Please sign in to post.

Chamonix, France to Montreux on Swiss Travel Pass

Hi,
I have spent hours trying to figure out our best options for travel. The particulars: We will be spending 3 nights in the Lauterbrunnen Valley on the Alpine My Way tour in June. It ends in Chamonix after 2 more nights. From there, we are going back to Switzerland for 4 more nights in the Montreux/Fribourg area.

An 8 day pass would cover our first full day in Switzerland up to our next to last day, when we just have to get to the airport from Zurich. I have done the math for estimated expenses, and it comes close enough that the few extra dollars for the 8 day pass are worth the convenience and extra opportunity over the Half Fare pass--as long a the weather is good enough in the Lauterbrunnen area to go up the Shilthorn. I think we should wait until we are there to make this decision?

The coverage maps show the Swiss Travel Pass will cover the fare from Chamonix to Montruex, but the Half Fare card will not. I have several questions about this journey. When I try to look at tickets on Rail Europe, or other sites, I can book them with no card, but it won't let me book with either type of pass.

1. Do we need reservations since we are crossing an international border? How do I do that? The journey has 2 transfers--at Vallorcine and Marigny. I think the second transfer is where we cross the border. I think I read somewhere that if you don't have reservations for the international portion, there can be hefty fines.

2. If I can't do this ahead of time, do we just show up at the station, or should we stop at the station a day or two before to make reservations?

3. Is the answer dependent on the type of card?

Thanks for any clarification on this.

Posted by
60 posts

I traveled this route last year with only a Swiss Pass. I did not have advance reservations. Someone did check my pass with passport on the train en route to Chamonix, but nothing different from any other time my pass/passport was checked on a Swiss train.

I would surmise that reservations would be helpful at peak travel times during the summer, as it's a popular tourist route. I traveled during shoulder season and didn't have an issue getting a seat on the train.

ETA: The Swiss Pass covers only until the Chamonix Mont Blanc stop. If you're going further than that stop, you'll need an additional train ticket that you can buy online ahead of time so that you don't have to get off and on the train again.

Posted by
16941 posts
  1. You don't need reservations. The train to Vallorcine is a TER. The other trains are Swiss trains that do not require reservations. "I think I read somewhere..." You thought wrong.
  2. See 1.
  3. See 1.

An 8 day Swiss Travel Pass seems like overkill to me for what you describe, but I don't know how much travel you plan. Look at the Half Fare Card if you do the Schilthornbahn. You can buy it at Lauterbrunnen station when you know the weather is favorable. If it is not, I suspect you will save money just buying tickets as you need them. Check prices for Switzerland at www.sbb.ch/en.

Posted by
8889 posts

Va, "When I try to look at tickets on Rail Europe, or other sites, I can book them with no card, but it won't let me book with either type of pass." - Don't understand why you are doing this this. If you have a pass, you are already covered. You don't need to buy a ticket as well. You just get on a train (or bus or boat), and show your pass to the ticket inspector when they come round.
With a Half Fare Card you buy the tickets at the station. On the ticket machine, press the "½/child" button.

Rail Europe is the wrong place to look up train times. Use the website of the railway running the trains. In this case SBB (Swiss Federal Railways: https://www.sbb.ch/en

"1. Do we need reservations since we are crossing an international border?" - you do not need reservations on Swiss trains. Neither do you need them on local French trains, which this train is. The border has no relevance for reservations.

"2. If I can't do this ahead of time, do we just show up at the station, or should we stop at the station a day or two before to make reservations?" - no reservations, not needed, not possible.

Posted by
737 posts

Thank you all for your responses. Just to be clear we will be going from Chamonix to Montreux. Rail Europe was the only site that would show me ticket prices in my efforts to figure out which, if any, passes to get. www.sbb.ch/en says they cannot sell international tickets online and when I tried the french train website, they redirected me to Rail Europe as someone "outside Europe." I plan to get any tickets that we use at the train stations; either the Swiss Travel Pass, or Half Fare card and tickets, or individual tickets.

I'm glad to know that we don't need reservations, and we could stop at the Chamonix station the day before we leave there to check if reservations would be advisable for late June. After Chamonix, we also will be doing 2 other longish train trips, several boat trips, some lifts, buses and museums. So adding all those guesstimates for our activities comes to more that the 8 day pass. Dividing by 2 and adding the price of the Half Fare card comes pretty close to the 8 day pass. Hence, the thought that for convenience and additional opportunities we might have, the 8 day pass could work. But, it will depend on the weather for the Shilthorn. I'll figure about the Half Fare card without the Schilthorn and see where the total comes out.

Thanks again for your help.

Posted by
16941 posts

I just checked for seat reservations at www.sbb.ch/en. The trains from Chamonix are French TER to Vallorcine, then a Swiss Regional train to Martigny, then a Swiss Interregio train to Montreux. Not only do you not need reservations, none of these trains even take reservations. They all go every hour, so nobody gets stressed about not getting on the train. If by some strange turn of events all the seats were taken, you stand until someone gets off and you get it. Now the train at Vallorcine will be sitting, probably empty waiting for you. The Interregio train is coming from Brig going to Geneva airport. But people from Brig are likely to take faster IC trains that get there faster because they make fewer stops (they don't stop at Martigny).

Posted by
737 posts

Sam, thanks for checking on those details. I really appreciate it.

Posted by
11292 posts

when I tried the french train website, they redirected me to Rail Europe as someone "outside Europe."

Use this link, which will give prices in English: https://en.oui.sncf/en/

Posted by
737 posts

Thank you. I had that address once but didn’t copy it down correctly and had trouble finding it again.

Posted by
16883 posts

At https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes, we say:

  • France extra: The Swiss Travel Pass covers trains between Le Châtelard (on the Swiss border) and Chamonix, France (about $15 without a rail pass).

I would go with the assumption (not guaranteed), that you will find a clear-enough break during your two full June days in the Lauterbrunnen Valley that makes the Schilthorn assent worthwhile. (Without a pass, it's still a shorter trip and lower price than the Jungfraujoch, for instance, so I'd say also a lower sun-requirement-threshold.) Your whole group will certainly check forecasts the day before, so that you'll be prepared to start early, if necessary (and often recommended).

FYI, the types of international tickets that need seat reservations are the longer-distance and faster French trains, such as TGV Lyria that runs directly to Paris, or the Italian half of EuroCity trains that run directly to Milan.

Posted by
737 posts

Laura, thanks for your input on the weather. I think I can still wait until we arrive to make the call between 8 day Travel Pass and Half Fare Card? I checked and the tour info says we arrive about 5 pm, and the station is open until 7:30 pm. Is that a safe assumption?

Posted by
16883 posts

Yes, they should sell the passes there as easily as any other ticket in the computer. Bring your passports, in case they want to see those.