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3 days in Switzerland - Car rental vs Swiss Travel Pass ??

Hello,
Our family of 4 (2 adults, 2 boys ages 13,11) will be travelling to Switzerland in early April (coming from a 10 day trip in Italy). We are debating travelling by train and taking advantage of the 3 day Swiss Travel Pass or just rent a car in Switzerland.

We will be coming from the Como area (itinerary is still being tweaked), we will need to travel from Como to a border town in Switzerland to be able to start using the Swiss Travel Pass, should we decide to travel by train... On the other hand, if we rent a car, we'd need to travel to say, Lugano and rent a car from there)... Any other "available" rental locations that you know of?
Our trip is from Apr 5th (Sun) to Apr 8th (Wed) when we fly out of Zurich... We will spending the whole time in Luzern (we already spent a 2 week long trip in Switzerland back in 2013 so we're not really eager to travel a lot) ...

Pricewise doesn't seem to be much different between the 2 options, if I choose the 3 day Swiss Travel Pass it's just $440 for the 4 of us for those 3 days (which includes Museum Passes which is a plus, say we decide to visit some museums either in a Zurich side trip or in Luzern)... Renting a car will probably be about the same, there's more flexibility, we could take a day trip to Lauterbrunnen (which we love!) and visit the surrounding areas... But I've never rented a car in Switzerland and I'm unsure of limitations, parking costs and all the inconveniences surrounding a car rental (do I need a Swiss vignette, is it straightforward returning a car in Zurich airport, can I use my credit card's CDW coverage for the vehicle in Switzerland (Italy doesn't allow it at all), parking costs, etc etc etc...)

Does anyone have any advice to help me make a better informed decision?
Thanks in advance! Alex

Posted by
8889 posts

Partial answer.
Como town is on the border, it is contiguous with Chiasso in the Swiss side of the border. If you can get to Como town it is no problem to get a train over the border.
If you are spending your time in Luzern, a car is superfluous. The hotel probably won't have a car park, and Luzern, though on the edge of the Alps, is a good base for boat and train trips.
The route Luzern-Interlaken-Lauterbrunnen is scenic by train, via the Brünig pass, which is the same route the road takes. But by train the 'driver' gets to see the scenary as well.

  • Sunday 5th April, train ride to Luzern, explore town.
  • Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th April - One day trip on Brünig bahn, other day either boat trip + go up mountain (look up Pilatus) or trip up Rigi (look it up).
  • Wednesday 8th April, last farwell to Luzern, then train to Zürich airport (1 hour, no hassle with a hire car)

Any car you rent in Switzerland will already have an Autobahn Vignette.

Posted by
104 posts

Hello Chris,
Thanks for your answer. We're actually staying in a Homeaway apartment (Fewo direkt) and it has a car park available for free. So we can rent a car and drive... So from your answer it seems that there really isn't any major difference between renting a car/ using the train...just our preference, right?... Is it really smooth returning the vehicle in the Zurich airport as well?

Any other word of advice regarding car rental/train pass?

Thanks again! Alex

Posted by
16864 posts

You will save about 141 chf by buying point-to-point tickets from Chiasso to Luzern, then Luzern to Zurich airport. So use that to compare with the car price. 2 Swiss Passes at 210 chf each plus free Family Card, vs 3 Chisasso-Lurzern at 64 chf and 3 Luzern-ZRH at 29 euro each (kids travel at half fare).

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you Sam!
But there is also the Swiss Transfer ticket option, which basically is very similar to your description Chiasso->Luzern, Luzern->Zurich... I haven't looked into this type of ticket, though it may be priced similarly as to the point-to-point you described...

We'd ideally like to travel around the area, and not just "stay" in Luzern for the full 3 days... Yes, I would save around 141 CHF (about $163 ) but I'm limited as to what we can do in the area... The apt we'd stay is easily accessible by train, it's not exactly in Luzern city, so we'd need train tickets to get there... I'm wondering that paying the extra 141 CHF opens up a lot opportunities, transportation-wise (local and intercity) as well as museum passes (Landesmuseum in Zurich, f.ex.)... Any thoughts?

Alex

Posted by
16883 posts

It sounds like you're trying to fit in as much as possible and could get good value from the 3-day Swiss Travel Pass. With trains running every hour or half hour on most routes, I don't think the car is necessarily more flexible. If you will travel between Luzern and Muerren, for instance, that's 100 francs roundtrip, per adult, that would be fully covered by the pass instead of discounted with a Half-Fare Card. The discount from Muerren to Schilthorn is the same with either product.

Parking costs, for instance, 7 francs/day at Stechelberg, 10.50 at Lauterbrunnen, and 20 or more at garages in Luzern.

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you so much Laura! I think we will go ahead with the Travel Pass... We'd love to go spend a day in Lauterbrunnen (Mürren) and another day in Zürich (and of course one day in Luzern). With the pass, we'd definitely be ahead of the game... Thanks for confirming, I feel I am making a better informed decision... Thanks to everyone!

Alex

Posted by
2590 posts

And don't forget, with a car you must add in the price of gas and insurance. And the necessity to keep stashing it somewhere. Switzerland is so very train friendly, I don't see much if any advantage to having a car.

Posted by
5 posts

Alex and family,

as a Swiss Native from the Jungrau Region (Mürren) living in the US, traveling to Switzerland every year, it looks like you have made the right decision about the Swiss Rail Pass vs. Rental Car. Hassle free travel with many benefits aside from Museum discounts, you'll be able to use Postal Buses as well. Say take the train to Mürren from Lauterbrunnen, walk through the village, take the Schilthornbahn at the other end of the village via Gimmelwald to Stechelberg. Take the Postauto from there to Lauterbrunnen, and hop on a train back to Luzern. Should you have extra time?? Go from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg, down to Grindelwald and back to Interlaken, then to Luzern. Easy day trip.

Rental Car return at ZRH airport would be very costly due to airport taxes and returning it at ZRH which is a different location from your pick-up location. Traffic from Luzern to ZRH airport on a weekday means congested highway from A-Z.
Again: hassle free train trip straight to ZRH airport with no headaches.
Most important FACT for you to consider: April 5th, is Easter, meaning Easter Holiday weekend. Roads would be extremely congested from Chiasso to Luzern. Trains may also be very packed. Easter Holiday weekend also means, Monday is a day off from work. Some shops may be open.
Enjoy your trip, hope this helps. Remember Easter Weekend, it will be crowded everywhere. Try to get seat reservations on your trip from Chiasso to Luzern ahead of time.
Best from Texas
Esther

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you Esther!
You are right, all the hassle of having a car is too much to deal with... I am very excited because the tickets gives us a lot of options in terms of local and inter-city transportation, museum entries, etc... Pretty good deal and hassle-free travel!...

I was looking in the sbb website, a trip from Luzern to Lauterbrunnen is about 2.5 hrs, round-trip it's about 5 hrs total... Is it really doable, or it's just a bit overkill? We visited Lauterbrunnen in 2013, and we did the excursion you described, went to Murren, then to the rotating restaurant on top of the Schiltorn (we had fantastic weather), down to Gimmelwald, then we went down to the station and walked all the way back to Lauterbrunnen next to the river. We had just missed the bus, we figured we could walk back, and we had great weather...I still remember fondly that walk back!

We haven't been to Kleine Scheidegg or Grindelwald, perhaps we can consider it this time... Thank you so much for your input!
This could be our plan:
Day 1: Luzern (we could take boat ride too, included in pass)
Day 2: Berner Oberland (Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg), etc.
Day 3: Zürich (Landesmuseum, visit the Fraumünster and Grossmünster, and visit the Niederdorf area)

Alex

Posted by
7205 posts

There's nothing like taking the Swiss public transport system. Buses, boats, gondolas, trains, funiculars are EVERYWHERE and are all precisely timed to get you to your destination just in time to meet your connection. I don't know how they do it, but I sure wish the USA could do it even HALF AS WELL as Switzerland. We've rented cars a couple of times, but nothing compares to the trains. Oh to live in a country where a car is not a necessity...can you IMAGINE??? I can only dream of it. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of that wonderful system - you'll not see it anywhere else.

Posted by
104 posts

Wouldn't that be something? No driving... I just love European downtown areas, you walk and enjoy... no cars!... what a concept!... I wonder why that hasn't taken hold of in the US... hmmm

Posted by
5 posts

Hello Alex, glad you made a smart decisions. As to your question, a day trip is doable, if you get an early rise. I looked up the train schedule from Luzern - Lauterbrunnen, not on sbb website but www.bls.ch they operate among others the Luzern-Interlaken Express. Here's what I found for you: Dep. Luzern 08.05 am Arr. Lauterbrunnen 10:25 am. Change train to the Jungfrau Bahn www.jungfrau.ch/reiseinformation. Dep Lauterbrunnen 10:37 am Arr. Kleine Scheidegg 11:30 am. Just in time for lunch at the bottom of the Eiger/Monch and Junfgrau. Depart Kleine Scheidegg at your convenience to Grindelwald Grund change train to go back to Interlaken - Luzern. That is if you are out of time to stroll through Grindelwald, if not, stay in the train to get to the village after one more stop. Now all you need is sunshine and blue skies. Best of luck and let me know if you have any other questions. In August we'll be flying from Dallas to Paris, stay 3 days, take the high speed train to Bern. Spend a week with friends and family and back to TX out of Zurich.
Cheers

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks for putting together the itinerary!... It seems doable, as you described it... I'm already looking forward going back to Switzerland.. Good point about making a reservation in Chiasso to Luzern on our first day on April 5th...

Alex

Posted by
5 posts

Wait there is more, hehe. Since you already know Lauterbrunnen, you could simply take the train from Interlaken to Grindelwald Grund, may have to change trains in Zweilütschinen (or not). At Grindelwald Grund you could take the Männlichen Gondola to Männlichen, beautiful view over to Mürren and the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Then hike to Kleine Scheidegg (all downhill) and take the cogwheel train back to Grindelwald. Just a thought. It almost feels as if I'll be traveling with you, I am sure I will in my mind when you're there.
Ciao for now!

Posted by
104 posts

Can't wait to be there!...Thank you again!