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Bernina and Glacier Express live reports

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84 posts
active member
Sep 7, 2019 - 6:34 AM

We’re finally here! Thanks to all for your help along the way. Here are some live tips for our two panoramic trains so far.

In general:

1. There are digital signs on each Swiss car stating its number. If you have reserved seats, your ticket will list the car number in very small type.

2. If you are buying tickets on the terrific SBB app, you have to do it before the train departs! I had not done so for the Bernina for fear we would miss our connection (although I had reserved seats.) I couldn’t get my data going and by the time I processed my upgrade to first class it was rejected!! Yipes! Short period of panic...See below for resolution!

3. It appears train stations have both stairs and ramps although we didn’t always see the ramps.

4. There were a few empty seats on both trains, which allows you to move around a bit for views and pictures (although only a few of us did!)

5. The train motion does get rocky. One lady was surprised to feel nauseous as she’s accustomed to trains, she said. I shared a Bonine that luckily helped her.

Bernina Express on Sept 4: gorgeous!!

1. If you are transferring from the Italian train at Tirano, walk outside the station and the Swiss station is to your immediate left. I overshot it thinking it was further and bigger.

1A: If you came from Varenna to Tirano as we did: board quickly!! The doors started shutting as we were loading! No attendant came by on this leg. (We bought our Milan-Tirano and Tirano-Varenna tix easily in Milan using the self-service machines. Don’t forget to validate the ticket before boarding Italian trains!

1B: The toilets at the Milan train station are at the end opposite the entry, on the middle floor, and cost 1E.

2. My panic over the SBB app rejecting my Bernina tix purchase as the train had already started lasted until nice attendant Carlo came along and easily processed our tix with no scolding or annoyance or surcharge. (He has been on the Bernina route for 45 years, starting at age 17!)

3. We were surprised the first class didn’t have any baggage area! We pushed ours between seats. Although our carriage was almost full most were day trippers without bags.

4. The scenery was fabulous, especially on a spectacular day. As others have noted the window glare makes for awful reflections. The windows in the vestibule were only marginally better. When you stop at Alpe Grum for 15 minutes, go up above the train for a great shot down of the train and glacier. (I missed it!)

www.myswissalps.com/be rninaexpress

Glacier Express on Sept. 5 from St. Moritz to Zermatt: long, nice, but nowhere near the beauty of the Bernina (granted it was a gray rainy day!)

1. We had been told you could board 15 minutes in advance or 10:05. But we got on before 10 and others were already aboard. This only matters so you can get a good spot for your bags at either end of the carriages.

2. They work hard to make it an experience, hawking souvenirs (snow globes, hats, power banks, stuffed marmots) and selling food. We bought our own but the dishes actually looked pretty good. The specialty for 45CHF I think was salad, meatloaf, dessert. Our neighbors gave us their chocolate cake and it was yummy. The coffee also looked good.

3. All that causes a lot of bustling around up and down the narrow aisles for much of the journey.

4. Although the headphones have commentary it didn’t really prepare you to LOOK LEFT RIGHT NOW QUICK FOR YOUR PIX. There also are no better spots between cars: they’ve actually put up screens probably to discourage avid shooters. So be prepared when you believe a highlight is coming!

5. There was a note saying all the Glacier express trains will be refurbished by 2020 including WLAN. Currently no power or WiFi.

6. You stop multiple times to wait for other trains to pass as there often is only one set of tracks. Even so we arrived a few minutes into Zermatt ahead of our 18:10 schedule.

7. Right outside the Zermatt tracks is a parking lot where all the electric hotel vans are waiting, as well as taxis.

www.myswissalps.com/gl acierexpress

Alas, we have been socked in at Zermatt with only a brief glimpse of the mountain so far!! Maybe this afternoon...

We will be going on to Wengen, Murren, Bern, Chamonix and Geneva. Feel free to follow me on Facebook for more live coverage.

15681 posts
expert &
Sep 7, 2019 - 6:55 AM

Thanks a lot for your report Meemskirk! Yes, the Glacier Express is a long ride :-) Good weather makes a difference but that's all a matter of luck.

The doors of the Bernina Express may have closed automatically. That's what most Swiss trains do: the doors close even if it's not departing yet, this saves heating or airco energy. You can simply open them again, unless it's really departing of course.

Indeed there is luggage space between the seats. Usually there should be space at the end of each car too, near the doors. Most trains also have overhead luggage racks, but because of the panoramic windows that's no option.

Looking forward to your next report!

84 posts
active member
Sep 8, 2019 - 4:58 PM

Yes I wanted to also point out: the train doors are not motion sensored like in the US. If you stick your hand/foot between the doors they will not open. You have to push the buttons!! We often forget that when getting off and wait for the doors like dumb tourists.


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