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Best options for transit if staying 3 nights in/near Lauterbrunnen

(Many thanks to everyone who has answered my previous questions.)

We're planning a few days in Switzerland in mid-August. Plan to arrive in Bern by train and head straight to Lauterbrunnen area (not booked anything yet - need to very soon, I know!) So, three related questions!...

1. General approach to transit

  • Train from Bern to Lauterbrunnen and return (comes to approx $600 for a family of 4...seems crazy expensive, does that sound right?!) Then catch buses/trains/taxis as needed.
  • 4-day Bernese Oberland pass (about $1,100 for the 4 of us) which would cover us for Bern to Wengen and return, plus any and all other travel we want to do. (I fear this option would make us feel compelled to travel constantly, whereas we may want to just chill and hang out sometimes)
  • Rent a car at Bern airport (would have to pay for shuttle from station to airport) - approx $300-400 - but many people are saying "use trains not car!"

Recommendations?!

Pros/Cons going more rural/isolated

There are some rural places which cost less to stay at. For example Habkern is 15mins by car from Interlaken. There's a bus service to Interlaken, but it doesn't run late. What we would save in accommodation might be lost in taxi rides to/from Interlaken. Any thoughts on this one?

When to buy tickets

Do I need to book actual train tickets far in advance? Again, our plans are for mid-August.

Thank you!

Posted by
20296 posts

In your other posts, I could not find where you stated your family make-up. Kids? Ages? That is important info for pricing Swiss rail pass costs.

Posted by
20296 posts

Where are you going after you leave Habkern? And how are you going?
Staying in Habkern, you can be forgiven for renting a car in Switzerland. You will still have parking fees to deal with. Kids are adults as far as train tickets go, so no savings there.
Are you taking a train from Paris? Rome? Have you bought tickets yet? You can get ticketed all the way to Interlaken and rent a car there.

Posted by
33003 posts

Where are you getting your train prices? You're not looking at RailEurope or Rick's trainfare map are you?

The walk up fare between Bern and Lauterbrunnen for an adult is CHF 36.60 pp. 4 times that is CHF 146.40. Add in going back CHF 292.80 all in. You don't say what kind of dollars you have but if I assume USA ones (other currencies are widely available and often quoted here) at today's exchange rate that is about $292.98. That's a whole lot less than $600.

My fares are based on the official SBB website with no discount.

Posted by
7209 posts

Do make sure you're pricing your tickets correctly - I'm guessing you're using RailEurope. Just use www.sbb.ch/en

Posted by
55 posts

Sam, Nigel, Tim, thank you.

Habkern is not certain - trying to figure out if what I'd save on accommodations would be worth it. I'm tending to think not.

"You can get ticketed all the way to Interlaken" - what's the best way to do that? Not RailEurope I have discovered!

"You're not looking at RailEurope or Rick's trainfare map are you?"...er...yes I was! I'm going to stop doing that, though!

Thanks again.

Posted by
1443 posts

You never need to book train tickets in advance. They're never full and there are frequent departures.

Trains are usually the best way to get around Switzerland but since your party has 4 adults a car may be worth considering. Even if it costs a little more, you gain quite a bit of convenience especially if your group is packing heavy or staying in a remote town. Personally, I'd probably still use the trains so as not to have to worry about car stuff (navigation, parking, accidents, speeding tickets, etc).

Posted by
8889 posts

"Rent a car at Bern airport" - if you rent a car (which I would also advise against), why go all the way out to Bern airport? You could rent at Bern city centre, or Interlaken.

The others have given good advice. Train will be easier. 16 and 19-year-olds are adults. 19-year-old legally, the 16-year-old partially, (s)he is an adult on trains, and can legally buy their own wine and beer. Travel light - everybody carries there own luggage, and if you can't carry it up and down stairs, don't bring it.

You never need to buy Swiss rail tickets in advance. There are no reservations, it is a "turn-up-and-go" service with at least one train per hour on all routes.
French and German tickets (if that is how you are getting to Bern) are otherwise. They have big discounts for advance purchases.

Where are you going afterwards and by what method of transport? You need to integrate that into your plan as well.

Posted by
1056 posts

Switzerland's train system is great, but the most expensive in Europe.

We rented a car. Its much cheaper than train if there are four of you. And it gives you the flexibility to leave when you want, stop where you want, and change your plans on a whim. You can rent a car, park it for 3 days at Lauterbrunnen, and pay the various cable cars, and in total it will still be much cheaper than the train.

Don't rent at Bern airport. Bern airport is a LONG way out of town. Rather book at the train station or a downtown location.

If you want to stay in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, my recommendation would be Murren hands down.

Posted by
11404 posts

You can rent a car, park it for 3 days at Lauterbrunnen, and pay the various cable cars, and in total it will still be much cheaper than the train.

darrenblois I do not see the math working out that way. Getting a Half Fare Card -- and possibly the Berner Oberland Regional Pass -- will cut down the train and lift ticket costs significantly and it is a shame to leave a car in a garage for 3 nights in car-free Muerren. PLUS it is enjoyable to ride Swiss trains and experience a different way of travel from the usual car-based existence we have in the U.S. and Canada.

Posted by
20296 posts

Still need to know where you are coming from and where you are going to after? Ticket purchase strategy is the issue. You can save a lot of money pre-purchasing nonrefundable tickets to and from Switzerland.

Posted by
55 posts

You people are so good! All this info, all this time and thought. Really, thank you.

"Still need to know where you are coming from and where you are going to after?" - Sam

We will be coming from Rome, and going to Paris. Yeah, advice on ticket purchasing strategy would be a huge help, thank you.

Car vs. Train: Leaning heavily to train.

Posted by
20296 posts

Right now, and I am taking educated guess on your travel dates, you can buy 4 tickets from Rome Termini to Spiez, Switzerland for 315.60 EUR total. These are nonrefundable train specific tickets, like airline tickets. Leave Roma Termini at 8 am, and get to Spiez at 1:53 pm with a single train change at Milano Centrale. Change time is 24 minutes, so should be comfortable.

At Spiez, get 4 tickets for 11.40 CHF each to Interlaken. You can buy those day of travel, and you still have not developed you local transport method yet. If renting a car, you can do it in Interlaken. If not, get tickets to your destination in the Berner Oberland. It is 3 months away, so plenty of time to develop your plan.

It is still a tad early to buy tickets to Paris. But for August 6, which is for sale now. I see 4 tickets from Interlaken Ost to Paris Gare de Lyon for 271.80 EUR total. Leave Interlaken Ost at 12:30 pm and be in Paris at 5:40 pm. The change time in Basel is only 5 minutes, but you can take an earlier noon train from Interlaken Ost that will give you 35 minutes in Basel. These tickets should go on sale in the next week for your travel date. 3 months looks like the lead time.

Look at buying tickets at www.trainline.eu They cover Italian and French trains at the same prices as you see on the rails sites,
Italy: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
France: https://en.oui.sncf/en/tgv
Switzerland: https://www.sbb.ch/en

Posted by
55 posts

Sam! Wow, thank you!. I am going to look at those sites and see what I can figure out.

I'm inclined to stay in Wengen - pricier than we had hoped, but probably worth it. Looking at vrbo I'm seeing apartments for around $250/night for the 4 of us. (VRBO is a bit confusing and I'll post a separate question about that.)

Thanks again for taking time to research all that and write it up.

Posted by
1056 posts

Here's the math:
Swiss Half Fare Card: CHF 120 x 4 = CHF 480
Train Fare Bern-Murren w/ Half-Fare Card: CHF 24 x 4 = CHF 96
Train Fare Murren-Bern w/ Half-Fare Card: CHF 24 x 4 = CHF 96
Total = CHF 672

Train Fare Bern-Murren Full Fare: CHF 48 x 4 = CHF 192
Train Fare Murren-Bern Full Fare: CHF 48 x 4 = CHF 192
Total = 384

Europcar Audi A1 from Bern for 4 days: CHF 223
Parking @ Stechelberg for 3 days: CHF 24
One tank gas: CHF 100
Total = 347

Add the convenience of the car. Our trip was one way Basel-Chur. We used the convenience of the car to: go to Trummelbach falls and leave when we wanted, without worrying about bus schedule; stop for a picnic on Lake Thun; take a detour into Liechtenstein; and drop our bags right at the hotel before getting rid of the car.

For us the car was a no-brainer. You're willing to pay the extra for the train, that's totally fine. Whether it works for OP is up to them.

Posted by
55 posts

Thanks, everyone for your very detailed input. I remember well the stressful weekend where I started trying to wrap my brain around all the options/details, and your responses we absolutely key. We ended up staying in Wengen for 3 nights and used trains exclusively - it all worked very well. (And Sam we used your Rome - Switzerland rail advice and it was perfect.)