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Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

Australia
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Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

From the reading I've done so far, there seems to be a limitless number of ways to book rail travel in Europe. I don't know whether it would be better to book our four train journeys separately or on some kind of rail card. Essentially, we are a family of 4 (a couple with an 18 year old and a 15 year old) looking for the most economical and easiest way to book the following rail travel from Australia:

Afternoon of 24 Dec: Geneva Airport to Zermatt

26 Dec: Zermatt to Geneva (centre)

28 Dec: Geneva (centre) to Paris

Afternoon of 1 Jan: Paris to Lyon

I did look at fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en?OK#focus at the suggestion of a Swiss friend but the timetable only goes up to 14 December at the moment.

Any suggestions? Help, guidance and advice would be welcomed and appreciated.

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

A rail pass will cost more than ordinary tickets.

For Geneva-Zermatt and return, you need the Swiss railways: www.sbb.ch/en

For Geneva-Paris-Lyon, you need the French railways: en.voyages-sncf.com/en

There is a timetable change on 14 December, and some train operators do not yet have times available after that date. The times are unlikely to change much, so you could use current timetables for your planning.

Albufeira, Portugal
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2. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

Afternoon of 24 Dec: Geneva Airport to Zermatt 26 Dec: Zermatt to Geneva (centre)

The trains between Geneva Airport and Visp (for the connection to Zermatt) are Inter regional trains which have no reservations. There is little or no point in buying a ticket in advance especially for the outbound trip, given the vagaries of air travel. There are a couple of fast Intercity trains for the return trip for which reservations are a good idea if the times are what you need.

You absolutely must book in advance for the longer trips both to save money and make sure you can travel at the desired time. The reservation window should open in mid-October when the train details from 14th December are loaded onto the systems.

Edited: 01 October 2013, 12:16
Australia
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3. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

Thank you sydneynick and cubsur; the comments from both of you have been helpful.

I think I've found an earlybird TGV fare (GBP10 per person) from Paris to Lyon but otherwise, yes, the booking for our dates of travel are not open yet. I think 17 October is when this looks like it opens.

I agree, I think we will have to "just hope" that we don't experience any difficulties buying a fare upon arrival at Geneva airport for the trip out to Zermatt.

Albufeira, Portugal
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4. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

You won't have any problems at Geneva Airport. The trains are non reserved therefore cannot sell out.

Australia
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5. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

Good to know - thanks!

Australia
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6. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

Hi again,

Can anyone help me with getting the Geneva Airport to Zermatt (return) trip booked at a reasonable cost? I feel I'm not looking in the right places for the smartest way to do this.

According to http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/ it is still only possible to book train travel a month in advance (i.e. the timetable is available for our December travel dates but online bookings don't seem possible past 29 November for some reason).

I did a 'dummy' booking (i.e. using November rather than our December dates) and for 2nd class tickets for 2 adults, an 18 year old and a 15 year old, the trip from Geneva airport to Zermatt (via Visp) return was quoted at what I thought was a fairly hefty 679CHF. There seem to be a variety of half fare / family card options and I am a bit surprised, given the Swiss undertaking to make the initial journey in Switzerland free / cheap during 2013, that the ticket-finder option hasn't come up with anything more affordable.

I am basically trying to achieve two things:

1) Get reservations for our non-flexible dates (land at Geneva Airport at 1pm and then head to Zermatt all on 24 December; return to Geneva 26 December. The most convenient return station in Geneva would be Rive, or even Cornavin, but the airport will work fine too)

2) Find the most economical way of achieving these reservations.

I note an earlier post that says journeys outbound from Geneva Airport can't be pre-purchased; this doesn't seem to be the case? (Although I do agree that the vagaries of air travel make this worryingly risky).

Can anyone clarify where I should be booking this and how I should be going about it to get the best deal? I had no trouble getting the TGV from Geneva to Paris and then on to Lyon booked, thanks to previous advice given in this forum :)

Any and all help gratefully received!

Mannheim, Germany
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7. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

Your pricing is way off - most probably you entered too many people. Check again.

You must have misunderstood. Tickets can be pre purchased, only not prebooked - any ticket you buy is a generic flexible one, valid any time that day. Therefore there is simply no sense in buying them ahead. There is also no sense in looking for return tickets - you simply buy a ticket from Geneva Airport and back to Geneva Cornavin. But to go to Zermatt, depending on your plans there, either a Swiss Card or a Swiss Transfer Ticket is going to be cheaper than single tickets. The latter can only be bought outside Switzerland. See www.swisstravelsystem.ch

Imperia, Italy
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8. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

An additional asset of the Swiss Transfer Ticket is that your fifteen-year-old will travel free.

Australia
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9. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

Thanks perilizia and altamiro.

Perilizia, I did see that our 15 year old could travel free of charge on some kind of ticket - it must have been the Swiss Transfer Ticket.

Altamiro, I am still a bit confused about what you are suggesting is the best thing to do. As we are only going to spend two nights at Zermatt (to fit in Christmas in the snow and see the Matterhorn), are you saying we should buy 4 Swiss Transfer tickets online from Australia now for our dates (i.e. arrive Geneva by air 24 December and go directly from airport train station to Zermatt, via the change at Visp, and then leave Zermatt to go to Cornavin for 2 nights in Geneva) and just catch 'whichever train we feel like' on 24th and 26th respectively?

Surely trains to and from Zermatt on 24 and 26 December could be overly popular? (Doesn't one 'need' to book?)

Sorry if I've misunderstood your post. No, believe it or not the price I quoted earlier was for 4 people. There has to be better than that, doesn't there....?!

Really appreciating your help :)

Australia
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10. Re: Train travel in Switzerland/France at Christmas & New Year

I should clarify that once we've returned to Geneva we depart for France by TGV - whch I've already purchased. So the Swiss Transfer option is looking promising.