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3 weeks in Switzerland

I am planning a 3-week trip to Switzerland for next year in May. My husband & I had visited Luzern and Berner Oberland in our previous trip years ago, so this time we would like to visit other parts of Switzerland and experience the 4 scenic train rides. I have modified Rick’s suggested itinerary in order to accommodate our schedule and places of interest for us. The tentative itinerary is as follows:

• Arrive Zurich at 10:30pm - stay overnight
• Take train from Zurich to Appenzell – stay 3 nights
• Take train from Appenzell to Chur then Pontresina – stay 2 nights
• Take Bernina Express southbound from Pontresina to Tirano, take bus to Lugano – stay 1 night
• *Take William Tell Express from Lugano to Andermatt, transfer to Glacier Express to Visp, transfer train to Bern – stay 2 nights
• Take train from Bern to Berner Oberland – stay 3 nights (we love this area so much that we decide to stay here again but in a different location)
• Take Golden Pass from Interlaken to Montreux – stay 4 nights (meeting 3 nights)
• Take train from Montreux to Lausanne – 2 nights
• Take train from Lausanne to Geneva – 2 nights
• Fly home from Geneva

Would this itinerary work? If it does, I need advice especially on the leg* from Lugano to Bern as it is really a long journey for one day’s travel. Any advice is much appreciated!

Posted by
16768 posts

If it does, I need advice especially on the leg* from Lugano to Bern as it is really a long journey for one day’s travel.

You will have to wait until the new schedules are loaded for trains operating after Dec 12. One new wrinkle is that there is a new very long tunnel that has opened completely under the mountains on the stretch from Lugano to Zurich that will begin passenger service after Dec 12. The old existing lines will still be operating after then. So to see what that route will look like, go to www.sbb.ch/en put in Lugano to Bern, then click on "advanced search" and enter the following stops, Andermatt, Brig, Kandersteg. That will show you a route to Bellinzona, changing to Goeschenen, then to Brig (passing through Andermatt), then change to the Loetschberger train to Bern. That way you will take a more scenic route to Bern rather than another long tunnel that the main line trains use now. Whole thing is 6 3/4 hour.

Don't be scared of the 4 minute connection in Goeschenen. It is cross-platform and the train will be waiting there for you.
These trains will not be the actual William Tell Express or Glacier Express, but they follow the same tracks.

Posted by
262 posts

Montreux and Lausanne are very close. There is no need to change hotels from Montreux to Lausanne unless you have a specific reason. Vevey is in between the two, ten min from Montreux, twenty from Lausanne. You may find it easier to stay in one location rather than changing hotels. Geneva is an easy train ride away as well, and the train takes you directly to the airport.

Posted by
59 posts

Thank you Sam for the instruction and info on the new route which will be ready for our travel. :) I am glad that that connection is possible. We might break that 6 3/4 hour travel into two, so stay overnight in Brig.

Thank you LacLeman for your smart suggestion. However, my husband has a meeting in Montreux so after that we need to stay in another hotel. I would consider staying in Vevey.

Posted by
59 posts

After more reading, I changed my itinerary to be as follows:
1 night in Zurich
2 nights in Appenzell
2 nights in Pontresina
2 nights in Lugano
1 night in Brig
2 nights in Murten
4 nights in Berner Oberland
4 nights in Montreux (for a meeting)
3 nights in Lausanne
However, with 2 nights' stay in Appenzell, we won't be eligible for an Appenzeller Card which gives us free admission to their museums and transportation etc. Is it worth the one more night stay in Appenzell?

Thank you for your advice in advance!

Posted by
60 posts

Speaking of the Appenzell Card, I think if you really feel you've got enough activities in the region that you'd rather spend that additional day there instead of someplace else then maaaaaybe. The museums are not going to make it worth IMO. They are 10 Franks a pop at most. Many other benefits are either trinkets of debateable worth or only useable during specific times. Now the cablecars are a different matter. Those cost a decent chunk of money provided you have no other discount on them. But even then you'd probably need to do all of them to offset another night in a hotel.

Posted by
59 posts

David S.: Thank you very much for your timely advice!!
I have questions regarding riding on the scenic rails. How do I book for the regular non-panoramic trains which also run along all the scenic routes? Do I need to make reservation for riding on them? Would you suggest getting a Swiss Travel Pass for all my rail journeys?

Posted by
6627 posts

Is there a reason you're stopping in Brig? Or is it just a convenient breakpoint due to train schedules?

Posted by
59 posts

Yes Stan. We would like to experience the William Tell Express route from Lugano to Andermatt then the Glacier Express route from Goeschenen to Brig before heading northwest to Murten, so I found Brig is a convenient breakpoint since travelling from Lugano to Murten takes about 7 hours!

Posted by
60 posts

The scenic routes (Bernina and Glacier Express) I've traveled did not require a reservation for the non-panoramic trains. They are normal trains that simply connect the places on those routes. Depending on the time might want a reservation if the trains are full but I don't know how often that is.

As for the Swiss Travel Pass you'd probably have to run the numbers yourself but I'd guess it would. A 8 day flex pass is 407 CHF for second class. That's 50 bucks a day. Zürich - Appenzell is about 32. Appenzell - Pontresina is about 76. You can look up the other rides on www.sbb.ch

A full 15 day plus a ful 8 day pass would be an average of 40 bucks a day.

Posted by
21057 posts

When pricing Swiss rail tickets, it's important to remember that the SBB website assumes the purchaser has a half-fare card. The full price would be twice the price displayed.

Posted by
59 posts

Thank you David S. & Acraven in taking time to help!
David S.: I cannot see where you got the costs for each leg of travel from www.sbb.ch.
More questions:
1) From Rick Steves' Switzerland Rail Passes and Train Tips on Swiss Travel Pass: "You can take as many trips as you like within each travel day." Would non-train rides such as local bus or boat taken before or after a train ride on the same travel day be considered as using part of that one travel day? What about on a non-train ride day taking local transportation or visiting a museum using the STP? The answer will dictate the number of travel days (8 or 15) we need to buy for the Swiss Travel Pass Flex.
2) What is the difference between Eurail Pass and Swiss Travel Pass?
3) I read that a discount card is available for senior buying train tickets and it can be purchased in Europe. Is that discount card available for oversea travellers to purchase?
4) For riding on those regular trains which also run on scenic routes: Is it possible to make reservation when I buy the STP on Rick Steves' website?
5) Wonder if we need a Swiss Half Fare Card (or a Swiss Transfer Pass) besides the Swiss Travel Pass Flex.
In need of explanation! Any suggestion?