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Munich to Interlaken via Eurail

Hi all,
I am going on a study tour with my University in May. At the end of the study tour, I am breaking off from the group and spending a couple of days in Switzerland and could use some tips/advice on travel and activities. I will be leaving from Munich and my goal is to arrive in Interlaken. I have looked into the Eurail pass which seems to be the best choice. Anyone ever use this to travel? Would you recommend the Germany pass or the pass the allows all countries? Do I need to purchase the pass and then reserve train tickets? I am having a hard time understanding which modes of transportation to take in order to get from Munich to Interlaken. Maybe I need to stop in Bern to get there and book a separate ticket through Rail Europe? Or is Rail europe covered in the Eurail pass. ANY and ALL help is greatly appreciated. As well, if anyone has every been to Interlaken and has recommendations, they are certainly welcome! Thanks :)

Cheers,
Nate

Posted by
20436 posts

First, you need to look at a rail map. Eurail has a fairly good one showing the main lines.
https://www.eurail.com/content/dam/pdfs/eurail/resources/eurail_2018-lr.pdf

Next, Eurail is a consortium of European railways and the pass, for non-Europeans, is sold by Rail Europe. But each country has its own railways. 95% of the people traveling on the trains just buy tickets. A pass may or may not be a good deal.

Read this from the expert, the Man in Seat 61, especially the bullet point:

"Point-to-point tickets or Eurail pass? - read this before buying a pass!"
https://www.seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm

PS, You don't say when this trip will happen, just that you are arriving in Germany in May. I see you can buy tickets now, nonrefundable, round trip Munich to Interlaken for 80 EUR, about $90 US. Of course, you will want to get around and visit the mountains while you are there, and that is when sticker shock will hit. The local trains only accept Eurail passes by giving you a 25% discount on tickets.

Posted by
19166 posts

I hardly know where to start. I'm not trying to be mean or demeaning, but your questions show a complete lack of understanding of the rail and ticketing system in Europe. That's OK. No one is an expert starting out. I think if you do some basic research into the matter, most of your questions will become clearer.

But first,

I am having a hard time understanding which modes of transportation to
take in order to get from Munich to Interlaken.

There are a lot of modes of transport. You could go the entire way by train or you could go from Munich to Zürich by German Intercity bus and from there by Swiss trains. You could go via Zürich or by way of Mannheim. Go to the German Rail website, and put in "Munich" to "Interlaken Ost". You will see many connections using various mode of transport and change points.

If your travel from Munich to Interlaken is going to be in a single day (or a couple of days), you can surely buy one ticket from the German Rail website (or other sources) which will cost a lot less than a Eurail pass, which is generally for multiple days of travel.

Maybe I need to stop in Bern to get there and book a separate ticket through Rail Europe

Rail Europe is not a railroad. Although owned by French Rail, Rail Europe is essentially an American based ticket reseller, kind of like Expedia. There are many sources of tickets in Europe (such as German or Swiss Rail), not just Rail Europe. And Rail Europe is not the least expensive.

But don't be discouraged. Keep asking questions here. There are a lot of us willing to help you understand. Things will get clearer.

Posted by
3 posts

Sam and Lee,
Thank you for your quick responses. The links attached were extremely helpful. I am a student, with that being said it seems that buying a pass does come into my favor, as I get a discounted rate. A point to point ticket from Munich to Interlaken would cost $250 each way, way more than the cost of a pass. I've been doing research all night and it seems that a pass would be cheaper in the long run, now to decide which one.
Lee, no hard feelings by your comments. They are totally warranted because I truly don't have any knowledge of the transportation systems. Every time I have been to Europe, it has been with my school, where travel is already planned out. I used to live in Washington DC, traveled around in NYC dozens of times, and live in South Florida now. All of these have public transportation laid out simply and are straightforward to use for us American's who don't use our heads enough. I was able to find a couple different maps of Switzerland which totally cleared up a lot, just a matter of finding the specific routes.

What are peoples thought on a point to point ticket from Munich to Zurich(about 40 EUR) and the Swiss rail pass? I would get the rail pass for about $200-250. In my mind, this might be the best option, as once I am in Interlaken, I would be able to use the trains and busses to visit the region in and around Interlaken. I haven't done a cost analysis on this vs point to point tickets yet, but a pro would be that museum costs are covered(not a huge deal as I will be outdoors most of the time) as well as the cost of travel from Zurich to Interlaken, Interlaken back into Bern(if I wanted to spend the day there), into the mountains, etc. I am just thinking out loud really, and haven't done deep digging but would appreciate any feedback. Again, thank you so much for the help.

Cheers,
Nate

Side note: I will be there during the last week of May. Ideally, I would like to be in Interlaken the night of the 27th, and the back in Munich the night of the 31st. My flight leaves Munich the 1st.

Random Side note for Lee: Cool your from Lakewood! I was born in the area and have family in Littleton!

Posted by
20436 posts

Another option is the Berner Oberland Regional Pass for 210 CHF for 3 days. As I said, you can buy advance nonrefundable tickets to Interlaken for 40 EUR each way from Deutsche Bahn. No museums included, but I can't think of any that would be of much interest. Like you say, it is all about the outdoors.
https://www.regionalpass-berneroberland.ch/en/

Posted by
8889 posts

A point to point ticket from Munich to Interlaken would cost $250 each way,

Where are you looking for your ticket prices? Do not look on Rail Europe. As the others say, that is a reseller in North America which does not cover all rail companies and has a markup. Go direct to the companies running the trains

DB = Deutsche Bahn = German Railways: https://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml
SBB = Schweizer Bundesbahn = Swiss Federal Railways: https://www.sbb.ch/en/

What are peoples thought on a point to point ticket from Munich to Zurich(about 40 EUR) and the Swiss rail pass?

Splitting the ticket like that will cost more, not less. Do not "guess" that the best route is via Zürich, just look up Munich to Interlaken and let the computer figure out the best route.

I went to the DB site, and looked up München (Munich) to Interlaken on 27th May, and saw multiple options, with prices of €39.90 or €59.90. Similar prices for returning on 31st May.
Buy these tickets soon, as the price will only go up.

Posted by
7209 posts

Bottom line is to avoid RailEurope and Eurail passes if you are an inexperienced traveler. It’s very likely you can travel for a fraction of the cost of a Eurail Pass. It’s also highly likely that the prices RailEurope shows you is super inflated. Plus RE doesn’t show you the comprehensive list of available trains...only a fraction.

Glad you came here before falling victim to the silly Eurail hype that is so prevalent around here.

Posted by
20436 posts

And they are a commissionable product, so travel agents, including this website, will try to sell them to you.

Posted by
3334 posts

A Eurail Pass could be cheaper than point to point tickets - BUT, be sure to factor in the additional cost of reservations which the faster trains require. AND, don't compare prices on the RailEurope website.

I'm a fan of loco2.com - it's very user friendly and doesn't jack up prices. Just be sure to pay in Euros instead of dollars.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you to everyone for their replies! This has been so helpful.

Things I've concluded, Eurail is definitely not worth it for me in this case, and RailEurope is overpriced. I liked the Berner Oberland pass, primarily because it includes A LOT of routes and trains that I will want to take around the region. At this point I just need to see the cost benefit around getting this pass, as to booking everything individually.

Last night I started looking into DB and SBB and the prices getting from Munich to Interlaken are not that bad at all. I believe it was around $50 round trip, totally reasonable. I also looked at loco2.com, it is a very good website, I am just going to keep shopping around a little and see what my best options are. On DB and SBB, do you need to reserve seats? Are you allowed to bring on luggage as well?

Has anyone else used the Berner Oberland pass? I am interested in it, but again I just need to work out the costs of buying everything individually over buying the pass.

Thank you again for all your help!

Cheers,
Nate Corsi

Posted by
8889 posts

On DB and SBB, do you need to reserve seats?

Yes and no in that order☺ On DB long distance trains, which is what you will be travelling on until you reach Switzerland, you can optionally book seats. I would recommend it, as it avoids a long search if the train is full.
On SBB trains you don't reserve seats.

Are you allowed to bring on luggage as well?

Yes, as much as you can carry. Literally, as all luggage is hand luggage. You have to carry it all yourself.
See this webpage for more info: https://www.seat61.com/luggage-on-european-trains.htm
The rest of that website is a good read for newbie train travellers.

Before you ask, two more beginners questions:
Food and drink - it is normal to bring your own food and drink on train trips. Again no restriction.
Crossing the border - Nothing happens. Unless you are following on a map, you will not notice a difference, except the train crew changes over (DB to SBB).

Posted by
8631 posts

Nate, no one has mentioned this yet, but I think its pretty standard advice from people who've been there, to not stay in Interlaken. Rather, go further up into the valleys to one of the smaller towns that are actually in the mountains. Interlaken has a lot of tourist and sporting infrastructure, so it has a more famous name. But its at the foot of the mountains, not in the mountains, and thats what you go to Switzerland to see. Its just a bit further by train to get to Wengen, Lauterbrünnen, Mürren or other interesting towns. They are all linked together well, and its not remote wilderness area so its all comfortable. The RS guidebook to Switzerland would answer a lot of questions.

Posted by
20436 posts

If you return using the DB bus from Zurich, the bus has a required reservation, which is included in the price. Tickets bought in advance are running 39.90 EUR Interlaken to Munich, about $45 US, so I don't know where you got $50 r/t.

Yes, stay in Lauterbrunnen as it is central to both sides of the valley. If you want to check the prices in Switzerland, go to www.sbb.ch/en. You will see prices look like this "1 x individual ticket, half fare travel card" XX.XX CHF. That price assumes you have a half fare card, so the actual price is double that.

Posted by
19166 posts

A point to point ticket from Munich to Interlaken would cost $250 each way

I searched the Bahn website for a random day in late May, starting at 10 AM and the full fare ticket prices for the first three connections I got were less than 160€ by rail through Mannheim and less than 150€ by bus to Zürich and train from there. I also saw a connection using a ship (ferry) across Bodensee (Lake Constance) from Friedrichshafen to Romanshorn, Switzerland, for less than 100€, full fare. That route takes longer, but is interesting.

However, if you can commit (day and time) to a specific train, the train is less than 100€ and the bus connection is less than 40€ for a non-refundable ticket (I'll guess your plane ticket was also non-refundable).

A pass does provide flexibility, but that flexibility comes at a big cost.

Your opening post implied that you were only making one trip, Munich to Interlaken. What other trips would you make on a pass?

Although I would avoid RailEurope for point-point tickets, I would check their prices for Eurail passes. Eurail passes are marketed by Eurail, a consortium of European railroads and travel companies, and many distributors, including eurail.com sell them. The price used to be fixed, but now the distributors are allow to compete on price. RailEurope often has good prices on passes. You can also buy passes through this website, ricksteves.com, which gets them from RailEurope.

Whatever you do, make sure you specify "Interlaken Ost", as that is the station with direct rail access to the Oberland.