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Eurail pass for Switzerland, Austria, and Germany

I'm wondering if a 3-country Eurail pass makes sense for my wife and I. We're ages 62 and 60. Starting May 17, here's our itinerary: Zurich (3 nights), Lucerne (3), Salzburg (3), Vienna (3), Munich (2), and Frankfurt (3). So for counting train days, that's 5 days in transit between cities and then we'll have two or three excursion days as well. I know for sure we want to see Rhine Falls, the Alps, and maybe cruise a short section of the Rhine River, like between Mainz and Koblenz. So it could be 7 to 9 days of train travel. I tried to price out point-to-point cost of trains (2nd class) and it came to about $470 each (not considering discounts for seniors or spouses traveling together). A six-day (+1 bonus day) Eurail pass looks to be about $840 for the two of us, but I like the idea of convenience and not standing in lines to buy tickets everywhere we go. The price difference seems small enough and would be secondary to me versus convenience. Maybe there's things I'm not considering. Any recommendations?

Posted by
4478 posts

Try calling Raileurope and picking their brains. Not that you have to believe them, but after all they do this for a living.

I had a Swiss/French pass a few years ago (first class) and I just couldn't nickel and dime it after a while, it was easier to deal with and easier for my travel partner to comprehend. You still need those pesky seat reservations on the fancy long-haul trains. And two people on a pass, especially seniors, get a nice discount.

Posted by
33003 posts

It is always your choice.

If you don't mind paying 3 or 4 times the best price available, perhaps not spending a little time working it out is more important to you. For some people money is more valuable than a little time, for others only having to make one purchase albeit very expensive is more valuable than the money.

If that's you, go for it.

I believe that the prices you have found for the point to point trains are much higher than you actually would pay, especially when you use regional tickets which include local town and city transport too.

You will need to arrange your buses, u-bahns, and trams separately in each town if you use the Eurail Pass.

Posted by
33003 posts

By the way, you can get excellent advice here.

One, for instance, is where you have your boat ride. You may prefer a better and more narrow ride right where the castles and narrow gorge are.

When is your trip?

Posted by
16 posts

Nigel, we're traveling May 17 to June 3 and no, I certainly don't want to spend 3 or 4 times the best price. I'm willing to spend more time studying. Are there regional passes that are better? What's the best way to sort it all out? Should I spend time on each country's rail site, like SBB in Switzerland? I tried to estimate prices from both Goeuro.com and a new site, Rome2Rio.com. I know they're not "official" sites for fares, but thought they'd be a good approximation. Thanks for your info.

Posted by
7209 posts

Forget that overpriced Eurail Pass. When in Switzerland if you do enough traveling to warrant a rail pass then choose the Swiss Half Fare Card which will give you a 50% discount on ALL your Swiss Travels. Traveling Munich -> Salzburg use the super super cheap Bavarian Ticket for about 25Euro for ALL DAY UNLIMITED travel.

Don't attempt to use RailEurope as your source of ticket prices. They're a ticket "reseller" with higher priced tickets AND they don't even list all of the available trains on their website. Use a real national train website like www.bahn.de or www.sbb.ch and choose the english option to see real schedules and prices.

Posted by
33003 posts

Rome 2 rio is OK, but doesn't show any discounts and is not necessarily the best idea for actual detail.

Your best bet for Germany travel is to post a follow-up question with details of trips you want to make on the Germany Forum.

Lee, the king of low fares and easy travel, and Russ, and others will see your questions there, and will be able to answer about Austria too.

Posted by
16894 posts

Since your trip is similar to the one where you first joined the discussion, please see my notes there on the difference between passes, such as coverage of Swiss lake boats and lift discounts. The Rhine boats are now discounted 20% with a pass, not fully covered, but that doesn't use a counted travel day. The current price of the 6-day Select pass is actually $766 for two adults traveling together in 1st class, not $840. That's less than I quoted previously, as well, so I have edited the other post. First class is not something we necessarily think you need, but is one benefit of the pass.

One budget alternative for the four travel days in Austria and Germany is locking in specific travel times on advance-discount tickets through the railways, DB and OEBB. The two-together and Austrian Senior Vorteils discounts (now for age 62+) don't require any particular advance booking, but you will have to check on that page whether you can receive the card before taking your Switzerland-Salzburg trip; I'm guessing not.

P.S. You can see some of the Swiss lift costs at:

http://www.rigi.ch/Travel-Information/Prices (shown for winter, at the moment)

http://www.pilatus.ch/en/railway-cableways/prices/

Posted by
991 posts

Just to add, I can understand the convenience of the Eurail pass, but there is another alternative to having to queue for tickets. All three countries have phone apps that allow you to buy tickets on line. The only requirement is that the ticket is purchased before departure time. I used it last summer in Baden-Württemberg. We just bought the day tickets each morning on the app.

Posted by
12040 posts

Lee, the king of low fares,

I think that should be his official title. Perhaps his coat of arms could be the Bayern Ticket.

Posted by
16 posts

So I did some more homework. So at least for Switzerland, it seems the Half Fare Travel Card and buying advance tickets when possible is the best deal for us. We've rearranged our itinerary a little to take a day off Zurich and a day off of Luzern to spend two days in Murren. With a trip up the Shilthorn, we save $56 each right there against the cost of the Half Fare Card. I know it's not much time in such splendid places, but I will consider it a Switzerland sampler and God willing, we will choose among our travels where to come back for an extended stay. If we could travel every year (with ample funds) I'd pick one, or no more than two countries, for a longer stay in fewer areas. I can see now that we're pushing the envelope with three countries in 17 days, but that is our fate. Thanks for your help and suggestions everyone.