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Trains Trains Trains

My girlfriend and I will be traveling from Zurich to Murren for 3 nights and then to Paris. While in Murren we plan on traveling up to the Schilthorn viewing area and also down into Lauterbrunnen valley.
Like most Americans, we are not too familiar with the train system and are looking for advice on how best to manage our travel. Would the Swiss Rail Pass, 1/2 fare card, ect. be worth investing in? Do any of those help with costs associated with the train to Paris?
Also, are there any tips, tricks or general mistakes people make that we should be aware of before our trip? Like I said, we know next to nothing about the trains so any advice would be helpful.

Posted by
13086 posts

The Swiss train system is very easy to figure out and a pleasure to use. No tricks other than that you must have a valid ticket or pass before boarding---do not expect to board and then buy from the conductor.

With three nights in Mürren you have four travel days, so the most useful pass would probably be the 4-day Swiss Pass for 251 CHF or the Half-fare card (current price 110 CHF? Edit: 120 CHF) Either will cover 50% of the cost of the Schilthorn trip, and either would help with the cost of the journey to Paris. The Swiss Pass is more helpful, but maybe not enough to cover the difference in cost over the Half-fare card. It may depend on what else you do. But remember there is a convenience factor with the Swiss pass---just board the train and go; no need to stop and buy tickets for a train ( you do need to buy tickets for the Schilthorn cable car).

Here are some prices to consider ( all in CHF):

Zurich Hauptbahnhof to Mürren:

Regular fare is 87.60 CHF (more if you are coming from the a airport
Half fare is 48.80
Journey is free with a Swiss pass ( get it validated befor first use to start the four days)

Schilthornbahn (prices from Lauterbrunnen are listed on the website so I have adjusted for Mürren):

Regular fare for RT, 88 CHF
With Half-fare card or Swiss Pass, 40 CHF

Mürren to Basel ( on the way to Paris):

Regular fare 79.60
With Half-fare card, 38.80
Free with Swiss pass

Actually the best way to get a good price to Paris is to buy far enough in advance to get a "Special offer" price. A Swiss card or pass will also reduce these. For example, for travel on Sept. 22, nearly two months from now, buying on the Swiss train website SBB.ch, I see

Regular fare from Mürren to Basel in 2d class, 212 CHF ( ouch!)
Special Offer (Sparangebot) price, 116 CHF

With Swiss Pass valid on day of travel:

Full fare, 137 CHF
Special offer price 41 CHF. ( you are paying only for the French TGV)

With Half-fare card:

Full Fare, 174.50 CHF
Special Offer price, 78.50 CHF

Learn to use the Swiss rail site SBB.ch ( switch to English) for routes and schedules. Note that the fares shown on the results page assume you have a Half-Fare card. Here is an example of the page from Mürren to Paris for travel tomorrow:

http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/dn?

(I hope that comes through).

Have fun--it is a beautiful place.

Posted by
30 posts

Thank you for your response. It has been very helpful to show exactly what we should be looking for. My understanding is that neither will be worth it for our short trip. We leave quite soon.
From what I have seen the 1/2 fare card costs 175 and would save only 126 on those 3 specific train/cable car trips that you mentioned above. Swisspass is 251 and saves us 216. Unless there are other areas that these passes could save us money/time they are not worth the investment correct? Just wanted to cover my bases in this area. Thanks again for the help

Posted by
16883 posts

The Swiss Pass validity ends at the designated border crossing point on your route to Paris, such as Basel, Geneve, or Vallorbe. The SBB Swiss rail site does the calculation for you. Often, you will board the TGV at Basel, in which case the Swiss Pass is not giving you a discount on that train within France (useful to know if you buy through a different source). The Swiss trains are not reserved, so you can use any departure within Switzerland, up to the point where you board the reserved TGV (which you must not miss). Therefore, if the fastest connections concerns you, you can leave earlier, whether jumping on with a Swiss Travel Pass or buying a discounted ticket with Half-Fare Card.

Your short stay in Switzerland is not unusual, so they offer a 4-consecutive day pass option to match. Whether it saves money depends on the rest of your plans. It covers all lower-level trains, buses, boats, and city trams that you might take during your stay, as high up the mountain as Muerren on one side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and up to Wengen on the other side. Then it offers 25-50% discounts on any higher lifts. Also covers most museums in Switzerland. Those costs will add up to something; see costs reflected in the Berner Oberland chapter of Rick's guidebooks or at http://www.jungfrau.ch/en/tourism/travel-information/tickets-rates/muerren/fares-for-individual-travellers/. Or, the Half-Fare Card gives you half off all Swiss transport, not limited to the three routes listed (but no museum discount).

Posted by
31 posts

In the past I have purchased a Flex Pass and the Jungfrau 6 day pass when visiting Wengen. My last trip this year I only purchased a half fair card and purchased tickets as needed.

If you have a choice, buy your tickets in a smaller station to avoid lines. I purchased my half day card and a ticket from the EuroAirport outside Basel to Wengen at the airport. If you use this airport the SBB ticket sales is on the left as you head toward the exit. Later in Wengen, I purchased tickets from Wengen to Luzern and from Luzern to EuroAirport.

The tickets I purchased were very convenient in that they were not limited to a certain train or time ( but were for a particular day). I could just hop on a train that was going my way and never had any problems. Also, if you use a half-fare card keep it with you when you travel. Even though you have purchased a ticket using it they will want to see it along with your ticket on the train.

Posted by
13086 posts

Just a minor correction in case it makes a difference in your calculations: the Swiss Half Fare Card is 120 CHF, not 175.

http://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/holidays--short-breaks-in-switzerland/swisstravelsystem/swiss-halffare-card.html

Since you calculated the card would save you 126 CHF just on those three trips, it seems worth it. And then you would have it for other trips,,such as down to Lauterbrunnen for the day. I definitely recommend walking down to Gimmelwald and taking the cablecar down to Stechelberg from there---quite a thrill as you swin go out over a drop of several thousand feet.
From Stechelberg it is nice walk up the valley to Lauterbrunnen ( visit Trummelbach falls if you like on the way) and then ride the cablecar up to Grutschalp. Walk back to Mürren from there.

Posted by
13086 posts

OK, I see where you got the 175 CHF for a Half-fare card. That is the one-year card for Swiss residents. As a non-resident, you can get the 30-day card for 120 CHF.