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Lucerne to Pilatus: route & rail pass

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Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 11:31 AM

Hi All-

We will be arrive in Lucerne on 28 March for one day and night. We'd like to visit Mt. Pilatus. I see the cogwheel isn't operating during our time so I'm wondering about other options to get there (can we take the cable car up and down instead?) I'm debating the saver day pass. We will be traveling from Basel to Lucerne that morning and I see the boats are also included- not sure if the gondola or the cable car are but doubt it. What is the best and most economical route to do this given the time of year we will be there.

The route

A full round trip from Lucerne would consist of the 5 sections mentioned below. Of course the order can be reversed, and sections can be traveled separately.

Section 1: by train or boat from the rail station in Lucerne to Alpnachstad;

Section 2: by cogwheel train to the peak of Mount Pilatus;

Section 3: by cable car down to Fräkmüntegg;

Section 4: by gondola down to Kriens;

Section 5: by bus back to the rail station of Lucerne

Also, it is worth trying to see Rigi in the same day? We do want time to explore Lucerne and Old town and will be heading to Zermatt the next day so my guess is that we need to choose one over the other.

Thank you in advance for your help. Just feeling a little overwhelmed with the planning. If saver day pass doesn't include gondola or cable car- is it better to pick one and buy a round trip ticket or should we do both?

Jeanna

Rail Europe
Ildiko
Ildiko
1018 posts
top member &
moderator
Jan 29, 2020 - 1:12 PM in reply to Jcole77

Hi Jeanna,

that is correct, the cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to the top operates from early or mid May to 15 November 2020. But you can use the cable car from Kriens to the top and back. Saver Day Pass does not include this cableway, but the bus from Lucerne to Kriens will be for free. Boat trips on Lake Lucerne (www.myswissalps.com/boatlakelucerne) are also for free and there will be just a limited schedule during your stay, but they operate. (Validity map of the Saver Day Pass: www.myswissalps.com/saverdaypass/validity.) More information about getting to Pilatus can be found at www.myswissalps.com/pilatus/gettingthere.

You can visit Pilatus and Rigi in one day, if you do not mind the long day, but it depends on when you arrive in Lucerne. Both trips (Rigi and Pilatus) takes around half a day. You might find this page helpful: www.myswissalps.com/forum/topic/mount-pillatus-and-rigi-in-one-day. If you arrive in Lucerne not in the early hours, I suggest to skip Rigi and visit Lucerne old town (www.myswissalps.com/lucerne)

Also do not forget that daylight is shorter in March, although it is not as bad as in the winter: www.timeanddate.com/sun/switzerland/lucerne.

Ildiko

Also see:

Last modified on Jan 29, 2020 - 7:06 PM by Ildiko
Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 1:32 PM in reply to Ildiko

Thank you lldiko for your reply. Is it worth buying the saver day pass for this day or cheaper just to pay individually? I can price it out but thought if you knew off the top of your head, that would save me some additional time researching. What about the gondola- should we take that one way and the cable car another way? As for Rigi- since we are going to Zermatt- maybe we should just spend the rest of the day in Old towne and plan to have dinner there. I do love exploring the towns/villages and don’t want to miss that opportunity. We will be arriving in the morning from Colmar (dropping car off in Basel at the train station and then training to Lucerne.) We are staying at the Cascada hotel - hopefully that was a good choice?!

Thank you again for any further help/advice. I’m assuming a 2nd class ticket is fine if we purchase the saver day pass?

CabinJon
CabinJon
158 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 4:13 PM in reply to Jcole77

If you go to Pilatus now there is only one way up & down, via the gondola/cable car. These are not two alternate methods, one connects to the other about 2/3 of the way up, in sequence. If you spend the time at Pilatus, skip Rigi and walk through old town Luzern, stop for lunch/dinner, and enjoy the area. It begins only about one block from the train station/bus stops/boat docks, so easily accessible. For dinner in Old Town, I recommend either the Rathaus Brauerei along the river near the Chapel Bridge or Restaurant Fritschi about one block in.

Can't help with the saver pass cost calculations, we used a Swiss Travel Pass when we visited.

Have a great time!

Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 4:24 PM in reply to CabinJon

Thank you! I will check out the restaurant recommendations and we have decided to skip Rigi and just to Mt. Pilatus.

CabinJon
CabinJon
158 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 4:41 PM in reply to Jcole77

Sorry, I put the word "now" in my first sentence. I realize you're not going "now." But the advice applies any time the cogwheel train from Alpnachstad isn't running. We stayed in Luzern during our trip, and caught the bus to Kriens just across the street from the train station. It is a 12-15 minute uphill walk from the Kriens bus stop to the base of the gondola/cable car station, but not all that steep.

Check the weather cams before you decide to go. Last year Luzern itself was in drizzly overcast conditions but the top of Pilatus was in brilliant sunshine, so we went. Pilatus has limited walking at top, but more infrastructure and amenities than the top of Rigi. There is a semi-hidden tunnel walk around the top too, and a large outdoor plaza for refreshments if the weather is nice.

Ildiko
Ildiko
1018 posts
top member &
moderator
Jan 29, 2020 - 7:22 PM

Hi Jeanna,

sorry if I wasn't clear enough, there is only one way to get to Pilatus on your travel date: via the cable car from Kriens. You can check the prices in the timetable at www.myswissalps.com/timetable. From Lucerne to Pilatus it cost around 40 CHF (one way per adult) if you have no pass, no discount.

Saver Day Pass is from around 50 CHF and if you buy it later it will be more expensive. With the Saver Day Pass you can get from Lucerne to Kriens for free but you need to pay the ticket from Kriens to Pilatus. According to the timetable from Kriens to Pilatus it costs around 35 CHF. So seeing these numbers it doesn't worth to buy the Saver Day Pass for you.

But you mentioned that you are arriving to Lucerne on the same day. Where are you coming from and how? If it is by train likely you can use your Saver Day Pass there too.

To calculate your travel costs I highly recommend to use the spreadsheet from this page: www.myswissalps.com/train/ticketspasses/practical/chooserailpass. It also helps you to choose the best rail pass for your holiday.

Ildiko

Last modified on Jan 30, 2020 - 6:44 PM by Ildiko
Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 8:12 PM in reply to Ildiko

Wow!!!! This is great information- thank you so much! We will be dropping a rental car off on the French side of the Basel train station and then will take the train from Basel to Lucerne. Drop our bags off at the hotel and then head on to see Mt. Pilatus. I’m guessing between the train to Lucerne, the bus to Kriens and then the boat ride??? on Lake Lucerne back to Old town we will get our moneys worth out of the saver day pass (even if we have to pay for the Kriens to Pilatus transfer.) Would you agree? I definitely want to take a boat ride- am I correct that we would do this on our return instead of the bus?

Ildiko
Ildiko
1018 posts
top member &
moderator
Jan 29, 2020 - 8:33 PM in reply to Jcole77

Great that you decided to leave the car and visit Switzerland by train. This is the best option to travel around the country.

Unfortunately the boat ride is an option to Alpnachstad and not to Kriens. If you want to take a boat ride on Lake Lucerne then you need to do it separately.

The full price of the Basel-Lucerne trip is around 34 CHF per adult, so if you are also taking a boat trip and the bus to Kriens then it worth to buy the Saver Day Pass. Your other option is the SuperSaver Ticket from Basel to Lucerne, but you need to take care of it: if you miss the chosen train, you need to get new tickets, while with the Saver Day Pass you can travel whenever you want on the chosen day.

Learn more about the SuperSaver ticket at www.myswissalps.com/traintickets/switzerland.

Last modified on Jan 31, 2020 - 9:13 AM by Anna
Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 8:43 PM in reply to Ildiko

Ha! I was actually just on the sbb site and saw supersaver tickets and wondered what the difference was between that and the saver day. I looked at the schedule but didn’t see anything glaringly obvious on what was a supersaver ticket. Also, on the boat ride- I guess I assumed that the boat was just another option to get you to Mt. Pilatus but Im assuming that’s only when the cogwheel is running? So would you recommend a separate boat ride on the lake? Either way, I’m thinking it makes sense to get the saver day pass since we will be training and using the bus? If there is a supersaver ticket- we have to book that in advance and only go at that time and route correct?

On something unrelated to Pilatus, when traveling the next day from Lucerne to Zermatt- what stations should I be looking at and do we need to get a first class pass or second class? Are there things in Zermatt we can use the saver day pass for other than just the ride there? Is there a certain route we should choose that’s more scenic than another?

Sorry for all the questions!!

jeanna

Ildiko
Ildiko
1018 posts
top member &
moderator
Jan 29, 2020 - 9:33 PM in reply to Jcole77

Do not apologize for the questions, we are here to help and we do it gladly. :)

Yes, if the cogwheel from Alpnachstad is not operating there is no point to get there by boat. Have you seen www.myswissalps.com/boatlakelucerne/gettingthere? If you scroll down, you'll see a link under "More on other websites" to the timetable of the boats. You can plan a boat trip using it.

Usually I travel on 2nd class, you can read about the differences between first and second class at www.myswissalps.com/train/practical/2nd1stclass.

For the validity of the Saver Day Pass around Zermatt visit www.myswissalps.com/saverdaypass/validity. Usually there is no discount with the Saver Day Pass for the mountain trips.

From Lucerne to Zermatt try to avoid the Lötschberg-Basistunnel for a longer but also more scenic route. Use Kandersteg and Brig as via-stations.

Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 29, 2020 - 11:37 PM in reply to Ildiko

Great! I’ll check these links out and purchase 2nd class tickets. I was only planning to buy first class from zermatt to St Moritz since I booked a first class ticket on the glacier express (8’hours is a long time- I preferred the one on one searing for that train) - for the others, I’m completely fine to do the second class seating. I’ve been on European trains before and find them roomy and comfortable so no worries there. I’m also not planning on doing the Bernina Express from st moritz to Tirano since regional trains run the same route and figured For just that one leg of the journey- it would be cheaper to buy the ticket instead of the saver pass. The rest of the journey to Florence will be on Italian trains- if I’m wrong on this- please advise. I love this forum and can’t thank you enough for all your help!!!

While I’m full of questions- I’m wondering what your thoughts are on another town close to Zurich? I may have to fly in a day ahead of my husband and I’m not really a big “city” girl but prefer quaint towns instead. If I do go early, I’d have to fly into Zurich as my points won’t allow me to fly into Basel with him. Should I train somewhere for the night and sightsee or stay in Zurich? I need to meet him at the Basel airport to following afternoon so need to stay within an hour or two of Basel. Recommendations?

Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 30, 2020 - 12:07 PM in reply to Ildiko

I've been on the website for the train to zermatt from Lucerne and I'm confused on routes and pricing. We will be traveling one way so I'm not exactly clear on if we need to buy a saver day pass or just pain one way train fare? It looks like when I put in the Lucerne to zermatt- the fastest way is to go via Geneve (3hr, 14 min) and Olten is 3hr. 46 min)- you mentioned Kandersteg or Brig but when I put that in it's about an hour longer. Can you tell me exactly what the best route is to take on Sunday, 29 March and the cost one way so I can see if it's better to buy the direct train or the saver day pass? Thank you so much!

Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 30, 2020 - 12:22 PM in reply to Ildiko

So it looks like I can get a supersaver ticket from Basel to Lucerne for 34CHF total (for both of us)- I'm guessing maybe this is the better way to go instead of the saver day pass and then just pay for the Kriens to Pilatus transfer? I'm not sure how much that would be but it's hard to justify 140chf for a saver day pass if we can see what we want to see and pay less if we just buy direct- right? Would you recommend a boat tour in late March or should we skip that?

Jeanna

CabinJon
CabinJon
158 posts
active member
Jan 30, 2020 - 6:16 PM in reply to Jcole77

The cost for the bus from the Luzern train station to Kriens, then the cable car/gondola to Pilatus is CHF 39.60 per person roundtrip (that's the 1/2 fare price shown by default in the SBB website, so double it). Going to mountaintops isn't cheap, worth it but not cheap.

On some of your previous questions relative to flying into Zurich one day early:

1. Since you have to be in Basel the following afternoon, you could simply take a train from the Zurich airport to Basel, about 1h 30m depending on which train you take. I've never been to Basel, so have no opinions on it. It may offer intriguing sightseeing opportunities aligned with your interests, or it may not.

2. You could simply stay in Zurich the first night, and tour the Old Town section, in easy walking distance from the train station. Although you are in the city, the Old Town section seems like an island of calm, and the walks along the river are pleasant. I've found Zurich in general, while an active city, does not overwhelm visitors with the crowded, frantic Big City pace found elsewhere. We spent our first afternoon in Zurich taking an afternoon boat ride to Rapperswil (~2 hours) then catching a train back to Zurich (~48 minutes). The boat ride was enjoyable in the sunshine, but wouldn't be very special in worse weather. We did the Old Town tour the morning before we left for Luzern. Plenty of options to spend an afternoon or morning in Zurich. Zurich is roughly one hour from Basel by train.

3. You could take a train from the airport to Luzern (~1h 10m), and spend the rest of the day touring Old Town Luzern. It is equally as interesting as the Old Town section of Zurich but different, and is located next to another river. Luzern is smaller than Zurich, and quite walkable. It is a relaxed city too. We enjoyed several boat rides on Lake Luzern, and found it much more scenic and interesting than Lake Zurich. I'm not sure what the boat schedules are at the end of March, but in late fall the boats run regularly and often (there are multiple boats running on the lake at the same time, with frequent stops at small towns along the way). We enjoyed short boat rides in both good and bad weather; Lake Luzern is much more scenic than Lake Zurich. Luzern is also fairly close to Basel, between 1 hour and 1h 27m away depending on which train you take.

The Old Town sections of both Zurich and Luzern as about as "quaint" as any part of a city could be, and basically begin within a block or two of the main train stations, making it very convenient to visit either. I'm not a fan of cities myself, but thoroughly enjoyed each one. Your pace automatically slows down as you begin to really look at the details of the various buildings while meandering through the narrow cobblestone streets and small plazas, finding little hidden parks, tuning out the shops selling tourist souvenirs and focusing on local culture instead.

Ildiko
Ildiko
1018 posts
top member &
moderator
Jan 30, 2020 - 7:06 PM in reply to Jcole77

Hi Jeanna,

28. March

To tell if the Supersaver ticket is better or the Saver Day Pass, first you should finalize your plans. At this moment I can see a Supersaver Ticket for 17,2 CHF per person from Basel to Lucerne. Then you need to pay around 80-85 CHF to get to Pilatus and back to Lucerne. This makes a total of around 100 CHF per person.

If you get the Saver Day Pass than you can travel whenever you want on that day from Basel to Lucerne and no problem if you miss a train. You travel for free from Lucerne to Kriens. But you need to pay from Kriens to Pilatus and back. This cost 72 CHF. At this moment I can see a Saver Day Pass from 69 CHF, so it makes together 141 CHF per person. So this is more expensive.

If the weather is nice, then a boat trip on Lake Lucerne is amazing. If it is raining than not so much, just some clouds are not a big problem. If you have the Saver Day Pass you can ride for free on the boats.

As you do not know how the weather will be I recommend the first option, the one with the Supersaver ticket. But then you should buy the Supersaver ticket soon from Basel to Lucerne or it will be more expensive. You can buy it at www.myswissalps.com/traintickets/switzerland/price.

29. March

From Lucerne to Zermatt there are no direct trains, you can choose from these 2 options:

  1. If you want to travel on the fastest train, then just simply search for in in the timetable. This will go via the Lötscherberg tunnel. It is not going via Geneva, it is just saying that the first train goes in that direction. I know, it is a bit confusing. It takes 3 hours 14 mins to get there.
  2. Or you can travel via Kandersteg and skip the tunnel. Then you'll see a much nicer landscape but it will take longer: 4 hours 51 mins.

As the timetable is so clever it will automatically offer you to buy the Saver Day Pass for this trip as it will be cheaper than a ticket. At this moment it cost around 70 CHF: www.myswissalps.com/saverdaypass/price. You need to get this in advance too, as it might run out or get more expensive. But with the Saver Day Pass you can travel whenever you want on that day: www.myswissalps.com/saverdaypass/howtouse.

What are you going to do in Zermatt? Are you going to visit any mountain top, like Klein Matterhorn (www.myswissalps.com/kleinmatterhorn/gettingthere) or Gornergrat (www.myswissalps.com/gornergrat/gettingthere)?

If you are going also from Zermatt to St Moritz and then to Florence via Tirano, you actually should consider a Swiss Travel Pass. Could you write me down your whole itinerary please?

You can get a 3 days Swiss Travel Pass for 230 CHF and that includes more than the Saver Day Pass. You can see the validity map of the Swiss Travel Pass at www.myswissalps.com/swisstravelpass/validity. You can get with it for example 50% discount from Kriens to Pilatus.

A 4 day Swiss Travel Pass costs 279 CHF: www.myswissalps.com/swisstravelpass/price.

Ildiko

Also see:

Last modified on Jan 30, 2020 - 7:37 PM by Ildiko
Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 30, 2020 - 9:01 PM in reply to Ildiko

You are SO HELPFUl! I can’t thank you enough. Here is our itinerary.

*We will be driving from Colmar, France to Basel the morning of 3/28 and dropping our rental car off on French side of airport or train station- not sure- haven’t booked the car yet.

Saturday- March 28

Train or bus? to Lucerne from Basel. We’d like to visit Mt. Pilatus and enjoy a boat ride (if weather permits) then stroll Old Towne Lucerne and have dinner. Overnighting in Lucerne at the Cascada Hotel.

Sunday- March 29

Leave Lucerne early and train to Zermatt. We’d love to take in a scenic route IF it’s worth the extra train time. If we are better off to get to Zermatt quicker and take in the sights there (would love to visit either Matterhorn or Gorgergrat if weather permits- is one better to visit than another?) We’d like to also stroll around downtown Zermatt and take in the local sights. We will overnight at the Phoenix Hotel (we got a panoramic room with view of the Matterhorn ❤️.)

•Monday, March 30

Ride the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz (I reserved first class seats.) Overnight in St Moritz at the Swiss Quality Hotel.

•Tuesday, March 31

Take the Regional train?? from St Moritz to Tirano. (I didn’t reserve seats for the Bernina Express bc I think the regional trains run the same route and may give us more flexibility- is this right?) Once in Tirano- Id like to take the scenic train around Lake Como to Milan (maybe via Varenna??) and then from Milan to Firenze. I’m not sure how to buy the Italian train tickets or the best route if one I mentioned isn’t good or practical. We are somewhat flexible but would like to be in Florence by 5pm if possible.

(Overnight in Florence for a few days.)

Any and all help you can provide with specific trains, routes, passes, saver day tickets or regular tickets would be much appreciated. I’m a little overwhelmed with trying to find the best price and route for the trains - esp since I’ve never been. I don’t know what I don’t know. 😀

thank you!!!!

jeanna

Anna
Anna
941 posts
top member &
moderator
Jan 31, 2020 - 9:47 AM in reply to Jcole77

Hi Jeanna,

Your current plan looks feasible enough.

Saturday- March 28
Train or bus to Lucerne from Basel? I strongly recommend taking the train. Basel-Lucerne is about 1 hr to 1 hr 15 mins by train, there are two direct services every hour starting at 6.03am.

Sunday- March 29
If I have a tight schedule and have to pick between Gornergrat and Klein Matterhorn, I would pick Gornergrat for obvious reason. The Gornegrat train station is just a few minutes walk from the Zermatt train station.

Tuesday, March 31
St Moritz to Tirano by regional trains is fine as they run on the same route as the panoramic Bernina Express. You will have to switch trains a few times but that will also give ou the flexibility to hop on and hop off as you like. Please use the SBB timetable to plan your journeys. For your onward journey to Italy, you can check for train tickets here: www.myswissalps.com/traintickets/italy

Hope that helps.

Regards,

Anna

Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 31, 2020 - 10:56 AM in reply to Anna

Thanks Anna. This is my first trip to Switzerland so I appreciate all the help I can get on this forum. :) As for Basel to Lucerne, I assumed train but wasn't sure. I also am overwhelmed with trying to price out the best way to do this trip thru switzerland-- saver day passes vs regular tickets vs Swiss travel pass vs Tell Pass. I do have first class tickets not he Glacier express and would only need a first class pass for that day but upgrading it looks expensive so may be worth it just to do saver day passes and supersaver tickets where I can. I wasn't aware that the Goregrat was close to the train station- never visited Zermatt so that's good to know but my thinking is that this may be the only time I'm ever in that part of Switzerland so I definitely want to make the most of what little time I have there so if the Matterhorn is better, proximity won't matter too much to me. As for the train travel, I have looked at routes from Tirano to Florence (both Benina and regional trains and have read a lot from seat61.com) I'm just not really clear on when to pay for Italian trains vs where my Swiss train ticket (pass) would ends- assuming Tirano. I've been to Italy many times but never to the Northern end so I'm out of my element with that area but definitely want to see Lake Como. I am ready to go ahead and buy either a pass or a ticket(s) today tho so I can take advantage of the best pricing.

Jeanna

Jcole77
Jcole77
37 posts
active member
Jan 31, 2020 - 12:23 PM

So the way I understand it, if we divided the Swiss Travel pass by 3 days- its roughly 77CHF pp per day for 3 days.

For Lucerne Day: IF we trained from Basel to Lucerne, did Pilatus and a boat ride in Lucerne (weather permitting all things) then the day would be in excess of 120 CHF if we paid full fare (pass makes sense for this day.) I see that Rigi is included for free with the travel pass- would it be better to do this since it's included or pay the half price fare for Pilatus?

For Lucerne to Zermatt day: IF we trained and did the saver day pass, it would cost us 70CHF but then we would have to pay full price (I think its 97 CHF) to go up to Matterhorn. IF we had the travel pass, we would get that at half price so this day would also make sense for the travel pass (again, assuming the weather is good.)

For Zermatt to St. Moritz- we would have to UPGRADE our travel pass for this day to 1st class since we have first class reservations on the Glacier Express. I'm not sure if the Saver Day pass or the upgraded travel pass is cheaper bc I'm not clear on what the upgrade would cost us?

So this is where I'm at- do I take my chances on good weather and buy the Travel pass to include all travel and then discounted tickets to Matterhorn and Pilatus (or go for free to Rigi with pass) or do I pay for supersaver tickets where I can get them, Saver Day passes for Lucerne to Zermatt and Zermatt to St Moritz (2nd class for one day, first class for Glacier Express Day) and if weather permits, pay full price for the mountain excursions. Looks like I can get a supersaver fare for day we travel from St Moritz to Tirano for 17CHF. Anyone have any thoughts on this? SIGH.....So overwhelmed!

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