Three weeks in Switzerland by train

Oct 13th, 2019, 02:33 PM
  #1  
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Three weeks in Switzerland by train

Hi all. Mostly I want to say thank you for the great advice I got on my earlier questions in this forum. We recently took our three week trip to Switzerland and this post is kind of a summary of that advice.

Train or Car - No contest, use the train. We initially planned to use trains for the first half of the trip because we spent 5 days in Grindelwald and the car would have just sat there. But we liked the rail system and buses so well that we cancelled the car reservation and used public transportation the entire time. You won't believe how helpful the SBB personnel are. And when you buy tickets they will give you a printed itinerary that gives all times and platform numbers. Makes things easy as pie. Plus, even the small train stations have ramps and elevators for handling your luggage when changing trains.

Travel Passes - It's a toss up. I crunched a lot of numbers and nothing was a clear winner for our itinerary. We ended up buying the Swiss half-fare card for CHF125 pp. It worked out well as that pass is good for 30 days and fit with our car cancellation decision. This "card" also gives you half fare on city buses and trams. I think the Swiss Travel Pass for ~CHF495 pp might be a better deal for someone who has a short trip planed (two weeks), will do a lot of train travel (blitz), and wants to visit a lot of museums and similar attractions. Note that the STP does not cover most of the mountain trains and lifts but gives you the same discount as the half fare card. Also note: when tickets are bought or checked you will be asked to show the card.

City Buses and Trams - As noted above, you get half fares here with a half fare card (and, I presume, free fare with the STP). But note this: In all of the cities we stayed our hotel gave us a tourist card that gave us free use of city transportation. Apparently it's covered by the daily hotel tax you pay. So we bought one half fare tram or bus ticket to get from the train station to the hotel, and that was it! Beats the dickens out of parking a car.

Lugano or Locarno - As far as the lake activities are concerned it doesn't make much difference. But Lugano is cuter and has more atmosphere. We had chosen to stay in Locarno. Turns out that this city is nestled in a crook of the lake and we didn't have long views of Lake Maggiore like I though we would. We day tripped between the two cities. The tourist card from the hotel covered all transport in the Ticino Canton, including the train between the cities.

Montreux or Lausanne - This decision is a matter of taste. We stayed in Montreux and were happy, day tripping to Lausanne. Lausanne is more active and has a nice old town plus other sights. But Montreux was relaxed and had a terrific lake side promenade. One reason we chose it is that we took the Golden Pass railway and that terminates in Montreux.

General Comments - Yes, Switzerland is expensive. We spent about US$90 per day on food for two people. Not including breakfast at the hotel. But it's worth it. Clean, you won't believe how clean the country is. Great water too.

All told we had a wonderful trip. No problems, lots of good memories. Again, my thanks for the good advice.

Hiking above Zermatt
MichGuy is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 03:40 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to post after your trip! I, too, am a Swizerlwnd afficiando!
mokka4 is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 04:25 PM
  #3  
kja
 
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Sounds like you had a wonderful trip -- thanks for posting back with some information that should prove very useful to future travelers!

Originally Posted by MichGuy View Post
Lugano or Locarno - .... We had chosen to stay in Locarno. Turns out that this city is nestled in a crook of the lake and we didn't have long views of Lake Maggiore like I though we would.
I think that means you stayed in Locarno proper, rather than Ascona?
kja is offline  
Oct 14th, 2019, 06:34 AM
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Exactly.
MichGuy is offline  
Oct 14th, 2019, 10:38 AM
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Thanks for the TR! I am another train fan.
thursdaysd is offline  
Oct 15th, 2019, 06:07 AM
  #6  
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For anyone interested, this was our itinerary excluding flight days. We flew in and out of Zurich.

Zurich - 2 nights
Luzerne - 1
Grindelwald - 5
Montreux - 3
Tasch / Zermatt - 2
Locarno - 3
Davos - 1
Zurich - 1

The trip from Locarno to Davos was really fun. It involved 4 train legs and a bus trip in the middle. The scenery was fantastic and the last train leg followed the Bernina Express route.
MichGuy is offline  
Oct 15th, 2019, 02:36 PM
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Sounds like a terrific trip. DH and I did a slightly less "busy" trip just over two years ago, [Interlaken, Wengen and Lucerne] using a first class pass which gave us access to all the trains you mention plus the boats, with no worry about where to sit etc. Great for anyone suffering from mobility or other problems which DH had at the time. Well worth the money for the convenience and the "access all areas" it gave us. Unforgettable memories.
annhig is offline  
Oct 16th, 2019, 05:56 AM
  #8  
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Good comment. Mobility concerns is an aspect of train travel that could be really helpful to some travelers. Fortunately it hasn't been an issue for us - but as the years accumulate....
MichGuy is offline  
Oct 17th, 2019, 07:34 AM
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thanks, MichGuy. It wasn't a consideration for us before but then suddenly it was, and it would be difficult to imagine a place better suited to people with mobility challenges, and the Swiss pass was the icing on the cake.
annhig is offline  
Oct 17th, 2019, 08:40 AM
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LOCARNO:
If you want to see a big portion of the lake, go by rope railway or by bus to Orselina (runs from 6am until midnight) or by gondola to Cardada (for views of almost all the Lake and the snowcapped mountains of Valais and GraubŁnden).
neckervd is offline  
Oct 18th, 2019, 04:31 AM
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Trains are always amazing in Switzerland, but with a car you can reach just a bit more: mountain passes, some remote villages, some attractions If I go to the mountains, I always take a car
aurimas is offline  
Oct 18th, 2019, 09:16 AM
  #12  
twk
 
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Originally Posted by aurimas View Post
Trains are always amazing in Switzerland, but with a car you can reach just a bit more: mountain passes, some remote villages, some attractions If I go to the mountains, I always take a car
I'm beginning to think you are trolling. Here, you recommend a car in Switzerland as giving you better access to the mountains. On another thread, you're praising Interlaken as a base. Not sure you are in earnest.
twk is offline  
Oct 18th, 2019, 01:27 PM
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twk - to be fair we used Interlaken as a base for 4 nights and it suited us very well, with plenty of scope for day trips by train and boat, though i don't think we'd have gone as far as one couple we met who were staying at the same hotel as us who spent 3 weeks there every year.

But I agree that using a car in Switzerland does seem a little extreme.
annhig is offline  
Oct 18th, 2019, 04:21 PM
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kja
 
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Originally Posted by twk View Post
Here, you recommend a car in Switzerland as giving you better access to the mountains. On another thread, you're praising Interlaken as a base. Not sure you are in earnest.
For some very limited purposes, a car can be an advantage in Switzerland. For some purposes, Interlaken can be a reasonable base. My understanding is that new posters are encouraged to post on several threads early on -- maybe this person is simply trying to share a few thoughts to get past that initial hurdle? If so, I'd rather err on the side of acceptance. JMO.

Sorry for the digression, MichGuy!

Last edited by kja; Oct 18th, 2019 at 04:38 PM.
kja is offline  
Oct 19th, 2019, 06:34 AM
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Digression can be fun and lead to interesting things. My responses:

Access to the Mountains by Car - Yes, some things in Switzerland are more accessible by car. When we canceled our car reservation we gave up a side trip to Gruyeres and Broc. It would have cost us a day if we did it by train. But the Bernese Oberland is very, even more, accessible by train, whether from Interlaken or from Grindelwald (as we did). Further, Wengen and several sights in the area are reachable only by train. Zermatt is also car free and you have to take the train from Tasch. The thing is, the "commuter" trains in these places are so convenient. They run every 15 to 30 minutes and the stations are very central.

A few years ago we had a car and our route included driving from Vaduz to the Black Forest, Along the way we spent a couple of days in Zurich and Bern. Parking was difficult and expensive, the car limited our choice of hotels, and I made a wrong turn in Basel - got lost and dropped half a day. Trains are the way to go in Switzerland.

Lake Views from Locarno - Quite right about taking cable cars up for views of the lakes. Our weather was foggy part of the time and we decided not to do that.
MichGuy is offline  
Oct 19th, 2019, 11:14 AM
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I am not a fan of Grindelwald. Too much traffic.

Wengen❤

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