FAQ – Self-Guided Rail Tour

self-guided rail tour

Get the answers to the Alpenwild Self-Guided Scenic Alps by Rail tour FAQs.

What is a Self-Guided Rail tour?

Our self-guided Rail tour provides the same service, quality, and most features of our guided Scenic Alps by Rail tour. We plan each self-guided itinerary based on your individual interests and will provide you with prepaid accommodations, train passes and our favorite rail journeys and sightseeing suggestions. We’ll plan your rail adventure so that you can travel with confidence.

Is a Self-Guided Rail tour for me? 

Self-guided rail tours are for those that want to venture out on their own and not be tied to the group’s timetable. They are ideal for travelers that are comfortable with travelling on trains with luggage and navigating to each location following daily directions. On a self-guided tour, you can enjoy the flexibility and freedom of travelling on your own, without the planning.

Which airport should I plan on flying to? How do I get to the starting point of my tour? 

You should plan to fly in and out of Zurich, Switzerland. We will provide detailed directions and a 1st Class 8-day FLEX Swiss Travel rail pass to get to Lucerne which is the starting location of your tour. Please note that if you want to extend your tour, we can upgrade your rail pass to a 15-day Consecutive Swiss Travel Rail pass for a minimal charge. It is also possible to arrive from a different location than Zurich.

How far in advance should I book a Self-Guided Rail tour? How do I make a booking?

You can book a self-guided tour about a year in advance, however in some cases we may not be able to book select hotels until about 6-8 months prior. Keep in mind that it is best to book a self-guided rail  tour more than 3 months before your travel date. Accommodations can become quite limited and seat reservations (on specialty trains) open to the public to book 90 days prior to your travel date. When you are ready, you can book this trip directly on our Alpenwild website under Rail tours with a $500 per person deposit. Your final payment is due 90 days prior to the tour and we will email you a reminder when it is time.

Can I customize my Self-Guided Rail  tour? 

Yes! If you want to make changes to this rail tour itinerary, we can customize it. Please note that we have a 3 night minimum to put together any self-guided tour package.

What is included on the Self-Guided Rail  tour?

This tour includes 9 hotel nights in 3 and 4-star hotels that are conveniently located in each town and includes a buffet breakfast each day. You will also receive a 1st Class 8-day Flexible Swiss Travel Rail pass (please note that you won’t use this rail pass on one day in St. Moritz because the hotel will give you a special pass to use on that day), as well as the required seat reservations for the scenic trains: Glacier Express, GoldenPass and Bernina Express. In addition, we provide a detailed daily itinerary, basic city maps (where possible), complete listing of all hotels with contact information, and train schedules to follow each day.

What is not included in a Self-Guided Rail Tour?

In general, we do not include airfare, luggage transfer, lunches, dinners and specialty excursions on cogwheel trains or cable cars, etc. In addition, travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as telephone calls, laundry, medical expenses, evacuation costs, etc. are not included. 

Do I need seat reservations on the trains?

Seat reservations are NOT required on Swiss Trains (except for the specialty scenic trains such as the Glacier Express, GoldenPass and Bernina Express which we will make for you). You can use your pre-validated rail pass  to get right on the train when you are ready. Be sure to have your passport available as some conductors will request to see it with your rail pass. 

Do  I travel with my luggage? 

Yes you should plan on taking your luggage with you on the trains each day. Keep in mind that some trains have steps to get on/off, so you must be confident that you can lift your luggage when needed. Most trains have a luggage rack at the end of the train compartment where you can store your bags when traveling. Hiring a local company to provide luggage transfers for your group is very expensive, but can be arranged upon request. 

Is it possible to start a Self-Guided Rail tour on any date?

Yes, it is possible to start on any date between June-October. Please note that some of the specialty scenic trains do not run in some winter months, so this is why we offer this tour spring to fall. 

What types of hotels do we stay in?

We typically book you in small, family-owned 3- and 4-star hotels which reflect the character and hospitality of the surrounding alpine community. (The only exception is the hotel in Montreux and the  final hotel night in Zurich which are larger hotels but in the most prime locations). We choose hotels that offer a great location, a high standard of comfort and quality, and a solid value to our guests. 

Glacier Express

When will I receive my  tour documents and rail passes?

We will mail out tour documents about 30-45 days prior to the start of the tour. In the packet, you will receive a detailed daily itinerary, hotel flyers with directions and contact information and rail passes, etc. Please be aware that the rail passes are the same as cash, so be sure to keep them in a safe place. Also note that if you arrive before the tour starts (or stay later), you will need to purchase additional rail tickets or plan ahead to extend your rail pass. The rail pass that we provide, only covers the tour dates listed on this itinerary.

What currency will I need?

Swiss Francs is the currency in Switzerland. You can easily stop at an ATM machine in the airport, train station, or grocery store to withdraw Francs cash. ATM machines typically provide the best currency exchange rate and most places do accept credit cards.

What about Visa and Passport requirements?

You do not need a special visa to enter Switzerland because they are part of the European Union accepting the Schengen visa. You WILL need to have a current passport to enter Switzerland and it must not expire within 6 months of your trip. Make sure it will still be current.

What should I pack?

You should plan for casual comfort when walking around towns and travelling on trains. Be sure to wear comfortable walking/tennis shoes with GOOD TRACTION, and clothes that are easy to pack and hand wash if needed. Ultimately personal preference and comfort is important, however we do have some specific recommendations on our Alps Walking and Sightseeing tour packing list.

How do I do my laundry?

Self-service laundry is very rare in Switzerland. Many hotels will offer laundry services, but it is usually quite expensive and can take 1-2 days to return. It is also possible to hand-wash some items in your hotel room sink.

What if something goes wrong? Who can I contact?

We will provide you with an emergency contact number to use during your tour if needed. You can also feel free to email or call your travel specialist for any additional questions or concerns.

What if I need to cancel?

You can refer to our terms and conditions which also includes our cancellation policy. Trip Insurance is available through a link on our website to protect against certain unforeseen circumstances that may cause you to have to cancel.

What is the Activity level on this Self-guided Rail tour?

We rate this trip as easy but there are additional walking/hiking options for those wanting more activity. Please let your travel specialist know if you want to include those options. Below are expectations you should be able to do for this easy rated rail tour.

  • Walking: you should be capable of walking about 1-2 miles per day. You’ll likely not walk this amount all at once, but you need to be able to get to/from train stations, hotels, and excursions. 
  • Stairs: at train stations when you have to change platforms; most of the station platforms only have stairs or ramps — not elevators. Some train connections are tight and you may need to walk quickly to catch the next train.
  • Getting on and off trains: be aware that many trains have a few steps to negotiate in order to get on or off. 
  • Standing time: you need to be able to stand on your feet for at least 10 minutes as benches at train stations are not in good supply.
  • Luggage: You need to take your bags with you each day and be capable of getting them on and off the trains.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to visit the Self-Guided Scenic Alps by Rail trip page, call Alpenwild at 801-226-9026 or email us at info@alpenwild.com

Tari McKell

About Tari McKell

With roots in the Pacific Northwest, Tari enjoys mountain scenery and exploring the outdoors. She loves researching new places to visit and especially travelling with her family in her free time. She’s a Certified Switzerland Travel Specialist and works in the office planning and booking Alpenwild’s tours. She loves being organized and paying attention to detail, so planning tours in Switzerland has become a passion for her. Armed with a degree in Geography and a minor in Business Management, Tari is well equipped to handle the travel needs of Alpenwild’s diverse international adventure travel clients on Scenic Alps by Rail, Hiking in the Jungfrau and customized self-guided tours.

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