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How easy are Swiss train stations to navigate?

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Posts: 13
Camerons
Camerons
2 posts
new member
Dec 3, 2019 - 6:47 AM

My husband and I, both retired, want to travel Switzerland and Austria by train but I am find the logistics of it all a bit intimidating. We live in South Africa, speak only English and are not familiar with trains or stations in Europe. Are the train stations easy to find your way around and when you have to change trains would that be simple to find the next train. I will probably get a Flexi Rail pass as we will be spending a total of 20 days starting and ending at Zurich Airport.

rockoyster
rockoyster
7837 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2019 - 7:32 AM in reply to Camerons

Hello Cameron’s and and Welcome to MySwissAlps,

The stations are super easy to navigate. Zurich may be an exception but even that is easy if you allow yourself the time. Language is just not an issue.

I live in Australia and had never been on a train in 30 years when we first visited Switzerland in 2017.

It really is the best public transport system in the world.

I am a big fan of the SBB Mobile app (bit.ly/2ICIUHi) for checking train, bus, boat and cable way timetables, finding fares* and buying tickets on-line if required. In the unlikely event you don’t have a device capable of running the app then you can use the timetable on the SBB website (bit.ly/2HH1U7B). If you are not familiar with using the timetable it will pay to first read the instructions at www.myswissalps.com/ti metable.

* The SBB website shows half-fare prices by default, the mobile app allows you to nominate whether to show full or half-fares (by editing the passenger details in settings) and is also smart enough to offer you the Saver Day Pass (www.myswissalps.com/sa verdaypass) if that offers the best fare. The app can also display a platform map (at least at the larger stations) to help you make connections. You can also easily filter modes of transport (eg bus or ship).

Based on your personal itinerary you should read “How to choose the best travel pass” (www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/ticketspasses/prac tical/chooserailpass), download the handy spreadsheet calculator and do the math. The spreadsheet also includes links to the “Where it's valid" page for all available passes. Be sure to check those pages for each pass you are considering. Study the map AND read all the text on those pages to fully understand what is covered by the respective pass.

Steph
Steph
2020 posts
top member &
moderator
Dec 3, 2019 - 7:45 AM in reply to Camerons

Hello Camerons,

Nice to hear you're coming to spend such a long time in Switzerland.

The SBB also provides really nice overviews of most major train stations in the country. Check out below link and just type the station you're looking for. For some you will even find printable or digital maps of the station, allowing you to get an idea of the place.
- www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/railway-stations/further-stations.html

Additionally you will practically always find somebody to ask for support, who speaks English. I generally think shop staff is very helpful there as they tend to know "their" station well.

You'll be fine.

Find more helpful links for your mentioned plans below:
- www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/practical/howtotra vel
- www.myswissalps.com/tr aintickets/austria
- www.myswissalps.com/sw isstravelpassflex
- www.myswissalps.com/ai rports/zurich

Best,
Steph

Last modified on Dec 3, 2019 - 7:46 AM by Steph
Steph
Steph
2020 posts
top member &
moderator
Dec 3, 2019 - 7:52 AM in reply to rockoyster

Rockoyster, mate, may I ask you a favour.

Can you please take out a "space" in your paragraph "I am a big fan of the SBB Mobile app (bit.ly/2ICIUHi) for checking train, bus, boat and cable way timetables, finding fares* and buying tickets on-line if required. In the unlikely event you don’t have a device capable of running the app then you can use the timetable on the SBB website (bit.ly/2HH1U7B). If you are not familiar with using the timetable it will pay to first read the instructions at www.myswissalps.com/ti metable.

between the T and the I of timetable when copying the link a space is added (why I don't know) which I have to remove every time. Could you crosscheck that in the future before posting?! With the space the link doesn't work.

Thanks.
Steph :)

rockoyster
rockoyster
7837 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2019 - 8:27 AM in reply to Steph

👍🏻

Steph
Steph
2020 posts
top member &
moderator
Dec 3, 2019 - 10:03 AM in reply to rockoyster

Thanks a million!

CabinJon
CabinJon
67 posts
active member
Dec 3, 2019 - 1:43 PM in reply to Camerons

Glad you’re going to Switzerland! It is a delightful country to visit. We spent 15 days there in October and had no problems finding our way around at the train stations. Bigger stations like Zurich& Lucerne have large display boards indicating train departure times and platforms, smaller stations have smaller boards or displays for each track. All platforms are well marked as are directions to other platforms. You will quickly get the hang of it. Many of the smaller stations only have a few platforms so it is easy. English was never a problem.

As Rockoyster pointed out, the SBB mobile app is invaluable. We downloaded it to our mobile phone and iPad, and used it often. It is especially handy for those times when you want to linger somewhere and determine when the next train or boat will depart; it is also handy for when you want to leave earlier than expected or take another route back.

We also used the Traveler’s WiFi while there to provide Internet access for the phone/iPad while traveling around the country. It worked everywhere we went.

We flew in to and out of Zurich and stayed there the first and last night. We had a 15 day Swiss Travel Pass so we used that for airport to downtown trains, but if you don’t want to use a Pass for that, the fare between the main Zurich train station and airport is pretty cheap.

No help on Austria, we’ve never been there. Have a great time! I know we did.

Camerons
Camerons
2 posts
new member
Dec 5, 2019 - 5:42 AM

Thanks everyone for the responses. We are going to give it a go - the worst that can happen is we miss a train so we will just catch the next one. Very excited about our Swiss Adventure.

rockoyster
rockoyster
7837 posts
expert
Dec 5, 2019 - 5:51 AM in reply to Camerons

That's the spirit. Enjoy. 😎

Ildiko
Ildiko
477 posts
top member &
moderator
Dec 5, 2019 - 6:25 AM in reply to Camerons

Great! This is one of the main advantages of the Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Travel Pass Flex - you stay flexible with it. Have fun and enjoy your holiday! I wish you the best.

Malicia
Malicia
4 posts
new member
Dec 5, 2019 - 3:46 PM

Like you, I speak only English and my second language is not used in Europe. Download the sbb app. It is so convenient and gives you multiple options and times. The train system is also plentiful. I don't think I've waited more than 30 minutes for a train and they run very late into the evening. Quite a change from when I used the system in England.

The app will tell you what platform you are existing onto and which one you need to find. The caveat is be prepared to hustle if you have a short connection.

disantor
disantor
21 posts
new member
Dec 5, 2019 - 4:09 PM

Swiss trains are some of the most efficient I've ever been on! English is fine to get around and people are generally helpful. I've also been in Austria but typically on German or Swiss trains passing through or a Vienna connection - again, should be no problem but I don't know about their apps.

You have received great advice. I just wanted to second or third the SBB app.

The SBB app gives you the platform of arrival and platform of departure of your next train. You will need it for quick connections (as tight as 4 minutes, 6 platforms away). This is very important. It can be overwhelming or a bit stressful (for me) when I arrive and transfer in 5 minutes or less -- with many trains and platforms in the larger stations and I'm going from platform 3 to platform 9 for example (down the ramp, down the corridor, up the ramp). Connections can be TIGHT. Be ready, know where you need to be, and transition quickly. The SBB app helps you do that.

That said, if you miss a connection -- there is likely another train going EXACTLY where you need -- within an hour. So, if you miss the connection, there *will* be another train. But, again, the SBB app is the most efficient way to know what platform the NEXT train is going to depart from.

I take screen shots of the SBB train options and departure/arrival platforms so that if Wifi isn't available, I have a picture from the SBB app of the trains/platforms that I may need. The SBB Free Wifi doesn't work with my US phone number (I never get the SMS confirmation code), but we can often find WIFI in businesses or visitors centers in the larger stations. A WIFI option described above would be best.

Safe travels.

Ildiko
Ildiko
477 posts
top member &
moderator
Dec 5, 2019 - 6:39 PM in reply to disantor

Hi there,

it so good to read these positive experiences on the Swiss trains.

Just a short addition to anyone, who is interested. If you need a reliable Internet connection while traveling in Switzerland, check the Travelers Wifi at www.myswissalps.com/simcard.

@Disantor, maybe next time if you're spending your holiday in Switzerland you can try it.

Last modified on Dec 5, 2019 - 6:41 PM by Ildiko

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