The cost of rail travel and best pass to purchase is a topic that comes up frequently, so I thought I would share our recent experience. We flew in and out of Zurich Flughafen and our destinations were Winterthur (3 days)-Wengen (4 days)-Zurich (3 days) in that order in early September. I estimated rail costs and decided that the Swiss Half Fare Card would be most cost-effective. After our return, I compared our costs using the Swiss Half Fare Card to those estimated if we had used a Swiss Card, 8-day Swiss Pass, or 6-day Swiss Flexi Pass.
While in Wengen, we purchased the 6-day Jungfraubahnen Pass, which included the cost of travel to Jungfraujoch, in addition to all rail, bus, cable cars, gondolas, and boats in the region. It cost us CH 185 with a Half Fare Card (this price would have applied to all of the passes mentioned above as well [http://shop.jungfrau.ch/en/jungfraubahnen-pass]). Luckily, the morning after we arrived was clear, so that was when we bought the pass and went to Jungfraujoch. If it hadn’t been a nice day, we would not have purchased it, as we would have lost the value associated with the trip to Jungfraujoch. Because of inclement weather for the remainder of our stay, we spent a fair amount of time on the local transportation network (cable cars, gondolas, cog-wheel trains, trains, and buses) just checking out the Jungfrau region above Wengen and over to First, rather than hiking. At First and Maennlichen, we ran into conditions in which visibility was almost nil due to heavy fog. We opted to spend our hiking time in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
In Zurich, we used the Half Fare Card to purchase Tageskartes and individual tickets at kiosks at tram stops and stations, for use at trams in the city, the S10 from Bahnhof Selnau to Uetliberg, and train to the airport.
All in all, the Swiss Half Fare Card was best for us. The total cost per person using the Half Fare Card represented considerable savings compared to costs estimated from SBB.com for full fare, 8-day Swiss Pass, and 6-day Flexi Pass, respectively. This is consistent with the recommendations of the Wengen Destination Experts who seem to prefer the Swiss Half Fare Card to other passes. For us, the Jungfraubahnen Pass using the Half Fare Card was very convenient and represented a modest savings over the Half Fare Card alone because of the number of trips we took in the region.
A Swiss Pass would have been most convenient, and together with the 6-day Jungfraubahnen Pass, would have covered all of our transportation expenses. But it is pricey, and the cost-benefit was not in our favor. Purchasing tickets at machines and counters was pretty straightforward for us, so the convenience factor would have been negligible relative to the price. Our visits to museums were minimal, so there was no advantage there, either. One would have to have a number of long-distance trips, cruises, and/or visit a number of museums to come out even.
The Swiss Flexi Pass and Swiss Card were not appropriate for our particular needs. The 6-day Flexi Pass, which was pretty expensive, did not cover the period of our rail travel. The Swiss Card would have been preferable to the Half Fare Card, if the cost of the round-trip ticket from/to the airport exceeded the difference between the costs of the cards, which was not the case for us.
My thanks to the folks who regularly contribute to this forum with very useful information on transportation and other topics.Edited: 29 September 2013, 07:53