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Train travel from Paris through Switzerland to Venice

A few questions about our train travel from Paris to Lucerne and then from Lucerne to Venice. I suspect we need to purchase train tickets from Paris to Lucerne ahead of time, but I'm not sure what website give the best prices and schedules. I am with my adult daughter & 3 grandchildren - ages 12, 14, & 15. Is there such a thing as a "family" price? Or do children this age travel for free or at a special rate?
My next question: In traveling from Lucerne to Venice by train, is it better to purchase these tickets ahead of time or can we purchase them at the train station in Lucerne the day of travel? If buying them in advance is a lot cheaper, I guess we'll do it, but if there's not much difference in price, I'd much rather buy them the day of travel - especially since we're not sure what time we'll be finished some of the activities we have planned for the morning of our departure (cable car ride to Mt. Pilatus, cogwheel train back down, & if time, do the alpine slide). Any information you can give me about this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Linda

Posted by
15905 posts

I'd buy Paris-Basel train tickets when they go on sale for the best price, maybe in February or March. They're too old for kid or family discounts and advance purchase is also usually better than any small youth or senior discount that might be available.

Next, see https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes for Swiss Travel Passes that fit your travel time within those borders. The kids will be free when traveling with their mother.

It's fine to buy the Italian ticket at the Swiss train station. They can easily calculate the price from the border crossing and trains are not likely to sell out. Some child discounts may be available on Italian trains for these ages, but that ticket is relatively cheaper to start with, about $50 or 60 at full fare in second class.

Posted by
1144 posts

Linda,
Curious what is the final itinerary you have decided upon? I’m sure it will be a fabulous trip!

Posted by
90 posts

Hi Judy,

After reading all of the comments from you all, I finally came up with what I think will work best for our family. After almost 2 days in London (not enough time, I know), we take the Eurostar to Paris. 4 nights there, then early morning train to Lucerne where we spend the afternoon, evening and 1/2 of the next day before taking a mid afternoon train to Venice. 3 full days in Venice, then train to Rome. 4 nites there, then we rent a car in the early morning & drive to Positano for 2 days before returning to Rome for another day & 1/2 before heading back to our home in New Orleans. Thank you for your good wishes. I have secured all our hotels/apartments and am now working on train schedules, inner city transportation, and tickets to various sites in each of the places that we'll be visiting. My big goal is to make it all as effortless as possible, so that things will run relatively smoothly - knowing full well that something is bound to come up that will prove to be a challenge...

Posted by
90 posts

Thank you, Laura. I will look into the Swiss Pass that you mentioned, and also purchase my train tickets from Paris to Lucerne ahead of time. You mentioned Basil, but I'm assuming you meant Lucerne, right? If you think it's safe to buy my tickets from Lucerne to Venice at the last minute, I will follow your advice & hope for the best.

Posted by
10575 posts

For such a short visit, I think the best plan is for their mom to get a Half-Fare Card with a free Family Card. The children will then travel for free within Switzerland. You might want one too.

I was going to suggest that you buy advance tickets for the Luzern to Milan trip and Milan to Venice as well, as there are significant discounts offered for international journeys. But with a Half Fare Card and free travel for the kids, the benefit is not as great, as the Swiss portion of travel is so reduced.

On the direct train from Luzern to Milan, the full fare without a pass is 160 CHF, and the special advance price is 68 CHF. So well worth doing if you do not have a pass. But with the Half-Fare Card, one adult and all three kids are 94 CHF full fare, and the special advance price only reduces this to 84 CHF.

Posted by
15905 posts

From Paris to Lucerne, you'll normally change trains at either Basel or Lausanne, and that first leg by TGV is the only part that requires reservations, so I'd buy that first ticket only to the change point.

Then, either a Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Half-Fare Card, plus the accompanying Swiss Family Card, could be valid for the next train leg within Switzerland. Unless you buy the train ticket from www.sbb.ch, or in the station, other agents generally cannot apply the Half-Fare discount. The shortest pass is for 3 consecutive days at about $250 per adult, but if you're literally only there for about 1.5 days, then the Half-Fare Card might add up cheaper.

I believe you already saw train schedules from Lucerne to Venice. Departures nearly every hour until 17:18, with the 9:18 and 12:18 departures requiring only one connection, instead of two.

Posted by
90 posts

Thanks so much, Laura. I have tried several times to go on the website that you said was the one I needed to use in order to get the Half-Fare discount. Only problem is that this site is in a foreign language & I can't figure out how to have it translated into English. Do you know how to do this, or is there another way to access the website in English?

Posted by
10575 posts

Try this:

https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

It is the same website in English.

Note that some people have trouble with American credit cards ( including VISA) on this site. American Express works fine for me.

Note that you do not need to buy your Swiss train ticket from Basel to Luzern in advance, although it would save you the time of buying it there. You can only buy the tickets for travel within Switzerland 30 days ahead, not more.