How to travel in Switzerland by car or by trains?

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Posts: 13
Navs
Navs
4 posts
new member
Jan 7, 2019 - 5:43 PM

Hello,

We are planning a trip to Switzerland in 1st week of July for 10-11 days. We are a family of 4 including 5 year old twins.

Our itinerary is zurich (Rhine falls) - lucerne (City tour)- 3 days interlaken(Lauterbrunnen)(Jungfraujoch, Trummelbach falls, Heidi Klum etc)- Lugano(we wont stay at Lugano, just visit swiss miniatur) - Lake Como (stay for 2 nights)- Zurich.

1. I did a lot of research and am still confused if I should self drive a car or take the trains?

Which would be cheaper?

2. Is driving easy in Switzerland in terms of roads, directions etc?

3. If I decide to travel by train then will buying a Swiss Rail pass give me access to trains between all these towns? (I know Lake Como will not be included).

4. Will an 8 days consecutive Swiss Rail pass be better or half fare card?

Any other suggestion?

Thank you.

rockoyster
rockoyster
4290 posts
expert
Jan 7, 2019 - 8:12 PM in reply to Navs

Hello Navs and Welcome to MySwissAlps

The Swiss public transport network is second to none. Travelling around by train in Switzerland is one of the great pleasures of visiting the country. A very relaxing form of transport allowing everyone to enjoy the scenery.

Suggest you read www.myswissalps.com/ca rversustrain.

A clearly mapped out itinerary will provide you with the basis for deciding which pass (if any) suits. A good way to visualise this is using the Swiss Travel Pass Area of Validity map ( PDF downloadable from www.myswissalps.com/sw isstravelpass/validity).

Using your itinerary you need to do the sums based on the cost of all your planned trips on trains, boats, cable cars etc. You can find the fares for any trip using the SBB Timetable (www.myswissalps.com/ti metable). If you are not familiar with the timetable it will pay to first read the instructions on that page.

When you go to buy a ticket the fare you see on the right hand side of the page will normally be the half-fare price. Double it to get full fare.

You should read “How to choose the best travel pass” (www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/ticketspasses/prac tical/chooserailpass), download the handy spreadsheet calculator and do the math.

Last modified on Jan 7, 2019 - 8:15 PM by rockoyster
1960man
1960man
949 posts
top member
Jan 8, 2019 - 12:31 AM in reply to Navs

If you are intent on doing just the 'cliched/tourist trap' destinations in your list, then train would be better

However, driving in Switzerland is pleasurable too, with fine and well engineered roads.

The big benefit of a car would be the chance to go into 'ordinary/real' Swiss country side away from the 'tourist trap' locations, and / or drive up the many famous mountain pass roads to see stunning scenery.

Based on the above advice it is up to you to choose. I've been travelling round Switzerland regularly for 58 years by both car and train.

Attached is a example picture (taken by me in August 2018) of somewhere easily accesible by car but not easy to reach by public transport

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Arno
Arno
11823 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 8, 2019 - 4:58 AM in reply to 1960man

I'd rather say popular destinations :-)

There are places where cars can't go and places where a car is the only viable way. For most itineraries, including the proposed one, the train system is the best option in my opinion. Perhaps renting a car once in Italy would be useful.

Navs
Navs
4 posts
new member
Jan 8, 2019 - 12:32 PM in reply to rockoyster

Dear Rockoyster,

Thank you for the reply. I will try your suggestion. But I am looking for basic information about which is cheaper and convenient. But will definitely try to research on individual costs and compare.

Navs
Navs
4 posts
new member
Jan 8, 2019 - 12:39 PM in reply to 1960man

Dear 1960man,

The picture is beautiful. Would love to visit this place. Could you give me the location please. I am not very fond of cliched sightseeing but these are places we cannot miss as we have kids with us as well. We also have limited number of days and would like to cover as much as we can. For non cliched places, we will do another trip :-) I was more inclined towards car precisely for the reason that I could explore some non touristy places and stop at places that we wont be able to otherwise on a train. Many people told me its not very convenient to drive in Switzerland as roads are very narrow, traffic jam, parking problem, roads are closed anytime etc. We prefer self drive wherever we travel. Also we are thinking we would need a car to go from the hotel to the main tourist attraction points or to travel locally as buses have a schedule and it might be difficult for us (with kids) to follow the schedule. Just thinking aloud. Any suggestion?

Thank you.

Navs
Navs
4 posts
new member
Jan 8, 2019 - 12:42 PM in reply to Arno

Dear Arno,

Thanks. Still very confused about car or train. Can someone tell me cost wise will car be cheaper or train? And what about public transport from stations to hotel? and to travel locally within the town?

Arno
Arno
11823 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 8, 2019 - 12:54 PM in reply to Navs

Hi Navs,

There is no generic rule for car vs train costs unfortunately. It depends on your itinerary and travel style (luxurious car, 1st or 2nd class on the trains, etc.). If you study the below sections of our website you'll find a lot of information to help you choose the mode of travel.

Our general advice is to travel by train unless the itinerary clearly requires a car, which sometimes it can. Swiss trains are an experience in itself, wonderful for kids, safe, eco-friendly and allow everyone to watch the scenery rather than the road and the traffic. Trains (and buses, cable cars) stop in virtually every village in the country and sometimes that is the only way to reach them as they don't allow cars (Zermatt, Mürren and Wengen to name a few).

So there is no need to stick to only busier/popular attractions because you don't have a car. Most Swiss towns are very small and you'd simply walk from the train station to the hotel in minutes. All our town pages have suggested hotels with information on how to get to the train station.

Last modified on Jan 8, 2019 - 1:28 PM by Lucas
Gunzel
Gunzel
179 posts
active member
Jan 8, 2019 - 7:57 PM

I can appreciate that visitors from places where the car culture is dominant (such as Australia where I live) may not realise how good the Swiss public transport really is.

Travelling with a young family would be enjoyable ( I did it with an eight year old and a five year old in 1989) but whatever mode is used there would, of course, be the occasional stressful times.

Preparation for a holiday in Switzerland is an important part of the enjoyment. There are local or postal buses that go to most of the smaller villages. Places that are rarely mentioned on this forum. I could imagine it would be quite unusual for an international tourist to want to visit a place that can't be accessed by public transport.

The final choice remains with the participants, of course, but I would suggest looking at the detailed pages of the Swiss timetable to become fully familiar with the public transport options to the places that you want to visit.

Gunzel (Australia)

Gigi
Gigi
3 posts
new member
Jan 8, 2019 - 9:15 PM

We are pondering this question too. We want to combine a trip to Switzerland with a trip to Northern Italy and Tuscany, but our (already ticketed flights are in/out of Zurich). Our preference for a car is because we love a road trip, the freedom to stop and take an interesting path, not having to drag luggage from train station to train station. We definitely want to take the Bernina Express, explore the Bernese Oberland and maybe some of the Swiss/French alps. 2-4 nights in each base. However, the cost of returning the car to a different area is as much as the 15 day rental itself. I'm now thinking of reversing the route, including the Bernina Express portion at the beginning of the trip (buying the 29 euro ticket from Germany for that), renting the car for Tuscany only, returning to trains for Cinque Terre on up to Geneva, then doing our Bernese Oberland portion before departing from Zurich. Has anyone done that type of trip?

rockoyster
rockoyster
4290 posts
expert
Jan 8, 2019 - 9:23 PM in reply to Gigi

Hello Gigi and Welcome to MySwissAlps,

You will get a better response to your specific itinerary enquiry if you start a new thread. For what it’s worth I’d recommend trains in Switzerland. Your latest thinking seems sound.

Maybe have a look at www.myswissalps.com/re gionalpassberneseoberl and and don’t forget you will need a reservation on the Bernina Express (www.myswissalps.com/be rninaexpress).

Gigi
Gigi
3 posts
new member
Jan 8, 2019 - 9:45 PM in reply to rockoyster

Thanks, I will do that!

1960man
1960man
949 posts
top member
Jan 9, 2019 - 12:37 AM in reply to Navs

The picture is beautiful. Would love to visit this place. Could you give me the location please.

The location of the photo is Steingletscher (Stein Glacier) on the Susten Pass which links Meiringen (Berner Oberland) to Wassen (on the Gotthard route). It is take from beside my car

Many people told me its not very convenient to drive in Switzerland as roads are very narrow, traffic jam, parking problem, roads are closed anytime etc.

To put it bluntly, that's rubbish!

Swiss roads are some of the best engineered in the world with fine road surfaces. Obviously there are always going to be a few exceptions to cause some of the instances cited (eg winter pass road closures due to snow, roadworks, roads being rebuilt to even better standards) but there is certainly plenty of well managed parking provision

Here are some more of my photos showing roads

IMG 8125 shows road and railway together - this is no longer a main road (motorway nearby) but is still perfectly good. My car can be seen parked in a layby next to the railway

IMG7808 shows a road (again no longer the main road as a new road in tunnel bypasses it) - even squeezed in by a lake it is perfectly fine

IMG 8248 shows the Oberalp Pass road - well engineered

Last modified on Jan 9, 2019 - 12:42 AM by 1960man
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