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Swiss Rail Pass Confusion!

I’m not sure if this is a new topic or not, but I am SO confused about the Swiss Pass. I misunderstood how to book the Glacier Express and now it’s sold out. It’s been on my husbands bucket list for years, so I have to do the next best thing, and book the same route on the SBB. I have bought two 30-day passes, and am trying to reserve seats on the day I was planning to take the GE. The site will not let me use the Swiss Pass to sign in. I don’t want to pay extra unless it’s necessary. I know seats can be extra, and expect that.
Do I need a customer number?
Is the route from Zermatt to Chur not accepted on the Pass?

We start our trip on May 20, so I’m getting nervous about getting this taken care of. Can anyone help please? I’d be so grateful. Thank you so much, Dawn

Posted by
20290 posts

When you say "two 30-day passes", I assume you mean 30-day Half Fare Cards. There is no 30-day Swiss Travel Pass. There Swiss Travel Flex Passes with 3 to 15 days of travel in 1 month.
If you will have Half Fare Cards, you simply buy tickets and check that you have a Half Fare Card and pay that price. When the conductor checks your ticket and seat reservation, you simply show the Half Fare Card to show you paid the correct price.

What date is your planned Glacier Express trip?

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks for your response. Sorry, I bought the Swiss Rail Flex pass. I was confused about which one was best too, so went this route as we’ll be there 8 days. My schedule was planned around the Glacier Express train on June 1st, so I’m pretty locked in to that date

Posted by
499 posts

Hi Dawn,

Here is where the confusion lies, the Swiss Pass login is actually referring not to the Flex Pass that you have, but rather a mobility platform that is mainly used by Swiss residents.

If you are taking the Glacier Express route on regular trains, you do not need to reserve seats. Your Flex Pass is in effect your ‘train ticket’. Just get on any train you choose, sit wherever you want, and when they check tickets you show your pass.

You can either plan out your train route yourself, or just ask at the train station in Zermatt when you are there and they can help you with the schedule and what changes you need to make along the way. There is nothing that you need to do beforehand.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks MSL. One more question. Do you or anyone else know of any other way to get two tickets on the Glacier Express on June 1st? Can it be pieced together using different cities? Do they keep a wait list? I’ve scoured the GE site and can’t find answers, and the responses I’ve gotten from customer service don’t answer the questions. Thanks again

Posted by
4911 posts

I'm assuming you can just ride the regional trains, which run on the same tracks as the GE. At least for the Bernina Express, we rode the trains the locals ride, which aren't crowded and travel the exact same route - and view - as the panaramic trains. I think this is what my Swiss life was saying above.
Hopefully someone here will have more detailed knowledge than I.
Safe travels!

Posted by
16471 posts

The Glacier Express website does show all 3 GE trains that day as sold out (or with only 1 seat left).. You can indeed ride the regional train on the same tracks, but you will have to change trains several times.

Start by looking at a rail map of Switzerland:

Then use to find the regional trains on that route. If you put in “Zermatt to Chur” it will only show the Glacier Express ( no changes on the way) and trains using the route with a deep tunnel between Visp and Zurich on the way to Chur. This is not the route you want. You have to force to show the Glacier Express route on regional trains by choosing intermediate stops where you will change trains.

The first stop must be Visp, to get you off the train that will be heading into the tunnel. To get a regional train train heading east on the GE tracks, you can make Andermatt your next stop. After than, Disentis. Then to Chur, unless you want to make an overnight stop somewhere to break up the journey. ( Whichnis what Inwould do).

I found these stops by playing around on the SBB.CHF website with the segments along the route. There may be alternatives. I hope Sam will come along and help.

As far as I know, you cannot book seats on the regional trains. Just board and find a seat. If using a Flex Pass, make SURE you write in the date before you board the train. Conductors get cranky if you forget.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks for your help Lola! It sure is complicated, and it helps to get input from people with experience!

Posted by
269 posts

I would like to add on to this thread with my own confusion. I am planning on purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass on April 15 for an 8 day pass. My understanding is that with these, we just get on any train or tram during that 8 day period at no additional cost. We have our seats on Berninia Express and have paid for the first class upgrade. We will the be traveling from Chur to Luzern to Murren to Zurich over the 8 days.

Do I have this right?

Posted by
2730 posts

Hi Andrea, that’s correct. EXCEPT for the train rides that are only discounted with the Pass. For those, you will need to purchase tickets.

The Pass is your ticket, so you just show that to the conductor if asked. They usually want to see your passport too, so have that handy. Or I have always shown a copy of my passport with no problem.

Dawn and Andrea, have great trips!!

Posted by
1 posts

Hi, Dawn -
If it makes you feel any better about not being able to take the Glacier friends just returned from Switzerland (where they go every year) and we were talking about the GE. They said that taking the "regular" trains, not the GE, is not so bad. Yes, you might have to change trains, and you might not have reserved seats...but, as many people on this forum have mentioned, there is a lot of glare on the GE windows, so it can be difficult to get good pictures, and it can get hot with the sun. The regular trains have windows that you can open - better for photos and for temperature! Also, you save some money since you don't need to reserve seats. :)

Posted by
497 posts

I hope it's okay to add my question on here as it's relevant to the topic. I'm confused and the more I try to figure it out, the more confused I get. From what I understand, the Swiss Travel Pass (STP) is on sale now. I'll be in Switzerland in October and only for a few days, traveling from Strasbourg to Lucerne on October 16, then to Chur on the 17 and finally to Tirano on the 18, where I'll catch a train to Varenna. I downloaded the SBB app to start getting familiar with it, but that was confusing as well.

Should I purchase the STP? I read something about a flex pass that might make more sense since I'll only be in Switzerland a few days. I'd like to take the Bernina Express route from Chur to Tirano, but on the regional trains since it sounds like that's less expensive and more flexible in case I see a town I'd like to explore along the way (is that likely to happen?).

Dawn, I hope it's okay that I added my question here. Thank you for any help the group can offer!

Posted by
20290 posts

@ KRS, since you are traveling consecutive days, you would only need a 3-day consecutive Swiss Travel Pass. The 3-day Flex Pass is more expensive. HOWEVER, a Swiss Travel Pass would cost more than the cost just buying tickets as you go. A 3-day STP costs 232 CHF. Basel to Luzern costs 34 CHF, Luzern to Chur costs 48 CHF, and Chur to Tirano costs 63 CHF, so that comes to 145 CHF.

If you wanted to save a little on day 3, you could buy a Saver Day Pass for 52 CHF 60 days in advance of your trip to Tirano. That will allow you 1 flexible day of travel anywhere in Switzerland, so that would save you 11 CHF.

Posted by
30 posts

Leslie, thanks for the info! That is comforting, though I’m still a little nervous about going that far without reservations! But it is reassuring that people who know more than I do are aren’t worried!

No problem jumping into the conversation. It’s good to know I’m not the only one confused!😄