Paying for rail travel with Swiss Half Fare Card

Paying for rail travel with Swiss Half Fare Card

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Posts: 8. This thread is closed.
stevemcdonald
stevemcdonald
25 posts
new member
May 20, 2016 - 3:11 PM

I guess my earlier thread is closed (Geneva-Murren-Como; which rail pass?') so I’ll start a new one. Thanks to your excellent advice our plans for one week in Switzerland at the beginning of July and then taking the train to Lake Como are set. All of our travel is by train, and although we did get seat reservations on one journey, the Golden Pass Panoramic Montreux-Interlaken, we have not bought train tickets for any of our trips (following your advice).

So how will we be paying for the travel? Do we have to arrive early enough on the day of travel to buy tickets, or can we just get on the train and pay? If we can pay on the train, do they accept chip credit cards, or just CHF? This is especially critical for our trip to Como (6 changes Grindelwald-Interlaken-Spiez-Brig-Domodossola-Locarno-Giubiasco-Chiasso). Is it possible to buy the tickets for all of these legs at a train station a couple of days in advance? Or even at our hotels? We would want to use our Half-Fare cards.

Thanks very much for your help!

Steve

Annika
Annika
4418 posts
expert &
moderator
May 20, 2016 - 5:53 PM in reply to stevemcdonald

Hi Steve!

With your Swiss Half Fare Card, you'll need 50% discounted tickets for each trip before boarding the train. You can get them from ticketing machines or manned desks at the railway stations, either shortly before boarding or a few days in advance. Ticketing machines too allow you to select future dates.

Mind not to simply buy tickets Grindelwald-Chiasso, as there are several routes. A very common one is the option through Lucerne and Arth-Goldau, which may be displayed by the ticketing machine by default or assumed by the railway desk staff. So make sure to specify your particular route. If you're using a ticketing machine, it may show the Brig-Domodossola variant as an alternative. If not, you should be able to enter a couple of via-stations yourself.

stevemcdonald
stevemcdonald
25 posts
new member
May 20, 2016 - 6:37 PM in reply to Annika

Thanks for replying so quickly Annika. Actually I have downloaded all the relevant schedules from SBB and have all my routes planned out. The tricky one was the centivalli route Domodossola-Locarno as it appears that the "panoramic" train runs only every two hours - so that dictated my whole schedule from Grindelwald. My plan would be to go to a manned station when we have some time either in Montreux, Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald and get the tickets for that whole trip in advance. What about Geneva airport to Montreux? Is there a manned station at the airport?

Annika
Annika
4418 posts
expert &
moderator
May 20, 2016 - 6:50 PM in reply to stevemcdonald

Hi Steve,

Both Geneva Airport and Montreux have a manned ticket desk.

stevemcdonald
stevemcdonald
25 posts
new member
Jun 1, 2016 - 3:42 AM in reply to Annika

I'm glad to see you have the internet problems fixed!

You mentioned on your May 20 response above that a very common route Grindelwald-Chiasso is via Luzern-Bellinzona (or Lugano). On SBB I looked at this route and found that instead of 6 changes (interlaken, Spiez, Brig, Domodossola, Lucarno, Giubiasco) it would only be 3 (Interlaken, Luzern, Bellinzona), and a bit cheaper, and about the same length of time. So my first question is which is more scenic - the Centovalli route or the Gotthard? Both routes have a few tunnels, but we would pick the route with fewer changes if it is as scenic. Also, part of that alternate route via Luzern is the Wilhelm Tell Express (Fluelen and beyond) - would I need seat reservations for that part of the trip (Fluelen-Chiasso)?

One more question - as a first time train traveler in Switzerland (we drove around in 2012) we wonder about the connections. For example, the 6-stop trip has a 5-minute connection at Interlaken for Spiez, and a 4 minute connection at Brig for Domodossola - can we count on that? We will have some luggage but would be prepared to run if we could at lest count on 4 or 5 minutes. I've looked on Google Earth and those stations appear to be pretty small, so it just depends if the trains arrive on time. Would appreciate your experience on this.

Thanks - and its good to see you're back on line!

Steve

Arno
Arno
7726 posts
expert &
moderator
Jun 1, 2016 - 9:04 AM

Hi Steve,

Yes, we're glad it's fixed as well! Both routes are scenic, especially since in July the new Gotthard tunnel (which officially opens today) will not be used yet. The Gotthard is a main train line, the Centovalli railway is more like a "rural" regional train. Very nice as well.

The full Wilhelm Tell Express route also includes a wonderful boat trip, which will take much longer than the trains. This is optional though, and reservations are optional as well. Please see myswissalps.com/ wilhelmtellexpress.

Tight (efficient) connections are normal in Switzerland, and they work 99% of the time. Trains are either on time or wait for each other. Of course exceptions apply in rare cases.

stevemcdonald
stevemcdonald
25 posts
new member
Jun 2, 2016 - 4:06 AM in reply to Arno

Thanks Arno, especially for allaying our concern about the tight train connections - wish the US could do as well! As for the Wilhelm Tell line, I'm now leaning more toward that route simply because of the fewer train changes. However most likely to keep our schedule we would just take the train Grindelwald-Interlaken-Luzern, and then transfer to Luzern-Bellinzona-Chiasso - the boat would be beautiful Luzern-Fluelen but we may not have the time. So my real question was that since the people on the boat for the full Wilhelm Tell Express experience will be boarding in Fluelen, will we need seat reservations for the remaining trip from there to Chiasso? By the way, I would plan to buy these tickets with our half-fare card when we arrive at the beginning of our trip in Montreux, before going to Murren and Grindelwald - my questions could probably be answered by the station agent there, if it's not too late to get seat reservations.

Arno
Arno
7726 posts
expert &
moderator
Jun 2, 2016 - 6:25 AM in reply to stevemcdonald

You're welcome Steve! You don't need reservations, but you can book seats if you want to. Seat reservations are only required if you travel into Italy, but not for the Swiss section. Just make sure you sit in a non-reserved seat.

For many trains, the timetable shows whether they expect high occupancy. If you feel better booking seats in busy trains, it might be useful to take a look at that. You need to click to the details of a trip to see such information, if available.

Last modified on Jun 2, 2016 - 6:27 AM by Arno

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