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Swiss rail passes

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Feb 13th, 2014, 06:00 AM
  #1
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Swiss rail passes

There seems to be no end to the variety of Swiss rail passes. I am wondering if there's an easy way to work out the best one to get. Three adults (1 is 75 but it doesn't seem to give any age discounts) are going (and travelling together) on May15. We plan to get train (from Paris) to Basel, then to Interlaken, then a bus to a campsite. We have nowhere particular to travel to, except to go to Interlaken itself on Sunday. We are considering doing some scenic train journeys, maybe including cable car &/or funicular railway trip. After 5 nights in the mobile home, we have to get to Chur for the Bernina Express. I have paid and reserved our seats but not yet bought any tickets. The only way to get to Chur (from near Interlaken) for the 08:37 Bernina Express to Tirano seems to be to hire a car, this is do-able as some hirers allow one-way hire.

Any suggestions would be appreciated, especially: is there a way to work out if, for example, we should use the Swiss pass, or maybe an interrail, how do they compare? The flexi-interrail seems to be cheaper than the flexi Swiss pass, but maybe it offers fewer benefits. There's a Swiss transfer ticket, but maybe you need to enter & exit the country at the same place for that one. I'm really not sure. Then there are various half-fare cards & combinations. It's a minefield!

Thanks.
Ricardo_215 is offline  
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Feb 13th, 2014, 07:54 AM
  #2
 
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Best one = lowest cost, covers the most, etc?
These products are usage model based. It is difficult to compare the costs if you are still at a "maybe including cable car &/or funicular railway trips" stage. Because these high altitude transports are costly, uncertainty in this area leaves a big variation in cost estimates with different pass products.
There is no way out of doing heavy math work by layout out exactly where you would use them.
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Feb 13th, 2014, 08:02 AM
  #3
 
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Hi Ricardo_215,

Unfortunately, I don't think there's an easy way to do this. Whenever I had to work it out, I first got all the fares for all the trips I intended to make (both into the mountains or just between cities). Then I plotted them all on a spreadsheet to show every possible combination and possibility.

Whenever I did the math, the answer was always that the Half Fare Card was cheapest for my trips, so these days I just get the HFC. Usually it was cheapest by less than 100 chf, though.

Oh, for the Transfer Ticket, no, you can enter and leave the country by different border points. But, obviously, for that to be effective, your first stop and last stop have to be some distance from the border point.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Feb 13th, 2014, 10:23 AM
  #4
 
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You may have a look at
http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/home.html
http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/en/
http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en
http://www.regiopass-berneroberland.ch/offer-2014/

Interlaken - Bernina Express:

via Zurich - Chur:
Interlaken dp 5.21 - Chur 8.52/8.58 - St. Moritz 10.58/11.22 - Bernina Express - Tirano ar 13.26
Interlaken dp 9.29 - Chur 12.52/12.58 - St. Moritz 14.58/15.22 - Bernina Express - Tirano ar 13.26

via Brig - Milan:
Interlaken dp 6.00 - Tirano 12.50/14.04 - Bernina Express - Chur ar 18.27
Interlaken dp 8.00 - Tirano 14.50/15.14 - St. Moritz 17.30/18.02 - Chur ar 20.03

Standard trains along the Bernina line run every hr
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Feb 16th, 2014, 02:29 PM
  #5
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Thanks to greg, swandav2000 & neckervd for all those tips. I will check the websites & "do the maths" (sorry I'm from UK!) but I was rather hoping there was some easy or obvious way that I was missing! Maybe I was a bit hasty in booking the 08:32 (not 08:37 apparently)Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano as I've since discovered there are many other "standard" trains along that route. But according to neckervd we could actually do it all by train from Interlaken and pick up the Bernina Express at St. Moritz. However the information I have is that the Bernina Express leaves Chur at 08:32 and arrives Tirano at 12:36 (not 13:26). Maybe that's the time given on our reservations; I already paid the CHF42 for 3 reservations. I've also already booked the 16:05 from Milan Centrale to Venice. I got a bit worried when the connecting local train (dep Tirano 13:10, arr Milano Centrale 15:40) does not show on bahn.com, however it does show on trenitalia.com so I hope that's ok. Whoops this is a Swiss forum & I'm going into Italy (but it's part of the same trip!)
Well I will continue to research things & if any of you or anyone else wants to chip in with some advice, feel free! Thanks
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Feb 17th, 2014, 08:08 AM
  #6
 
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Have a look at the timetables
http://www.fahrplanfelder.ch/fileadm...s/2014/950.pdf
http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html
and you will see that

1. the easest access itinerary from Interlaken to Bernina Express goes not via Zurich - Chur, but via Milan - Tirano:
Interlaken dp 6.00 - Tirano 12.50/14.04 - Bernina Express - Chur ar 18.27

2. There are 4 daily Bernina Express trains in the second half of May: 1 starts at Chur at 8.32 and arrives at Tirano at 12.36. The other 3 start at St. Moritz at 9.29, 11.22, 15.22 and arrive at Tirano at 12.02. 13.26, 17.27; they can all be reached by connecting trains from Chur (dp 6.44, 8.58,12.58).

3. You booked the only one which can not NOT be reached from Interlaken the same day.

4. Standard trains (no reservation fee) along the Bernina Express route run almost every hr (first departure from Chur 5am, last departure 5pm). You will have to change trains twice in small stations at the same platform, however.

5. Trains between Milan and Tirano (2 1/2 hrs journey) run every 2 hrs:
Milan dp between 6.20am and 6.20pm
Tirano dp between 7.10am and 7.10pm

6. Connections Tirano - Venice SL:
Tirano dp 13.10, 15.10, 17.10 - Venice ar 18.40, 20.48, 22.40, change at Milano C
Tirano dp 14.35 - Venice ar 20.10, change at Edolo and Brescia.

7. Most scenic itinerary Interlaken - Bernina - Venice:
Interlaken dp 6.00 - Lake Maggiore - Milan - Lake Como -Tirano 12.50/13.40 - Bernina Pass - Pontresina 15.50/16.02 - Zernez 16.46/17.15 - Ofen Pass - Mals 18.46/19.03 - Bolzano/Bozen 20.59/8.31am - Venice ar 11.40

All these long train rides are exhausting. The real gems along the whole itinerary are not alongside the railway tracks and can only be reached by connecting cableways, buses or Lake Como boats. For that you should leave the train from time to time.
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Feb 17th, 2014, 11:04 AM
  #7
 
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Then there are various half-fare cards & combinations. It's a minefield!>

And the Swiss Card that provides exactly the same benefits as the Half-Fare Card but also includes two train trips - one to start from any obrder or airport to anyplace in Switzerland and then one out to any border station or airport in Switzerland - like Chur to Tirano could be your last 100% covered trip and if your first trip is longish then the Swiss Card could be better overall than the Half-Fare Card - cheaper so yes research is required.

The easy way is the Swiss Pass and with your travels outlined it seems you cannot go to wrong with that - even if it costs a few more francs I always find after using umpteen Swiss Passes that I travel more than I thought I would - especially with a pass that covers it! And you can just hop on any train anytime with few exceptions.

Anyway maybe these fine imo sites can help you figure it all out - www.swisstravelsystem.com (on the Bernina Express link you can book a seat without having a ticket - saying you will have a pass I think - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com and www.ricksteves.com. And on the Bernina Pass rail route - to me the most awesomely scenic one in Europe that I have been on in years of incessant training around Europe - also have regular local trains running thru the exact same scenery - I actually prefer the locals because IME the official trains are often chock full so you are stuck in your seat - on the more sparsely patronized locals - just hop on or off with any pass or ticket - I can hop between sides of the train as scenery dictates, etc. (though the best scenery is largely on the west side - leftside when going to Tirano.

The only way to get to Chur (from near Interlaken) for the 08:37 Bernina Express to Tirano seems to be to hire a car, this is do-able as some hirers allow one-way hire.>

No you can easily go by train from Interlaken via Zurich or take a bus from Meiringen to Goschenen, then a shuttle train up to Andermatt to join the Glacier Express train route (also with local trains) to Reichenau - where you can join the Albula Pass line to St Moritz or Pontresina without going to Chur.
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Feb 17th, 2014, 12:58 PM
  #8
 
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" you can easily take a bus from Meiringen to Goschenen...."

unfortunately not on May 15th, only 1 month later.

BTW: Ricardo wants to go from Interlaken via Chur - Bernina - Milan to Venice IN ONE DAY and arrive there before dinner time.
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Feb 17th, 2014, 01:49 PM
  #9
 
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BTW: Ricardo wants to go from Interlaken via Chur - Bernina - Milan to Venice IN ONE DAY and arrive there before dinner time.>

Milan at the very most but even then that is a stretch - I suggest Ricardo ditch the Bernina as lovely as it is and head straight away from Interlaken via Spiez, Visp/Brig/Domodossola to Milan and Venice and that is a long several hour day.

Or plan an overnight in St Moritz area.
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Feb 20th, 2014, 01:07 PM
  #10
 
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" you can easily take a bus from Meiringen to Goschenen...."

unfortunately not on May 15th, only 1 month later.>

thanks for the info on the date and even that is subject to weather - I turned up for the Three Pass Bus departure in Meiringen one morning to find out the buses had been scrubbed because of snow - usually run thru September or so but on this day in early September some passes they said were blocked by snow.

Bit if the buses are running that is a neat way to go from Interlaken viua Meiringen then bus up to Goschenen - shuttle train to Andermatt and how the Glacier Express or other trains on that route to St Moritz - the bus climb from Meiringen to Goschenen is awesome and tortuous with the iconic horns on the iconic yellow postal buses being sounded at every blind hairpin tour.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 06:10 AM
  #11
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Wow, it seems I should have been planning this trip months ago. Thanks to PalenQ neckervd, greg & swandav2000. It seems from all this that I should have studied maps and timetables more carefully before booking tickets. This started out as a "How about a short break in Venice?" and kind of ... grew ... into a "we could do a few days in Switzerland on the way..." So now the accommodation is booked, also the 16:05 train from Milan to Venice (that was only €9 each). I already booked the seats for the 08:32 Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano; it cost 42 CHF for the 3 seats. I suppose I could change the route, but if I do I won't get a refund on the reservations.
Between you all there are now so many ideas now running around my head - maybe another trip is in order. Also, I see that there is a local pass just for the area around where we are staying near Interlaken, the Bernese Oberland pass, which may suit us instead. (Thanks neckervd)
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Mar 11th, 2014, 08:21 AM
  #12
 
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there is also the Jungfraubahn Pass which is more limited in area than the Berner Oberland Pass but covers much more right in the Jungfrau area.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 12:17 PM
  #13
 
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Both of those passes are rather expensive so unless spending several days in the area just buy regular tickets.
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Mar 11th, 2014, 02:07 PM
  #14
 
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http://www.regiopass-berneroberland.ch/offer-2014/

as you can see they are fairly expensive but some of the trains covered are also very expensive - but I think you still have to pay a good chunk to ride trains like the Junfraujoch train - you have to be doing several trips I think to make that pass pay off but could well do it!
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Mar 13th, 2014, 11:23 AM
  #15
 
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and there is currently a special on Swiss Passes - a 2-day flexipass that is on sale thru I think sometime this spring and can be used anytime within six months or so after - two unlimited travel days and then 50% off on everything that moves in Switzerland just about in between the first and last unlimited travel day. Swiss Pass specials often appear in the spring IME so check out the various sources.
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