As a tourist you have to move from one place to another, plan your sightseeing and daytrips. Hiring a car is a great way to explore the countryside & villages but this is not the best way to travel in most of the countries in Europe.
If travel involves long distance or between two countries multiple options available including bus, train and flights. Long distance buses are not a good choice in Europe and a 1 hour flight takes up to 4 hours. Travelling by train is comfortable, faster than flying in some cases and convenient option travelling from city center to city center. Travelling by train is itself an awesome experience in Europe.
When looking for train travelling in Europe, Eurail pass is the most marketed product. But what is Eurail pass?
Eurail is neither a train operator nor a special trains, it’s just a brand name for the rail pass offered to the overseas visitors for travel on scheduled participating European train services. Eurail pass giving benefit of unlimited travel on the national rail networks of the 31 participating countries. Some of the things to know before buying a Eurail pass;
- Eurail pass is sold only to the tourists or those who are not the residents of Europe (its residence that matters, not nationality).
- Another important rule is you cannot buy Eurail passes when you are in Europe, You must buy a Eurail pass before you coming to Europe.
- Eurail pass available in two option ; Global pass covering all 31 participating countries or single country pass for only one specific country out of 31 participating countries.
- Eurail pass is sold it two variants; Continuous pass & Flexi pass. Continuous passes give unlimited travel every day for a continuous period of time, either 15 days, 21days while Flexi passes give 3, 5, 7, 10 or 15 days unlimited travel within an overall 1 or 2 month.
- You don’t need to specify exact travel dates for buying your Eurail pass. The pass validity will start on whatever day you validate it at a station in Europe.
- Eurail pass offered for 1st and 2nd class travel. 1st class offers a wider seats, more legroom, less crowded and quitter. There is no additional service offered. 2nd class is absolutely fine and comfortable.
- Eurail pass valid on national rail network of participating countries. It is not valid for city metro, tram and bus services.
Your pass comes in a cover, and there is a travel diary printed on that cover. Each time you take a train, you need to record the date, station from and destination station. If you are travelling on a Flexi pass you have to fill the travel date on the pass itself in addition to filling in the travel diary. Please remember that filling travel diary and validating Flexi pass on travel date is mandatory.
ln few countries like France, pass holders must make a reservation for a fee on almost every inter-city Train. There are limited quotas of seats for Eurail pass holders. Even if you find empty seats on their website /other agents website, for Eurail pass holder it says completely booked. ln all other countries there’s nothing extra to pay on top of the pass unless you want to reserve a seat on long distance train.
You can buy your Eurail pass at https://www.eurail.com/en. Buying Eurail pass involves comfort, your travel requirements and some math’s. Consider this before buying your Eurail pass
- If you want freedom & flexibility then buy a Eurail pass for unlimited / flexible travel, remembering that a reservation fee must be paid in certain trains.
- If you can commit to specific trains well in advance, buy cheap advance-purchase tickets direct from the train operator. These tickets are generally nonrefundable.
- You can mix the above combinations. Sometimes country specific passes are better value than Eurail pass.
Swiss Travel Pass
Switzerland rail fares for point-to-point tickets are one of the most expensive in Europe. But the lack of compulsory reservations & supplements makes swiss passes both good value and convenient. Swiss passes also include most of the lake ferry services and post buses without any supplement which make it a good value for money.
Seat reservation is not required and even not possible on most Swiss trains, you just hop on the train and find any empty seat. The only exceptions where seat reservation is compulsory are a few tourist trains such as the Bernina Express, Glacier Express or Golden Pass Panoramic trains. But you can use the regular trains on the same routes. Sometime a regular cars attached to the same train, don’t need reservation.
Saver Day Pass
This is single day pass which gives you one day’s unlimited travel across the Swiss travel system on Swiss railway, post buses, funicular and ferry. lf you are only travelling for a day or two, go for this day pass. Some routes which are operated by private train operators are not covered with saver day pass and unlike the Swiss pass you will not get any discount on those fares.
Swiss Travel Pass
A Swiss Travel Pass gives unlimited travel across the Swiss travel system for a continuous period of 3 days, 4 days, 8 days or 15 days. This include trains, buses, boats and city transport. Mountain railways or cable cars which are not fully covered will give discount to pass holders. Children travel for free along with pass holder. It also give free entrance to most of the museums
Swiss Travel Pass Flex
A Swiss Travel Pass Flex gives unlimited travel across the Swiss travel system for either 3, 4,8 or L5 travel days with an overall period of a month. A Swiss Travel Pass Flex is more economical than a Swiss Pass if you are staying at one place for few days and not using public transport every day. You get the same benefit on network and discounted fare as when travelling with a Swiss Travel Pass. You have to validate this pass on the days you travel.
The Swiss Half Fare card
This card gives you 50% discount on standard Swiss transport fares. Most Swiss residents use an annual half-fare card. You can buy a monthly half fare card if during your long stay you are travelling less frequently on long distances.
How to buy?
Anyone from any country can buy Swiss pass from official Swiss Railways shop at http:// www.swisstravelsvstem.com.
lf you are sure about your travel dates and only few trips are required buy saver or supersaver advance tickets. lf purchased in advance they are very cheap but nonrefundable.
You get the option to print out the Swiss Travel Pass and point to point tickets purchased from this website. You won’t get this option for a Swiss Travel Pass Flex, you have to collect it from station or it will be mailed to you.
First or second class?
Swiss train fares are the most expensive in Europe, even in 2nd class. 1st class fares are even more expensive. There is no difference between 1st and 2nd class except wider seats, more elbow room, fewer people per car and quitter. Seats in 1st class are 2+1 across the car width instead of 2+2 as in 2nd class. There are no additional services in 1st class on Swiss domestic trains like free food, drinks or lounges. So unless you specifically want to travel 1st class for any reason, stick with 2nd class as most tourists do. Travel class on each car is clearly marked near the door.
How to check train timetable
On the Swiss railway site www.sbb.ch you can check the train timetable, running status, platform and fare. Journey planner on this site covers all Swiss public transport including private train operators and connecting ferries, buses and funicular railways. Connections between trains are sometimes just a few minutes but the transport system is reliable and connections are doable.
Food & drink on Swiss trains
Most long-distance trains in Switzerland have a bistro car serving tea, coffee, beer & snacks. You can eat on the tables nearby the pantry or take it back to your seat. You can bring your own food and drink if you wish.
Luggage on trains
On the Swiss trains you have to carry your own baggage, they are not checked in. There are luggage racks at the end of each car, place you bags there or on the racks above your seat.
In my opinion, if you are travelling only in Switzerland, than Swiss travel pass is cheaper, convenient and value for money. You can travel inside city and mountains with no additional cost or with discount rate.