Friday, January 30, 2015

Swiss Travel Pass celebrates its 25th anniversary

The Bernina Express goes over, under, around and through a circular viaduct  (wikipedia)
SWITZERLAND Throughout the ages four inventions have altered the course of history; the wheel, the printing press, the computer and the Swiss Travel Pass.

Switzerland’s intricate rail system has been operating for more than a century, but the rail pass, a youngster by comparison, celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2015. For travelers the Swiss Travel System is the Mona Lisa of rail transportation.

Golden Pass between Lucerne and Montreux  (wikipedia)
Put away that American concept of renting a car for the ultimate independent travel experience and leave it at home. In Switzerland, trains, and their sister forms of transportation, can get you anywhere you need to go fast, efficiently, on time and without any hassles. It is truly travel perfection.

Veteran travel writer and author Paul Theroux once wrote about the “optimism” of rail travel, but until you try it yourself, it may be difficult to understand his meaning. In Switzerland a rail pass is somewhat of a misnomer. What you actually have is a key that unlocks an entire transportation network that operates like a precision Swiss watch.

For travelers that translates into the ultimate travel adventure.

Lauterbrunnen Falls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley of the Bernese Oberland  (wikipedia)
Not only does a Swiss Travel Pass provide unlimited access to the Swiss national rail system, it is also valid for hundreds of private rail companies. The key however, is the multitude of bonus services that frequently go unnoticed by users who may think they are only purchasing a rail pass.
Lake steamer on the Lake of Lucerne

In Switzerland, the Swiss Travel Pass is also good for all public transportation in more than 75 cities. In addition, you can use it for boats, lake steamers, postal buses, funiculars and some cable cars. Excursions to mountaintop regions such as the Schilthorn, Jungfraujoch or the Brienzer-Rothorn train offer discounts ranging between 25 and 50 percent.

In other words a Swiss Travel Pass is good for practically any transportation need you have within its completely synchronized system.
Castle of Chillon on Lake Geneva  (wikipedia)

But here’s the kicker that adds even greater value to the ticket. A Swiss Travel Pass is valid for free admission to nearly 500 museums throughout the country.

Among the outings that can be done for free with a Swiss Travel Pass is the historic train to the top of the Rigi. Situated along the shores of the Lake of Lucerne, Mark Twain described the Rigi in his book Innocents Abroad.

Also featured with the pass are classic Swiss rail journeys such as the Golden Pass between Lucerne and Montreux and the Centovalli Railway which begins in Switzerland before it tiptoes into Italy and ends in Domodossola.
Centovalli Railway en route to Locarno, Switzerland  (wikipedia)
One of the most recent additions to the pass is a combination rail/boat trip on Lake Constance where the boat also travels along the Rhine River.

Spectacular scenery abounds with all forms of transportation with a Swiss Travel Pass
Children under 16 ride free if they are traveling with at least one parent and Intercity trains also feature playgrounds for the little ones. Older passengers may even find a Starbucks coffee car on a couple of selected trains.

Even the famed Jungfraujoch has opened a chocolate shop in the highest railway station in Europe.

On Golden Pass Classic trains riders can experience a wine tasting while coasting through rolling countryside.

The Swiss have even added an hour of free Wi-Fi in many railway stations throughout the country.
Swiss funiculars are another way to climb mountains  (wikipedia)
The popular excursion to Mount Titlis now features a rotating cable car and new gondolas have been added to the mountain outing to Pilatus. Pilatus, which opened in 1889, also features the steepest rack railway in the world.

Opening in early 2016, the 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel will become the longest and deepest railway tunnel in the world cutting travel time between northern and southern Europe through the St. Gotthard pass to 2 hours and 50 minutes. At speeds of nearly 150-miles per hour, travelers will enjoy the novelty of burrowing 8,000 feet, or one-and-a-half vertical miles beneath the surface of the earth.
Glacier Express over the Landwasser Viaduct  (wikipedia)

The Swiss Travel System allows travelers the option of purchasing consecutive day passes or passes with flexible choices. There are also Grand Train Tours lasting 4 to 8 days in which visitors are able to travel according to a predetermined itinerary. Grand Train Tours also include hotel accommodations.

Finally, just to demonstrate Swiss ingenuity and ease for travelers, there are three levels of luggage service. One of the drawbacks of rail travel is the difficulty of traveling with luggage. In Switzerland, you can check your bags in many railway stations before 9 a.m., travel throughout the day without your luggage and then pick up your bags at your next station by 4 in the afternoon or sooner.
Glacier Express traveling through misty snow covered mountains  (wikipedia)
For comfort, convenience and the “optimism” of rail travel, the Swiss Travel System has it all. For more information contact the Swiss National Tourist Office or Rail Europe.

You won’t be disappointed. All it takes is a little training.