Switzerland - Driving vs Train

Apr 11th, 2005, 07:11 AM
Original Poster
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Switzerland - Driving vs Train

Hi all,

We will be visiting Switzerland (for our first time) this September for about 10 days - arriving from Austria and heading next to Italy.

One thing I am fairly confused about is whether we should drive or take the train. We are thinking of spending time in Lucerne, Grindelwald (as a base for BO), Zermatt, and possibly Lugano.

Are there any good (i.e. scenic, naturally beautiful) driving routes that folks here might recommend ? We love nature and the country side, and thus are tempted to do some driving - but cant figure out if it would be a good idea or not. Or would we be better off just taking the train everywhere ?

thanks in advance for any tips and suggestions !

PS. I have a similar question about Austria - will post on the Austria board.
carlposter05 is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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You will undoubtedly get a lot of encouragement here to go without the car, as the train system in Switzerland is among the finest in the world. And I would not argue against such wisdom.

However, we did a very similar trip to yours a few years ago by car, and I was quite pleased. It helps that I really like to drive, but the convenience of coming and going as we pleased was a part of it as well. And the scenery while driving those mountain passes will take your breath away.

You might find our trip report on this adventure to be helpful...

mr_go is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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Hi Again Carlposter05,

As you know from my previous replies to your posts, I really prefer taking the train in Switzerland. But for your particular route, I just don't see any advantage to having a car.

Though you can drive in Grindelwald, you cannot drive to the spots you're likely to visit (Kleine Scheidegg, Wengen, Muerren, Jungfrau, etc); then you cannot drive in Zermatt at all and will park your car in Tasch. Though you can also drive in Luzern, a car doesn't give you any advantage as the quaint old town is compact and small with lots of pedestrian-only streets.

So possibly the only portion where a car would be an advantage is the part to & around Lugano.

swandav2000 is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 07:32 AM
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Add me to the list that says a car is no great advantage in Switzerland. I'm convinced even the scenery is prettier from the trains, and you don't have to deal with parking problems in smaller towns. The Swiss rail system is the "best" in Europe in my opinion.
Patrick is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 07:35 AM
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Count me in as another big fan of Swiss trains. Especially for the places you mention, couldn't get much easier.

Note about driving in Switzerland, they drive FAST! I've only been a passenger with a friend who lives in the country, but I wouldn't have wanted to be the driver on the freeway stretches (I'm not sure freeway is the correct term).

So while you would be able to take more off-the-beaten path scenic loops possible, what you see from the highway, getting between your main destinations, is not so amazing and it will be going by in a blur! And let's not even get started on the price of gas!!

The trains on the other hand...
suze is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 07:36 AM
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I'd go with the train. Parking in Luzern is expensive; views from cars are great--for the passenger, not (safely) for the driver in most instances, traffic over some of the passes gets backed up for miles due to accidents/weather and you'll have limited need for cars where you're going.

Get a half-price, one month card for the sbb and you'll probably save money, too-depending of course, on how many people constitute "we".
JN is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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Looks like taking the train is a hands-down winner over driving ! I am convinced.

And just as a side note, if we (me and my wife) we decide to drive from Zermatt-Lugano, is it a considered a "good" route ? Zermatt is auto-free, so we'll have to get to Tasch or the nearest town to do a one-way rental.

Finally, I meant to say that we will be using Gimmelwald as a base and not Grindelwald. The two sound similar, so have made this mistake many a time now.

carlposter05 is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 08:19 AM
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Have you looked into drop off charges for renting in Austria and dropping off in Italy? They may be so high as to make the train a good bit cheaper. Also, gas is US$4.50 a gallon here, and as noted above, parking is hard to find and expensive. Also, as noted above, you do not need and in fact canít really use a car in Grindlewald and canít use it at all in Zermatt, so you would be paying for parking and for the car to sit idle for a few days.

There are numerous excellent walking and hiking opportunities from the Grindelwald area and Zermatt, so you would not need to drive to get to good hiking, another reason not to have a car.

I agree that for the most part, the views from the train are just as good and in some cases better, than views you would get from a car. The trains can often be at higher elevations and more isolated areas than the roads, esp the dual carriageways.

I donít like driving in Lucerne as it is quite congested, and prefer to take the train in (and I live in Zurich and am used to the confusing maze of one-way and pedestrian-only streets and the lack of good signage, not to mention driving on the same roads as the trams, which is a little unnerving until you get used to it . . .)

If you have a car, avoid driving to Lugano or into Switzerland from Austria on a Friday or Sunday, as you will run into weekend traffic, this is esp true for the Gotthard Tunnel into the Lugano area.

All the above notwithstanding, if the drop off charge is reasonable and you donít mind paying for gas, parking, and for days you are not using the car, there are some good drives. Most esp are the passes like the Brunig, Susten, Grimsel, Furka and St Gotthard passes. The Grimsel pass is a good way to get over to the Zermatt area. All but the Brunig pass are significantly above the tree line and offer interesting views; at the Furka you can stop and get fairly close to the glacier which is one of the sources of the Rhone. I would say that the Furka is not for the feint of heart, but the other passes are not hard to do (have not yet done the St Gothard myself, but that is what I understand from others).

Depending on where you are coming from in Austria, it may not be too out of the way to drive through the Engadine Valley to St Moritz and then over the Julierpass, which has some great scenery; however IMO the prettiest part of the trip is by train between Pontresina and Fillisur on to Chur, but the route by car is totally different so you donít get the same scenery.

Of course, you can do all these passes by the public Swiss Post Bus, they just take more time and you have to work out your schedule to their timetable, and you may need to switch a few times to get to Zermatt from Grindlewald via Post Bus (or take trains for part of it). You could also rent a car for a day or to just in Switzerland and just to do some of the passes, as I mentioned above, the drive to Zermatt from Grindelwald via the Grimsel pass would be a great drive, albeit a longish day in the car. (there is also a car train through the Lotschburg Tunnel, but what is the point of that if you want to see scenery?)
Cicerone is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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Here's another vote for the train.

The main route into Switzerland from Austria, through Landeck, is spectacular.

You don't need, or want, a car in Lucerne or Lugano. The lake steamers will take you anywhere. In Lucerne, the Reuss riverside hotels cannot be driven to by car (only taxi). The train station is right in the middle of things in both cities.

And as you know, cars are verboten in Zermatt.

Maybe on my third trip to Switzerland I might consider a car.
metlc is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 08:48 AM
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Having lived in Switzerland for a couple of years (both with and without a car), I'm split on the issue. As others have said, the trains are marvelous. I'd spring for 1st class if you can work it into the budget, though. But having a car has its advantages. I've made many memorable trips by car through the countryside and seen things and met people that I would not have had I gone by train - but I could say the same thing about the trains, too.

One thing that no one has mentioned, though, is the Post-busses. These busses are operated by the Swiss Post system and offer access to many small towns that the trains just don't get to. You can get a book listing all the train and bus schedules at any train station - I'd recommend a bus trip or two - you'll definitely see part of the country that you would not otherwise and you'll be able to spend some time with Swiss people rather than just tourists.
Votan is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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To be pedantic, Votan, I DID mention the Post Buses (see the last para of my post).

If you go to the rail.ch website, it will show you post bus routes when you put in a destination which is not served by train, or is served by a combination of bus and train.
Cicerone is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 09:03 AM
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My apologies, Cicerone. Apparently I skipped that paragraph.
Votan is offline  

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