Basel

Do you need a car in Basel?

Should you rent a car in Basel Switzerland > Basel

Basel is perhaps served by the most multinational airport in the world! Not only can you arrive in either Switzerland or France (Mulhouse); the airport also markets itself as serving the city of Freiburg in Germany. This makes it tricky to offer advice about whether or not to pick up a hire car, as you might be driving in any one of these three countries.

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One city, 3 countries….

Naturally for the city of Basel itself, it goes without saying that as with any other Swiss city, public transport is excellent. However, unlike Geneva or Zürich, there is no direct rail link from Basel airport to the Central Station. The city of Freiburg has a long-standing reputation as being one of Germany’s greenest cities, and again the public transport is excellent. Public transport is also perfectly reasonable in the French city of Mulhouse, although it is less good for exploring the areas around it.

Once outside the cities, what are your best options?

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Reasons why you might need to hire a car in Basel

  • Variable public transport — Basel is a very important hub on the Swiss rail network, and there are three routes going into south-west Germany. However, only one of the German routes is a mainline, and there is only one line going into France, although this is the line to Mulhouse, which is served by the French TGV, albeit at a slower pace than when it is on a dedicated high speed line.
  • Cost — unless booked in advance (but you can only do this up to 15 days before the date of travel), Swiss trains can be ridiculously expensive, so booking a seemingly cheap flight to Basel instead of Zürich, and then taking the train into eastern Switzerland might be a false economy. Although car hire in Switzerland isn’t that cheap either, for a group of three or four, picking up a rental car at Basel airport might well be far cheaper than taking the train.
  • Cheaper to drive? It is easy to justify the high cost of train travel in Switzerland when the views are so superb, but apart from the route to Neuchâtel mentioned below, the train routes around Basel are nothing like as special as they are heading south from Zürich or Bern. If it is cheaper to drive, then you might as well do so.
  • Vosges – go for a drive in the Ballons des Vosges Natural Park, just beyond Mulhouse.

Why not? Visiting Basel without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Basel public transport quick facts

Train score

 

00%

Water travel score

50%

Overall public transport score

30%

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)

60%

Saving money by visiting Basel without a car?

  • Cost — even if you have a choice of arriving in two countries, neither France nor Switzerland, nor Basel in particular are good value for car hire.
  • Swiss rail passes — a number of different rail passes are available in Switzerland, usually giving unlimited travel on a set number of days. If you take advantage of this option, it doesn’t matter that Basel is further away from some alpine destinations than Zürich.
  • Swiss transfer ticket — another option for long-distance train travel within Switzerland is to take advantage of the Swiss transfer ticket, which gives halfprice travel to anywhere in Switzerland on the same day that your flight arrives (or departs on the way out). Basel is a good airport to use for the Bernese Oberland, or for continuing through the Lotchberg Base Tunnel and on to the world-famous resort of Zermatt, which sits under the iconic Matterhorn.
  • Swiss trains — Swiss trains are famous for good reason, and this needs no introduction — see our Zürich and Bern pages for more information.

Where to visit?

  • Neuchâtel — the lake and city of Neuchâtel are one of the most underrated places to visit in the Swiss Lowlands. The view from the city across the lake with the Alps behind is superb. Take the train from Basel to Moutier, then to the bilingual city of Biel / Bienne via Sonceboz, and then towards Geneva via Neuchâtel, and you can enjoy outstanding scenery for virtually the whole journey.
  • Vitra — whether you are appreciative of good design or great architecture, the Vitra design Museum, designed by the late deconstructivist architect Zaha Hadid, is in nearby Weil-am-Rhein (Germany).

Ratings

Car rental in - Basel Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Basel?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Basel?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Basel?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Basel if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Basel if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Basel if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

4

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

If you started with the natural assumption that there would be no point in hiring a car in Basel, then there are plenty of reasons to think again. Whereas it might be clearer that a hire car in either Zürich or Bern is a bad idea, it is much less clear-cut in Basel. Therefore, relative to Swiss expectations, a hire car is certainly worth looking at.

Verdict — yes

Would you hire a car in Basel?

Have you driven in Basel? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Basel?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Bern

Is it worth hiring a car in Bern?

Should you rent a car in Bern Switzerland > Bern

The Swiss capital is often overlooked by people who just want to change trains and head for the ski resorts, but this is a great shame as this tightly packed UNESCO world Heritage city has so much to offer. Having said that, this is of course the capital or Switzerland, so public transport is naturally outstanding. What about the surrounding area?

Bern Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

Why should you rent a car in Bern?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Bern?

Bern Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

00%

 

Cheapest rate for one week

€235

 #241/300

 

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

 

 €340

218/300

 

Free parking score

Total 99 - of which 34 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

34%

#184/300

 
  • There are very few reasons to hire a car in Bern, unless you are on a business trip to multiple suburban locations, or are visiting family, and sticking to the Swiss Lowlands.
  • Swiss bank account — when you see the prices of the train up to the world-famous Jungfraujoch top of Europe, you may well wish that you had your own Swiss bank account, because this is the most expensive railway in the world on a mile for mile basis. However, even if you wanted to drive, you just can’t — this, together with several other places in the Bernese Oberland, is simply unreachable on four wheels.
  • Share and save – depending on where you are going, it may be cheaper to travel together in a group, and save on train costs. However, Swiss Travel Centre often have discounted offers on their passes, including some 2 for 1 offers, so check these out before booking a hire car. Remember that car hire in Bern is still  expensive too, as is petrol, although neither are as expensive as they are in countries such as Bergen or Stavanger in Norway!
  • Still good for driving — even if some of the results in the Jungfrau region are off-limits for cars, there are still plenty of great places to go driving, especially during summer. Drive to resorts such as Gstaad, or continue to Les Diablerets, which is much easier to get to by car, compared to the very circuitous train ride from Bern.
  • Scenery – just because the area around Bern is famous for some stunningly scenic train ride doesn’t mean that you can’t go for an (almost) equally scenic drive too. Photographers may well prefer the freedom of a hire car.
  • No airport station – unlike Geneva and Zurich airports, there is no station at Bern-Belp airport. To reach the local train network, you will have to go by bus, and these are infrequent, so you may end up needing a (very expensive) taxi.

Why not? Visiting Bern without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Bern public transport quick facts

Train score

 

00%

Water travel score

80%

Overall public transport score

50%

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)

60%

  • Bern City – many people might just want to change here on their way to ski resorts, but this is a great shame, as in my opinion it is by far and away the finest of the major Swiss cities. Bern is a must for shoppers with its mile of covered arcades, whilst it is equally pleasurable to just wander around the historic city centre. For great views of the Alps behind, climb the tower of the Bern Munster.
  • Double Bond Heaven – James Bond fans will want to head straight to the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant, immortalised in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. However, this is just one side of the absolutely stunning way Swiss engineers have tamed the mountains in the Jungfrau region. Nearby is the…
  • Jungfraujoch Top of Europe experience, which features a spiralling rack and pinion railway which has been blasted through the mountain side. You arrive in a huge cavernous space which very much resembles a Bond villain’s lair, before being lifted up to an open-air view platform, which offers a stunning vista of the Altech glacier. To reach these attractions, take the train to Interlaken Ost (East) first. Heading to Piz Gloria will take you through Lauterbrunnen, and then up a steep cliff to the car free village of Murren, from where the cable car continues to the top of a mountain. To reach Jungfraujoch, you can also head via Lauterbrunnen, from where you can take a train via another car free village of Wengen; or you can go via Grindelwald. Either way, this is one particular part of Bond’s world where the Aston stays in the garage.
  • Zermatt — with the newly built Lotchberg Base Tunnel, Bern is the ideal gateway to Zermatt and the imposing Matterhorn which sits behind it, with one simple change at Visp. Although you can drive to Zermatt, why would you want to, when the trains are so good? Also, what is the point in picking up a hire car and then paying again to take it on the auto-train through the Lotchberg tunnel? Zermatt itself is also car free, although electric vehicles are permitted. You can only get as close as the parking garage on the edge of the resort in a hire car, so why bother?
  • Crans-Montana — the famous resort of Crans-Montana can also be reached by changing Visp and then again Sierre – although this time, you could get there in a car if you really wanted to!
  • Leukerbad, as the name suggests is a spa resort sitting right underneath the southern wedge of the Alpine plateau. This time you will have to get there by bus (from Visp), or better still – hike there from Kandersteg on the other side!
  • Lake Steamers – the Swiss lakes offer numerous opportunities to simply sit back, and relax as the super scenery skims by. There are often included as part of any Swiss pass or local train package. A natural base to enjoy the lakes is unsurprisingly Interlaken, although many travellers prefer to head there for adventure sports.
  • Climb — the Alps offer a breathtaking backdrop to any part of the city, but for the most spectacular advantage point, climb up the tower in Bern’s Munster, and enjoy not just great views of the mountains behind, but also a stunning view of the historic city itself.
  • Look the other way — it is easy to lavish attention on the Bernese Oberland, and other resorts in the Alps, but it is also worth an excursion to the bilingual city of Biel / Bienne, and continuing along the lake to Neuchâtel and Yverdon (see Basel page).
  • Integrated walking and cycling — as you would expect, there are numerous walking and cycling trails all over central Switzerland, and these are always clearly signposted with estimated times. These paths always start and finish near some sort of public transport stop, and many of them will take you over to the next valley, so it is much easier to coordinate with public transport, than to drive somewhere and restrict yourself to having to return to the same spot.
  • Interlaken — Switzerland’s answer to New Zealand’s Queenstown offers any number of high adrenaline activities, or alternatively you can take it easy on one of the lake steamers on either Lake Thun (board at Interlaken West station) or Lake Brienz (Interlaken Ost).
  • Beatenbucht — this lovely village on the northern side of Lake Thun has what must surely be the most scenic swimming pool in Europe, with the trio of Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger as a backdrop. Even a location such as this is easily reachable by bus from Interlaken.
  • Summer downhill — in Switzerland, the fun doesn’t stop when the snow melts, in fact it is even easier to appreciate downhill runs, either on a mountain bike or by picking up one of the scooters (trottibikes), which are available for hire at various cable car or mountain railway base stations. Either way, let the cable or train take the strain, and enjoy the downhill run.
  • Paul Klee Art Museum – back to Bern itself, the Paul Klee Museum features three delightfully sweeping vaults and, just like any art museum should be, is just as much an attraction because of the building as it is because of the contents.
  • Limited flights – the range of flights to Bern is extremely limited, so you are much more likely to arrive into Zurich or Geneva airports in the first place. As these airports have stations onsite, you can easily connect onto the local trains in the Bernese Oberland via Bern Hbf. You may also get half price transfers using the Swiss Transfer Ticket.

Is it worth hiring a car in Bern?  Verdictof all the cities featured in Car Or No Car .com that actually have car hire facilities, Bern stands out as by far and away the strongest recommendation not to get one. This should be pretty obvious, considering that this is where you come for the best of the best of mountain railways, cable cars and lake cruisers, all integrated into one seamless (if expensive) system.

Considering the sheer expense of hiring a car in Bern, together with the fact that some of the most exciting places to visit are off-limits to vehicle traffic anyway, this really should be a no-brainer.

The only other places where we could recommend not getting a car in even stronger terms would have to be destinations like Hong Kong, whose airport has no car rental facilities (Avis have an office downtown if you really insist), or Bermuda, where local regulations do not permit tourists to hire a car.

Verdict — absolute no!

Ratings

Car rental in - Bern Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Bern?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Bern?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Bern?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Bern if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Bern if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Bern if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

1

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

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Geneva

Should you rent a car in Geneva Switzerland > Geneva

Should I hire a car in Geneva? Switzerland has a reputation for outstanding public transport, and there are clearly innumerable fantastic train rides which can be taken out of Zürich. However, Geneva is surrounded on three sides by French territory, and is also the gateway for many French ski resorts. So, are the trains as good as they are further east, or are you better off with a hire car in Geneva?

Geneva Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

Why should you rent a car in Geneva?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Geneva?

Geneva Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

40%

 

Cheapest rate for one week

€175

 #216/300

 

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

 

 €265

182/300

 

Free parking score

Total 180 - of which 51 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

28%

#215/300

 

Why should I hire a car in Geneva?

  • French connection — Geneva is mostly surrounded by French territory, but there is only one main rail line heading out of Geneva’s Cornavin station into France, so you will find it much easier to get around in a hire car.Note — there is an additional line to Annemasse, but you will have to cross over to the Eaux-Vives station to use this (a project is under way to link the two stations).
  • Changes, changes — even if train services are available to a number of French ski resorts, you often have to transfer at least three times to get there. If you are carrying equipment, this is simply too much hassle.
  • Cost — it might be easier to find cheap flights to Geneva compared to Zürich, but Geneva is some distance away from many major Swiss ski resorts. This can make train transfers expensive if you don’t have a discounted ticket (see below). However, many coach transfers are also available, and these can be much more competitive when compared with the Geneva car hire option.
  • Walking — for walking holidays when resort transfer services are not so widely available, a car can often be a better option, although it is also just as easy to take a train, bus or cable car to the start of a walking route, and then to take similar public transport back from the end of your walk, allowing you to continue in one direction, rather than in a loop back to your car.

Why not? Visiting Geneva without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Geneva public transport quick facts

Train score

 

10%

Water travel score

00%

Overall public transport score

20%

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)

10%

  • Value – with a Swiss Rail Pass, you don’t have to worry about your mileage, just sit back and enjoy the view. See our Zurich page for more advice on getting the best value out of Swiss trains.
  • Scenic routes — heading east out of Geneva, you can enjoy great views of Lake Geneva, all the way to Montreux. From here, you can continue across to Gstaad, and then on to either Bern or Interlaken, and the route is classed as scenic virtually all the way.
    Heading to any of the resorts above the Rhône valley, including Diablerets, Chamonix Mont Blanc, Verbier (bus from Martigny), and Crans-Montana, will also mean taking a scenic route virtually all the way.
  • Lowlands – even when out heading into the Alps, you can still take the scenic route to Basel via Neuchâtel (one of my personal favourite scenic spots).
  • Lake Geneva — if you have an unlimited rail pass, any of the ferries on Lake Geneva are also included in the price.
  • Direct trains — trains heading east to Lausanne and on to Bern and Zürich start at Geneva airport, so no change is needed. For other destinations, regular trains are available between Geneva airport and the main Cornavin station..
  • Scenic French routes — heading west from Geneva, venture south at Bellegarde for a range of scenic routes around Chambery. Even if you just want to get to the French ski resorts, the train will take you right up Val D’Isere to Bourg St Maurice for a mountain train transfer to Les Arcs.
  • Mont Blanc circuit — there are two ways of reaching Chamonix for Mont Blanc – or for just enjoying a superbly scenic train journey across two countries. The Swiss route runs clockwise around Lake Geneva before dropping south from Montreux to Martigny. From here, the Chamonix line climbs sharply up the valley before heading south west via Vallorcine.
    At Chamonix, you can take the mount on line to Montenvers. From Chamonix, head to La Roche sur Foron and change for a local train back to Geneva Eaux-Vives.
  • Resort shuttle transfers are also available as well is trains, and these will almost certainly work out better value compared to driving.

Ratings

Car rental in - Geneva Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Geneva?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Geneva?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Geneva?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Geneva if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Geneva if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Geneva if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

6

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Summary — there are plenty of excellent train journeys which can be taken from Geneva, although much of the best stuff is further east, as listed on our Bern, Basel and Zürich pages.  Someone who spent a long weekend traversing the rail routes around Geneva might come back saying they saw some interesting things, but they are never going to reach for the same superlatives that a visitor doing the same thing around Zürich or south of Bern might say. Maybe we are simply too spoilt for choice around Zürich, and even more so around Bern.

So ultimately, when should you hire a car in Geneva? Here, we just revert back to the usual cliche that a hire car will give you more freedom and flexibility to enjoy the scenery at your own pace, and it may well be better value, especially if you are able to fill the car. So Geneva car hire is certainly well worth considering. Since the rail network from Geneva extends mainly to the south and east, there’s always a much stronger reason to want to pick up a rental car here, and drive it in to Alpine France. For this kind of journey, our advice tilts more strongly towards a “yes”.

Would you hire a car in Geneva?

Have you driven in Geneva? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Geneva?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
 

Zürich

Is it worth hiring a car in Zürich?

Should you rent a car in Zurich Switzerland > Zurich

Is anywhere more iconic of Switzerland’s obsession with clockwork precision timed trains than Zürich’s Grand Central Station (Hauptbahnhof)? So why would anyone even consider hiring a car in Zürich?

Zurich Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings

Why should you rent a car in Zurich?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Zurich?

Zurich Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

90%

 

Cheapest rate for one week

€190

 #225/300

 

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

 

 €310

209/300

 

Free parking score

Total 252 - of which 37 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

15%

#265/300

 

When is it worth hiring a car in Zürich?

  • Costly trains — trains in Switzerland, and particularly in and around Zürich might well be superb, but they can also be outrageously expensive. Even though car hire at Zürich airport is not cheap either, sharing a car with a group of people might work out cheaper than going by train.
  • Scenic drives — the trains may be excellent, but they are, as Jeremy Clarkson might say, a bit pedestrian. Hit the A3 out of Zürich, and you will soon be heading into Switzerland’s finest driving country. For many (but not all, as some of the rail routes are away from any roads) of the train routes listed below, it might be just as (or almost as, ed) secenic to take the car – and you have the usuals of exploring at your own pace and going off the beaten track.
  • Stelvio — of all the roads in Europe, the Stelvio pass was rated by Top Gear as the best driving experience. To enjoy this at its fullest, drive to Davos and then continue to Zernez, before going through the Ofen Pass to Sluderno. The Stelvio Pass is actually in neighbouring Italy en route S38 towards Bormio. From here, you can head back through the La Schera tunnel, or through the Bernina Pass, taking a similar route to the Bernina railway line.

Why not? Visiting Zurich without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Zurich public transport quick facts

Train score

 

90%

Water travel score

80%

Overall public transport score

100%

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)

100%

City of Zürich

  • Easy to get around by trams.
  • One of Europe’s leading “non-car” cities – excellent bus network..
  • Even the hotels have their own trains — or at least the Dolder Grand, recently redesigned by British architect Norman Foster, has its own private train.

Beyond by train & Swiss travel system

There are too many outstanding rail routes which can be taken from Zürich to mention them all, so here are a few highlights:

Getting the best deal for rail travel in Switzerland

Tickets on the day are notoriously expensive in Switzerland, but thankfully the country is excellent value to tour around using a rail pass:

  1. Value train tickets — Swiss rail tickets can seem outrageously expensive, but there are numerous ways to get a better deal. Firstly, you can book in advance on some of the trunk routes, just like advance purchase tickets on British trains – although the value tickets are only on sale on selected routes, no more than 15 days in advance, and often you can only get fares on direct train services. Unfortunately, although Switzerland may have many Brunel accolites, the fares manual and website have come firmly from the stable of Brittas.
  2. Travel passes – The best option for travelling around is to get one of the Swiss travel system passes. These provide unlimited travel on a set number of days, and this includes all mainline rail services, together with lake cruises and connecting buses. However, you will still have to pay for some mountain railways and cable cars, although you will at least get a partial discount. Note that due to currency fluctuations, the cost of even these passes has risen sharply – I last bought one in 2007 for around £100, now you will only see £5 change from £200! Note – if you have an unlimited train pass, you may find cheaper flights to Geneva or Basel instead of Zurich.
  3. Pass discounts. At the time of writing, a 30% discount offer is available for Swiss flexi-passes, although this expires at the end of November 2011. Worth keeping an eye out for future offers (we will try and update when we hear anything).
  4. Regional Passes – if you don’t fancy travelling around the whole country, you can get a regional pass to cover a smaller area. However, these aren’t cheap either – for example the Bernese Oberland pass comes in at a whopping £170 for 3 days travel in 7 (half price on other days) – and you still only get 50% off the Jungfrau and Schilthorn excursions. This is what happens when there is no other way of getting there – and however costly, these routes are truly priceless!
  5. Swiss transfer ticket – Another option if you’re just travelling between the airport and one destination is to get the Swiss transfer ticket, which gives you free train travel anywhere in the country on the day you arrive and on the day of your return journey. This must be bought outside the country, and currently costs £95.
  6. Relative cost — car hire in Switzerland is more expensive than any other country in Europe, apart from Scandinavia. There are no bargain car hire deals at Zürich airport to be had, just expensive and even more expensive, and you still need to pay for petrol. So, even if you think the Swiss trains are expensive, car hire is unlikely to be much of a cheaper option, unless three or more people are travelling together.
  7. Cento Valli – A personal favourite Swiss rail route is the Cento Valli, it literally 100 valleys line between law Carno Locarno at the top of Lake Maggiore, and the Italian town of Domodossola. This can be done as part of a long circuit from Zürich — the main lines on either side are superb too, although it is actually closer to Milan. See our Milan page for other scenic rail routes in southern Switzerland and Lombardy.
  8. Southern Germany — Zürich isn’t just Gateway to some of Switzerland’s finest scenery, there are also a whole host of scenic lines to explore in south-west Germany, especially around the Upper Donau nature park. There are also various scenic routes around Lake Constance to the North East of Zürich.
  9. First-class trams — in Zürich, following abandoned plans to build an underground system, the trams are designed to operate at extremely high frequency, to integrate with other lines, and not to be hindered by traffic. This ‘Zurich model’ has been emulated in other cities that have since developed tram networks, with varying degrees of success. So if you have trams in your city that aren’t as good, blame it on Zurich – or at least attempts to emulate this model. Over 60% of journeys to work in Zurich are made by public transport, compared to less than 20% by car.
  10. Lake cruises — take a cruise on Lake Zürich, another part of the integrated Swiss travel system.
  11. Sunday shopping — Swiss law prevents Sunday trading, except for shops which are inside railway stations. Therefore, Swiss railways developed the ‘Railcity’ concept of turning their major stations into genuine destination shopping centres, featuring high-quality shops and eateries, rather than just having the overpriced convenience food and impulse shopping that most British railway stations have. Both Zürich Hauptbahnhof (Central) and Zürich airport stations are impeccably designed retail centres as well as being major interchange points.
  12. Superb stations — whereas Zürich airport and Zürich Hauptbahnhof both impressive architectural feats in their own right, the big name station design is in Zürich’s secondary station of Stadelhofen. This is designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the new frontage to the main station in Lucerne.
  13. Europe’s crossrails — from Zürich you take the fast ICN tilting train to Bern, Geneva and other major cities in Switzerland, the ‘train formerly known as Cisalpino’, now just Eurocity to Milan, the German ICE train to Stuttgart, Frankfurt and beyond, and the French TGV to Paris. Express trains are also available to Liechtenstein, and on through Innsbruck towards Vienna in Austria. Few other cities in Europe offer this kind of connectivity.
  14. Genuine airport rail hub — even if you are not heading on one of Switzerland numerous scenic routes, Zürich airport is a genuine integrated rail hub, with services to numerous other Swiss cities, and not just to the centre of Zürich itself. For example, trains to Geneva start at Zürich airport, and direct services are also available to Basel, St Gallen and Romanshorn on the edge of Lake Constance.

Swiss Mountain Railways

Always check the details of what you are getting well in advance. National Swiss Rail passes will give you a discount on the private mountain railways, but don’t expect them to include them for free. Regional rail passes tend to be more generous, and they are more likely to include the mountain railways as well. 

  1. Mountain add-ons. Add a mountain railway ticket at the time of booking a Swiss Rail pass, and the cost is just about bearable – £25 for Murren or £27 for Schilthorn. The Jungfrau line doesn’t even get a mention – you will need your own Swiss bank account to pay for that one (£128 day return from Interlaken).
  2. Jungfraujoch discount – discounts are available with most passes, and you may be able to start your ticket from Kleine Scheidegg, and get an early or late ticket to pay a lot less – potentially as little as £32, if you accept the restrictions. Either way, good luck trying to drive a car to the ‘Top of Europe!’.
  3. Famous resorts — the world-famous resort of St Moritz, Davos and Klosters are within easy and stunningly scenic train ride from Zürich. Slightly lesser known is Arosa, home of the Tschuggen Grand spa resort, where stunning modern architecture meets an equally impressive alpine backdrop.
  4. Glacier Express — Clarkson might be right about this one, it is the slowest intercity train in the world, but why would you want to go fast, when the views are so impressive at every turn? This runs from Zermatt to St Moritz, taking in the world-famous Landwasser viaduct on the way.
  5. Just incase the Glacier express isn’t enough, you can continue onward from St Moritz on the Bernina line into Italy and along the shores of Lake Como, terminating in either Bergamo or Milan. The flight home from here might even be slightly cheaper — or do it the other way round, so you don’t miss out on your duty-free allowance which is available on flights from Switzerland. This route takes in the amazing Brusio Spiral Viaduct.
  6. Better connections – Compared to Geneva, Zürich airport has better connections to the Bernese Oberland and Zermatt, although Bern is closer still. Needless to say, the railway routes here are superb too, and there are many places where you can’t even take a car — see our separate Bern page for more details.

 

Verdict – no

Ratings

Car rental in - Zurich Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Zurich?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Zurich?

Based on value for money
 

Should you rent a car in Zurich?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
 

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Zurich if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?

 

Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Zurich if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?

 

What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Zurich if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?


 

Verdict

Final score:

2

Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments
 

Is it worth hiring a car in Zürich?

Clearly, this is a long list of superlatively scenic train journeys (with a price to match) which can be taken from Zürich, a list which is expanded further still on our Bern page for central Switzerland, and our Milan page for southern Switzerland. This list might be written by a rail enthusiast, but this is undoubtedly a part of the world where anyone will appreciate these are unmissable train rides. So is it worth it to hire a car in Zürich?

However, petrol heads will also believe that mountain scenery that makes a great train ride makes it even better drive, and there might well be some truth in that – as long as you are driving in areas that have through roads! So even though our recommendation is still to make the best possible use of the ruthlessly efficient Swiss travel system, the driving is amazing too, especially as drivers won’t experience quite the same level of mountain restrictions as there are around Bern.

Would you hire a car in Zurich?

Have you driven in Zurich? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Zurich?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below: