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Do I need to book train Switzerland to Italy in advance?

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Jun 6th, 2013, 05:19 PM
  #1
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Do I need to book train Switzerland to Italy in advance?

Hi all

Travelling from Grindelwald to Verona on 28 September (3 people).

Have looked up trains Grindelwald to Milan (Depart 07:19, Arrive 11.35) via Spiez and Brig.

Is there any point in booking these in advance or can I book when in Grindelwald? I also plan to buy a Swiss Card when in Switz., which would actually make part of the journey free, so can I even book without having the Swiss Card now?

And what about the onward journey Milan to Verona? How easy is the transfer across platforms, etc? Do I book this in advance?

Thanks for any advice.
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Jun 6th, 2013, 09:51 PM
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The Spiez/Milan train you would probably need to book if you are connecting with the EC train in Spiez. The EC trains can be pretty full. I would take the 6:49 departure to Interlaken, then Spiez and the EC train on to Milan so you have less changes.

I don't see a way to book the EC train with the Half Fare card. You can book Grindelwald to Spiez and you would select Half Fare under reduction. It really doubt it's necessary to book these in advance, but you could also book them all when you buy your Half Fare card. I would think the Half Fare card would be good until Domodossola.

For Milan/Verona, you can book on Trenitalia, but trains are frequent. If you want to snag a discount (as little as 9€ for the fast train) book in advance. Walk up price for the fast train is 21.50€ and since you are connecting, you might want to wait and buy in Milan..
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Jun 6th, 2013, 11:31 PM
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Thanks, kybourbon – that 6:49 train is much better, will definitely take that one. The sooner we get to Verona the better.

The Swiss Card I believe should give me free travel to Domodossola (plus 2 x children travelling free).

So you're saying I could do this fairly safely a couple of days in advance when in Switzerland? And they would work it all out for me at the ticket office?

Thanks for advice on connections with Milan, maybe it would be better to wait until we arrive there.
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Jun 7th, 2013, 06:46 AM
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The fast AV trains from Milan to Verona take 1:20, but there are also slower trains that take only 30 minutes longer and the cost is 11.55€ walk up. In Italy, the faster trains (AV,IC) require seats (mandatory) which comes with your ticket when purchased on Trenitalia or in Italy. The slower R trains don't have reserved seating (or discounts) and there is no need to buy in advance. R train tickets must be validated before boarding (so you don't get fined).
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Jun 7th, 2013, 03:05 PM
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Thanks again, kybourbon.

I would like to take a fast train. I've looked up the times on Trenitalia and a fast train leaves at 11.35. If we arrive at Milano Centrale at 10.35, would it be easy enough to find the platform etc. in time to catch this one? I hadn't realised the tickets went on sale so early, so I would actually like to book it.

Also does anyone have an answer to my Q about leaving the Switz. to Italy leg until we're in Switzerland? I don't want to run the risk of missing out on it, but it seems too complicated with the Swiss Card involved to do it from here (Australia).
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Jun 8th, 2013, 04:23 PM
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Anyone have answers to above?

Q1: am I safe in leaving train booking until day or two before, Grindelwald to Milan? I guess there's no price-saving advantage in booking in advance, but do I run the risk of not getting seats? Anyone have experience?

Q2: is 1 hour enough time to change platforms, etc. if I book in advance ticket Milan to Verona? Train from Switz. arrives 10.35. Train Milan to Verona leaves 11.35.

Thank you!
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Jun 9th, 2013, 10:04 AM
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Q1
I was hoping some of the Fodorite's that live in Switzerland would respond to this post, but perhaps they are traveling. I recall on another thread that someone traveling between countries could book selecting the half fare option. I think you would do this only for the leg on the EC train as your other trains in Switzerland wouldn't require reservations.

Q2
One hour is more than enough time to change trains, but my last EC train from Switzerland to Milan was about 45 minutes late. You also might want to get some food while you are in Milan (and euro).

The cheapest option between Spiez/Milan on the EC is 59chf with your Half Fare card. You can often get the Supersaver fare cheaper for Spiez/Milan (27chf). I think I would book that if available and just use your Half Fare card to get to Spiez in time to catch the EC train. The Grindelwald to Spiez ticket can just be purchased in Switzerland since it doesn't require seat reservations. From sbb when I enter Spiez/Milan.

Standard offer (with Half-Fare travelcard)
2nd cl. CHF
59.00
1st cl. CHF
83.00

The Swiss site is annoying when trying to select Supersaver fares. If you are within the time frame of Supersaver sales, you can see if it's available for your EC train that departs Spiez at

Enter your date/time and Spiez/Milan on this link.
http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

For Supersaver fares, it must be at least two weeks to two months advance purchase (no closer than two weeks). When the list of trains appear, instead of selecting the EC train that departs at 8:05, scroll down below the list and click on Saver tip - Zurich/Milan link for Supersaver. For some reason, sbb doesn't always show this discount if you just click the EC train you want (only good for EC trains Switzerland/Italy - no changes).

On the next screen (here comes the annoying part), the default is Zurich and your selected date will also have disappeared. Select Spiez/Milan/date and click next. This is the annoying part. Your selections will have defaulted again to Zurich/Milan and select date again and you will have to choose everything again. The second time it works, but never the first time (glitch in their website). A saver train/date will be already be selected. Should be your correct date, but make sure and click next. On this screen you will see all the EC trains for the day and will be able to see if your particular train has Supersaver available for 27chf. These fares can sell out so may have varying increase in prices depending on availability.

This ticket will require picking up at a station in Switzerland. You will be asked to pick a station to retrieve your ticket. Make sure of ticket office opening hours for whichever station you select and that you will be in that station at those times (you can probably select the station where you are going to buy your Half Fare card and just retrieve this ticket when you get your card). I wouldn't want to try to retrieve it in Grindelwald (too early - might not be open) or Spiez as you won't have much time.
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Jun 9th, 2013, 04:14 PM
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Thanks so much for replying in such detail! That's fantastic information. It's worrying thinking the train may be late, as you say, but I will have some euros on me already (we will have travelled from Paris to Switzerland before this), and we will bring some food on the train. I guess I'll just have to risk it.

On the Paris to Switzerland journey, we will change trains in Basel, so I could pick up the ticket there I would think. I was planning to buy the Swiss Card then. It'll be about midday, so there shouldn't be a problem.

I previously posted a thread on the choice of Swiss Card V Half Fare Card and after much discussion decided on the Swiss Card. This is supposed to give FREE travel to the border. In your notes you refer to the Half Fare Card. Does this mean it is the only option to use when selecting a ticket? I haven't been on the site yet to check (need to grit my teeth to go on, by the sounds of it!). My mind's in a bit of a whirl. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply.
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Jun 9th, 2013, 06:14 PM
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It may be helpful to know that you might just wait and purchase your Swiss Pass upon arrival -- there is no advantage to purchasing it now except perhaps losing or forgetting it-- but you may reserve a seat on your train of choice. We were informed by Swiss Tourism NYC that we would indeed need to reserve our trip on the Golden Pass leg; forgot to do so and only discovered 8 empty seats (second class) on the morning train we want from Lucerne - Interlaken. There is a small charge (8 swiss francs) for the reservation.
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Jun 9th, 2013, 06:16 PM
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p.s. yes, we got our seats but should have reserved earlier for better seat selection.
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Jun 9th, 2013, 08:39 PM
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Thanks, aliced. What time of year was that? Is the Golden Pass part of our journey? Sorry, I don't know of it. Yes, I will buy Swiss Card on arrival. We have four days in Grindelwald, by the way.
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Jun 10th, 2013, 08:10 AM
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>>> previously posted a thread on the choice of Swiss Card V Half Fare Card and after much discussion decided on the Swiss Card. This is supposed to give FREE travel to the border<<<

Sorry! I was thinking you were getting the Half Fare card. I don't see a way to book a ticket on the EC train with the Swiss Card. Perhaps someone else knows how to do it. Since the EC train is international, you will need to get seats.
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Jun 10th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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The Swiss Card I believe should give me free travel to Domodossola (plus 2 x children travelling free).>

Yes if talking about the Swiss Card and not the Half-Fare Card - two different creatures - you may be talking about a Swiss Pass which would make more sense and yes this would take you free to Domodossola, Italy from where you Italian ticket would kick in or you could buy one.

There is absolutely no reason to book the Swiss trains in advance - I have been traveling in Switzerland for eons with passes and never ever had a full train and then you can always board those trains, even EC I believe, for the Swiss part as reservations are not required (unless recently changed)- in any case you can easily book them in Switzerland if you want - not sure you can buy the Italian portion ticket there - presume you can but would not count on it - you can always book on www.trenitalia.com but that site is so so fickle you may needs hours of frustration to do it if a myriad of previous posts attest to (but there are always helpful folk like kybourbon who will walk you thru it if you post your problems!)

Half-fare option if you have half-fare card does not exist I believve for Italian destinations but only German and Ausgtrian I believe - but you do not have a half-fare card but a Swiss Card or Pass that covers those trains 100% I believe.

Now Golden Pass and other special tourist trains like the Glacier Express should be booked because they can be full and may require seat reservations on some portions but in general very few people book any trains in Switzerland - booking not even possible Grindelwald to Interlaken I believe.

Again just put angst to rest and if you want easily book that EC train once in Switzerland.

For lots of great stuff on Swiss trains and passes, etc I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sources - http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id3.html; www.ricksteves.com and www.swisstravelsystem.com.

a reason to book the Italian portion - in addition to possibly saving some moolah if you want to restrict your ticket to a specific train and not change it - is that if you are on one of the few trains that today actually continue into Italy you would not have to get off the train to buy a ticket and in Milan Centrale just head to your connecting train - but leave a lot of time to change trains as a novice in this often very very hectic huge station!
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Jun 10th, 2013, 11:17 AM
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>>>even EC I believe, for the Swiss part as reservations are not required (unless recently changed)- <<<

The Swiss website implies you must have reservations.

***Obligatory seat reservations***

http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and...nal/italy.html

My computer at home last night was timing out on trying to select Spiez/Milan EC train (departing Spiez at 8:05) with a discount. When I selected GA travelcard 2nd (GA 2cl 1 year) as the discount, I got a message saying it couldn't be purchased. I'm at work currently and just tried it. It allows the purchase with pick up in a station in Switzerland. There is no Swiss Card option (there is a Half Fare card option), but I think you select the GA for 2nd class which is the card for Swiss residents. I've seen it posted that this is the selction for Swiss Passes so would assume it's the same with the Swiss Card for transfer to the boarder. It's giving a price of 21chf for a random date in July.

Your Grindelwald/Interlaken/Spiez trains only allow 5 minutes transfer at Interlaken. You have 10 minutes at Spiez to catch the EC train. If you aren't used to riding trains, you need to know the stops before the one you want to get off so you can be at the door with your luggage.

Here's the connection times for the random date in July:

Grindelwald Mi, 17.07.13 dep 06:49 R
R 224 Regio
Interlaken Ost arr 07:24
Interlaken Ost dep 07:29 R
R 6109 Regio
Spiez arr 07:50
Spiez dep 08:05 EC
EC 51 EuroCity
Milano Centrale arr 10:35

R train # 224 Grindelwald/Interlaken stops (you might not be able to look up stops for R trains too far out). Stops may be different on weekends/holidays.

Grindelwald Fr, 07.06.13 dep 06:49 R 224
R 224 Regio
Direction: Interlaken Ost

Schwendi bei Grindelwald dep 06:54
Burglauenen dep 06:57
Lütschental dep 07:02
Zweilütschinen dep 07:13
Wilderswil dep 07:19
Interlaken Ost arr 07:24
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Jun 10th, 2013, 12:07 PM
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>>>even EC I believe, for the Swiss part as reservations are not required (unless recently changed)- <<<

The Swiss website implies you must have reservations.>

www.bahn.de/en the infallible German Railways site says nothing about mandatory reservatrions for Spiez to Domodossola for that train or any train near it timewise but when I change the destination to Milan it then says "seat reservations mandatory" or whatever words they use. Inside Switzerland folks can ride without a reservation like on any Swiss train it seems - though I guess I would check that first but if continuing on they would need two reservations one for the Swiss part if required and definitely one for the Italian part that is required - that means getting up and relocating probably at the border.

It seems the same as on the old Cisalpino trains - no reservations were required for those Switzerland to Italy trains inside Switzerland. Now www.bahn.de could be wrong but it rarely is.
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Jun 10th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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Similarly on www.bahn.de I put in Zurich to Paris and got a TGV train that said 'subject to obligatoire reservation" but when I changed the same train to Zurich to Basel SBB the thing about the 'subject to obligatorie reservation was not there - I think within Switzerland there are no mandatory seat reservations like on any regular train - only the Glacier Express type tourist trains mandate reservations it seems - if www.bahn.de is correct.
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Jun 10th, 2013, 01:46 PM
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I think the OP is concerned this train will be booked.

While the following info is talking about booking on sbb.ch Zurich/Milan using a Swiss Pass, it should be the same using the Swiss Card.

From the Swiss Travel System Facebook page:

***Question:
William Oslawposted to Swiss Travel System
May 24
Hi there. I'd like to book a train ticket from Zurich to Milan. But I need a Swiss Pass Code to get the discount. I'd like to ask if I book the ticket through your website and pay by credit card, would I get my Swiss Pass Code ? Also, is it economic for me to buy 4 days Swiss Pass for 2 days stay in Swiss ? do you have any suggestion ?. Thank you.

Answer:

Swiss Travel System
Hello William. Please note that the ticket can be purchased on this website: http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html
Normally, there is no need to enter any code. If you buy the ticket Zurich-Milan and you are planning to travel with a Swiss Pass, click on the button "reduction Switzerland" and choose the option "GA 1st class (or 2nd class) 1 year / GA subscription" and you will have to pay the train track in Italy only.
Please note that we launch a 2day Swiss Flexi Pass from September 2013. It will be available and bookable from June on our website SwissTravelSystem.com under "specials". Should you wish to use the Swiss Pass before September we recommend you the Swiss Card. Find more information here: http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/...s-card-en.html
This might be the best option for a 2-day stay in Switzerland.
We wish you a pleasant journey in Switzerland.****

The OP could ask there if they want to be certain, but I'm pretty sure that's how you would book in advance to get the free transfer to the border and include your reservation on to Milan.
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Jun 10th, 2013, 01:47 PM
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Your Grindelwald/Interlaken/Spiez trains only allow 5 minutes transfer at Interlaken. You have 10 minutes at Spiez to catch the EC train. If you aren't used to riding trains, you need to know the stops before the one you want to get off so you can be at the door with your luggage.>

Most Swiss mainline stations have diagrams of each train and where each car on that train will stop - if you have a reservation it will not the car number and seat number in that car - look to see where you car will stop so you do not have to Schlepp way down a long platform to get to your car or worse yet jump on board and then have to navigate thru a potentially corwded narrow aisle way to your car.
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Jun 10th, 2013, 02:50 PM
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Thanks so much PalenQ and kybourbon!

Sifting through all this, it seems that I CAN book using a Swiss Card (which I won't buy until in Switz) by choosing the 'GA' option. I guess I just have to show the Card to the ticket inspector at some point, to prove I have the right to a free trip.

And that I SHOULD book the Spiez to Milan leg in advance. Using the GA option while booking will give me the free portion Spiez to Domodossola. These tickets have to be picked up in Switzerland. Not sure if I can pick them up in Grindelwald or not. Any knowledge there?

Also that I DON'T need to book the Grindelwald to Spiez portion in advance.

And that it's crucial I get to know the stops/cars/platforms in order to make the connections!

I will definitely book the Milan to Verona leg on Trenitalia. At first look, the site didn't look too complicated, but maybe things happen during the selecting process?

Thanks again. If you could cast your eyes over the above and check I've understood everything, that would be fabulous.
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Jun 10th, 2013, 03:57 PM
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Thanks again. If you could cast your eyes over the above and check I've understood everything, that would be fabulous.>

What do you mean by a Swiss Card - A Swiss Pass or a Swiss Card - two very different creatures - only Swiss Pass can cover things 100% though the Siwss Card does give you one 100% covered train trip from any airport or border station to any place in Switzerland and then from there to any border place or station in Switzerland and in between those days you get 50% off everything that moves in Switzerland (except cows - I did not say everything that moos) - so a Swiss Card is exactly the same as a Half-Fare Card but also gives two 100% covered trip to begin and conclude your travel. A Swiss Pass gives a certain number of unlimited travel days to be used over a max of one-month period - flexi passes use the days whenever you want - a consecutive-day pass well obvious.

What is best for any one's plans could be either of the three or a Swiss Transfer ticket too.
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