Switzerland Insider

Switzerland Insider

Traveling by train in Switzerland is a fantastic way to see the country’s breathtaking landscapes and efficient public transport system. But do you really need to reserve a seat? The answer is not always straightforward, and it largely depends on the type of train you’re taking and your personal travel preferences. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of seat reservations on Swiss trains.

Inside a Swiss train. Train seats.

Do I Need to Reserve a Seat on Swiss Trains?

For most regular Swiss trains, like the SBB InterCity or InterRegio services, seat reservations are typically not required. These trains operate on a first-come, first-served basis, allowing you the flexibility to hop on and off without worrying about reservations. Just grab your ticket or pass, and you’re good to go.

However, there are some exceptions, particularly for scenic and international trains where reserving a seat can significantly enhance your travel experience or might even my mandatory to access.

Types of Trains and Their Reservation Policies

Regular Swiss Trains

For regular trains that operate within Switzerland, you generally don’t need a seat reservation. This applies to the majority of SBB trains, including InterCity and InterRegio services. These trains are frequent, reliable, and have ample seating. You can usually find a spot without any hassle, especially if you avoid peak travel times. If you are in need of a seat because of your physical condition, then most of the Swiss will vacate theirs in order for you to ride in comfort.

If you wish to reserve a seat though it costs CHF 5 per seat.

Scenic Trains

If you’re planning to take one of Switzerland’s famous scenic train routes, like the Bernina Express or Glacier Express, seat reservations in addition to the regular ticket are mandatory. These trains are popular for their stunning panoramic views and can get quite busy, particularly during the tourist season. By reserving a seat in advance, you ensure you get to enjoy the journey in comfort, with the best possible views.

Seat Reservation Costs for Scenic Trains in Switzerland

  • Glacier Express: Madnatory seat reservations (in addition to rail fare) for the Glacier Express typically cost CHF 49 in 1st and 2nd class. Seat reservation Glacier Express

  • Bernina Express: Mandatory seat reservations (in addition to rail fare) for the Bernina Express generally cost up to CHF 36 per seat. Seat reservation Bernina Express

Train Restaurants

You can reserve the seats or a table in the restaurants on the train. On larger trains that cover longer distances, there are on-board restaurants that serve Bistro-style food. More on restaurants on Swiss trains

Internatinal Trains

When traveling to or from Switzerland on international routes, such as the EuroCity or TGV, seat reservations are often required. These trains are busy, and seats can fill up quickly. Booking a seat in advance not only guarantees you a place but also often includes added perks like more legroom and access to power outlets.

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How to Reserve a Seat


The easiest way to reserve a seat on a Swiss train is through online platforms like the SBB website or other travel booking sites. You can select your journey, choose your preferred seat, and complete the reservation with a few clicks.

Mobile App

For on-the-go convenience, use the SBB Mobile app. It allows you to book seats, check schedules, and even manage your tickets directly from your smartphone. This is particularly handy for last-minute travel plans.

At the Station

If you prefer in-person service, you can reserve a seat at any major train station in Switzerland. The staff can help you find the best options and ensure you have everything you need for your journey.

When to Reserve a Seat

While regular trains don’t usually require reservations, it’s a good idea to book a seat for scenic routes and international travel, especially during peak times or holidays. For popular scenic trains like the Glacier Express, it’s wise to reserve your seat as soon as you know your travel dates, as these trains can book up quickly.

Benefits of Reserving a Seat

Reserving a seat ensures that you’ll have a comfortable place to sit, especially on longer journeys or during busy travel times. It also allows you to select your preferred seating, such as a window seat with a great view. This can make your journey more enjoyable and less stressful, as you won’t have to worry about finding a spot once you’re on board.

Alternatives to Seat Reservations

If you’re the spontaneous type or simply prefer flexibility, you can easily travel without reserving a seat. Trains in Switzerland are frequent, and there’s usually ample seating available, especially outside peak travel hours. Just keep an eye on the schedules and try to avoid the busiest times of day.

FAQs About Seat Reservations

Do I really need to reserve a seat on Swiss trains? Generally, no. Regular trains do not require reservations, and you can usually find a seat. However, scenic and international trains often require reservations.

Can I travel without a reservation? Yes, you can travel without a reservation on most regular Swiss trains. Just buy a ticket or use your travel pass.

How much does a seat reservation cost? For regular trains, a seat reservation costs CHF 5. A reservation on the Glacier Express costs CHF 49.

When should I book my seat? For scenic and international trains, book as soon as you know your travel dates, especially during peak times or holiday seasons.

What if the train is full? If you don’t have a reservation, you may have to stand until a seat becomes available. It’s uncommon but can happen during rush hours.

How do I know if my train requires a reservation? Check the train’s timetable or booking information. Scenic and international trains usually indicate if reservations are needed.


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