I took one of Europe's most gorgeous, leisurely train rides by adding just $55 to my travel budget
- I took Switzerland's most beautiful, leisurely train ride for just $55.
- I got on the Glacier Express for just a seat-reservation fee because I'd bought a Swiss Travel Pass.
On a recent trip to Switzerland, I took advantage of a great deal to travel on the Glacier Express, a famously gorgeous train ride through the Swiss Alps.
The rail line touts itself as "the slowest express train in the world," taking eight hours to chug from Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn, to St. Moritz, a popular ski retreat.
The train winds through alpine villages, valleys, and forests while going over 291 bridges, up a 6,670-foot mountain pass, and through 91 tunnels.
Here's what it was like on one of Europe's most iconic train rides.
I reserved a seat on the Glacier Express for just $55 using my Swiss Travel Pass
My travel plans took me through several towns in Switzerland, so I purchased an eight-day Swiss Travel Pass, which gives non-residents unlimited travel by train, bus, or boat across the country and within towns. It also gets you into most museums for free.
The Switzerland Travel Centre sells a range of passes, but I chose a second-class pass for about $475.
Those with a Swiss Travel Pass don't have to buy a ticket for the Glacier Express but they must reserve seats.
It cost me 49 Swiss Francs, about $55, to reserve my seat.
Without my Swiss Travel Pass, I would've paid another 159 Swiss Francs (about $180) to ride in second class, or I could've even upgraded to first class for 272 Swiss Francs.
Boarding the train was easy
I chose to board the cherry-red train at Brig, the second stop on the Glacier Express.
That meant my train ride was just six hours and 20 minutes rather than the full eight-hour journey.
The views were unbelievable
The main feature of the Glacier Express is its panoramic windows. They did not disappoint.
I basically had a 360-degree view of every valley, forest, cliffside, and village we passed through.
Every twist, turn, climb, or descent of the tracks brought a new vista into sight. I couldn't tear my eyes away.
I also liked that I had the option to listen to a free, occasional audio tour during the ride.
Every 15 minutes or so, a little noise would play over the PSA system to indicate we were passing a town, church, mountain pass, or river of interest.
To hear the narration about it, I just had to plug the provided earbuds into the audio jack on my armrest.
One downside was how cramped my seat was
I was surprised to find that the seats in second class had almost exactly as much leg and arm room as an economy airplane seat.
Maybe I was naive, but I expected more roominess on a train.
There wasn't even anywhere to stow my carry-on-sized backpack within reach. I kept it under my legs, in front of my seat, and I couldn't access it unless the person next to me got up to go to the bathroom.
That didn't matter too much, though. I took out my book when I first sat down, but I didn't end up reading at all. I was too busy admiring Switzerland.
During the last two hours of the ride, more people began getting off at stops, and the train started to empty out.
I ended up spending extra money on food and drinks
When I reserved my seat online, I had to choose whether or not I wanted a meal and, if so, how many courses.
I chose a three-course meal, which cost another 49 Swiss Francs — just as much as the seat reservation.
The courses were salad, a meat and rice entrée, and a coffee-flavored dessert. I found them all kind of boring and not very flavorful.
It wasn't as bad as airplane food, but I had much better meals in every restaurant during my trip.
The people sitting across from me had brought sandwiches and snacks. I think that's what I'd do next time.
Beverages were also available to purchase, which ran up my bill.
I wasn't about to sit and look at beautiful views for six hours without having a hot tea or a cold local beer.
Overall, the train ride was worth it for the views and I'm glad I got my seat for cheap
You can always book a separate ticket for the train, but the Swiss Travel Pass is a great deal if you're going to be in Switzerland for more than a couple days.
I loved getting to experience incredible views for just the cost of a seat reservation.
If you're considering splurging on the first-class Swiss Travel Pass anyway, you can then book a first-class seat on the Glacier Express. That's more leg (and arm) room for the same $55 reservation fee.
No matter how you book it, I think a ride on the train is worth it to enjoy some of the most stunning views in Europe.
- Byju's shareholders vote to remove CEO, family; company calls vote invalid
- Engaging with competent authorities, use only genuine cheese, says McDonald's
- Apple's India revenue up 42% to $8.7 bn in 2023: Morgan Stanley
- Reserve Bank asks NPCI to help continue operations of Paytm app
- Top 10 places to visit in Andhra Pradesh