Guests: How to Ride Swiss Trains

Post by Lauren

Swiss Trains are AMAZING. They run on time and get you to pretty much any place in Switzerland.


Handy map of Switzerland and its train system:

Here is some basic information on what approaches to take when buying train tickets:


Half fare card = 150 CHF to obtain – knocks all train / boat / cable-car purchases in half.
*You can just use it to reduce your fare in half
    *Holders of half fare card may purchase day cards for 64 CHF which provide unlimited travel for a whole day on all SBB trains and Post Buses. Day cards after 9am are 48 CHF but can’t be used Sat, Sun or holidays
How it works: you must buy in Switzerland upon arrival. You must have a small passport photo.

Pro: If you are here a long time and are traveling long distances, it could be worth it

Con: It is a year pass, non transferable, and you wouldn’t be able to use it rest of year – unless you visit us again 🙂


Swiss Pass – must buy not in Switzerland at ST offices and travel agents or in advance of your trip. Covers all travel on rail, buses and boats and some cable ways. Must validate at airport upon landing in Switzerland. 4 day = 260 CHF, 8 day = 376 CHF, etc. Must be concurrent days. You get 15% discount for 2 adults.

Note: you must validate it to start or you’ll get in trouble

Pro: If you travel every day long distances, this is a good value

Con: Must be used in concurrent days so isn’t a good value if you are resting in cities or in Geneva other days

Swiss Flexi Pass – allows between 3 and 6 days travel within one month. You get 15% discount for 2 adults. On the travel days, you can have free travel on most public transport. On days in between, you can travel for half the fare. You are also entitled to receive a discount on many gondolas, funiculars and mountain trains.
3 days = 249 CHF
4 days = 302 CHF
5 days = 349 CHF
Note: you must validate it for the days you use it

Pro: Makes a lot of sense if you are here for a week and we are traveling a lot in Switzerland
For more, see this:


Supersaver single tickets – provide large discounts on selected long distance routes –  (limited in number and only 14 days out).
Pro: Good to know about for one-off trips

Con: you can’t book up until 14 days in advance


We can buy as we go on the machines at the train station. You can see timetables and quote trips at:

Pro: flexibility
Con: not as many savings

General Tips:

What is best is to do the math for the individual trips. Example, If you invest in a 150 Half fare card, you can deduct the fares in half, but do the number of trips make up the 150 CHF investment? With the Swiss Flexi pass, are your savings more than adding up the trips? If not, it might be cheaper to buy as you go. Use this URL to quote one-off trips:

Please note that with day passes, Swiss passes and Swiss Flexi passes, you must Validate your ticket in an orange machine, provided on all platforms by inserting the ticket into the slot.

Some things to know about Swiss trains:

-The big train signs that show where to go to catch it always list the end destination. If you are not going to its’ end destination, make sure to note the other stops to confirm it is your train. It will then give you a “Voie” or “Bin” which means the # of the track your train will come on. Sub tips:
-If your destination isn’t listed and its more than 15 minutes until yours departs, don’t assume you are in the wrong place. Trains come through every 10-15 minutes so yours will show up soon if you are the correct Voie.
-Once its time for yours, your board will change. Then the next train that arrives is safe to get on. Also use the clock shown to verify. If its 13:29 (1:29pm), then its too early for the 13:42. If its 13:35-13:40, then this is about the time when it will arrive.

-Take heed to make sure you enter the trains marked 2 if you are in 2nd class. Otherwise, you might be contributing to Switzerland’s economy more than you want. We learned this the hard way.

-They don’t check your ticket to get on the train, but shortly into the trip, someone comes by. You must have all forms of documentation – for example, your ticket plus your half fare card together.

-They have bathrooms

– They do have a drink/food cart and on longer trains, a dining car. However, the food cart doesn’t look appealing and is expensive so consider bringing your own snacks and food (plus a bottle of wine!)

-You do not get assigned seats unless you are going to another country (France, Italy) or riding a scenic train (Glacier Express, Golden Pass, Bernina Express, William Tell). But you might get booted at some point from yours if you are sitting in someone’s who is doing a trip like this.

-If you ride the scenic trains, you need a reservation in addition to your ticket. We can help you get that at the station.

-You can generally get off in a city that looks appealing for a few hours, and hop on a later train to your destination

Bon voyage!



Guests: What you need to know!

Post by Lauren

We have visitors coming soon!! The next few posts are all about what you need to know when you visit us.

Logistics wise:

-We live in Geneva, so the GVA airport is the best to fly into. It is only 20 minutes driving or a 30 minute bus ride from our house.

-If we are picking you up: when you exit baggage claim, there is only one exit to the GVA airport so don’t worry about getting lost! We’ll be there waiting!

-If for some reason you are taking public transportation, please note that you can get a free transportation ticket in the baggage claim area, good for one hour. Make sure to get it at the time when you are leaving so you maximize the hour.

Push the button to get a free TPG ticket. Wait until right before you leave to maximize the hour!


What to Bring:

-Many of your small electronics may not work. We have a Swiss hairdryer, so don’t bother to bring yours. Use your curling irons and straigteners at your own risk as the electricity is known to eat them.

-We have a Swiss converter for you to use while you are here. But, if you are going to another country, you may want to buy one in advance for that country since the Swiss one is special.

-If you want to pack lighter and bring only a few outfits, you are welcome to do laundry while you are here. Just know that it takes 5 hours for one load. I will also make you do it so you get to see how fun it is!

-If you have any specific medicines you use or think you might need, bring them. They don’t have things like cold medicine, Pepto Bismol, etc. here. We do have a stock of American Advil and common pain killers though.

-If you have any special things you like, such as Lipton Tea or Sweet & Low, you may want to bring a stash. We don’t have that stuff here either.

-Same goes for snacks. It’s good to maybe bring a stash of your favorite stuff for day trips since a bag of chips at a convenience store will cost 8 francs. Also, they might not have a selection you like.

-We have towels, washcloths and linens so you don’t need to bring that stuff.

-We also have practical things like soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, band-aids, etc at our home so you can pack less of that. However, if you like a certain kind, feel free to bring it.

-If we are traveling during your stay to hotels, do bring a little bottle of conditioner if it something you like to use. European hotels don’t provide this. One of my pet peeves!!

-We only have one bathroom, so you may want a light robe or something to walk around in.

-The water is completely safe here and yummy. They have fountains everywhere. Bring a bottle to save money on buying bottled water.

-A large daybag or backpack could be handy for the plane carry-on and you
could also take it on our day trips.

-Women should bring a purse that zips fully and is secure. The main type of crime in Europe is pickpocketing, not violent crime, so you should select a purse that can be
closed up easily.

-If you are doing a smaller trip without us, you are welcome to borrow a backpack or small suitcase of ours.

Finances and Budgeting:

-Depending on where we go, you could need Swiss Francs and Euros (over the border). We recommend that you use an ATM card to take out money at an ATM here. There are a lot of ATMs at the Geneva airport, and around town. You could get them before you leave the US, but most banks charge $10 or so to order them for you, which is more than your fee will be taking the cash out here.

-You can use your credit card for big activities like train tickets, cable car rides and hotels. But, please be warned you’re your card could have a fee associated with it, at 1-2% for International purchases. Also, do not assume you can use your credit card at restaurants, convenience stores, or for street food….this is more of a cash society and they are often not taken.

-Call your credit card company beforehand if you plan to use your card while you are here….just to avoid it being shut off when they see a European purchase

-Switzerland is expensive! We can make meals at home as much as you like, such as breakfasts and dinners, but here is what to budget:

-Breakfast out if not provided by us or hotel: around 10 CHF for coffee & a pastry
-Lunches out: 15 CHF minimum but most places are 20-30 CHF
-Dinners out: 20-30 CHF minimum
-A soda or a water at a cafe: 5-6 CHF
-Train tickets: One hour away – about 30 CHF, two hours, about 50 CHF. See tomorrow’s train post for savings.
-If we’ll be taking public transportation, it only takes coins (3.50 CHF/one or 8-10 CHF/day), so keep your change. Also note that it doesn’t give change so its good to have lots of change handy so that you have the right amount.

-The exchange rate fluctuates between 10-20% over the dollar. So just know that if its marked CHF, its 10-20% more than the USD depending on when your visit is.

Other Travel tips:

-Make a color copy of your passport to slip into each luggage that you bring. Just in case it is stolen, its easier to recover with a copy.

-Always be aware of your belongings. Keep purses and backpacks in your lap on public transportation vs. at your side or on your back. Keep purses in your lap when eating at a restaurant vs. on the back of your chair. If you sit your backpack down on the ground when you are eating, loop your foot through the strap so that it can’t be grabbed. We don’t mean to scare you as you’ll be safe….the crime is just limited to theft. However, we know many very smart and alert people who have been robbed in Europe. Just remember, it is these people’s profession and they are GOOD at stealing.

-If you are traveling without us, its good practice to pick up a hotel card so you always have it in case you get lost, you can use it to get directions or a cab ride.

Gratitude Friday: 2011

Post by Lauren

I am a little late on this one, but wanted to give a shout out to the year 2011 for this week’s gratitude post. I actually can’t think of a better year in my life. We feel so grateful to be now living in the same city, enjoying marriage, and to be loving Switzerland.

For a recap of our year, check out the following video. Warning: it is five minutes long, so only for the devoted fans (and our moms).

Snowy Geneva

Post by Lauren

We were able to see snow a few times in December before we left for Christmas holiday in Thailand, but Tuesday we got a big dousing of the white stuff.

In Charlotte, when we got snowstorms, it was quite like the world was going to end. Bread and milk was ravaged at the grocery stores. People stayed in. The city didn’t have the proper equipment to clear the roads (why would they invest if it only happens every so often?) so it was a major event. To those who lived in the North, they always made fun of us Southerners and our approach. But, I always adopted the perspective that if I had my laptop at home, I’d rather work a few hours in the morning safely rather than get out into the elements early with the crazy drivers.

In Geneva, it was similar to Charlotte — they actually didn’t clear the roads all day. I heard that when it snows big, they have to borrow the snow plows from neighboring mountain towns because they don’t have any. They actually didn’t clear the sidewalks either. I tried to follow in footprints to avoid getting the 6 inches or so of snow into my boots. I saw three people fall really hard. One in front of the #12 tram at Bel Air. Luckily, she was scooped up by friends and the tram did see her spill so it stopped in time.

However, in contrast to Charlotte, I went to the store for routine shopping, and the bread and milk aisles were still in-tact. I easily made my purchases and if we were in North Carolina, those would be all gone by that point in the morning.

It was really lovely to walk around in the white. Here are a few photos from Tuesday morning:


As for now, we are still covered in white and it was even flurrying on my way home from the gym today, Thursday. The forecast shows us in the teens and low-twenties all week. Brrrrrr!

Festival International des Balloons à Air Chaud

Post by Lauren

I bet the suspense was killing you to know if we went back to the Hot Air Balloon Festival!! Well, I happen to have the best husband in the world and am delighted to inform you that my dreams came true of seeing the balloons!

As I mentioned, the drive was a little crazy getting to this little Alps town. But, it was a little less hair-raising to do it in the daylight. Here are a few shots of the drive in through the mountains:

I am pretty much content for the entire year after getting to do this. It was absolutely beautiful.