Planning our first trip to Europe. We'll be leaving Paris on a Sunday traveling to Murren, Switzerland (Interlaken Ost will be where we get train to Murren) for 2 nights and then on to Venice. What are the best economical and time saving ways to travel from one place to the other? I've looked at train and plane/train combinations. Some of the trains have very short transfer times and I'm afraid we may miss connection. Plus unsure if we'd have to get across the city from airport to train station in Geneva, for example, if flew there from Paris. Are there any regional European airlines that fly into Bern, Switzerland which is closest to Interlaken Ost? Any other ideas or suggestions from experienced travelers are welcome. Thank you!
We are not experienced but doing almost the same thing - leaving Paris on Saturday, then to Mürren for 2 nights, and then on to Venice. Anyway, we are taking the train in each case, since it seemed simplest. From what I have heard, European train transfer times are not a big deal, usually you are just walking across the platform. Plus, once you get to Switzerland, I believe the tickets are untimed, so if you do miss one, you can just wait for the next.
We are taking a direct train from Paris to Basel, then various Swiss trains to Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, and on to Mürren. On the way back, Swiss trains to Brig and then a direct train Brig to Venice. If you do go this route, purchase your non-Swiss tickets as far in advance as possible (usually 90 days) to get the cheapest fares. The Swiss prices don't change.
Unfortunately, flying is unlikely to save any time, and will only add hassle. It's analogous to trying to get from Sedona AZ to Telluride CO in a hurry - there really is no way. Mürren is great, and part of that is that it's off the main routes (you'll see why when you get there - short of a helipad, there's no way to get direct transit to the place due to its geography).
The short transfer times are not a problem (everyone will be doing them), as long as:
You are prepared to exit the train as it's pulling into the station. A few minutes before you arrive, start gathering your belongings and moving toward the exit (you'll see others doing the same). If you wait until the train comes to a stop, it's too late - people will be entering the train as you're trying to exit, and you'll be trying to swim "upstream" with your stuff.
You have not packed too heavily. While there are sometimes elevators, the most common way to change platforms is to go down a flight of stairs, through a passageway, then up the stairs to your next platform. If you're packing heavy, you may have difficulty moving fast enough (you don't have to run, but you do have to move at reasonable pace).
No one in your party has a mobility impairment. If someone does, you should plan longer connections.
The connections after Interlaken Ost to get to Mürren seem complicated, but they're not; once you're there, you'll see they're easy. The times are indeed short, but you're only going a short distance between modes of transit. Plus, they run often enough that if you do miss a connection (say, if you stopped to use the bathroom), the next one will be along soon.
The most economical way to do this will be pre-book train tickets from Paris to Switzerland, and from Switzerland to Venice. You may not be able to book all the way to Mürren, or even Interlaken Ost; just make sure the portion between the Swiss border and the other countries is booked ahead. The international tickets get much more expensive closer to travel; tickets within Switzerland don't.
The trips you'll be making are actually very straight forward and easy by train and will be quicker than by air. Here's one suggestion for you.....
Paris to Mürren
- One of the quickest trips will be a departure from Gare de Lyon at 10:23, arriving Interlaken Ost at 15:28 (time 5H:05M, one change at Basel SBB). The first part of that trip will be via high speed TGV (reservations compulsory). The mid-morning departure will probably work well as you'll need to get from whichever part of Paris you're staying to Gare de Lyon (Paris has about six main rail stations).
- When you arrive at Interlaken Ost, transfer to the Berner Oberland Bahn for the short 20 minute trip to Lauterbrunnen. Be sure to check the digital display on the side of the car for the destination, as the train may split with the end cars going to Grindelwald.
- When you arrive in Lauterbrunnen walk across the street to the Cable Car station, walk up the stairs and board the next Car.
- The Cable Car will take you to Grütschalp (it's about a 10-15 minute ride as I recall).
- When you arrive at the top, you'll find the small Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Mürren mountain railway waiting. Board that for the short trip to Mürren (about 20 minutes). The train will probably make a brief stop at Winteregg.
- The train arrives at the lower level of the station in Mürren. Walk up the stairs to street level and you should be able to walk to your hotel.
If you buy tickets at Interlaken Ost for the trip from there to Mürren, they will include all modes of transport. Be sure to specify "Mürren BLM" as the route.
A suggestion for Mürren to Venice will follow.
I see the Db Bahn train and departure times, but I can't purchase tickets on internet. Do you have to go through a Db Bahn authorized travel agency or call??
The Bahn website doesn't sell tickets for tickets originating outside of Germany. For the trip from Paris to Interlaken Ost, you might try www.capitainetrain.com. They may only be able to sell you tickets as far as Basel, but you can purchase the tickets from there to at least Lauterbrunnen and probalby to Mürren at SBB.ch (the Swiss Rail website).
Here's a suggestion for the second part of your trip......
Mürren to Venice
- For the trip back to Interlaken Ost for the outgoing trip, you can easily buy the tickets in Mürren or any of the local stations. That's going to be a full travel day, so I'd suggest using a train that departs Interlaken Ost at 08:00, arriving Venezia Santa Lucia at 14:40 (time 6H:40M, 2 changes at Spiez and Brig, reservations compulsory (which will be provided with the tickets where required).
- The two changes are at smaller stations so they should be fairly easy. The first change allows 17 minutes and the second is 28 minutes. After you've made the transfer in Brig, you can sit back and relax all the way to Venice. Arriving mid-afternoon is a good time, as your hotel room will probably be ready for check-in.
- The only disadvantage of the departure at 08:00 from Interlaken Ost is that you'll have to leave Mürren at about 06:15. When is this trip taking place?
- With the early departure, you might ask your hotel in Mürren to pack a "bag lunch" for breakfast. Some of the trains you'll be riding will offer snacks, and perhaps a restaurant car for lunch.
If you wish to pre-purchase tickets, you can buy the Swiss tickets on the SBB website or at local stations. SBB may also be able to sell you the final leg to Venice, but if not you can purchase tickets from Brig to Venezia S. Lucia on either the www.italiarail.com or Trenitalia websites. The prices will depend on how far in advance tickets are purchased, especially for Italian trains. If purchased shortly before travel, there may not be any discounts, so in that case you could purchase locally.
When travelling on Italian trains, there are a few potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. If travelling on Regionale trains, Buses, Metro, etc. tickets MUST be validated before boarding on the day of travel, or you'll risk hefty fines which will be collected on the spot. If travelling on the "fast" trains such as the Freccia, InterCity or EuroCity, reservations are compulsory and are specific to ONE train, date and departure time (reservations are provided with tickets where required). The tickets will specify the train number (ie: EC-37) and will specify your assigned Car No. (Carrozza) and Seat No's. (Posti). If you board the wrong train even by mistake, again hefty fines. When you check the electronic board in the station to see which track your next train is on, look for the abbreviation "BIN" (Binario). In German speaking areas the track is listed as Gleis. Since this is your first trip to Europe, I thought it prudent to mention that.
You'll probably find train travel to be a great way to get around in Europe. On the leg from Paris to Basel, you'll be travelling via TGV which travels at up to 300 kmh when it gets up to speed. It's often much easier and faster than using a budget airline. The high speed Freccia and Italo trains in Italy also operate at up to 300 kmh.
Geneva airport does have its own train station, but you are better off with the Paris-Basel TGV and other trains as described above. A couple of the smaller Swiss Travel System products may save you money, but the savings comes primarily from the lift and transport discounts you would get during your stay in Muerren.
Before you leave home, you can buy a Swiss Transfer Ticket for $148 per adult that covers all your connections to/from Muerren on those two in and out travel days. It basically breaks even with the price of buying regular tickets there and allows you to jump onto trains along the fastest, most direct route between Basel and Muerren.) If you pay another $63 to buy it with the Half-Fare Card feature, then you'd get discounts on all your transportation on the in-between days, which can save money if you're taking a few high-mountain lifts. Up-front cost = $211 per adult.
Perhaps even simpler, depending on your viewpoint, you can buy a one-month Half-Fare Card for visitors (sold there at Basel train station) for about $126 and you get half off all transport, including the two longer rides (and need not take the fastest, most direct route). Adding half of $150 for those point-to-point tickets brings the known costs up to $200 per adult.