Switzerland by Car

Apr 1st, 2003, 01:48 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
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Switzerland by Car

My wife and I will be traveling to Switzerland in July. Generally, we enjoy the freedom and flexibility of a car. We will be arriving and departing from Zurich. Planning for this trip is a little difficult for us as we would like to visit some of the major cities, small villages, as well as glaciers. Can this be done by renting a car for the complete time we are there, or should we break it up? What are some of your recommended sites that can fit into our preferences. We also would like to stay in some B and B's.

Fred249 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2003, 02:03 PM
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Fred, I always drive in Europe--have more than 20 times. However, I find that train travel in CH is so easy that I actually prefer it. I would head right to the Berner Oberland by train from Zurich and spend your first 4 or 5 days there--it is the best of the Alps.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 1st, 2003, 02:10 PM
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A couple of sites for checking out b &B s.
grimmy is offline  
Apr 1st, 2003, 11:29 PM
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I live in Switzerland. IMO, you do not need and would not want a car in the "cities" of which there are two: Zurich and Geneva. Parking is difficult, many streets are one-way and finding your way is not easy, even if you do read German. All of the areas you would want to see in Zurich are easily walkable on foot, and the same for the old city parts of Geneva. (You can take a train or bus to the UN areas.) The train stations are right in the center of town where you want to be.

The train system in Switzerland is really unparalleled, and for that reason alone you should experience it to see how it can be done. In addition, several villages like Zermatt, Saas-Fee and Fribourg are car-free, so you have to leave your car outside the village and take a train or bus in. Public transportation is much easier in that case.

The whole Bernese Oberland/Interlaken/Jungfrau area is best done by train IMO so you can really appreciate the views. The train ride from Zurich to Lucerne takes about an hour and again you don't have the hassle of parking and finding your way around by car. If you wanted to rent a car to drive between places like Zurich or Geneva that is doable, but not really necessary given the train system. Also, please note that gas is about US$4.50 a gallon here.

The website for Swiss Railways is sbb.ch. There is an English version. It is very helpful and you can even book tickets on it which will be mailed to you. Some form of the Swiss Pass is probably a good option for you as that would give you free or ½ price travel on all trains, buses, trams and ferries in Switzerland. There is information on the site about the various options.

For B&B's a favourite on this site are the Karen Brown guides, which includes suggested itineraries and her picks of charming family B&B's or small hotels. Take a look at karenbrown.com/Switzerland.
Cicerone is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2003, 06:46 AM
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I agree with the others that a car is not an asset in the cities of Switzerland. When you consider that you are not only paying for the car and not using it, you are also paying a fairly high price to park it. You can redirect your expenditures for the car and parking toward visiting the city.

On the other hand, some touring definitely benefits from the use of a car.

I personally have used both a car and trains in Switzerland. I agree, if you arrive in Z�rich by car, you will probably park it and not use it while you are within the city.
Luzern is similar if you are in the downtown area. We were there last year to visit the Transportation Museum, which is excellent, and were able to find metered parking a short distance away from the front door. Lausanne, too, is compact and a car probably is not all that useful.

On the other hand, we have taken some memorable drives in Switzerland. By doing so we were able to visit places trains don't go. True, there are bus connections to many places, but often you are not able to time your visit so that you are ready to go when the bus is.

The area around Grindelwald, M�rren, Lauterbrunnen, and Wengen can be visited quite nicely without a car.
There are trains, buses, and mountain lifts to all of the key destinations.
From any of the higher elevations, trails lead to the most thrilling vistas.

For some areas, however, a car is a valuable asset. My favorite drive of them all, and perhaps the most stressful, was our trip over the so-called Three Pass Drive. The passes are: the Grimsel, the Furka, and the Sustern. We started from Interlaken, drove to Inertkirchen, and continued over the Grimsel Pass. We returned over the Furka and Susten passes to Inertkirchen, ending virtually where we started.

Another fun trip on a wet and foggy day was the trip we took from the showcase dairy at Afoltern over to Sarnen and down the Br�nig Pass to Meiringen and back Interlaken. The road was relatively remote, so much so that a logging operation caused us to stop for several minutes while heavy equipment snaked trees out of the forest.

Another fun drive is from Interlaken to the the mountain range known as les Diablarets. I could also include our drives up the mountain side to Grimentz and Zinal in Val d'Anniviers and, at another time, to Saas Fee where the Mischabel Range seems to reach to the sky. (The Dom reaches almost 15,000 feet and towers some 10,000 feet over the valley.)

So, in summary, it depends on where you want to go and what you want to see.
bob_brown is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2003, 07:27 AM
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I agree with Bob Brown. I also live in Switzerland (Luzern) and definitely prefer the car route. I like the flexibility and ease of a car...esp. if you have lots of luggage or children.

The bottom line is...some areas you don't need it and some...you do.
SloJan is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2003, 03:08 AM
Original Poster
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Thanks for all of your input. I appreciate the time you've taken to answer my question. I think we will rent a car for certain portions of the trip and take a train for the remainder of the time.
Fred249 is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2003, 05:07 AM
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Two more comments on the car versus train situation in Switzerland. The Berner Oberland area, particularly around Grindelwald, Muerren, Wengen, and Lauterbrunnen, is served by an extensive network of trains, buses, and cable lifts. Parking is relatively tight, and most of the time you pay a fee to park.
Saas Fee is somewhat problematical. No trains go to that valley, but there is a prompt and efficient Post Bus. The easiest way to reach Saas Fee is by car, however, as described above, you don't drive in Saas Fee. Instead, you park at a large deck on the fringe at a fairly substantial fee. I don't recall what it was exactly, but I remember paying by credit card!

Zermatt is the same way; you don't drive there. Instead, you park in a big lot at Taesch and take the shuttle train into the village.

Even in Bern, to visit the city center, we found a parking deck and left the car for several hours while we toured on foot.

Grindelwald has parking, but on a sunny Sunday in the summer you can be hard pressed to find a place. Lauterbrunnen has a large parking deck for visitors, and those who take the Luftseilbahn up to the Schilthorn usually find a place in a big parking lot near the valley station.

On the other hand, if you are in Grindelwald and want to visit Kandersteg, it is quicker and more convenient to travel by car. The train takes about 1:34, with changes in Interlaken Ost and Spiez and departures every hour. Driving it takes about 50 minutes depending on traffic.

(We stayed in an apartment in Saas Grund, and could park in the driveway for no extra charge. The apartment, owned by the one of the members of the Zerbriggen family, was very nice. The visit led to one of the more interesting experiences of my life. Frau Zerbriggen speaks no English; my wife speaks no German or French, and my German is not up to a technical discussion. Somehow Frau Zerbriggen explained to my wife how to use the washing machine, the knobs and dials of which were most unlike an American model. Don't ask me how they did it! I am just a linguistically challenged male with a very narrow corpus collosum. It takes a while for the left hemisphere to talk to the right.)
bob_brown is offline  
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