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Practical Notes for Lugano

Andrew McGarrell

Some practical notes for travelers visiting Lugano, in southern Switzerland.


Switzerland keeps using its own currency, the Swiss franc (CHF), but is surrounded by countries using the euro, and the euro is widely accepted. Many ATMs give both CHF and euros. If you ask for 100 CHF, the ATM may just give a 100-franc note; getting change for small purchases doesn't seem to be a problem.

Train Station

The Lugano train station is well above the historic city center, and there is a funicular connecting the station to the city center. The Bus Express from Milan Malpensa airport (www.busexpress.com) arrives in front of the train station.

The funicular starts in the train station itself, not across the street as one might expect. The fare is 1.10 CHF, which can also be paid as 0.80. There is a staffed booth for selling tickets, but if you want a day pass to use the funicular and city buses for 24 hours, you need to buy it from a machine. There is one across from the ticket booth (these machines are the same at all bus stops around town).

Local Transportation Day Passes

The machines, for buying day passes or single bus tickets, do not give change, but do take euro coins. They have a slot with the English word "CASH," but this is the name of a stored value card available in Switzerland; they do not take paper money. In my case, I wanted a day pass for 5 CHF, but had spent most of my euro coins, and just had large CHF banknotes. The bank at the station cheerfully made change.

The day pass is good for 24 hours, not just until midnight as is the case in most Italian cities.

However, before buying a day pass, decide if it will be worthwhile; will you want to go to outer districts such as Castagnola and Paradiso? The city center is compact and easily walked, so you may not use the buses that much.

Fares for individual tickets bought from machines are: 1.20 CHF for up to three stops, 1.60 CHF for rides within one zone (zone 10 - the center city), and 2 CHF for the outer zone (11). These zones are shown on the map on the Lugano Tourism site.

These tickets have a time of validity from the time purchased; it might be 35 minutes for the 3-stop ticket, 1 hour for zone 10, 2 hours for zones 10-11; this would allow taking multiple buses during this time. At the machine, select the type of ticket you want, the amount displays, then it shows how much you put in; I guess a 1-euro coin would show as 1.50 CHF.

The pass or ticket is like a cash register receipt, but be sure to have it handy. Show it to the agent at the funicular booth (although there is a stamping device there, there is no need to use it). When boarding a bus, push the button by any of the doors to open them; during the day, you do not show your ticket, but inspectors may board the bus and check the tickets. After 8:30pm, you're asked to board at the front of the bus and show the driver your ticket.


www.lugano.ch: Lugano Tourism official site.

Andrew McGarrell, of St. Joseph, Missouri, spent his teenage years in Italy and returns there often. Andrew - - Travel Home Page

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