Upon your arrival in Switzerland you will take a train to Lucerne, where this tour will start. The group will meet in the hotel lobby at 12:30 PM for an orientation and afternoon excursion to Mt. Pilatus. There will also be a welcome dinner that evening. Lucerne is 1 hour by train from Zurich and trains will depart every hour. The hotel we stay at is conveniently located just a couple of blocks from the train station and we will provide a map with instructions on how to get there.
What is the typical group size?
We keep our group size small-typically between 14 and 15 guests-so that you can receive the highest level of service and attention. If you already have a full group that you would like to travel with, we can accommodate them on a private guided tour.
Will I have to carry my luggage everywhere?
This is probably the most frequently asked question for this tour. You will need to get your own luggage to the hotel in Lucerne where the tour starts, but Alpenwild has arranged for assistance with luggage handling for the majority of this tour. On one day, (Glacier Express train day) you will assist with getting luggage on and off the train... although we do have hotel porters that will help getting it to/from the train station. On all of the other days, your luggage will be picked up at the hotel in the morning and delivered directly to the hotel we are traveling to. This way all you need to take with you is a daypack to carry the items you may need for the day. We encourage you to bring only one checked suitcase that can roll and a day pack/bag to take with you each day on the trains.
Will our tour guide be with us during the whole tour?
Yes! You will be met by an Alpenwild guide at your hotel in Lucerne on the day the tour starts. Our tour guides will be with you during the entire tour to share their insight and knowledge about Switzerland culture and attractions. You will enjoy daily train rides, excursions and meals together, although it is common in the afternoons to have a bit of free time before meeting back up with the group for dinner.
What is included on this tour?
This tour includes 9 hotel nights, all transportation during the tour, excursions, luggage transfers, and an expert Alpenwild guide to provide you with the best Swiss experience possible. We include breakfasts and dinners on this tour, however on the second to last day of the tour, the group will have a farewell lunch together instead of dinner. Note that these are marked by BLD on our website’s daily itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner). Although lunch isn’t included on this tour, your guides will provide options for lunch. In some cases, you will be able to order lunch on a train or boat ride and other times you will stop somewhere to eat or pick something up to take with you.
Can you accommodate special dietary needs?
Yes! You'll find the Swiss diet is based around dairy products, with a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer season. Just let Alpenwild know of your dietary preferences and we should be able to find excellent meals that satisfy your preferences. Over the years, we have successfully accommodated guests with celiac disease, nut allergies, lactose intolerance, and many other specific allergies.
What types of hotels do we stay in?
We typically stay in small, independently owned 3- and 4-star hotels which reflect the character and hospitality of the surrounding alpine community. We choose hotels that offer a great location, a high standard of comfort and quality, and a solid value to our guests. These inns offer a superbly satisfying mix of a welcoming atmosphere, traditional cuisine, and authentic Swiss charm. The only exception is the final hotel night in Zurich which is a prime location in the airport.
1st or 2nd class trains?
On this tour, we will ride in 1st class on the trains and boats. The only exception is on a couple of excursion trains that only have one class, such as the Jungfraujoch and Gornergrat. Also note that there is a rare possibility to have to ride in 2nd class due to seat availability issues. Some of the scenic trains that you will ride on this tour include: Bernina Express, Glacier Express, GoldenPass Line, and along the Gotthard Panorama Express route… all in first class compartments.
Do we just ride trains all day or do we get to see other sights?
You will get to travel like a local on a variety of Swiss trains and transportation every day of this tour. In addition to riding trains, we have an assortment of fun mountain excursions included in this tour. Starting on the very first day, you will travel by cable car to the top of Mt. Pilatus for amazing views of Lucerne and the Swiss Alps. You will then descend on the steepest cogwheel train for your return to Lucerne. The next day, you will travel by a paddle steamboat on Lake Lucerne to then train along the Gotthard Panorama express route. In Zermatt, you will ride the Gornergrat train for the best views of the Matterhorn mountain. In Gruyères, we will visit a local Chocolatier, the cheese dairy showcase, and the medieval Gruyères Castle. In St. Moritz, you will have several mountain excursions to choose from and in Grindelwald, we will travel by train to the Jungfraujoch which is the highest railway station in Europe. You will also have the opportunity to walk on the Aletsch glacier which is the longest glacier in the Alps. Be assured that there are plenty of breathtaking sights to see and visit on this tour.
When will we receive tour documents and rail passes?
About 30-45 days prior to the start of the tour, we will mail out tour documents for your trip. In the packet, you will receive arrival instructions, a list of hotel accommodations, Alpenwild luggage tags, plug-in adapters, and rail passes. Please be aware that the rail passes are the same as cash, so be sure to bring them with you and 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. The rail pass that we provide, only covers the tour dates.
Can we travel back later/travel out earlier and extend our tour?
Certainly! Our Alpenwild office staff would be more than happy to assist you with any pre-or post-tour plans you may have. Many of our guests will arrive a day or two before the tour and others will stay on for a few days after the tour. We can provide you with suggestions on where to stay and what to do during these extra days. In addition, we can upgrade your rail pass to a 15-day pass (for a minimal charge) which will provide transportation for these extra days. Just be sure to let us know how we can help.
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. ATM machines typically provide the best currency exchange rate as well. Most places do accept credit cards so you won’t need to have much cash on hand.
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 can travel to any of these countries for up to 90 days without a special visa. You WILL need to have a current passport to enter Switzerland. Be aware that it cannot expire within 6 months of your trip. The airlines will not let you board the plane to Switzerland if your passport will expire in less than 6 months. Plan ahead and make sure it will still be current.
What should I pack?
The most important thing to remember for train travel and walking around towns and villages is casual comfort. Wear comfortable walking/tennis shoes with GOOD TRACTION, and clothes that are easy to pack and wear, and hand wash if needed. In the evening, we'll be eating dinners in the hotel or at restaurants nearby. You may want to wear something other than what you've been wearing during the day, but it still casual and not super dressy. While we make some specific recommendations on our Alps Walking and Sightseeing tour packing list, your own personal preference, experience, and comfort - is ultimately the most important factor in deciding what to bring.
How do I make a booking?
You can book this trip directly on our Alpenwild website under Rail tours with a $500 per person deposit. You can also feel free to call the office and we can help guide you through the booking process. Once you have booked this tour with Alpenwild, we will email you a deposit confirmation letter and invoice. Your final payment is due 90 days prior to the tour and we will email you a reminder when it is time.
Do I need Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance can give peace of mind in the event of the unexpected occurring. Alpenwild recommends Insuremytrip.com travel insurance, but you can use any travel insurance company you prefer.
Is it appropriate to tip the trip leaders?
Alpenwild trip leaders go out of their way to make sure your trip is enjoyable and successful--everything you want it to be. While not mandatory or obligatory, tips recognizing their efforts are appreciated. The common practice is to hand the tip to the trip leaders at the conclusion of the trip. If your trip leader has met the high standard of service expected at Alpenwild, 5% of your tour price is a standard tip.
What is the Activity level on this tour?
Alpenwild tours are designed for people who are energetic, active, and filled with a spirit of adventure. We rate this trip as easy but you should be capable of walking about 1-2 miles per day. There are additional hiking and walking options available for those wanting more activity.
- Walking: in addition to walking on the flat surfaces, you also need to walk on slight uphills, uneven terrain, and cobblestones. 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. We can accommodate slow walkers, but you must still be able to walk the distance.
- Stairs: at train stations when we have to change platforms; most of the station platforms only have stairs or ramps -- not elevators. Some train connections are tight and the group may need to walk quickly to catch the next train.
- Getting on and off trains: be aware that many trains have a few steep steps to negotiate in order to get on or off. You need to be confident that you can get on and off the trains.
- 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: before the tour starts, you will travel by train to Lucerne and meet the group at the first hotel. This means you'll need to get your own luggage on/off the trains and to/from hotel rooms once at the hotels (there are elevators in all hotels). During the tour, we hire a company to pick up the bags on most days. Please note that there is one day during the tour where the group will take suitcases on the Glacier Express train with them