Glacier Express reservation tips

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Meemskirk
Meemskirk
60 posts
active member
Jun 7, 2019 - 7:39 PM

I had been eagerly waiting for 5 June to roll around to book my 5 September Glacier Express. Here is what I learned in using the Glacier Express site (and what I'm still fuzzy about):

  1. It turns out it's not precisely 3 months out. It's precisely 90 days out. So 5 September reservations were not available until 7 September. Count out your days!
  2. "Sales" start at 2 am Swiss time, which is excellent news for Americans! (I was told 2 pm Swiss time, which completely ruined my efforts).
  3. You can also book reservations by calling them at 0041 81 288 65 65
  4. There are at least three other websites offering reservation services. HappyRail.com had a $10 surcharge but didn't offer an option to pick my date before I had to check out. RailEurope.com offers a date and about $22-$26 surcharge. Swisspasses apparently contacts you AFTER you buy online to confirm dates. These are all listed on this great website (along with packaged tours). I didn't quite understand how they work vs the GE site and whether they guarantee seat choices or reservations--perhaps others can answer that?
  5. From my research, there are 36 first class seats, 48 second class seats, 30 seats for disabled folks, and 20 seats for the Excellence Class (a new added car I guess?).
  6. The GE site asks you if you have a discounted pass, even though it doesn't make a difference for the reservation price.
  7. When you book your seats, they randomly assign you, often not together (??). You just click on the green assignment and click the seat you want.
  8. I'm still a little fuzzy about best side of the train to sit on. Some say right and some say left; all agree both sides have highlights. Someone had noted that on the seating chart, "the seats at the bottom of the screen are on the right heading west to east." However, I have also read you don't know for sure which direction the train will be going. Plus I believe it will switch directions at Chur.
  9. When you book your reservations, it asks you if you want to order a meal.
  10. GE knows their website is glitchy and are allegedly working on it. It showed all kinds of different seating availability for example, and let me pick seats but did not let me put them in the cart prior to 7 June.
  11. We opted for first class, partly to have the two seats facing each other. GE was explicit in saying we should upgrade our second class Swiss Travel Passes at the station rather than do it online. I'm not sure why.
  12. If you were wondering about the new Excellence class, it's $420 for reservations plus $268 for the ticket (less any pass discounts). For that, 20 of you get cushy window seats, food and drinks, lots of coddling, your luggage handled and safely locked away, a bar/host, use of an IPad and free wifi (which is not available on the rest of the train it appears). Good summary: www.townandcountrymag. com/leisure/travel-guide/a27613054/glacie r-express-switzerland-launches-excellence-class/
  13. On the flip side, the Bernina Express was a breeze. I booked 4 June seats for 4 September easily.

I spent the past three mornings fretting around 4 am trying to get booked. So I hope this helps others avoid that angst in their planning!

rockoyster
rockoyster
7303 posts
expert
Jun 7, 2019 - 9:31 PM in reply to Meemskirk

Wow, you’re keen. Glad you secured your seats - you deserve them after all that effort.

A few observations . . . .

Point 4. Happyrail charge different (generally higher) rates by creating arbitrary high, low, shoulder seasons. The official GEX Shop is the only place you can actually select seats. The others just make best endeavours to co-locate fellow travellers.

Point 8. I think if you are going all the way from Zermatt to St Moritz the right-hand side is the best. Unfortunately because the train switches direction at Chur you go into Chur on the right and come out on the left which is not optimal for the Landwasser Viaduct. Life is full of compromises. 😉

See www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/best-side-on-glacier-and-bernina-express for my theories.

Point 11. I bought a Class upgrade using the SBB mobile app and that worked fine.

Point 13. BEX opens booking 6 months in advance.

Meemskirk
Meemskirk
60 posts
active member
Jun 7, 2019 - 10:50 PM in reply to rockoyster

Thanks rockoyster!

So if we're going the east to west, St. Moritz to Zermatt, you think the left side is the best?

That's interesting on Bernina as the only info I have found says it's 3 months out. Your report on the dining experience is dreadful. I mean the experience, not the report...!

We plan to bring our own food/drinks based on the consistently negative comments we've seen.

rockoyster
rockoyster
7303 posts
expert
Jun 7, 2019 - 10:58 PM in reply to Meemskirk

Hi Meemskirk,

The left side is best from St Moritz but then from Chur you will end up on the right side which is best for the Rhine Gorge but maybe not so good for the rest of the trip. Like I said - it’s a compromise. I solved the problem by only going from a Brig to Chur and then picking the best side on the Bernina Express for the rest of the trip. 😉

I wouldn’t fret too much. Bear in mind that at any one time only half the passengers are on the ”preferred” side. The big windows and spacious 1st Class help make the views accessible to all. On the BEX when we approached the Landwasser everyone on the left got up and moved to the right to peer out the windows for the 2 minutes it took to traverse the bridge.

Good call on the catering.

Last modified on Jun 7, 2019 - 11:00 PM by rockoyster
Annika
Annika
6002 posts
expert &
moderator
Jun 8, 2019 - 6:50 AM in reply to Meemskirk

Hi Meemskirk, thanks for your tips! It seems like it's been quite a challenge to arrange for your seat reservations, but I'm happy it all worked out in the end. Now let's hope you'll enjoy the ride!

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