Switzerland Country Profile - Travel
Switzerland prides itself on its well-maintained motorway network, with many roads offering dramatic Alpine views from the car window. The highly efficient and extensive Swiss rail network means that driving is the secondary choice of transport, leaving the roads congestion-free and something of a driver’s paradise.
Those who choose to drive must purchase a Swiss Vignette sticker to use the country’s motorways (Autobahnen/Autoroutes/Autostrade). The sticker, used in place of toll fees, can be purchased at any service station, post office or at customs offices at a cost of CHF 40 (£26.76). The vignette is placed on your windscreen and is valid for 14 months. Beware that being caught without one can incur a hefty fine. Speed limits on Swiss roads are 120km/h (75mph) on motorways and 50 km/h (30mph) in built up areas. Bear in mind that driving in Switzerland can be treacherous in winter conditions and in mountainous areas - so taking the train or bus is a good choice for the faint of heart!
Travelling by taxi costs significantly more than using public transport system in Switzerland. Fares are generally based on a flat fee plus a rate per kilometre, with waiting charges where applicable. You can pre-book by phone or find taxis at most major transport hubs.
Rail travel is generally the first choice of public transport in Switzerland, however there is also an extensive bus network which provide regional and rural services throughout the country. The most famous Swiss bus network is the iconic PostBus, so-named for its history of carrying both passengers and mail, which connects some of the more remote places in Switzerland. PostBuses - carrying 141million passengers each year - can be recognized by their trademark yellow colour and three-tone horn.
Coach travel is an economical and comfortable way to get around Switzerland although journey times can be much longer than train travel, particularly on rural and mountainous roads. Swiss coaches are a popular choice with backpackers and visitors travelling from neighbouring European countries and can be booked cheaply through Eurolines (http://www.eurolines.com/en/countries/switzerland/)
Switzerland has the densest and most efficient rail network in Europe. Trains are operated by the Swiss Federal Railways (and other privately-owned companies) and comprise rapid intercity routes and smaller suburban and commuter lines. The country is famous for its tourist rail networks such as the Glacier Express train which runs between St Moritz and Zermatt, taking in untouched mountain landscapes, deep gorges and beautiful valleys along its one-day route. One of the most economical ways to use all public transport in Switzerland is to purchase a Swiss Travel System Pass, which allows unlimited travel by rail, bus or boat (see above) for periods of one month to one year. Lausanne is currently the only city in Switzerland to have a metro system, which consists of two lines.
Trams and light rail
The cities of Zurich, Basel, Bern, Geneva and Lausanne all have tram or light rail networks which offer a cheap and eco-friendly way to get around. The Swiss Travel System Pass can be used on tram and light rail transport.
Switzerland has three international airports, Zurich-Kloten, Geneva and Basel-Mulhouse which serve destinations all over the world. Domestic air travel is fast (45-minute journey time between Geneva and Zurich) but expensive - most people prefer to travel by rail or road around Switzerland and to its neighbouring countries. Domestic flights can be booked through SWISS. The largest international airlines are Swiss International Airlines and the German carrier Lufthansa, which both use Zurich as their main hub.
Other ways to get around
Switzerland offers the most comprehensive public transport system in the world. Most visitors choose to take the train but the country also has a network of boats, ferries, lake steamers, funiculars and cable cars. If you are not in a rush, it is possible to reach Switzerland by lake paddle steamer along the Rhine from Germany, France and Italy, with all routes offering spectacular mountain views and luxury accommodation. Cycling is also a national passion and Switzerland is crisscrossed by nine national cycling routes totalling over 1,600 miles.