Train stations in Switzerland
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It takes something of a leap of faith to realize, but in Switzerland a train station (Bahnhof, gare, stazione) isn’t the dregs-of-the-earth place it might be in another country. In fact, many Swiss stations harbour genuinely good restaurants next to their formica-table buffets – going out for a nice meal at the station is a new experience for most visitors – and many also shelter the only shops and supermarkets in their town open after 6pm. Where supermarkets and kiosks stop, large 24-hour vending machines take over, quite often dispensing loaves of bread, salami and cartons of milk in addition to Coke and chocolate.

You can find many convenient facilities at just about all train stations. Luggage lockers are universal, found at all but the tiniest country halts, and normally come in two or three sizes: average prices are Fr.3 for a small one (into which you can just about stuff a full rucksack), Fr.5 for a large and – only at main stations – Fr.8 for an extra-large. Once they’re locked, you can open them only once. Your gear is safe in them for several days without a problem, but – especially at the large city stations – after a week or two staff may open the locker, impound your property at the left-luggage office, and require you to pay through the nose to get it back. Ask at the information counters beforehand what the time limit is. Access to lockers may also be prohibited between midnight and 5am.

Virtually every station also has a staffed left-luggage office (Fr.5 per item per day), invariably open daily for long hours, and often combined with a lost-property office, a bike-rental counter, and the fly-baggage check-in service.

Just about the only people you’ll see lugging suitcases or rucksacks through train compartments are foreigners: most Swiss register their heavy bags at the baggage counter before they board (for around Fr.10 per item per journey) and let SBB’s team of baggage-handlers take the strain, picking up their stuff from their destination station later that day. This is a great service to take advantage of if you want to see a lot of things in a day but don’t fancy carting your gear from locker to locker.

Train-station lost property offices are linked by computer, so they can all run a nationwide check for you; it costs Fr.5 to retrieve a small item, Fr.20 for a large or heavy piece. Other services you’ll find in all stations are bureau de change and money-wiring facilities, invariably spotless toilets (free or Fr.1–1.50) and, in city stations, equally spotless shower cubicles (Fr.10).

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