Must-knows about the SwissPass, GA Travelcard and Half-Fare Travelcard

  • The SwissPass is a digital account for Swiss residents.
  • You don’t have to create a SwissPass account as a tourist. Nor do you have to add your rail pass to such an account.
  • The GA Travelcard is an annual or monthly rail subscription for the Swiss. It provides free train, bus and boat traveling.
  • The Half-Fare Travelcard is an annual subscription for people in Switzerland. It provides a 50% discount.
  • As a tourist, you can get some of these products. But this is usually not your best option.

SwissPass versus Swiss Travel Pass

What is the SwissPass?

The “SwissPass” is a digital account for Swiss citizens using public transport. There’s also a chip card, referred to as “SwissPass card”. The SwissPass account and card are entirely different from the Swiss Travel Pass used by tourists.

Is the SwissPass the same as the Swiss Travel Pass?

No, even though the names look alike.

The Swiss Travel Pass for tourists was called “Swiss Pass” until 2014. Then a few things changed:

  • The SwissPass account and card for Swiss residents were introduced.
  • To avoid having a “SwissPass” for Swiss people and a “Swiss Pass” for tourists, the name “Swiss Pass” was changed to “Swiss Travel Pass”.

This explains why some tourists still call the pass by its old name, and why it’s easy to confuse both products.

If you visit Switzerland as a tourist, it is the Swiss Travel Pass you need, or one of the other rail passes. The Swiss Travel Pass allows unlimited traveling throughout the entire country.

Do I need a SwissPass account in the SBB timetable?

Swiss residents can use a SwissPass account on the SBB timetable website and app.

As a tourist, you don’t need a SwissPass account. Simply ignore it if you’re asked for in the timetable. Just use your rail pass. If you need additional tickets, either regular or discounted, you can buy them without this account.

Should I add my Swiss Travel Pass (Flex) or Swiss Half Fare Card to a SwissPass account?

Swiss residents can upload or link travel products to their SwissPass account.

As a tourist, you don’t have to do that for the following reasons:

  • You don’t need a SwissPass as a tourist. It’s not required to study the timetable, find ticket prices, buy rail passes or buy tickets. You can do all of that without an account and on any website you prefer. Find more tips on where to buy your passes here.
  • Most tourist passes can not be linked to a SwissPass account.
  • A few tourist passes can theoretically be linked to a SwissPass account, but that takes some time as explained here, and it has no advantages. It’s not required to travel for free (with a Swiss Travel Pass) or to buy discounted tickets (with a Swiss Half Fare Card).

We recommend keeping things simple instead:

  • Most Swiss rail passes come as digital products with QR codes. Simply store them as a pdf on your phone. You can also add them to a digital wallet. If you want, you can print back-up copies.
  • Show the QR code of your digital pass, either on your phone or printed, when asked for.
  • If you need additional tickets, you can get them without an account. You don’t have to buy tickets through the SBB website or app either. There are many other options. Find out which ones we recommend here.

GA Travelcard versus Swiss Travel Pass

What is the GA Travelcard?

The GA Travelcard is a yearly or monthly subscription for the Swiss. ‘GA’ stands for the German word ‘GeneralAbo’ (‘general subscription’). It allows unlimited traveling by train and bus. There are discounts for mountain routes.

What’s the difference between the GA Travelcard and Swiss Travel Pass?

  • The Swiss Travel Pass is much easier to purchase than the GA Travelcard. Your Swiss Travel Pass will be delivered online in minutes and you don’t need to submit any additional documents as for the GA Travelcard.
  • The GA Travelcard does not include free entrance to museums.
  • The GA Travelcard offers discounts on trips to Germany and Austria, the Swiss Travel Pass doesn’t.

Can I get a GA Travelcard?

Frequent visitors from abroad are not excluded. The purchase process is more complex than that of the Swiss Travel Pass. We refer to the SBB website for details.

Half-Fare Travelcard versus Swiss Half Fare Card

What is the Half-Fare Travelcard?

The Half-Fare Travelcard offers a 50% discount on most Swiss public transport and is valid for 1 year or longer. It is primarily for residents of Switzerland.

The Swiss Half Fare Card is a similar 1-month version for tourists as outlined here.

What’s the difference between the Half-Fare Travelcard and Swiss Half Fare Card?

  • The Swiss Half Fare Card is much easier to purchase than the Half-Fare Travelcard. Your Swiss Half Fare Card will be delivered digitally and quickly. Additional documents are not required when purchasing the Swiss Half Fare Card. They are with the Half-Fare Travelcard.
  • The Half-Fare Travelcard is valid for at least 1 year, the Swiss Half Fare Card for 1 month.
  • There are differences when traveling to other countries. For example: the Swiss Half Fare Card does not offer discounted tickets to Austria and Germany.

Can I get a Half-Fare Travelcard?

The Half-Fare Travelcard is mainly for people living in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Frequent visitors can obtain one too. The purchase process takes longer than that of the Swiss Half Fare Card. Please visit the SBB website for details.

The EasyRide function in the Swiss timetable app

EasyRide is a function in the SBB app. It allows you to check in before your journey and check out once you’re done. The app tracks your route and lets you pay afterward.

EasyRide is mainly meant for Swiss residents. For most tourists, it’s not the best option. Even though the function promises to find the cheapest ticket for your journey, it does not include Saver Day Passes and Supersaver tickets. These can be much cheaper than normal tickets.

Moreover, traveling with a rail pass instead of normal tickets is often cheaper and more convenient for tourists.

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Page author: ArnoI have visited Switzerland countless times since 1997. I've explored most of the country, but find myself staying in the Bernese Oberland and Graubünden most frequently. The alps and the rail network remain very impressive, even after all these years.