Cowbells ring. Alphorns sing. And your electric Swiss train barely makes a sound as it winds through the valley. Swiss train travel has an impressive reputation—and it should: When it comes to rail journeys, it truly makes the idealistic realistic. Still, there are things to know that will make your journey even more pleasant. Follow this quick guide (and check 5 Tips for the First-Time Swiss Train Traveler (Part I) and Part III too) so your trip across Switzerland is as beautiful as the passing landscapes.
1. Take off your shoes.
Once you’ve been in Switzerland for a few days, you’ll notice something: in this country, even the trash cans shine. Which bring us to your feet. On Swiss trains, you do not put your feet up on a seat unless you: 1. Take your shoes off or 2. Place a newspaper under your feet.
2. Let the kids play.
When traveling with children (or adults that act like children), watch for train cars marked FZ, which stands for Familienzone. This is the family car. And it’s easy to find because its exterior is most likely illustrated with zoo scenes. Usually at the rear of the train, these family cars come with plenty of space for strollers and bikes (and travelers with a lot of luggage)—and they also have a playground on the second floor. So sit back, relax, and watch your child go down a slide while your train travels up the Alps. The time will fly almost as fast as the train.
3. Get on military time.
Swiss train schedules, announcements, and platform signs may switch from German to French or Italian depending on what part of Switzerland you are in—but one thing will remain constant: the use of military time. So if a train that departs at 8.43, this means 8:43 a.m. A train that departs at 20.43 means 8:43 p.m. Military time avoids a lot of time confusion—at least once you’re aware of it.
4. Do your business when the train moves.
It is not encouraged to use a Swiss train’s toilet unless the train is in motion. Why? Well, a lot of Swiss train toilets still make their deposits out in the open, meaning what you put into them comes out on the tracks below them. If you use them while they are parked at a station, the station won’t be impressed—nor will the people waiting on the platform beside the train.
5. Connect easily and in a timely manner.
Swiss train timetables are connected to the rest of the country’s public transport system. So if you want to take a boat ride in Lucerne, don’t worry, your train from Zurich probably arrives exactly nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds before your boat departs. This kind of Swiss precision makes transport connections easy and seamless—but only if you plan accordingly.