Which Rail Pass should I choose?

Which Rail Pass should I choose?

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Posts: 6. This thread is closed.
martin.tcm
martin.tcm
3 posts
new member
Oct 6, 2012 - 8:46 AM
Dear Moderator,

I am from Singapore and planning a trip to Switzerland with my wife from 1 Dec for about 2 weeks.

So far, I am looking to visit Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Zermat and Lausanne, and will probably stay at each place for minimum 2-3 nights and travel between these places via train. At some of these places, I will also likely be taking the mountain gondolas and boat trips.

I am unsure whether the Swiss Pass with unlimited travel is right for me, since I am not travelling everyday. And on days where I travel, it is usually a single train trip to my next destination. Right now, I am considering either the Swiss half-fare card, or the Swiss flexi-pass. Would really appreciate your advice on this :-)

Also, after 2 weeks in Switzerland, we are looking at moving on to Austria to visit Salzburg and Vienna for another week. Will that mean we have to take the Austria-Switzerland Pass instead? Again, my worry is whether this is the best deal since we won't be travelling everyday and don't really need the unlimited rides.

Also, do we usually have to make advance reservation for tickets on the normal trains? Or is it quite safe for us to purchase these on the day of travel? I know that for the scenic trains (e.g. Glacier Express), these need advance reservation in order to be assured of a seat. But I am not sure about regular trains between the various cities/towns.

Thanks for your advice!
Annika
Annika
4355 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 7, 2012 - 4:05 AM
Welcome martin.tmc! Looking at your travel plans, I don't think the Eurail Austria-Switzerland Pass is the most economical deal. That's because it's available in 1st class only and because it only offers days with unlimited traveling. On the remaining days, there are no discounts whatsoever, whereas you seem to be traveling on most days of your stay. Moreover, discounts for mountain transportation aren't as generous as with Swiss rail passes. So I think you should look for the best options for Switzerland and Austria seperately.

As for Switzerland: there will be some long and expensive transfers in your itinerary. A Swiss Saver Flexi Pass, allowing a few free travel days, would be a good solution. You would use free travel days for the long transfers and discounted days for the shorter regional trips. A 15 day Swiss Pass, on the other hand, is by far the easiest solution, providing maximum flexibility. Please note that you'll only be absolutely sure of the best deal if you calculate all your trips and then compare the discounts of the passes you have in mind.

Reservations are only necessary for scenic and international trains, not for regular trains within Switzerland.

I know these aren't decisive answers, but I do hope they get you started!
Last modified on Dec 28, 2014 - 4:35 PM by Arno
martin.tcm
martin.tcm
3 posts
new member
Oct 7, 2012 - 12:55 PM
Hi Annika,

Thanks for the advice. I'll probably go with the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass. From the timetable, the more expensive transfers for my itinerary seem to be the following (correct me if I' wrong):

Interlaken - Zermat
Zermat - Lausanne
Lausanne - Zurich

In that case, I'll get a 3 day Pass to cover these 3 trips, and get 50% off for the remaining of my travel days which are less expensive. Overall cost is about the same compared to if I purchase my tickets without the Pass, but it is still beneficial given that we'll get discounts on some of the mountain transportation and some hotels. Also, I will probably just take a flight out from Zurich to Vienna :-)

I just have a few more questions below:

a) I plan to take a scenic train (Golden Pass Line - Brunig Panoramic Express) from Lucern to Interlaken. Does the timetable in this website also include these scenic train schedules/prices, or do I need to purchase/reserve these from the respective scenic train websites directly?

b) Is there a scenic train serving the connection from Zermatt to Lausanne? Can't seem to find any. If there is, will there be an additional fee for reserving these scenic trains on top of the Rail Pass that I have (assuming I use the Pass to cover the travel on that day)?

c) I intend to purchase the Rail Pass online, and collect it when I arrive in Switzerland (Zurich). But I also want to proceed to book my accommodation at some of the hotels soon where I can use the pass for discounts. Do these hotels need me to furnish evidence of having the Pass now, if I were to book my accommodation online?

Thanks again for your help on these queries!

Regards,
Martin
Annika
Annika
4355 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 8, 2012 - 2:37 PM
Hello Martin. Yes, those are the longest and most expensive transfers. Do note though that the validity of the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass starts with the first free travel day and ends with the last one. Before and after there are no discounts. So it's best to take your first free travel day soon in your schedule and the last one as late as possible. That won't be a problem if you've planned some longer trips near the beginning and end. Other alternatives are cheap local passes for the first and/or last days (e.g. the Zurich Card, if you spend your first days in or near Zurich).

As for calculating: usually your amount of traveling will result in a pass being a significantly cheaper than regular tickets. I'd say you would gain quite a lot with a Swiss Saver Flexi Pass. Did you check prices using the timetable? And if so, did you note that half fare prices are displayed by default? Only if you unclick the 'half fare' box you'll get to see regular full fare prices.

As for your remaining questions:

1) yes, the timetable includes such trains, but you can best arrange for seat reservations separately with this page as your starting point.

2) I'm not aware of any scenic train on this route.

3) note that resellers don't allow you to pick up your pass at a Swiss railway station yet. You can, however, order online through STC and have your pass delivered to your first hotel address in Switzerland, which is a very economical option. All resellers and delivery options are mentioned in our reseller overview at the right hand of the Swiss Flexi Pass page. The hotel chains participating in the Swiss (Flexi) Pass bonuses all require different ways of booking. Please follow the link 'various discounts at several hotel chains' under 'Swiss Flexi Pass features' at the Swiss Flexi Pass page for specifics. Using this discount isn't necessarily the cheapest way to book your hotels; there may be other, better deals. Hotel overviews with selected hotels close to railway stations can be found here.
Last modified on Dec 28, 2014 - 4:34 PM by Arno
martin.tcm
martin.tcm
3 posts
new member
Oct 8, 2012 - 4:54 PM
Dear Annika,

Yes, I did use the timetable to calculate the fares that I will taking on my trip as follows, and I have checked that these are full fares:
- Zurich to Lucerne (CHF 23)
- Lucerne to Interlaken (CHF 30)
- Interlaken to Zermat (CHF 76)
- Zermat to Lausanne (CHF 75)
- Lausanne to Zurich (CHF 69)
TOTAL for 5 TRIPS = CHF 273 per person

If I purchase the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass for 3 days (2nd class), it will cost CHF 216 per person. If I choose to use the 3 days for my most expensive trips above, my overall travel per person will still cost:
Price of the Pass: CHF 216 + Price of the remaining 2 travel days: CHF 23 + CHF 30 = CHF 269
As you can see, the savings is only CHF 4, compared to if I just purchase the normal train tickets. Unless my calculations are wrong somewhere?

Alternatively, I was looking at the half-fare card instead, which will cost CHF 110 per person. Then my overall travel will cost me:
Price of the Pass: CHF 110 + 50% of the usual fares: CHF 273/2 = CHF 246.50
This appears to give me better savings of about CHF 26 per person. But do I still get the same discounts on the various mountain transportation as well?

Also, will there be any problems if I just purchase the rail passes when I arrive at Zurich instead? Maybe direct from the airport/railway station?

Thanks for your comments, and please let me know if my calculations are wrong anywhere.

Regards,
Martin
Annika
Annika
4355 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 9, 2012 - 12:42 PM
Hi Martin! Your calculations seem correct. I understand why the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass doesn't seem to make that much difference, since you only included these transfers. As you'll be traveling more than this, the pass will definitely prove to more economical than regular tickets.

It's hard to say whether a Swiss Half Fare Card is cheaper over all. That depends on how you would use your free travel days on the Swiss Saver Flexi Pass (just for the long transfers, or including more trips on such a day?). Only if you calculate all your plans (which is hard to do in advance) you'll get a definitive answer. Most mountain transportation is discounted with the Swiss Half Fare Card too. Please review the downloadable validity map at the Swiss Half Fare Card page.

Purchase options, including local purchase at airports/larger railway stations, are also listed in the reseller overviews at both pages. You can click 'Show more information' at each option for further details.
Last modified on Dec 28, 2014 - 4:34 PM by Arno

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