One idea I am seeing popping up more and more is using the Saver Day Pass combined with the Half-Fare card as a cheaper alternative to the classic Swiss Travel Pass. (because if there was one thing the train system in Switzerland needs it is even more options to confuse travellers with…)
I mentioned this in my main post on the various train passes, but this is a bit of a deeper dive.
TLDR: Yes it can be if you are looking to travel Switzerland on a budget, but only for a limited number of travel days and if you buy it well in advance.
What is the idea?
The Saver Day Pass offered by the SBB essentially works like a one day Generalabonnement (ie a Swiss Travel Pass without the tourist extras). This gives you unlimited travel around the entire country for the whole day on the valid date – see this page on SBB.ch for a map of where it is valid.
These are released 6 months in advance and can be bought as standard full-fare or discounted with the half-Fare in both the first and second class. A limited number of passes are available at different price levels for each of the 4 options, with the cheapest being the reduced second class which start at 29 CHF (or 52 CHF without Half-Fare). The further ahead you buy them (or the less popular the date of travel) then the cheaper the ticket will be.
So for this ‘hack’ you would buy a Half-Fare pass to cover the period of your trip, and combine that with a Saver Day Pass for each day you would want to travel.
Note: You don’t need the Half-Fare pass already to buy the reduced Saver Day Pass tickets ahead of time, you just need a valid Half-Fare pass on the day of travel.
Does this work?
In some circumstances yes.
- If you can get the 29 CHF Saver Day Pass Tickets for every day of travel then it is 30-60 CHF cheaper compared to the 3-8 day Swiss Travel Pass offers (or up to 90 CHF cheaper compared to the Swiss Travel Pass Flex)
- The Saver Day Pass method is actually substantially more expensive than the 15 day Swiss Travel Pass.
- For 3 or 4 days the Saver Day Pass without Half-Fare is actually cheaper still (see the table below).
There are also downsides to this method:
- You don’t get the full benefit of the Swiss Travel Pass. No museums entries are included, and the mountaintop cable cars that are included with the Swiss Travel Pass might only be reduced with the Saver Day Pass. This might not be of interest to everyone, but given how tight the difference in cost can be this could be a big negative for some people.
- You need to be sure of your travel days far in advance. If you don’t get the cheapest Day Saver Pass then the savings benefit over the Swiss Travel Pass is quickly gone. There is no refund, so you have to pick a date and stick with it. Fine if you just want an airport transfer, not so good for a round tour on scenic trains.
- Getting the cheapest Day Saver Pass is not a certainty. You have to book far ahead to have a chance of finding a 29 CHF reduced Saver Day Pass still available – otherwise the next price level is 40-44 CHF. If you are saving 50 CHF overall on a trip then every 10-15 CHF lost from that is a big difference. Maybe if you sit around at 00:01 Swiss time every day to buy the tickets right away you might always get the cheapest tickets; but once you have started to buy a few you are committed and have to hope you always get the best prices.
Is the Saver Day Pass method worth it?
It depends on your needs/plan and how lucky you get with the pricing.
I have listed the prices of the various versions of the Swiss Travel Pass against a few possible outcomes of buying Day Saver Passes in the table below. The prices of the Day Saver Pass do go much higher (69 CHF reduced, 119 CHF full fare), but the advantage is clearly lost already outside of the lowest price points.
|Swiss Travel Pass (Flex)
|Swiss Travel Pass Youth (Flex)
|Reduced Day Saver – Ideal Price (29 CHF)
|Reduced Day Saver – Mixed Price (50:50 split of 29 and 44 CHF)
|Reduced Day Saver – Higher Price (44 CHF)
|Day Saver – Ideal Price (52 CHF)
There are various other factors like how far you plan to go, how long you plan to spend in a certain area, what you plan to do etc. My apologies but this is going to get convoluted…
There are also benefits that are more abstract and harder to directly compare:
- The Half-Fare adds a 120 CHF base cost, but is valid for a month. So it can help you save money if you are spending multiple days in one area and only making short local journeys that wouldn’t be worth using a proper pass on, and it can also be combined with some regional passes like the Berner Oberland Pass.
- The Half-Fare saves as much as the Swiss Travel Pass on most cable cars. There are some cases where the Saver Day Pass or Swiss Travel Pass would get you up for free (Mürren, Rigi, Bettmeralp, Braunwald etc), but in most cases if you are staying in a resort and taking a local cable car up then the Half-Fare will save you as much as the Swiss Travel Pass.
- Many cities and resorts offer Guest Cards. These offer free local transport and reduced/free activities if you are staying there. So depending on your plans it might be enough to just use the Saver Day Pass to get to and from the airport.
A few other things to consider:
- If you are under 25 then the Swiss Travel Pass Youth is almost always the cheapest option in this comparison.
- The full price Day Saver Pass is less in demand. It is much easier to get the full fare Day Saver Pass at the lowest price (52 CHF) than the reduced fare passes which are snapped up quickly. So if you are looking at 44 CHF for the reduced Day Saver Pass then it is only 8 CHF cheaper than the non-reduced version – with the added base cost for the Half-Fare pass you would actually be paying far more for a short visit.
- Even at the highest price a Day Saver Pass can be worth it. The highest price for the Day Saver Pass is 119 CHF and is often still available for next day travel. This is expensive, but would still be worth it for a trip across the country (Geneva to St. Moritz is 240 full price) or a very long day trip (the 6 hour Zurich to Zermatt and back would be 250 CHF). It wouldn’t make sense to pick this over the Swiss Travel Pass when planning ahead, but for a last minute day trip it could be a big help.
- The Day Saver Pass also offers more flexibility than the popular Supersaver tickets, with a whole day being open rather than just a fixed train.
Who is this for?
Given all the variables it is impossible to draw an absolute conclusion, but in general:
- If you only have a few big travel days and the dates are fixed in advance then the Saver Day Pass will likely be the cheapest option.
- If you are staying for a longer period with one or two bases (eg from the airport to Interlaken for 4 days, then to Zermatt for 4 days and back to the airport) then the Half-Fare combined with Saver Day Passes might be best.
- If you are uncertain about which is better between the Half-Fare and Swiss Travel Pass then combing the Half-Fare with Saver Day Passes is something of a compromise.
- If you want flexibility and plan to get plenty of travelling in then the Swiss Travel Pass is probably best.