Beginning our trip in Munich and plan to take the train to Salzburg. There, we will either spend the day touring Salzburg, or try and make it to Hallstatt. Either way, our next stop is in the Berner-Oberland. This post has several questions: 1) What is the best train route to make it to (Interlaken?) the Berner via Salzburg? Is it better to just try and go from Munich? Ideally, we want to be in Murren, Gimmelwald, etc. in a hostel, but would also settle for Lauterbrunnen as it makes transportation sense. However, we worry about getting to Interlaken so late from Salzburg that we have to spend a stopover night in Interlaken. 2) Thus, do we have to do the stopover in Interlaken? Is there a way to get straight to Lauterbrunnen, say from Munich, in time to check in and avoid a train connection from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen the next day? 3) We have a 4-country Select Eurail pass. Should we expect to pay extra to ride trains in Switzerland, or will our Eurail pass work? 4) Leaving the Berner we are next heading to Bruges. Any suggestions on travel to Bruges via train? We were looking at just a long day on the train making a few connections and using the Eurail pass... THANKS!
Andrew, you have chosen places to visit that will take quite a bit of time on the train. From Salzburg to Muerren, the quickest journey is 8hrs19min with 4 transportation changes (train/gondola). Routing will be via Zurich, Bern, Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen. It you depart on the 8:02 Austrian Railjet, you can be in Muerren by 16:21. No need to overnight in Interlaken. The gondola/train services up to Muerren run well into the evening and begin early in the morning. Your Eurail pass becomes much less useful once you depart Interlaken Ost and travel into the Lauterbrunnen Valley. No more free rides. Just a 25% discount on all fares including trips up to the Jungfrau and Schilthorn. The pass is not good on the Swiss bus system in this area. For Muerren to Bruges, you are looking at a longer train ride with possibly more transportation changes. The quickest journey will take 9hrs25min and will require 6 transportation changes (gondola/train). Routing for this journey will be Basel, Paris and Brussels. One big pitfall for your pass is the Thalys train between Paris and Bruxelles-Midi. The Thalys train has one of the highest supplemental fees in Europe for pass holders to ride their trains. You'll pay an extra fee of at least 39Euro to get your seat reservations. Also, Thalys limits their seats to Eurail pass holders. Alternatively, you could avoid the Thalys train by taking the 11hr train ride via Basel, Frankfurt and Bruxelles-Midi. But, even the Germans will charge you an extra fee to ride their very nice ICE trains but that's only about 4Euros. You would be riding two different ones on this run.
I just tried to look at booking reservations for the train from Munich to Lauterbrunnen, but the bahn.de site said that I could not make reservations on international routes. I don't mind skipping Salzburg for an extra afternoon in Switzerland and Munich -> Lauterbrunnen seems to only require 3 changes and is only like a 7hr ride. We definitely want to avoid France on the ride from the Lauterbrunnen valley to Bruges. We planned on the travel day to Bruges as being a full travel day, so no worries about it being an 11+hr ride. But, according to you our Eurail passes should work just fine to get from Munich to Interlaken Ost, and from Interlaken Ost to Bruges via only German trains? If the Eurail passes do work, I would like to start getting seat reservations on these long travel days. How do I go about doing that? Do I pay for the ICE fee at the time of booking seat reservation, or do I pay that fee at the station? Thanks.
Andrew, I believe that you will be more successful if you book from Munich to Interlaken Ost and not Lauterbrunnen. Here's a link to a picture of what I see on www.bahn.de http://gyazo.com/c9b51a5de4800bbdd9d43f5a58309797 The Jungfraubahn, Schilthornbahn and a couple of really small railways from Interlaken Ost into the Lauterbrunnen Valley and up the mountain sides are private railways. They are part of the Swiss rail system and are completely seamless and transparent on the Swiss train network websites. However, other country train websites have difficulties booking international travel into these beautiful little train systems. The Italians can't even see Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Muerren or anything in the valley on their system. Once you are at Interlaken Ost, just go into the train station there and buy your train tickets to Muerren. The local 22-minute Jungfraubahn ride to Lauterbrunnen departs every 30 minutes.
Larry, thanks so much! Seems like we for sure need to leave for Interlaken from Munich. We will be in Munich 8/14, 8/15, 8/16, and 8/17 with 8/18 being the travel day to Interlaken. Is it possible to make it to Hallstatt and back to Munich within the day (I know Salzburg would be an easy day trip but Hallstatt seems more interesting)? Would that be worth it or should we be sure to keep all the days in Munich because we are only there for 3.5 days?
You already ahve plenty of train time scheduled. There is no need, whatsoever, for another day-trip from München. This being said, the Interlaken-Zürich train route is quite scenic, whereas the route from München is not.
Andrew, You say you will be using a 4 country pass. Is that Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium?
The 4 country pass is Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Benelux (Belgium/Netherlands counts as 1).