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Should we base oursleves on one Swiss city?

Should we base oursleves on one Swiss city?

Mar 28th, 2011, 04:38 AM
  #1  
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Should we base oursleves on one Swiss city?

Hello. My wife and I plan to travel to Switzerland during May for approximately 14 days (if we can afford that long) before moving on to Italy. We were wondering if it would be easier - and more economical - to base ourselves in one city or should we move from place to place. We intend on using the Train service and plan to visit the following places if time and money allow:

Geneva - Lausanne - Montreux - Zermatt - Interlaken - Jungfrau Region - Bernese Oberland - Bern - Lucerne and possibly Zurich. Our "must see" places are Lucerne and Zermatt. Could you also please include some travel tips (train passes, accomodation, eating) and some Swiss do's and don'ts. Thank you in advance.
steve_Australia is offline  
Mar 28th, 2011, 05:54 AM
  #2  
 
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For the cities that you have chosen, I would use 3 bases.
One 'west' for Geneva and french-speaking-territories with daytrips.
Second, Berner Oberland town (Thun, Brienz, Spiez, Muerren, Lauterbrunnen ---you will have PLENTY of input from posters with their faves) for dayrips into mountain villages/Interlaken/Jungfrau area and
Third, Lucerne, from where Zurich and numerous lakeside towns are easily visited.
mokka4 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2011, 07:13 AM
  #3  
ira
 
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Hi S,

>...Interlaken - Jungfrau Region - Bernese Oberland - Bern ....<

They are all the same place. (more or less p Bern is 0:45 hr from Interlaken)

What's your budget?

ira is offline  
Mar 28th, 2011, 07:46 AM
  #4  
 
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Yes to at least three bases - one on Lake Geneva, like prennial favorites Montreux and Vevey, each a base that is a short hop by boat, train or bus from many great nearby places

and Zermatt - since it is fairly isolated

and in the Interlaken area - the Jungfrau Region, Berner Oberland or whatever you want to call it. Lucerne could be an easy and interesting day trip from Interlaken via the scenic Brunig Pass rail route

or make Lucerne your 4th base

Well IMO Zermatt should be your last base because it is the closest to Italy

And if in Switzerland 14 days and traveling a lot like previsioned then IMO the 15-consecutive-day Swiss Saver Pass is a no-brainer - covers all travels from get there to get go and can be used for 100% validity on lake boats such as those great trips on Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne or the two lakes bookenign Interlaken - Thun and Brienz and gives you 50% off most aerial cable cars, etc to mountain tops. For lots of great info on Swiss transportation and passes and trains and boats, etc I always recommend these IMO suberp sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com; wwwseat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com. Check www.sbb.ch - Swiss Federal Railways for schedules but you do not really need them in Switzerland as things seem to run everywhere about twice hourly - just show up at the station and there will soon be a train going to where you wish.
PalenQ is online now  
Mar 28th, 2011, 10:57 AM
  #5  
 
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Where are you planning to start your Swiss adventure - in Geneva - landing there?
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Mar 28th, 2011, 01:00 PM
  #6  
 
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Lucerne the city itself is easily seen in one day and if you really want to reduce your base cities then it could well be an easy day trip from the Interlaken area - not far away at all.
PalenQ is online now  
Mar 28th, 2011, 06:38 PM
  #7  
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Thanks very much for the very quick and informative replies. To answer some of the questions:

We begin our Swiss adventure in Geneva (ex-Paris by train).

Our budget: We are hoping to keep to around 470 CHF (or 360 Euro which equates to $A500)per day inclusive of accomodation, eating, transport and sightseeing expenses.

With regards to Lucerne, Palen, we were also thinking of doing the Mt Pilatus "Golden Round Trip" so we thought we need a few days there. Is that trip worth doing or should we do something like Grindelwald while in Bernese Oberland?

Are there any other sightseeing excusions (Glacial Express etc) that we should not miss?
steve_Australia is offline  
Mar 28th, 2011, 06:55 PM
  #8  
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BTW - if our planned Budget would prove difficult, we would welcome suggestions about cutting down the number of days and so increasing the amount per day. We just thought that it looks such a beautiful country we wanted to give it justice with the 14 days. Love to know your thoughts.
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Mar 31st, 2011, 04:53 PM
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Hi again Steve,
Just noticed this post, we stayed in Brienz for 8 days and found it was the perfect base to see a lot of the area around the Berner Oberland. We purchased a Swiss Pass in Australia before we left and used it every day to travel around - it was great not having to worry about handing cash over all the time too. We just travelled around using trains, buses, cable cars etc, the more you use it the better value it is.

Here is the link to where we stayed - we rented the holiday home as there were 4 of us but one of the smaller chalets would be perfect for you. The house was very clean, bit of a steep climb up from the train station but you walk past the co-op so you can grab your food from there on the way home. And the view is to die for!!
www.jobins.ch/e/brienz/region_brienz.htm

Let me know if I can be of any further help.
Maudie is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 07:34 PM
  #10  
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Hi Maudie,
We have an almost psychic connection going on here. I was just thinking that having spent 3 weeks in Switzerland it's a shame you hadn't responded to this post. I was just about to reply to the Amsterdam post when I saw this.

Did you do the Mount Pilatus trip from Lucerne or ascend to Schilthorn? It is such a beautiful country we wanted to do it justice with at least 2 weeks, but have been constantly given the "it is SOOOO expensive in Switzerland" speech that we hoped to find a base and then train it from there.

Your suggestion re: Brienz sounds ideal. Is it possible to see Lucerne or Zermatt from there as well, or should we stay in each place for a few days?

Did your Swiss Pass cover all of your travel? I was under the impression it allowed for some free trips, but for the rest there was a 50% discount.

Sorry to overload you with all these questions. It just seems that you made a similar trip to ours and you are from Australia so you are the perfect resource.

Thanks again for all your helpful information and best regards, Steve.
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Apr 1st, 2011, 02:08 AM
  #11  
 
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Hi again Steve,
I clicked on your name to see if you had any other posts and saw this one and thought I would tell you about the chalet.

No we didn't do the Pilatus trip as we had plenty of scenery in the BO to look at. Yes, we certainly did the Schilthorn, the cable car rides were fantastic. We also got off 1/2 way down and walked back which was one of the high lights of our trip. I think you have made a great choice in deciding to spend 2 weeks there, as we get older we much prefer to slow down and really take the time to enjoy what we are seeing rather than rushing.

Yes it is expensive - but hey you only live once! Using bases is a good way to save money too, we prefer to self cater when we can, then having the odd meal out makes it more special. Also it gives you the chance to make a picnic lunch to take on the road. I always take one of those soft sided Decor lunch packs. We have lots of great memories of picnics spent in the most fabulous places - and it saves us a heap of money.

We went to Lucerne for a day from Brienz and had a couple of days in Zermatt.

Yes the Swiss Pass covered all our train and bus travel and quite a few other things, though some cable cars and the trip up to the Jungfrau was only 50%. Oh I think the ferries were free too - and you will want to do that! Great place to have your picnic lunch - speaking of that you are allowed to have picnics on the train too. We used to take our lunch and a bottle of wine and our plastic wine glasses - great way to start up a conversation! Here are a couple of sites for you to read.

http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/file...-11-EN-WEB.pdf
Map with all the train routes.

http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/en/c...ts/swiss-pass/
Swiss Pass info.

We purchased our pass here, I think it was from raileurope.com.au. I learnt that the passes go up nearly every year (like most things) so I purchased it near the end of December and got it at the 2006 price as it is valid for 6 months - we just scrapped in. You carry the pass with you all the time and just show the conductor - when most of them saw Australia on the pass they were ever so helpful. Also the clerks at the stations will print out train times for you if you ask. If you say we want to go here and then there and up there etc they will give you train times - we found them very helpful.

No problem at all with the questions - ask away and I will do my best to answer them. If you are at all interested, click on my name (in blue on any post) and it will take you to my page and scroll down to towards the bottom and you will see my 2 trip reports. You might like to grab a glass of wine and read my Europe one - it might be useful.

We are off to the UK for 5 weeks in May (yay I can now say "next month") for 5 weeks, can't wait. Best wishes, Maudie
Maudie is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 04:39 AM
  #12  
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Hello again, Maudie.

You are worth your weight in gold! I look forward to reading your European trip report - and the glass of wine sounds a good idea too (can't wait to try a few samples from France and Italy).

Your advice has been invaluable - I am now positive that anyone who seeks advice from a travel agent has never visited the Fodors Travel Forum!

Have a great time in the UK - I'm sure that won't be difficult. I covered the mainland (England, Wales and Scotland) quite extensively during my formative years - I worked in England on and off for 18 months in '75 and '76 which allowed me to take all of those "Contiki" tours (well, the company was actually called AutoTours but you get the drift). But, unfortunately, I never made it to Ireland.

Thanks again for your invaluable advise and interesting anecdotes. Regards, Steve.
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Apr 1st, 2011, 09:57 AM
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We purchased our pass here, I think it was from raileurope.com.au. I learnt that the passes go up nearly every year (like most things) so I purchased it near the end of December and got it at the 2006 price as it is valid for 6 months - we just scrapped in. You carry the pass with you all the time and just show the conductor>

Well the bit about the prices for Swiss Passes going up (or down) - actually mainly up but sometimes decreased every Jan 1 is no longer true - the last few years pass prices varied several times during the year as the dollar (in U.S. pricing went up or down - thus no more buying before Jan 1 to save money and use at last year's pricing for the following sic months.

And prices for passes in Switzerland for the past few years have more often than not been higher than for the exact same pass bought in the U.S. (even though Rail Europe, the wholesaler of Swiss Passes is part owned by the Swiss Railways!) - so check pricing at www.sbb.ch - Swiss Railways web site and thru U.S. sources - note however mailing and handling fees can be added on even though passes sold everywhere in U.S. by any agent must be sold at the same exact price. I have bought several Swiss Passes from Byron at www.budgeteuropetravel.com and can recommend his expertise and helpfulness in answering Q's. But check to see what prices are at stations in Switzerland to compare and keep in mind most credit cards tack on a 3% service charge for foreign transactions. railEurope itself I believe would add a mialing fee onto many Swiss Pass orders as they have a minimum amount for free shipping - was $400 but have not checked rcently - so always ask about shipping costs.
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 2nd, 2011, 09:42 PM
  #14  
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Thanks Palen - I'll keep that in mind. When it gets closer to the time of purchase, I might need to pick your Swiss Train Knowledge brain some more.

Hi Maudie,

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your trip report. It sounds like you had a great time - apart from the cruise, of course! It also sounds like you are in to walking a lot.

I have another question. My wife and I had planned to see the Switzerland that could be covered by setting up a home base in:

Montreux or Vevey - for everything surrounding Lake Geneva.
Brienz - for seeing everything you guys did including the fabulous alps, lucerne and bern, and finally
Zermatt - just so we could enjoy the Matterhorn and then have an easy transit to Italy - our next leg.

That pretty much left the whole of the eastern side unseen, but we were under the impression that it was all about St Moritz being a winter paradise for the rich.

However, your trip report indicated that there was some lovely sightseeing to be done in and around Pontresina. Do you recommend this area for all sightseers or more for serious trekkers? Look forward to hearing your thoughts. Best regards, Steve.
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 12:24 AM
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Hi Steve

Glad you enjoyed it - I did mean to say that the Switzerland bit was half way down!!

We loved Vevey, it had a much more village feel to it than Montreux. There is an easy bus that you can catch from Vevey to Montreux and back so its no big deal to spend an day or afternoon there. Oh and don't forget to see Freddy Mercury's statue on the waterfront there. Vevey's lake front is just lovely, very pleasant of an evening to stroll along and find a nice spot for a picnic. The gardens are delightful and you can easily walk half the way to Montreux as its flat then up to the main road to catch the bus (covered with the Swiss Pass).

I am sure you will enjoy Brienz - we found it to be a good base for us as we were able to go in all directions from there.

The Matterhorn was certainly worth seeing and we are glad we made the effort.

We thought the same thing about the eastern side BUT I did lots of reading on here and it just seemed to fit with us getting back to Zurich to fly home. Also sort of seemed an area that not a lot of people get to. However I am not sure it would fit in with your plans to get to Italy.

There is a scenic train called the Glacier Express that goes from Zermatt to Chur but during my planning I read that really only part of it was "scenic" and it was quite a long journey. We didn't think much of St Moritz itself but the lake there was beautiful and worth seeing on a sunny day.

We aren't serious trekkers by any stretch of the imagination Steve, but enjoy walking and wandering around. We very much enjoy what nature has to offer and like being out in the fresh air. Yes I would recommend it without a doubt for sightseeing - it just seems to be a quieter corner of Switzerland, somehow more untouched and less developed. Lots of cute little towns and villages. We were also extremely lucky with the weather - that could make a big difference.

One thing to note is that you don't have to pay extra to take the scenic trains as in the Golden Pass or Bernina Express, just take the regular trains - they use the same tracks.

Maybe just google Pontresina and look at some images and photo's and see if it appeals. Also put Pontresina in the "search the forums" box at the top of the page and do some reading it might help you made up your mind.

Let me know how you get on, I will keep checking back.

Cheers
Maudie
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 01:38 AM
  #16  
 
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Hi Steve,
We are off to Switzerland in June - our second trip in two years. We fell in love with Lauterbrunnen - must be one of the most beautiful places anywhere, and I do recommend a visit there. From Lauterbrunnen you can go to Murren and Wengen. We did the trip to Schilthorn last time and hope to do Jungfrau this time. We did the Pilatus trip whilst we were in Lucerne - thought it was great, particularly the cog railway. It was a great day out - first the boat trip, then the cog railway, then cable car and finally bus back to Lucerne.
This time we are having four nights in Lausanne, five in Lauterbrunnen, three in Lucerne and then some time in Zurich before flying home to Melbourne. We're buying Swiss rail passes - thought the train system was brilliant. Apart from the ease of not having to buy tickets at the last moment, the pass will also give you discounts on other things - last time we did Schilthorn and Pilatus at half price. I understand it will also give you free access to some museums.
Hope you have a great time.
marg is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2011, 02:42 AM
  #17  
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Hi Maudie,
Thanks for get extra info. We will need to check the posts on Pontresina to see if it fits in with Italy. It all sounds to good to be true. Netherlands, Belgium, Paris, Switzerland and then Italy. OMG - I'm already dreading the question, "what did you like best?"

I found out something else from your Trip Report - we are fellow Perthites. Who would have guessed?

Regards,
Steve
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 02:46 AM
  #18  
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Hi Marg,

Twice in 2 years - you lucky things!. The great thing about Maudie's suggestion of Brienz as a home base is that places like Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Wengen, Schilthorn, Jangfrau, Lucerne etc are all easily accessible. We are really looking forward to it all - but still have 12 months to wait. Oh, well, all good things come to he that waits, they say.

Best wishes and have a great trip in June,

Steve.
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 02:54 AM
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Hi,
It sure does sound like a great trip - I'm jealous! Would love to go back again but there are new places to explore first.

Well I guess there was a one in eight chance! Small world isn't it? We are south of the river, maybe we could catch up for a coffee then we could show you our pictures of Pontresina and we can pick your brains on Italy?

Cheers
Maudie
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 09:26 AM
  #20  
 
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One thing to note is that you don't have to pay extra to take the scenic trains as in the Golden Pass or Bernina Express, just take the regular trains - they use the same tracks.>

Good tip IMO

And i actually prefer the local trains over these routes as they are much less packed - the official ones often being full with tour groups, etc

I'd rather be on the slower local trains - slower because they stop more not because of a slower speed - and I can hop from side to side in the usually half-full cars, etc.
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