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Please help: Swiss Pass/Lucerne/Engadine?

Please help: Swiss Pass/Lucerne/Engadine?

Old Jun 20th, 2017, 02:20 PM
  #1  
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Please help: Swiss Pass/Lucerne/Engadine?

In a previous post about our trip to Switzerland and Italy, many of you suggested that we lengthen our days in Switzerland. We had planned to fly into Zurich to fulfill my husband's wish to ride the historic Bernina Express before heading to Italy. We realized we needed a separate trip to truly experience Switzerland but finally chose to add a couple of days to visit the lower Engadin. Our plan was impulsive and is not efficient, but I'm sure we'll enjoy ourselves despite the fact that we prefer to spend more time on one place.

Current plan:
- Arrive at Zurich Airport, train to Lucerne, 3 nights Lucerne
- train to Guarda, 2 nights Guarda
- train to Chur, 1 night Chur
- Bernina Express to Tirano, Italy, Train to Varenna - Lake Como
- continue travel in Italy another 9 days
- fly home from Venice

Is the Swiss Half Fare Pass the best option for us? I am having a difficult time finding train fares. I read somewhere that prices displayed are the half fare prices, so it is necessary to double the listed price in order to learn the full fare without reduction. Is this correct?

Do you have recommendations for the Guarda-Scuol area? Food recommendations? We will be staying at Hotel Meisser. I imagine we will enjoy some pleasant walks in the region. Many thanks to all who recommended we explore this area. It really appeals to us in some indefinable way.

We appreciate any tips. Thanks.
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Old Jun 20th, 2017, 02:42 PM
  #2  
 
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www.sbb.ch for regular full train fares

Swiss Pass or 1/2 Fare Pass? Do the simple maths if that is all you will do but in Lucerne for 3 days you will probably do a lake boat tour or Mt Pilatus or Mt Rigi which the Swiss Pass also covers.

anyway for loads on Swiss trains and passes check www.budgeteuropetravel.com (I've bought passes from Byron here for years - he will answer objectively IME any questions even if not buying in case you need an expert to talk to); www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com.

There is a Swiss-Italy Pass to but that is definitely NOT a good deal for you as it does not cover nearly as much as a Swiss Pass does in Switzerland - latter covering museum and sight entries such as in Lucerne and some train lines.
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Old Jun 20th, 2017, 03:14 PM
  #3  
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i'm struggling to find the English version at www.sbb.ch
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Old Jun 20th, 2017, 03:24 PM
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https://www.sbb.ch/en
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Old Jun 20th, 2017, 06:30 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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I stayed at the Meisser -- loved it and it's food.

If you can find them while in the Lower Engadine, try to experience Pizokels -- I dream of eating them again one day!

For a restaurant in Lucerne: The Burgerstube im Hotel Wilden Mann; consider the Lucerne specialty called chugelipastete – veal and musrooms with a cream sauce in a puff pasty. Oooh, that was good!

If you haven't already seen it, you might find some useful information in my (long, but searchable) trip report:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...any-thanks.cfm

The Lower Engadine is, IMO, among the most delightful place in the world. Enjoy!
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Old Jun 20th, 2017, 06:45 PM
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We stayed at the Hotel Meisser and had wonderful meals there. The staff and owner were all great. Have a great time the area is beautiful.
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 01:44 AM
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May be you may have a look at a more scenic and less chaotic itinerary.
I suggest:

Train from Zurich airport to Lucerne.

Lucerne dp by boat 8.12 up to Fluelen ar 10.55, dp by train 11.16 on the old Gotthard line to Goeschenen ar 11.55, dp 11.59 by Schoellenen Gorge cog wheel railway to Andermatt ar 12.09. Andermatt dp by Glacier Express 12.54 via Oberalp Pass - Ruinaulta Gorge - Schyn Gorge - Landwasser Bridge - Albula Tunnel to Samedan ar 17.45, dp 18.13 along the Engadin Valley to Guarda railway station ar 19.07, dp 19.09 by local bus to Guarda ar 19.17

Guarda dp by bus 8.36 - railway station ar 8.44, dp by train 8.46 - Pontresina ar 9.55, dp by Bernina railway 10.08 via Bernina Pass to Tirano ar 12.19, dp 13.08 - Varenna ar 14.36.
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 06:45 AM
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Bernina Express requires a reservation - make it on the official BEX site even if no ticket or pass.
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 09:52 AM
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https://www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trai...hoCc34QAvD_BwE

official site BEX

sit on west side for by far the best views!
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 10:48 AM
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The Bernina Express doesn't need backtracking to Chur - the most scenic part is between Pontresina and Tirano, which means you can stay another night in Guarda and scratch Chur. Just hop on a train from Guarda to Pontresina where you catch the Bernina Express. And, btw, I wouldn't take the Express train, the regional ones are fine, don't need reservations, you can open the windows and if you want you can get off at a particularly scenic place and wait for the next train in an hour (highly recommended for Alp Grüm, where you could have lunch on their terrace with view of Palü glacier and the turquoise lake below you.)

Capuns are another food specialty in the Engadine, not to miss. Try the dried beef, best from Hatecke in Scuol. And Salsiz, a sort of small salami. Plus all sorts of cheese ...
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 12:48 PM
  #11  
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Kja, your trip report was my initial inspiration for our detour to the Engadin! And thank you to all who recommended the area.

Neckervd, Ingo, PalenQ, thank you for all the detailed suggestions. I am a bit overwhelmed, as we are unfamiliar with Switzerland and have not found guide books to address our needs. We are dependent on blog and travel forum information, so we truly appreciate your assistance.

Almost everyone recommends taking the regional train instead of the historic Bernina Express. I totally get that. However, I haven't yet convinced DH. He is a true train buff and has his heart set on riding the historic panoramic train. Our entry into Switzerland was designed to fulfill his request. (I would prefer the flexibility of the regular train).

I am trying to research the train routes suggested by neckervd, and the scenery looks spectacular. The hours on the train may be more than I'd like, though. My bones and muscles need some walking time. If anyone can shed more light on the suggestion to go through Andermatt, I would appreciate the insight.
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 02:56 PM
  #12  
kja
 
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Wow -- thanks for letting me know that you find my trip report inspirational! If you enjoy your time in the Lower Engadine half as much as I did, you'll have a wonderful vacation.

I must admit that I'm a bit confused by your husband's interest in the "historic panoramic train." I think what is historic -- and what is covered by the UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription -- is the railway, and the same railway is used by the tourist train as the regional trains. My understanding -- and I trust others will correct me if I'm mistaken -- is that the panoramic train is a relatively recent creation to capture tourists' dollars, and while some people may prefer its panoramic windows, I liked being able to open the windows and the flexibility of the regional trains' schedules. And if he wants to ride the entire core of the historic railways, you might have to go as far northwest as Thusis; I don't think you need to go all the way to Chur.
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 03:07 PM
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We just came from the Engadin. We had a wonderful meal at the Hotel Astras. It was very busy in the restaurant at the end of May (shoulder season) so I would guess you should make a reservation for dinner if you're going to be there in August.
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Old Jun 21st, 2017, 04:46 PM
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I echo kja's sentiments of BEX vs Regional trains.

Official BEX or locals- both are great - BEX has thicker cushions and doilies on seats when I took it and a attenedant and maps at seats pointing out highlights. Panoramic cars are nice -glass domes but I too like to open windows (not possible I think on AC BEX trains) and smell the Alpine scenery too.

The ultimate panoramic cars are open-air flat bed rail cars that some local trains have on them in summer -no reservations needed for these or local trains -can't even make them I think. BEX trains I've took are usually all full with tour groups- can't move from side to side as scenery may dictate -stuck in your seat.

The historic part of the train goes from Thusis to St Moritz when it climbs the Albula Pass - yes a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its for 1900 daring engineering feat in such terrain actually looping in and out of the mountain as it climbs towares St Moritz- Bernina Railway is historic too - the railways are historic but not the cars - BEX being designed mainly for tour groups I believe.

The scenery is the same on each train. Some people like the BEX more than the regional trains for its trappings of luxury. BEX needs advance reservations, often far in advance to get on. Regional trains just hop on and off -and I suggest getting off at say Bernina Ospiz near the summit or Alp Grum and if even just to sit on the sun terraces of the station hotels and soak up the atmosphere. Such a shame to rush thru this kind of summit scenery:

https://www.google.com/search?q=alpg...w=1920&bih=950

Notice folks sipping drinks at the sun terraces at the station hotel. Then just hop on next regional train. Slow down and enjoy this exhilarating Top of the World scenery.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2017, 09:34 AM
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Andermatt route the quickest way:

Lucerne to Goschenen - some direct some have to change at Arth-Goldau- take shuttle train to Andermatt - join Glacier Express route (with local trains too) to St Moritz area or to Davos area to take train to Scuol.

Probably the quickest route and much prettier than backtracking thru Zurich. Swiss Pass covers all in full.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2017, 11:09 AM
  #16  
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I appreciate the detailed assistance. I must be doing something wrong in my train route search; Lucerne through Andermatt to Guarda or Scuol seems to be 6.5 hours or more. Lucerne to Guarda through Landquartz is 3.5 hrs. The Andermatt route looks beautiful but not sure we want a full-day train ride.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2017, 12:33 PM
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I don't think you're doing something wrong. Lucerne to Guarda via Landquart is *much* shorter than through Andermatt. I don't think it's worth the extra time, btw. You'll see plenty of Alpine scenery during your trip, and the Bernina route surpasses the Oberalp route by far in regards of scenery.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2017, 12:49 PM
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Yes I was wrong -did not realize other route was so quick. And the Andermatt route is not that awesomely scenic IMO.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2017, 12:57 PM
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Just to echo what some others have said the BE is just one car attached to the same train as the regional trains. The regional trains are more frequent than the ones that have the BE attached. We happend to go on a regional train with the BE attached. The BE seemed to be as described somewhat nicer, but not enough to warrant the additional funds. Our car alos had the narrative over the speakers. I dont know if you get that on the regional trains with the BE on it.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2017, 12:42 AM
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Your initial plan:
Lucerne - Landquart - Guarda(rather boring itinerary): 3 hrs 24 min
Guarda - Landquart - Chur (backtracking along the same itinerary): 1 hr 45 min
Chur - Reichenau - Bernina Express line - Tirano: 4 hrs 13 min
Total 9 hrs 22 min

My proposal without boat (as you obviously don't like Lake Lucerne boat trips)
Lucerne - Andermatt (scenic itinerary): 1 hr 51 min
Andermatt - Glacier Express train - Reichenau - Bernina Express line - Samedan - Guarda (scenic itinerary): 6 hrs 13 min
Andermatt - standard train - Reichenau - Bernina Express line - Samedan - Guarda (scenic itinerary): 5 hrs 39 min
Guarda - Samedan - Bernina standard train- Tirano: 3 hrs 14 min
Guarda - Samedan - Bernina Express train- Tirano: 3 hrs 50 min
Total by standard trains: 10 hrs 44 min
Total by Glacier/Bernina Express trains: 11 hrs 54 min

As said above, the wagons of Glacier Express and Bernina Express are not historic, but less tan 10 years old.
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