1 month train holiday in Switzerland

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62 posts
active member
Apr 27, 2018 - 9:06 AM

I last visited Switzerland from England in 2012, a week's organised rail holiday with the excellent Great Rail Journeys company, and it made such an indelible impression on me that I have wanted to return ever since. Your forum was so helpful too - not only in answering my own queries but in giving a general impression through so many other conversations.

So this year I'm looking forward to a megatrip from mid-May to mid-June, starting with a one-week similar GRJ organised rail holiday based in Chur and Kandersteg, but unusually asking to be abandoned in Switzerland (!) so I can begin a three week Interrail global pass. Though I'll make occasional forays with my pass into Italy (so I can investigate the Bernina line south of Alp Grum especially), The Arlberg area of Austria, and Bonn and Lille on the way home, most of my holiday will be a railway feast in Switzerland. I've booked to stay for a few days each in Appenzell, Gstaad, Martigny, la Chaux-de-Fonds and Leissigen near Spiez. so should see plenty of variety, in landscape, cultures and narrow gauge railways!

The planning has not been without its difficulties - my return home was to be through northern France, on exactly the two days that are SNCF strikes, so now I'm going via Germany and Belgium. And I've just learned that the Centovalli line will be closed - such a pity. But I won't be short of alternatives!

A few queries, please

1 In England we have 'cashback' at supermarkets - where you can ask for handy cash as well as goods on a single card payment. Does this system operate in Switzerland too?

2 what is the website for checking out last minute train delays, obstructions, late running and so on? Not that I expect much of that.

3 I've found it a little confusing reading about Interrail free travel on the Golden Valley, Glacier Express and Bernina line routes. Am I right in thinking that all trains on these routes have ordinary seating in some proportion where supplements and reservations are not required (therefore free with my pass), or are some trains definitely not available at all with this concession?

I'd like to write up my trip for the forum later this year. At long last, at 71, I am having my 'Gap month'!

679 posts
top member
Apr 28, 2018 - 2:54 AM

Hi John,

Is this any help for your second question ? www.sbb.ch/en/timetabl e/rail-traffic-information.html

9870 posts
expert &
Apr 28, 2018 - 3:04 AM in reply to JohnYorks

Hi John,

Sounds like a great trip!

  1. No, I haven't come across cash back at the tills ever here. It is super handy in Canada as well!
  2. I'd download the SBB(Swiss railways) app. It will be very up to date for you. Are you planning on having internet access while traveling? A SIM card or WiFi hotspot?
  3. Sometimes there are regular carriages attached to the Bernina or Glacier Express trains but there are also a lot of regional trains running all day on those lines that don't require a reservation. Reservations are not needed on the Golden Pass route (not Golden Valley). There is currently construction on that line until June 1 so if you can plan to do it after that it would be best (it is a 10km section where you take a bus, so not the end of the world if you travel in May either).
4072 posts
Apr 28, 2018 - 3:07 AM in reply to JohnYorks

Reservations are only compulsory on the actual Glacier Express and Bernina Express trains but you can follow the same routes on regular trains with no reservation. If you plan to go from Lugano to Tirano the BEX bus requires reservation.

The SBB mobile app is very handy for timetable checks on the fly and of course the SBB timetable.

62 posts
active member
Apr 29, 2018 - 9:15 AM in reply to Peterli

Many thanks to Peterli, Lucas and rockoyster - so helpful.

Yes, I've got the SBB app and 4G capability on my tablet. It's very useful. I also use the Interrail planner, which is very good for train times anywhere in Europe, though for some reason it doesn't recognise every line, and it doesn't offer up to date alterations to services, etc.


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