If you are planning a trip to Switzerland, consider making use of what is perhaps the best public transportation system in existence. The 60 or so railway companies, about 75 five bus companies, 10 boat companies, and the urban transport companies of 35 cities offer the user a total transportation system.
You can take advantage of this system even before you leave your home. It is possible to check your bags from your home city directly to a railway station in Switzerland.
Or, if you prefer, when you arrive at one of the Swiss airports (Geneva or Zurich) you pick up your bags, load them onto a baggage cart, and proceed, by escalator, to the railway station. Yes, both Zurich and Geneva airports are on the Swiss rail system. Most major destinations are connected with direct rail service to these airports, so you may not even have to change trains.
There are essentially three levels of train services in Switzerland (and most of Europe for that matter).
Most trains run hourly, but some run every half hour. For example, the IC trains between Bern, the capital, and Zurich, the financial center, run half-hourly – and in addition to the Inter-Regio and Local trains.
At major centers, a bus depot, next to the train station, services overland buses that connect to places that are not serviced by the rail lines.
Urban buses and streetcars also have a major transfer point at the train station.
Individual full-fare tickets are rather expensive, so I highly recommend one of the following tickets available to visitors only:
These tickets are available from your own travel agent, or they can be purchased in Switzerland from any major railway station. If you have children, be sure to ask for a free Swiss Travel System Family Card. It entitles children up to the age of 16 to travel free, as long as at least one parent is accompanying them.
The Swiss Pass is your ideal companion for day trips and excursions, allowing stops for sightseeing or walking, easy or strenuous cycling and hiking.
Switzerland has tens of thousands of well marked trails all over the country. With the public transport system you never have to back track; there is always something to transport you home from your destination. You can select from excellent, level, ambling walks to strenuous up and down mountain hikes. On many mountain trails, some railway will take you up one side, you walk along a ridge or over a pass, and a Postal bus will take you down the other side.
Maps are available for all areas of the country. Markers indicate the approximate time to destination, with yellow signs indicating easy ambling in your Sunday shoes, and red and white signs indicating proper hiking shoes are required.
Cycling trails are marked with red sign posts. For an extra fee, you can take your bike onto most trains, so you can elect to cycle only part of the way. Bicycles can also be rented at most railway stations.
When you are ready to fly home you can check in your bags at the local station for a fee, then you don't have to worry about them until you arrive back home.