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Would love some fine tuning of upcoming trip!

Will be traveling for two weeks in Germany and Switzerland with a group of four. Itinerary is fly into Zurich spend two nights continue onto Rothenburg ob der Tauber, then 3 nights in Munich. The next part we are flexible on currently we are planing on getting to Chur to take the train over the pass and end up in Lugano. Thought we'd just do a night stop over in each place as the train ride itself is the main attraction. From Lugano we thought we would go to Lucerne for 2 nights and then Interlaken for three nights. Last night will have us overnighting in Zurich before flying home the next morning.
So, does this sound ok as planned? What suggestions do you have for transportation? All by train? Or combine car/rail - with four traveling together the cost should be about the same. I appreciate your ideas, thank you!

Posted by
1986 posts

I agree with the comment that Interlaken is not exciting for itself, convenioent for going to Lauterbrunnen or Jungfrau, so you may enjoy more by being in the mountains. Ditto for Zurrich, its a business City with "comparitivly" little for the tourist (restrict time there to day of arrival and day of departure). Lucerne for three nights allows you to take lake and cable trip up the mountains. I like your idea of using the train rides as scenic opportunities- there is some wonderful scenery that way (although you would probably need some variety)

Posted by
307 posts

I would suggest Interlaken only if its used as a base for exploring the Berner Oberland...and if thats the purpose, you might be happier staying up in the Lauterbrunnen valley area( Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Wengen, etc ) While in Lucerne, if the weather is nice take the Golden Round Trip ( Google Mount Pilatus Golden Round Trip Lucerne), its an awesome way to spend a full day in Lucerne..
I typically travel by train...easy and convenient, don't have to worry about finding a place to park, etc, etc

Posted by
19118 posts

When planning a rental car, make sure it is one large enough for all four of you with luggage. Most European rental cars have equivalents in the US. Find a dealer and go there, all four of you with your luggage, and see how it fits. Every time I get a quote from Gemut, they give me a quote on the smallest possible car. The price looks good but it wouldn't be satisfactory for four people. Are you aware that, by purchasing well in advance from the Bahn website, you can get Europa-Spezial Savings Fares for €39 per person from Zürich to Rothenburg or from Munich to Chur. As far as Rothenburg to Munich, a €29 Bayern-Ticket will cover all four of you.

Posted by
6 posts

Glenn - Oh My the RT Golden Pass sounds wonderful - tying in a ton of stuff. Should I purchase that in advance or when I get there? I looked up Murren and other mentioned spots and will book at one of the locations once I hear back from proprietors. Lee, Ok for car rental, I talked with Hertz and with multiple drivers, and taxes can get a pretty large car with good luggage space for 495 CHF incl tax and insurance - with my cc I also get additional coverage. CITROEN C5 SW is the model. That would get us through Germany and allow me to drop off car in Chur all included. From Lugano - Murren - Zurich will take the rail. Traveling in Germany with a car might allow us to stop along the way and not worry about luggage. I checked with hotels and will be able to park easily at both locations. Plus the guys are desiring to experience the autobahn - whoohoo. Should I purchase my rail passes in advance? If it is just for Switzerland is the Swiss Pass the one to go for? Arizona does not have much in the way of public transportation so this will be a new experience. Is it a pain to get on the train with luggage and cameras and assorted bags? Do we need to worry about theft? And finally, would the Golden Pass be the way to go to get to the cable cars to Murren from Luzern. Thank you both for your replies!

Posted by
6 posts

Good point on Zurich - thought we might be a bit jet lagged coming in, hence the 2 nights. Instead of two nights will lower it to one night or see if there is a nice place between Rothenburg and Zurich to spend two nights - grabbing car immediately on landing in Zurich and heading out. I think flight gets in at 4pm - with customs, luggage, and picking up car would like to be within an hour or so drive of Zurich - any ideas?

Posted by
32227 posts

chris, I have a few comments and some questions..... To begin with, it would help to know whether you've already purchased air tickets? Given the destinations you want to cover, using open-jaw flights would have been more efficient. In this case, inbound to Frankfurt and then train to Rothenburg, Munich and then into Switzerland would have been better. Regarding transportation, I usually prefer train as I travel solo much of the time. It's usually faster than travel by car (especially when using the fast trains), and also no worries about parking, theft, CDW's, etc. On the trip from Chur to Lugano, you might consider taking the renowned Bernina Express. It's a UNESCO World Heritage line. You may have to spend a night in Chur, as I believe the train leaves in the morning. Travel on that as far as Tirano, and then take the yellow Bus to Lugano. It's quite a scenic trip, especially the portion along Lago di Como. The Bus terminates at the rail station in Lugano, which is slightly above the main part of the city (there's a Funicular to the city or take a Taxi to your Hotel). I'm not sure it will be worthwhile to purchase Rail Passes, as it appears you'll only be making a couple of trips by rail. You might want to download the free PDF Rail Guide from this website (click the "Railpasses" tab at the top of the page and then look in the lower right corner), and have a look at the pages on Switzerland. You can use either the Golden Pass or regular train from Lucerne to Interlaken. The time via regular train is ~2H, with no changes. Note that your destination station will be Interlaken Ost. To get to Mürren take the local Berner Oberland train to Lauterbrunnen, and from there you have two choices to reach Mürren. Continued......

Posted by
32227 posts

Part 2.... The method I prefer is to use the Post Bus (bright yellow, you can't miss it) from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg (about 20-minutes) and then Cable Cars. In usual Swiss efficiency, it's timed to arrive at the station at the same time as the train. The first leg of the Cable Car to Gimmelwald (one of Rick's favourite places) is quite steep and spectacular. In Gimmelwald simply walk across the platform to the next Cable Car and it will drop you in Mürren. While there be sure to take the trip to the Schilthorn and the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant, where one of the James Bond movies was filmed. Regarding getting on the train with "luggage and cameras and assorted bags", the answer will depend on how many bags and how large they are. Some of the trains only stop for a minute or two, so you'll need to be quick. If the bags are excessively large, you'll want to place them in the luggage racks which are usually on one end of the car. It's a good idea to "keep an eye" on them. Smaller bags and Camera bags can be placed on the racks above your seats. YES, you should be concerned with theft, although Switzerland is generally "safer" than some other countries. When I was in Europe last year, a young couple from China had one of their large bags "nicked" by thieves either in Switzerland or Germany. They had placed it behind their seat, and I possibly went to the dining car (or whatever) for a few minutes. They wandered up and down the cars for an hour or more looking for it, and Police from both countries attended but they never did find it. Happy travels!

Posted by
6 posts

Oh My times three - I have been reading all the info on the rail options. Ok I am thinking Ken that the price is almost adding up to be the same if we buy the flexi pass (4 traveling together) Like you thought we will be staying the night in Chur, taking the Berina Express, lunch in Tirano, and bus to Lugano. At that point I think we will be ready to just stop moving, so an overnight in Lugano. Sometime or another the next day, taking the William Express to Luzern. I am wondering how well we will fare with the 5 mins btw trains - thinking a lil like Larry, Curly, & Moe : ) Once we are ready to leave Luzern the Golden Pass sounds lovely - and getting to Murren sometime early afternoon. (with the change of trains, lifts, et all) My questions are : With the pass we get the 50% discount on the gondola, boats, and such. I am thinking that alone makes the flexi pass saver the way to go - even though we will only actually be on the trains a total of 4 days maybe? Set me strait if I am wrong. Next question is this: I read somewhere about front of the car seat with an even better view? Was I dreaming as I can't seem to find that info again.
Many thanks to all of you taking the time to offer up your ideas.

Posted by
32227 posts

chris, A few more points to mention..... I'm not sure which if the "scenic" rail trips are covered by the Railpasses; I'd have to check. The other thing to note is that if a particular train has compulsory reservations, those are not covered by Railpasses so you'll need to pay separately for those. Don't linger over a long lunch when you arrive in Tirano. As you've probably noted, the train arrives at 12:38 and the Bus departs at 14:25. You probably won't get to a restaurant until 13:00 or so. However, as I recall, there are a bunch of restaurants close to the station in Tirano (I was there last year). I agree, once you arrive in Lugano you'll probably be ready for a rest. It would be great if you could stop for a day or two there. The boat tours down the lake are interesting, and it's a great place to relax. I stayed at Albergo Pestalozzi when I was there last year, and would certainly recommend it. Do you need the name of a Hotel in Chur? A change of five minutes is probably adequate. The Swiss are very precise with that sort of thing. Regarding which Railpass to purchase, you might find it VERY informative to give Rick's Rail department a call and discuss it with them. That would absolutely be the best source of information, and you could purchase the Passes at that time also (RS is apparently the largest vendor of Railpasses in the U.S.). Cheers!

Posted by
3 posts

We just went on the Mt Pilatus trip and I can heartily endorse it. If you purchase a discounted ticket, be sure to take along the Pass that allowed you the discount. They will ask to see it at some ticket points on the trip and if you don't have it, they may charge you the difference. A bit of serendipity I had brought along some biscotti I had purchased at the market before the trip up the mountain. It came in handy on our mountaintop hike the scavenger birds there are so tame, they will eat right from your hand!

Posted by
6 posts

Ken I am printing what you suggested to get to murren,Ty. I will also call the Rick Steves rail office and see what they suggest. Mt Pilates is a for sure. Tickets in and out of Zurich have already been purchased but the price was good.
You all are great in your suggestions. Ty Any suggestions for a day stop on our way to Zurich? We will be leaving Murren and staying the night in Zurich. Next day we fly home. Ideas are Bern or Cheese tour, or spending day in Zurich.

Posted by
6 posts

Ok - I have read up on the rail passes. Looks like the Swiss Pass covers all the scenic routes - with the caveat that the scenic routes need to have a secure reservation(at a fee). Will go ahead and purchase those in advance since our dates are set and those routes are serving both a function of getting us from point A to point B albeit in a very pretty way. Found the info on the Golden Pass - in RS Switzerland book - the VIP pass is the front most of the train with views to the right, the left, overhead, and in front of you. I have two questions now : Is the slow boat ride on the William Tell worth the additional money and time? I like the idea of slowing down and enjoying the scenery but it seems perhaps the RS book is suggesting it is not worth it.
2nd question is about going from Fussen in our rental car and dropping it off in Chur. Is stopping in Liechtenstein a good idea? Looking at suggested driving directions it looks like its tad roundabout. Any good route suggestions? Seems like many ideas are more train routes, and we will still have a car at this point. TY again.