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Questions about Swiss travel passes and Austrian/Czech passes

Questions about Swiss travel passes and Austrian/Czech passes

Old Mar 18th, 2008, 09:06 AM
  #1  
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Questions about Swiss travel passes and Austrian/Czech passes

We are aware that many questions are posted about travel passes, but our questions are slightly different. We have done a fair amount of background research, and a lot of calculations, and it seems that the best options for us are:
Switzerland (8 days, of which 5 in BO): We propose to purchase the Half-fare card for CHF 99, and the Junfrau rail pass for 6 days (using the half-fare card, it will cost CHF 145 each instead of CHF 195). Our questions are:
1.Half-fare card: Can half-fare card be purchased at Zurich airport ? We will be arriving on Aug 1 which is Swiss National Day; will card be available on sale on a holiday ? Does the half-fare card also offer half fares on boat rides on Lake Luzern and Lake Thun ? Can it be used for discounts in museums ? Will it be of any help when we later buy our train ticket from Zurich to Salzburg ?
2. Jungfrau Railpass: It is supposed to offer unilimited travel in Jungfrau region, except that you have to pay half-fare from Eigergletscher to Jungfrau peak. Our queries are: Where can we purchase this pass ? Is it valid on all cable car and gondola rides in Jungfrau ? For instance, will it be valid on lifts/cable cars/gondolas above Wengen, Murren Grindelwald etc ? Does it offer discounted entries to Trummelbachfalle etc ?
3. Austria-Czech rail pass: For unlimited travel on any 4 days (1st class), this pass is available for around US $221 each. How can we use this pass for our Zurich to Salzburg leg (we shall also have the Swiss half-fare card)? Where can this pass be purchased ? Can it be purchased in Zurich ? Subsequently, we propose to use this pass for travel from Salzburg to Vienna, Vienna to Prague, and a day trip to CK from Prague. But it would be nice if we could use it for the Zurich to Salzburg leg.
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Old Mar 18th, 2008, 10:45 AM
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Old Mar 18th, 2008, 11:47 AM
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JN
 
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I'm not a railpass expert, but do have a couple of thoughts for you:
1. Yes, you can get the Half Fare card at the Zurich airport train station. Very easy.

2. For simplicity, I like the Half fare card.Unless you calculate each trip's cost and find otherwise, I don't know if buying BOTH a half fare card and a BO card makes sense. You might contact the nice, helpful people at Budget Europe Travel Service (BETS)
http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/
and ask them. They give great advice, are friendly and will sell passes such as Austria-Czech with no shipping fees.

3. To use your half fare card and pass to go to Salzburg, I believe you could purchase your ticket to the Austrian border using your half fare card, then use your pass to Salzburg. What I don't know is whether you can have your pass validated at a swiss station or have to get off the train at the Austrian border, have a station employee validate, then get back on. I beleve the 9:40 and 13:40 direct trains are Austrian, so perhaps they could validate your pass before you get to Austria. This is probably a good question for BETS.

Have a great trip.
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Old Mar 18th, 2008, 07:46 PM
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JN, thanks for your suggestions. BTW, does the half-fare card offer 50% discount on all cable-car/gondola rides in Jungfrau region ? On steamer rides on Lake Luzern and Lake Thun ? And do you think it will be available for sale on a holiday like August 1 ?
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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 01:10 AM
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>BTW, does the half-fare card offer 50% discount on all cable-car/gondola rides in Jungfrau region ?

Yes.

>On steamer rides on Lake Luzern and Lake Thun ?

Yes.
But certainly not on museum entry.

>And do you think it will be available for sale on a holiday like August 1 ?

I would expect shorter opening hours on the holiday, but everything in the airport including the train ticket desk is open 7 days a week, also on holidays.
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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 01:28 AM
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Thanks a lot altamiro, for your specific answers. In that case, it appears we will be better off just buying the half-fare card, and forget about purchasing the Jungfrau pass. This is also what JN was suggesting, and it makes sense now, since we get 50% off on all cable cars and gondolas in the Jungfrau region, using the half-fare card.
Regarding the more tricky question about using the Swiss half-fare card along with the Austrian pass for a Zurich - Salzburg journey, the way JN describes it, it appears possible. The only issue remains about validating the Austrian pass. I have sent a mail to Raileurope for clarification. If any Fodorite has definitive knowledge of the same, I would really appreciate it.
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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 08:51 AM
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> To use your half fare card and pass to go to Salzburg, I believe you could purchase your ticket to the Austrian border using your half fare card, then use your pass to Salzburg.

With a "normal" half-fare card (the one for 1 year) you get 25% discount on the Austrian and German parts of all tickets originating in Switzerland. I am not sure whether it is also valid for the "tourist" 30 day HFC.

Assuming that the answer is "yes", your best deal would be simply a single ticket from Zürich to Prague, specified via Salzburg and Vienna. You get 25% discount on the Austrian part and the Czech tickets are very cheap anyway without discount. The international ticket is valid for 2 month - in this time you have to complete the journey. I am sure it will be far cheaper than 221 US$ p.P.

>I beleve the 9:40 and 13:40 direct trains are Austrian,

There are no specifically "Austrian" or "Swiss" trains. The train is a "Swiss" train until the Swiss-Austrian border, then it becomes an "Austrian" train - no matter which railway administration owns the carriages.
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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 10:48 AM
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Thanks a lot altamiro; you seem very knowledgeable about these passes.
I re-did all my calculations, and it now appears that I will be better off purchasing a Swiss pass for 8 days unlimited travel, instead of a Half-fare card. Depends upon answers to foll: questions:
1. I understand that even with a Swiss pass, one gets 50% off on the climb to Mt Pilatus. Is that correct ?
2. It appears (though not very clear) that with the Swiss pass, one can travel free till Wengen, Murren, Grindelwald and Kleine Schedegg. Is this correct ?
3. Beyond the points listed in above query, I understand that there will be a 25-50% reduction on cable car journeys going to Jungfrau peak, Mannlichen (from Wengen) or First (from Grindelwald). Is my understanding correct ? Is the reduction 25% or 50% ?
4. Does the Swiss pass also allow 25% discount on journeys to Austria, starting from Switzerland ?
5. Does the 13:40 pm direct train from Zurich to Salzburg pass through Germany, or goes direct to Austria from Switzerland ?
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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 10:52 AM
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<direct trains are Austrian, so perhaps they could validate your pass before you get to Austria.>

you can have your pass validated by whoever issues it but once it is validated it is no longer refundable like it would be until activation (15-20% cancel fee then but no refund after activation) so i would wait as you never know

But the issuing company can activate it - on occasion there have been specials on Eurail Select passes where the pass had to be pre-activated at time of issuance - probably to prevent refunds.

But the rule is also that if you are coming from outside the country your pass is valid in the conductor of that country then will activate it on the train for you

this is the only case otherwise you must activate it at any train station inside the country if starting your pass inside the country.

After your pass is issued you usually have six months in which to activate it - at your chosing in Europe - usually one year to refund it or have it re-issued for a small fee i think.
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 12:27 PM
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In my experience of activating a pass on the train when entering the country is that, twice in Switzerland, the conductor did not have the appropriate validation stamp and just said do it when you get to your destination.

But i'd write at least the date in the box on flexible travel days so there is no possible fine before the conductor comes around just in case you get a bad apple enforcing the rules

One person i know forgot to put his date in on a German Pass in the box and the conductor came and filled in the date for him AND

then proceeded to fill in the next box with that same day as well as a penalty for not having it filled in before he came around.

In theory you are considered riding without a ticket if on a flexible pass you do not fill in the date before boarding the train
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 02:30 PM
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>1. I understand that even with a Swiss pass, one gets 50% off on the climb to Mt Pilatus. Is that correct?

Yes.

2. It appears (though not very clear) that with the Swiss pass, one can travel free till Wengen, Murren, Grindelwald and Kleine Schedegg. Is this correct?

Till Wengen, Mürren and Grindelwald. From Grindelwald or Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg you have to buy a ticket, but get 50% reduction. The general rule is that the travel is covered 100% by the Swiss Pass until the last town or village.

>3. Beyond the points listed in above query, I understand that there will be a 25-50% reduction on cable car journeys going to Jungfrau peak, Mannlichen (from Wengen) or First (from Grindelwald). Is my understanding correct? Is the reduction 25% or 50%?

For this I would suggest looking up at the websites of the cable car system (jungfraubahn.ch etc.)

>4. Does the Swiss pass also allow 25% discount on journeys to Austria, starting from Switzerland?

No idea. The Swiss Pass is modeled on the Generalabonnement (a yearly pass for residents who commute a lot by train) - and you get these 25% with the GA as well. But better look up/ask at www.swisstravelsystem.com

>5. Does the 13:40 pm direct train from Zurich to Salzburg pass through Germany

Geographically yes - between Kufstein and Salzburg the fastets way is through Germany. However I am not sure whether it also counts as Germany tariff-wise since the Austrian trains don't stop between Kufstein and Salzburg.

>, or goes direct to Austria from Switzerland?

Yes
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 06:54 PM
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Thanks a ton to both PalenQ and altamiro. Now all questions have been answered. I had also sent an e-mail to rail europe, and surprisingly received a prompt response. They said that I could get my Austrian pass validated at Zurich itself before boarding the train.
Finally the pass system is all clear !
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Old Mar 20th, 2008, 06:57 PM
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Trains thru Germany to Salzburg are called Korridor Zugs (sp?) which means for tarrification purposes they are considered Austrian trains - same as going thru Austria

they are Austrian trains for the large part taking the quickest route between Innsbruck and Salzburg, via Germany - if you have time the inland all-Austria route is much more scenic (via Kitzbuhel and super dream Zell-am-See) is infinitely more scenice but about an hour or two longer.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 07:36 AM
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<They said that I could get my Austrian pass validated at Zurich itself before boarding the train>

This surprises me - the Austrian/Czech pass - i would question this and IME RailEurope does is not always right. But try and i guess they should be right - if not you can do it on the train as per the written rules that come with the pass - when you are coming from outside the country a pass is valid in so i would not worry about it.
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 11:11 AM
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<They said that I could get my Austrian pass validated at Zurich itself before boarding the train>

wonder if poster actually was able to do this?
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 01:03 AM
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PalenQ, we will find out only when we return from our trip, which is in August. Will definitely post a rejoinder then to let you know if it was possible.
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Old May 4th, 2008, 08:48 AM
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thanks indiancouple

Lots of times folk posed these questions that no one knows the real answer to and never responds later - so an update will be welcome

thanks
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Old Aug 28th, 2010, 10:27 AM
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Hi Indiancouple,

Think you must be enjoyed your trip well to these 3 countries

I'm planning the same route in mid Sept 2010.
7 days to Swiss (Zurich, Lucern, Interlaken, Jungfrau Peak)
2 days Salzburg and 2 days Vienna
3 days Prague

Would like to get your advice which would be better choice on passes?

I'm thinking of getting a 8 days Swiss Pass, but not sure is it worth?

do you have any issue travel from Zurich to Salzburg using your Swiss Pass? or am I need a separate ticket?

or should I get a Eurail Select Pass to cover Austria and Chez?

Thanks & regards
Waielle
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Old Aug 28th, 2010, 12:00 PM
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Train tickets in the Czech Republic are a lot cheaper than Switzerland and Austria. I think it is uunlikely that it would be worth buying a pass.
You can use this website http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz/vlakyautobusy/spojeni/ to find out times of trains both nationally and internationally, though it can only give you prices of national trains. In the bottom right hand corner there is a Union Jack if you require the English version.
http://www.jeremytaylor.eu/prague_photos.html
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Old Aug 28th, 2010, 08:28 PM
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Waielle, nice to see such an old thread being dug out again. I note that your itinerary is almost exactly the same as ours.

I would strongly recommend that you buy the 8-day Swiss Pass (which is what we purchased), which is an excellent deal. If there are more than one person traveling together, you can opt for the Saverpass which gives a 15% discount on the same. This pass will cover all your train journeys within Switzerland, plus all boat cruises on all lakes, plus free entry to all museums, plus free rides on all forms of local transportation (bus, trams etc). Only on mountain lifts (above Wengen, Grindelwald or Murren), it covers only 50%, and on the ride from Kline Schedeigg to Jungfrau, it covers only 25%. If you travel around a fair bit (as we did), it is better than the Half-fare card (we did the math). Plus the convenience of not having to purchase a ticket wherever you go. Just hop on !

For travel from Zurich to Salzburg, the same pass will cover you till travel to the Swiss border. So you will have to purchase a ticket from the Swiss border town to Salzburg before you board the train.

We had also purchased an Austrian pass which gave us 3 days of non-consecutive travel (within a 30-day period) in Austria. We used 1 day on the journey from Zurich to Salzburg (for the Austrian portion of the journey; get the pass validated at Zurich station itself before you board), 1 day on the journey from Salzburg to Vienna, and 1 day on the Austrian portion when traveling from Vienna to Prague. We found that this was much cheaper than buying point to point tickets for these routes within Austria. And again, since we were two people traveling together, we got a 15% discount.

A rail pass in Czech Rep is not very useful, as train tickets are very cheap, and the card is not good value for money. So while traveling from Vienna to Prague, we bought a ticket from the Czech border to Prague, and coupled it with our Austrian pass.

Hope this answers your questions.
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