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Car or Train

Hi everyone,
My daughter (adult) and myself are planning a trip for 2 weeks at end of August in Switzerland. We like cities and country sides and small villages. We like walking around and look at beautiful sceneries!
What is the best way, car or train. We are debating and there are lots of pros and cons for a car and also for the train. One day it's car, and the other is train.
We would like the Interlaken region, Luzern, Valais (Lauzanne) and more. We would like to go "kind of road trip" not too organize in
terms of specific itinerary.

We are struggling cost wise, is it better by car or by train? Train looks a bit expensive if we want the Swiss pass travel for the entire stay and it doesn't cover everything but on the other hand, with the car, gaz, "vignet", parking, plus the fact that car in cities is not very handy and villages that are car free, etc...

Thanks, Chantal

Posted by
2080 posts

Take the train, public transport is in general excellent in Switzerland and will take you to all places you mention. Having a car will cost more, especially parking can be very expensive.

But, it is not a black and white situation. If there is some place you want to go where you feel a car is useful, you can rent a car for a day.

Posted by
2079 posts

Bonjour !
The Swiss Travel Pass is expensive but it is not necessary. It depends on the exact itinerary, but most people find that a Half-Fare card, valid for 1 month for Fr. 120.-, is a better deal. You are then free to buy tickets at half-price, including most mountain excursions, whenever you want.
Also, most hotels include free public transport passes in their room rate, which is a big saving.
So, I love road trips, but in Switzerland I strongly lean towards "train", especially in your case where the places you list have good public transport (except, perhaps, parts of the Valais).

Posted by
18720 posts

If a train doesn't go where you want to go, there is likely to be a postbus or mountain lift that does. The scenery is indeed glorious; it would be nice for both of you to be able to enjoy it, not just the one in the passenger seat!

Posted by
489 posts

I agree that trains are a better option. Switzerland has excellent public transportation and a car is more of a hassle than convenience, in most cases. As mentioned, finding parking is not easy and may cost quite a bit of $. Also, I have yet to find a good rental car agency in the country. The US brand name agencies, such as Enterprise, are franchises and their service isn't up to par with what we have in the US. In addition, if you need an automatic, then it will be expensive. Happy travels!

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you all!

It seems that we have a unanimous answer! Train it should be.
I am aware of the 25% off
My next question would have been if train, which pass should I get and the suggestion of the Half Price Card seems to be a very good option for us.

Thanks again to all of you


Posted by
1719 posts

all train questions are answered by the man in seat 61, for anywhere in Europe and beyond.

Rome2Rio is another invaluable resource.

Posted by
605 posts

I'll make it not unanimous. If you want to see lots of train stations, wait a lot, stress about finding timetables, miss out on all the amazing lakes and views that no train will take you to, AND pay double for the privilege (because there are two of you), then train is the way for you.

We ALWAYS take a car in Switzerland. We love the freedom to go where we want when we want, and to stop wherever we see something interesting. I would use trains if I were only seeing cities, because its true that driving and parking in cities can be stressful. But we drove in Bern and Luzern with little hassle.

In terms of price, we found it cheaper to rent a car and even pay for 3 days parking in Stechelberg while we stayed up in Murren and were not even using the car, than it would have been to pay for two train tickets to everywhere we wanted to see. Switzerland is about the most expensive train system in Europe.

Posted by
882 posts

Here's another vote for the car! You're in control of your schedule and can stop anytime/anywhere something interests you. The only place where I had any trouble was finding an overnight parking spot near the pedestrian zone in Zurich and that was because the person at the hotel desk gave me bad advice. I've also day or overnight parked in Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Kandersteg, Bern, Gruyeres, Montreux, Luzern, and Basel. A lot of potential driving problems can be avoided if you do a little research on the front end - especially related to your overnight parking.

Posted by
29 posts

My wife and I always do both for our annual 14 - 17-day stay. We rent the smallest car available with manual transmission (great for those alpine switchbacks) for generally, one full week and purchase half fair rail passes for the remainder of our stay.

We are heading to Switzerland in September with car rental booked and rail pass on iPhones. We generally stay in Lauterbrunnen for just over a week and the Leysin area (near Montreux) for the remainder. We use the rail pass exclusively for the Lauterbrunnen leg of our stay and the car for Leysin. Since the rail pass is valid for 30-days, we have the option of forgoing the car for a day or so.

This year, our car rental is $297, and with the rail pass discount, the half fair passes are $260 total.

Why labor over this decision? Try both. Enjoy.

Posted by
1719 posts

OK wait, what about the infamous rental car shortage?

Posted by
29 posts

Hmmm. I just checked through Autoeurope and there are still cars available in Montreux for September at the same reasonable price we booked at two months ago. ‘Shortage’? I don’t think so.

Posted by
29 posts

Certainly not an issue in Switzerland. Cannot speak for other European countries. A check with AutoEurope would be a good firsthand indicator over the media.

Posted by
7 posts

I’m currently in Switzerland traveling by car. My thought is that if you don’t have a good reason to travel by car in Switzerland, you might find the train easier.

We are going by car because 1) we already have a car in Europe (Netherlands), 2) we’re doing a trip through Germany, Switzerland, and France - which all put together is significantly easier via car, and 3) as a result we’re packing more heavily than usual.

Its\’s actually very easy to drive through Switzerland, as long as you spend a bit of time learning how driving in Europe is different (roundabouts, road signs, vignette, etc). Having said that, in Switzerland we’re mostly just using the car to go from location A to location B, unpack, and leave in the parking lot. Although having a car is easy, it’s not particularly useful. For example we’re in Berger Oberland (Lauterbrunnen) and, apart from one short drive from the cable car at Stechelberg, virtually all of the other transportation is done via public transportation (cable cars, gondolas, trains). It was similar for us in Lucerne as well.

So while I don’t think you’ll feel any difficulty at all as a result of having a car, I think you should plan to use public transportation pretty heavily once you get from major point A to major point B.