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16 days Rick Stevens Switzerland train only - trip suggestions, please

Dear fellow travelers:
Please, I would like to have more info about this Rick Stevens Switzerland trip only by train for June/July 2020. I have his map, starting and finishing in Zurich. I have his day by day itinerary (I want the 16 days). I understand that I have to buy a Swiss Travel pass for 15 consecutive days.
This covers all the itinerary?
Where do I buy it? (I know it does not cover mountain lifts).
I want to travel only first class trains. How do I do it? How to reserve first class?
I also would like to have a list of the most important attractions in each city, please. If there is a more detailed plan, it would be wonderful. We are over 70 years old couple, and we need to have everything organized in advance, please. But we are very adventurous , we can participate in physical activities.
The only change to the RS itinerary would be 3 days in Zermatt, because of the questionable weather.
Everything would be only by train. I will choose 4 star ( sometimes 3) cosy hotels in the city center.
We accept any suggestions! Interesting typical restaurants etc. Thank you very much

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks a million! I still work full time and any help with tips are welcome!

Posted by
20597 posts

I think Liz is trying to say we are not travel agents and we respond best to specific questions. You need to do some homework. The suggestion for the guidebook is excellent plus reviewing traveling DVDs especially the Steves' DVDs. Most libraries had a good selection if you don't want to purchase the DVDs. Also, recognized that the hotel star rating in Europe has nothing to do with quality but rather the amenities offered by the hotel. The difference between first class and second class on trains is not huge. For most travel second class is more than adequate. DO NOT think of the difference as the same between economy and first class on the airplane. First class seating is AxAA and second class is AAxAA. So the difference is slightly wider seats with leg room between seats about the same.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks a million! I am new at this.
Maybe if somebody who had done this trip before can give us their suggestions.
Best!

Posted by
20597 posts

Suggestions for what? Pack light -- keep luggage to one carryon size bag. You handle all of your luggage on the train. Wear money belts. Learn a few phrases in the local language. Use an debit card for all cash needs. etc., etc. All suggestions all found in the Steves' guide book.

Posted by
3283 posts

If you contact the RS office, they have a travel planning department.

This forum is fellow travelers that either take the RS tours with RS guides or independent travelers that plan their own travel with help from other members. You have a lot of train questions. The Seat 61 website is excellent for train travel.

Posted by
207 posts

You have a lot of time to plan your trip and decide what is important to you, so do spend some time checking out the links on Rick’s site and reading relevant sections in his book. Then you can ask more specific questions about certain regions and activities.

For example, I started with Rick’s basic itinerary, but cut out the Appenzell, Pontresina, and Lugano days because I wanted more days in the Berner Oberland for hiking, and I wanted 3 days in Zermatt to increase the chances of good weather for the Matterhorn. Also, I wanted to visit Murten and Avenches (walled city and Roman ruins). Finally, I spent time in Thun to visit a friend and make a day trip to a sharing-the-cheese festival that included decorated cows descending from the mountains (known as Kästeilet and Alpabfahr locally). That day was one of the highlights of my trip.

The 15 day rail pass is well worth it; you can buy it online through the SBB web site before you leave. You have to specify dates, so wait until you’ve determined your schedule, then decide if you want it to start the day you arrive or if you want to wait a day. If you fly into Zurich and stay nearby, you’ll probably want to start on day 2.

The pass covers many mountain lifts (including the one to the Schilthorn, which is a great trip), but it does not cover the higher lifts (especially near the Matterhorn), but you do get discounts on the tickets with the Pass. I printed a copy and saved it to my phone as well.

Also, the pass gives you flexibility. I scheduled a lot of days in the Alps thinking that if it rained on several, I could hop on the train to Bern or Lucerne. Fortunately, the weather was great, so I didn’t need to use those options.

I travelled 2nd class, and it was very comfortable and usually uncrowded. The exception was from Thun to Zermatt on a sunny Saturday. Upgrading to 1st class might have been worth it. You can download the Swiss travel app to use once you arrive. It’s very convenient to help you decided on timetables and schedules and to show if a route is likely to be crowded. If it is, you may be able to upgrade to 1st class. Usually, just avoiding peak times is enough to ensure a less crowded car, though. Here are links:

https://www.sbb.ch/en/timetable/mobile-apps/sbb-mobile.html

https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/buying-options/buy-travelcards-and-tickets.html

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
207 posts

Here's the rest of my reply that wouldn't fit in the first:

For the Berner Oberland Alps region, if you stay in Lauterbrunnen, you have more convenient access to hikes on both sides of the valley and you can get to Interlaken more quickly if you need supplies or to shop. However, the views of the Alps are not as grand; there are still some great views, though. Staying in Murren offers grand views of the Alps, especially in the afternoon/early evenings. It takes longer to get to hikes on the Wengen side, though.

You can ride from Lauterbrunnen to Murren or Gimmelwald using the Rail Pass. There are lots of nice hikes in that area, including the North Face Trail or Mountain View Trail. The Allmendhubel funicular makes these easier, but does cost extra.

You can also hike from Murren to Winteregg or the Grutschalp station and back (this parallels the train route, and it’s not too steep (about an hour ten minutes one way).

The walk from Murren to Gimmelwald along the road is pleasant with great views as well. It’s steeper hiking back, so you could take the cable car back. There are several trails in the Gimmelwald area as well, including one leading to Sprutz Waterfall (which is also available from the North Face Trail.

Here’s a link to the Mountain View Trail:

https://www.outdooractive.com/en/route/hiking-trail/bernese-oberland/muerren-mountain-view-trail-/23431856/

From Lauterbrunnen, you can also take a train to Wengen, then take the Wengen-Männlichen Aerial Cableway.

https://www.maennlichen.ch/en/

From Mannlichen you can hike to Kleine Scheidegg and take the train back to Lauterbrunnen.

https://www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/

There are also nice trails from Lauterbrunnen along the river going up the valley toward Stechelberg and down toward Interlaken.

From Interlaken, you can take a bus to Beatenbucht; then a funicular to Beatenberg, and a cable car to Niederhorn. There are nice hikes from there that are lower than the high Alps hikes and that offer great views of the Alps and Lake Thun. I hiked from Niederhorn to Gemmenalphorn and back (a great half day hike) and saw an ibix.

https://www.niederhorn.ch/en/time-tables/

Here are links to sites with great information about hikes in the area:

https://lauterbrunnenhiking.wordpress.com/

http://www.gimmelwald.ch/e/activities/summer/hiking.htm#hike6

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
23387 posts

Frank:

I think Liz is trying to say we are not travel agents

clonycb:

I still work full time and any help with tips are welcome!

I think what clonycb is trying to say is that they don't have the time / don't want to take the time to read a book.

Despite not wanting to get your answers from the book, that is a really good way to get the best answers, especially the Rick Steves book that goes with the itinerary you have chosen.

This sounds like your first trip to Switzerland. Good choice - it is in many places a very beautiful country.

Is this your first trip to Europe?

Welcome aboard the Forum. Glad to have you.

Posted by
8889 posts

Swiss Travel pass . . . Where do I buy it?

From the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways), either online from their website (here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-travel-pass.html which will get you a self-print version) or buy when you arrive at Zürich airport station. Either way the price is the same.

I want to travel only first class trains. How do I do it? How to reserve first class?

First class is totally unnecessary, 2nd class is good enough.
There is no such thing as "first class trains". Trains have 1st class and 2nd class coaches, marked with a "1" or a "2". Some local trains are 2nd class only.
"Reserve" - you don't reserve Swiss trains. It is a "turn-up-and-go" service. You go to the station, get on the train, and get off whenever you want. That is all.

I have seen many posters who have never been on trains overthink this and get worried, It is as complicated as the lifts (elevators) at your local shopping centre. Enter the building, find one going in the correct direction, when it arrives get on and make sure you get off at the correct place. The difference is the trip takes minutes or hours and there are seats you can sit on.
All Swiss rail routes have at least one train per hour, often one every 30 minutes. So if you miss one just get the next one.
And, there are NO pre-boarding checks, ticket checks are when the train is underway.

hotels in the city center.

You will not be staying in cities, it is small towns and villages you can walk cross in 15 minutes.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you very much for all your information. I am buying the book, I am talking with RS advisors etc. You are very helpful.
Best,
Clotilde

Posted by
5284 posts

Clothilde, remember that the Rick Steves suggested itineraries are just that -- suggestions. Some people like to go slower, or less scheduled. If you take a look at Rick's first book, Europe Through the Back Door, it may provide a framework for your planning and packing.
We are also a 70+ couple and usually only have hotels booked before most trips and then a list of sightseeing "possibilities" for each location; train/plane reservations as needed when they yield substantial savings, but not when the walk-up price is the same as pre-booked. If there's something we miss, it goes on the "later trip" list.