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Help with trains in Switzerland - Swiss Pass? Car rental instead?

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Jul 1st, 2014, 01:19 PM
  #1
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Help with trains in Switzerland - Swiss Pass? Car rental instead?

I'm having some trouble arranging transport for our upcoming trip to Switzerland. I got some wonderful advice from this forum regarding our itinerary (we leave July 9 and our hotels are booked, so this is the firm plan!), but I'm struggling with train travel.

I've tried to do a lot of research, but I'm finding there are too many websites with confusing information, and I feel like I'm just going around in circles. Please help!

There are two of us travelling. Here is the plan (I've put travel in caps to make it easier to see):

Thurs - Arrive in Zurich in the morning after overnight flight from Canada. MORNING DEPART ZURICH ARRIVE LUCERNE.
Fri - Day in Lucerne.
Sat - MID DAY DEPART LUCERNE, ARRIVE LAUTERBRUNNEN. We have rented an apartment, and will spend the week hiking the area. Meeting some family who will have a car, but we will take the train up to Jungfraujoch.
Next Sat - DEPART LAUTERBRUNNEN (ideally late morning). ARRIVE SILS MARIA (near Silvaplana, in the Engadine).
Sun - Sils Maria
Mon - Sils Maria
Tues - Sils Maria
Wed - Sils Maria
Thurs - DEPART SILS MARIA, ARRIVE ZURICH.
Fri - Late morning flight home.

Renting a car seems to be the cheapest option - picking up and dropping off at Zurich airport for the entire two weeks was quoted at about $450. I know we will need to pay fuel costs and parking on top of that - how much should I expect those costs to be for the travel as described?

The train travel seems to be the hard part to find - from what I can gather, a Swiss Pass for the both of us would be $646 for four days of travel over a period of 15 days.
- Would that allow us to use the discounts on the days in between? The only one I know for sure we'll use will be the train trip up to Jungfraujoch.
- I can't find Sils Maria as a destination on the Rail Europe website. For that matter, I can't even find Silvaplana, even though it shows up on the visual map.
- Basically, I haven't been able to find what the actual fares or schedules would be for the routes I want to take. If I don't know what the fares are for those routes, I can't know if it would be cheaper to get the Swiss Pass. If I can't find Sils Maria as a destination, is the Swiss Pass/train travel in general even going to be a valid option??
- directions from Google Maps says that the train trip from Lauterbrunnen to Sils Maria should be about 7 hours. When I looked up the actual itineraries, the fastest I could find seemed to be about 23 hours?? That it itself would be a deciding factor in getting a car.

Anyway, I am very confused. I've been on RailEurope, Seat 61, My Switzerland, Rick Steves, and others. Is there one definitive place to buy tickets? Or should I just rent the car?

Thanks in advance for your help!!
caralin is offline  
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Jul 1st, 2014, 02:26 PM
  #2
 
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I use the Swiss Rail website www.sbb.ch/en and the only way to work out if a pass is worth while for you is to do the maths. The Swiss Rail site default to the half price fare, whch for many is the best pass to buy 120chf for one month, giving you half fares on all train and most mountain railways in the country. There is no need to book tickets or reserve seats in advance, in fact in many cases you cannot reserve seats, trains run frequently. I haven't checked the timetable for Lauterbrunnen to Sils Maria but 23 hours sounds wrong.
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Jul 1st, 2014, 02:29 PM
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I've just checked the timetable an I found two trains taking bewtween 61/2 hours and 71/2 hours leaving about 9am from Luterbrunnen.
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Jul 1st, 2014, 03:35 PM
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- Would that allow us to use the discounts on the days in between?>

Yup 50% on practically everything that moves in Switzerland on days in between your first and last unlimited travel days - everything - that said I believe the area you are going to has some pass provided by hotels or cheap that covers most things in that area.

So since you are not traveling by train that much (if opting for rail) I would think just regular tickets in combo with the local Engadine area pass that others have said hotels provide would be your best bet.

For lots of cool stuff on Swiss trains, passes and things like the Half-Fare Card check out these superb IMO sources: www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com.

If buying the Half-Fare Card note that the Swiss Card gives exactly the same benefits plus two train trips to any place in Switzerland and back - for some it is cheaper than the Half-Fare Card but gives everything that Card does and the two train trips - like one from the Sils Maria to Zurich including any cables, buses and of course trains.
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 06:17 AM
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From what I understand, there is no train service to Soils or Silvaplana.

The train service looks like it stops at Pontrasina.

You would probably have to take the post bus as public transport in Sils.

I am no expert on the Graubunden; I haven't been to St. Moritz in over 20 years.

I can help you with the Bernese Oberland, however, as I as am a frequent traveller to Wengen.

Know that you can't take a car to Wengen, Murren, Gimmelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, Schynige Platte.

Agree that the train website you should be using is WWW.SBB.CH


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Jul 2nd, 2014, 06:20 AM
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Also, I have NEVER EVER bought advance tickets for any train in all my years of visiting Switzerland.

I always buy my ticket before I get on the train.

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Jul 2nd, 2014, 11:42 AM
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Also, I have NEVER EVER bought advance tickets for any train in all my years of visiting Switzerland.>

Pepper always buys a Half-Fare Card because probably she does not know about the Swiss Card which would give her everything the Half-Fare Card does and more and probably because she goes to one location and not moving around the country as most first-time Swiss visitors are want to do and thus find the Swiss Pass often the best deal and then never any needing to go up to a ticket window - just hop on the train.

But in the OPs case I think the best is to buy nothing except regular tickets as there are good deals free or cheap for transports in the one region they are going to.
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 05:05 PM
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This is wonderfully helpful so far - especially the link to www.sbb.ch. This is what I've been looking for all along, so thank you!!

I've worked out our fares Zurich-Lucerne, Lucerne-Lauterbrunnen, Lauterbrunnen-Pontresina (still not sure how I'll get from there to Sils Maria), Pontresina-Zurich.

Full fare for all of these comes to 265 CHF (for one person - all of these will be multiplied by two for my husband and I). Half fare is 132 CHF, but adding the cost of the actual Half Fare Card at 120 CHF brings it back up to 252 CHF - not much of a saving there. The full Swiss Pass is 315 CHF.

The additional savings could come from the Jungfraujoch railway. I'm still a little unclear about how the discounts work on this line. The Swiss Pass says that it covers up to 50% off the panorama mountain railways, but on the Jungfrau website it has a map that shows some places being 50% off and some only 25% off. Does anyone know for sure what is covered? Also, does the the tourist version of the Half Fare Card get the 50% discount on this line? The map showed everything with 50% off, but I don't know if they mean the 175CHF/year local Half Fare Card, or the 120CHF/month tourist Half Fare Card. Is there a difference between them?

This is the website I consulted:
http://www.jungfrau.ch/en/tourism/tr...al-travellers/

If there aren't significant savings for this line, it might be better to just rent a car after all. For two of us, the cheapest option of the Half Fare Card is still 504 CHF, which works out to $604 CAD - for less than the same price, we could rent a small car for the entire time. I know we would still need to pay gas and parking, and pay for train fare up to Wengen, Murren, Jungfraujoch, etc., but it would making actually getting to Sils Maria easier.

Does anyone know the details for Sils Maria? Can I get there on public transit? If it's so remote, will I need a car to get around?

Thanks again for your insight!
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 05:07 PM
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PalenQ, which one region are you referring to? The Bernese Oberland is extremely well connected, I know, but we'll also be spending a few days in the outer reaches of the Engadine. That's more the region I'm concerned about...
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 06:14 PM
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OP, there are POST BUSES in Switzerland that you can take to get around where there is no train connection.

There is a post bus in Lauterbrunnen that takes you to the Stechelberg Gondola, for example.

From what I understand (I have never bought a Swiss Pass), you get 25% off your trip to the Jungfrau past Lauterbrunnen w/Swiss Pass.


Train goes to Wengen, Wengernalp, Kleine Scheidegg after leaving Lauterbrunnen bahnhof.

Half Card gets you 50% off.


From what I also surmise through postings by Ingo, if you stay at a hotel in the Engadine you get a visitor's card that gets you transport discounts.

You also get a visitor's card if you stay at a hotel in Wengen, but I never used my card because I always had my half-fare card purchased at Zürich Flughafen.

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Jul 2nd, 2014, 09:19 PM
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I think there is a special Bernese Oberland weekly pass available which gave access to most of the most-visited places in the area - could be worth emailing the tourist office in Lauterbrunnen to check. I seem to remember reading about in a hotel there.
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 10:37 PM
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caralin-

Sils Maria is accessible via post bus. The bus stop is at the Sils Maria post office. It's a very small village, you can walk everywhere. You absolutely do not need a car.
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 10:43 PM
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Forgot to mention that the post bus schedule is also on the SBB website - just look for Sils/Segl Maria Posta.

A quick look at the schedule for today shows buses to Sils Maria from Pontresina every 15-20 minutes.
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 11:08 PM
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Half Fare is half fare, period. It also covers most buses.

The Swiss Pass covers you in full as far as Wengen. Beyond Wengen, you get a 25% reduction to the Jungfrau.

The Swiss Pass covers you in full to Murren and to Grindelwald. Beyond Grindelwald, you get a 25% reduction to the Jungfrau. It also covers most buses.

Note: The Jungfrau can be accessed from either Wengen or Grindelwald.
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Jul 2nd, 2014, 11:29 PM
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Other mountain excursions in the BO for which the Swiss Pass gets you reductions:

Schilthorn - 50% reduction (from Murren)
Schynige Platte - 50% reduction (from Wilderswil)
Gondola to First (from Grindelwald) - 50% reduction

I've used the Swiss Pass and the Half Fare Card numerous times each.

They both have their benefits; as you've discovered, you just
have to do the math to see which works best for you.

For what its worth, we found the Swiss Pass less useful in the Engadine than in the BO. Sure, it covers transport on some very interesting bus routes, but it doesn't provide the mountain excursion reductions that it does in the BO.

Having said that, just about everything we wanted to see was accessible via post bus in the Engadine. We definitely rode more buses there than we have anywhere else in Switzerland.
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Jul 3rd, 2014, 04:54 AM
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I think there is a special Bernese Oberland weekly pass available which gave access to most of the most-visited places in the area>

Are you talking about the Berner Oberland Pass or Jungfraubahn Pass - both can be bought locally and cover nearly all forms of transport?
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Jul 3rd, 2014, 07:29 AM
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http://shop.jungfrau.ch/en/jungfraubahnen-pass

This pass covers practically all trains and many lifts but is pricey - but if only going to the Jungfrau Region and not other places in Switzerland then it may be a great deal (if you do not have a Swiss Pass but if you do then it may not be worth the extra money since a pass gives you many free things there as well and 50% off all gondolas.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 03:24 AM
  #18
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Thanks again, everyone!

It seems like the Half Fare is going to be the best choice for us.

Just to confirm, can I just buy this card at the ticket office when I go to buy my first tickets?
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Jul 9th, 2014, 04:53 AM
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I'll confirm that, yes just go to the ticket office and by the passes and your tickets at the same time. Have a lovely time
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Jul 9th, 2014, 06:22 AM
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I'' confirm what typsygus says about confirming what others have said. Make sure you tell you c card issuer that you will be going to Switzerland so they do not block a charge coming from Switzerland as a security measure. ditto for ATM cards if planning on using them.
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