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How much will I be fined for not having a train ticket in Switzerland?

Being a fare dodger — whether on a Swiss train or another mode of public transportation — is considered an offence. This is what your penalties could be.

How much will I be fined for not having a train ticket in Switzerland?
No ticket to ride on public transportation in Switzerland? Get ready to be fined. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

If you take public transportation often and don’t have your half or full-fare Travelcard, then tickets can get quite expensive.

This could be the reason why people may choose to ride ticketless, hoping they fall through the cracks of random and sporadic checks.

But what happens if you get caught?

No matter what lame excuse you will concoct for not having your ticket, chances that the train inspector will take pity on you and wave the fine are slim to none. They have likely heard all the excuses made up by humankind already.

As Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is a national company, fines will be the same throughout the country.

According to their website, travelling without a valid ticket will cost you 90 francs (in addition to the price of the ticket) if this is your first offence — or at least the first time being caught. For the second and third offences the surcharges are 130 and 160 francs, respectively.

But that’s not all.

Since 2019, people who travel on Switzerland’s trains, trams and buses without a valid ticket have had their details placed in a national register, where they remain for two years.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been caught on a national or regional mode of transport: fare evasion data is shared among all the operators in Switzerland. For instance, if you got caught traveling without a ticket on a SBB train, and then again on regional transport a few months later, this will be considered a repeat offence and a surcharge will apply.

READ MORE: Swiss pensioner fined 90 francs for buying train ticket one minute late

What about fare dodger fees on regional transport?

About 120 transport companies are currently operating throughout Switzerland.

No matter if you travel on a local train, bus, tram, or ferry, regional transport company will fine you for riding without a ticket and include your name in the digital database.

Though the amount of fine varies somewhat from one city to another, one rule remains the same: the more often you get caught, the higher the fine.

These are the fines you will receive in Switzerland’s four largest cities on any mode of transport that is operating in that particular area:

Zurich

In addition to the price of ticket, you will have to pay 100 francs the first time you are caught without a valid ticket, 140 the second and 220 the third.

Geneva   

In addition to the price of ticket, you will be charged 100 francs for the first offence, 180 for the second and 210 for the third.

Basel

Fare-dodger rates here are the same as those charged by SBB:  90 francs, 130, 160, respectively.

Bern

Here you will pay 100 francs for the first offence, 140 for the second, and 170 for the third.

Why you should never, ever travel without a ticket?

The most obvious answer is that this practice is illegal, and being a good citizen means obeying the law.

Secondly, ticket dodgers are responsible for substantial losses of earnings in the public transport system — losses which eventually are passed down to the public in the form of fare increases.

Can being included in the national register of fare evaders diminish your chances of getting Swiss citizenship?

There are no statistics available that show specifically whether being in the offender database impacts naturalisation.

But if you are a foreign national and are applying for naturalisation, travelling without a ticket — that is, knowingly breaking the law — does not bode well for you.

That is  because “respect for public safety, security and order” is one of the conditions of becoming a Swiss citizen.

And if you think this would be much too trivial to count, think again: Swiss municipalities had rejected naturalisation requests for lesser ‘offences’ — for instance, complaining about cow bells, or for wearing sweatpants in public.

READ MORE: Travel: This interactive map shows direct trains from every Swiss city

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EXPLAINED: Which Schengen area countries have border controls in place and why?

Borders within Europe's Schengen area are meant to be open but several countries have checks in place but are they legal and will they be forced to scrap them? Claudia Delpero explains the history and what's at stake.

EXPLAINED: Which Schengen area countries have border controls in place and why?

The European Court of Justice has recently said that checks introduced by Austria at the borders with Hungary and Slovenia during the refugee crisis of 2015 may not be compatible with EU law.

Austria has broken the rules of the Schengen area, where people can travel freely, by extending temporary controls beyond 6 months without a new “serious threat”.

But Austria is not the only European country having restored internal border checks for more than six months.

Which countries have controls in place and what does the EU Court decision mean for them? 

When can EU countries re-introduce border checks?

The Schengen area, taken from the name of the Luxembourgish town where the convention abolishing EU internal border controls was signed, includes 26 states: the EU countries except for Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia and Romania, plus Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, which are not EU members.

The Schengen Borders Code sets the rules on when border controls are permitted. It says that checks can be temporarily restored where there is a “serious threat to public policy or internal security”, from the organisation of a major sport event to a terrorist attack such as those seen in Paris in November 2015.

However, these checks should be a “last resort” measure, should be limited to the period “strictly necessary” to respond to the threat and not last more than 6 months.

In exceptional circumstances, if the functioning of the entire Schengen area is at risk, EU governments can recommend that one or more countries reintroduce internal border controls for a maximum of two years. The state concerned can then continue to impose checks for another six months if a new threat emerges. 

Which countries keep border checks in place?

Countries reintroducing border controls have to notify the European Commission and other member states providing a reason for their decision. 

Based on the list of notifications, these countries currently have controls in place at least at some of their borders: 

Norway – until 11 November 2022 at ferry connections with Denmark, Germany and Sweden. These measures have been in place since 2015 due to terrorist threats or the arrival of people seeking international protection and have sometimes extended to all borders.

Austria – until November 2022 11th, since 2015, at land borders with Hungary and with Slovenia due to risks related to terrorism and organised crime and “the situation at the external EU borders”. 

Germany – until November 11th 2022, since November 12th 2021, at the land border with Austria “due to the situation at the external EU borders”.

Sweden – until November 11th 2022, since 2017, can concern all borders due to terrorist and public security threats and “shortcomings” at the EU external borders. 

Denmark – until November 11th 2022, since 2016, can concern all internal borders due to terrorist and organised criminality threats or migration.

France – until October 31st 2022 since 2015, due to terrorist threats and other events, including, since 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Estonia – until May 21st 2022, from April 22nd 2022, at the border with Latvia “to facilitate the entry and reception of people arriving from Ukraine”.

Norway, Austria, Germany and France also said they are operating checks on non-EU citizens. 

Can Schengen rules survive?

Despite the exceptional nature of these measures, there have been continuous disruptions to the free movement of people in the Schengen area in the past 15 years. 

Since 2006, there have been 332 notifications of border controls among Schengen countries, with increasing frequency from 2015. In addition, 17 countries unilaterally restored border controls at the start of the pandemic. 

In December 2021, the Commission proposed to reform the system to ensure that border controls remain an exception rather than becoming the norm. 

According to the proposals, countries should consider alternatives to border controls, such as police cooperation and targeted checks in border regions. 

When controls are restored, governments should take measures to limit their impacts on border areas, especially on the almost 1.7 million people who live in a Schengen state but work in another, and on the internal market, especially guaranteeing the transit of “essential” goods. 

Countries could also conclude bilateral agreements among themselves for the readmission of people crossing frontiers irregularly, the Commission suggested. 

If border controls have been in place for 6 months, any notification on their extension should include a risk assessment, and if restrictions are in place for 18 months, the Commission will have to evaluate their necessity. Temporary border controls should not exceed 2 years “unless for very specific circumstances,” the Commission added. 

At a press conference on April 27th, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said the EU Court ruling about Austria is in line with these proposals.

“What the court says is that member states have to comply with the time limit that is in the current legislation. Of course we can propose another time limit in the legislation… and the court also says that it’s necessary for member states, if they would like to prolong [the border controls] to really do the risk assessment on whether it’s really necessary… and that’s exactly what’s in our proposal on the Schengen Border Code.”

Criticism from organisations representing migrants

It is now for the European Parliament and EU Council to discuss and adopt the new rules.

A group of migration organisations, including Caritas Europe, the Danish Refugee Council, Oxfam International and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) have raised concerns and called on the EU institutions to modify the Commission proposals.

In particular, they said, the “discretionary nature” of controls in border regions risk to “disproportionately target racialised communities” and “practically legitimise ethnic and racial profiling and expose people to institutional and police abuse.”

Research from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2021, the groups noted, shows that people from an ‘ethnic minority, Muslim, or not heterosexual’ are disproportionately affected by police stops.

The organisations also criticize the definition of people crossing borders irregularly as a threat and a new procedure to “transfer people apprehended… in the vicinity of the border area” to the authorities of the country where it is assumed they came from without any individual assessment. 

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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