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Eurail Global Pass in Switzerland

Can anyone help me clarify which trains are covered in Switzerland with a Eurail Global pass? My husband and I made the decision to purchase a 4 day in one month global pass to cover some of our longer excursions during our upcoming 4 week trip, but I'm seeing some conflicting information about which trains are available as I plan some of our routes in Switzerland. 

Several places, including the Rick Steve's page on trains in Switzerland, say that "most" trains are covered in Switzerland with the global pass. I was initially under the impression that we could use both the Intercity (IC) train and the Eurocity (EC) train with the pass.

However, when I went to look up a trip from Basel to Lucerne on the Rail Europe website where we purchased our passes (I now wish I had purchased them through Eurail instead, as Rail Europe has been very difficult to work with), it said that the IC trains aren't covered, and it says I need to purchase additional tickets (not just seat reservations) when I look up both the IC and the EC train. 

I can't help but think this either can't be right or I'm missing something. Are neither of these trains really included in the global pass? 

Does anyone have recommendations how to verify trains that are included in the pass and also book seat reservations without needing to use the Rail Europe website?

Thank you!

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you. That's what I thought, but the Rail Europe was unclear so I wasn't sure which was correct. Do you know of all routes from Basel to Lucerne are covered, or do we need to only take a specific type of train?

Posted by
15621 posts

All trains are covered. The only important trains not covered are the trains in the Berner Oberland, like Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald.

The Eurail Global Pass is a product that is sold by Rail Europe, a travel agency, but they don't own or operate it. Eurail is a consortium of European operating railroads.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you so much. That is reassuring after the confusion! This is my first Europe trip, so I am still learning how everything works.
I am quickly learning that Rail Europe is not the place to purchase train tickets, but I am having trouble connecting our Global passes to a Eurail account, which the site indicates we should be able to do. Hopefully it will get figured out!

Posted by
15621 posts

Well, as a first timer, I think you are learning that Eurail passes are yesterday's travel solution. But fait accompli, if you already bought them, might as well go ahead and use them. You can buy any necessary seat reservations at the station. France can be tricky as they sometimes limit the number of railpass riders on a given train, even if the train is not full. Oh, and guess who owns Rail Europe. SNCF, the French National Railway!

Posted by
20 posts

Unfortunately I am learning about Rail Europe the hard way. After very carefully comparing the prices of our chosen longer routes with the point to point tickets we would have wanted (even after adding in reservation costs), we are actually breaking even with cost as far as I can tell. We also appreciate the flexibility of the global passes for a couple of our destinations, so up to now I don't feel that we made a horrible decision in that regard.

I am glad I only selected the 4 day ticket though and choose the cheaper point to point tickets for our shorter routes! We've definitely gotten a couple of good deals there.

Posted by
8889 posts

Which trains are covered is defined by which railway companies run the trains. All the main national railway companies have agreements with Eurail, some smaller ones don't. Presumably Eurail haven't offered them enough money.
For Switzerland this is complicated by the large number of small local companies.

The catch for a tourist is they are unlikely to know which companies run which routes, normally if you buy a ticket it doesn't matter, the ticket is valid from A to B and the companies divide the money amongst themselves.

  • All IC and EC trains are run by SBB or BLS, the two big companies, which are both covered, so IC and EC trains ARE covered.
  • Basel to Luzern is SBB, and is covered.
  • The most significant omission for tourists is the BOB (Berner Oberland Bahnen), which runs trains past Interlaken up into the Jungfrau region, this only offers discounts (second list).
Posted by
20 posts

Thank you! The lists are helpful. I've done a bit of research on the trains in the Jungfrau region since we are staying in Lauterbrunnen for part of our visit, so I know those will be extra. I was probably reading too many sources and got confused about the major lines, but this helps!

Posted by
11170 posts

If you're staying in the Berner Oberland for at least a few days (and I hope you are), you may get benefit from a Berner Oberland Pass for those days. https://www.regionalpass-berneroberland.ch/en/

In the Interlaken train station, when you head toward the platforms for Lauterbrunnen, you will see a big sign saying that Eurail Passes are not valid beyond this point - in case you forget before hand!

Posted by
7187 posts

Sorry you got hooked into the Eurail Pass. A pass of ANY kind makes little sense except in Switzerland where you should get a Swiss Pass of some kind. Hands down the Swiss Half Fare Card is usually the biggest money saver but the most convenient is the actual Swiss Travel Pass.