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Train travel - how do you decide?

As a first time Europe trip planner, I'm struggling with train decisions. When moving between destinations, how do you decide which trains and routes to take? Cost? Length of journey? Number of changes? Scenic route? I can't make up my mind on the determining factor. I want the scenic, fast, inexpensive route :-)

Today I'm thinking specifically of the trip from Munich to Appenzell where we will spend one night before going on to Murren. The fastest way appears to be thru Lindau but I've heard going through Innsbruck and Buchs is more scenic. And then the costs - if we travel on Bayern Ticket, I can lower cost a bit (3 adults), but travel is slower and not covered early in the morning. We will have Swiss Pass for the latter part of travel. We are traveling very light with no mobility issues.

I'm making myself crazy. This is a trip of a lifetime and I'm feeling the pressure to do it right.

Suggestions on how you make these decisions? Thank you!

Posted by
7205 posts

If spend 5+ hours on the train the I'll consider flying instead. Don't think you need to consider "scenic" train route because your destination is where the scenery will be outstanding. Just "get" to your destination the easiest way you can. Leave the scenery for your arrival :-)

Bayern ticket doesn't cover early morning travel except on the weekends...when it does. You can always buy a regular ticket to cover you on your destination until the hour when your Bayern Ticket kicks in.

Posted by
21718 posts

I generally pick the train schedule that is most convenient. What is convenient will vary depending of whether I want a short trip, early morning or mid-afternoon, number of connections, etc. The price is generally secondary since the marginal cost is small compared to my total experience. Except for some specific trains, most train rides are not very scenic so it is close to the last thing I am concerned about. There many things that are important for a good trip, IMO the train ride is not. Again, IMO the high speed trains are terrible for being scenic. Everything is going by too fast.

Posted by
2133 posts

I choose generally by numbers of connections. I really enjoy train travel, but not having to gather up my stuff and move from train to train.

Posted by
126 posts

Hi there,

Something else to consider - where are your hotels in relation to the train stations?

I don’t know your budget so maybe catching a taxi to and from the station to your hotel is the norm if it’s not then you need to find a good hotel close to the train station.

To do this takes some research – limit your walking to say 5 - 7 minutes and then start reviewing hotels and see what you get. Usually hotels near train stations can be a bit iffy but there are also some really good ones that will surprise, it just takes time to find them. To me it’s crazy to have to travel half way across a city to a ‘good’ hotel when there’s one nearby – you came to spend your time as a tourist not to waste it travelling to & from a hotel.

Schedule your train trips around your hotel check out/check in times, arrive in time to drop your bags and then start sightseeing.

Posted by
921 posts

I look at convenience of the times of the options and the time the options will take first, and cost second. If there is a big cost difference or a small duration of the trip difference, I will go for the cheaper option. I have never chosen a train ticket based on scenery. You might be disappointed with too many tunnels, walls, or by buildings blocking your scenery if you go for that option.

Posted by
31471 posts

amosk,

My suggestion for the trip from Munich to Appenzell would be to choose the shortest trip with the fewest number of changes, especially as you're only planning to stay one night in Appenzell. Don't place too much emphasis on "scenic" unless you have lots of time. All routes will be "scenic" to some extent.

An early departure will give you the most time to explore Appenzell, so you might consider a departure from Munich at 07:17, arriving Appenzell at 11:51 (time 4H:34M, 1 change in St. Gallen, short walk between stations). That route is currently showing a discounted fare of €44 PP (normally €68.40 PP). If you decide to buy advance tickets, you might try www.captaintrain.com as the website is very user friendly.

Posted by
977 posts

Personally, one of my main criteria is a minimum number of changes - one is what I aim for. The other factor is time between departures if you have to change trains. Last year in the UK, 10 minutes was not long enough. We had to endure a 2 hour wait on the platform at Wolverhampton station!!!

Posted by
11613 posts

I aim even lower than Judy, if I can find a trip with no changes, I will take it, even if it takes a little longer. Cost is secondary. Scenery doesn't matter but if it is beautiful, that's a bonus.

Posted by
111 posts

Very helpful! Thank you all.

Ken, I was looking at that same train you mentioned. Can you walk me through how to purchase ahead please? How early will tickets be available? For the Germany part and Swiss part - seems that is different. We will have a Swiss Pass - do I enter that info somewhere and receive a deduction? Or do I purchase only to the border - St Marg, I believe? If we do that, do we simply stay on train there with Swiss Pass in hand? We are actually going to Wasseraun to go up to Ebenalp.

I appreciate the help!!!

Posted by
16883 posts

I tend to choose by which trains don't leave at 7 a.m., but there certainly can be benefits to doing so, and to booking ahead if you're committed to it.

Posted by
18302 posts

Normally, I would say to use a Bayern-Ticket (23€ for one; 33€ for 33€) and take the ALX to Lindau, then buy an 8€ S-Bahn ticket from Lindau to St. Magrethen and use you Swiss pass from there.. That would not be as scenic as via Innsbruck, but it would save several hours and, I'm sure, some euro. However, on the line from Munich to Lindau, they are working on the tracks, starting April 4 and running all summer. They are providing a bus (SEV) around the tracks from Immenstadt to Oberstaufen, which would be included with the Bayern-Ticket. It wouldn't add any time to the trip, but there would be 2 extra changes between Munich and Lindau. Speaking of scenic, you might want to stop for a few hours in Lindau and explore.

The EC that leaves Munich at 12:33 stops in St. Margrethen at 15:18. With advance purchase, you could get Savings Fare tickets for as low as 19€/person. That could cost the same as the ALX/Bayern-Ticket option and would be direct (no changes), but you'd have to take that specific EC from Munich. If you scheduled a stopover when you purchase the ticket, there would be no extra charge for that, but you probably have to continue on to St. Margrethen by regional trains with a change in Bregenz.

As for flying, the closest airport to Appenzell only has four scheduled flights per day from Vienna and charters. A charter flight from Munich would be fast, but, I think, expensive.

Posted by
31471 posts

amosk,

I've never travelled that particular route, but this is the method I'd probably use....

  • Purchase the ticket from Munich to Appenzell on the Bahn.de website, as it appears to be offered for sale (hopefully one of the others can confirm that). The Saver Fare of €44 seems quite reasonable. I wouldn't be too concerned about getting discounts on the Swiss portion of the journey, as the portion from the Swiss border to Appenzell is very short. You'd already be getting the Saver Fare so I doubt there's going to be much of a savings on the Swiss portion of that trip.
  • When you arrive in Appenzell, but a ticket for the S-Bahn for the short 11 minute ride to Wasserauen.
  • When you arrive in Wasserauen, walk across the street to the Ebenalp Bahn cable car station.

One important point to note is that I used an arbitrary date next week to research the train details. I may have missed it, but I didn't see the date you'd be travelling? Therefore the Saver Fare may or may not be available on your travel date. In any case, I wouldn't be too concerned about saving a few bucks on the short portion from the German border to Appenzell.

That's going to be a lot of travelling for only one night.

Posted by
18302 posts

"That's going to be a lot of travelling for only one night."

But he/she is going on to Mürren, in the Berner Oberland, so Appenzell is on the way.

I don't see the 7:17 train on the Bahn site after about Apr 2; after that it's a 7:03. On the Bahn I can see quite a few Savings Fare tickets available for 19€/P, 57€ for your party of three, to St. Margrethen.

How early do you want to leave Munich. There is an ALX leaving at 9:19. That connection would get you to Apenzell at 14:21 and also cost 57€. The cost is fixed, ie the same price if purchased on the day of travel, and doesn't rely on a specific train.

Posted by
31471 posts

Lee,

"But he/she is going on to Mürren, in the Berner Oberland, so Appenzell is on the way."

I knew that! I was just commenting on the fact that arrival at Ebenalp probably won't be until late afternoon. That will leave basically just a few hours in the evening to enjoy the place. An early start the next morning will probably be necessary, as the trip from there to Mürren will be 5-6 hours, with 5-6 train changes. Arrival in Mürren will also be in the late afternoon.

Posted by
111 posts

So much great information! Yes, I know it is a lot of travel. I think my two college daughters are trying to kill their mother :-) We have had this trip in the works for 2 years and Berggasthaus Aescher was one of the first places they chose as a "must do." We will spend only one night (they are college girls and Aescher has no shower facilities!) followed by another long travel day to Murren. I am sure I will fall in love with the BO area -- someone on here wrote that the BO is like Yosemite but way better -- and I love Yosemite. I'm very excited.

Our travel date is Thursday, May 19. We are fine with the early 7:03 departure from Munich. I would like to get to Wasserauren early enough to explore that afternoon and leave mid-morning the next day. The 7:03 EC gets us there at 12:12. I think that is our best option due to time and only one transfer. When I go to Bahn website, it won't let me buy anything yet for May 19. Looks like it will open up next week. When I put in an earlier date to get information, it also says "fare information not available" for Munich to Wasserauren. Is that because the Swiss trains are regional and can't be purchased thru Bahn?

Because of that, do I understand correctly that I should buy the tickets from Munich to St. Margrethen? Right now showing for 57 euros when I look at the week prior.

When we arrive in St Margrethen do we simply stay on the train - now covered by our Swiss Pass? - until we switch trains in Gossau? And the train from Gossau to Wasserauren is covered by the Swiss Pass with no advance purchase necessary?

Thank you again!!

Posted by
31471 posts

amosk,

If you want to use your Rail Pass for the final portion to Appenzell, I'd suggest buying a ticket from Bahn for the portion from Munich to St. Gallen. If you use the 07:03 departure, that will be a direct train with a travel time of 3H:38M. Begin using your Pass for the final section on the S-Bahn from St. Gallen to Appenzell, and then to Wasserauen.

Hopefully one of the others can confirm that this will be the best method.