Rail pass or car rental for 5 nights this summer

Rail pass or car rental for 5 nights this summer

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suzannecat
suzannecat
7 posts
new member
Jan 19, 2016 - 10:08 PM

My family of 4 (2 adults, one 18yr old and one 14yr old) is going to Switzerland this July, arriving from France and then continuing on to Italy. I know rail passes are usually the best best, but I think for my itinerary they would be more expensive (even with the 14 yr old mostly free) and car travel would be faster due to train schedules and numbers of connections required.

The itinerary is as follows: arriving (TGV Lyria train from Paris to Geneva or maybe better still, Lausanne), 1 night in Bulle (going to Gruyeres cheese factory and Maison Cailler in Broc) in the morning, continuing on to Murren ( possibly stopping near Interlaken at an Alphorn factory, and then parking in Lauterbrunnen, daytime trip from Murren to the Schilthorn for 2 of us and hiking around Allmendhubel for 2 of us, heading back to Lauterbrunnen the next morning and visiting Trummelbach Falls, then continuing on to 2 nights in Lugano (visiting Valle Verzasca while there one afternoon), then leaving Lugano for Venice in the morning.

I can get a car for about $450 for the 5 days needed and I know the Schilthorn tickets would then be full price. Any thoughts on the itinerary and am I missing something, or does the car still seem the best way to go? A bit apprehensive about driving through the mountains but it will at least be summer.

Arno
Arno
7727 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 20, 2016 - 6:26 AM

Hi suzannecat, welcome to MySwissAlps!

This is a common dilemma, and you've already done a fair bit on finding the pros and cons of each option. I find the main advantage of a car the ability to depart at the exact time you want, and to reach remote places a bit easier (like the Valle Verzasca, although there is a bus as well). A car in summer is indeed better than in winter.

Here's a few thoughts:

  • Count on paying for parking nearly everywhere. Even hotels may charge for parking. Also factor in gas prices.
  • You need a fairly big car for 4 people plus luggage. The amount you quote seems to be around the minimum for a mid-size car.
  • Even though you can avoid small narrow mountains roads, the driver needs to focus on the road all the time and can't enjoy the views while driving.
  • A Swiss Travel Pass is discounted for the 18 year old and free for the 14 year old. It includes many museums (Maison Cailler, cheese factory), boat trips, trains and even some cable cars (to Mürren) for free. Other cable cars (Schilthorn) are discounted by 50% and again free for the 14 year old. You only need TGV tickets to the Swiss border as the rest is covered by the pass.
  • Another option is the Swiss Half Fare Card. You can compare options as explained here.
  • Swiss public transport is very well organized and safe. Be sure not to miss out on that entirely. Train trips are a real joy. And more eco-friendly of course.
  • I'm not sure where you plan to turn in your rental car, but if it's in another country than where you rented it, that would usually be very expensive.

I hope this helps you decide! The above links should help, and there's much more information about driving and train traveling on our site.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Jan 20, 2016 - 6:38 PM in reply to suzannecat

Hi Suzannecat-

A couple of comments to add to Arno's thoughtful summary -

Parking in Lauterbrunnen main garage is cheap. I recall about 6 CHF per day...certainly nowhere near the 30 or 4o CHF per day(or more) at "big" city train stations.

To illustrate Arno's point, even at S'charl, way, way back in the valley quite a drive in from Scuol, at the "back door" to the Swiss national Park, the parking lot has a central parking clock. Pay money and leave a ticket on your dashboard....

However, you're less likely to have to pay to park in Bulle....(best guess ;-) )

When I rent a car in Switzerland, I usually rent a small sedan or small station wagon. Many do not have enough luggage space for two people traveling with routine clothing plus hiking boots, and suitable clothing. Some bags go on the back seat. If I plan to have 4 people plus luggage, I end up paying significantly more.. Check the rates and luggage capacity carefully, and remember that the stated capacity can be optimistic in estimating the size of a "large" suitcase.

Self-service laundry is rare in Switzerland compared to many other countries.

I've visited Sonogno a couple of times and think a car is very useful. There is a parking lot.

map.search.ch/?x=41769m&y=-55891m&z=1024

PS -High on my list for the area is a striking architectural destination, in the Val Maggia:

www.myswitzerland.com/ en-us/mountain-church-by-mario-botta.html

It may be disguised, but Avis, at least, has had a one way rental charge buried in the rates. The few times that I have used it, it added 75-100 CHF to the rental. They did not call it a one way charge; I found it by comparing rates to various return points.

It is true that car travel can be faster than train travel for many destinations...unless your destination is a city. The last few km plus parking can be very slow. On well traveled routes, there can be several trains per hour. Out in the countryside, they have become less frequent as more and more Swiss use their cars.

Interurban between major cities now usually runs every 30 minutes, however.

Finally, if I end up paying a reasonable amount more to enjoy the train rides, I consider it money well spent - especially when I cross the Alps, as you will. Many times the trains go places where you cannot get ex ept on foot....no roads.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 20, 2016 - 6:41 PM by Slowpoke
Arno
Arno
7727 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 20, 2016 - 7:08 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Thanks for sharing your insights Slowpoke! We'll add a page about car versus train some day; that would be useful I think. By the way, parking in Bulle is (mostly) paid as well: www.la-gruyere.ch/en/parkings -bulle.html.

suzannecat
suzannecat
7 posts
new member
Jan 20, 2016 - 7:11 PM

Thank you both for your suggestions. I was looking to rent the car in Lausanne most likely and return it in Lugano, as I did in fact find outrageous one-way charges when renting between countries. Looking at family size sportbacks or small wagons- they seem to seat 5 and say 2 lg bags and 2 small bags or 3 lg bags. How can one tell what they consider large vs small? We'll have four 26" rolling duffels but one could go in back between the kids if need be. Hopefully a wagon like a VS Passat would be big enough, as the cost for a minivan goes way, way up. An interesting note about the TV ticket- how can one tell the price just from Paris to the Swiss border?

I love traveling by rail in Switzerland- this will be my 4th time there (I lived in Lugano for a year in the '80s during college as well). I really do like the idea of passes, but some of the schedules seem to take much longer and involve many transfers. Like Lauterbrunnen to Lugano. Online it appears much faster by car, but I'm not really sure what the roads entail. Our Bulle hotel does have free parking, Lugano one costs I think about 25 chf/nt. but it's right near the train (to head to Venice) and we'd return it after the daytrip to Valle Verzasca. Waiting now for rail schedules and prices to come out so I can really compare apples to apples. Do they change much between summer and winter?

Thanks again!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Jan 20, 2016 - 7:32 PM in reply to Arno

<<"By the way, parking in Bulle is (mostly) paid as well: www.la-gruyere.ch/en/parkings -bulle.html.>>

I expected that. My thoughts were for the hotel........in a town the size of Bulle, a hotel might have free parking.

Certainly, as noted by Suzanne , that is not the case in Lugano.

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Jan 21, 2016 - 3:00 AM in reply to suzannecat

Hi again, Suzanne-

I find it difficult to answer some of your questions because I don't fully understand your priorities.

How do you prioritize quality of results (how much you can see or do) vs. saving time vs. spending money?

For example - scenic train rides that let you see things that you cannot see by car or even on foot, vs. time spent vs. cost of the transportation?

Usually, you have to make trade-offs, and i don't understand how you want to balance them. Cost of a larger car vs. luggage capacity available on a train, for example.

Can you give some hints? If not, don't worry, it is not always that simple, and we can still talk about choices. You can make them according to your own perspectives.

Not to say that I don't have a budget for time or cost, but I tend to manage my trips with the perspective that I might never get there again, and thus am willing to spend a little extra time or money to see or do something special.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 21, 2016 - 3:09 AM by Slowpoke
Arno
Arno
7727 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 21, 2016 - 6:39 AM in reply to suzannecat

As for Lauterbrunnen to Lugano: I would say driving takes about 3 hours via the slow but beautiful Susten Pass. Since you have lived in Switzerland such a route would probably not be a problem for you. By train it indeed takes longer as the route is not as direct: either via Luzern or Domodossola - Locarno. Wonderful scenery along both of them. Driving and train are both viable options in summer.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Jan 21, 2016 - 10:02 AM in reply to suzannecat

<<"By train it indeed takes longer as the route is not as direct: either via Luzern or Domodossola - Locarno. Wonderful scenery along both of them. Driving and train are both viable options in summer.">>

Arno has noted the quality of the scenery on the Gotthard Pass Line and the Locarno-Domodossola Line. The latter passes through the Val di Centovalli - the valley of 100 valleys. The initials of the rail line are FART.

www.myswitzerland.com/ en-us/centovalli-onsernone.html

Images at -

www.google.com/search?q=Centovalli&tbm=isch& tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X &ved=0ahUKEwjxt77L0LrK AhXKqR4KHUvnAXEQsAQIKg &biw=1012&bih=556&dpr= 1.33

And, the Luzern to Lugano line goes through the Gotthard Pass. Images at :

www.google.com/search?q=gotthard+pass+rail+l ine&tbm=isch&tbo=u&sou rce=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahU KEwi__s6V0brKAhXSsh4KH d_TBCUQsAQIQA&biw=1012 &bih=556

The best scenery on the road through the Gotthard is on the old road, which should be open in July....very slow. On the fast (super highway) drive you don't see the best scenery.

www.dangerousroads.org /europe/switzerland/75 -saint-gotthard-pass-switzerland.html

and, images:

www.google.com/search?q=old+highway+through+ the+Gotthard+pass&tbm= isch&tbo=u&source=univ &sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQ88z e0rrKAhUMcD4KHekRAsoQs AQIIw&biw=1012&bih=556

I don't know the road route through the Centovalli, but it cannot be very fast, and clearly will not give you the views that the rail line gives.

Slowpoke

suzannecat
suzannecat
7 posts
new member
Jan 21, 2016 - 1:23 PM

Thank you indeed for all the great info and links. Lots to think about. My priorities this trip are a little different than usual because I'm traveling with 2 teenagers - they like to stay pretty active and scenic train rides don't quite have the impact on them as they do on me. They will enjoy some shorter rides like the ones around Murren and Lautenbrunnen, but overall this is part of a whirlwind 2 week trip (starting in London, then Paris, then the Switzerland locations, then Venice then Rome) and there will be a lot of carrying luggage around and switching hotels while trying to fit in enough time to go do the activities they've indicated an interest in (such as my son's desire to try out an alphorn) . I'm trying to minimize the stress of the moving around where possible (and in some cases the car wins out, but in other cases then trains do), but still enjoy and appreciate the beauty that's all around. For some things that means time is more of a consideration than I'd like it to be. I've been saving hotels points for this trip for about a decade and am trying to fit in a lot, I know. Hoping doing some of this footwork and research early will help it go more smoothly.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Jan 21, 2016 - 3:27 PM in reply to suzannecat

Thanks for your explanation, I can relate to it. I also understand about teenagers and scenery. Small doses are tolerated.

<<"they like to stay pretty active and scenic train rides don't quite have the impact on them as they do on me. They will enjoy some shorter rides like the ones around Murren and Lautenbrunnen,">>

See if you can fit in a walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg - in that direction. I have never seen anyone from the age of 8 years upward, including teenagers, who did not love that short walk on a clear day. Probably it won't fit in your plans, but it is worth thinking about.

www.myswissalps.com/hi king/maennlichen-kleinescheidegg

Slowpoke

suzannecat
suzannecat
7 posts
new member
Jan 21, 2016 - 3:36 PM

That does sound like a nice walk :^) I am definitely looking to do some sort of walk/easy hike with my 14 year old while son and hubby go up to Piz Gloria. I was looking at the flower hiking around Allmendhubel as a possibility- this is another though. She is prone to altitude sickness which is why we're not all going up the mountain. Also, the Schilthorn website used to advertise some sort of Go-Kart experience partway downhill back towards Murren. Can't find any recent info on that though- that sounded very cool to the kids!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Jan 21, 2016 - 7:32 PM

<<"That does sound like a nice walk :^) I am definitely looking to do some sort of walk/easy hike with my 14 year old while son and hubby go up to Piz Gloria. I was looking at the flower hiking around Allmendhubel as a possibility- this is another though. She is prone to altitude sickness which is why we're not all going up the mountain.">>

Schilthorn is at 2970 meters above sea level.

Almendhubel/Mürren is at about 1900 meters.

Männlichen is at 2220 or 2230, with Kleine Scheidegg at 2061. Männlichen Gipfel is the peak just above Männlichen, at about 2280 meters.

The walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg has a significant psychological component, in the way that the Eiger towers over you as you approach Kleine Scheidegg. It is gently downhill most of the way.

Here are some pictures.

Some are from Wengen at 1274 meters. The Hotel Eiger was in Wengen; it is now apartments.

Mürren is at about 1640 meters.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 21, 2016 - 7:33 PM by Slowpoke
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