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13 Days in Switzerland - car or train

My husband and I will be arriving in Zurich at the end of the summer and plan to travel throughout Switzerland. We have traveled in Europe before but only to Luzerne. We are not adverse to renting a car for the entire trip and taking some short train trips. However, we would like some advise regarding the use of cars and trains. What would make the most sense, in the way of transportation throughout the country. Thank you.

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi Susan, We did an 11 day trip in Switzerland many years ago and only used trains. I'd say skip getting a car and use public transportation, which is excellent in Switzerland. Some of the most scenic places aren't even accessible by car (or even allow cars), such as Zermatt and much of the Berner Oberland, including Wengen, Muerren, etc. There's no need for a car in cities either. We do like having a rental car for our trips to Austria, Bavaria, etc., but wouldn't consider having one for Switzerland. Paul

Posted by
7205 posts

No need for a car - Swiss Transport system is absolutely excellent. And as the previous person pointed out lots of beautiful places are only accessible by trains, gondolas, etc.

Posted by
12563 posts

We have made four two-week trips to Switzerland using public transport exclusively. I wouldn't do it any another way. The Swiss transport system is a joy-you can combine train, boat, and cablecar to get wherever you want to go ( adding Postbus for some more remote villages). And no worries about parking,,parking tickets, or traffic fines (speed limits are strictly enforced and fines for violations are high). Our trips generally include stays of 3 or 4 days in four different places. A Flex Pass works well for that and might work for you too. A 4-day Flex Pass (saver) would cost $290 each, and would give you four fully covered days of travel go as far as you like by train and boat. (a 5-day Flex Passos $335 if you need more covered days). Use those covered days for your major travel days. On other days, for trains and boats, and for the mountain lifts and cablecars every day, the Flex pass gives you a 50% discount. (Exception is the Jungfrau railway which is 25% off above Wengen). If you rent a car you would still want to ride some lifts and lake boats. You would either have to pay full price, or buy a pass of some sort ( probably a Half Fare Card for 120 CHF each). also, if you plans include overnights in carefree villages like Wengen, Mürren, Gimmelwald, Zermatt, Bettmeralp, etc., a car is a liability. Myou have to pay the rental plus parking fees for the time the car sits unused while you are up there in the beautiful mountain
village. Do you have an itinerary or some idea of what you would like to see?

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all for your responses. I am very grateful. We are arriving in Zurich and would like to go to Bern, Montreaux, Interlaken, Sion/Zermatt, Chur, Tirano, Schaffenhauson. The train trips we are looking at are Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Jungrau. We love beautiful mountain scenery, small, unique towns and areas. We are not afraid of the train and public transportation. Any help with our itinerary would be grately appreciated.

Posted by
12563 posts

If your plans include those scenic train rides then you definitely want a pass. Either a 4-day or 5-day Flex pass should do it---let me give it some thought.

Posted by
7205 posts

Be aware there are "normal" trains that travel along the same path as the Glacier Express (a slow moving freight train for tourists). I love Switzerland and the dramatic squeeky clean landscape and the small alpine villages and the big cities - but I would rather minimize my time on the specialty slow-moving tourist trains and actually get out and see/explore. Maybe you're that way, too.

Posted by
3 posts

Tim, that was one of the reasons that we were concerned about taking the trains exclusively. We want to make the best of our time. Thank you for the information about alternatives.

Posted by
12563 posts

On second thought, you might do better with the 15-day Swiss pass, even tho' it includes 2 days you won't use. You are moving quite a bit and a 5-day Flex would take careful managing. I'm still thinking about that. I would suggest a counter-clockwise loop around Switzerland. First draft looks something like this: Day 1: land Zurich, train to Bern, overnight Days 2-3: train to Montreux, spend 2 nights. boat trip on lake, Chateau de Chillon, Chocolate train, Rochers de naye, and the vineyards above the lake (should be gorgeous in September). Day 4: train to Zermatt, spend the night. Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn, hiking? Days 5-6: Glacier Express to Chur. I suggest breaking it up with an overnight stop so you can explore a bit. My favorite place along there is the tiny carfree village of Bettmeralp, perched high above the valley. You ride a cablecar to get there, ascending almost 4,000 feet. You can hike up behind the village, or ride a cablecar, for views of the Aletschgletscher. Day 7, descend to the train and resume the journey to Chur, overnight Chur. (Note: the actual Glacier Express does not stop at Betten, so you either ride a regional train, or return to Brig to pick up the GE). Days 7-8: these are for the Bernina Express and there are various ways to do this and lots of choices of places to stay, from glitzy St. Moritz to humble alp huts. The goal would be to get back to Chur or beyond (in the direction of Luzern) so the next day's journey is not so long. If I were doing this, I would go Chur to Tirano and back to Pontresina on Day 7, then Pontresina to Arth-goldau and up to th etop of Rigi to spend the night on Day 8. But that's me, and might not appeal to you. to be continued. . .

Posted by
12563 posts

Days 9, 10, and 11: train from wherever you left off on Day 8 to Lauterbrunnen. Stay in Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, or Mürren for 3 nights. Not in Interlaken. Jungfraujoch, Mannlichen walk, Trummelback Falls, Schilthorn? Day 12: Train from Lauterbrunnen Valley to Schaffhausen (3 hours 10 minutes). Overnight there. Day 13: train to Zurich airport for the flight home. Schaffhausen to Zurich airport is only 45-50 minutes, some trains with no changes, and some with one change at the main station. If your plane departs early in the morning, or if you would rather have a night in Zurich, you can train Lauterbrunnen to Schaffhausen, spend several hours, and then return to Zurich. You actually go through Zurich between Lauterbrunnen and Schaffhausen, so you could leave your luggage in a locker there while you do the side trip to Schaffhausen.