Traveling Like the Swiss

Swiss representatives are gathering in New York this week to celebrate the opening of the newly decorated S train that travels between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.

For the next four weeks, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will operate a train of the S shuttle line decorated to evoke Switzerland. Switzerland Tourism—in collaboration with Swiss Travel System / Rail Europe, Engadin St. Moritz, Jungfrau Railways / Interlaken and Swiss International Air Lines—has created a huge wrap that covers the entire exterior and interior of the car.

Christian Kaspar, head of market management, and Fausto Zaina, market manager for America at Swiss Travel System came by Travel Agent's New York office to talk about public transportation in the country, and how visitors can get the most out of a vacation there.

As we've already noted
, the Swiss Pass (which is marketed by Swiss Travel System and sold in the U.S. by Rail Europe) lets visitors ride for free on most public transportation options throughout the country (from long-haul trains to boats to city buses and subways). It also offers free or steeply discounted admission to more than 400 museums and cultural attractions.

Through May, the four-day Swiss Pass is available on a two-for-one promotion, which is even more valuable given that children aged 16 and under can ride for free under their parents' pass. The promotion means that a family of four (or more) can travel and explore the cities on a single pass. (Essentially, all the family would have to pay for is accommodation and food. Transportation and sightseeing are covered.) The Pass must be purchased before the end of May, but it will be offered again from September to November.

Some new additions to Switzerland's travel scene include a new cable car up to the top of Mount Titlis, about 20 minutes south of Lucerne. (The double-decker "gondola" cable car looks fantastic—the top part is open to the sky, and the whole thing is encased in glass for top views.) A new train route between Basel and Paris is being launched that will reduce trip time to three hours, adding on one more hour to Zurich.

Zaina noted that some areas of the country (like mountaintops) are only accessible via public transportation, adding an additional incentive for purchasing a Pass. By law, any town or village with a population of at least 300 people must have some sort of public transportation and a certain number of connections, so visiting hidden gems like Lavartezzo by bus is easier than driving up the mountain in a car.