We're in the midst of planning our itinerary for a spring European tour and trying to figure in travel times. We'll be using the train and are wondering about the train time/schedules for Venice to Lauterbrunnen and Lauterbrunnen to Paris. We'd appreciate any help that can be provided. I've looked at the bahn site but don't know how to decipher the abbreviations--ES, EC, IR, R. I know Lauterbrunnen is difficult to get to. If there is another Swiss alps site that would be easier, we're open to a suggestion. We just want to experience the Alps while we are there.
The www.bahn,de website is really useful in seeing the trip. You also can see and buy the tickets on the Swiss train website www.rail.ch. Unfortunately, you can't see the entire journey on the Italian train website (www.trenitalia.com). The Italians can't see Lauterbrunnen on their systems. They can see Interlaken Ost. But, looking at their schedules, its seriously crappy. The Swiss have a superior look at this run. The run you want (and we have done this run), is Venice/Milan on the high-speed on a Eurostar (ES). Actually, its a Freccibianca (white arrow) high-speed. You then transfer to a Eurocity (EC) fast train from Milan to Spiez. Next, you take a 20-minute ride from Spiez to Interlaken Ost. Finally, you go out to track 2A and take the 22-minute ride on the local Jungfraubahn into Lauterbrunnen. Some runs have more train changes so you'll have to check on the different runs. Again, you can see this on www.bahn.de or www.rail.ch. You will love being in the valley and you will see the Alps on steroids. You can also buy the tickets when you arrive in Venice. That's what we did. No problem. Just research your journey, write it down and show it to the agent when you go to the ticket window. Not all ticket agents speak English or if they do, speak it well. Hand them the paper.
Thank you so much! I am going to print out your response and go through it step-by-step to make sure I'm understanding it--I'm a total newbie at this! I'll be back if I don't get the idea.
To get to Paris, can expect a general routing of Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken Ost where you change trains for Basel. At Basel, you change to a French TGV to go to Paris. 5hr30min. The fare I see on www.rail.ch is 191CHF.
Those abbreviations refer to the type of train. They stand for things like Eurostar, EuroCity, InterRegional, and Regional. They differ in how many intermediate stops they make, how fast they run, whether reservations are required, optional, or not available, and how much they cost (faster trains can have a supplement). However, for many routes, they don't really matter. Just look at the routes on the Swiss rail website. If you see alternates, then you can check prices and timings. On many routes, you won't have options; on others, you will. For the kind of long runs you are taking, you should expect to take a mix of trains (regional and long distance). For many of your trains, you can get a substantial discount by purchasing in advance - if you don't mind locking in your exact trains with non-refundable tickets, and if you can get help here in figuring out which combination of websites will give you the best price.
Kathleen, it's all the same lines. A Swiss train to Basel and the French TGV from Basel to Paris. With numerous runs a day for the Swiss and French days, you might see some differences in travel times and possbile train changes. Tim was just giving you some great tips on great discounts if you are willing to book early and accept non-refundable tickets and be locked into a specific travel date and time. These are great values.
Kathleen, please keep the questions coming. That's what we're here for. It looks complicated to get to Lauterbrunnen and the Lauterbrunnen Valley but really its not. Just take it step by step and it becomes really easy. Several of us have done the exact routes you are asking about, including myself this Spring among others. Have you seen the video clip that Rick made a few years ago about using the train in Europe? Its really good if you haven't used European trains a lot. Its a bit dated but the information is right on...
Thank you all so much. You've made me feel a lot better about the planning. I will definitely look for that Rick Steves train piece. I think that would help my husband, too. I'm sure I will be back with more questions.
There are lots of Rick's travel videos on Hulu (you get to them by going to the links under Travel Tips, above) but I can't tell you about them because out of the USA we can't see them, but if you are any good at Youtube the one I was talking about is called Travel Skills: Riding the Rails and the link (its got a question mark in it so I can't make it a hot link, sorry) is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moLGxdId9uU Happy planning... its half the fun!!
Lauterbrunnen-Paris: The 2nd class fare for Lauterbrunnen to Basel is 63.20 CHF. No discount for advance booking. If you book well in advance (up to three months allowed) on the Swiss Rail site, you can get a discount fare as low as 31.00 CHF for a Basel-Paris TGV. The standard fare is 131.00 CHF. If you book Basel-Paris up to three months in advance on tgv-europe.com, you can get a Piccolissimo fare of €25.00.
Which one of those lines is the best? I'm sure we'd be able to book ahead.
As Larry said, for Basel-Paris the TGVs are the same whether you book on the Swiss Rail site or the tgv-europe site. It may be a bit easier booking on the Swiss Rail site. There are some tricks to booking on the tgv-europe site without getting bumped to the Rail Europe site which doesn't offer discount fares.
OK, when we get ready to book, Swiss rail it is. What about discounts for train travel in Italy? We're planning on flying into Rome, taking the train to Florence, then Venice and then on to Lauterbrunnen and ending up in Paris. It would be great to be able to do all this from one site but that doesn't appear to be possible. And of course we want to be able to get discounted fares whenever we can. Thanks again for your ideas.
Kathleen, I sense that you are getting the idea that if you book well in advance, you can get some really nice discounted fares. For this special fare tickets, you will need to know precisely when you want to travel as you will be locked into ticket for a specific date and time that most likely will be non-refundable. You can do this for your trains from Rome to Florence and from Florence to Venice. Just go onto www.trenitalia.com and English. Enter the Italian names of the train stations and not our English names. If you intend to purchase, I suggest that you register on the website. When you make the purchase, you should receive an immediate email with a ticket that you can print out at home. The "ticket" is a print out with a 6-digit PNR number on it. There is an option to purchase without registering but we've noticed that some travelers are having trouble getting the email with the tickets. I don't recommend that opton.
And to follow up after Larry (and by the way, trust these guys' advice!), read through this first...maybe a couple of times LOL! Don't let it spook you or overwhelm you, but it's good info before you buy your Italian tickets on Trenitalia that could save you a lot of trouble later :-(