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Info needed on Swiss travel pass and other fare-saving options

My wife and I will be traveling in the Berner Oberland region next July, and I have some questions maybe someone can answer:
1. I am trying to decide if it makes sense to get some type of travel pass (swiss pass, etc). We will be traveling from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen and back by train. In Lauterbrunnen, we will be staying 4 days and doing the traditional day trips (Schilthorn train, Jungfrau summit, klein schiedegg hike). Which travel pass, if any, makes sense for this trip? There are just so many travel pass types it is getting confusing... I have also heard of a half fare pass... which should we choose? I went to the swiss travel website to try to get costs for each trip without discount but couldn't get the prices to display... any advice?
2. When we travel from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen, what is the most scenic train route to take? Where would we get this train? Or is there only one train route?
3. Of the popular trips in the Berner Oberland (schilthorn, jungfuau, klein schiedegg hile) , which should we have reservations for in advance?
4. Does it make more sense to rent a car in Zurich and drive to Lauterbrunnnen, rather than take a train? How is the driving experience in Zurich? I think I would rather take a train and avoid the driving hassle but am considering all options...

Thanks very much in advance.

Posted by
11386 posts

The pass question is a tough analysis. Usually we say "do the math;" However, having just gone through "the math" for my own upcoming trip (and having been there 4 prior times) I think I can shortcut it for you.

  1. Swiss Travel Pass is overkill. I have not been able to make one work for us even with traveling all over Switzerland. By contrast, the Berner Oberland Regional Pass has always made sense for us. A 4-day pass should serve you well either from Bern or Luzern.
  2. Take a train either to Luzern or Bern from Zurich Airport. I think Luzern might be more scenic. Then use your BO Reg Pass to Lauterbrunnen and for your mountain excursions. Reservations are seldom needed on regular Swiss trains and they run very often.
  3. Wait until you see the weather forecast the day prior. You can go to the station to make your res for the Schilthorn or Jungfraujoch the afternoon before you want to go. You will get a discount with the BO Pass but there is a supplement to pay for the high mountain journeys. No res for the Mannlichen to Kleine-Scheidegg hike. (It's marvelous!)
  4. A car does not make sense at all. Trains are the way to go. The BO Reg Pass also includes the Post Bus in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, which is useful.

The Half Fare Card makes sense if your total train fares outside of the Berner Oberland are at least a couple hundred CHF per person. As an example, Zurich to Luzern is 26 CHF per person, so very inexpensive.

You can research fares at https://www.sbb.ch/en but be aware that the fares shown assume you have a Half Fare Card so double them or change the option to "No discount."

Posted by
1443 posts

The Half Fare Card probably will be the most economical choice, but the Swiss Travel Pass is more convenient. The HFC gives you a 50% discount on any transportation (rail, boat, cable car, bus, city trams) but you still have to buy each ticket. The STP is your ticket, so there will be no need to bother with buying tickets except for special excursions. The HFC gives you a better discount (50 v 25%) on excursions such as the expensive Jungfraujoch trip and a few other high mountain rides, although the STP fully covers the Schilthorn visit. The STP also gives you free entry into most any museum in the country. I usually go with the STP.

You don't need to rent a car at all to do the Swiss itinerary you have in mind. Rail is the way to go. City transportation within Zurich and Luzern are effecient and convenient. Again, a car is likely going to be a nuisance.

Posted by
1462 posts

We're going to be there this July also:). I agree with Lauren. This is our 5th trip to the area and the regional pass has always worked out very well for us. If you do get the regional pass be aware that the coverage area starts in Lucerne. Most of the lifts / trains in the area are fully covered by this pass with the exception of the last portion of the trips up the Jungfrau and Schilthorn.

Posted by
16894 posts

The B.O. regional pass costs 250 chf for 4 consecutive days, while the Swiss Travel Pass covering the whole country costs 270 chf. That makes it hard to assume that the B.O. is better; it does have a better discount on the Jungfraujoch route, but this year the S.T.P. has better coverage of Mt. Schilthorn. But you probably need more than 4 days, in which case the BO offers a 6-day option for 310 or you could go with a Half-Fare Card, instead.

Posted by
1462 posts

That's a good point Laura - however, to make a good decision you have to look at the trips you plan on taking while in the BO. The STP does not have as good overall coverage of the BO. For instance on the other side of the valley it only covers up to Wengen. It also doesn't cover the trip up to Schnygge Platte or the trip from Grindelwald to First. You have to figure out what you plan on doing and then look at the coverage map for both options to STP and the BO regional pass.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks everyone for all the information- it's very useful. I will probably be posting more questions as the time approaches.

Posted by
8889 posts

We will be traveling from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen and back by train. In Lauterbrunnen

I am guessing what you actually will be doing is travelling from Zürich airport to Lauterbrunnen and back. Zürich airport has its own station (called "Zürich Flughafen") with trains to all parts of Switzerland. There is no need to take separate transport into Zürich centre (though your train may go via Zürich HB (city centre) station).
Train is the obvious way to do this. No way you want to drive in Zürich or any other large Swiss town or city. Cars are heavily discriminated against or banned, use public transport.
Lauterbrunnen is the end of the road, all places past Lauterbrunnen are only accessible by train or cable car.

For train times and prices use the SBB website ( https://www.sbb.ch/en ). This will always give the quickest route. The "from" price assumes you have a ½ price card.

Posted by
13 posts

Chris F.- thanks for your reply. I went to the sbb.ch website, typed in my from location (Zurich) and my to destination (Lauterbrunnen), but no prices were displayed- just the trip description/route and the duration. How do you get the cost to display? Is there something else I need to click on?

Posted by
20289 posts

Yes, click on the red ticket icon on the right hand side of the train departure time. The Swiss Travel Pass only gives a 25% discount above Wengen to the Jungfraujoch, but free to Wengen. And for at least this year, the Swiss Travel Pass covers the whole trip on the Schilthornbahn.

In all the money "do the math" exercises of I've done, the HFC saves the most money as long as the total undiscounted amount of tickets is 240 CHF or more, since the HFC costs 120 CHF.

Put in via Luzern to get the price and schedule for this way, which is definitely more scenic. Because it is shorter distance wise than the standard route via Bern, it is slightly less expensive. However, the route via Bern is faster because it goes through lowlands and the trip planner always assumes you want to get to your destination ASAP. Via Luzern goes over the Brunig Pass, scenic and slow.

Posted by
5 posts

We are taking basically the exact same trip and I had same questions, except there are 8 of us. Thank you for the information.

Posted by
20289 posts

Best to start a new topic, even if the question is very similar to an existing thread.