My search for the right rail pass

My search for the right rail pass

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Kferriter
Kferriter
9 posts
new member
May 31, 2016 - 2:44 AM

The number 1 question I've seen in the months that I've been reading this forum is "What Pass should I get?". The number 1 answer is you need to do some work to figure that out. I wanted to share the options that I reviewed and what I've come up with as an answer for us. It's based upon some guesses on what we'll be doing but recognize that weather may change that. But we have to plan using something.

Here's the general profile of our trip. We'll be in Switzerland for 5 days. The first and last will essentially be spent on travel to/from Murren where we'll be staying. Day 1 will be travel from Zurich Airport to Murren. Day 5 will be travel from Murren onto Italy. For us that will be Domodossola. The rest of our travel will be in the Interlaken area. A few higher mountain areas that only get a discount regardless of pass.

I looked at the following options:

With only looking at the cost of a ticket to/from Murren, I eliminated the 8 day Swiss Travel Pass as the cost difference between that and the 4 day pass was greater than either the cost of Zurich to Murren or Murren to Domodossola. So, it was just cheaper to buy the one day at full fare. From there, I listed all of the possible trips we were planning. Knowing that our plans would be adjusted based upon weather, I didn't worry too much if I had what I thought was a 100% accurate list of trips. I just wanted it to be close. It took some effort but I used sbb.ch to get costs as well as found the fares for different gondolas and cable cars.

I then did the next bit of work and put it all into the spreadsheet that was supplied by Arno and Annika. You have to put in all of the full fare costs. I did this with the 1st class fares and then put in the various passes still in the running. With each pass, you need to look at the maps and figure out if it is no discount, 25%, 50%, or 100% based upon the pass. I also had various options for to/from Murren. For example, I had Zurich to Bern to use with the BO Regional Pass and Zurich to Murren for others. I put in a 100% discount for the Zurich to Murren under the BO option while I left the Zurich to Bern at 0%. Once I had all of it completed for 1st class, I made a complete copy of that tab onto a new tab and put in the 2nd class fares. The discount percentages stayed the same so I waited until I had one completed before checking the other.

I looked at both 1st class and 2nd class. I quickly eliminated 1st class as we're not at the highest part of the tourist season so I wasn't concerned about over crowding and quite a few of the trips we're doing are short hops or on cable cars and gondolas where there isn't a 1st class. The price difference was much too great for minimum benefit. We'll upgrade for a specific train if needed.

I thought the BO pass or the Combi pass would be the way to go. But they turned out to be the highest costing options. The benefit of the BO pass was offset by the need to pay full fare to get to the covered area (Zurich to Bern and Murren to Brig). The Combi pass was higher just because of the cost of the pass itself.

The other two options, Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Half Fare Card were essentially the same. The difference in the pass costs and the extra day to pay full fare was equally off set by the 50% vs 100% discount on most rides. I attached my spreadsheet but here was the final totals per my calculations.

  • Full Fare - 620.80
  • Swiss Travel Pass - 385.50
  • Swiss Half Fare Card - 385.10
  • Combi - 420.30
  • BO Pass - 511.60

I'm sure I could have a mistake or two in the spreadsheet but I feel good that t's nothing significant. I do have some extra trips which make the Half Fare Card look worse but that just means I'm prepared for taking a few extra trains instead of worrying about it. As you can guess, my plan is to go with the Swiss Travel Pass. It's essentially the same total cost as the Swiss Half Fare Card with the benefit of not buying individual tickets.

I read the first 50 questions asking "What is the right pass for me" and wanted to see a response other than "it depends". But, now that I've looked at the various options and did the work, I completely understand that it depends.

Please login to see the attached documents
Arno
Arno
7719 posts
expert &
moderator
May 31, 2016 - 9:37 AM

Hi Kferriter,

Thanks for sharing your quest for the right train pass! You're definitely right. "Which pass to choose" is the most frequently asked question, and "it depends" is very true. However, mostly we can suggest one or more passes based on our experience. Still, the only way to be 100% sure is doing the math. That is, if the goal is to maximize savings, which is usually the case.

The Swiss Travel Pass is indeed the best choice if the prices is close to other options. It's just the easiest pass to use. I had a quick look in you spreadsheet and there were two things I noticed:

  • You added CHF 30 for children, but that only applies to the Regional-Pass Bernese Oberland. The other options allow free traveling with the Swiss Family Card (free add-on).
  • It seems as if you've included 6, not 5, travel days in the sheet. And you're using a 4-day Swiss Travel Pass for 5 days of traveling. I might have misunderstood though. In most cases an 8-day Swiss Travel Pass works for 6 days of traveling.

The Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Half Fare Card and Swiss Family Card can all be printed at home. Do take into account that it takes 1 to 3 business days to receive them through e-mail. All the options are here:

Kind regards,

Arno

Kferriter
Kferriter
9 posts
new member
May 31, 2016 - 3:11 PM in reply to Arno

Arno,

Thank you for the catch on the child pass. I updated my numbers to show that it is only required for the BO pass. That makes a difference of about 30 between the Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Half Fare Card. For me, the convenience of not buying tickets for every trip is worth an extra 30.

On the planning, I used the "DAY" heading but those are really options for travel paths with an extra trip in there. I could either be going up into the higher elevation or down to the lake depending on the weather. I figured it is always more likely that I would take an extra ride than skip one so I put the additional travel in knowing that I'm really only there for 5 days and not 6 but could still take all of the trains on the list. It keeps this from being 100% accurate but I'm willing to make the decision knowing that it is within a margin of error based upon what really happens once I'm there. I looked at the price difference on the 8 day pass and it didn't work out. Truly if I was there for 6 days and another day of travel needed to be paid without a discount, that would have tipped me over to the 8 day pass. I know the way I did it was a little confusing but it worked for the way my mind operates.

Thank you very much for the tip on the timing of the purchase. I'll be heading to the your page showing where to purchase my passes today so we have them in plenty of time for travel.

As always, thanks for the great site and all the information. It's been invaluable in my planning.

-Kevin

Arno
Arno
7719 posts
expert &
moderator
May 31, 2016 - 3:59 PM

Thanks for the reply Kevin; looks like you're all set to explore the Alps. Have fun!

Kferriter
Kferriter
9 posts
new member
May 31, 2016 - 4:57 PM in reply to Arno

Almost. One more question. Because I'm only doing the 4 day pass, it looks like I will need a 1 day pass for my daughter as the best option for that last day. I just looked and found a supersaver fare for my journey from Murren to Domodossola at the exact times and trains I was looking for. An additional savings of about 25.

Can you confirm that I the best option would be to purchase a 1-day travel pass for my daughter for this trip for 16 instead of purchasing a child discounted fare for that route for 29? I think I'm reading the 1-day child pass correctly.

Thank You

-Kevin

Arno
Arno
7719 posts
expert &
moderator
May 31, 2016 - 5:29 PM

I agree that the 1-day travel pass would be best for that day. There are Supersaver fares for children as well, but that will probably still be more expensive than the 1-day travel pass.

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