Picking the right pass? Also reservations question

Picking the right pass? Also reservations question

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Posts: 11. This thread is closed.
dakota
dakota
8 posts
new member
Jul 23, 2012 - 8:46 PM
Hello all,

My husband and I are taking a trip to both Switzerland and Austria in early September. We are flying to Zurich and immediately taking the train to Lucerne.

Our trip looks like this:
Two nights Lucerne
5 nights Lauterbrunnen - we plan to find some nice but not difficult hikes and see the small towns, and probabaly do the boat ride on either Lake Thun or Lake Brienz. We don't know EXACTLY which hikes and towns we will do yet - it will likely depend on the weather.

From Lauterbrunnen we are taking the train to Innsbruck (2 nights) and then on to Vienna.

It looks to me that the Berner Oberland pass is a good deal because of the two-for-one offer in September - about $245 US for two people. Since we haven't yet picked out our exact hikes and destinations in the area, I want to be sure we are saving money versus taking all kinds of little trips individually. I also found their website to be confusing - on their price page, it says that there is 80 CHF in "charges" and charges are not explained. I can't believe that they would charge 80 CHF for mailing to the US. I emailed them and got no response. Can one purchase this pass in Switzerland?

Also, I looked at the 2nd class train fares from Lauterbrunnen to Innsbruck and then from Innsbruck to Vienna. Those two trips alone will cost us $461 USD, and an Austria-Switzerland Eurail pass would be better at $323 USD. However, when I go to the Swiss Rail site, I don't see how you can make a reservation if you have a pass. I'm also not clear on whether the pass is good on any route and will cover those two routes.

So - based on my itinerary, do those two passes look like our best bet? And also, if I buy the Austria-Switz. pass, how do I make reservations in advance for those two long train rides?

Thanks!
Arno
Arno
7317 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 24, 2012 - 2:01 AM
Welcome to the forum dakota. The 2 for 1 Regional-Pass is an option indeed and you will definitely save money compared to buying regular tickets. The 2 for 1 deal is available online only, but if you order from this page, you'll avoid such high delivery costs.

An alternative is the 2 for 1 offer on the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass; I think that suits your plans better, as it will also cover your stay in Lucerne and your trip to the Swiss/Austrian border. You can use 4 free travel days for your longest and most expensive transfers. These should include Zurich-Lucerne and Lucerne-Swiss/Austrian border. You can pick two other days during your stay in Switzerland, for example for the transfer Lucerne-Lauterbrunnen, a boat ride over lake Thun and/or Brienz, or a visit to the Rigi from Lucerne. On the remaining days, you'll be able to travel with a 50% discount, including many cable cars and mountain trains in the Lauterbrunnen area.
If you'd like to enjoy free traveling (with the exception of mountain transportation) on all days of your stay, consider two sets of the 2 for 1 offer on the 4 day Swiss Saver Pass (to be used on consecutive days).

I doubt whether the Eurail-Pass Austria-Switzerland is best, as it doesn't cover as much cable cars and mountain trains as the Swiss Saver (Flexi) Pass and the Regional-Pass do. If you use a Swiss Saver (Flexi) Pass, the Swiss leg of your trip to Austria will already be covered, so you'd only need tickets for the Austrian legs of the trip.

The seat reservation page explains how to obtain seat reservations if you have a rail pass. Please note that most trains don't need one. These FAQ explain how to find out with the aid of the timetable.
Last modified on Dec 28, 2014 - 4:35 PM by Arno
dakota
dakota
8 posts
new member
Jul 26, 2012 - 2:17 AM
Hi Arno,

Thanks very much for your reply. I have to say that the Swiss train options are mind-boggling!
Here is what I am currently thinking - I re-did my calculations and I come up with the following for two people second class, just buying individual tickets:
Zurich - Luzern 28.35 Luzern - Lauter 39.06 Lauter - Innsb 119.70 Innsb - Vienna 156.25

That's a total of $343 USD. A Swiss saver flexi-pass is nearly $300 US, and will only get us to the border, not all the way to Vienna. I did look at what the Flexi Pass covers and it covers some things in the Bernese Oberland, but the coverage map that one can download is very tiny and I can't tell specifically what is covered. On the other hand, the 2 for 1 Bernese Oberland regional pass looks like a fabulous deal that will more than pay for itself. So I'm thinking that we should maybe just get the BO Regional pass and buy individual tickets for those 4 other rides.

Does this make sense or am I missing anything?

Thanks!
Annika
Annika
4355 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 27, 2012 - 7:29 AM
Hello dakota! The Swiss Saver Flexi Pass covers a lot in the Bernese Oberland. Most cable cars and mountain trains are included and discounted by 50% (the Jungraujoch section up from Wengen/Grindelwald by 25%). The map Arno mentioned is a regular PDF document, so you can zoom in to see all details. The pass will also cover trips you'll be making in and near Lucerne. So do take into account that you'll have to buy full-fare tickets for these trips too if you just pick the Regional-Pass, and this adds up quickly. In all, the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass Arno recommended may be better. Because of the 2 for 1 deal this is very economical too.

But ultimately, what is most important is what appeals to you. If you like the free travel days (including some but not all mountain transportation) of the Regional-Pass, that's of course a good choice.
Last modified on Dec 28, 2014 - 4:34 PM by Arno
dakota
dakota
8 posts
new member
Jul 27, 2012 - 12:43 PM
Thanks - I'll have another look at the pass. I do have a question about the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass getting me to the border on my trip from Lauterbrunnen to Innsbruck. How does that work since the train presumably doesn't stop at the border? Do I make a reservation at the ticket window and then how do they charge me - is it a percentage of the total trip from Lauter. to Innsbruck? Also, is the Flexi Pass good on the boats such as Lake Lucerne, Thun and Brienz? Thanks!
Annika
Annika
4355 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 29, 2012 - 1:58 AM
Hi dakota. When making reservations and getting a ticket for your outbound trip, just explain that you'll be using a free travel day with your Swiss Saver Flexi Pass. You'll only be charged for the Austrian leg of the trip (plus some seat reservation costs, if necessary). When asked for a ticket during your trip, show your pass as long as you're in Switzerland and your additional regular train ticket once you're in Austria.

Yes, the Swiss Flexi Pass coveres boats too. This is displayed in white lines on the validity map.
dakota
dakota
8 posts
new member
Aug 2, 2012 - 8:32 PM
Hi Annika and Arno - thank you so much for your suggestions! We have run the math different times and ways, and my best guess is that we are going to be best off with the BO pass and point to point tickets. The flexi pass offers some good options, but some of our plans are weather-dependent, so if we have rain even once things change - for example, we would stay where we are and do things, rather than travel to a mountain like Rigi. Also, the flexi-pass two-for one is only good in September, and our first two days of travel are in August, so we wouldn't be covered for Lucerne. To complicate matters, I think we'll probably travel second class, but buy a 1st class ticket from Lauterbrunnen to Innsbruck for that one super long ride. The flexi pass is just second class, right?

So my question now is - if I go and buy tickets on sbb.ch, do they mail them to me? Do they charge for that? Or is it an e-ticket that I print at home?

One thought - if we don't need reservations super far in advance, we'll be in Luzern a week before we take the ride from Lauter to Innsbruck. Could we just buy our tickets in person at the Luzern train station and do the reservation there, and not do anything this far in advance? That makes me a little nervous because there is a specific train that we want to be on, given the times available. But just getting it in person might be easiest if there's no risk that seats are sold out a week in advance.

Thanks much!
Annika
Annika
4355 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 3, 2012 - 6:25 AM
Hi dakota. If you order through the SBB, you will be charged with delivery costs. Alternatively, you can pick up the tickets at a Swiss railway station, but I'm not sure whether that's convenient for you. You can also arrange for your reservations through this page (delivery costs are lower in than what the SBB charge in most cases). I think you can also wait and arrange for them once you arrive in Switzerland, but there are no guarantees. The timetable indicates whether a specific train is expected to be crowded; that may help you decide whether you want to do this in advance or not.

As for your other question: the Swiss Flexi Pass is available in 1st class too. But the Regional-Pass seems to suit your plans!
dakota
dakota
8 posts
new member
Aug 3, 2012 - 12:54 PM
Hi Annika, Do you happen to know how bad the delivery costs are? And regarding picking them up at a Swiss railway station, that would be easy since our very first day when we arrive at the Luzern train station we could just make those arrangements or pick up tickets that day. Is this like "will call" at the theater where I can order my tickets now and show some ID at the train station to pick them up?

To your comment, we are totally fine with 2nd class since most of our trips are short, and we've done second class before and it's totally fine. It's just for that 6.5 hour ride that we want to do first!
Annika
Annika
4355 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 4, 2012 - 4:12 AM
Hello dakota. You can just go ahead in the order process of the SBB and see what happens with delivery costs and the pick-up option. Your order won't be definite until your very last confirmation, so that allows you to get all the necessary information. By the way, not that long ago e-tickets to print out at home weren't an option in most of the cases, but I just saw they're also listed as an option now. I'm not sure whether this goes for your specific connection too, but just give it a try!
dakota
dakota
8 posts
new member
Aug 4, 2012 - 12:47 PM
Super, I'll give it a try! Thank you so much.

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