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Bernina Express and Swiss Half Fare Pass question

We are looking at riding the Bernina Express from Pontresina to Tirano. I believe we have to purchase our ticket in advance and reserve a seat. We will not be in Switzerland until September 18th. We were planning on getting the Swiss Half Fare Pass on arrival to Switzerland. My question is can we purchase the Bernina Express ticket using the Swiss Half Fare before we actually have the Half
Fare Pass. I hope this makes sense.
Thank you for any help.

Posted by
20296 posts

Yes you can purchase before hand. When the conductor checks your ticket, you will also need to show the Half Fare Card, and your ID. The Half Fare Card does not cover the reservation fee, but that is a small amount.

Posted by
13 posts

So if I understand correctly I can buy Bernina Express ticket using Half Fare Card rate now online. When I get to Switzerland, I can buy the Half Fare Card. Is that right?
Thank you!

Posted by
20296 posts

Yes. The conductor just has to see the Half Fare Card so he knows you paid the right fare. If you paid the half fare price and did not have your card, it would be traveling with an invalid ticket and there would be consequences.

Posted by
33003 posts

Pam

That's all correct. You're not just using the Half Fare card for that one trip, are you?

That is one of my favourite train rides in the world. Have a lovely time.

I see that you say "we" but only talk about getting one Half Fare card. I do believe that each adult will need to have one.

Posted by
13 posts

There will be four adults doing the trip. We will start in Basel - 4 nights in Murren - 2 nights in Lucerne -1 night in Pontresina - then to Bellagio. After much reading and researching, we have decided the Half Fare Card would be best. Yes, we would purchase a card for each of us. I know we have to purchase our tickets and reserve our seats in advance but how far in advance do we need to do this? Is there a date it has to be done by?

Posted by
20296 posts

There is pretty much no requirement to buy in advance, as prices do not change in Switzerland. Now there are SuperSaver tickets, which are made available 30 days in advance with discounts of up to 50%, and still subject to the 50% Half Fare Card. With these you must ride the exact trains on the SuperSaver ticket. I'll leave it to you if you want to go through that exercise.
http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/supersaver-tickets.html

Otherwise, you can look at your planned routes and travel days at www.sbb.ch/en and it will show how crowded they expect the trains to be. You may opt to buy a reservation if it looks to be very crowded and you want to be sure to sit together.

RE Bernina Express, again there is no absolute amount of time you have to reserve in advance. You could buy just before departure, although you may be not sitting together. But I'd say buy as soon as you know exactly when you want to go.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you Nigel and Sam for the replies.

I thought that the Bernina Express train tickets had to be purchased in advance. Is that right?

I did not look at the Super Saver ticket option. To be honest I wasn't even aware of it. It was confusing enough with all the other options. I think It may be easier to have some lee way in our departure times in each place so we can have more freedom to do things at the last minute if we want instead of having a advanced timed ticket. But it is definitely something to consider.

Posted by
20296 posts

Well, it could sell out, at least in the panorama cars, especially in busy tourist season. But if there were empty seats 10 minutes before departure, they certainly would sell them to you. Plus the mandatory reservation fee, which is actually more of a supplement for the panorama cars. But if you buy well in advance, you will have car and seat numbers and guarantee of those seats.

Posted by
33003 posts

I have never purchased train tickets ahead in Switzerland, but it is also the case that I have never taken the fancy, tourist filled, hermetically sealed tourist trains.

I stay in second class, on the older train stock (more leaving the system all the time) with opening windows or at least open windows in the vestibules so I can have a good chance at good photos. I find the panoramic windows on the fancy trains reflect too much of the inside onto the photo.

On the regular trains which fill in the gaps around the fancy trains I have never been unable to find a seat.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you so much for your feedback. I am so thankful for forums like this to get answers to our questions from experienced people.