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Confusion about Rail Passes and Reservations

Hello,

My wife and I will be traveling to Austria and Switzerland next month. We will probably take trains to get from point A to B. I am debating purchasing a Eurail Pass (covering Austria-Switzerland) for several days to save money, but I would also probably prefer to reserve at least the RailJet train from Salzburg to Zurich. I don't see any kind of place to do so on the oebb.at website using a Railpass credential.

Is the railpass not compatible with selecting tickets a head of time? Should I just purchase the railpass and make sure to check early at the Salzburg train station the day of, or a few days before when first arriving there, to select a train? Thanks for any help. I find all the options for train travel a bit overwhelming.

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Emily,

We spending several days in Vienna (flying into there), and then heading to Hallstatt and on to Salzburg. From there, we were wanting to go to Lucerne via Zurich, on to the Berner Oberland region for a few days with a possible day trip to Bern, and flying out of Zurich. Do you think we will probably be fine just buying point to point? The only one I was concerned more about was the Salzburg-Zurich-Lucerne trip, since there's more distance, crossing a border, etc. Thanks!

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks, would it ok to buy shorter trips when I'm there (say, Vienna to Melk), or would you still recommend getting most online a head of time?

Posted by
5450 posts

Vienna to Melk is a regional train, which you don't buy in advance. The other journeys you mention are long distance. To save money, buy online, in advance from OEBB. Again, what is your full itinerary? You didn't mention Melk earlier.

Posted by
16894 posts

Of course you "will be fine" buying tickets as you go. There's no deadline to buy a train ticket and these trains cannot sell out. The main question is whether either method is cheaper. The two-country pass can be a good value, starting at $235 per person to cover your 4 longest train travel days. Around Luzern and Interlaken, local train and lift discounts of 25-50% are a key factor in getting the most value from the pass. Note that any transport that's covered or "free" (including boats) is only covered on your 4 or 5 counted rail pass travel days, but percentage discounts still work on the other days.

See also:

You can't book the RailJet seat reservation on the OBB site (only a few countries do that) but you could do it when you have the rail pass activated at your first train station, whether on your first travel day or another day; it's optional and costs about €4.

Posted by
19170 posts

"There is no border between Austria and Switzerland."

How about the Rhein river between Bodensee and Liechtenstein? Between St. Margrethen, Switzerland and Höchst, Austria? Or between Vorarlberg and Tirol and Graubünden?

Or do you just mean that the border is not guarded, with barbed wire and watch towers?

Justin, if your only long segents are Vienna to Hallstatt and Salzburg to Luzern, and the rest are shorter trips, many using regional trains, I suggest you look at advance purchase discounted tickets for the two long segments and either point-point tickets or regional passes for the shorter trips.

In addition to advance purchase ticket from Austrian Rail to Luzern, you can also get discounted tickets from German Rail. I can see Salzburg (which is a border station for German Rail) to Luzern several different routes for as little as 39€.

Posted by
8889 posts

"There is no border between Austria and Switzerland."
I think Emily means there are no immigration (passport) checks because both countries (and Liechtenstein) are in the Schengen Area.
There are occasional customs checks. Customs officers walk down the train as it is en route, ask a few suspicious looking passengers if they have anything to declare, and then get off at the next station. There is no delay.

Posted by
5450 posts

Lee - I think it is pretty obvious what I meant. The OP listed crossing borders as a barrier. To cross between Switzerland and Austria is no different than crossing from Colorado to New Mexico. No customs and no immigration. Geez.

Posted by
8889 posts

Emily, there is customs between Austria and Switzerland, but there are no immigration (passport) checks. Switzerland is not in the EU.
Customs checks on Intercity trains are minimal, so there are easy to miss. They just do a few random checks.