'Eurail Select Pass 2 countries' vs. 'Swiss Travel Pass'... decisions, decisions!

Hi everyone!

I plan on doing a 8 day (vacation) trip to Switzerland (first visit ever!) next month after attending a conference for work in Europe and since it will be December, I think it will be prudent to get around via train than renting a car in the Alps (getting stuck in snowstorms is my fear). Given this I have started researching the Rail Europe options for Switzerland.

First question: The 'Eurail Select Pass 2 countries' option (Switzerland & Italy) comes up with a cheaper price than the ''Swiss Travel Pass', (criteria: 2 Adults, 1st Class - 8 continuous days). Does the 'Swiss Travel Pass' offer more amenities or train selections than the 'Eurail Pass'?

Secondly: when I go to book an individual train, for example "Interlaken to Zermatt", and put in either one of these pass options, a pop-up appears on the screen that says: "The fares you requested are not available with selected rail pass. Please select a regular fare and proceed to the next step." What does this mean? That the Pass is not valid and I have to pay for this train ride? The individual 1st Class ticket is quite pricey so I need to know the Pass benefit for this trip.

Next: I plan to take several scenic "panoramic" train routes during my visit (listing below), are all of these covered under either Pass option? Meaning my companion and I can reserve seats without having to pay an additional fare?
"GoldenPass line"
"Glacier Express"
"Bernina Express"
"Gotthard Panorama Express" (or the regular Lugano to Lucerne train if the train with the panoramic windows is not running. Please confirm this point?)

And lastly, for the "Bernina Express" the plan is to get off the train in Tirano, Italy, and then take a bus ride from Tirano to Lugano, Switzerland, and then board the "Gotthard Panorama Express". to Lucerne. With the "Eurail Select Pass 2 Countries" (Switzerland & Italy) is the bus ride from Tirano to Lugano covered with this pass, meaning we will have to pay no additional fees to board the bus?

Thanks so much in advance !!!!
Eric
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) November 06, 2018 19:29
    Hi Eric,

    A multi-country Eurail Pass and the Swiss Travel Pass would both be valid to cover the ticket costs on all of the scenic trains you listed, as well as connections from Interlaken to Zermatt. Whenever reservations are required, they are an additional cost to a rail pass.

    While the main objective of a rail pass generally is to cover trains running ‘inter-city’ between different cities, the Swiss Travel Pass is unique in that it covers more than just rail travel. The Swiss Travel Pass is unique from other rail passes in that it also covers boats, city buses, and city transit networks in Switzerland. The Swiss Travel Pass will also provide for the best possible discounts on mountain railways (including cable cars and funiculars) and allows for entry to over 490 museums around Switzerland.

    Multi-country Eurail Passes (that include Switzerland) will also will provide for discounts on many mountain railways, but the discounts are generally not as much as they would be with the Swiss Travel Pass. For instance, in cases where a Swiss Travel Pass might provide for a 50% discount, the Eurail Pass discount would only be 25%.

    For info about bonuses with the Swiss Travel Pass, you would refer to the page for the Swiss Travel Pass on our website, scroll down slightly, and click 'Rail pass benefits'. The page for the Swiss Travel Pass is here: http://www.raileurope.com/pass/swiss-pass-5934.

    For info about bonuses with the 2 country Eurail Select Pass, you would refer to the page for this pass on our website and do the same. The 2 country Eurail Select Pass for Italy and Switzerland is here: https://www.raileurope.com/pass/italy-switzerland-pass-8354

    Interlaken to Zermatt

    Connections from Interlaken to Zermatt take just over 2 hours in duration and involve 2 train changes along the way; once in Spiez and then in Visp. Reservations are not at all necessary on these trains, so a rail pass is all you would need to board, whether it be a Eurail Pass or a Swiss Travel Pass.

    For planning purposes, you can still use the route search feature under 'Book Train Tickets' on our homepage (www.raileurope.com) just to view schedules for these trains. For a trip from Interlaken to Zermatt, you would just have to break up your search in either Spiez or Visp (i.e. one search for trains from Interlaken to Spiez and then another search for the part of the connection from Spiez to Zermatt). Otherwise, you can just piece together your search segment-by-segment (i.e. one search from Interlaken to Spiez, another search for connecting trains from Spiez to Visp, and then another search for connecting trains from Visp to Zermatt).

    If, following any of your searches for this route, you see a message that says “the fares you requested are not available with the selected rail pass”, just disregard it. That message is in no way accurate. Rest assured, you can use either of these rail passes on all of these trains.

    The segment from Visp to Zermatt does run along a portion of the Glacier Express scenic route. For just this one small segment of the Glacier Express route, reservations are not necessary.

    GoldenPass

    The GoldenPass scenic route runs from Montreux to Lucerne and involves changing trains in Zweisimmen and Interlaken along the way.

    Of the trains comprising of the GoldenPass route, reservations are only recommended on the segment between Montreux and Zweisimmen. For travel with a rail pass, you would purchase reservations on a train from Montreux to Zweisimmen by searching the route on our homepage (www.raileurope.com), checking the box that says ‘I have a rail pass’, and then indicating the type of rail pass with which you'll be traveling (i.e. a ‘Eurail Two-Country Select Pass’ or ‘Swiss Travel Pass’).

    On the other segments of the GoldenPass route (Zweisimmen to Interlaken and Interlaken to Lucerne), reservations are possible but not necessary. If you also would like to have reservations for these segments, you would just have to piece together the connection by doing a separate search for each segment. Therefore, you would do one search for trains from Montreux to Zweisimmen, another search for connecting trains from Zweisimmen to Interlaken, and then another search for connecting trains from Interlaken to Lucerne. When you pull up the results of a Zweisimmen-Interlaken search, just be sure to look for the direct trains. Generally, GoldenPass trains can be reserved once within 90 days of an intended departure date.

    Glacier Express

    The Glacier Express is closed for maintenance every year during this time, but it will begin running again in mid-December. This scenic train runs from Zermatt to St Moritz and requires reservations. For travel with a rail pass, you would purchase reservations for the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz by searching the route on our homepage (www.raileurope.com), checking the box that says ‘I have a rail pass’, and then indicating the type of rail pass with which you'll be traveling (i.e. a ‘Eurail Two-Country Select Pass’ or ‘Swiss Travel Pass’). Generally, the Glacier Express can be reserved once within 90 days of an intended departure date.

    Bernina Express

    The Bernina Express scenic train runs from either St Moritz or Chur to Tirano in Italy. The bus segment of the Bernina Express is from Tirano to Lugano, but it only runs from April to October each year. Even though Tirano is in Italy, the Swiss Travel Pass is valid to cover the Bernina Express trains and the bus. The Bernina Express trains (St Moritz/Chur-Tirano) and the bus (Tirano-Lugano) both do require reservations as a supplement to a rail pass. Please be advised that the Swiss Travel Pass would not be valid on other connections from Tirano to Lugano that go through Italy; only the Bernina Express bus.

    For travel with a rail pass, you would purchase reservations by searching the route on our homepage (www.raileurope.com), checking the box that says ‘I have a rail pass’, and then indicating the type of rail pass with which you'll be traveling (i.e. a ‘Eurail Two-Country Select Pass’ or ‘Swiss Travel Pass’). For anyone doing the train and the bus, the search would need to be pieced together segment-by-segment (i.e. one search from St Moritz to Tirano and then another search from Tirano to Lugano). Generally, the Bernina Express can only be reserved within 90 days of an intended departure date.

    Gotthard Panorama Express route

    From mid-October to mid-April, the direct Gotthard Panorama Express trains actually do not run. Even though the actual Gotthard Panorama Express will not be operating in December, you can still travel from Lugano up to Lucerne following the same route; the trains would just not have panoramic windows and a connection in Erstfeld would be involved. The trip involves taking a train from Lugano to Erstfeld and then another train from Erstfeld to either Flüelen or straight to Lucerne. If you take the train to Flüelen, you can continue on to Lucerne by taking the SGV steamboat over Lake Lucerne.

    When the direct Gotthard Panorama Express runs, it requires reservations; however, the trains from Lugano to Erstfeld and Erstfeld to Flüelen/Lucerne do not even accept reservations. Therefore, a Eurail Pass or a Swiss Travel Pass would be all you’d need to board.

    Schedules for the trains from Lugano to Erstfeld and Erstfeld to Flüelen or Lucerne are not able to be viewed on our website. For your reference, the trains from Lugano to Erstfeld depart every 2 hours throughout the day, and the ride takes about 2 hours. Trains from Erstfeld to Flüelen depart every half-hour throughout the day and the ride only takes 7 or 8 minutes. Trains from Erstfeld to Lucerne depart every 2 hours throughout the day, and the ride takes just over 1 hour.

    With a Eurail Pass, you would be able to receive 50% off a ticket on the SGV steamboat from Flüelen to Lucerne. With a Swiss Travel Pass, you would be completely covered to take the SGV steamboat from Flüelen to Lucerne. The boat ride from Flüelen to Lucerne takes about 2.5 hours.
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  • This reply was removed on 2018-11-07.
    see the change log
  • Sir Jeff, (or any knowledgable person) an Interlaken question:
    There are two train stations listed for this town: "Interlaken Ost" and "Interlaken West". it appears from Google Maps that Ost is the terminus (last stop). Is this a correct interpretation?

    My question: If I got lodging close to the Interlaken West train station, do all the trains that depart from Ost also stop at the "West" station? When I do my search at RailEurope for Interlaken, the station always defaults to "Ost". I just want to know all my options before I book any lodging.

    Thanks!
    • Jeff (Official Rep) November 07, 2018 17:47
      Hi Eric,

      Ost is "east", so you can just think of that as the Interlaken East station. But I would advise not to get too hung up on the station.

      Trains from Interlaken to Spiez do stop at both stations and they are only 3 minutes apart. The direct trains between Interlaken and Zweisimmen (GoldenPass) also stop at both stations.

      Trains between Interlaken and Lucerne (GoldenPass) do not stop at the West station, but Interlaken is small and it's very easy to get from one station to the other. Buses depart regularly throughout the day and the ride from West to East (Ost) only takes about 7-8 minutes. Local trains only take about 5 minutes to get from West to East (Ost).
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