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The best way to get around in Ticino depends on what you’re planning to see and do. Train services, either run by FFS (the Italian abbreviation for SBB, the federal railway company) or by one or two local operators, are perfectly fine for accessing the three major towns, Bellinzona, Locarno and Lugano, with local buses from each of them serving points close at hand. However, if you want to explore the hinterland but your time is at all pressed, relying on public transport alone can be frustrating: postbuses penetrate to even the remotest valley and hamlet, but tend to run on schedules that leave a two-hour gap between services. Renting a car would be a better option, but you should bear in mind that all three major towns, and the roads between them, are choked with cars, and it can be quite literally impossible to find a parking space in the town centres.
Oddly, there’s no cantonal transport pass, only two regional offerings which overlap on coverage: you should check the exact terms at a tourist office before you buy, and match the right one with your travel plans. The Lugano Regional Pass gives free travel on trains and boats on and around Lago di Lugano (including the funiculars up to San Salvatore and Monte Brè), with half-price discounts on transport around Locarno, for three days within seven (Fr.70) or seven consecutive days (Fr.92). Similarly, the Locarno/Ascona Regional Pass gives free travel on trains and boats in the Swiss basin of Lago Maggiore, plus half-price on funiculars, chairlifts and transport in and around Lugano, for three days in seven (Fr.50) or seven consecutive days (Fr.76). Both are offered in the summer only (April–Oct), and both are given at a discount to Swiss Pass holders.
Ticino Turismo are the most professional and efficient of all the Swiss tourist organizations, and have libraries full of excellent brochures and leaflets publicizing the canton. Contact them at Villa Turrita, CP 1441, CH-6501 Bellinzona (091/825 70 56, fax 825 36 14, email@example.com, www.tourism-ticino.ch).
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