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“Ask Jimmy” Part 2: Getting around in Switzerland

Jimmy Jackson

14 February 2024

"GA" is basically a pass that is valid for every train, every bus, every tram, every boat, and possibly every horse in Switzerland “GA” is basically a pass that is valid for every train, every bus, every tram, every boat, and possibly every horse in Switzerland.

Hello my friends!

In this installment of #AskJimmy, I chose as the theme “Transportation in Switzerland.”

Can you spot my mistake?  One of my more alert followers made the point that I don’t need to talk about air transport since it doesn’t play a major role within the country.  By golly, I guess that would be right.  In my country, the US of A, nobody would take a plane to go from Peoria to Moline, so I imagine in Switzerland it’s the same.  If you’re in Zug and you need to go to Niederbipp, you’re probably not going to get there on Lufthansa.

I should have worded that a little differently so as to include “to” Switzerland and “from” Switzerland, which would allow me to talk about planes.  You see, other than eating a big slice of Norma’s delicious pumpkin pie, my favorite thing in the world is looking out the window from 35,000 feet in the air, and I can only imagine how breathtaking it must be to fly to, from, or in Switzerland and look out over all those beautiful mountains, lakes, glaciers, meadows, towns… and so on.  (I believe individual cows cannot be spotted from that altitude.)  That day when I get on a big silver bird and fly to Switzerland is coming soon!

So now that I’ve admitted my error, let me address your questions concerning transportation in Switzerland.  Here we go:

Dear Jimmy,

In Switzerland, would you say that skiing is considered more a sport or a means of transportation?


Dider C.

Dear DC,

Why does it have to be one thing OR the other? Embrace the power of “AND,” Dider!

Dear Jimmy,

Given Switzerland’s precision in watchmaking, are their trains so punctual you could set your watch by them?


Noah Zahnd

Dear Noah,

Swiss trains are so precise, they make atomic clocks look sloppy.  Fun fact: my research has revealed that upon retiring, many Swiss train conductors apply for jobs as Olympic timekeepers.

But to answer your question, Noah: Not only can you set your watch by them, but you could also plan your entire life around the train schedule.  (In fact, you more or less need to.)

Dear Jimmy,

I saw on TV once that there was a huge traffic jam at the entrance to one of the tunnels under the Alps. So many people were leaving for vacation at the same time that the cars were lined up for miles.  How is this possible when Switzerland has such a great reputation for efficiency?


Couch Potato, Netherlands

Dear Couch,

It all depends on your definition of “efficiency,” doesn’t it?  Considering that the people in these cars were stuck for quite some time, the local inhabitants set up impromptu yodeling classes for them, which is just about the most efficient thing I have ever heard of.

But if you want to avoid this risk, you can put your car on the train in Switzerland! Take a look at this: .  No jams… but  no yodeling! 😢  Or better yet: leave your car in the garage back home and settle into a comfy seat on the train as you sail through the world’s longest and most luxurious train tunnel.  And by “luxurious,” I mean: totally punctual!  (Bring along something to read.)

Dear Jimmy,

I recently flew from San Francisco to Zurich, and wanted to celebrate my arrival in Swiss airspace, but the flight attendant would not let me have one of those little airline bottles of Kirsch, because she said we were preparing to land!


Sober but Disappointed

Dear SBD,

You didn’t actually ask a question, so I will simply say: Well, she was right! Do you realize that when flying from California to Zurich, you will only be over Swiss territory for the last 0.5% of the flight?  Hardly enough time to guzzle a Diet Coke, to say nothing of the time you need to savor a precious Swiss eau-de-vie.  But I believe you will find many wonderful opportunities to dine (or simply imbibe) once you’re in the terminal at Zurich airport, which I understand is pretty snazzy.

Dear Jimmy,

Do you think it’s OK that no private company is active in the Swiss rail sector?


Derek Richter

Ahoy Captain!

I’m not usually a big fan of government-owned anything, but in the case of Switzerland, I will make an exception.  No private companies are operating in Swiss rail? SBB CFF FFS is ok with me!  It’s like trying to privatize the Swiss Alps – you shouldn’t mess with perfection!

Dear Jimmy,

I keep hearing about this transport-related thing called a “GA” in Switzerland. What is that? It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with GTA, GPA, GDP, or G&T.


Mr. Acronym

Dear Acro,

A quick search reveals that “GA” stands for a “General Abonnement” which you can buy from the SBB CFF FFS. It’s basically a pass that is valid for every train, every bus, every tram, every boat, and possibly every horse (though I am still researching this) in Switzerland.

You can get one in first class or second class, and you can get one for a year or a month. There are also different price levels for kids, adults, seniors,…

This looks to me like the deal of a lifetime. If you get one of these and also download the CFF app which will tell you how to get from A to B right now, or at any future time you want, you may have to do a little bit of rearranging in your schedule, but you’re basically getting a chauffeur that you don’t need to feed and clothe. I’ll be getting one of these, I can assure you!

Be sure to follow me, so you can find out what the next theme will be for “#AskJimmy”!