Switzerland is served by an amazing rail system, from local to cross-country trains. So why did we choose to hire a rental car instead? And with hindsight was driving in Switzerland really the best option?
Looking for more Switzerland blogs? You can read more about our daytrip to Lucerne from Interlaken here
Trains in Switzerland may be efficient and punctual and serve many of the key tourist hotspots, but they’re also super-expensive. Even a short single journey can set you back around 12CHF (about £10). The Swiss Travel Pass is a great option, but you need to be sure that you’ll do enough journeys to justify the cost. The lowest cost is currently 230CHF cost (approximately £192) for travel on three consecutive days. And whilst some cable cars and mountain railway journeys are included, many are only discounted rather than free, meaning additional fares on top. As we chose to base ourselves in Wilderswil – with free local travel into Interlaken – we couldn’t make the numbers work. Especially as we could get a hire car for around £200. Even with fuel and parking charges, driving in Switzerland would save us money. Or so we thought. See “The Downside”.
We knew that one of the key things for us this trip would flexibility. With such spectacular scenery, we knew there was the possibility that Mr Fletche would want sunrise or sunsets, or just to return to some of our favourite spots. Grindelwald and the Lauterbrunnen Valley being cases in point. So relying on trains just wouldn’t have worked for us.
But at the same time, we did use the trains occasionally – we wouldn’t have been able to get to the car-free towns Gimmelwald, Murren or Wengen otherwise. And of course, getting to Jungfraujoch would have been pretty difficult without the train journey. Being up a big mountain and all that.
Looking for more Switzerland blogs? How about our visit to Harder Kulm, Interlaken’s “house” mountain?
We didn’t realise when we booked our accommodation that it would be about as far from the train station as possible whilst still being in the same town. Or that our accommodation was up a flippin’ big hill. Or that the temperatures would be 30 degrees plus.
We did valiantly do the walk from the station a couple of times at the start of the holiday, but it became so much easier to jump in the car when we needed to visit somewhere. Lazy maybe, but we wanted to do our hiking in magnificent valleys, not through the residential areas of Wilderswil.
The Swiss drive on the right hand side of the side (which as we Brits know is actually the wrong side of the road). Mr Fletche is a dab hand at this now. We drove in summer but if you’re planning a winter trip make sure you check on regulations regarding winter tyres and snow chains.
Our journey from Geneva to Interlaken was almost entirely on main dual carriageway roads and motorway. There are a lot of long tunnels as the roads have been built directly through mountains. You require a toll pass (a vignette) to drive on the motorway system, but your car rental company should automatically supply this. Of course, it’s a very different style of driving if you choose to drive any of the mountain passes, with their winding roads and steep drop-offs. Make sure you check online for info about mountain passes – we were sadly a couple of days too early for the Grimsel and Furka Pass openings.
There are very very strict speed restrictions in Switzerland, with just a 3km per hour tolerance. Standard limits are 120km/h on motorways, 100km/h on highways, 50km/h in built up areas and 80km/h on other roads. Pay attention to these.
Looking for more Switzerland blogs? You can read more about our day exploring the lakes Thun and Brienz here
Those pesky speed limits. Despite being careful to religiously obey the signs at all times, we’ve recently received three separate speeding fines, all obtained over a 24 hour period.
That’s 300 euro in speeding fines. Which suddenly makes our decision to opt for a rental car for financial reasons look a bit silly. Mr Fletche is no Lewis Hamilton, so we can only think that these infractions were incurred in an area of transition between speed limits. No excuses though. We’ve paid our fine as memories of Vermont came flooding back. Next time we drive abroad we’ll be sticking to 5km per hour below the posted limit and using cruise control.
On the whole, driving in Switzerland was the best option for us. It allowed us to travel to our own schedule, throw whatever we liked in the boot and make regular stop-offs on our journeys if we saw a destination that took our fancy. To purchase a Swiss travel pass for the entire duration of our trip would have set us back £340 each, so even with the fines, fuel and parking it still cost us less to drive. Although Mr Fletche is threatening to make me drive next time.