The SBB (Swiss Federal Railway) is our national railway company and generally the favourable way of transportation. It is normally quite expensive if you don't take advantage of special offers like Gleis 7 or Halbtax. Their use is recommended and are explained in detail below.
Also, check out the SBB Homepage. It is crucial for planning your trips within Switzerland. On the page, you can search for not only SBB trains but also local buses, trams and ships. So you can enter the bus stop in front of your house and some tiny village in the alps and you will be shown connections in detail.
Halbtax (Half-Fare travelcard)
The Halbtax reduces in general the normal prices to a half. It is valid for a year on trains and on local buses, trams and ships and costs 185 CHF. It might be already worth getting one if you are only here for a semester. For example, if you visit Geneva, Berne and Basel once, it is already worth it. You can use it as well for Zurich's local transportation system.
The Gleis 7 (en: "Track 7") is a very useful addition to the Half fare card. With it you can use almost all trains in Switzerland for free after 7 pm. You can get it if you're younger than 25 for 129 CHF. By planning your trips accordingly and travelling after seven o'clock, you can save a lot of money with this card.
General Abonnement (GA)
The General Abonnement is a travel card which allows you to travel on SBB trains and most other railways in Switzerland. The GA comes with an annual bill or a monthly bill. The minimum contract duration is 4 months in both cases. There are reduced prices for students up to 30 years old. It's probably only worth it if you plan to travel a lot.
Day travel card
A special offer is the “Tageskarte Gemeinde”. It's a day travel card which you can get from your municipality and the prices of these cards are normally lower than the regular day travel cards. Each municipality has a limited amount of those travel cards, so you should order them well ahead of time. Here is a list of communities where you can buy the “Tageskarte Gemeinde”.
VBZ (Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich) vbz.ch is the company running local transport in and around Zurich. The canton of Zurich is divided in different Zones. Depending on the number of Zones you want to travel in you need to buy a different ticket. The most important zones for you will be:
- Zone 110: It contains the city of Zurich and its surroundings. It counts as 2 zones.
- Zone 120: Winterthur. It counts as 2 zones as well.
- Zone 121: The Zone where the airport of Zurich is in.
You can either get single tickets or monthly/yearly tickets. If you have a monthly/yearly ticket for certain zones and you want to travel to another zone, you have to get an additional ticket (zone upgrades). Remember that zones 110 and 120 count as two zones.
Single Tickets can be purchased from ticket machines.
A single ticket for 1-2 zones costs 4.40 CHF (3.10 CHF if you have a Half-Fare travelcard). A day card for one zone costs 8.80 CHF (6.20 CHF).
Monthly or yearly ticket
It is recommended to get a monthly or yearly ticket. You can get them at train stations or ZVV ticket selling places.
If you wish to use the night buses, you need besides of your standard ticket a night supplement for CHF 5. You can buy them at every ticket machine or by SMS. If you open a student banking account from the Zurich Cantonal Bank (ZKB) you can get a night supplement by their app for free (Link (only in German)).
Bring your own car
Getting around in Zurich by car is not very convenient. Especially finding a parking lot is annoying and fines are pretty expensive. It can be useful though to get around in Switzerland. After being registered at the Kreisbüro, you can get an allowance for blue zone parking. This costs you 20 CHF per month or 180 CHF per year. You can get your personal parking spot, but this might be very expensive (ranging from 100 – 300 CHF/month).
To be allowed to use highways you need to buy a so-called “Autobahn-Vignette”. It costs 40 CHF and is valid for a year. You have to switch to a Swiss licence plate and apply for a Swiss driving licence after having lived in Switzerland for more than one year.
Zurich is a rather small city with many bicycling lanes. During weeks there are no night buses and taxis are expensive. Bikes are therefore a good thing to have. You should be aware though that not all parts of Zurich are flat.
Rent a bike
You can rent bikes in Zurich for free. Just go to one of the Zürirollt locations leave an ID and 20 CHF deposit and get your bike. If you keep the bike overnight it will cost 10 CHF otherwise it's free.
Buy a bike
- New or second hand?
You can find new bikes for around 200 CHF or even cheaper. But in this case what you pay is what you get. These bikes are normally very low quality. It is recommended to get a second hand one.
- Check before buying!
- 1st - Ride the bike to check if the size is appropriate and you feel comfortable with it.
- 2nd - While riding, test the brakes and gears.
- 3rd - Check all the bearings. Check the pedals and the steering bearings if they are not loose.
- 4th - Check the tires for cracks and too few profile.
- Insurance: Make sure your personal insurance also covers bike accidents.
- Where to get a second hand bike?
- Velobörse, a 2nd hand bike market, where you can sell or buy bikes. Check the web page of the organiser for places and dates: Link (only German).
- The weekly market at Helvetiaplatz: every Saturday morning; have a good look around and try to bargain.