The main purpose of this blog is to provide anyone who is considering planning a trip on the Swiss Railways to share in my experiences. I could have done it more cheaply, but I was determined to organise the whole thing myself. Partly because I wanted to set my own itinerary and partly because I wanted to travel independently, rather than feeling hassled and hustled. OK, it took a bit more effort, but planning the trip was, for me, as interesting and exciting as actually doing it. I hope my ramblings (in both senses) are of help to you. If you have any questions which have not been answered or suggestions as to what could be added, then please leave a comment.Ever since I can remember I have wanted to travel on the Swiss railway network. This year, for various reasons, I decided to fulfil this ambition. Apart from a car trip through Switzerland a few years ago, I knew nothing about the Swiss railway system. So my first enquiry led me to the Swiss Travel System website and their map of the system:
Five airports are shown on the map - Basle, Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Bern. Looking at the rail network, Geneva looked like a promising start and end point. From here, I plotted a route which would last approximately eight days and started looking for hotels. It was at this point I started looking also at air fares. None of the airports appeared to be destinations for cheap flights from Liverpool or Manchester, so I looked for an alternative - for example, travelling by train or flying to another airport and catching a train to Geneva.
The RyanAir service map made me realise that one of its destinations, Milan (Bergamo) is quite close to Lugano, the southernmost point of the Swiss rail network. Furthemore, looking again at the map of the railway network, using Lugano as the start and end point was going to be far more effective than using Geneva.
Consequently, a new route was determined:
Day 1 - Milan - Lugano - Goschenen - Andermatt - Chur
(This includes the St Gotthard tunnel and part of the Glacier Express route)
Day 2 - Chur - Tirano - Lugano
(The Bernina Express)
Day 3 - Lugano - Locarno
(An easy day - with an opportunity to visit Swiss Miniatur )
Day 4 - Locarno - Spiez - Interlaken
(The Centovalli Line and Simplon Tunnel)
Day 5 - The Jungfrau
Day 6 - Interlaken - Lucerne
(Part of the Golden Pass Line)
Day 7 - Lucerne - Lugano
(The William Tell Express)
Day 8 - Lugano - Milan
With the route finalised, the hotels and trains were booked.
Booking Hotels and Trains
Booking the hotels, hostels and guest houses was a relatively straightforward process using the internet and was accomplished in a couple of evenings. To keep costs down we booked into cheapish rooms (around £60 per room per night - 2007 prices). It remains to be seen what they are like.
Buying the Swiss Rail Pass was accomplished easily online through the Swiss Travel Centre. As this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience we decided to travel first class which at £205 each for eight days (you get 15% discount for two) seemed like a bargain (and cheaper than a first class return ticket from Crewe to London!).
Named trains in Switzerland need to be booked in advance. A phone call to the Swiss Travel Centre in London quickly solved this - I was even able to book a meal on the Glacier Express and return tickets from Milan to Lugano on the Italian Railway system.
The trip begins on 18th July. Watch this space!