Learn about seat reservations
We'll explain when you need seat reservations and how they work.
Seat reservations for Swiss trains
There are only a few trains in Switzerland that require a seat reservation: a few popular panoramic trains. All other trains can just be boarded with a rail pass or a ticket and do not need to be booked in advance. Check the timetable to see whether your train requires seat reservations.
If seat reservations are not required for your train, it may still be possible to book a seat. We recommend not to do so to be flexible, unless you're traveling in a group and want to be sure you can sit together.
Seat reservations for international trains
Most trains from surrounding countries to Switzerland do require seat reservations. You can check the timetable whether that applies to your train too.
The difference between tickets, passes and seat reservations
Essentially you pay for two "services" when you travel by train:
The ride. You pay for that through a point to point ticket or a rail pass. You don't need a ticket if you have a pass. You don't need a pass if you have a ticket. Of course, this only applies to passes for free traveling, not to passes for discounted traveling;
The seat. As stated, seat reservations are required for most international trains but not for most Swiss trains.
The ride and the seat are completely separate components. You can purchase a ticket/pass and a seat reservation together, or you can do so separately. So you don't need have a rail pass at hand to purchase a seat reservation. If you buy a point to point ticket, the seat reservation is usually included if the train requires it.
How to use seat reservations
The coach number, seat number and departure date and time of the train can be found on your seat reservation ticket. Train stations have displays indicating the train composition, allowing you to walk to the correct section of the platform (e.g. platform 5, section C) before train arrival. Seat numbers can be found in the train, either over the window or on the seats. Especially mind the coach number, as a train has multiple seats with the same number. It's the coach number that makes them unique (coach 3 seat 22 is different from coach 5 seat 22, for example).