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Bernina express vs. regional trains & pass pricing

1-With eurail global pass, I read somewhere that you can only use the pass on the express panoramic train. If we prefer the regional trains with hop-off, hop-on flexibility, can we still use our global pass on the regional trains?
2-when using DB app or, it shows prices per route requested. Just to make sure I understand correctly, if I have the global pass( 2nd class) , I do not pay those prices, correct? They are covered by pass? We will be in Italy, Switzerland, Austria & Germany for 3 weeks and anticipating about 6 travel days which is why I am considering the eurail global flex pass.

Posted by
6930 posts

Actually it's the opposite. With the pass, you can take any regional train for free BUT you would need to purchase a seat reservation (which is NOT the same as a ticket, it is much cheaper) for the express panoramic train.

If you have the pass (active on your travel days), you do not need to pay anything else in countries where reservations are not mandatory. That includes regional trains almost everywhere, and all trains in Switzerland, Germany, Austria - although you might still want to buy seat reservations for longer journeys in Germany.
In Italy, passholder reservations are mandatory for intercity and highspeed Freccia trains, and the pass is not valid on trains operated by Italo, a private operator.

What is your route? We can help you decide if a global pass is the way to go.

Posted by
18 posts

I would value your input to my itinerary and travel plans. Should I post on this forum or is there a more direct connection to you?

Posted by
11294 posts

Please post on this forum. That way, you can get input from more than just one person (although Balso is pretty knowledgeable about these matters), and others can learn from the answers.

Posted by
32964 posts

This summer, June, July, August? In Germany there is a monthly 9€ month long ticket (that's 9€ for the whole month, all you can eat, valid one of the entire months, valid on all local transport, valid on all regional trains and S-Bahns throughout the entire country, only not-valid on express trains (classes ICE, IC, EC) in second class). Hard to beat 9€ per person virtually all trains all month.

Posted by
18 posts

This is how our schedule has evolved so far. According to my calculations, we are borderline on point-to-point vs. flex global pass. Favoring pass due to timing flexibility, pay and done, hop on/ hop off. Also not sure which ferries, cable cars might offer discount with pass, but having a pass might be useful in those situations. For pass, does it matter whether to purchase from or Paper vs pass on phone recommendation?

There are 2 of us traveling together and we are 65, 67 years of age, so would qualify for Senior status.

8/24 - From USA, Land in Milan - sleep 2 nights in Milan (Airbnb)
8/26 - a.m. train to Varenna on Lake Como - use ferry on lake, sleep 1 night in Varenna (Airbnb)
8/27 - a.m. train/bus/train (rail portion between Colico and Tirano under repairs in August) to Ponstrenia
Probably use regional train option to allow for more flexible schedule and not have to reserve seats on Bernina Express. Sleep 2 nights in Ponstrenia to enjoy seeing glacier, walks/hikes, etc.
8/29 - anytime train to Chur - Sleep 1 night in Chur
8/30 - a.m. train from Chur to Garmish. Sleep 2 nights in Garmish, hopefully cable car Zugspitze, walks, hike, gorge, etc.
9/1 - train to Salzburg. Sleep 3 nights in Salzburg. Days would like to include Berchtesgaden , salt mine tour, SOM tour & some down time prior to Backroads walking tour.
9/4 - 9/9 - walking/hiking Salzburg to Munich with Backroads tour.
9/9 - Munich - sleep 4 nights. Days would like to include recovery time from Backroads walking tour, English gardens, Daucha, castles.
9/13 - fly back to USA from Munich

Thank you for any suggestions.

Posted by
20289 posts

I only count 5 travel days.
8/26 Milan-Varenna
8/27 Varenna-Pontresina
8/29 Pontresina-Chur
8/30 Chur-Garmisch/Partenkirchen
9/1 Garmisch/Partenkirchen-Salzburg

a 5-day Flex Sr 2nd class Twin Pass is $551, so that is about $55/day per person. So if you could buy train tickets for less than $50 per person day, you'd be ahead of the game. Here is what your tickets should cost if you just buy day of travel.

8/26 Milan-Varenna 13.60 EUR for 2 or about $15
8/27 Varenna-Pontresina 14.80 EUR to Tirano and 56 CHF to Pontresina for 2 or about $76
8/29 Pontresina-Chur 84 CHF or about $89
8/30 Chur-Garmisch/Partenkirchen Advance purchase 2 tickets for 162 CHF or about $170
9/1 Garmisch/Partenkirchen-Salzburg Bayern ticket for 2 at 34 EUR for 2 or about $37

So that comes to $387 vs $551 with a Eurail Pass. The only tickets you need to buy in advance are Chur to Garmisch, All others buy on day of travel.

One more hint, Specify "Via Filisur" for the leg from Pontresina to Chur so you will be routed on the Albula line which is much more scenic.

Posted by
121 posts

The best advice I profited from on this forum was to take the regular train from Tirano to Pontresina rather than the official Bernina Express. (We were using Swiss rail passes..) We stayed in Varenna for 4 nights and then took the train to Tirano; it’s a 90 minute trip.

Posted by
18 posts

After a cross country USA road trip, I am back to planning train travel in Europe. If I need to advance purchase tickets from Chur to Garmisch, how far in advance? Now from USA on Rail Europe? Day before travel? A few days before travel?

And the rest of the travel legs, just buy at a station kiosk shortly before boarding? (Watching YouTube videos make it look pretty easy).

Sorry for so many questions. Trying to make good decisions at the right time! Any other suggestions are welcome.

Thank you!

Posted by
20289 posts

If I need to advance purchase tickets from Chur to Garmisch, how far in advance? Now from USA on Rail Europe?

First, do not purchase from Rail Europe. They are a travel agent. The best price is to buy from Deutsche Bahn.
This is a normal price Europa Ticket, meaning the price should not change, so you can buy a few days before. The price from Deutsche Bahn is 150 EUR. The price from SBB is 162 CHF, so given current exchange rates, Deutsche Bahn is the better price.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you Sam for your guidance. A couple of follow up questions.
1 - the DB site shows a 4 minute time allotment to change trains at Sargans on the Chur to Garmisch route. I’m thinking that might be pretty quick for us, so I could reserve a seat for the next express train even though it would be a couple of hours. We could explore Sargans then continue on to Innsbruck then to Garmisch. Book each leg separately?

2 - Do the kiosks accept local currency cash (euros or CHF) or credit cards only?

Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Posted by
20289 posts

If you buy tickets from Deutsche Bahn, you can just specify a 2 hour stopover in Sargans to get the next Railjet to Innsbruck. That way you can get the 150 EUR price for 2 people. If you buy them one leg at a time, you will end up paying about 174 EUR.

Posted by
1579 posts

I don't like changing locations. I'd skip Milan, add two nights to Varenna. The mid-lake deserves two full days at least.

I've seen some of Ticino and the Bernese Oberland, never been to Chur or Pontresina, but I'd get rid of one of those and add to the other or GP (one of my friends much preferred Pontresina).

Re the Bernina Express itself, I would not book a ticket in advance. We once stayed on Lake Como during a September, hoping to take the express. Although it was generally fine where we stayed, the daily weather forecasts for the train ride were nearly always low cloud formations and heavy mists.

Posted by
1579 posts

Re your stay in Munich and castle or palace visits. Nymphenburg and Schleißheim/Lustheim are all close by. If you want a day out, Herrenchiemsee is a bettetr day out than the castles at Schwangau.