticino Ticket was introduced in 2017, shortly after the inauguration of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world's longest rail tunnel. Originally planned to last one year, the measure has been constantly renewed in the face of its success.
A few destinations in France have also introduced the guest card system. The best known is the one offered by the Chamonix Valley, which grants free access to the SNCF Mont Blanc Express train between Servoz and Vallorcine, as well as a reduction on the bus network and certain museums. Holidaymakers staying in Briançon, France’s highest city, benefit from a pass valid for unlimited journeys on city buses. In around 40 French cities, however, there is
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