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Trains in Switzerland - Rail Pass or not?

London, United...
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Trains in Switzerland - Rail Pass or not?

Hi everyone

My husband and I are going to Switzerland on the 22nd, arriving in Zurich by rail that night, spending the night in Zurich then 5 nights in Interlaken, then another night in Zurich before we head to Germany.

What I'm not sure about is whether we should get rail passes or buy tickets individually. I'm not too bothered about the cost but would prefer to get the best deal anyway!

I would like to go to Grindelwald, Murren, Jungfrau and maybe on something like the Bernina Express. We were also thinking of going to Bern or another town so we will travel around a bit but we also want to go on a boat trip and spend some time up a mountain so I'm not sure exactly how often we would use the trains.

I'm not sure whether it would be better to get the rail pass or not, since I know it discounts some rail services and makes some of them free. If anyone has any advice I would be grateful!

Thanks

Faith

San Antonio, Texas
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1. Re: Trains in Switzerland - Rail Pass or not?

With a Swiss Rail pass anything above Interlaken will be reduced fare. Staying in Interlaken and taking the Bernina Express will make for a long day, and in winter you may see nothing but snow.

As to the economics of a rail pass, they are great if you don't know where or when you are going on the train. Otherwise advance purchase is most likely cheaper.

San Jose, CA
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for Wengen, Jungfrau Region
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2. Re: Trains in Switzerland - Rail Pass or not?

Advance purchases for train tickets within Switzerland are nearly always no cheaper than buying on the spot. Especially during holidays and peak season. And don't even consider buying in advance for mountain peaks like Jungfraujoch. Visits there are entirely weather-dependent -- if it is cloudy or storming you will spend lots of time and money and not see anything. Better to wait for a clear day then go up, mornings are usually better.

Trips on the plains are relatively inexpensive, but mountain transports become very expensive very fast. Since you are staying in Interlaken you no doubt will want to take in some of the incredibly scenic mountains about an hour away. I have found that the Half Fare Card provides good value for the money. With this (about 120 CHF per person) you pay half fare everywhere -- boats, busses, cog trains, gondolas, trains, etc etc. Most of the other passes get you "free" travel (for which you pay dearly) on the less expensive routes and only a discount (sometimes as little as 25% discount on Jungfraujoch excursion, never more than 50%) on the mountain peak transports. You will get lots of advice about needing to 'do the maths' -- plot out all your excursions, look up the prices, find the costs of the various passes, and do a spreadsheet. Of course, this is the only way to know for sure if a pass is less expensive than buying point to point. But I've been to the area 16 times in 17 years and I say save yourself the mind-numbing chore, buy HFCs, and enjoy your 50% off without the headaches!

3. Re: Trains in Switzerland - Rail Pass or not?

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