Questions about train travel in Switzerland

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srdebnath
srdebnath
46 posts
active member
Mar 10, 2018 - 12:33 AM

Hello helping friends, can you please answer to the following queries please ?

1) We will be using the Swiss public transportation system quite a lot and several times we will have to catch connecting trains. With a time lag of only a few minutes between the two trains, we have to change platforms and wait at the right spot to board the next train (we will be travelling 2nd class). This is where we are feeling a bit uncomfortable as we do not want to miss the connecting train as that would completely jeopardize our travel plans. We have no idea how big the stations are and how easy or how difficult it would be to change platforms within that time. I know the Swiss time table indicates track numbers, but not sure if that is correct all the time. We will have a very hectic day when we will travel from Interlaken to Zermatt early in the morning, ride Glacier Express all the way from Zermatt to St Moritz, and then return to Lucerne – all on the same day. GEX tickets, hotels are all booked accordingly. Also, we will have to take an early morning train from Lucerne to Zurich Airport on the day we return as our flight leaves at around 9am. Hence we must ensure that we do not miss any connecting train. Do you have any tips to offer that would make us feel confident and we will not miss the connecting train ?

2) When we are travelling by cable car or bus, and buying tickets on the spot, do we need to have exact change in CHF to pay for the fare ? If we have to pay cash (if credit card is not accepted), will the machine or the bus driver return the change if we do not have the exact fare ? Also will the half fare be applicable even for short bus rides and boat rides in Lucerne ?

3) If we have a ticket from one destination to another, can we get off at any of the stops in between, spend some time there and then board another train towards the destination ?

4) Two of us will be travelling and we already purchased our Half Fare Cards although our travel date is a month away. We would like to buy the train/bus/boat tickets online in advance for the routes that we must stick to (for Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch, we can wait until that day to buy the tickets as you advised). Should be buy two individual train tickets online or one ticket for the two of us ?

5) When I was exploring the options of buying tickets on SBB website, I found a % sign in a black triangle at the top left corner for some of the connections. Couldn't figure out what they were for. I only found that the fare for those connections were considerably more than the others.

6) What are the differences among different train types - IC, EC, IR etc ?

7) Schilthorn Piz Gloria website also offers tickets between various locations and Schilthorn. Would they be different in any way than the ones I can buy on SBB or STC website ?

Thanks !

rockoyster
rockoyster
4022 posts
expert
Mar 10, 2018 - 5:30 AM in reply to srdebnath

I'll tackle some of the easier ones (i.e the ones where I have practical experience).

1. The Swiss Railway Timetable will always default to giving you the fastest route. The connections that appear on that route are theoretically workable otherwise they wouldn't offer that connection. The only station that is very large and complex is really Zurich. Anywhere else you should have no trouble making connections. Having said that delays sometimes occur as they do in airplane travel or any other form of travel. The Swiss Public Transport system is incredibly efficient and runs like clockwork but problems can arise. This is infrequent. If you are worried about any particular connection you can always build in some slack by taking an earlier connecting train. In the timetable advanced search there is an option to adjust the minimum time you want to have between connections. The only two times I experienced a late train in almost 4 weeks in Switzerland were once at Konstanz. The train driver had to stop several hundred meters from the platform to guide a duck and it's duckings off the track. The delay was 5 minutes. On another occasion when travelling from Lucerne to St Gallen on the Voralpen Express the train left almost 15 minutes late but by the time it reached halfway to St Gallen was back on schedule.

3. Yes.

5. "a % sign in a black triangle at the top left corner for some of the connections" indicates a Supersaver. If it shows the fares are MORE expensive then you are doing something wrong. Supersaver Fares are always cheaper than regular fares as they designed to save you money. BUT BEWARE - a Supersaver Ticket must be used on a specific journey departing and arriving at a particular time. If you miss that train you'll need to buy another ticket.

6. See www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/practical/traintyp es

Removed user
Removed user
0 posts
new member
Mar 10, 2018 - 7:48 AM in reply to srdebnath

>> We have no idea how big the stations are and how easy or how difficult it would be to change platforms within that time.

For the bigger stations, you can get maps of the station and platform layout:

www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/railway-stations.html

Under the heading Equipment and mobility at the station, you can confirm whether there is step-free access to platforms (lift/ramp). I would expect that all stations at which you will need to transfer will have a ramp at the very least, so you won't have to contend with steps to slow you down when travelling with luggage.

You can also see where steps, ramps (and lifts/escalators if available) are located along the platform, which is divided up into segments denoted by letters of the alphabet on a blue-and-white sign overhead.

>> Also, we will have to take an early morning train from Lucerne to Zurich Airport on the day we return as our flight leaves at around 9am. Hence we must ensure that we do not miss any connecting train. Do you have any tips to offer that would make us feel confident and we will not miss the connecting train ?

I would get a direct train from Luzern to Zürich Flughafen (Zürich Airport), avoiding any transfer at Zürich Hauptbahnhof (Zürich main station). Zürich is a big and busy station, and I often get a bit disoriented in the underground areas there, despite having been through it many, many times.

>> 2) When we are travelling by cable car or bus, and buying tickets on the spot, do we need to have exact change in CHF to pay for the fare ?

You can usually pay for cable cars by credit card. You don't need exact change for bus fares if buying from the driver, but carry CHF 5 coins or small denomination notes as a courtesy.

>> If we have to pay cash (if credit card is not accepted), will the machine or the bus driver return the change if we do not have the exact fare ?

Yes, but carry small denominations as a courtesy.

>> Also will the half fare be applicable even for short bus rides and boat rides in Lucerne ?

No. For short, inexpensive rides, the fare will usually be a bit more than half-fare.

>> Should be buy two individual train tickets online or one ticket for the two of us ?

I don't know whether you can put two people on one ticket, but I would avoid doing that anyway. It's better for each person to carry their own ticket (and passport etc) in case of loss, theft, or getting accidentally separated.

>> 7) Schilthorn Piz Gloria website also offers tickets between various locations and Schilthorn. Would they be different in any way than the ones I can buy on SBB or STC website ?

I wouldn't think so. Can you be more specific about what tickets you are referring to?

Alpenrose

Last modified on Mar 10, 2018 - 7:50 AM by Removed user
Lucas
Lucas
9609 posts
expert &
moderator
Mar 10, 2018 - 8:25 AM in reply to srdebnath

Hi srdebnath,

A few quick comments that I think haven't been answered by our other experts. :)

  1. Get the Swiss railways app for your phone (assuming you get a wifi device or sim card). The SBB app will give you up to date details on your connections and will tell you if the platform has been changed (just refresh the timetable connection from time to time). Platform numbers or scheduled times will go red in colour if they change.
  2. The only time you would have to pay cash is with a bus driver - otherwise there is an office or machine which I've so far always seen accept credit cards. Try to keep change for buses as Alpenrose notes. The Swiss Half Fare Card gives you a discount on short rides yes, but not 50%.... usually 30-40%. Couldn't tell you why. :)

5. The % sign tickets should be cheaper. You'll want to check that again

Last modified on Mar 11, 2018 - 1:04 PM by Arno
srdebnath
srdebnath
46 posts
active member
Mar 12, 2018 - 12:24 AM

Thank you rockoyster, Alpenrose666 and Lucas.

I am having issues with buying train tickets online. Although it shows a % sign in a black triangle at the top left corner and also showing a reduced fare when I am clicking on the two red boxes at the right end of the line, when I am actually going to buy tickets, it is showing me the regular fare with a half fare card). Don't understand what is happening. Have you ever experienced this ?

As an example,I was trying to buy tickets from St Moritz to Lucerne on April 11 for the following connections :

St Moritz - Chur (17.02 - 19.03) by IR1160

Chur - Thalwil (19.16 - 20.37) by RE5084

Thalwil - Luzerne (20.45 - 21.25) by IR70 2679

The regular full fare is CHF85, and when I am clicking on the % in the black triangle, it is showing me "Tickets from CHF 25.60". But when I am clicking on this box, it is showing me the checkout price of CHF42.50 which is an ordinary ticket with Half Fare Card.

Can you please advise how do I buy tickets with the discounted prices ?

Also, during the period when we need to change a train/platform, how do we know where exactly to stand on the platform to board the train with 2nd class tickets ? Do all types of trains have a washroom in each coach ?

Another question is what are "Options for outward journey" ?

Thanks !

rockoyster
rockoyster
4022 posts
expert
Mar 12, 2018 - 1:41 AM in reply to srdebnath

OK so I checked you first trip using the old style SBB Timetable (fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/qu ery.exe/en) and got the attached.

With the "modern" timetable (www.sbb.ch/en/home.htm l) I can't seem to get the Supersaver fare.

If you expand "Options for Outward Journey" (Hit + sign at right) you can select Supersaver Ticket but the price is not reduced. Weird.

Be careful with advance purchased Supersaver tickets. You miss that particular train you need to buy a new ticket.

At most stations there is an illuminated blue and white sign which shows the segments of the platform A, B, C etc and above that are numbers 1, 1, 2, 2 depending on what class coach stops in that segment. See picture attached.

All trains have a toilet.

Last modified on Mar 12, 2018 - 1:56 AM by rockoyster
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rockoyster
rockoyster
4022 posts
expert
Mar 12, 2018 - 3:38 AM in reply to srdebnath

It appears that the "Options for Outward Journey" appear on the SBB Mobile app. Clicking on the Supersaver Ticket button gives you the lower price.

So I went back to www.sbb.ch/en/home.htm l and gave it another try. Sure enough clicking on the Supersaver button under "Options for Outward Journey" does in fact give yo a fare of CHF14.80. Not sure why it didn't work before. The first time I tried I filled in the passenger details and then selected super saver. The second time I selected supersaver before filling in passenger details. Who knows.

srdebnath
srdebnath
46 posts
active member
Mar 12, 2018 - 7:34 PM

Hello rockoyster, thank you so much for taking the time to research and inform. I will try buying the tickets online again when I get back home tonight.

srdebnath
srdebnath
46 posts
active member
Mar 13, 2018 - 2:31 AM

Hello rockoyster, just to let you know that finally I have been able to successfully purchase discounted tickets online. Appreciate your time and help !

rockoyster
rockoyster
4022 posts
expert
Mar 13, 2018 - 2:42 AM in reply to srdebnath

You are most welcome.

Have a great trip and try not to miss any Supersaver trains. 🤓

cam223
cam223
75 posts
active member
Mar 13, 2018 - 6:33 PM

Everyone has given you excellent advice. The Zermatt station is quite small, you can move between tracks easily everything is on one level--5 or 6 tracks I think. Zurich is huge and there isn't a lot of assistance.

srdebnath
srdebnath
46 posts
active member
Mar 13, 2018 - 10:16 PM

Hello cam223, yes I can understand that. I am actually more concerned with the stations at which we will have to change trains within just a few minutes. They are Interlaken, Spiez, Visp, Thaliwal and Chur.

Lucas
Lucas
9609 posts
expert &
moderator
Mar 14, 2018 - 7:04 AM in reply to srdebnath

Hi srdebnath,

Those are all quite small stations - the smaller the station the shorter connection times...or the shorter the connection time the smaller the station.typically. Avoid connections at Zurich less than 15 minutes and you'll be fine. The timetable has an advanced feature where you can force it to give you longer connection times as well.

srdebnath
srdebnath
46 posts
active member
Mar 14, 2018 - 10:38 AM

That helps Lucas. Thanks a lot !

cam223
cam223
75 posts
active member
Mar 14, 2018 - 1:20 PM

We had lots of luggage (suitcases and large snowboard bags) and didn't have problems at Visp. There are ramps to go up and down which make things easier. Enjoy your trip.

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