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Zug, Switzerland to Varenna, Italy by Rail

We will be traveling to Switzerland on our own prior to connecting with our RS tour group in Varenna for our Best o Italy tour.

We will depart for Italy from Zug, Switzerland and will be taking the Bernina Express from Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy. As such, the train schedules need to match up pretty well. I am traveling with my 74 yoa mother and don't want to have to run to catch a train. For the most part, the schedules have a decent amount of time between connections however, the connection from the Regional train to the Bernina Express is 15 minutes.

Does anyone know the configuration of the train station in Chur ? Our Regional train arrives at 08:43 and the Bernina Express departs at 08:58. Are the platforms for the Regional Train and Bernina Express fairly close where 15 minutes will be adequate time to disembark from the Regional and embark on the Bernina Express ?

I would like to purchase our Bernina Express tickets in advance but need to know if the aforementioned time frame listed above is adequate to get between trains.

Any help is appreciated.

Posted by
26046 posts

follow the official webpage for the station in Chur

http://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/am-bahnhof/railway-stations/further-stations/chur.html

Click on the Station Plan. You arrive on platform 7 and leave from 10. It is simply down the ramp, over one ramp and back up that next ramp.

That should be plenty of time, even for an older parent unless they have walking issues or are lugging a huge case.

If you are planning on catching the 6:58 from Zug (good choice, btw - I love Zug) had you noticed that you also have a 7 minute connection in Thalwil?

You can also leave Zug at 6:31, shortish connection in Zurich and then a 10 minute connection in Chur to just cross the platform from platform 9 to 10.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for a quick response!

This is totally new to me so please accept my apologies ahead of time. I think I am following what you are saying....Are you saying that the earlier train to Chur is a better option ? If so, why ? Is it a Regional train ? Are there less transfers, more time in between transfers ?

Posted by
16165 posts

Well for one thing, you are on the Bernina Express all the way from Chur to Tirano and you arrive at Tirano sooner. The train change at Zurich is from Track 7 to Track 9 and there are no stairs or ramps to deal with. You just walk to the front of the train and walk a few feet to the next platform. And at Chur, it is an easy cross platform change just a few feet again. When you arrive in Tirano, you have 23 minutes to walk the 300 feet or so to the Trenord station to get your train to Varenna. Of course, you could also spend a few hours in Tirano and take the next train. Some nice pizzerias (they have a lot more than pizza) right by the station.

Posted by
23 posts

Sam/Nigel,

There are a couple of options for Zug and many options for Zurich.

Not being fluent in the language, how do I know which exact stop/station to arrive at/depart from and which train line (Company) to get on ?

Posted by
8889 posts

Muddster, you wrote: "There are a couple of options for Zug and many options for Zurich. Not being fluent in the language, how do I know which exact stop/station to arrive at/depart from and which train line (Company) to get on ?"

You already have the information from the SBB website, and the train company is irrelevant, all that affects is the colour the train is painted.

Since you say you are getting the 06:58 from Zug arriving at Chur at 08:43, to catch the Bernina Express. You must have looked this up on www.sbb.ch
That shows you a change at Thalwil. You do not go via Zürich, what made you think you needed to go via Zürich?

Zug, depart 06:58 platform 5, train IR 2622
Thalwil, arrive 07:14 platform 5
Thalwil, depart 07:21 platform 3, train RE 5061
Chur, arrive 08:43 platform 7

If you click on each train, it will show all the stops for that train, and the times at the station. Go to Zug station in plenty of time, find platform 5 (signs), get on train that arrives at 06:58. When the trains starts slowing down for Thalwil (at ~07:13), get up and wait by the doors, get off, find platform 3, etc., etc.
I don't really understand what additional information you need.

P.S. It is not relevant whether it is a Regional Train, IC or whatever, you just get on the train.

P.P.S. The ticket you need to buy is for the complete trip: Zug to Tirano via Chur. You can buy this ticket in advance at any manned Swiss station. Just explain what you want. You can of course spend more time at each station, either arrive by an earlioer train or leave with a later one, but that lengthens the whole journey.

Posted by
16165 posts

Nigel suggested the earlier train, and I concur.

Posted by
23 posts

Chris F/Nigel,

My questions are many for several reasons;

In regard to going from Zug to Zurich, another post made it seem like it was a better option (more direct route, less transfers), so that is why I inquired about it. I am trying to limit transfers, but need to make sure we can catch the Bernina Express, preferably one that departs before 12:00 p.m. since there are a limited number of trains that make that route.

I am not familiar with the ticketing system (It is not similar to what we have here in the States), the rail system, the rail stations and distance between platforms and/or how fast the trains fill. I don't want to get to a particular stop and discover the distance from one platform to another is too great for the amount of time or the train is full and we can't get on, which creates an issue for other connections in a multi-leg journey.

Since I am not familiar with the system, and connection times are fairly close, I want to ensure that the connections can be made with relative ease.

In regard to the ticket; *"Zug to Tirano via Chur', does that include a ticket on the Bernina Express ? Can you buy a ticket for the Bernina Express right up until the time you board the train without being concerned about it being fully booked ?

Once again, helpful information. Thank You!

Posted by
19182 posts

If you want to ride on the official Bernina Express with panoramic cars, I think you'd be very smart to buy the ticket in advance. Folks here have explained in earlier threads that you can take the same route on an ordinary train (I assume at lower cost.).

Posted by
16165 posts

The official Bernina Express does require a reservation with a small supplement. This is mostly for the extra services like panorama cars, direct train, and a headset that explains the various sights along the way.
I think Nigel and I laid out the reasons for taking the 6:31 departure from Zug.
1. Fewer transfers
2. Easier transfers
3. Earlier arrival in Tirano

regarding this statement:

preferably one that departs before 12:00 p.m. since there are a limited number of trains that make that route.

There are trains at least every hour on this route (Swiss mandate), although they may require transfers, do not have panorama cars, and do not require reservations/supplements. You will get to where you want to go. The Swiss have been doing this for a long time and have gotten pretty good at it.

Posted by
8889 posts

Muddster, It is a lot simpler than you are making it.

  • A ticket from A to B is valid on any train or combination of trains from A to B.
  • It is valid by the shortest route, if you want a longer circuitious route you need to say so when you buy the ticket, but it will still be valid on any train.
  • There is at least one train per hour on each route.
  • You just go to the on-line timetable site ( http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html ) and lookup the times from A to B. If it lists a connection, it is do-able.
  • You do not need to guess the quickest route yourself, the on-line timetable will always find the quickest route.
  • You do not need to reserve seats in advance, just get on the train. Except for a few extra tourist trains (Bernina Express, lacier Express). But, even on these routes, there are still other trains, once per hour, which do not need reservations.
  • The train will never be so full you can't get on. Some trains in the Zürich area are "standing room only" in the rush hour, apart from that, you will always get a seat.

"Bernina Express, preferably one that departs before 12:00 p.m. since there are a limited number of trains that make that route." - not true, one train per hour, as above.

Think of the system as a horizontal lift (elevator). You go to the station, wait until it arrives and the doors open, get on and get off at your desired floor(station). You may need to change to or from an express lift (elevator) at some point, but that is not difficult.If you miss one, just wait for the next one. It is no more complicated than that.

Posted by
1966 posts

Muddster
What is the begin date for your Best of Italy tour? I am on the one beginning October 9! Your plan for Switzerland and the Bernina Express beforehand sounds lovely. I am spending 2 days in Milan and then taking the train to Varenna. I hope your train connection works out for you.

Best,
Judy B