Swiss Card/Berner Oberland Pass & general advice

Swiss Card/Berner Oberland Pass & general advice

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3 posts
new member
Jun 8, 2010 - 11:57 AM
Hello to all -

I just stumbled across this website while trying to plan our holiday (which is such a better term than vacation), and have to say that there is a ton of great information on here. And those of you that respond to the questions are fantastic. I have read a bunch of threads and gathered a good amount of information, but after seeing the way you response to these questions I felt like I should post my own and get direct advice. So thank you in advance to all those who help!

My wife and I are flying into Athens and spending 8 days in Greece, then hopping on a place to Rome to spend 11 days in Italy and then leaving from around the Cinque Terre area (Levanto or La Spezia) and heading into Switzerland for the final (but most anticipated) part of our trip for 11 days. We love to hike and be outdoors and cannot wait to see the beauty Switzerland has to offer. We are bringing two backpacks with minimal clothing and our tent and will be camping throughout each country for the month we are visiting. We are planning on heading to Interlaken and then into the scenery that is the Berner Oberland right away. So some of my questions for those of you in the know or those of you who love giving great advice are:

1) Does it make sense to get the Swiss Card or Berned Oberland Pass or both? We do not have a Eurail pass for Greece or Italy and are just buying point-to-point tickets, because we won't be moving around all that much. The same goes for Switzerland. We will be taking a train from around the Cinque Terre across the border to the Interlaken area. We then plan to hike, camp, and stay around this area for the duration of our trip. We will then take a train to Zurich to fly out. So, with us only having 2 long days of train rides does the Swiss Card make sense? I know it gives other benefits, but if we are staying in the Berner Oberland for pretty much the entire time, does it make more sense to just get that pass? Or are there benefits to having both. [sidenote - we are 2 adults traveling together]

2) Since we are packing in backpacks we are not bringing a ton of clothing. Which is fine for Italy and Greece, but will we need heavier gear for Switzerland? We will be in Switzerland from July 11 - July 21. We will have the proper rain gear, but nothing heavy. Also, we are wearing a type of hiking sandal called Chaco. It is a great hiking sandal and will work well for every type of surface, but we plan on hiking a lot and trying to get to some pretty high trails. Are they still snow covered during mid-late July? If so, I am assuming there are places around the area that would rent or sell hiking boots that we could get, correct?

3) We are planning on camping throughout the trip and I have been searching on the web for good campsites around the Berner Oberland area. I have found Camping Jungfrau and Camping Eigernordwand which both look nice, but I was wondering if any of you had any other suggestions for us? Also, is it possible to hike on the trails and then just put your tent down somewhere for the night and pack up and keep hiking the next morning? Or is camping more relegated to being in a specified campsite?

4) Most of the looking I have done has been in the Murren, Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwald, Grindlewald, and surrounding areas (that are just south/southeast of Interlaken). But with us being there for 11 days, what area some other areas around that would be good day trips? We don't really want to stray too far from the area, because it seems like there is so much to do, but are Lake Thun and Lake Brienz really nice? Is it worth making a further trip somewhere else?

I know all of these questions are not directed toward rail questions, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. So thank you for the time, and if there are any hidden gems or wonderful advice you would like to divulge I would love to hear it. Have a great one!!

- Ryan
4380 posts
expert &
Jun 8, 2010 - 3:44 PM
Hello Ryan and welcome to the forum! I'm glad to hear that you've found useful information here. Let's see if we can help you out as well:

1) I'm not sure a Swiss Card would be cost effective. It allows a free trip from the border to your destination and back and a 50% discount on other trips during your stay. This is worth the money if your inbound and outbound trip are rather long and expensive. The Swiss part of your inbound trip that would be covered by a Swiss Card, and would therefore be for free, would cost about CHF 53.00 (in 2nd class and per person, from Domodossola at the border to Interlaken Ost). The trip from Interlaken to Zurich Airport costs about CHF 63.00. Both trips aren't expensive enough to really profit from the Swiss Card advantages. In all, this means that you're better off with a Swiss Half Fare Card, allowing a 50% discount on all train, bus and boat trips (including your inbound and outbound journey). Buying a Regional-Pass Bernese Oberland on top of this would probably be too expensive, as you don't plan to travel that intensively. Another disadvantage of the Regional-Pass Bernese Oberland is that it doesn't provide discounts for your inbound and outbound trip.

2) It's very important go have proper gear when getting into the Swiss mountains. Weather circumstances can change rapidly, even on clear and sunny days. You have to be prepared for sudden changes at all times. And even in July, high trails can be covered with snow and sandals may not be good enough. I'd recommend to rent high quality hiking boots for this kind of trails. At Schynige Platte above Wilderswil (a beautiful viewing point which is worth a visit!) you'll find a test centre for Lowa hiking boots; they can be tried for free during one day. Renting shoes is probably possible in outdoor shops in Interlaken as well. I suggest that you visit the tourist office to ask for more information. Please note that it can be a disadvantage to take long hikes with shoes that haven't adapted to your feet yet; this might cause pain and blisters.

3) I have no personal experience with Swiss campings. I have seen two from a distance that both look nice: camping Jungfrau in Unterseen near Interlaken and camping Jungfrau in Lauterbrunnen. Other campings are listed at this overview. As far as I know, wild camping isn't allowed in large parts of the country. Rules may very per canton or area. I do know that it does happen now and then. It's best to ask for advice at a local tourist office. In any case, be sure to obey general rules such as cleaning up your garbage, don't make open fires (especially during dry and warm periodes), and so on.

4) The area around Mürren, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen and Grindelwald (also called the Jungfrau region) holds lots of the Bernese Oberland highlights. Beautiful viewing points can be visited here, including the world-famous Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn. Other tips are:
  • Kleine Scheidegg, which is literally at the foot of the famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau trio;
  • Männlichen, a viewing point which can be reached from both Wengen and Grindelwald;
  • First, where you should definitely take a hike to the Bachalpsee, maybe continue your route to Schynige Platte, or hike to Grosse Scheidegg.
  • Schynige Platte, which I mentioned before.

Please take a look at our overview of day trips and hiking tips in the Bernese Oberland for further orientation. In 11 days, the Jungfrau region will offer more than enough possibilities to enjoy lovely views and hikes each day. The areas around lake Thun and lake Brienz are wonderful as well. On days on which you want to take a break, strolling along the shores can be very relaxing, just as a boat ride on one of the lakes. A true gem is the Gastern valley near Kandersteg as well. As you like hiking and being in the outdoors, I think you'll appreciate this quiet valley!
306 posts
top member
Jun 8, 2010 - 4:52 PM
Hi Ryan, I am sure you will love Switzerland. We are about to make our tenth visit to Bernese Oberland but I have only joined forum this year - wish I'd found it earlier! Annika has answered many of your questions already so I will just offer a few of our favourite places/walks for you to consider. Almendhubel offers fantastic views and there are many trails leading from there (easy to reach from Murren.) We have walked from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg (we are not young enough or fit enough to tackle the more strenuous hikes so tend to stick to yellow routes but they are just as beautiful). We have also walked from First to Bachalpsee. Near Meiringen there are some good themed trails - check out the Meiringen website. We sometimes ride up a mountain and walk down which we find easier e.g. Stockhorn, Niesen and Niederhorn which are near Lake Thun. Both lakes are very pretty - you can get a cheap all-day ticket on Mondays valid for both lakes. If the peaks are covered in cloud, we do lakeside walks, e.g. Spiez to Faulensee (Lake Thun) which is quite short but can be combined with a boat trip. Similarly on shore of Lake Brienz, walk from Iseltwald to Giessbach, where you can walk to the top of the falls. For rainy days (though I hope they will be rare) try Trummelbach Falls near Stechelberg or caves at Beatushohlen (Lake Thun). A walk through Aareschlucht gorge is also a good bet if peaks are in cloud. On sunny days there is nothing better than Schynigge Platte - the Alpine Garden is very interesting and there are hikes for the more adventurous. At the tourist office in Interlaken, pick up a leaflet called Wandern/Hiking - Jungfrau Region - there are no less than 76 marked routes on the map! There's a sister leaflet with the train timetables in which is also useful. Because we are older, we mix up walking days with city visits during our holiday but from your post I gather it's the walking you are mainly interested in , so have restricted my suggestions to these. If you did decide to do something different I would suggest Thun on market day, Bern or Lucerne (the pretty route from Interlaken is best). have fun - you will fall in love like we did and keep wanting to return. Maggie
3 posts
new member
Jun 17, 2010 - 2:24 PM
Thank you so much for both of your replies. Wonderful information. It seems like the Swiss Half Fare Card is the best bet. Since we are leaving to start out trip in less than a week I cannot order it online and have it shipped to the US in time. But I was reading that I can just buy it at a train station, is this correct? Is it possible to buy it online and then pick it up at the train station? We will be coming from Italy, would I be able to purchase it in Domodossola? If not there, I am assuming the next most logical spot would be Brig, would it be available there?

If we are planning on taking many lifts and hiking around the Bernese Oberland area, would there be any benefit to buying both passes? I see that if you have the Half Fare Card, you get about a CHF 50 discount per Bernese Oberland Regional Pass. I guess I ask this, because I don't know how much many of the individual lifts would be. We will be there for 10 days, and plan on taking boat rides across the lakes and exploring the towns around there, and also taking some of the lifts/trains to First, Gimmelwald, Schynige Platte, Brienzer Rothorn, and such.

I guess it would make the most sense to buy the Half Fare Care as soon as I can at the train station and then decide if the 5 free days of travel with the Regional Pass is a good idea. Does that seem like a good plan? Thanks again for all the advice!!


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