By far the easiest way to zip around Switzerland is by rail. You can, of course, purchase tickets individually as needed, but I found that it was far more convenient to simply purchase a Swiss Travel Pass which allows unlimited travel by train, bus, and boat, unlimited use of public transportation in more than 90 towns, plus discounts and free admission to hundreds of museums! It is absolutely worth the cost! I purchased my ticket through RailEurope, but it can also be purchased through the official Swiss Rail site.
There are several different variations of this pass to choose from with different benefits based on your itinerary.
1st Class vs 2nd Class
Swiss trains are comfortable, so there’s not a significant difference between the two classes. A First Class carriage may have larger windows, more spacious seats and- most crucially- less competition for those seats, but in my experience these benefits are not worth the difference in price.
How long is a day anyway?
A Swiss Travel Pass gives you the option to choose between 3, 4, 8, and 15 day passes. These will allow you 24 hours of travel from midnight to 5am the following day. If you plan on traveling with great frequency you’ll want a pass with more days included.
Flex vs. Regular?
Let’s say you’ve considered your plans and selected a 4 day pass. The regular pass will allow you to travel for four continuous days. This will be useful if you plan on traveling daily or visiting for a short amount of time. A flexible pass is a little more expensive, but allows you to travel for four days within one month of your first day of travel. If you plan on spending a day or two in each location you visit- and perhaps walking rather than using public transport, this is the option for you!
In practice, the train platforms are divided into sectors. A big digital screen displays how big the upcoming train is, the sector in which the First Class carriage, Second Class carriage, Dining Carriage would end up so passengers can simply wait near their appropriate section in ensure easy boarding. The class of service is also painted in big numbers next to each carriage door so it’s simple find your class of service.
In my experience, Swiss trains have always been very clean and timely- an all around excellent way to make your way around the country.