Swiss rail pass - Bernina Express route

May 3rd, 2007, 07:58 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 8
Swiss rail pass - Bernina Express route

Hi Fodorites,

Please help me. I'm planning my trip to Switzerland late this month, and am a bit confused over train itineraries, routes and rail passes.

My husband and I will arrive at Zurich after a 13 hour flight on 23 May 2007, at around 6:15 a.m.

I was originally planning to catch the 7:07 a.m. train from Zurich to Chur, so that we would be just in time to catch the 8:28 a.m. (only 5 minutes changing time) Bernina Express to Pontresina, the 1st of our 2 bases.

My first question is - what are the chances of our catching the Zurich train at 7:07 a.m., seeing that we will have to go through immigration and customs? We will be using fly rail to St. Moritz, so we don't have to collect our luggage, but even with that, will we have enough time to get on the train?

We would love to go on the panoramic coaches on the Bernina Express train from Chur, but I've been told that we need advance reservations for that, and I certainly don't want to forfeit the supplement if it's probable that we might miss the Zurich train, and thereby the Bernina Express. If we happen to catch the train, can we make our reservations at the train station or aboard the train itself?

Once we arrive at Pontresina, we will stay for 4 nights and use that as a base for day trips to the surrounding villages, and then take the Bernina train again to Lugano (stopping by Poschiavo for some hours) for 3 nights. We will return via the same route to Zurich, taking the normal train unless we miss the Bernina Express the first time around.

My 2nd question is, given the above itinerary (long-ish train trips only on 3 days, with shorter train trips in between), does it make sense to get a Swiss rail pass (maybe Flexi pass?) or just buy point-to-point tickets throughout our trip?

What is the difference between 1st and 2nd class, and in your experience, is it worth splurging on 1st class?

Many thanks in advance for your help!

Cheers,
Maya

maya1005 is offline  
May 3rd, 2007, 09:03 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Since you are staying four days in Pontresina and presumably won't be riding trains or buses much except for Bernina pass the Swiss Flexipass would be better than a consecutive day pass. On the flexipass you do of course get a 50% discount between your first day of use on the pass and the third day of use or final day if longer on the pass.

So you 4 days in Pontresina you'd get 50% off everything, including cables, Bernina train (which is not terribly expensive), postal buses, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
May 3rd, 2007, 12:23 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
1st vs 2nd class - roomier seats (same space but 25% less seats so correspondinly roomier) - more room for luggage - usually lots of empty seats based on my 100s of Swiss train rides

and think Bernina Express may only have observation cars in 1st class as many do though some like Glacier Express have them in 2nd class as well.

Yes if seats remain in observation car you could book at station or even on train i believe. they well could be available.

I'd suggest from Lugano not coming back the same way via S Moritz as that is much much longer than returning directly from Lugano to Zurich and that Gotthard mainline is very scenic as well and also observation cars in 1st class on most trains like this. Could take the official William Tell train/boat to lucerne thence to Zurich.

Easy to figure out efficacy of Swiss Pass - www.sbb.ch has all the fares in Swiss francs. Passes, though sold in Switerland, right now are significantly cheaper in US i believe. Like before i recommend to you BETS (www.budgeteuropetravel.com; 800-441-2387) is you need questions like this answered by experts or for passes with no mailing fees. their free European Planning & Rail guide has a special box on the Bernina Express and Bernina Pass trains - to me the most spectacular regular train ride in Switzerland.

I'd do the Bernina Pass route as a day trip from S Moritz so you can leisurely get off at say Alp Grum and do the easy walk around the glacier lake to the glacier - the most spectacular part of the trip. And you could take the Majola Pass bus St Moritz-Lugano - a much more spectacular bus ride than the Bernina Express bus Tirano-Lugano. If you want on your day trip go all the way to Tirano and back so you can see Poschiavo (or just there and not Tirano) and back to a S Moritz base.
Swiss pass valid on all your trains and buses, though buses require a reservation fee. I would think with the fairly long train trips to/from Zurich the Swiss Flexipass may be the best deal. And it gives you 50% off all cable cars, etc. www.swisstravelsystem.com has some info on Bernina Express as does www.rb.ch - site of the Rhatische Bahn who runs the train as well as normal locals that go hourly along the pass route.
PalenQ is offline  
May 3rd, 2007, 12:36 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 207
Maya -
When in Switzerland last September, I took the train to Pontresina after arriving early morning in Zurich. It didn't take much time to get through immigration and customs at the airport. It took about 3.5 hours to get to Pontresina - I just took the regular trains, so didn't make any reservations. I loved Pontresina. I did a day trip to Tirano, again on the regular trains, and stopped at Poschiavo for a late lunch. I got a Swiss Pass because I was hopping on trains almost every day - going to different little towns to do some hiking from. The pass also gives you a 50% discount on all the cable cars, funiculars,etc., which is really great.
You'll have a great time - I had so much fun last September, I leave for Switzerland on May 25th - this time also spending some time in Locarno.
Martha
mjnbrown is offline  
May 3rd, 2007, 10:09 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 8
Thanks so much for your quick replies, PalenQ and mjmbrown!

PalenQ, when you recommended the Majola Pass on my onward trip from Pontresina to Lugano, do you mean I don't take the Bernina route for that but take a train from Pontresina to St. Moritz and then the Majola Pass (it's a trip entirely by bus, right?)from there to Lugano? In your view, does the scenary match that of the Bernina Express? I keep trying to figure out which part of the Bernina is most picturesque to make sure I don't miss it, but people use different terms to describe the various places, so it's hard to work out. To be safe, I'd rather rely on the experience of those who have been there before, like you guys.

Mjmbrown, you say you're gonna be in Switzerland in May. Will you be in the Engadine area as well? Have you been there in late May before? I was just wondering about the weather and what to pack. Will it be freezing/rainy/windy in late May, and will the roads be full of slush? Will everything except for hiking paths be closed? I'll be there from 23 - 27 May 2007. The weather forecasts are not that helpful as the detailed forecasts are either in Italian or French or German!

Thanks a bunch for your help. I really appreciate it

Cheers,
Maya
maya1005 is offline  
May 3rd, 2007, 10:52 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 8
Hi PalenQ,

I just checked the BETS website that you mentioned, but unfortunately, the free guide you referred to is shipped only to US residents. I live in Hong Kong, so they won't send a copy of the free guide to me.

As for the Swiss Flexi Pass, there's almost an US$80 difference in prices between 1st and 2nd class. The passes are actually slightly cheaper if I buy them in Hong Kong, but the difference is about the same. If I buy the 2nd class Flexi Pass, do you know if I can upgrade to 1st class on arrival in Switzerland?

Thanks,
Maya
maya1005 is offline  
May 4th, 2007, 05:57 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 207
Maya -
I have not been to Switzerland in May - just my first visit last September. Looking at the historic data from the Weatherunderground site, you can get an idea of average temperature highs and lows. Just remember, the mountain areas will be cooler. This trip, I am spending my first 5 nights in Locarno, since I didn't get to the Ticino region last fall. Then I am spending 5 nights in Lauterbrunnen, which I fell in love with last fall, before 1 night in Lucerne on my way to get closer to the Zurich airport.
I'm starting to get really excited about being back in Switzerland.
Martha
mjnbrown is offline  
May 4th, 2007, 06:11 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
No i don't think you can upgrade your pass but on individual trains you can upgrade to first class seating by paying the difference between the regular 1st and 2nd class train fares - say you want to go in the observation cars that are largely in 1st class - but a few of these would make a first class pass in the first place better.
PalenQ is offline  
May 12th, 2007, 06:27 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
personally wouldn't pay first class upgrade for observation cars - there's not much to see out the top and windows on regular cars are huge as well.

And Bernina trains in summer, some, have open-air cars in 2nd class that are the ultimate observation cars.
PalenQ is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
capekidnappers
Europe
5
Jun 26th, 2008 12:24 PM
Maudie
Europe
5
Apr 10th, 2007 12:14 PM
enzian
Europe
5
Feb 17th, 2007 08:10 AM
arjunrc
Europe
4
Aug 17th, 2006 08:35 AM
sonnycher
Europe
6
Aug 20th, 2005 09:03 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:10 PM.