Please sign in to post.

13 day train trip to Switzerland - booking through an agent or diy

I am looking at a train tour package of Switzerland - www.railplus.com.au/great-train-journeys/grand-train-tour-of-switzerland/details.htm. It is offered by a few travel agents. It includes a swiss travel pass to go to the cities included in the tour, and accommodation but no guides. It is an independent tour.
Do you think there is any added value by booking this trip through an agent? I did a rough calculation and it seems that it is substantially cheaper to book the swiss travel.pass and accommodation by myself rather than book the whole trip through an agent. But I was wondering if there is added support by the agent in case there are any problems during the course of my trip, e.g. train cancellations, disruptions in the itinerary, etc. Would they rebook the train reservations, hotel accommodation, etc. Note that this is not a guided tour. As far as I can see all the agent does is provide the travel.pass and book the accommodation and give some instructions on the itinerary. Is  it more difficult than it appears to  be to organize this tour?

Posted by
8889 posts

I cannot comment on the relative prices, you can do the addition yourself. I would say this is super easy to do DIY.

But I was wondering if there is added support by the agent in case there are any problems during the course of my trip, e.g. train cancellations, disruptions in the itinerary, etc. Would they rebook the train reservations,

Train cancellations are not a serious risk. All rail routes in Switzerland have at least one train per hour, often two. In the very rare event of a cancelled train, you just get on the next one.
"Would they rebook the train reservations" - the only trains that you need to book reservations for in the whole of Switzerland are the three extra tourist trains: Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Gotthard Panorama Express.
Otherwise it is a "turn-up-and-go" service.
And in those cases you can just get on the next regular (hourly) train. However the chance of them being cancelled are very low. The Bernina line sometimes gets blocked for 24 hours in winter, that is all.

You can buy your Swiss Pass direct from the SBB here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-travel-pass.html

Posted by
1524 posts

330epping - You don't need to book this Swiss tour with an agent. It will be quite expensive. Switzerland alone is an expensive country and booking this tour will add significantly to your travel expenses. You can buy the travel pass on your own and this forum can help you plan your rail journey throughout Switzerland. Technically, we of the forum are like travel agents who offer trip guidance without the cost. Draft an itinerary and let us see how we can help.

Posted by
6841 posts

DIY for sure using a guide book. And do not buy the Swiss Travel Pass until you get closer to the date or you could wait until you get there. That way if your flight is delayed you will not lose value. Again, you do not want to commit to something like a mountain excursion when the weather could affect it.

Posted by
8889 posts

One thing to add to your calculations. The Swiss Pass does not cover most mountain railways. You get a reduction instead.
And mountain railways (especially the Jungfrau) aren't cheap. You need to factor in this extra cost in your sums.

There is a map showing what it does cover here (you get a paper version of this map if you buy your pass at a Swiss rail station): https://www.sbb.ch/content/dam/sbb/de/infotexte/uebersichtskarte-sts.pdf
The Jungfrau railway is dotted, with a (1) against it which means you get a 25% reduction with your pass.

And be flexible on when you go up mountains. Only go up on a clear day. Look at the weather forecast 1-2 days in advance and amend your plans on this basis.

Posted by
16066 posts

Can I "put 2 and 2 together"? Since you ask about weather in Basel in your other thread, are you arriving from a Rhine cruise in Basel? Just asking because 13 days seems like a short trip for folks coming from Australia.

The advantage of booking a package is that you have all your hotels booked, saving you the chore of researching and booking them on your own. The tour package may have a quantity discount that is not available to you on your own, but you'll have to research that. Since this a over 6 months away, you have plenty of time to research it on your own.

Looking at the tour you linked to, it includes an 8-day Flex pass, your choice of 2nd class or 1st class for more money. You have 7 travel days in the tour, plus the Jungfraujoch. Since this is specifically covered by the tour, I assume they will pick up the extra cost when using your Swiss Travel Flex Pass. But you will not have any benefits in Zermatt, so you will have to pay full price for the Glacier Paradise or Gornergratbahn. Either way, you also have to pay for your seat reservation fees on the Glacier Express, Bernina Express, and Gotthard Panorama Express.

You have also chosen to take 3 extra days during this tour. Take these extra days in Zermatt and Interlaken and Luzern so you have more time to get a good weather day for these mountain excursions. Still no guarantees.

And if you do decide to do it on your own, by all means, stay in Wengen rather than Interlaken. In the mountains and part way up to the Jungfraujoch. Better views, a chance to hear the cowbells, and no need for A/C. Finally, if you go on your own, for only 50 CHF more 2nd class (80 CHF 1st class), you can get a 15 day continuous Swiss Travel Pass. Then you'll get the 50% discounts on those mountain excursions in Zermatt and elsewhere.

Posted by
30 posts

This is my tentative itinerary which is a copy of the tour package. I would like to request for your suggestions/recommendations:
Train Travel around Switzerland using a 1st class 15 day Swiss Travel Pass
- Fly from Barcelona to Basel
- Rail Travel from Basel airport to Basel hotel – (booking confirmation from your hotel or Airbnbs in Basel serves as a free ticket for the transfer from the airport to your hotel) ??
- 2 nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation in Basel
- Rail Travel from Basel to Interlaken - 1st day of Swiss Pass use
- 2 nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation in Interlaken
- Rail Travel from Interlaken to Montreux on the GoldenPass Line*
- 1 night’s bed & breakfast accommodation in Montreux
- Rail Travel from Montreux to Zermatt*
- Return local transfers to your hotel
- 2 nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation in Zermatt
- Rail Travel from Zermatt to St Moritz on the Glacier Express including lunch*
- Return local transfers to your hotel
- 2 nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation in St Moritz
- 1st class rail/postbus travel from St Moritz to Lugano on the Bernina Express*
- 1 night’s bed & breakfast accommodation in Lugano
- 1st class rail/boat travel from Lugano to Lucerne on the Gotthard Panorama Express*
- 2 nights’ bed & breakfast accommodation in Lucerne
- Rail Travel from Lucerne to Konstanz
Add:
- 3 nights in Konstanz - Swiss Travel Pass expires after 2nd day in Konstanz - use lake constance guest pass?
- 3 nights in Zurich - buy zurich card Or 9 O'Clock day pass?
- 3 nights in Salzburg

  1. Is Basel a good pace to start the tour? or start in Interlaken and spend the extra 2 nights somewhere else?
  2. Should we stay in Interlaken or Wengen or Grindelwald? Is it feasible to go to Jungfrajoch and Schilthorn in one day?
  3. What travel pass would you recommend after our 15 day Swiss pass expires in Konstanz? We will be going to Zurich from Konstanz and stay for 3 nights.
  4. Is it easy to find self service laundry in those cities covered?
  5. Is there an advantage of getting a 1st class Swiss pass in terms of luggage storage in the train? We will have 2 medium size suitcases and 2 carry ons. We are seniors.
  6. Is the travel from Basel airport to a hotel free if we book a hotel in Basel?
Posted by
16066 posts

To start, math.
2 nt Interlaken
1 nt Montreux
2 nt Zermatt
2 nt St Moritz
1 nt Lugano
2 nt Luzern
3 nt Konstanz
That is 13 nights, so you leave Konstanz on the 14th day of your pass. You still have a day left.
Now to your questions.
1. Basel is as good as any, but I think 1 night is enough depending on when your flight from Barcelona lands. Switzerland is all about the Alps and you should maximize time there. Forgive me Chris F.
2. Wengen for sure and 3 nights at least. You could do both in a day, but don't count on it. But with good weather, you could do them on successive days. Wengen is better than Grindelwald for that, and Wengen is car free, which is magical. Grindelwald has street traffic.
3. As I said, your pass should not run out until you reach Zurich. and I think 3 nights in Zurich is too much.
4. Yes, there are self service laundries in Swiss cities.
5. 1st class? Maybe. 2nd class is fine, and I don't find trouble with luggage with a medium suitcase and a back pack. I have heard that the Glacier Express and Bernina Express get crowded in the summer and 1st class has distinct benefits. On the Gotthard Panorama Express, only 1st class carriages have panorama windows. The Glacier Express is a long day on a train. I did it 1st class (someone else was paying) in winter and I enjoyed it. Bernina Express also in winter, but in 2nd class and that was fine too. I guess you just have to decide if you want the splurge or not.
6. I don't know if a reservation is sufficient, but this a small expense. It is actually a bus to the main train station. You definitely get one as soon as you check in to the hotel. Again, Chris F will know for sure. It is only 7.60 CHF pp to anywhere in the city of Basel. Change to one of the trams when you get to the main station to get to your hotel if it is not by the station.

Posted by
3418 posts

One thing to keep in mind is that there is usually a local transport pass in the cities that your hotel will give you. This allows for free use of local transport. Those "local transfers" listed in the tour publicity are probably free through your hotel if you book yourself.

I would not stop at Interlakken, but go further up the valley either to Lauterbrunnen or one of the Mountain Villages such as Murren.

Posted by
16066 posts

Now here is my recommended itinerary for what its worth.
1 nt Basel
3 nt Wengen
1 nt Montreux
3 nt Zermatt
2 nt St Moritz
2 nt Lugano
3 nt Luzern
3 nt Konstanz
0 nt Zurich
Same number of nights in Switzerland you plan on now.

There is an hourly direct train from Luzern to Konstanz taking 2 hours and 15 minutes. An alternate, taking 3 hours and 15 minutes is to take the Voralpen Express from Luzern to St Gallen, then change to a train to Konstanz.
https://www.voralpen-express.ch/en/company/profile.html

You can get a 3-day Bodensee Pass for 42 EUR. To go to Salzburg, buy well ahead of time, a nonrefundable ticket for Zurich Hbf to Salzburg. To get from Konstanz to Zurich Hbf, buy a ticket form Frauenfeld to Zurich Hbf. The cost from Konstanz to Frauenfeld is covered by the Bodensee Card.

Yes, I cut out Zurich entirely. You can stop there for a few hours on the way to Salzburg. Just book the ticket from Zurich Hbf to Salzburg on the 14:40 departure, which gets to Salzburg at 20:00. Start taking an early train to Zurich, store your bags in a locker at Zurich Hbf, then you'll have 4 to 6 hours to see Zurich.

Posted by
30 posts

Thank you for your replies. For the mountain railways e.g. Glacier Express, Bernina Express, when is a good time to make seat for July 2020. Do I need to buy the Swiss pass before I can make a seat reservation? If for any reason I can't get on the reserved seat, is it possible to change it for another date?

Posted by
16066 posts

You can make a seat reservation without buying a ticket or having a pass in hand. Looks like they are 43 CHF per person for the Glacier Express and can be booked up to 90 days in advance of your intended travel date. As far as whether they can be changed or if there is a fee, I do not know. You can contact the Glacier Express directly with questions at info@glacierexpress.ch. They are usually quite good at providing answers quickly, within 24 hours. Of course, if it is a weekend or holiday, it will be until the next business day. Similar for the other trains requiring seat reservations. For regular Swiss train, seat reservations are optional and cost 5 CHF per person. Almost nobody ever does this as trains are very frequent and there are usually plenty of seats, especially in 1st class.

Posted by
3173 posts

13 days with 7 different B&Bs -- that sounds like a hell. It also sounds like you'll be so busy moving from B&B to B&B that you won't enjoy experiential travel, just checklist travel. What a waste to travel so far yet spend your time transitioning from B&B to B&B. I also would NEVER waste money on travel agents. 7 B&B moves in 13 days --- is that what a travel agent recommends??

Maybe base yourself in two different areas of Switzerland (just two B&Bs then) and do day trips so you don't waste precious time and energy on packing/unpacking, checking in/checking out, lugging luggage, etc. You will then find planning not be difficult that way. :-)

Posted by
16066 posts

I count 9 places in 19 days (18 nights), not too bad. My first "RS style" trip was 7 places in 18 days (17 nights) and a much bigger geographic area (Amsterdam to Venice). A combination of 2 and 3 nights in any one place and a single 1 night stand. Wife and I thought it was perfect.

Secondly, this is a "Grand Train Tour" of Switzerland. The journey, viewing the Alps through the train windows, is the whole point. I take this over a cruise any day.

Posted by
30 posts

Hi Sam,
If we get the train from Basel.to Wengen or
Lauterbrunnen or one of the Mountain Villages such as Murren, do we need to change trains or is it a direct route? Because we will have 2 suitcases and 2 carry ons - not sure how easy it would be for us seniors. Which of the 3 places would be the best base if we want to do Jungfrajoch and Schilthorn in one day or 2 if we are lucky.
Is there an advantage of getting on the volarpen express to konstanz?
Isn't there a train direct from konstanz to zurich? We will be based in konstanz.
Thanks.

Posted by
16066 posts

Yes, you have to change trains to get from Basel to Lauterbrunnen, or Wengen or Muerren at Interlaken Ost station. The train tracks from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen are meter gauge, not standard gauge, so changing trains is unavoidable. If you want to go from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, you have to change trains again at Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is in the valley between the Jungfrau and the Schilthorn, so it is the most central for the 2. Muerren is even more involved. There is a detachable gondola cableway from Lauterbrunnen station to another train up on the side of the mountain which you board for the ride to Muerren. There is also another way with a bus from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg, then a cable car up the mountain with a change of cable cars at Gimmelwald.

Changing trains is just part of getting around Switzerland. I think nothing of it, and do it with a medium suitcase and a back pack when I travel in Europe, and I'm a senior too, as is my wife. Our record is Berlin Savignyplatz to Bayreuth with 8 train changes along the way. OK, we did do a stopover and board the wrong train at one point. That added a couple extra changes.

I just suggested the Voralpen Express as another scenic train ride. Reservations are not needed, and it goes in the Alpine foothills, not the high mountains. But yes, there is an hourly direct train from Luzern to Konstanz if you rather not.

For the train from Konstanz to Zurich, yes it is direct. But since you will have a valid Bodensee Pass that is good to Frauenfeld, you only need to purchase the section from Frauenfeld to Zurich. You don't get off the train, just switch tickets in your pocket at Frauenfeld. That is of course, if your Swiss Travel Pass is expired at this point. If it is not, then you don't need a ticket and can just board the train.

Posted by
30 posts

So is the train fare from Basel to Lauterbrunnen, or Wengen or Muerren covered by the Swiss travel pass? I presume from these places to Jungfraujoch will then be on the 25% discount for a swiss travel
Pass.

Posted by
2291 posts

Yes, you'll be covered all the way to any settlement in the country, Mürren and Wengen included.

Posted by
16066 posts

More about train changes. The train change at Interlaken Ost is rather quick, and requires you to walk down stairs to the crossing tunnel, then up another flight of stairs to your connecting platform. There are ramps as well. The train to Lauterbrunnen splits half way and one half goes to Grindelwald and the other half continues to Lauterbrunnen. Make sure you board carriages marked Lauterbrunnen. If memory serves, there are attendants on the platform who can direct you.

Secondly, since trains to Lauterbrunnen go every 30 minutes, there is no need to stress, You could even decide to take a break there. If the weather is nice, there is an outdoor terrace out the back of the station at the Hotel Du Lac along the river. You can have a snack and a beverage and watch the lake boats boarding on the dock in front of you.

There are a couple other places in your planned route which require train changes. On the route from Interlaken to Montreux, you will have to change at Zweisimmen. That is again to change from standard gauge to meter gauge tracks. Your connecting train will be waiting for you at the station. On the route from Montreux to Zermatt, you will have to change trains at Visp. Again, change from standard to meter gauge. Trains to Zermatt are 2 times and hour, so don't stress if you miss the connection.

The Glacier Express has no changes. Its meter gauge all the way from Zermatt to St Moritz.

Posted by
30 posts

Is this trip too long to see the Alps? Will we see different views on each leg of the trip or are they pretty much the same? Are there other places in Switzerland which we should see rather than spend all of our time in this route?

Posted by
30 posts

Is the train change from Interlaken to Wengen easier than the transfer to Lauterbrunnen in terms of stairs and luggage?

Posted by
18911 posts

You will go through Lauterbrunnen (with a change of trains) to get to Wengen.

Posted by
8889 posts

Is the train change from Interlaken to Wengen easier than the transfer to Lauterbrunnen in terms of stairs and luggage?

Not sure I understand the question.
If you want to get to Wengen, you have to go via Interlaken. There is no other way (unless you take a helicopter over the Alps), Interlaken is at the mouth of the valley leading up to Wengen.
And you have to change trains at both Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen. There is only one route. And you have to go down and up stairs at Interlaken Ost.

Coming from Basel there are two trains per hour, one direct to Interlaken Ost, the other requires an additional change, usually at Spiez.

Many train newbies over-fret about changing trains. It is the way it is, you cannot expect trains to go from everywhere to everywhere. Instead it is a network of frequent trains on fixed routes, so you need to change at the places the routes meet up.
Same as driving, to get from A to B it is unreasonable to expect not to have to turn at any road junctions, you need first road 123, then the 456, . . . etc.

Posted by
16066 posts

Re your other question:

Will we see different views on each leg of the trip or are they pretty much the same?

The Alps have a different character in different parts of Switzerland. Berner Oberland (Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen) has a different character than Zermatt, or St Moritz, or Luzern. I think you will have a worthwhile trip if you spend more time in some of these spots, like Wengen (I'm still sold on this as your best location in the Berner Oberland), Zermatt, Luzern. Staying longer will increase the chance that you will have at least one good day for going on one of those high mountain excursions.

I should mention that all the smaller Swiss train stations have ramps, so if you have wheeled suitcases, that will make changing platforms easier if hauling your bags up a flight of stairs seems daunting to you. At least that is my experience.

On your route, only the change at Zweisimmen is more or less obligatory if you want to stick with the "Golden Pass" trains. But almost everybody on the arriving train will also be making the transfer. The conductors will be watching that everybody makes it as long as they see you are making the effort. Otherwise, if you miss a train, just wait 30 minutes and there will be another.

Posted by
30 posts

It is comforting to know that there are ramps as an alternative to stairs in the train stations. If we stay in Wengen, would it be necessary to stay close to the train station if there are no cars, given that we have luggage? And did someone say air conditioning is not required in Wengen?

Posted by
30 posts
  1. In this itinerary in which cities/towns will I need aircondtioning in July/August? Is it rare to find a 3 star accommodation with room aircondtioning?
  2. Are there supermarkets in these towns which sell salads/sandwiches, or ready to eat meals? I understand everything is expensive in Switzerland.
  3. In which city in this itinerary would be the best place to sample Swiss food- reasonably priced and good, if there is such a thing
Posted by
25771 posts

number 1 - need airconditioning? not up the mountain. In the valley like Interlaken, maybe. Big flatland cities like Geneva or Bern, probably. 3 Star hotel with AC? I don't know - other than the hermetically sealed chain hotels in the bigger cities I've never tried.

number 2 - yes. Two main chains - COOP, pretty much everywhere, Migros in most larger towns and all cities.

Posted by
30 posts

In cities where there are no cars allowed, how do we get from the train station to the hotel apart from walking?

Posted by
8889 posts

In cities where there are no cars allowed, how do we get from the train station to the hotel apart from walking?

Local public transport: tram, bus, taxis.
"No cars allowed" usually has an exception for deliveries and "access", so you can drive there (at walking pace, waiting for pedestrians to get out of your way) to deliver luggage, but must immediately leave you once have unloaded.
Mürren, Wengen etc. are different, there are no public roads to these places.

The point about Public Transport is it is designed to get you from anywhere to anywhere - door to door.
If you go to, for example: https://timetable.search.ch/
And enter any address in Switzerland to any other address in Switzerland it will tell you how to get there by public transport.

Posted by
16066 posts

There are taxis in Zermatt. They're all over the place, especially at the train station. But they are electric. Check the photo on this site.https://www.zermatt.ch/mice/en/Meetings-Incentives/arrival/Anreise/Arriving-by-Taxi

Also, many hotels have a courtesy electric vehicle they can send to the station to get your luggage and take it to the hotel while you walk. Wengen operates in a similar manner.

In Zermatt there is a local electric bus system and you'll get a guest card after you check in, allowing free use while you are in Zermatt. Wengen is smaller and does not have bus system that I can recall. Very walkable town.

Posted by
30 posts

Sam
1. I am following your advice on the itinerary as to the route and the suggested no of days in each stop dated 11/24 with no overnight in Zurich. If I want to send my luggage from Lucerne station to Zurich station on the 14th day of my swiss pass, so we can travel light and stop at zurich for a few hours to have a look around, how much time do you think we need to allot to retrieve our bags from the zurich station to carry on our train trip to Salzburg? Would we expect a long line to retrieve our baggage?
2. From Lucerne we will travel to Konstanz and have 3 nights in konstanz or 2 full days. Is it feasible to see the following sites in 2 days? St. Gallen, flower island and Unesco pile dwellings, Stein am Rhein or meersburg or lindau? If not what do you suggest we skip? And what would be our itinerary?

Posted by
12218 posts

I can suggest a good place to enjoy reasonably priced and good ---make that excellent---Swiss cuisine:
Stay at small, family-run Hotel Bären in Wengen and take their half-board option. For 60 CHF more than the cost of a double room with breakfast, two people will enjoy a delicious, gourmet-quality four-course dinner, made from fresh local "bio" ingredients as far as possible. In a land where the mains alone run 30 CHF or more, this is a great deal.

https://www.baeren-wengen.ch/en/

We ate there all three nights of our stay, and were very happy with the quality and variety. I have been trying to duplicate their coconut-lime risotto ever since.

Their breakfast is also excellent, the best I have enjoyed in Switzerland, with fresh-baked breads and croissants, a choice of two kinds of butter ( one fresh from the farm down the hill) and a little egg cooker where you could make your own boiled egg so it is fresh and hot. Plus the usalmassortment of meats and cheese, and Muesli.

The hotel itself is not fancy and does not offer 24-hour reception. But the rooms are modern, sparkling clean, and comfortable. .Think of it as a top-rated restaurant with some rooms upstairs.

Posted by
12218 posts

Sorry! I posted too soon. It is in Wengen. I added the link to their website.

Posted by
30 posts

Is the baren hotel an easy walk to the station? We will have 2 big suitcases and carry ons. I understand there are no cars in wengen.

Posted by
25771 posts

If you go to the website that Lola provided, go to Hotel tab, and click on Location you will get a large map of the area. Click several times on the large Plus symbol and it will zoom in to showing the exact location and the footprints of the buildings. Click on Directions in the little box and put Wengen on the top line, the Wengen station will be one of the options, usually 3 or 4 down from the top. And it will show you that the Bären is 240 Metres (about 2 and a half football fields) and 3 minutes walk. You will go down hill (and back up to the station when you leave).

Turn right out of the station, past the Coop supermarket, turn right and you are nearly there.

How big is "2 big suitcases"? People have different ideas of what "big" is. But for all the places you are going smaller (and therefore much lighter) will be WAY easier.

Posted by
12218 posts

I realize this Swiss train sojourn is part of a longer holiday that may call for large luggage. But moving it on and off trains and to and from hotels will make those transfers difficult. You could make good use of the Swiss baggage forwarding system by packing so you travel with only your carry-on bags for 3-4 days at a time, sending your larger bags a stop or two ahead.

Specifically, with your itinerary, you could send your bags from Basel to Montreux and meet them there after Wengen. The village does lie on a hillside and most hotels are either upgill or downhill from the train station. The Bären is downhill, which means it is uphill to return to the station. Frau Brunner may be able to organize a taxi for your return to the station, but the luggage forwarding would spare you the hassle of the additional transfers on your way to Montreux ( Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, and one or two more on the way).

Similarly, you could send your large badges from Montreux to the next large town ( Luzern?), skipping Zermatt. And from there to Zurich, skipping the other stops along the way.

Posted by
30 posts

Am.glad you suggested this because we were actually considering it. But if the stations are big we may have to spend time locating the baggage office - maybe it has to be door to door or station to door? For example , how big is montreux , zermatt, lucerne, and zurich stations? I guess since konstanz is in Germany we cant use sbb.

Posted by
25771 posts

Luzern has luggage services downstairs. East access by escalator and lift.

Zermatt station is very small.

Montreux is moderate sized by easy to get around.

Zurich is a large station but its map is available at the SBB website so finding the luggage service will be easy.