Utterly confused on Rail Passes

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Dec 30th, 2004, 08:29 AM
  #1
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Utterly confused on Rail Passes

I have read the latest postings on the issue of Swiss Rail versus Eurail, etc. passes and I am confused. So, please help me with the decision which pass to buy:

My itinerary: I will be travelling alone, arrival in Zuerich on June 16, proceeding to Lauterbrunnnen by train.

Stay in L. for 6 nights. While there, want to take the Jungfraujoch train and other sightseeing trains in the region. Also plan to take the train to Thun and return by boat to Interlaken, where I'll pick up my car for the rest of my travels to Southern Germany and return to Zuerich (by car!).

Should I buy any pass? If so, which one? Where should I buy it?

PS: Please don't question my decision to do the rest of my trip by car. It's a family issue, and you don't want to get involved with my family!
treplow is offline  
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Dec 30th, 2004, 08:37 AM
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There's a website, www.railsaver.com, where you can type in your itinerary to make a comparison between buying point-to-point tickets vs. a railpass. Be sure to check the "only if it saves money" option. If a pass is cost-effective, the appropriate one will be recommended.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 08:53 AM
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No pass for you! Not enough travel, at least for passes bought here. Swiss Pass not warranted but in Interlaken-Jungfrau area investigate the Bernese Oberland Regional pass which covers most trains, cables, lake boats etc in the whole Interlaken-Thun area and gives good discount on Jungfrau train. Buy at stations in Interlaken. You need not waste time on railsaver as you're not close to needing Swiss Pass.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 08:57 AM
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I'm no expert having only used point-to-point tickets myself for Switzerland numerous trips. That said, it doesn't seem like you are traveling often enough. People I know who got their money's worth from a SwissPass of some sort were basically traveling daily and all over the country.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 08:59 AM
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You can simply by the tickets at the rail stations (from a person at the window, from a machine, or from the conductor once you are on the train for a small fee).
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Dec 30th, 2004, 09:04 AM
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Thanks for your input, PalQ, I wasn't sure if treplow's use the sightseeing trains would warrant a pass or not.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 10:39 AM
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Betsy: i wasn't disdaining the railsaver site mention - a good tip for any such question. It's just that i'm not sure that that site would point out the regional pass - maybe it would, i'm not familiar with the site. But except for getting to the Interlaken area from Zurich the regional pass covers everything the Swiss Pass will and a lot more.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 10:42 AM
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I think your decision can be based on 4 choices of rail passes. I hope the information below will relieve your concerns over the many options.

1. The Swiss Card cost 170 chf
2. The Swiss Half Fare Card
cost 99 chf

3. The Jungfrau Railways Pass
cost 190 chf

4. The Berner Oberland Regional Pass
cost 220 chf

All prices are as of late 2004 and do not include shipping costs.

Let me discuss each in turn.

SWISS CARD & HALF FARE CARD

The Swiss Card and Swiss Half Fare Card are very similar. The Swiss Card differs from the Half Fare Card in that it includes a free ride from your entry point in Switzerland to your first night's destination and a free ride out to the border or airport when you leave.

The Half Fare card has no built in free rides which is why it is priced 71 chf less. Both cards are sold by the Swiss National railway.

With both, you get 50% off of almost every ticket you will buy, other than the free in/out trips with the CARD.

The one exception I know of in the Grindelwald area is the lift up to Pfingstegg. The discount is only 25% but it is a short ride. The ultra pricey Jungfraubahn ride is 50% off the whole way, as is the somewhat pricey Schilthornbahn ride.

Both passes may be bought at the rail station in the Zürich airport, or you may order them from the Swiss National Rail offices, or even from Rail Europe. The pass is valid on the date that you designate for a period of 1 month.

In the past, I have filled in the date myself. I know last year I presented my preordered card to the rail ticket agent in the Zurich airport and she handed me a pen so I could write in the date myself.

The following is a website that may help you.

http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/sts.htm

JUNGFRAU RAILWAYS PASS

This pass is a general free ride pass for the Jungfrau area but it does not include the Schilthorn and it is very limited in scope.

Also, the Jungfraujoch trip is never entirely free. The visitor always pays half price for the section of the track from the stop called Eigergletscher to the top. The pass is valid for 6 days from the date of purchase.

The following is the website where you can find out more about the Jungfrau Regional Pass.

http://www.jungfraubahn.ch/english/p.../RE_AtSe5.shtm

BERNER OBERLAND REGIONAL PASS

The Berner Regional Pass is similar to the Jungfrau Regional Pass, but it is valid over a much wider area that reaches from Bern to Zermatt and almost to Luzern.

The 7 day version of the pass allows you to select 3 free days from the validity period. The exceptions of course are the last leg of the Schilthorn trip and the last leg of the Jungfraubahn trip which are 50% off the normal price regardless of the day or the pass you hold.

You can read more about the Berner Regional Pass at this site.
http://www.regiopass-berneroberland.ch/engl/ticket.html


I have found in years past that I needed to compare point to point tickets with the cost of the pass.
The question always is: Where is the breakeven point? That is, how much would I need to spend on single tickets to equal the cost of the pass I select?

This site will give you individual prices within the Jungfrau region:

http://www.jungfraubahn.ch/english/pages/SE/SE_KrTe.htm

You can look up individual prices and figure out how much you are likely to spend and then see if they exceed the cost of the pass.

The last 3 trips I have ridden between Munich and Lauterbrunnen on the train and for that reason the Swiss Card was my best deal. The free trip from the border and out again was virtually equal to the cost of the card. Everything I saved in between was gravy.

If you would like to ask me further questions, my email address is for real.
Having visited Lauterbrunnen quite a few times, I might be able to make a few suggestions. The only hotel, however, that I have used is the Oberlander. I normally stay in an apartment.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 11:48 AM
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Dec 30th, 2004, 12:35 PM
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Bob's excellent unbelievable wealth of info but one minor correction i believe - half-fare cards can't be bought from RailEurope but in Switzerland. Swiss Cards can be bought here thru Raileurope and are cheaper here than there ($130 in 2nd class $175 in first (vs ch 170 in second class in Switzerland or about $150). Raileurope charges a $15 order fee but some agents don't, like Budget Europe 800-441-9413. these raileurope prices are for 2005, order by tomorrow and they're about $8 cheaper and can be used for six months after issuance.
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Dec 30th, 2004, 12:37 PM
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Bob, you never cease to amaze me!
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Dec 30th, 2004, 07:33 PM
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Well, I am going there again in mid June and I needed to update my own knowledge. Those prices may change come the new season. Even so, if they go up in price, it is rare that one outstrips the others by a significant amount.

I sort of enjoy checking on that stuff.
Just don't ask me about any where other than Lauterbrunnen because I don't know. I did buy an Austrian senior discount card once, but that was a one shot deal. It did, however, pay for itself rather quickly. So much of scenic Austria requires a car to see well that I usually drive around. Or perhaps I should be a little more correct and say that my girlfriend often does the driving while I read the maps.

And all I know I find on the web. Actually doing it helps, however.
The only time I profited from the Berner Oberland Regional Pass was one summer when we rented a car in Lausanne and drove around several days before arriving in Lauterbrunnen. Even there, the breakeven point when comparing the Berner Regional Pass with the Swiss Card was a close call. I think it came down to a decision NOT to go to Luzern that year by train. We chose to drive instead, and found that the car was quicker by about 30 minutes going, perhaps more because we would have taken a bus from the train station to the Transportation Museum, which I recommend highly. I have been through it twice, once because I wanted to go there, and once because my driver wanted to go there.
(Same girlfriend -- which has been a constant for 48 years. She also happens to be the world's best travelling companion.)
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Dec 31st, 2004, 08:20 AM
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We usually travel in the late Spring and Fall, and the weather in Switzerland is very changeable then, so I have never been able to comfortably plan each day's travel in advance, but I do look up the cost of point to point tickets for some trips I am certain we will make, and compare that to the costs of the passes. Since we stay in rural areas, we use public transportation daily, and the passes have been a good deal for us.

One advantage of the Swiss pass, or the Swiss saver pass, is that you don't have to buy tickets each time you get on the train. It is also comfortable to know that you can take a train anywhere (but for the mountaintop trains mentioned above) without incurring any additional cost. Our first grandchild was born while we were there, and we went on the longest shopping spree in the history of the world, all at no cost.

I think the best solution in your situation, with a short entrance trip, and no exit trip (at least none on the train), would be the Swiss half-fare card. It will keep your train costs down, and give you savings on the mountaintop trains, and the cost is very reasonable.
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Dec 31st, 2004, 09:00 AM
  #14
alg
 
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I have been following the replies to this post as I am having the same problem. We arrive in Zurich on a Saturday, 3/5, and leave Sunday, 3/13. In between we will travel by train to Luzern, Wengen, and perhaps one other city. We want to take the ferry around the lake in Luzern, go up to the peak of Pilatus, and take the ride from Wengen to the Jungfraujoch (weather permitting). Plus, public transportation in Luzern and Zurich. We will not have a car.

For us, I think the best deal is the 8 day Swiss Saver Pass. I have compared purchasing point to point tickets for the major legs (around $130 without reservations, 2nd class) and the 3 day flex pass ($146), but think that the convenience of the Swiss Pass makes it the better choice ($207) as it includes the PT in the various cities and maybe more (?)...I think. Does that sound right?
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Dec 31st, 2004, 09:11 AM
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If the total cost of your single journey tickets (with or without a discount card) is anywhere close to the cost of an unlimited pass, I say get the pass. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the flexibility you gain when you don't have to factor in the time it takes to acquire a ticket. Sometimes you can jump on a train that's leaving very soon when there wouldn't be time to go into the station to even use the machines.

Sometimes, of course, it doesn't matter because another train will be along shortly anyway. But it's something to consider. I usually opt for the pass just for the convenience. I'd rather experience the country than a ticket line.
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Dec 31st, 2004, 10:17 AM
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2005 Raileurope prices: 8-day saver $217 p.p. 3 day flexi saver $146 (second class fares)
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Dec 31st, 2004, 10:50 AM
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Well, one thing you are not factoring in is that the Swiss Rail passes only yield a 25% discount on private mountain transportation lines.

For example, the Jungfrau trip from Lauterbrunnen is 156.60 chf normal price.
With the railsaver passes you get 25% off, with the Swiss Card you get 50% off. You save 39.15 chf between the two. If you ride other places, such as the Schilthorn, First, Grosse Scheidegg, etc. The rail saver is quickly out performed on mountain rides.

You don't get those thing free with Swiss National Rail pass. None of them.
The mountain lines are privately owned and are not part of the national system.

As for the convenience of hopping on a train, in 6 visits I have never had that problem. It usually takes less than 1 minute to buy a ticket because the ticket lines are plentiful. The problem has never come up.

For buses, I usually pay as I get on.
I think you can do the same on trains. Just pay the conductor.

My comments were directed toward a trip based in Lauterbrunnen. If that is the focus, then a Swiss rail saver is of less use.

I am not one to sprint up to a train station and jump on the first train I see because I would have no idea where it was going. I guess if one is bumbling through Europe without any kind of a plan, riding trains and random and then trying to figure out how you get back might be fun of some type, but I normally have an idea where I want to go.

Particularly in the mountains, I am not going to ride up high until I see blue!!
Then I buy my tickets and go.

I have yet to fail to go somewhere I wanted to go because I had the Card and not some funny pass. Besides, you have to buy a ticket on the mountain lines even if you have a PASS of any description.

Around Lauterbrunnen, the only train you might run down and hop on with a Swiss rail pass goes to Interlaken, or with a change you can go to Grindelwald.
Buying as ticket is no big deal. Hand the guy or girl your money, get the ticket and go. 60 seconds.
Or just get on the train and pay cash.
The Swiss are not in the business of refusing money, I can guarantee you that!!
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Dec 31st, 2004, 11:21 AM
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Situation: you finish where you are (A) and decide to move on to your next destination (B). But B is overcrowded, deserted, or closed (surprise!)*. So you decide to go to C. You can get to C if you go through D, but you don't have a ticket to D, and the train is leaving . All other things being equal (I said the total cost of your single journey tickets, and that includes discounts on the mountain roads), it is better to have a pass than have to buy tickets in this kind of situation.

It goes without saying that if you can't or don't want to pay for the convenience and flexibility, you shouldn't buy it.

* In one case, B was inaccessible because a charity marathon prevented our bus from moving, and in another because a pod of school buses had just landed, disgorging 300 screaming grade-schoolers. This possibility was not mentioned in our guide books.
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Dec 31st, 2004, 11:30 AM
  #19
alg
 
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Ok, I recalculated adding in the mountain prices. I compared buying point to point tickets, adding in the half fare card or the 3 day flex pass, or using the Swiss Saver plus mountain tickets. Looks like the half fare card is the best deal and will save us about 60 chf.

Thanks, Bob...the Swiss Saver Pass was actually the worst option out of the 4 (over 100 chf more).
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