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-   -   I'm not understanding Swiss trains - assistance please (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/im-not-understanding-swiss-trains-assistance-please-1653916/)

bendivertx May 28th, 2018 11:43 PM

I'm not understanding Swiss trains - assistance please
 
My wife and I are heading to Switzerland next month for one week. We are starting in Geneva then plan to take a train to Montreux, spend two nights, take the Golden Pass to Interlaken then transfer to Wengen and spend three nights, take train to Lucern and spend one night, then take the train to Zurich to catch our flight home.

I have read on the forums about the half-fare card and looked at the sbb.com site and I am a bit confused. I thought the Swiss Travel Pass was an all access pass to unlimited train rides, but the SBB site says the Half-Fare Card is loaded onto my Swiss Travel Pass. Why would I need a Half Fare Card if I had a Swiss Travel Pass? Do I need to purchase the Swiss Travel Pass in addition to the Half-Fare Card? Or do I just buy the Half-Fare Card and then buy tickets individually for each leg of our journey (presumably at half price)?

Assuming you buy one or the other, for our four planned train trips does it make more sense to buy a Swiss Travel Pass or a Half Fare Card plus the individual tickets at half price?

Also, it looks like the Swiss Travel Pass includes free travel on the premium panorama trains like the Golden Pass. Is that correct? Or do I still need to buy or just reserve seats on the GP in advance?

Thanks for any help in clarifying all this.

PalenQ May 29th, 2018 12:56 PM

Half-Fare with pass could be warranted if say taking trains like to Jungfraujoch that pass only covers 25% - 50% off that is a lot more and if you have a Flexipass to use on days in between your unlimited travel days. But really whether pass or Half-Fare thing isn best you have to price everything out and compare. Pass covers travel in full to Wengen so if day tripping out that is a factor and gives 50% off most trains and lifts to mountain tops too.

Pass valid in full on GP - seat reservations optional and advised for places in panoramic cars. Passes also fully valid on lake boats that are neat to take in all three places.

For lots on Swiss trains and passes, etc check www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.sbb.ch; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.

I always do more with a pass than previewed - like on funky weather in Wengen day trip out to Bern, etc or do a lake boat, etc.

Dukey1 May 29th, 2018 01:15 PM

Be aware that even if you have a SwissPASS you may have to make and pay for seat reservations on some premium routes. No you do not need BOTH a half-fare card and a pass..get one or the other. I am one of thsoe who has always found the pass to be a better deal than the half-fare card but remember, the pass pays for itself the more you use it and if you are only going to take a few trips it may not be worth the money.
And then there is the Berner Oberland where the Pass does not cover everything fully.

Yeah, it can be VERY confusing. Believe me, I know.

bendivertx May 29th, 2018 01:16 PM

Thank you both.

We will only be taking the trains I mentioned in my OP, except we may do more trains in the Berner Oberland depending upon weather and where we decide to explore. Sounds like the Travel Pass covers some things in the BO but not everything. Does the Half Fare Card work there? Does the Half Fare Card apply to the Golden Pass panoramic train?

PalenQ May 29th, 2018 01:26 PM

Half-Fare Card works everywhere - anything transit-wise - city trams, etc. But you do have to buy tickets and not just hop on as with pass- minor thing. Depends on what you do in BO- trains above Wengen and Grindelwald only 25% off but if taking excursion to Schilthorn (which some find nicer even than Jungfraujoch thought both are different and awesome in own way - anyway lifts and trains to Murren and Gimmelwald fully covered so if doing that loop pass is more worthwhile. Again may do lake boats in Montreux and pass covers admission to places like Chillon Castle near Montreux and hundreds of sights and museums.

But, again hard to tell - if you are sure you know exactly what trains and conveyances you will be taking and no more then it's a simple matter of doing the maths. If close go for the pass.

PalenQ May 29th, 2018 02:30 PM

And, you can make GP reservations on the official site it seems without having a pass or half-fare card and you may want to check out the VIP seats - right up next to driver's cabin so you can think you're driving the train. But would need a first-class upgrade and must be booked months early to get.

twk May 30th, 2018 07:36 AM


Originally Posted by bendivertx (Post 16737661)
Thank you both.

We will only be taking the trains I mentioned in my OP, except we may do more trains in the Berner Oberland depending upon weather and where we decide to explore. Sounds like the Travel Pass covers some things in the BO but not everything. Does the Half Fare Card work there? Does the Half Fare Card apply to the Golden Pass panoramic train?

There are maps that will show you what is and isn't fully covered by the Swiss Pass in the Berner Oberland. Everything that isn't fully covered is subject to a discount--mostly half, but only a quarter for the ride up to the Jungfraujoch from Kleinescheidegg. Conceptually, everything is covered up to certain points--going up hill from Interlaken, everything is covered by the Swiss Pass to these three towns--Murren, Wengen, and Grindewald. If you are going higher than those three, beyond those towns, you only get a discount.

PalenQ May 30th, 2018 08:29 AM

but only a quarter for the ride up to the Jungfraujoch from Kleinescheidegg.>

Actually 25% starts after Wengen or Grindelwald - 50% off with Half-Fare Pass.

kappa1 May 30th, 2018 08:56 AM

I have not read all replies so, these may have already been answered.

>I have read on the forums about the half-fare card and looked at the sbb.com site and I am a bit >confused. I thought the Swiss Travel Pass was an all access pass to unlimited train rides, but the SBB >site says the Half-Fare Card is loaded onto my Swiss Travel Pass. Why would I need a Half Fare Card >if I had a Swiss Travel Pass?

It is Swiss Pass that has the function of HF card ( that I have as I live here). Swiss “Travel” Pass (that you should have ) is the all you can ride pass for the number of days you choose. Swiss “Travel” Pass is a new name since about 2 years now. It used to be called Swiss Pass, so it is a bit confusing. My actual “Swiss Pass “ is a HF Card. I think it can be used as 1 year "general abonnement" too if I pay the cost ( like some thousand Swiss Francs ) but I never do. HF card is enough for me.

So Swiss Travel Pass and Half Fare Card are 2 different things.

>Also, it looks like the Swiss Travel Pass includes free travel on the premium panorama trains like the >Golden Pass. Is that correct? Or do I still need to buy or just reserve seats on the GP in advance?

With your Swiss Travel Pass you can take non reserved seat on Goldnen Pass trains. This is good when not busy time. But If you like a reserved seat, you need to pay ( I think you can online) the reservation fee. With Glacier Express for example, I think it is compulsory to pay the seat reservation.

neckervd May 30th, 2018 09:01 AM

In the first post, there seems to be some confusion between
SWISS PASS and the HALF FARE TRAVEL CARD, valid at least 1 year and sold to people living in Switzerland on the one hand
and
the SWISS TRAVEL PASS and the SWISS HALF FARE CARD sold to people from abroad on the other hand.
You may have a look at https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/billette.html where everything is explained.

For 1 week, I would compare the Swiss Travel Pass Flex with the Swiss Half Fare Card. All depends on the sidetrips you plan to do from Wengen and Lucerne.
BTW: Montreux can also be reached by boat from Geneva (Lake Geneva cruise).

PalenQ May 30th, 2018 10:39 AM

Yes but Geneva to Montreux is a tad long for many by boat. And Geneva though a nice modern city with usual attractions of a large city would be low on most tourists list with limited time. Boats have first and 2nd class last I knew -first class for the open-air front deck - much better seats than 2nd class - with a 2nd class pass you can pay for an upgrade on board to sit in first class - not all that much.

But, do take a boat ride on some Swiss lake.

annhig May 30th, 2018 02:36 PM

When we were going to Switzerland last year I tried to do a comparison of what our trains and boats would cost, using the half fare pass and the swiss travel pass, based on a best guess of what we were going to do, and it worked out about the same. In the end we chose the Swiss travel pass and never regretted it because it meant that we could leap on almost any boat or train, almost any time for free. The only exception was the Junfraujoch and it wasn't too much of a hardship to have to book that in advance.

There are some other interesting deals too - for example the one that offers a flat fare for your arrival and departure journey in Switzerland - a real bargain if say you are arriving in Basel and travelling to St Moritz, especially if you use a fare card in addition. There are also local travel cards like the Berner Oberland Pass and the Junfrau travel pass, and we were offered price travel for our arrival and departure in Luzern as we had music tickets for the festival there.

PalenQ May 30th, 2018 03:12 PM

- for example the one that offers a flat fare for your arrival and departure journey in Switzerland - a real bargain if say you are arriving in Basel and travelling to St Moritz, especially if you use a fare card in addition.>

That's the Swiss Transfer Pass I believe - yes great for someone going long distance from any border or airport to a destination and back within one-month and yes Half-Fare Card or regional pass would be great. Few tourists are going to one locale but if so check out the Swiss Transfer Ticket.

bendivertx May 30th, 2018 09:05 PM

Thanks for all the feedback. I think I have figured out the Travel Pass and Half Fare Card differences. It's tough to compare the prices accurately because we might want first class on some longer trips and second class on shorter ones, for example. The biggest unknown though is our stay in the Bernese Oberland. We plan to take the GP Panorama from Montereux to Interlaken on Tuesday and then another train up to Wengen. We spend Tuesday night in Wengen and stay there until Friday morning when we leave for Lucern. I don't exactly know what we will end up doing there. I'd like to go up to the JFJ if weather permits but who knows if it will. Not sure if we will want to go to the Schlithorn. We mostly want to hike around and see the great scenery so I am sure we'll need to take some trains up and down but I just don't know how many or how often.

Our travel days break down as follows:
Day 1: Geneva -> Montreux
Day 3: Montreux -> Interlaken OST -> Wengen (via Golden Pass)
Day 6: Wengen -> Lucern
Day 7: Lucern -> Zurich

If I'm doing the math right, I think the Half Fare Card (HFC) is a much better deal for us. We could get the 4-day Flexipass for $493/pp (1st class) or $310/pp (2nd class) and it would cover all those trips. If we did the HFC, those trips would cost $273.50/pp first class ($120/pp for the card + $153.50/pp in half price fares) or $208.70 for 2nd class ( but my wife will want first class in most cases). So that's $100 cheaper for 2nd class or $220 cheaper for 1st class, per person. That price difference might shrink when adding in the cost of the trains we'll be taking around Wengen for the few days we're there, except that we are already using all 4 days of the Flexipass so instead of unlimited free rides we'd be getting no value from the Flexipass on those days, whereas with the HFC we'd still only be paying half price.

If I'm missing something or have totally miscalculated the fares please feel free to correct me. Otherwise it looks the HFC is the way to go.

PalenQ May 31st, 2018 05:23 AM

If you did the maths and sure you will not do anything more than yes 1/2 Fare Card is best. Just buy it at any train sation.

annhig May 31st, 2018 02:04 PM

Sounds as if the fare card will be fine for you - it will get you price on the JFJ which is well worth having as it costs about 200SFr each. [I may have got that slightly wrong but not by much].

You could also buy the JFJ pass when you get to Wengen if you decide it would be worth it.

PalenQ Jun 1st, 2018 06:50 AM

With half-fare card it would be hard to realize benefits of Jungfraubahn Pass - Half-Fare Card best deal for OP if they know they will not be doing more than previsioned.


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