Bernina Express & Gotthard Pass trains in May

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Handyman
Handyman
11 posts
new member
Jan 3, 2018 - 4:45 PM

Thanks for your terrific website. So much helpful information in one place. And, thanks for your patience in responding to rather specific travel questions. I've read a lot but still find the Swiss train schedules daunting. I'm trying to determine if my panoramic train plans are reasonable.

I'm planning a week visit beginning Saturday, 5/12, by flying into Zurich in the morning (coming from Prague after a river cruise) with plans to travel to Chur by train in the afternoon. Overnight in Chur.

Next morning, take Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano. Overnight in Tirano.

Next afternoon, take Bernina Express bus from Tirano to Lugano. Overnight in Lugano.

Next morning take Gotthard Panorama Express train and boat from Lugano to Luzern. Overnight plus next two nights in Luzern.

On the two days in Luzern, use one to visit Lauterbrunnen Valley (one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen) and one to visit Mt. Rigi or Mt. Titlus. These plans are subject to the mid-May weather cooperating.

Then back to Zurich on Friday, May 18 for afternoon flight to Frankfurt. Travel back to US on next day.

All travel in Switzerland will be by rail. Based on your website, I'm thinking the Swiss Half Fare Card would work best for our (wife & me) travel. I hope to book 1st Class, at least on the panoramic trains. Does the Half Fare Card seem the right way to go?

Can the tickets on the panoramic trains/bus/boat be booked more than 90 days in advance? Same for seat reservations?

Your comments or critique on the itinerary & travel card would certainly be appreciated. Thanks.

rockoyster
rockoyster
4015 posts
expert
Jan 3, 2018 - 9:22 PM in reply to Handyman

Hello wkiser and Welcome to MySwissAlps,

Looks like you have done your homework! That will all work as long as you are happy to be on the move so much.

You can’t book panorama trains more than 90 days out.

Have you compared costs using a Swiss Travel Pass? www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/ticketspasses/prac tical/chooserailpass

You can buy a 2nd Class STP and buy upgrade tickets for the legs you want to travel 1st class.

Have you already booked flight from Zurich to Frankfurt? You can get an ICE train direct to Frankfurt Airport (possibly from Lucerne or maybe with a change at Basel) and see some of the German country-side.

Handyman
Handyman
11 posts
new member
Jan 3, 2018 - 9:58 PM

Thanks for your prompt reply. Great idea on the train to Frankfurt. Looks to be a 4 hour trip. I'll definitely look into that. Can you suggest how best to purchase the train ticket to Frankfurt from Luzern? I may chose to do 1st Class on that since it will be a longer trip.

I initially decided against a Swiss Travel Pass since I needed 7 days of travel. The 4 day is too short & the 8 day wasted a day. However, the convenience of the Travel Pass, even with a lost day, might make it worth it, especially with a 2nd Class Pass & upgrade for the two panorama trains. It may even cover the trip from Luzern to Basel and perhaps some beyond.

Can I purchase the Swiss Travel Pass now for travel in May? Then make the reservations for the panorama trains and upgrade to 1st Class 90 days prior to travel?

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5156 posts
expert
Jan 3, 2018 - 10:01 PM in reply to Handyman

Hi wkiser, and welcome to my Swiss Alps.First, I'd say your plans are possible, and you'll see a lot of Switzerland. You clearly have done some homework.

It is always nice to see someone else besides myself from the USA who wants to write their dates backwards. Backwards as far as Europe is concerned, that is. I had to look at your title to decide if you were traveling in May or December. ;-). I've forced myself to use the European convention or spell out dates in this forum But, it is hard. ;-)

The entry page here may help you use the SBB timetable. It is a powerful tool, and a lot is buried in the menus.:

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

The directions on the splash page are a good guide to getting started.

If you were traveling after mid June, I'd ask why you don't spend more time enjoying the other wonders around the Lautebrunnen Valley. But , in mid May, the Valley itself is likely to be snow free...pretty much...and the higher trails are likely to be blocked by snow or closed for safety (snowslides). So, my first though- more time near the Jungfrau, less time in Italian Switzerland, is not quite so appropriate for that time of year, and personally I would chose Luzern as my base, as you did. That journey over the Gotthard pass is certainly a marvelous experience, and the boat ride starting at Flüelen goes through what many consider the most scenic part of Lake Lucerne (der Vierwaldstättersee).

Mid-May at Luzern's altitude will be Spring.

A trip to the Lauterbrunnen Valley is feasible from Luzern. (Do you speak or read German, by the way? I notice you use the German spelling, as I tend to do). 2 hours and 19 minutes inbound, once per hour. So, you'll have some time to explore a bit. The last train back - also once per hour - at 2132 takes 2 hrs 29 minutes and returns you at 1 minute past midnight.

However, from Interlaken Ost into the Valley to Lauterbrunnen and then up the mountains, they don't travel very fast. Narrow gauge and cograil equipped. Still you could go up to Wengen or Mürren and have a look from up there. Schilthorn is faster, easier and cheaper than Jungfraujoch. I recall that their Spring maintenance break is in April.

www.myswissalps.com/ju ngfrauregion

www.swissholidayco.com /Public/Assets/User/fi les/Map-of-Jungfrauregion1.jpg

The attached picture, taken after many many trips to get a clear day, shows why I like Wengen for views of the Valley itself. A couple others related to Wengen are for general interest.

<<"All travel in Switzerland will be by rail. Based on your website, I'm thinking the Swiss Half Fare Card would work best for our (wife & me) travel. I hope to book 1st Class, at least on the panoramic trains. Does the Half Fare Card seem the right way to go?">>

I leave that question for the experts and the spreadsheet that is provided on this forum, somewhere ....someone will link you to it. I never work that stuff out because a carry a 1 year half-fare card (used to be a 3-year card) , which I use for 2 or 3 trips per year. My first thought, however, is that with that much long distance travel in a short time, you should definitely check out the Swiss Travel Pass, as well as the Half fare card.

<<"Can the tickets on the panoramic trains/bus/boat be booked more than 90 days in advance? Same for seat reservations?">>

I notice that your question about reservations is narrowly related to the Panoramic trains. I think the answer is mixed, in that you may not need them for some of those trips, but will for others...I don't know about 90 days. Once again, the forum moderators know more than I do about that. However, If I were doing it, I would search the web site for those special trains by name. Actually, I'd start here:

www.myswissalps.com/ac tivities/scenictrips/t rain

Lots of information on the descriptive pages, and some of it may be useful in addition to reservation details I suspect from your phrasing that you know that for ordinary travel services in Switzerland...train, bus, boat...reservations are not needed and in some cases may not be possible.

That will be a great trip, especially if you really want to take those special train rides.

By the way, do you hike or want see any special museums?

www.myswissalps.com/lu cerne

www.luzern.com/en/rose ngart-collection

www.rosengart.ch/en/we lcome

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/the-swiss-path-and-southern-lake-lucerne

Slowpoke

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rockoyster
rockoyster
4015 posts
expert
Jan 3, 2018 - 10:09 PM in reply to Handyman

I went 1st class Frankfurt to Basel but found 2nd (with seat reservation) class perfectly acceptable on return trip. You don’t need reservations on Swiss trains apart from Bernina and Gotthard Panoramics.

STP will cover Luzern to Basel. Not beyond. Use www.bahn.com/en/view/i ndex.shtml for ICE train. There may be Saver fares all the way from Luzern to Frankfurt.

STPs don’t run out. Buy on-line (www.swissrailways.com/ en/node/66)anytime before you travel and print at home. You don’t need to buy it before making Panorama reservations. You can by class upgrade on-line or at the station before boarding train. Upgrade costs half the difference between 1st and 2nd class fares.

Handyman
Handyman
11 posts
new member
Jan 3, 2018 - 10:14 PM

Thanks for your comments, Slowpoke. I'll have to work on the date thing. I don't speak or read German.

We've been to Lauterbrunnen once a few years ago. Beautiful. We hiked all over both sides of the valley. Went to church in Wengen with a total of 19 other folks. I realize it would be a quick trip and weather will likely keep us low, but it's so beautiful, I'd like to go back if only for a day. The train to Jungfraujoch is still on my list but don't think May would be the best time? Your thoughts on that?

We've also seen Luzern and Mt. Pilatus. Would like to see a couple of the other areas there this time.

The spreadsheet seems like a lot of work to price each ticket for every trip over 7 days. Just doing a good estimate, and considering the convenience of the Travel Pass, I think that is what I'll get.

Love this website. I'm already looking at the hotels in the various places.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5156 posts
expert
Jan 3, 2018 - 11:48 PM in reply to Handyman

<<"The spreadsheet seems like a lot of work to price each ticket for every trip over 7 days. Just doing a good estimate, and considering the convenience of the Travel Pass, I think that is what I'll get.">>

That makes sense...the convenience is certainly worth something.

I think that your long range trips could be added up quickly and would show an advantage for the STP. Years ago, when I was making those choices, the only thing that would Justify the STP was just such trips.

<<"We've been to Lauterbrunnen once a few years ago. Beautiful. We hiked all over both sides of the valley. Went to church in Wengen with a total of 19 other folks. I realize it would be a quick trip and weather will likely keep us low, but it's so beautiful, I'd like to go back if only for a day.">>

Nice to see that you know the area.

Hope for good weather. You can check with the tourist info at Luzern main station, by track #2 the night before, or even in the morning if you are not leaving early. And, Tourist Info at Interlaken Ost is very helpful...before you even go into the Valley.

There are webcams:

en.swisswebcams.ch/suc he/ort/lauterbrunnen-2659992/

You might enjoy this:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/tips-about-wengen-and-the-jungfrau-region-by-kim

<<"The train to Jungfraujoch is still on my list but don't think May would be the best time? Your thoughts on that?">>

You asked the wrong person. ;-)

I've visited Switzerland on multiday occasions over 80 times since I started in 1980. The cost of the Jungfraujoch never justified itself to me. I'd rather hike and look. As attached.

I could justify Schilthorn....and will some day.

Do you have particular interests that would guide suggestions for other things to see around Luzern?

Slowpoke

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rockoyster
rockoyster
4015 posts
expert
Jan 4, 2018 - 1:30 AM

Hi Slowpoke,

You wrote "I could justify Schilthorn....and will some day."

Especially now it is covered by the STP this year?

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5156 posts
expert
Jan 4, 2018 - 2:12 AM in reply to rockoyster

<<"Especially now it is covered by the STP this year?">>

My thoughts exactly..but I only use a Halbtax.

;-(

Slowpoke

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Jan 4, 2018 - 3:11 AM in reply to Handyman

>> Next morning, take Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano. Overnight in Tirano. Next afternoon, take Bernina Express bus from Tirano to Lugano.

Have you considered going straight through to Lugano on the same day? Tirano has little to offer a tourist compared with Lugano. However, the food is cheaper ;-)

>> Can you suggest how best to purchase the train ticket to Frankfurt from Luzern?

You could compare the offers on the SBB and DB (Deutsche Bahn) websites, and there is also some information here:

www.myswissalps.com/tr aintickets/germany

>> The 4 day is too short & the 8 day wasted a day. However, the convenience of the Travel Pass, even with a lost day, might make it worth it

If you do the sums, you might in fact discover that your trip will be less expensive as a whole with an 8-day Swiss Travel Pass, despite the "wasted" day. This is entirely possible.

>> The train to Jungfraujoch is still on my list but don't think May would be the best time? Your thoughts on that?

You can never tell with weather in the alps. You can have clear sunny weather on the Jungfraujoch at any time of the year. The same with clouds/fog. It can vary dramatically from one day to another, and even from morning to afternoon. I would include it in your itinerary, but have a backup plan if it turns out the weather is unsuitable.

You can check the weather 24-48 hours beforehand, and visibility at the top on the actual day, on the following websites:

www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/live/webcams/

www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/live/weather/#jungf raujoch

You are lucky you aren't there today! The train to the Jungfraujoch is apparently not operating beyond Alpiglen (on the Grindelwald side) and Wengernalp (on the Wengen side) due to high winds. I'm not entirely sure, but from what I can tell, the cable cars from Grindelwald to First, and from Mürren to the Schilthorn are also closed today due to the weather.

I have seen the Jungfraujoch train operating in some pretty wild weather, so if they have closed it, the weather must be very wild indeed!

Alpenrose

Last modified on Jan 4, 2018 - 3:16 AM by Removed user
rockoyster
rockoyster
4015 posts
expert
Jan 4, 2018 - 3:18 AM in reply to Removed user

Oh. I missed that overnight in Tiirano. Definitely a better option to go straight through and stay an extra night in Lugano.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5156 posts
expert
Jan 4, 2018 - 9:57 AM in reply to rockoyster

G'Day Rockoyster-

<<"Oh. I missed that overnight in Tiirano. Definitely a better option to go straight through and stay an extra night in Lugano">>

Yeah, I missed that, too.

Of course, St. Moritz or Pontresina is at hand...but I think much of the mountain transport is probably not running in mid-May.

www.engadin.stmoritz.c h/winter/en/activities /mountain-adventure/mountains/mu ottas-muragl-mountain-adventure/timetable-muottas-muragl-winter/

Oddly enough, the timetable is not making any promises after the end of the Winter season on 8/4....that's April 8th. ;-).

I'm guessing a maintenance shutdown for a few weeks in April.

The SBB website says no service on May 12, 13, 14.

Same for the funicular up to Corviglia.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jan 4, 2018 - 9:58 AM by Slowpoke
rockoyster
rockoyster
4015 posts
expert
Jan 4, 2018 - 10:08 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Sorry, Slowpoke but you’ve lost me on that one. Are you suggesting a night in Pontresina beats a night in Lugano?

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5156 posts
expert
Jan 4, 2018 - 10:34 AM in reply to rockoyster

Hi Rockoyster-

<<"Sorry, Slowpoke but you’ve lost me on that one. Are you suggesting a night in Pontresina beats a night in Lugano?">>

Just exploring options. If it were late June, I'd consider possibly thinking about the potential for making that recommendation. ;-).

Actually, I was wondering more about someplace between Lugano and Luzern, or near Luzern. Did not come up with anything,because I'm uncertain about any specific interests wkiser might have.

We enjoyed our 3 day stay in Lugano, but at times before and after that trip we stayed in Bellinzona and a few times in Locarno. On balance, Lugano moved down our list.

Actually, considering the fickle weather in the high Alps, the time might be better added to the Jungfrau region to have a better chance of a nice day.

Slowpoke

Handyman
Handyman
11 posts
new member
Jan 8, 2018 - 8:09 PM

On our first trip to the area, I rented a car in Munich and drove everywhere for 2 weeks. Couldn't help notice that there always seemed to be a train running along the road going everywhere we went. For this visit, I'm ditching the car and leaving the driving to the engineer.

Based on your kind input and other information on this website, I'll be buying a 2nd Class Swiss Travel Pass. I plan to upgrade those seats to 1st Class on the Bernina Express & Gotthard Panorama Express. Also, now plan to only have lunch in Tirano and continue on the Bernina Express bus to Lugano the same day. Wish we could get off and back on next day from a Lake Como town but I'm guessing that's not possible.

Extra days in Luzern will hopefully allow a day trip to Lauterbrunnen with good weather if we feel up to a long day. Slowpoke asked about our interests. We enjoy scenic areas and hiking there. Not "up the mountain" hiking. More like the trail from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. That was beautiful but not too strenuous.

Also, based on your kind suggestion, I'm passing on the plane and taking the train from Luzern to Frankfurt (connecting in Basel). The trip is shaping up quite nicely. Many thanks to all of you for a terrific and informative website.

Wendell

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5156 posts
expert
Jan 8, 2018 - 8:17 PM in reply to Handyman

Hi Wendell.

<<"More like the trail from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. That was beautiful but not too strenuous.">>

Too bad it won't be passable. The Lauterbrunen Valley floor will most likely be OK.

Luzern and environs are at alow enough altitude to have clear trails.

I noted some in my earlier post.

Slowpoke

rockoyster
rockoyster
4015 posts
expert
Jan 8, 2018 - 8:32 PM in reply to Handyman

Hi Wendell,

Sounds good.

The Bernina bus takes you alongside a fair stretch of Lake Como and Lake Lugano. My trip report here if you are interested www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/the-reluctant-travellers-swiss-adventure-part4.

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Jan 9, 2018 - 3:43 AM in reply to Handyman

>> Wish we could get off and back on next day from a Lake Como town but I'm guessing that's not possible.

Yes, that's right. The Bernina Express bus isn't permitted to drop off or take on passengers en route.

The PostAuto Palm Express bus between Lugano and St Moritz can drop off and pick up passengers in Menaggio on Lake Como, but that doesn't fit your itinerary. Also, between 8 Jan-10 Jun 2018, it only departs St Moritz on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Jan 9, 2018 - 3:49 AM by Removed user

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