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Deciphering SBB site and trains for swiss rail trip

Hey everyone!

Like most of you, I am dreaming of travel and looking at putting together a rail journey including the Berina and Glacier Express trains. I am looking at traveling the legs, with the exception of the Appenzell section, Rick describes in his book. Right now I have no plans decided as it is early to travel, but am wanting to learn how to navigate that SBB website and will worry about really booking once it is safe to go. I plan a leisurely pace, so no one night stays.

I am looking at Zurich to fly in, move to Luzern to recover and sightsee, and then on to Laterbrunnen/Murren, Gruyeres (I am a medieval city fan), Montreux(Castle) Zermatt, St Moritz, Ticino Lugano, Bellinoza (Castles) , and return to Zurich for flight home. We may or may not add a Village Italy tour toward the end so flight may be home from Milan.

I do know Interlaken OST is my connection to Laterbrunnen and Murren, but the train station names are confusing. What should I look for to find the mid city station? Is there a map I can find out from?

What is the airport named train station in Zurich or is there one? There was one in Frankfurt. Is it Flughafen or HB?

Thanks in advance for your help!
Nancy

Posted by
15706 posts

Zurich airport is Flughafen. HB is short for Hauptbahnhof, German for main city station.

Click on "Map of validity" in the lower right hand corner of this page to download a pdf with a detailed Swiss rail map. that also shows where the Swiss Travel Pass is valid and where you have to pay a supplement, also cities that include free local transport with the Pass.

https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-travel-pass.html

Posted by
5609 posts
Posted by
5538 posts

There are only two rail stations in Interlaken - West and East (Ost). No central. Its not that big a town - you could walk from one to the other.

Flughafen is the German word for airport, so it will always be named that way in the German-Speaking world.

But one thing you need to know is that when you are pricing tickets, the SBB site always assumes you have a half-price card (something most Swiss residents have) so the price is actually higher for single tickets. But recognize there are various options for passes that might be economical.

The other thing to know is that Switzerland is well-served by rail, and you can count on another train headed where you want to go, soon. So you dont have to plan each trip to the exact train that far ahead of time. They are very flexible.

Posted by
5609 posts

RE: ...booking once it is safe to go....

No real advantage to advanced bookings. i.e. no advance purchase discount and trains do not "sell out". The only reason too book in advance is convenience. The exception is panorama cars where you may want seat selections.

https://www.seat61.com/train-travel-in-switzerland.htm

Posted by
368 posts

Wait, isn't there an advantage to booking ahead? The Swiss supersaver fares are cheaper than purchasing day of. For instance a ticket from Geneva to Zurich tomorrow with a half fare card is 44 francs for most trains and a few at 39 francs. On May 19th most tickets were at 39 but some trains were at 22 with the half fare card, which look to me like supersaver fares (at least the 22 franc option). I've seen other big discounts in purchasing several weeks or a month or more out from different Swiss locations.

Posted by
15706 posts

For a big rail tour of Switzerland, the Swiss Travel Pass deserves a look.

Posted by
190 posts

We had a similar route in 2019. Zurich, Luzern, Murren, Northern Italy, Milan. We bought our 8 day Swiss Travel Pass at Zurich airport after we cleared customs. It covers most travel 100%, then discounts for other travel. It worked well for us. Consider downloading the SBB Mobile App. That was very helpful when determining the next trains.. No easy way to determine the right pass. We did an Excel spreadsheet that compared all of our travel by full fare/half fare/Swiss Travel Pass..

Posted by
59 posts

Thank you all. For your explanations and info. I am not booking anything and will buy a travel pass, likely the 15 day one. I am only going to reserve seats on those panoramic trains as needed. Will not book hotels until closer, prices are not even in for 2022 yet, and that is when it might be safe to go, though it is ids outraging to read how Germany is struggling with resurgence!

Thanks again,

Posted by
5538 posts

Nancy, just an addendum in case budget is an issue. There are regular "non-premium" trains that go the same routes as the "panorama" trains, without additional cost.

Posted by
24663 posts

the regular trains on those scenic lines go much more frequently (at least hourly) and provide exactly the same scenery, and often have windows that open. They go at the same speed and call at all the same stations, as well as some excellent other stations worthy of hiking and views, if you can take a bit more time. All they lack are the fancy interiors, the welded shut windows, all the tourists, the fancy wine glass and the fancy food. And the fancy name, and the high price.

Always your choice depending on what means more to you....

Posted by
17907 posts

The very useful Seat61 website has an excellent tip on scoring Bernina Express tickets at a discount through the German rail system: https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/bernina-express.htm

Scroll about halfway down that web page and look for the "The clever way to buy cheap Zurich-Tirano tickets..." header. You'll also find lots of photos of the train carriages and the scenery.

Posted by
15706 posts

There are quite a few hoops to jump through to use the sneaky cheap seat61 method. Someone here tried it a few years and and it took some posts here to finally manage it. If you buy a Swiss Travel Pass, you just need to buy the reservation fee for the Bernina Express. If you want to ride the regular trains on this route, no reservation fee is required.

You probably will need to ride the Bernina Express if you want to continue on to Lugano on the bus. It only goes once a day is timed to meet the Bernina Express in Tirano.