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Booking train based on flight arrival time

Hi Travelers,

My question is Europe-generic but if it helps, we are traveling to Switzerland in August this year. Our non-stop flight from San Francisco to Zurich arrives at 10:20am and we will then catch a train to Interlachen.

My question is, which train to book? Flights can arrive early or be hours late. I do not want to miss my booked train due to a late flight. I also do not want to book a train that departs a couple of hours later, just to be on the safe side, only to have to wait in the train station for a long time.

Since we are traveling during peak tourist season, I feel that I should book a train soon.

Any ideas? What works for you?

Thank you - David

Posted by
2848 posts

Switzerland makes traveling via public transportation very easy.

There is no need to book trains in Switzerland. When you buy a ticket from Zurich airport to Interlaken, you can take any train on that route that you like. There is also no need for reservations. You can sit anywhere you like in the class that you purchased the tickets for.

You can use the SBB app to check times and buy tickets once you arrive. Or, if you prefer, there are ticket machines at the airport and helpful train staff nearby to help.

I am headed there myself in a few days. The ease of transportation is one of the things I love about Switzerland.

Have a great trip!!

Posted by
8051 posts

There is no need to book a train for a certain time in advance in Switzerland in your case. The trains are mass transit. You don't need a reservation they don't sell out. The only problem you may have is finding an open seat. But less likely when boarding at the Zurich Airport stop. Buy your ticket when you get there. Many buy a Swiss Travel Pass in advance (either 3,4,6, 8, 12 or 15 day) which allows you to just hop on any train (other than certain privately operated mountain trains) and show your pass with ID without a ticket.

I was there for the 5th time in 8 years a couple of weeks ago.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you so much Carrie & Jazz+Travels! This is very helpful. I have the SBB app and purchased the Swiss Half Fare card, so we will be all set once we land.

Have a great trip Carrie! We leave in two months!

Posted by
16851 posts

Take a look ahead of time at the schedule on or the app for trains from Zurich Flughafen to Interlaken Ost. There are several options each hour, with different change points. At 10:45 and 12:45, IC 81 does from the airport station to Interlaken Ost with no changes at all. If your incoming plane is late, the 12:45 might work.

Otherwise there are several options each hour with one change on the way, either at Bern (IC 8 at 11:45 and IC 1 at 11:15, or at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof (C 5 at 10:46 and 12:48). And additional options with changes at both stations (main station and Bern).

The ticket you buy will be good on any of those, but it is always a good idea to minimize the transfers. The transfer times are short (like 5 or 6 minutes) and you will generally have to go down from the platform you arrive at to the subway under the tracks to change to the new platform, coming back up the ramp to track level.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you Lola! I was just looking at the schedule on the SBB app :).

We are actually staying in Grindelwald, so the trains you mentioned work really well. I agree that minimizing stops is best.

I'll be purchasing the Berner Oberland pass as well since we'll be in Grindelwald for 6 days of hiking with lots of train/gondola/funicular travel. We'll then head to Luzern to catch a Rick Steves tour.

Posted by
16851 posts

You can buy your ticket all the way to Grindelwald and you will have just one more change, at Interlaken Ost. Just make sure to board the train from the correct section for Grindelwald. They split the train at Zweilütschinen, With one half going to Lauterbrunnen, and the other going to Grindelwald.

Usually they show this on the schedule—-Track 2A for Lauterbrunnen and 2B for Grindelwald. But right now they are not listing any track number at Interlaken Ost for the regional trains to Grindelwald/Lauterbrunnen. But if you open the map showing the transfer, it looks the same as usual. I am sure you will figure it out.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you again, Lola! Yes, I read about the train split. I have to remember that - which will be challenging after flying all night :).