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Useful tips: Swiss railpass, weather, debit cards

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279 posts
top member
Sep 17, 2023 - 10:33 PM

We just got back from Switzerland yesterday and I wanted to share some info that may be useful.

In no particular order,

We bought the Half Fare Card before leaving Australia and then used it to buy a 6 day Berner Oberland Pass which we used extensively during our 7 day visit to Grindelwald. We used the Half Fare Card for the Jungfraubahn as it it got us a bigger discount than the BOP. We also used the Half Fare Card to buy the Peak Pass in Zermatt, although it only gets you 25% off that pass. Unless you are going to be taking multiple lifts everyday, I'm not sure the Peak pass is worth it. If you only intend to do the big 3 - Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn and the Rothorn, then I think you'd be better off just using the Half Fare Card. We did multiple trips, so I think we got our monies worth, but you have to use it a lot.

Weather. My experience in the Alps is that the weather can change quickly and vary by region. This trip was no different. We spent several days in Bern where the temperature got to 37C and lots of people were swimming in the Aare. We went to Zermatt on the 26th August and on the 28th, (still summer) the temperature dropped to -1c and it snowed in the village. Some of the higher walks we had planned, like walking up to the Hoernlihuette, became too hard and even conditions at the Gornergrat were difficult because of ice. But it was a hoot!

We used the Wise Debit card for most of our transactions. Switzerland has, for the most part, gone cashless and it worked well. It is supposed to be a contact card, but quite often that didn't work and you had to insert it and use a PIN. A number of places like street food vendors wouldn't take a card so it paid to ask first if you couldn't see a terminal and 1 shop would only take a Debit Card and not a Credit Card.

Last point. Not really important, but interesting, in Grindelwald I noticed a lot of car number plates with the prefix AI. Swiss number plates start with a 2 letter prefix that identifies the canton of registration. Grindelwald is in the Canton of Bern, so the plates there start with BE, but there were almost as many AI plates. I asked a local and he said they were all hire cars. It's cheaper for car rental companies to register their fleets in Appenzell than Bern, and a lot of people hire cars to visit Grindelwald.

Hope this helps ,


177 posts
active member
Sep 18, 2023 - 12:48 AM

Thank you for sharing your insights. Sorry that you weren't able to hike up to the Hornlihütte, but hope that experiencing the early snow in Zermatt, made up for it.

5691 posts
expert &
Sep 18, 2023 - 8:41 AM in reply to AlanPrice

Hi AlanPrice,

I hope you enjoyed your trip despite having to cancel your plan in Zermatt due to poor weather.

These are all great tips. Thanks for sharing! Didn't think anyone would notice the AI plate numbers, you certainly have a good eye.



7350 posts
expert &
Sep 19, 2023 - 1:35 PM in reply to AlanPrice

Thanks for sharing your tips Alan! They're helpful indeed. I hope you had a wonderful time. The variations in weather must have provided you with great diversity!


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