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Planning firstt trip to Switzerland, please help

Planning firstt trip to Switzerland, please help

Old Jun 10th, 2008, 09:44 AM
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MRS
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Planning firstt trip to Switzerland, please help

I am trying to plan our trip to Switzerland leaving August 27 and coming back September 14. We are leaving in LA and trying to do our trip on a tide budget, one thing is not negotiable is the number of days – we do not want to cut our vacation, but rather cut corners on food and lodging. I love shop local markets and have breakfast home, grab something during the day and may be have dinner in restaurant, but do not mind to pick up things from deli and eat it at home. We prefer to stay in an apartment rather than hotel. Flying from LA to Switzerland we have two choices we can afford - round trip to Zurich or flying to Zurich and leaving from Geneva, flying back from Milan is too expensive; we also would like to have a car for few days on the lakes, when our Swiss pass expires.
Trying numerous plans based on extraordinary help this message board provides we came up with following itinerary:

27 leave LA
28 arrive Zurich train to Lucerne
29 Lucerne
30 Lucerne
31 train to Wengen
1 Wengen
2 Wengen
3 Wengen
4 train to Lausanne
5 Lausanne
6 Lausanne
7 Lausanne
8 train to Locarno
9 Locarno
10 Locarno
11 Locarno (end of pass) rent a car in Locarno and drive to Lake Como spend night
12 Como
13 drive to Zurich by car and spend night
14 go home

My main concern is the drive from Lake Como to Zurich: how difficult is the road?

We drove last year in Italy for a week, but it was a very easy area of Val’Orcha and a drive from there to Naples. My husband is eager to drive in Europe again, especially to be independent on Italian part (lakes) of our trip, but a read on this board the road to Zurich has some unpleasant parts. I now it’s a 3 hours drive and most of it trough the tunnel, but memories of riding buses in Positano still makes my palms sweat. Zurich plain leaves at 10:30 am, it gives us plenty of time to drop car at the airport and catch a fly home.
Please, help!

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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 10:08 AM
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That sounds like a very good itinerary. Well planned, I like the idea of staying some nights in each place. However, I would stay in Vevey or Montreux instead of Lausanne - the latter is just another (nice) city while both Vevey and Montreux have more charm.

I don't really understand why you need to stay one night at Lake Como, but that's your decision. The drive back to Zurich won't be through long tunnels if you drive via Chiavenna, Splugen Pass, Chur. Splugen pass is curvy, partially narrow road, but not very difficult to drive. The more scenic route to Zurich would be via Chiavenna - Maloja Pass - Silvaplana - Julier Pass - Tiefencastel - Lenzerheide - Chur - Zurich. A bit longer, but definitely more beautiful. Not difficult to drive either, did it many times.

Ingo
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 10:56 AM
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MRS
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Ingo: Thanks for your response, I deeply appreciate it. I have not made final decision on where to stay, but we would like to stay in one place as long as we can. We are in our mid 50th and having some back problems have to think about luggage. I looked at the train schedule and it has less train changes coming from Lausanne. I also read about $15 luggage service, I am thinking of using it. I was thinking to check our bags in LA, specially since airlines now decide to charge for the bags, and get them at the train station in Lucerne, or (preferable other charming city around the lake). May be someone has a feedback on it too. And then move to Wengen or Lauterbrunnen.
Trying to avoid going trough Milan, been to Italy few times to know how they can alter your schedule with a strike, hope Switzerland is more reliable. We would like to travel by car, but first time to Switzerland I would prefer for my husband to appreciate the scenery, rather then concentrate on a road. At this point my goal is to get air tickets a.s.a.p, get insurance, and then get into details. Ones I know where we start, where we are going and where we end, the rest are tedious details. For me personally, the hardest part is the itinerary, but ones I know the main points, I feel better.

We will look at more scenic route too, is it as curvy and narrow as other? My husband will be laughing reading my questions, but I DON NOT like driving canyons and curvy roads, unlike him.

Thanks for your help!
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 11:32 AM
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I would stay in Montreux. If you check the train schedules, most trains stop in Montreux on the way from Lausanne.

Remember that the Swiss Rail Pass includes free entrance to museums and free use of local buses in many towns.

Prepare yourself for sticker shock in Switzerland. It is expensive, but ways to cut the cost of food. DH and I are off for our fourth trip to Switerland (5th for me) this fall. We book hotels (or garnis) that include a large buffet breakfast. We have a snack lunch (we get it from the local Migros or Coop supermarkets) and many times have a picnic dinner.

The train station at the Zurich airport is so easy...directly underneath the airport. There is even a supermarket at the Zurich airport. To save money, get the Swiss Saver Pass in 2nd class. First time we went to Switzerland, we got 1st class. Now we travel in 2nd.

You will have a great time in Switzerland.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 12:15 PM
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If you're really concerned about curvy roads then you should probably stick to the Splügen Pass route and then drive the highway from Splügen to Zürich. It is scenic enough IMO.

I don't fly to Switzerland - I live in Germany. ;-) Sorry, cannot help with airports, flights etc.

Lucerne is a very good base for a couple of days and very convenient for train travellers. I wouldn't stay elsewhere on the lake. Others prefer the smaller towns, but Lucerne is more centrally located and offers the best connections for day trips IMO.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 02:34 PM
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Hi MRS,

I've used the luggage service on Swiss trains a bunch of times and do think it's reliable and well worthwhile. Basically, there are two ways to do it from the airport.

One way is to get the tags & documents from Raileurope. You fill out the customs forms, put them in the clear green plastic tags, attach the tags to your bags, and check your bags as usual. At the Zürich airport, the handlers see the tags and send the cases to the train. I've used this system twice -- and I've heard of it used a lot by others. I have heard one instance of a bag not being forwarded. I think this service costs $25.

The second way is to claim your bags as usual in Zürich, pile them on a luggage cart, then wheel the cart downstairs to the train station. At the train station, find the counter that handles luggage, and check your bags there. This costs 20 chf per bag for fast service (24 hours) or 10 chf per bag for regular service (48 hours). This service is actually offered at many stations in Switzerland, and I've used it a lot.

One final note -- yes, Swiss trains are wholly reliable. One time the train I was on was delayed for about 20 minutes, and all passengers got a voucher for a free ride.

Good luck!

s
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 03:04 PM
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What kind of pass are you contemplating? It looks like the 15 consecutive day Swiss pass? For the same price, you could get a 6-day Flexpass that would cover all your long hops (Luzern to Wengen, Wengen to Lausanne, Lausanne to Locarno, and Locarno back to Zürich. You would have 2 fully-covered days left to use for longer daytrips, and you would get a 50% reduction on everything else.

This way you would not have to worry about the drive back to Zürich. If your husband want to drive from Locarno to como, you could rent a car for overnight (2 days) and just do that part.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 05:35 PM
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Hello everyone,
Ingo, BarbAnn, swandav2000 and enzian : Thank you very much for your comments, I am just in the begging stage, researching and planning, and every bit of info I get from you - is enormous help. I’ve been reading this board since 2002, but never had the guts to post, always shy of my English writing skills. Our best trips where memorable and exiting thanks to knowledge and dedication of generous posters on this board. Last year we went to Italy and spend a week in Tuscany following advice I’ve picked up here, it was incredible. I smile when I read your posts and I smile when I travel.
Thank you all!

Back to my homework:
I was reading RAILEUROPE site and this is what looked appealing to me:

http://www.raileurope.com/us/rail/pa...il_baggage.htm

I would like to use Swiss Saverpass, 15 days, first class – first time have to splurge and have the freedom to move around, as I said I’d rather cut on restaurants than side seeing.

They also advertise a $15 a piece luggage deals:
Fast Baggage
Same-day baggage delivery between 45 cities and holiday destinations throughout Switzerland

Fly Rail Baggage
Imagine being able to check in your luggage at the airport, fly to Switzerland, get on the train to your final Swiss destination and pick up your luggage there.

Ingo – We will stay Lucerne, for the first timer central location and easy access are most important – don’t have time be lost, have to see it all. And of course, my husband thinks any of the routs you suggested are peace of cake.

BarbAnn – I am going to look at staying in Montreux again, when I looked at the traveling to Locarno or Lugano, all I found where 2 train changes and I am trying to avoid it. Will do more research. As I mentioned before, I would prefer apartment or B&B (loved them in Italy), but may be you can suggest hotels (garnis? – love learning new things) with buffet breakfast, I am all for picnic dinners (I would pool a chair in Luxembourg garden in Paris in a heart beat, but never been to Switzerland…)

Thanks again, and good night
MRS
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 11:10 PM
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The hostels in Montreux and Locarno are very good. I know people who have stayed there and they've said the rooms are basic but clean and the breakfasts are good.

http://www.youthhostel.ch/home.html?&L=1&ID=40
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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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IN Wengen, you might ask about the"Kleiner Bär" apartment at hotel Bären:

http://www.baeren-wengen.ch/

http://www.baeren-wengen.ch/klei.html

They were repairing the roof last time we were there so not available for us, but it is a good value. A wonderful buffet breakfast in the hotel is included, but I am not sure about the kitchen facilities in the apartmentfor cooking dyour dinner. You could ask; Frau Brunner is very kind and speaks excellent English.

(Your English is very good, by the way; no need to hesitate about posting your questions).

There is very little difference in comfort between first and second class on Swiss trains. And most of the mountaint trains do not even have a first-class area. The main difference is that first class is not crowded, but at the time you are traveling, the main tourist travel season will be over, and crowding on trains should not be a problem. You might consider saving a bit of $$$ on the train passes.
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 09:22 AM
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Hello my friends,

I am back with a ton of questions. We almost cancelled our trip due to the family emergencies (having parents in their late 80’s makes life unpredictable), but it seems that everyone is stable and we have chance of a vacation. Our dates are shifted a bit and we (hopefully) will be in Switzerland from 2-18 of September. I was able to book apartment in Lauterbrunnen (4-8) and hotel Helvetie in Montreux (8-12). I will probably book hotel Magic in Lucerne (2-4), like their location and some rooms.

I need help with the lakes. I was thinking to get Swiss Saver Pass for 15 days, but will it cover us at the lakes?

After reading about difficulties with the parking and driving, I do not want to waste time in lines and looking for parking, I’d rather walk to the trains, buses and other form of public transportation. I was planning to stay somewhere around Lugano, and daytrip to Bellagio, Stresa, but is it possible to do it without a car?
I do realize we have only 4 and half days (5) nights there and it is not my intend to run around. We will see as much as we see, the point is to enjoy it and come back home rested and happy. We have an option of getting a car around 15th and drop it off in Zurich airport before flying home.

Your expertise, experience and advice will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you, MRS
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 09:43 AM
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Swiss Passes of all types - flexi or not cover virutally all lake boats in Switzerland, including lakes Lucerne, Lugano, Thun, Brienz and several others but not Lake Lugano as that is mainly in Italian territory it seems. For tons of info on Swiss trains, lake boats, passes, etc. go to www.swisstravelsystem.com - a consortium of Swiss railways, scenic trains, lake boats, etc. www.sbb.ch is the official Swiss rail site for train timetables and fares - i always also point out two great sources for info on Swiss trains and passes - www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - two sites that have tons of objective content and not just the usual pass prices and an add to cart button - the latter web site lets you download their free European Planning & Rail Guide that has a good chapter on Switzerland and Swiss trains. I do agree that taking the train back to Zurich with a flexipass of some type may be more cost-effective than a 15-day pass (though the 22-day consecutive pass is not all that much more than the 15-day saverpass p.p.) perhaps if that would fit in your time frame
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 10:01 AM
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I think Pal intended to write "not Maggiore", alas, it's true. J.
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 10:02 AM
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oops, maybe you intended "not Como"? Boy, am I the busybody today.
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 10:16 AM
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Oops - yes i did not mean Lake Lugano, which i have done by boat with a Swiss Pass but Locarno

and i guess it's not Lake Locarno but indeed Lake Como.

thanks for correction.
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Old Aug 4th, 2008, 12:26 PM
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Too lazy to get out an atlas but is Lake Como not called Lake Locarno in the Swiss part around Locarno?
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Old Aug 4th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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"Lake Locarno" is usually known as Lago Maggiore, both in Switzerland and Italy.

Lago di Como is an entirely different water hole, as is Lago di Lugano.
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Old Aug 4th, 2008, 02:03 PM
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We stayed as Masson right beside Montreux and really liked it! I've been to Switzerland 3 times and have never driven. The pass is wonderful as you can hop on and off any boat, train or bus at will. You will not believe how reliable the public transport is there and how EASY it is to figure it out. I prefer to stay at small B&Bs or family run inns, not big hotels. They are exceptionally clean and friendly, I've found.

As far as luggage goes...you can pack very light with travel clothes (hiking weight shirts and pants) and smart choices for shoes (hiking/running shoes and dressier for dinner, etc) The Swiss are big hikers and lots of people dress that way. We would wash things out every other day and managed 3 trips with a rolling carryon.
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