I will be using a Swiss pass to travel from Murren to Milano in September. I know there is a portion of the trip that requires a reservation. Is there an advantage to reserving in advance or is it okay to buy a reservation at the station when I reach Spiez (if I take that route). Additionally, are Brig and/or Spiez interesting cities? (Would recommend stopping and walk around either for a bit before going the rest of the way?) Thanks!
Jesse, depending on the run you choose, you could be on trains requiring reservations beginning at Interlaken Ost. However, many trains between Interlaken Ost and Spiez do not require reservations. A run from Muerren to Milano Centrale would at least require reservations from Spiez to Milano Centrale. Your Swiss Pass will cover you to the Italian border. Just show your pass to the agent and he/she will make the adjustment. Should you want to visit Spiez or Brig, you could ride the local IC trains on your pass to these cities, visit and then buy your final ticket to Milan. To specifically answer one of your questions, I quote from my version of the Rick Steves Switzerland book describing the end of the Glacier Express run. "Finally, you will arrive at Brig, an ugly town with good connections to other train lines..." If you have lots of time to get to Milan, you might look into traveling up to Lucerne from Interlaken Ost and visiting there. Once done, you can catch the train to Arth-Goldau and then the very high-speed train to Milan from there. Or, you can take the train from Interlaken Ost to Arth-Goldau directly, get on the high-speed train to Milan (which does require reservations). One nice stop along this route is Lugano. But, you would have to buy two tickets - one from Arth-Goldau to Lugano and one from Lugano to Milan. I suggest that you not buy the second ticket until you are done visiting Lugano. Both require reservations.
Thanks Larry. I have a follow up question. I may decide to go with a half fare card instead of a Swiss pass. I know that I'd have to wait until I get to Switzerland to buy the half fare card. Does that mean I cannot buy any tickets while stateside, since I won't have the card in hand?
Jesse, I see you new post on this question. On the Swiss website, I can see a selection for Half-Fare card when buying tickets online. But, this pick is for half-fare cards in the 1, 2 and 3-year versions. Yours will be for 30 days. Thus, I'm not sure you can do this. The idea behind the 1/2-fare card is that you buy a full fare ticket for half-price. I've had 1/2-fare cards before and that's how it worked for me. I'm not sure how it works in advance online especially if your expectation is to buy discount tickets and then apply the 1/2 fare card. You can email the Swiss website and ask them the question in English. They will respond promptly in English. I've done it several times.
Great, I'll do that. Thank you, again.
You can buy online on SBB and elect the Half Fare Card reduction without having the card in hand. You must of course show the card when you actually use the ticket. The tourist 30-day card functions the same as the residents' one-year card.there is no distinction in the price reduction or in use of the card.
That is good news :) I did just email them, as well. I was originally planning to purchase the Swiss card but after making an extensive spreadsheet, its seems the half fare card is a better value.
Just a correction: the train between ARth-Goldau and Milano is not very high speed. It is not even high-speed. It is an annoyingly slow train that deals with an outdated railway with average speed just above 100km/h for the whole thing. It will be bypassed by the new under construction Gotthard Base Tunnel in 2016. Then, it will become a fast-ish train. There is nothing high-speed there like you have in Italy with speed above 250km/h. Switzerland is the speed bump of fast train travel in Europe.
If it went any faster you'd miss the scenery. The scenery is worth seeing.
One other thing, as far as I remember the Swiss Pass is only valid up to the last station where the train actually stops before it crosses the border. It is a long time ago since I had one, so perhaps that has changed.
In case anyone was curious, SBB responded to my email and confirmed that you can buy the tickets at half fare and buy the card once you reach Switzerland.