Cheap and fast transportation from Munich to Zurich doesn’t have to mean compromising on quality. Budget travelers are pros at finding dirt cheap travel deals to stretch budgets further and extend that trip just a little longer.
Trouble is, you often get what you pay for with budget options.
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The Cheapest & Fastest Way to Travel from Munich to Zurich
It’ll put a serious damper on your trip when that budget flight is canceled. Or even worse, the flight is delayed several hours and you’ll miss your connection, but since it’s not canceled you can’t get a refund.
The trick is finding the right balance between reliability, comfort, and cost.
For travel between Munich and Zurich, we were just as surprised as you to discover that travel by Deutsche Bahn (DB) IC bus was the most cost-effective and reliable option.
Let me just start by saying: Bus travel is never in my top 3 ways to travel. Flights, trains, and rental cars are my preferred modes of travel, in that order, for international trips.
But I did the research and when it came to reliability, comfort, and cost, the DB IC Bus from Munich to Zurich won by a landslide.
Let’s back up for a minute: why Munich to Zurich?
Part of my epic 12 day Austria-Germany-Switzerland-Liechtenstein trip in 2019 involved traveling from Munich, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland.
Looking at a basic street map those two cities don’t seem very far apart. But turn on satellite view map and you’ll notice there are more than a few mountains between them.
The original plan for this trip was just southern Germany. But as often happens, with Americans in particular, we notice how close everything is to each other in Europe and we want to see everything at once. *raises hand* Guilty.
So my trip expanded to include Salzburg, Austria and Zurich, Switzerland. And if you’re already gonna be in northern Switzerland, you can’t miss Liechtenstein. Thus, the epic 4 country itinerary was born and my bucket list was happy!
The logical itinerary was either Salzburg-Munich-Zurich or Zurich-Munich-Salzburg. International flights made that decision for me: flights back to the US are cheaper and have more times available from Zurich than from Salzburg.
My main base was Munich, Germany. I had day trip options galore from Munich and didn’t want the hassle of changing hotels every few days. Changing hotels really cuts into your sight-seeing time. Not a fan.
I flew into Munich from the US, immediately took the train to Salzburg, and explored Mozart’s hometown for a couple days before backtracking to Munich. Once I was done with my Munich adventures and day trips, I was ready for Switzerland.
How to Get to Zurich from Munich
During the research phase of trip planning, I looked at my top 3 ways to travel. All the standard transportation options were considered:
- fly Munich to Zurich
- trains from Munich to Zurich
- rent a car and drive from Munich to Zurich
- instead of day tripping to Fussen, spend the night in Fussen and then carry on via trains to Zurich
Flights were expensive and time-consuming compared to other options and not worth the time and energy of getting through airport security.
I favored a train because it’s typically cheaper and can be faster than the hassle of airports.
But those mountains. They don’t make straight path travel very easy.
Turns out, there are no direct train routes from Munich to Zurich. Not even somewhat direct, where you stop in one city slightly out of the way and change trains for your final destination.
Basically every train from Munich to Zurich is via Frankfurt (not even Stuttgart!), which adds several hours to your journey. Fussen to Zurich was even worse because Fussen is a smaller town and gets fewer trains per day.
Alright, not ideal, but let’s take a night train from Munich and sleep on the train.
Couldn’t find a route with no train changes. That’s the last thing I wanted: dragging all my luggage through an unfamiliar train station at 3AM, so I can arrive in Zurich at 9AM exhausted and waste half a day at my hotel, power napping.
Did I already mention how I hate wasting precious sightseeing time?
Fine, let’s try the rental car option. I knew there’d be a fee for point to point travel and not returning the car to its origin city. But driving internationally and dropping it off in another country is a whole different problem.
Talk about a hefty fee! I never thought renting a car for a single day could be so expensive! I couldn’t find anything cheaper than $200 for what is essentially 4 hours of rental time. Unbelievable.
So now I’m desperately searching for other transportation options, because I’ve gotten all excited about Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and I stumbled upon the DB IC Bus routes.
They could get us from Munich to Zurich in 4 hours for just $26 per person!
I know what you’re thinking. My initial reaction was also one of disbelief and trying to find the catch.
Not your average long-haul bus company
I typically dismiss long route bus travel right away. I’m 5’-3” and my husband is 6’-2”. It’s not comfortable for either of us.
On this trip we also had our 6’-5” friend from college joining us, and while we are sometimes willing to sacrifice comfort for a good price, we’re not gonna force others to be uncomfortable.
Hear me out though: the Deutsche Bahn IC bus routes are managed by the same national transport company that runs the trains in Germany. DB buses are reliable, comfortable, and cost-effective. These are not Flix buses.
I appreciate what Flix buses can do for the young and broke in Europe who want to travel, but their reliability is not good enough for me.
I’m a planner with timetables, and I just don’t accept the constant uncertainty of the Flix bus schedules. Sure, some are on time, but reviews seem like it’s hit or miss. If you’re more flexible than me, Flix buses can be a budget saver!
The DB buses had none of those unreliable reviews. I read review after review of the DB buses, and the only negative reviews I found seemed to be unprepared people rather than the company’s fault.
At $26 per person, I couldn’t find another reliable alternative to beat the price, and the DB IC buses offer the same comfort level as a train. Reliability, comfort, and cost: I was sold.
Switzerland, here I come!
Where to catch the DB IC bus
Munich has a main bus station, just like it has a main train station. No matter the bus company, the ZOB (short for Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof in German) is most likely your rendezvous point for catching the long-haul bus.
If you’ve been in Munich for a few days, you’ve likely mastered the S-bahn and U-bahn local train system. The ZOB is one stop west of the central train station.
Exit at Hackerbrücke and walk over to the ZOB. You won’t be the only one. Follow the trail of others with suitcases heading for the modern glass building north of the tracks.
The ZOB has some food and shopping options and a brightly lit indoor waiting area. Check the board for your terminal number. The board will update once your bus has arrived and is ready for loading.
Tip: purchase tickets online prior to travel. A handful of companies have ticket offices at the ZOB but most do not. Deutsche Bahn has ticket offices at the central train station, but not at the ZOB.
My DB IC bus arrived on time, and I had zero problems with check-in. Make sure the name on your photo ID matches the name on your ticket, and you won’t have any problems either.
The Bus Experience: Was it Comfortable?
Honestly, no issues and no complaints.
The seats are comfortably cushioned, well-maintained, clean, and adjustable. Aisle seats can partially slide into the aisle to give you a little more separation from your neighbor by the window.
My tall (over 6’-0”) traveling companions fit snugly, but they fit and were sufficiently comfortable for the trip. Not as squished as an airplane by any means, but also not as roomy as a personal car might be.
Electrical outlets at every seat pair, tray tables at every seat, and a bathroom in back are all nice perks for a 4 hour road trip. Not to mention you can sit back and relax instead of driving.
What about the ride?
I’m continually amazed by bus drivers’ abilities to maneuver these whale-like vehicles around tight corners in urban streets. No issues getting out of town and on the freeway. Smooth ride the whole way.
I loved the scenery, watching the German and Swiss countryside pass by as I sipped my drink and wrote in my travel journal. For 5’-3” me, it was just as comfortable as if I’d been on a train.
The journey was direct and did not have any scheduled stops in other towns along the route. The bus stopped briefly at the Swiss border, and they checked our passports but didn’t stamp them.
Arrival in Zurich
The DB IC bus arrived in Zurich on-time and dropped off right next door to Zurich’s main train station.
Only regret: because I was one of the first to board, I was one of the last to get my luggage in Zurich. I wasn’t in a rush so not a big deal, but something to consider for next trip!
So that’s my tale of taking the bus from Munich to Zurich! Not a tale of woe and misery, but rather a tale of speedy, hassle-free international transportation.
Thanks DB for having that route! It was a game changer and allowed me to keep my epic 4 countries in 10 days itinerary!
Would you consider taking a long-haul bus route? What are your experiences with reputable bus transportation?