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Golden Pass Line and Glacier Express

Hello all,

I'm wanting to do both the full Golden Pass and the Glacier Express and then take a train from where I end to Venice and then through Italy.
What is the best way of doing this?
Where do you fly into?
Should I reserve on both now?
Is getting a Euro Pass worth it?

Greg

Posted by
7205 posts

Do you enjoy a lot of sitting? Because that's what you're going to be doing. Yes, some of the scenery from the train window is beautiful but there's a lot of dramatic scenery in Switzerland that doesn't involve just sitting hours on the train.

You want to see Switzerland and Italy? How far south into Italy? Theoretically you could fly into Zurich airport, jump on a train to downtown Zurich where you could catch the Golden Pass all the way to Interlaken. From Interlaken change trains to Lauterbrunnen and spend some time there either in the Lauterbrunnen Valley or in the surrounding alpine villages of Murren or Wengen. That's where the dramatic scenery is.

Training from Switzerland to Venice is no problem. You can then travel high speed train from Venice to Rome and from Rome onto Naples if you want to go that far south. There are airports in Venice, Rome, Naples, etc.

No - you definitely do NOT need a Eurail pass. One of the many Swiss Pass products would be better suited for your Swiss Train travel, and Italy tickets are dirt cheap especially if you purchase them ahead of time. You can also just walk up and buy from the ticket counter when you get there. Looks at trainline.eu for your Italy train needs.

Goldenpass and GEX can be booked at:

http://www.goldenpass.ch/en
https://www.glacierexpress.ch/en/

Posted by
8889 posts

This will make a lot more sense in you look at a map of Swiss rail lines, here: https://www.sbb.ch/content/dam/infrastruktur/trafimage/karten/karte-sts-pass-gueltigkeit.pdf

"Where do you fly into?", "What is the best way of doing this?" - Fly to Zürich, then get a train immediately to Luzern (70 minutes from the airport station), which is where the Golden Pass route starts. Spend at least one night there.

Golden Pass route:: Luzern - Meiringen - Interlaken - Zweisimmen - Montreux (see map). Possibly split this, and stay at least one night in the Jungfrau region, which is the area south of Interlaken, as you can see from the map this is accessible by rail. Probably 1 night in Montreux.

Glacier Express route: Zermatt - Visp - Brig - Andermatt - Disentis - Chur. Stay at least one night.
You are now in the south-east, and need to get south to Milan to catch a train to Vienna. Lucky Chur is also the start of the:
Bernina Express route: Chur - Pontresina - Tirano, the only route to Italy that goes over the top of the Alps. Notice the serious amount of squiggly pigs-tail loops on this route.
From Tirano you can catch an Italian train south to Milan, and another from there to Venice.

You need to build some more overnight stops into this.

"Should I reserve on both now?" - One important thing you need to know about Swiss trains, ALL routes (all the red lines on the map) have at least one train an hour. The named tourist trains are extra trains, that run once or twice a day, but you have lots of other trains to choose from. You only need to reserve these extra tourist trains.
For Swiss train times see the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) website: https://www.sbb.ch/en

"Is getting a Euro Pass worth it?" - NO. For Switzerland, for this amount of travel, what you probably want is a Swiss Pass. see here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-travel-pass.html
The only extra charge will then be the reservation fees, if you decide to go on the actual named trains.

Italian trains are so cheap, a pass is never worth it. You will get serious discounts by buying your Milan-Venice ticket in advance. Go to the Trenitalia (Italian Railways) site: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks Tim and Chris.

I basically just want a quick few days view of Switzerland and will go back another time. That is why I was thinking of doing these two train trips. It is mainly a Italy trip. I have about 6 weeks.

How do I get from Montreux to Zermatte?

As you say there are trains going every hour on these routes but how to I pick the train with the panoramic windows. Im assuming not all trains have these.

Thanks,
Greg

Posted by
32 posts

Tim,

What is the best way to see Murren and Wengen? Take a train?

Should I spend a night in Interlaken and go see those two the next day? Can they both be done in one day?

Thanks,
Greg

Posted by
32 posts

Hi

When looking at the train Trenitalia schedule there are a number of locations for Venezia (Venice), which one do I select. Is it Venezia S Lucia?

Thanks

Posted by
16941 posts

If you are doing the Golden Pass route from Luzern to Montreux, you have to change trains at Interlaken Ost, because you would be going to a different gauge rail line. Luzern to Interlaken Ost is narrow gauge, and Interlaken Ost to Zweisimmen is standard gauge. So Interlaken is an ideal place to take a break and go to Muerren or Wengen for a night. Its just a short distance. Keep in mind, there is no guarantee of wonderful weather any time. Its not always blue-bird tourist photo days in Switzerland.

If you go from Montreux to get the Glacier Express, I would not bother going to the trouble of going all the way to Zermatt unless you really want to spend time there. Its the same rail line between Visp and Zermatt, in a narrow valley where you can't see a lot except the valley walls. So I would say pick, the Glacier Express at Brig and go to Chur. Then the Bernina Express Chur to Tirano. The section from Chur to St Moritz is the same rail line as both the Glacier Express and Bernina Express, both with panorama cars and headset narration.

Tirano to Milan is on a Regionali that goes along the shore of Lake Como. From Milan, Italy is at your door step.

PS. Yes, Venezia S. Lucia is in Venice on the Grand Canal. That is where you want to go.

Posted by
32 posts

Hi

One of my concerns is the train from Chur to Venice via Tirano- Milan and booking a hotel in Venice. Can this route all be done in one day?

How long will that take and how do you choose the Bernina Express route on the SBB site?

Posted by
16941 posts

On SBB, it will be shone as "BEX" and "R" in a box indicating that a reservation is required.

At least by the current schedule, Chur to Venezia S. Lucia with the Bernina Express is 10 hours and 8 minutes.
Leave Chur at 8:32 and arrive at Venice at 6:40 pm. Change time in Tirano is 19 minutes, plenty to walk across the piazza to the Trenord station, and 35 minutes at Milano Centrale, time enough to grab a snack for the ride to Venice.

Posted by
8889 posts

How do I get from Montreux to Zermatte?

How you get from anywhere to anywhere in Switzerland - take a train. however as already stated, unless you plan to stay in Zermatt it may not be worth going all the way up the valley to Zermatt just to double back. just go via Visp or Brig at the mouth of the valley.

What is the best way to see Murren and Wengen? Take a train?
Should I spend a night in Interlaken and go see those two the next day? Can they both be done in one day?

Do not stay in Interlaken. Instead choose one of them (Mürren or Wengen), take a train and stay there.

All your questions about train timings can be answered by looking up trains on one of the national railway sites:
https://www.sbb.ch/en
http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
If you are going an all these trains, you need to put some stays (preferably 2+ nights) in the plan or you will be doing nothing but moving around.

Posted by
7205 posts

How to see Murren / Wengen? The only way is via train. Change at Interlaken Ost and head for the Lauterbrunnen Valley. When you arrive Murren will be on the right side (high up in the alps) and Wengen on the left (also high up). Choose a hotel in with Lauterbrunnen, Wengen or Murren - do NOT stay in Interlaken which is not those beautiful alps.

Posted by
8889 posts

If you haven't got enough days to do this "Grand Tour of Switzerland", but want to see the best Alpine rail route, do the following minimal trip:

  • Day 1: Fly into Zürich, take a train immediately to Chur, and stay the night there.
  • Day 2: Train over the Bernina route to Tirano (any train, doesn't have to be the named "Bernina Express"). Continue by train to Milan. Continue by train to Venice.

If you want to see what this is like, see this video (going in the opposite direction): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5AyEe5xWkQ
And this webpage: https://www.seat61.com/BerninaExpress.htm

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for all the feedback

I'm trying to buy the Glacier pass part but it says you can reserve a seat but cant get a ticket because it is under 90 days.

I don,t understand.

If I reserve the seat is it guaranteed? I wouldn't think a company would allow someone to reserve a seat without knowing they are going to buy a ticket.

Maybe I'm missing something

Posted by
16941 posts

You can only buy a ticket within 2 months of your intended travel date. So right now, April 15 is as far out as you can book.

Posted by
32 posts

Looks like it is the same with the Golden Pass?? I'm trying to book for end of April and April 1st is the latest day showing trains.

Posted by
8889 posts

If I reserve the seat is it guaranteed? I wouldn't think a company would allow someone to reserve a seat without knowing they are going to buy a ticket.

Yes. Because a large number of the travellers will be using a Swiss Pass (or other pass), so they only need to buy the add-on reservation, which is only needed for this train, not for other trains.

One issue we haven't addressed yet is what tickets are you using? Depending on which route you end up choosing (i.e. how much train travelling), you need to decide between:

  • A Swiss Pass, which covers all trains (except it does not cover reservations, which are only needed on named tourist extra trains)
  • A Half price card plus ½ price tickets.
  • Full price tickets.

You have to do the arithmetic yourself to work out which option is cheaper.
For Italy, it is always cheaper to buy tickets, for the long distance lines you get big discounts for advance purchase.

Posted by
32 posts

Hi

I'm having trouble understanding the website for SBB trains https://www.sbb.ch/en/buying/pages/fahrplan/fahrplan.xhtml

Im trying to find that express train mentioned above; Bernina Express route.

When I input the day I dont see that train come up. Do I have to book that train to Tirano and get another train from Tirano to Venice? or can it all be booked as one?

On the website when you put in from chur to Venice it looks like there are buses on the schedule to and get there faster than the train??

I appreciate the help.

Posted by
16941 posts

SBB is sending you by the most direct and fastest way. It is a reserved post bus to Bellinzona, then a train to Milan, the a train to Venice.

You have to force it to show you with the Bernina Express by specifying Tirano in the "add via" box. The Bernina Express will show up as "BEX" on the train list. It leaves Chur at 8:32, at least for the next few months.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank You

Its 3 hours longer via the Bernina route, is it worth it? Is the scenery that mush more spectacular them the direct route?

Is it just trains on the SBB because some of the symbols look like a bus and it says BUS on the description by the time??

Posted by
16941 posts

SBB shows all manner of transport means through out Switzerland. If it takes a boat to get there, it will show boat (schiff actually), a tram, a cable car, a funicular, even "walk". It acts as a universal transport planner for Switzerland.

The Bernina Express railway is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Very unique. I'm sure there is some great scenery on the bus/train route, a buddy of mine took it a few years ago to get from Davos to Venice. If you look at a map of Switzerland, you'll see the Bernina Express route is like the curved part of a letter "D", with the bus route being the straight part. Also you will travel along the entire east shore of Lake Como on the railway.
https://www.sbb.ch/content/dam/sbb/de/infotexte/uebersichtskarte-sts.pdf

Posted by
32 posts

How far in advance can you book the trains on SBB? I'm trying now for the end of April but it does not appear it is within the range.

Posted by
8889 posts

The only trains you need to book (reserve seats) in Switzerland are the 4 extra tourist trains: Golden Pass Express, Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Tell Express.
You do not need to reserve seats on normal trains.

What train are you trying to book? For the Bernina Express, you can book seats on the Railway company's website here: https://www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express
This is currently accepting dates up to 28th May (3 months). If you already have (or will have) a Swiss Travel Pass, you select this under "reductions", and the price changes to CHF 10 for the seat reservation only.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks Chris.

I want to book from Chur to Venice. I see you can only go from Chur to Tirano on the link you gave me. On the SBB site you can book a ticket from Chur to Venice but not this far in advance.

Should I reserve a seat on the link you gave me than book a ticket when I can on the SBB site?

It seems similar fro the Golden Pass. Reserve a seat on one website and buy a ticket on another.

Posted by
8889 posts

You've hit the problem of different national railway companies. And my excuse is you were asking about SBB (= Schweizer Bundesbahn = Swiss Federal Railways).

Chur to Tirano (the Bernina line) is owned by the Rhätische Bahn, which is a Swiss rail company. It was their website I gave you a link to.
Buy this ticket on either the SBB website (which handles all Swiss Rail companies), or the RhB website I gave you last time: https://www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express

For the Golden Pass train, You should be able to buy a ticket and reserve a seat on the SBB website.

Tirano to Milan and Milan to Venice are run by Trenitalia (Italian National Railways). Swiss and Italian rail companies have radically different ticketing policies. At Tirano you have to cross the street from one station to the other.
Tirano to Milan is a regional train, cheap, stops all stations, no reservations (sit anywhere) and no discount for advance purchase.
Milan to Venice is a High Speed train. When you buy a ticket you get a reserved seat with it (the seat number will be on your ticket). There are big discounts for advance purchase.
Buy this trip on the Trenitalia website in order to get the cheapest fares: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
Make sure you pick a departure time from Tirano AFTER the RhB Bernina train arrives.
You need to use the actual station names (in Italian). Venice is Venezia S. Lucia.
You get a "print-at-home" ticket, which is a PDF file attached to the e-mail, which you print out and show on the trains.

P.S. Please stop thinking of "booking" and "reserving" as two separate things. You buy a ticket which includes a reserved seat. Same as an air flight.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks Chris .....

You cant seem to buy the Golden Pass reserved seat and the ticket at the same place. It actually says on the Golden pass website that this is not a ticket only a seat reservation and you need to go to the SBB site to get the ticket. See below

  1. You have to be aware that with the seats reservation you still need to have a valid ticket. You can purchase it by clicking on the following link.

If you could get both the ticket and the seat on the SBB how would you know what train had the panoramic view as it appears many trains go between these two places?
and it doesn't appear you can get them. On the SBB site I put in Lucern to Interlaken Ost for April 20,2018 and this is what came up.

Unfortunately, the ticket for this service is not available online. Please purchase your ticket locally. ???

I know they are doing track work between Zweissman and Montruex so that section cant be booked. The Luzern to Interlaken is suppose to be possible but it is not letting me do it for April 20 on the Golden Pass site.

Posted by
8889 posts

You cant seem to buy the Golden Pass reserved seat and the ticket at the same place.

Which place? You can't buy on the RhB site as that is the wrong company. I suggested buying on the SBB site, as that sells tickets for all Swiss rail companies. The Golden Pass route is three trains opertaed by three railway companies, MOB (Montreux Oberland Bahn), BLS (Bern Lötschberg Simplon) and ZB (Zentral Bahn).

If you could get both the ticket and the seat on the SBB how would you know what train had the panoramic view as it appears many trains go between these two places?

On the timetable it will be marked with some special symbol. Or just compare the times with those on the Golden Pass site.

Buying tickets on the day is the normal way In Switzerland. Buying weeks ahead is only done by tourists, and for the few discount tickets available.