How to Catch a Switzerland Train

The Bernina Express

If you’re going to catch a Switzerland train, it may seem like a daunting task. Especially if public transport isn’t your typical or favorite mode of transport. Have no fear, at Alpenwild, we are here to help you feel confident in your ability to ride the trains in Switzerland.

Pre-Trip Tips

You’ve booked your flights and the Alpenwild Trip Specialist has sent you your itinerary – now what? Well we can tell you you’ll most likely need to catch a train after your flight. (I know, we sometimes wish it was zzz’s instead of trains – but you’ve come so far and there’s things to do and places to see!) To prepare for your first Switzerland train ride, I recommend the following:

  1. Pack your tickets in your carry-on. As a tour operator, we feel like we’ve seen it all. Some people have packed their Switzerland train tickets in their checked luggage, which got lost. At this time, our train tickets are physical and cannot be electronically sent or replaced. Keep your paper train tickets accessible in your carry on so they are ready to use when you arrive in Switzerland.
  2. Pack a pen to keep handy with your ticket. Your ticket is only valid for a certain number of days. You do not want to write the dates in all at once. If you mess up, you may miss a day to ride the trains.
  3. Download the SBB app. The SBB app was created by the Swiss Federal Railways and the SBB comes from the German form of Swiss Federal Railways, Schweizerische Bundesbahnen. It is easy to use and will simplify your rail journey. After you’ve downloaded it, familiarize yourself with it. Here are some tips.

Off the Plane

It has been quite a few hours since you left home. You’ve caught at least one, two, maybe three flights to get to Switzerland, but you’ve made it! THe adventure has begun. Once you step off the plane:

gleis sign
Follow the symbols and gleis/platform numbers.
  1. Proceed to the trains. After you exit the plane, proceed to customs, and pick up your luggage, simply follow the blue signs to the trains. 
  2. Use the SBB app. It will help you determine where you are and what train to take to your next destination. The app will also help you discover what platform/track (gleis) you should be on to catch your train. Be aware that trains only open their doors on one side. Be sure to verify that you’re on the right platform.
  3. Write in the current date. As you wait for your train and before you get on the train, use your handy pen to write the current date in the first available space on your ticket. Keep that ticket and your passport safe, but handy. Conductors often come by to check tickets.
  4. Switzerland trains are on time, every time. The departure time you see in the SBB app is the time the train is pulling out. It is best to be on the train 2 minutes early. If you miss a train, don’t worry. Another should be by soon.

On the Train

Once you’ve made it on to the train, sit back relax and enjoy. I will say though, Swiss trains are different than American public transportation. In a good way. Here are some tips to fit in like a local:

  1. Sit in the right class. First Class is signified by the number one on the seat head pieces and usually the color red. Second Class is signified by the number two and usually blue and turquoise seats. To avoid any awkward moments, sit in the Class that is listed on your ticket. (Note: First Class isn’t always at the front of the train – sometimes it is in the middle or back of the train.)
  2. Keep your feet off the seats. Swiss people are extremely clean. Putting feet up where people sit is considered to be disrespectful. If you must absolutely put your feet up, put a piece of newspaper on the seat, remove your shoes and rest them on the newspaper covered seat.
  3. Avoid eating on the train. Unless you’re in a meal car, it can be disrespectful to eat in public. Eating in public shows you didn’t plan ahead, causes the seats to get dirty and strong smells can be unpleasant to others.
  4. Talk quietly. Swiss people generally keep to themselves and do not care for small talk. If you must talk, do so quietly and don’t ask an individual what their occupation is. The Swiss work to live, they do not enjoy being defined by their work position.

The bottom line of Switzerland train etiquette is respect. Swiss people are clean and respectful of those around them – you can see evidence of this wide-spread mindset as you travel across the country. Enjoy the cleanliness and respectful atmosphere of fascinating Switzerland and ride the trains like a local!


Don’t have an Alpenwild trip booked yet? You might enjoy one of these tours:

Emily Jones
Latest posts by Emily Jones (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for Our Email Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest Alpenwild news. You're free to opt out at any time.