Getting to and traveling in Switzerland

I plan on traveling to and in Switzerland by train around the first of November. This is probably not the best time of year for this but oh well...My schedule and agenda are fairly open. I would like to spend about 8 or 9 days in Switzerland. I will leave from Dover, England. It seems going through Germany to get to Switzerland will be less headache rather than France, that should be a few days just to get to Switzerland. Should the Switzerland tour start in Bern or Zurich? I would stay in hostels and eat out of markets and simple places, get off the beaten path. Will the train system in Switzerland allow me to do this?

Posted by Chris F
Basel, Switzerland
1239 posts

Leaving from Dover? How are you travelling, by train or car? The Dover - Calais ferries are no longer orientated for foot passengers since Eurostar stole all the foot traffic. The ferries are basically the cheaper and slower alternative to the tunnel for cars, buses and lorries. (Saying "Dover, England* and not "Dover, Kent", and only putting one 'l' in travelling gives you away as not British).
"going through Germany to get to Switzerland will be less headache rather than France". Not so. The quickest and most direct route is via France.
"that should be a few days just to get to Switzerland" - not so. You can get from England to Switzerland in one day by train (I did it last Saturday).
I suggest you take a local train Dover to Ashford, and then the Eurostar Ashford to Paris and onward Paris to Switzerland. Book your tickets ASAP as early bookings are cheapest. Alternatively, if you can find somebody to give you a lift - both the ferries and the Channel Tunnel charge per vehicle, not per passenger, so you can cross the channel in somebody elses car for free!

The train system in Switzerland is the most extensive and best in Europe. Switzerland has a higher train usage that any other country in the world. There is nowhere in Switzerland you can't get to by train or connectiong bus.
For 8-9 days I suggest you pick 2 or 3 bases. Say Chur. Luzern and somewhere in the side valleys near Interlaken. Head for the first one on the first day from Paris. The journeys to and between these places will be part of the holiday. If you want to travel every day get a 9-day pass, otherwise just individual tickets, possible with a "half-fare" traincard.
Look up time and prices on the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) website.

Posted by jamesrherrick
5 posts

Thanks for the reply. Funny about the spelling for Traveling. I want to use two "l" but spell check always calls me out. And, I am not English, I am American. Funny.

My intent is to travel from Dover to Switzerland by train if possible. I said traveling (spell check did it again!) through Germany would be less headache because I had read that the trains in France are crowded and require a reservation. the crowd doesn't bother me as much as missing a train requiring a reservation and possibly not getting another.

Good to hear about the train system in Switzerland. I like the idea of establishing a base and venturing from there.

Posted by Chris F
Basel, Switzerland
1239 posts

You have probably got your spell checker set to "American-English" instead of "British-English" :-)
The trains in France are no more or less crowded than those in Germany. The Eurostar London-Paris and the TGV Paris-Switzerland both require reservations. Local trains you cannot reserve.
In Germany. The ICE (high speed trains) and IC you can reserve, and most people do, but it is not compulsary. If you do not reserve and pick a busy train you may have to stand. Local trains you cannot reserve. In Switzerland you do not reserve, except for one or two tourist-specific trains, such as the Glacier Express.
In both France and Germany tickets are much, much cheaper if you book in advance (i.e. NOW).
For example for 4th November, on eurostar.com it is offering Ashford to Basel for £75.50, with "9 seats left". This price will only go up nearer the date. If you book in advance you automatically get a booking and a seat assigned. It does not matter how busy the train gets, you still have a seat.
If you don't want to commit to specific train, or you buy a ticket on the day, you need to get an open ticket, and that will cost £285.

Going via Germany is a lot longer route. You need to first get to Germany. That would probably involve train to Harwich, Overnight ferry Harwich to the Hook, and trains Hook - Rotterdam - Cologne - Switzerland. This would take 2 days and cost a lot more. Again the earlier you book the cheaper, and the booking comes with a reservation. So what is the advantage of this route.

In either case you can buy a ticket on the day, but that costs a lot, lot more.

The other option is to take the train to Gatwick airport and get a cheap flight (for example, Easyjet) to Zürich.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
7416 posts

The train system is great in Switzerland, even better than in most neighboring countries, but train and ferry tickets to get there from Britain are not cheap. Compare the cost of flying from London to any Swiss airport at www.skyscanner.com.

For a lot of transport (and museum) coverage during 8 consecutive days in Switzerland, consider a Swiss Pass. Note that some areas perform maintenance in November, such as Muerren-Schilthorn lift closed Nov. 10 - Dec. 5 and the official departures of the Glacier Express closed Oct. 27-Dec.13.