Switzerland’s central location in Europe makes it convenient for international flights. Intercontinental Zurich Airport (ZRH; www.zurich-airport.com) and Geneva’s Genève Aéroport (GVA; www.gva.ch) can be reached in less than 8 hours from North America’s east coast with daily flights. Both have rail stations right in the airports. No airlines fly nonstop to Switzerland from Australia, but several have service with just one stop. Zurich Airport has outstanding family facilities such as toys, cribs, microwaves, and more. There’s also an outdoor observation deck with a playground (5CHF adults, 2CHF kids 10–16, kids 9 and under free. Note that it’s before security for flights, but a separate security check is required to enter, and no large luggage is permitted).
Arriving from points in Europe, EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL; www.euroairport.com) expands the possibilities, with a good number of flights daily from London and the continent. Lugano Airport (LUG; www.luganoairport.ch) also has connections from Zurich.
Once you’re in Switzerland, your best bet for travel between cities is the train or car. In most cases, these will have you at your destination at least as quickly as flying, when you account for check-in and security. If you do want to fly within the country, Swiss (www.swiss.com; tel. 0848/700-700) offers connections throughout Switzerland and worldwide.
Tips for Finding Good Airfare
Book at the right time. It sounds odd, but you can save a good amount by booking domestic airfares 57 days in advance of departure. That figure comes from a study of 23 million airfare transactions that an industry group called the Airlines Reporting Corporation undertook in 2018. Book earlier than that, and you won’t have access to the lowest-priced seats, as the airlines only release them when they have an idea of how the plane is selling. Book too close to departure, and the airline knows they’ve “got you” and will charge more. As well, according to that same study, it was found that travelers who purchased their tickets on a Sunday or Saturday spent 19 percent less than those who did so on a weekday. Our guess why? Because corporate travel agents don’t tend to work on weekends, which would mean that the lion’s share of bookings on weekends are from leisure travelers, a group the airlines are more likely to try and woo with lower fares (it’s assumed that business travelers have to travel and so discounts are rarely offered to them).
Fly when others don’t and take an itinerary the business travelers don’t want. Those who fly Sunday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and who stay over a Saturday night, generally pay less than those who fly at more popular times.
Do a smart Web search. Search engines such as Momondo.com and Skyscanner.net will search all of the discount sites as well as the airline sites directly, so that you get a broader and more impartial search.
Don’t be particular about airports. If one airport offers a substantially lower fare, it might be worth it to fly there and take a train to your intended destination.
Shop the seasons. Low-season airfares usually apply from November to mid-December and late December through March. Fares are slightly higher during shoulder season (Apr and May, and mid-Sept through Oct). High-season fares apply around June to mid-September.
The country is at the crossroads of Europe—many rail lines, road passes, and mountain tunnels lead to it. You can even drive all the way from Britain to Switzerland through Belgium or the Netherlands and then Germany, or—more expensively—by crossing the English Channel from Calais via tunnel, ferry, or Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) train. British drivers tend to prefer the former rather than paying expensive toll charges in France.
Cars travelling across borders must have a sticker or magnet with the abbreviation of the country where they’re registered. Switzerland’s abbreviation is CH for Confoederatio Helvetica, its Latin name.
Zurich is a major rail hub, with many links to major European cities. You can catch direct trains to Zurich from Germany (Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg) via Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.com), from Austria (Graz, Salzburg, Vienna; www.oebb.at), Italy via EuroCity Italia (Milan, Venice; www.trenitalia.com), and France (Paris, or Marseille to Geneva; www.tgv-lyria.com). The SBB (www.sbb.ch; tel. 0848/44-66-88), Switzerland’s train operator, also sells tickets for these routes.
TNightjet (www.nightjet.com) runs overnight sleeper trains to Zurich and Basel through Austria, one originating in Zagreb and another in Budapest. Overnight routes also carry passengers to Berlin and Hamburg. Prices start from 29€ per person for a seat if you book ahead (up to 180 days is permitted); tickets in sleeper cars (highest category) or couchettes cost more, and specially configured group or family couchette cabins start from 199€.
Bus fare can be a bargain compared to many train tickets. Deutsche Bahn’s IC Bus (www.bahn.com) runs a route from Prague to Zurich via Munich. One-way fare starts around 30€ for a Super Sparticket. Another option is Flixbus (www.flixbus.com), which connects to numerous Swiss cities from diverse stations around Europe.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.