I’m confused

Scenic Routes in Switzerland - Venice to Lugano, Lugano to Lucerne (William Tell Express), Lucerne to Montreux (GoldenPass), Montreux to Zermatt, & Zermatt to St. Moritz (Glacier Express)

Hi, Myself and my husband will be traveling from Italy to Switzerland. We would be taking a train from Venice to Lugano.
I noticed that the Wilhelm Tell Express is from Lucerne to Lugano. But does it go the other way? If it does, how and where would we book it?
If not, we would take a train to Lucerne from Lugano.

The golden pass route from Lucerne to Montreux. How long is it and where would we book it? How much is the cost? Does it all have to be reserved?

From Montreux, we are deciding to take a train to Zermatt, and from there take the Glacier Express route from Zermatt to St.Mortz? Also, for this one, where and how do we book it? How much is the cost? Do we have to reserve?

If we are doing atleast 2 of these trips (Golden Pass and Glacier Express, in case the opposite route for Wilhelm is not available), is it better to get the swiss travel pass? As i'm not sure about the cost of these routes.

Please advise. This is our first time travelling to Europe.

Thanks.
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) March 24, 2015 16:14
    Hi Varshiba. Thank you for your question.

    Getting the Swiss Travel Pass would definitely be your most economical option if you intend on doing the William Tell Express, the GoldenPass, a connection from Montreux to Zermatt, and the Glacier Express.

    You would purchase the Swiss Travel Pass here: http://www.raileurope.com/rail-tickets-passes/swiss-pass/index.html.

    You would also need to purchase a regular point-to-point tickets for a train from Venice to Milan (a connection from Venice to Lugano involves changing trains once in Milan along the way), and a rate called the 'Passholder 3' rate for the connecting train from Milan to Lugano.

    Venice to Lugano (via Milan)

    You would purchase regular tickets for a train from Venice to Milan by clicking on 'Find Fares & Schedules' on our homepage, entering the route, and not mentioning that you'll be traveling with any type of rail pass (since the Swiss Travel Pass would not work for a route operating solely within Italy). Trains from Venice to Milan are high-speed 'Frecciabianca' trains.

    While the Swiss Travel Pass doesn't cover trains from Venice to Milan, it would make you eligible to receive the discounted Passholder 3 rate for tickets on a connecting train from Milan to Lugano. To ensure that you're purchasing tickets at a Passholder 3 rate on a direct train from Milan to Lugano, you would take the following steps:

    1.) You would click on 'Book your Rail Pass Reservations' on our homepage, enter the cities, and indicate that you'll be traveling with the 'Swiss Travel Pass' when you're prompted to enter the type of rail pass you'll have.

    2.) When you pull up the results of your search, you would choose your preferred departure and click on the 'View' button under your preferred class of service for that train (there is a 'View' button to correspond with each cost shown for all departures).

    3.) After you've clicked the 'View' button, you would then refer to where it says 'Ticket Flexibility'. Underneath 'Ticket Flexibility', you may see 3 options: 'Non Flexible', 'Semi Flexible', and 'Fully Flexible'. You would click the 'Read More' link next to each of these options until you see the fare titled 'Trenitalia International Trains Passholder 3'. Generally, the Passholder 3 rate would be found under the 'Semi Flexible' option or possibly the 'Fully Flexible' option.

    4.) Be sure the option labeled 'Trenitalia International Trains Passholder 3' is checked and click 'Select' to proceed to add the ticket to your 'Itinerary' (shopping cart).

    There may currently be an error that prevents the Passholder 3 rates from being viewed or booked on our site. If nothing displays when you pull up the results of this search, you would call us at 1-800-622-8600.

    William Tell Express (Lugano to Lucerne by way of Bellinzona and a boat from Flüelen to Lucerne)

    Any scenic route would be the same in either direction. Therefore, the William Tell Express is still the William Express if you begin the trip in Lugano instead of Lucerne.  The William Tell Express consists of a train from Lugano to Bellinzona, a train from Bellinzona to Flüelen, and a boat from Flüelen to Lucerne.

    The trains from Lugano to Bellinzona don't accept reservations, so the Swiss Travel Pass is all you would need to board. With the pass, you would only need to purchase reservations to cover you for the segment of the route from Bellinzona to Lucerne, which includes the train from Bellinzona to Flüelen and the boat from Flüelen to Lucerne.

    For travel with the rail pass, you would purchase reservations by clicking on 'Book your Rail Pass Reservations' on our homepage (just as you would to purchase the Passholder 3 reservations for the train from Milan to Lugano) and entering the route, once again indicating that you'll be traveling with a 'Swiss Travel Pass' when you're prompted. When booking the William Tell Express, you would enter 'Bellinzona' as your departure city and 'Lucerne-Boat Wmtell' (instead of just Lucerne) as your arrival city. When you pull up the results of this search, the departure 'station' in Lucerne would be labeled as 'Luzern Sgv Wm Tell'. By doing this, the reservations we issue you would cover you for both the train from Bellinzona to Flüelen and the boat from Flüelen to Lucerne.

    For planning purposes, you can just check schedules for the non-reservable segment from Lugano to Bellinzona by clicking on 'Find Fares & Schedules' on our homepage and entering the cities, this time not mentioning that you'll be traveling with any type of rail pass when you're prompted.

    GoldenPass (Lucerne to Montreux via Interlaken and Zweisimmen)

    The full route of the GoldenPass from Lucerne to Montreux takes about 5 hours at the minimum and involves changing trains in Interlaken and Zweisimmen along the way. Of the trains comprising of the GoldenPass route, it is only advisable to purchase reservations for the segment from Zweisimmen to Montreux.

    For travel with a rail pass, you would purchase reservations for the segment from Zweisimmen to Montreux by clicking on 'Book your Rail Pass Reservations' on our homepage, entering the cities, and indicating that you'll be traveling with a 'Swiss Travel Pass' when you're prompted.

    For planning purposes, you can just view schedules for the non-reservable segments of the GoldenPass by clicking on 'Find Fares & Schedules' on our homepage and doing a separate search for each segment. Therefore, you would do one search for trains from Lucerne to Interlaken and another search for connecting trains from Interlaken to Zweisimmen.

    Montreux to Zermatt (via Visp)

    A connection from Montreux to Zermatt takes about 2.5 to 3 hours in duration and involves changing trains once in Visp en route. The trains that make up a connection from Montreux to Zermatt don't accept reservations, so the Swiss Travel Pass is all you would need to board.

    For planning, you can just check schedules for a connection from Montreux to Zermatt by clicking on 'Find Fares & Schedules' on our homepage and entering the route.

    Glacier Express (Zermatt to St Moritz)

    In addition to the Swiss Travel Pass, the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz does require reservations. For travel with the Swiss Travel Pass, you would purchase reservations for the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz by clicking on 'Book your Rail Pass Reservations' on our homepage, entering the route, and indicating that you'll be traveling with the 'Swiss Travel Pass' when you're prompted. The Glacier Express can sell out very quickly, so it would be recommended that reservations be purchased as soon as possible.

    Reservable segments of any scenic route can be booked once within 90 days of an intended date of departure.
    • Jeff (Official Rep) April 14, 2017 19:24
      Update:

      As of 2017, the ‘William Tell Express’ scenic route is now known as the ‘Gotthard Panorama Express’ scenic route.

      The actual route is still the same, following the rail line between Flüelen and Bellinzona/Lugano that goes through the old Gotthard Tunnel.

      Also still considered part of this experience is the steamboat on Lake Lucerne, connecting Lucerne and Flüelen.

      From April 14th to July 2nd of 2017, the actual 'Gotthard Panorama Express' trains only operate on weekends and will not run all the way to Lugano. Therefore, during this time frame, the 'Gotthard Panorama Express' will only run between Flüelen and Bellinzona. In Bellinzona, passengers can connect to another train that will take them the short distance to Lugano.

      From July 3rd to October 22nd of 2017, the 'Gotthard Panorama Express' trains run daily between Flüelen, Bellinzona, and Lugano.

      For taking in the scenery, 'Gotthard Panorama Express' trains have panoramic windows in 1st class.

      For passengers traveling with a rail pass, the ‘Gotthard Panorama Express’ trains do require reservations, which would also be inclusive of the steamboat. When booking reservations for the ‘Gotthard Panorama Express', you would have to type 'Lucerne-Boat Gotthard' (instead of just 'Lucerne') in the field for the departure city or arrival city, with either ‘Bellinzona’ or ‘Lugano’ in the opposite field.

      If you'll be traveling on a day when the 'Gotthard Panorama Express' trains don’t run (i.e. a weekday between April 14th and July 2nd, 2017), you would instead take a series of regional trains that follows the same route. While you would still be following the same route and enjoying the same scenery, the regional trains do not have panoramic windows, like the actual ‘Gotthard Panorama Express’ trains do. The regional trains on the ‘Gotthard Panorama Express' route are:

      Flüelen-Erstfeld
      Erstfeld-Bellinzona
      Bellinzona-Lugano

      The regional trains do not accept reservations. Therefore, any passenger traveling with a rail pass would only need to show the rail pass to board.

      Other notable changes with the new ‘Gotthard Panorama Express’ route are:

      - Now offered in 2nd class but with no panoramic windows

      - Eurail Passes no longer cover the Lake Lucerne steamboat but do provide for a 50% discount (Swiss Travel Passes, on the other hand, are still valid to cover the Lake Lucerne steamboat in full)

      - A meal is no longer included on the steamboat
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  • Thank you so much for your reply. It is very helpful.

    So for any trains that doesnt require reservations, I can just look at the schedule and would just need my pass on the trip and that would be fine, correct?

    If we get the passholder 3 from Milan to Lugano, does the swiss travel pass start from that time and date or does it start when we start using it in switzerland (Lugano)?

    For the William Tell Express, you mentioned to take the train from Lugano to Bellinzona. The trip starts from Locarno to Lucerne, correct? So is it still part of the scenic trip if we travel from Lugano straight to Bellinzona, instead of splitting it from Lugano to Locarno and then from Locarno to Bellinzona. Or it doesnt matter at all, as it is both the same route?

    Does the mountain trains and cable cars expense covered by Swiss pass (for example in Jungfrau or Zermatt)?

    We are planning to buy 8 days consecutive swiss travel pass. But we will be staying in Switzerland from May 1 to May 9. So in this case, that means we can only use the pass until May 8. But for May 9, we will be traveling within Zurich. Does those travel in buses in Zurich have any discount, even if the days are over?

    Please advise. Thanks.
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  • Hi Varshiba,

    For your first question, yes, that is correct. You can check the schedules and board the train with your pass and take any available seat.

    For the passholder fare from Milan to Lugano, your pass will start on that date since you will need your pass when traveling across the boarder. The pass will need to be activated at that time.

    For the Wilhelm Tell, that is all the same trip. The reservations cover you all the way to Bellinzona should you wish to travel that far.

    For the mountain trains and cable cars, some are discounted and others are free. The Jungfraujoch is a discounted ticket and would still take a day off of your pass. This would be listed on the map that you would receive with your pass.

    For the last day on May 9 in Zurich, your pass would not be valid to travel around the city as it would have expired already. You can purchase city passes locally in Zurich.

    I hope this information is helpful to you and hope you enjoy your vacation to Switzerland.

    Jen
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) March 27, 2015 14:54
    Hi Varshiba,

    If a particular train doesn't require reservations, the rail pass is all you would need to board, and you would be able to sit in any open seat. The trains I mentioned above that this would apply to include trains from Lugano to Bellinzona (as part of the William Tell Express route), trains from Lucerne to Interlaken and Interlaken to Zweisimmen (both part of the GoldenPass route), and trains that comprise of a connection from Montreux to Zermatt (Montreux to Visp and Visp to Zermatt).

    Since the Swiss Travel Pass is needed to receive the Passholder 3 rate on the train from Milan to Lugano, the pass would begin on the day that you make this trip.

    Locarno
    and Lugano are on two different branches of the William Tell Express scenic route. Generally, travelers will start (or finish) this route at one or the other. I specified Lugano in my response above, because that is the one you had asked about in your question. Also, it does make the most sense for you to start your William Tell Express journey in Lugano, as opposed to Locarno, if you are connecting from Milan. Once again, the trains from Lugano to Bellinzona don't accept reservations, so the Swiss Travel Pass is all you would need to board for this segment. You would just need to have reservations on the remaining segment between Bellinzona and Lucerne (including the train from Bellinzona to Flüelen and the boat from Flüelen to Lucerne). You can refer to my response to your initial question above for instructions about how to book these reservations.

    Jungfraujoch/Interlaken

    You would make the trek up to Jungfraujoch from Interlaken (you would pass through Interlaken on your way from Lucerne to Montreux on the GoldenPass route). The Swiss Travel Pass would only cover up to Grindelwald or Wengen on the way up to Jungfraujoch from Interlaken. However, the Swiss Travel Pass would enable you to receive a 50% discount for the segment between Grindelwald or Wengen and Jungfraujoch. To receive this discount and be covered beyond Grindelwald or Wengen, you would purchase the 'Grindelwald or Wengen to Jungfraujoch for Swiss Travel Pass Holder' option of the 'Jungfraujoch Top of Europe' mountaintop excursion pass. You would purchase this here: http://www.raileurope.com/activities/jungfraujoch/index.html.

    Grindelwald and Wengen are located along 2 different routes of the Jungfraujoch trek between Interlaken and the peak of Jungfraujoch. You might want to go up one way and back down the other way. For instance, if you ascend Jungfraujoch via Grindelwald, you might want to descend via Wengen.

    Reservations are not accepted for any part of the Jungfraujoch trip. The 'Jungfraujoch Top of Europe' pass is an open voucher that you would use to hop on any of the trains up to Jungfraujoch and back. With the 'Jungfraujoch Top of Europe', the round-trip between Grindelwald or Wengen and Jungfraujoch would just have to be completed within 24 hours once the journey has begun.

    Gornergrat/Klein Matterhorn/Zermatt

    The Swiss Travel Pass would enable you to receive a 50% discount on the 'Gornergratbahn' cogwheel railway between Zermatt and Gornergrat.
    In Gornergrat, there is an observatory with spectacular views of the Matterhorn. To receive the 50% discount, you would purchase the 'Zermatt to Gornergrat for Swiss Travel Pass Holder' option of the 'Gornergrat Mountain Peak' pass. You would purchase this here: http://www.raileurope.com/activities/gornergrat/index.html.

    When you're in Zermatt, you can also do the 'Matterhorn Glacier Paradise', which would involve taking a gondola from Zermatt to Furi, cable car from Furi to Trockener Steg, and then a cable car from Trockener Steg to Klein Matterhorn (the highest cable car in Europe). With the Swiss Travel Pass, you would be able to receive a 50% discount on the gondola and the cable cars. To receive this discount, you would purchase the 'Zermatt to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise for Swiss Travel Pass Holder' option of the 'Matterhorn Glacier Paradise' pass. You would purchase this pass here: http://www.raileurope.com/activities/matterhorn-glacier-paradise/index.html.
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  • Hi,

    Thanks for the information. It is very helpful. Can you please elaborate more on the travel from Interlaken to Jungfraujoch. Also we are looking to travel from Jungfraujoch to Zermatt, but there seems to be no option for trains when I searched on the rail europe website. How would I get to Zermatt? Does the swiss pass cover it?

    Thanks.
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) April 01, 2015 18:32
    Jungfrau is a mountain summit near Interlaken. In your first post, you mentioned that you want to take the GoldenPass scenic route from Lucerne to Montreux. Since Interlaken is located along this route, you wouldn't go straight from there to Zermatt if you still plan on taking the GoldenPass all the way to Montreux. Instead, you would head to Zermatt after you visit Montreux. If this is what you plan to do, please refer to my response to your first question above for information.

    Otherwise, if you do want to skip Montreux and head straight to Zermatt from Interlaken (after you've descended back down to Interlaken from Jungfraujoch), the connection would take about 2 to 2.5 hours in duration and involves 2 train changes along the way; once in Spiez and then once in Visp. The trains that comprise of a connection from Interlaken to Zermatt don't accept reservations, so the Swiss Travel Pass is all you would need to board.

    For planning purposes, you can just check schedules these trains by clicking on 'Find Fares & Schedules' on our homepage and entering the route. For Interlaken to Zermatt, you would just piece together the connection by doing a separate search for each segment. Therefore, you would do one search for trains from Interlaken to Spiez, another search for connecting trains from Spiez to Visp, and another search for connecting trains from Visp to Zermatt. Otherwise, you could even just break up your search once in Visp.
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) April 01, 2015 18:32
    Above I mentioned that there are 2 different routes you can take for travel between Interlaken and Jungfraujoch, one via Grindelwald and the other via Wengen. Both of these routes involve 2 changes along the way. The option that goes via Grindelwald involves changing in Grindelwald and then Kleine Scheidegg. The option that goes via Wengen involves changing in Lauterbrunnen and then Kleine Scheidegg (Wengen itself is a stop of the train between Lauterbrunnen and Kleine Scheidegg.)

    The segment between Interlaken and either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen is called the 'Bernese Oberland Railway'. At the Zweilütschinen stop, one section of this rail line heads to Grindelwald and the other section heads to Lauterbrunnen.

    The segment between Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg is a cog railway called the 'Wengenalp Railway'.

    The segment between Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch is a cog railway called the 'Jungfrau Railway' and is the highest railway in Europe, making Jungfraujoch itself the highest rail station in Europe.

    A one-way between Interlaken and Jungfraujoch only takes about 2.5 hours in duration at the minimum (between Grindelwald or Wengen and Jungfraujoch, it would take only 1.5 hours).

    As I mentioned above, reservations are not accepted for any part of the trip between Interlaken and Jungfraujoch. The 'Jungfraujoch Top of Europe' pass I advised about is an open voucher that you would use to hop on any of these trains on the journey up to Jungfraujoch and back. The 'Jungfraujoch Top of Europe' pass is only valid for a period of 24 hours.
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  • Hi Jeff,

    You said "

    GoldenPass (Lucerne to Montreux via Interlaken and Zweisimmen)

    The full route of the GoldenPass from Lucerne to Montreux takes about 5 hours at the minimum and involves changing trains in Interlaken and Zweisimmen along the way. Of the trains comprising of the GoldenPass route, it is only advisable to purchase reservations for the segment from Zweisimmen to Montreux. "

    But when we checked online for reservation, It comes up Reservation required for Lucerne to Interlaken. Why is that ?

    Also, Lucerne to Interlaken, It says rail service golden pass panorama trains but when we checked from Interlaken to Zweisimmen via Spiez, it comes up with regular trains. Why is that. it is same train as golden pass. It says reservation recommend. its ok

    Zweisimmen to Montreux, its says rail service golden pass panoroma trains. Its good. It needs reservation. its ok.

    Thank you for all your help.
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  • Hi Jeff,

    William Tell Express (Lugano to Lucerne by way of Bellinzona and a boat from Flüelen to Lucerne)

    Another issue. We have Second class swiss pass. When I tried to book reservation from 'Bellinzona' to 'Lucerne-Boat Wmtell', We are getting error message. When we tried it as first class pass, it comes up. Then we found out that we need to upgrade to first glass to book william Tell express train. Is this correct ?

    Let says if we don't want upgrade and use regular train from Bellinzona to Flueen. When we reached Flueen, do we need to book reservation for Boat to lucerne ? If we need to reserve for boat, where do we do it ?

    Thanks for your help
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  • Hi Jeff,

    Another question. We will be in St Mortiz. The Bernia Express scenic train goes from Tirano to Chur. When I see the map, it intersects in St Mortiz. I am not sure the train will stop at St Mortiz. If it stops, Can we get into Bernia Express train from St mortiz. ? When I tried to book From St Mortiz to Chur, I am getting error message. Otherwise we can book reservation from Tirano to Chur and then get into train in St mortiz but I don't know if it is going to stop there. Can you please verify.

    Thanks
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