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Switzerland - 2 weeks - how can I improve my itinerary?

Switzerland - 2 weeks - how can I improve my itinerary?

Old Dec 11th, 2011, 08:33 AM
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Switzerland - 2 weeks - how can I improve my itinerary?

Based on information I've gathered here, I wrote the following itinerary.

Can you help me saying what is and what is not worth, when I am going too fast or too slow, or suggest other places to visit?

Some specific doubts I have:

a) I will have a bycicle with me: will I have a lot of trouble (or extra costs) carrying it with me on board?

b) is it worth taking the touristic train scenic tours? Can I can get the regular trains with similar views?

c) day 12 (Luzerne and sorroundings): should I transfer this day to the section between Montreux and Geneva (so I could slow down here?)

d) am I going to be able to visit Zermatt as a day trip from Interlaken (where we want to stay some four nights)?

Thank you!

Trip profile:

When: may/june 2012

Who: me and my wife (mid 30's), my bycicle and baby (6 months old)

For how long: 16 days, including transportation to and from Switzerland - 14 days there

What can't be changed: arrival in Zurich - Zurich; days 08 and 09 in Rapperswil; last destination - Geneva

Means of transportation: trains (between cities) and buses (cities)

ITINERARY (critique it, please!!)

DAY 01 - Night flight to Switzerland - Sleep: plane

DAY 02 - Arrive in Zürich - visit Zürich - Sleep: Zürich

DAY 03 - Visit Zürich - Sleep: Zürich

DAY 04 - Early train to Interlaken (2h trip) - during 4 days, visit Bernese Oberland (Lauterbrunnen; Wengen, Mürren, Grindelwald, Gimmelvald, Zermatt, Jungfraujoch) - Sleep: Interlaken

DAY 05 - Bernese Oberland (see above) - Sleep: Interlaken

DAY 06 - Bernese Oberland (see above) - Sleep: Interlaken

DAY 07 - Bernese Oberland (see above) - Sleep: Interlaken

DAY 08 - Early train to Rapperswil (by Lake Zürich) (2h50m trip) - stays there - Sleep: Rapperswil

DAY 09 - Rapperswil - Sleep: Rapperswil

DAY 10 - Mid-day: train to Luzern (1h20m trip) - visit Luzern - Sleep: Luzern

DAY 11 - Visit Luzern surroundings (Rigi, Mt. Pilatus, Titlis, Reinsiedeln) - Sleep: Luzern

DAY 12 - Visit Luzern surroundings (Rigi, Mt. Pilatus, Titlis, Reinsiedeln) - Sleep: Luzern

DAY 13 - Early train to Bern (1h20m trip) - visit Bern - take train to Montreux (1h30m) - Sleep: Montreux

DAY 14 - Train from Montreux to Geneva, stopping by some cities, like Vevey (5 minutes), Lausanne (25 more minutes), Morges (15 more minutes) and Nyon (15 more minutes) until Geneva (15 more minutos) - Sleep: Geneva

DAY 15 - Visit Geneva - Sleep: Geneva

DAY 16 - Early departure - End
Cruzeirense is offline  
Old Dec 11th, 2011, 09:13 AM
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I'm no expert but you are really rushing through all those great towns you mention along Lac Leman... I'd want way more than a single day to spend in Montreux, Vevey, Lausanne, and Morges.
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Old Dec 11th, 2011, 09:29 AM
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For trains investigate the 15-day consecutive-day Swiss Pass that covers not only trains but postal buses, lake boats, city trams and buses and also gives free entry to over 400 museums. since th 15-day consecutive-day pass comports with your time frame it may be the best option - seems that you, like me will be traveling enough to make it worth it.

By bike it going gets rough or weather turns just hop to a nearby train station and it is easy IME to put your bike in between the cars and some trains even have special bike and ski equipment cars - no problem IME.

Your kid gets a free Family Pass to go along with the Swiss card and never pays a dime to travel - even without the pass kids under 4 usually go free however.

Great sites for planning a Swiss rail trip with lots of info on passes and alternatives like Half-Fare Cards, Swiss Cards, Swiss Transfer tickets, regional passes, etc check out these fab IMo sites - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.swisstravelsystem.

As for specialty scenic trains being worth it well many are however I feel the most ballyhooed one, the Glacier Express is not amongst the most dramatically scenic and is a marathon 7-8 hours long haul thru nice but often not spectacular scenery. The Bernina Pass railway to me is Europe's most dramatically scenic railway and railways in the Jungfrau Region are also stupendous and the Golden Pass is a utilitarian way to go from Lake Geneva to Interlaken area - nice but again not dramatic scenery but much more scenic than the mainline via Bern.

When comparing Swiss Pass prices to local fares (at www.sbb.ch) keep in mind that Swiss Passes sold in U S dollars the past several years have often been significantly cheaper than the same exact pass sold in Switzerland - not always the case but often has been. And if using Swiss fran fares add in whatever % your credit card company imposes for foreign transactions - often 3%.

And again the amount of travel you are doing IMO makes the 15-day consecutive Swiss Pass a no brainer.
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Old Dec 11th, 2011, 09:38 AM
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i don't know if you do the whole hostel thing but I did stay at the International Hostel in Zermatt last Sept for two days and had a great time. It was something like 40 euros but your in Zermatt so expect to pay through the roof for everything. While in Zermatt I highly suggest to take the gondola up to the top top. It is a incredible view of the Swiss and Italian Alps when you have a clear view. I also highly recommend taking a 2.5 hour roundtrip hike up to Findlen (crazy ridiculous views of the Matterhorn) which you can get by walking straight out hostel door and hiking east for an hours up the mountain. The views are something to die for.

Last Fall I took a 10 day trip leaving S. Dakota and flying to Atlanta then a direct flight to Zurich. I rented a mercedes A and drove around Switzerland, Austria, N. Italy and S.E France for 10 days without a itinerary but with a Garmin that I preloaded with Europe maps where are very correct. Drove 4400 miles in 10 days and saw some very cool stuff along the way. That was my second trip to Swiss land and I am sure I'll do it again. .
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Old Dec 11th, 2011, 01:00 PM
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Thank you, PalenQ, Suze and Aspenedelen.



I checked the Swiss Card (15 consecutive days - about 360 euros per person) and it seems a good option.


Following your advices, I have made some changes in the itinerary:


a) I have moved visit to Bern to the beginning of the trip, between Zürich and Interlaken;


b) from Luzern to the Lake Geneva region, I can ride the Golden Pass Line, instead of the regular train;


c) besides that, I can put Geneva as an anchor city (going from Luzern directly to Geneva), so I will sleep there for 3 nights and, as day trips, I will try to go and visit Montreux, Lausanne, Morges, Nyon and Vevey.


What do you think about that?


What about a day trip from Interlaken to Zermatt? Would it be better sleeping in Zermatt?


I am not sure if we want to drive there. Anyway, it's something to be considered.

Thank you, and if you have another suggestions about the itinerary, I would be glad to know them.
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Old Dec 11th, 2011, 10:50 PM
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Hi Cruzeirense,

Taking the bike on the train costs 5 chf -- also costs 5 chf to take the bike on a ferry. Always a good bet when/in case you get tired.

You should also investigate the Half Fare Card, which costs 110 chf and gives you half off practically everything that moves for one month. It's what I always use on my trips.

No, I don't think it's a good idea to take a day-trip to Zermatt from Interlaken; the travel time is two hours. You'll need clear weather for the trip to be worthwhile, and even if the weather is clear when you leave Interlaken, it may be cloudy by the time you arrive. If you spent one night in Zermatt, it would increase your chances of having a clear day, but then you will be wasting a lot of time with packing up & checking out in Interlaken, then checking in & unpacking in Zermatt (you can calucalte that you lose about half a day of outside time every time you switch bases).

It also seems a shame to leave one glorious mountain area just to visit another glorious mountain area . .. ?

And of course you probably know that you cannot drive to Zermatt, which is a car-free town.

Oh, and if you're travelling in summertime, I would strongly encourage you to avoid staying right in Interlaken itself. It is heavily touristed, and in summertime there are literally lines of tour busses lining the streets and the off-loaded day-trippers clogging up the sidewalks and jamming the stores. It's really not a pleasant environment. If you are going in summertime, I would suggest you use one of the car-free villages that sit in the mountains, either Wengen or Mürren

www.myjungfrau.ch

I looked at your itinerary, and that bit at Rapperswil is really inconvenient; it has you chasing from north to central to north to south again. If there were any possible way to re-arramge it, I would try to get the movement to go from north to south.

Anyway, have fun as you plan!

s
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 12:32 AM
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@ swandav2000, is there any advantage the Half-fare card have over the Swiss pass?
Is it that the Half-fare card is valid for one month? ( I am not sure about this though). The Swiss cards are valid for a certain number of days...and the options are available, once you buy them. Plus, the Swiss Family card comes free with Swiss card, which helps, if you have children travelling with you. By the way, does the Half fare card too entitles one to a free Swiss Family card? Is the Half-fare card more beneficial than the Swiss pass, if one has to stay/travel in Switzerland for around a month, as against a week or so?
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 12:39 AM
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Taking the bike on the train isn't always easy. Most trains allow them but some don't. The price depends on if it's a short or long haul: short haul = full ticket. Long haul: SFr. 18. I've attached a link from the sbb website that gives all the necessary information. Please read:

http://www.sbb.ch/en/station-service...-the-trip.html
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 02:27 AM
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I've been to Switzerland many times, always used the train system, and here are a few comments.

I am not sure why so many people want the Swiss CARD vs the Pass. The Pass will let you use the city buses in many cities; your kid in arms would travel free anyways I suspect. The Pass can get you some rail discounts in some spots.

Remember that the country is about the size of the state of West Virginia and you can actually get from one end to the other by fast rail in about five hours.

I would NOT try to shoehorn Zermatt into the BO portion and as much as I like Zermatt, unless you are going to do some cross-country hiking the MAIN attraction for most is seeing the peak from one of the TWO vantage points...the Gornergrat (by rail..the Pass gives a discount) or using the cableways combination up to Kleine Matterhorn. The RISK: the peak can easily be totally shrouded in clouds and you won't find that out until you get there. True, the ride up from Visp by rail is impressive but after you've been to the BO the village itself may not compare.

Interlaken: great spot to sleep in and for many that's about it so be aware. But also be aware of this: if you think Interlaken is "heavily touristed" just wait until you get to some of those villages you are planning to see...they are smaller and the number of visitors may make them seem a LOT more congested.

Lausanne..have stayed often and it is larger than a lot of the other cities along the lake...be specific about what want to see there.

Montreux: OK it is pretty along the lake but the town itself isn't all that wonderful IMO. You might CONSIDER spending time at somewhere like Chateau de Chillon nearby OR use that Swiss PASS (discount) to take the MOB railroad trip up to Rochers de Naye for an absolutely SPECTACULAR trip up and down with great views.

Lac Leman:
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 04:44 AM
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Hi Cruze!
A few thoughts to add:
1) You are VERY rushed at the end of your trip in western/french Switzerland (days 13 and 14).
2) While Zermatt CAN be done in a daytrip from Interlaken (I did it), know that this short time doesn't give Zermatt justice, it is a LONG day, it is true that you'll be taking a gamble on whether you'll be able to ascend the Matterhorn there, AND you'll have seen spectacular scenery in the Berner Oberland region anyway, SO..simplify and save it for your next trip!
3) While I LOVE LOVE LOVE Rapperswil (I stayed there as my homebase for a week last November), know that it is just 30 minutes by train from Zurich, and can also be reached easily by boat excursion form Zurich for daytrips. SO if you are looking to free up a little more time for the french portion of your trip, consider an extra night in Zurich with a nice all-day trip to Rapperswil (you can boat there and train back for more time to explore).
4) I found the Half Fare Card to be the most economical for me on my last several trips.
5) When in Zurich, be sure to get a 24 or 72 hr Zurich Card for reductions on the daily town tour/free admissions to all museums/local public transportation and, DON"T MISS a little trip up to the 'local' mountain Uetliberg for fantastic views and easy hiking/ambling.
Have fun!
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 05:03 AM
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Hi again,

You (or someone) just has to do the math to determine if the Swiss Pass or the HFC will be more economical. I used to have to do a spreadsheet to keep track of all the options and combinations -- every time I did the spreadsheet, the HFC came out as the most economical for my travels.

Yes, you get the free family card with the HFC too.

Have fun!

s
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 05:04 AM
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It's your trip, so of course, you may have special reasons for your choices, but (as a Swiss resident), I'd suggest this org
Zurich first (good for recovering from jet lag, take a boat cruise for fresh air, wander the old town, etc.)
Then Luzern
Then take the scenic train to Bern (it's not officially listed as a scenic train, but it's a pretty ride). It takes 90 minutes and I believe your bike can come on board.
Bern to Interlaken or your BO base. Skip Zermatt on this trip.
From Interlaken to the Lake Geneva area, do an overnight (one or two) in Gstaad. There are some surprising inexpensive hotels around Gstaad (maybe not in the village itself, but one of the neigbhouring villages). Beautiful scenery, great for walking or bike riding. Gruyeres is also a nice day trip option from a Gstaad area base.
Then on the Lake Geneva area and home.
Anyway, that's my two centimes' worth. Have a great trip!
With this route you've cut out the backtracking.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 07:24 AM
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Consider Vevey/Montreux one in the same as far as your day trip. Definitely go to Chateau de Chillon. And only if the weather is clear go up the Roche de Nayes tram. If your trip is either Friday or Saturday GO to the open air farmers street market (Vevey on Sat AM, Montreux on Fri AM). Take a walk along the quai - lakeside promonate in either town. I think the restaurants are better, a bit less expensive, and more 'Swiss' in Vevey.

You can get between the two towns by bus (easiest/closest) or by hopping back on the train.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 09:26 AM
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So let's see. Taking the train, you carry the bike, your wife carries the baby, who carries the luggage? Will it all be in backpacks? Babies need a lot of stuff, some of which you can buy in Swizerland, probably at great expense.

I assume this baby is not yet born or just born. Will your wife be breast-feeding? That's less to carry/buy en route. But it doesn't always work out (didn't for me).

So, though I'm adamantly against driving in Switzerland, maybe a car would be better for you. But a lot of the towns are car-free. Maybe you'll be able to drive in temporarily to drop your luggage.

As a general rule, with small children, it's easier to base in one or 2 places, ideally in an apartment or house, and do daytrips. For which the trains are ideal.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 11:41 AM
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I checked the Swiss Card (15 consecutive days - about 360 euros per person) and it seems a good option.>

I think you may be mixing up 'Swiss Card' and 'Swiss Pass' - as much as you prevision traveling by train the Swiss Pass for 15 straight days is probably your best option - Half-Fare Card and Swiss Card (exactly same benefits as Half-Fare Card but also gives a trip from any border or airport to anyplace in Switzerland and then a trip from anyplace in Switzerland to any border or airport) would be better perhaps if you were traveling less - anyway yes do the math by regular fares at www.sbb.ch - Half-Fare Cards cost $130-135 or so to start and you must know exactly what you will be doing with them and also have to buy tickets for each time you travel.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 03:34 PM
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Thank you everybody for all the inputs, involving so many aspects of the trip!
Some feedback:
- Rapperswil: I can't change this bit of the trip. I'll take part in a race there during the weekend of June 2nd/3rd.
- Zermatt: will probably be erased from this trip.
- Bernese Oberland: the base will probably be Wengen or Mürren (not Interlaken anymore).
- Pass: I'll study in detail which pass works better for us: Swiss Pass or Half-Fare.
- Bike: the SBB (Swiss Rail Company) sells the TranzBag (100 CHF) in some larger stations an through its website (www.sbbshop.ch). With the bag, you don't have to pay for the bike on board. Looks good, because I can keep the bag for other trips. Or I can just send the bike to my final destination (friend's house in Geneva), after I use it in the race in Rapperswil.
- Lac Leman: I think I will "steal" one day from the Lausanne region (instead of 3 nights, I can limit it to 2) and another day from Geneva and transfer them to the Lac Leman region - probably anchoring in Montreux for 3 nights (Montreux itself, chocolate train up to Gruyères, Chateau de Chillon, maybe Vevey, maybe Lausanne).
- Baby: I hope she will still be breast-fed, as Mimar cited. Or she can help carrying the luggage!
- Reducing the number of bases to 2: difficult, but I can try to reduce them to 3-4, and do more day trips.
Thank you again!
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 11:49 PM
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Are you doing the Ironman? Good for you for getting a hotel in Rapperswil during this time. It will be an exciting place with lots going on. I know other Americans who come over especially for it.

Good luck at the race and enjoy Switzerland!
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Old Dec 13th, 2011, 03:26 AM
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Schuler,

Actually, it is the Half Iron Man (the Iron Man itself will happen a few days later in Zürich). 6 months prior to the race and the hotels in Rapperswil are all gone! I found one across the bridge. Thank you!
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Old Dec 13th, 2011, 04:59 AM
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Then you'll be staying in Pfäffikon. It's an easy train ride over the bridge or you can easily walk. There are lots of traffic jams going in and out of Rapperswil so just make sure you assess the situation if you just want to reach the town.
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Old Dec 13th, 2011, 05:24 AM
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Cruzeirense,

I was very active in the Zurich running community and worked the Zurich Ironman as well.

Let me make a suggestion -
Do Not attempt to drag your bike, helmet, wetsuit, running shoes and other race gear around Switzerland before the competition.
When you land in Zurich, stow that gear and bike at the Main train station in a locker, then pick it up before you head back to Rapperswil.

You should take it easy the days before the race. You'll have a tough time toting all you need on the train with a baby as it is.

Good luck & have fun!
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