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.


  1. Erma J
    Abilene, Texas
    July 25, 2012, 12:25 pm

    What a fantastic way to travel! Do you have to purchase “the ticket” before you go to Switzerland? Enjoy your columns very much. Thanks.

  2. Cathy Czoschke
    Fort Myers, FL
    July 25, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Andrew, Switzerland is a dream of mine and within too years I will be there. I would like to bike around and use a back pack and just keep going. Keep enjoying. The pictures I have seen are awesome. Thank you, Cathy

  3. Peter
    Swiss, currently in Florenc IT
    July 25, 2012, 11:36 pm

    Swiss trains are cool. We do not only heave them, but we also sell them worl wide. Swisstechnology can be found in trains fromt the company Bombardier and Stadler. Both companies have engeneering and production facilities in Switzerland and employee more than 1000 people. Design engeneers are always welcome!

    The train above is historic train of the Bloney – Chamby museum railroad. It ismade up of all cars from the Rhatic Railroad.

    For Bikers: look at You will find there information to well marked routes. My recommendation is to avoid the mountain passes as untrained biker … or be prepared to walk. Did you know that there are traffic counters on the Swissbike network.

  4. Zoe French
    Boston, MA
    July 26, 2012, 12:30 pm

    What a great way to see such a beautiful country! Have you done the math to see how much each train/tram/boat/etc trip ended up costing you? I’d be interested to see. Great tip–thanks, as always!

  5. Ruth
    July 26, 2012, 2:54 pm

    I also sing the praises of the Swiss Rail pass. I spent one month in Switzerland two summers ago and travelled extensively( although not as much as Andrew!) and the pass made this very easy. You can use it to get in to many museums either free or discount- I can’t remember which.

  6. Stefan
    July 28, 2012, 11:11 am

    To answer the question from Erma: Yes, you are obliged as a non-Swiss resident to purchase the pass prior to your arrival in Switzerland (btw Swiss resident can purchase the equivalent to a Swiss Pass called “General Abonnement” or GA in short).

    Looking at Andrew’s map and the regions he has not visited yet here are some more tips:

    1) St. Gallen/Appenzell region: still authentic Switzerland. St Gallen has a famous monastery. Further south the Säntis mountain area invites for gorgeous hikes.

    2) Heidiland: Directly south of Liechtenstein (next to the place of Sargans) Swiss Author Johanna Spyri spent her summer vacation and was inspired by the area to write her famous Heidi novels. Heidi eventually became another brand of Switzerland. Places that worship her memory are: Bad Ragaz, Maienfeld (the latter has a rather touristic Heidi Trail)

    3) Walensee region: Walensee (also belonging to Heidiland) is a picturesque mountain lake located on the foot of the Churfirsten range. South of Walensee the valley of Glarus offers more hiking and biking opportunities (recommended place: Braunwald) .

    4) Lake region Biel/Neuchatel: Home of the Swiss clock. The Jura mountain range is less known than the Alps but also worth a visit and offers plenty of hike/bike opportunities (e.g. Jura Rim Trail going from Zurich to Geneva)

  7. Jeff Dobbins
    New York, NY
    July 28, 2012, 1:56 pm

    What an amazing way to travel. How great to have the freedom to travel whenever/where ever one is inspired. And in such a stunning place. Thanks Stefan for the further info.

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  10. Christian Rene Friborg
    December 4, 2012, 10:01 pm

    Very nice! I really enjoy reading your adventures. Cheers on your next trips!

  11. Charlotte
    April 27, 2013, 8:00 am

    We used the Swiss Rail Pass in 2006 during our trip, it was great, we used the trains & bus, and it covered half of our cable car fares. Clean, timely, comfortable. We picked up the train at Zurich Airport. Want to come back!