Hello All. My husband and I are flying into Paris and plan on spending a couple days there and then taking a train to Gimmelwald (although I hear I can take a train only to Interlaken and then have to take a bus and gondola to get to Gimmelwald?). After a couple days in Gimmelwald we plan on taking a train to Florence. I have found a train ride from Paris to Interlaken for $116 USD. Is that a good price? I also find an overnight train from Bern to Florence for $106 (6 person cochette). Is that a good price? Since I am a first timer, I have nothing to compare it to. Also, with this itinerary does it seem like EuroRail Passes would not be worth it? I am guessing it would not be since it is really just two long rides and then just traveling around the city we are in. Thanks for any advice/suggestions you can give me!
You are correct. For this itinerary a railpass would not be cost effective.
When are you taking this trip? If you book far enough in advance (up to 90 days allowed) on the French Rail site and the Swiss Rail site, you can get much better fares than the ones you quoted--which I assume are from Rail Europe.
For example, you can get a Piccolo fare as low as 25 EUR for Paris-Bern. (The standard fare is 76 EUR.) No discount is possible for Bern-Interlaken. The standard fare is 26 EUR.
The Swiss Rail site doesn't list fares for international journeys, but you can request an e-mail from them giving you a fare quote. 4-bunk couchettes and 6-bunk couchettes are the same size. The only difference is in how many bunks are pulled out. I recommend that you spend a little more and book a 4-bunk couchette. You'll appreciate having more elbow room and more space to store your luggage.
We leave at the end of September, so in about 45 days. Thank you for your suggestion. I will check out that site and yes I was looking at rates on Rail Europe. I've had some trouble trying to understand some of the other sites so far, but I'll keep trying.
You want to take your train from Bern to the Interlaken OST train station. From there, you pick up a regional train to Lauterbrunnen. At Lauterbrunnen, you take a gondola up to Gimmelwald. You can take a bus from the train station to the gondola station, or it is possible to walk. If you look at Swiss train site -- sbb.ch -- you can see these routes. You can also google Lauterbrunnen or Berner Oberland and find out a lot.
Thanks for the tips, Thomas.
Julie, just to add one little detail to Thomas' spot-on reply, the Interlaken Ost station is the East station and the second one your train will come to in Interlaken. Also, should you walk from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg for the cable car to Gimmelwals, allow plenty of time; it's an easy and beautiful 7-km (4.25 miles) that takes about 2 hours from the train station. Enjoy Gimmelwald, and if you're not staying at the Hotel Mittaghorn, at least stop by for a beer and drink it on the outside "patio" with the best patio view in the world.
A bit of information to add to the replies from Thomas & Dwayne.
When you arrive at Interlaken Ost, buy a ticket for Gimmelwald. This will include ALL modes of transport. You'll take the yellow and blue regional train to Lauterbrunnen. When you arrive at the station, walk across the street and transfer to the Post Bus (bright yellow, you can't miss it). The Bus will drop you in Stechelberg and you'll see the Gondola station long before you arrive there. Walk up the steps, go through the turnstile and board the next Gondola.
Keep your Camera at hand! The ride to Gimmelwald is a bit "steep" but very scenic. You'll disembark at the first stop and from there it's easy to walk to your lodgings (where are you staying?). BTW, the next Gondola goes to Murren which you can also walk to on the paved "trail".
When you leave Gimmelwald, you can buy your ticket back to Interlaken Ost at the Gimmelwald Gondola station (within business hours - that's what I do).
Regarding your other rail trips, I had a brief look.
- Paris to Interlaken Ost: My preference would be the train departing Paris Est at 08:24, arriving Interlaken Ost at 13:57 (time 5H:33M, 1 change in Basel, reservations compulsory). Stop at an SNCF Boutique when you arrive in Paris and buy your tickets, which will include reservations.
Interlaken Ost to Firenze SMN: As you're a "first timer", you might consider a train departing Interlaken Ost at 13:29, arriving Firenze SMN at 19:39 (time 6H:10M, 2 changes in Spiez and Milano Centrale, reservations compulsory). This is about the shortest travel time and fewest changes on that route, so figured it might be easier for you. You might buy your ticket at Interlaken Ost when you arrive there. I'm not sure if they'll be able to provide tickets for the entire route or only to Milano Centrale?
I used "arbitrary dates" in Sept. to check these, using the bahn.de website.
A few more comments (ran out of room in the previous post).....
As you're a "first timer", I'd strongly advise reading Europe Through The Back Door, especially the "Rail Skills" section. You could also download the free PDF Rail Guide from this website (click the "Railpasses" tour at the top of the page and then look for the "Free Rail Guide" link in the lower right corner).
ETBD is more of a "pre-read" Guidebook, but you might find it useful to pack along copies of the Switzerland and either Italy or Florence Guidebooks. I've found that having Guidebooks for the areas I'll be visiting is an excellent reference source during trips.
Ken's Paris-Basel-Interlaken route and departure time are fine, but the standard fare for the whole trip is 123.60 EUR.
You can save some money and still arrive in Interlaken at 13:57 if you do it this way: Take a direct train from Paris to Bern, departing at 07:58 and arriving at 12:36. Catch the 13:04 train to Interlaken (it comes from Basel and is the same train you would ride if you took Ken's route), arriving at 13:57. The standard fare for the whole trip is 95 EUR.
To save even more money, go to www.tgv-europe.com. To keep the site in English and to avoid being bumped to the Rail Europe site which doesn't offer discount fares, choose Great Britain as both your country of residence and the country in which you will retrieve your ticket. Book ONLY Paris-Bern on this site and see if you can get a Piccolo fare which can be as low as 25 EUR. You can pick up your ticket at any SNCF station or boutique (ticket shop) in France, even though you originally chose Great Britain.
Buy your ticket from Bern to Interlaken (26 EUR) when you get to Bern.
Thank you all for your advice and tips. I really appreciate it!