Author Topic: Traveling in Switzerland,France and the UK This Fall....Tips Appreciated!!!  (Read 1796 times)

CatamaranSailor

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My son and I are going to be taking an extended trip through Europe this fall. We are flying into Zurich and leaving from Heathrow. Tips to make the travels go more smoothly would be appreciated, but I'm specifically intersted in : 1) The best way to get from Thun, Switzerland to Bayeux, France. Train? Bus? Also the best way to get from Bayeux to London. We're interested in the Chunnel, but there may be a better way! Thanks in advance!

Auldtriangle8

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My wife and I were just in Switzerland for a 3 week vacation and loved it! We've been in France and the UK before and used the chunnel train too. A lot of the transportation depends on the type of vacation you're doing and how long you'll be there. Specifically for Thun to  Bayeux, you can buy a ticket here (http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html) for about $215. For Bayeux to London, you can buy train tickets (http://www.sncf.com/en/passengers) for about 200 euros. You'd have to buy 2 tickets since you have two people. It may be cheaper to rent a car, especially if you are going to go off the beaten path a little. A eurail pass is extremely useful if you're mainly sticking to the larger cities. Know that a eurail pass isn't valid in the UK though, but you can buy a BritRail pass separately.

Without knowing more about the itinerary I can't recommend any specific means of transportation, but the trip sounds fun regardless!

I will say that you don't only have to pick one method. For example, if you're in France for a semi-long time and your itinerary worked this way you could rent a car, then return the car in the same city you rented it in (otherwise you pay a premium to drop it off in a different city).

The chunnel train can be expensive, but if your trip is short in the UK it may be worth it. If your trip is really long you could look into ferries.

In our previous trip around Europe we bought a flexi eurail pass for the long haul train rides between large cities, and then looked into other methods (local trains, buses, rental cars, etc) for the transportation between smaller cities that weren't that far apart.

sparkytheop

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My son and I spent five weeks in Europe last year.  We bought a Eurail pass before going over (have to plan far enough ahead to receive by mail, not sure how getting one when there works). 

We took a night train from Paris to Zurich.  We took several night trains on our trip, only sharing a sleeper with other people once, and one trip was inexpensive enough that we each got our own single-bed sleeper.  We usually booked the beds just a couple nights before (or even the night before).  We only got caught once and had to extend our stay in a town another night to get an available sleeper, but because we had a very flexible schedule, it wasn't a big deal.

Zurich was very expensive!  I would have liked to be there longer, but my budget was happy that we weren't.  We spent at least a few days in each country, except Switzerland, where we only stayed an afternoon.

We also took a train from Bayeux to London.  We had a tour with the Cain Museum to see the Normandy beaches since we were not driving.  While it would have been nice to have more time on the beach, the tour was great.

Also, if you're into WWII history and want to see the Maginot Line, I highly, highly recommend a side trip to Sedan, France.  I believe we took the train there, but it may have been a bus (I'd have to look up my notes, but even if it was a bus, it was covered by our Eurail pass).  We did a full day tour with Richard Tucker (Tucker Tours) and, because my son was under 18, we got a discount.  It was just the two of us and Richard, quite a character!  We got to do once-in-a-lifetime things with him.  Bought lunch in a little store before we headed out, and then he drove us all over.  He'll tailor the tour to what your interests are, and also mix it around so that you can be inside where it's cool during the hottest parts of the day when it's hot (and man, was it hot).  He also recommended staying in the castle there, which was very reasonable.  My son is a very serious sort, but this guy had him literally skipping down an underground tunnel!  So much fun.

One big tip is to pack light!  We each had a carry-on--one that was a backpack, one on wheels that also had backpack straps--from the Rick Steves website.  I plan to use them every trip.  In addition, we had a laptop bag.  We wore lightweight, easily laundered clothing, doing some sink laundry, but also visited local laundromats for better cleaning.  It was worth it to be able to travel light.  We were in and out of trains easily, walking to the hotel was easy, etc.  We even met people from our home state while in a laundromat in Germany!

Auldtriangle8

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I forgot to mention that in Thun there is a Saturday flea market that (first Saturday of the month) that's a great opportunity to buy souvenirs, clothes, etc. for really cheap (great reprieve from the high Swiss prices everywhere). There's a great website about Thun and their market days here: http://www.swissvistas.com/thun-travel-guide.html. My wife and I really liked Thun, and we have several items from that flea market (necklace, hanging art, sunglasses, all for about $10). Our favorite place in Switzerland was in the Alps, specifically the Lauterbrunnen area, but it's all beautiful. If you like France and Switzerland, maybe go to the Lake Geneva region (where they speak French)? We went to Lausanne and really loved it, especially walking around the Lake and Chillon castle. We loved the blend of the French and Swiss cultures there.

Like sparkytheop, we also really like Rick Steves so we stayed in Gimmelwald (amazing hiking in that region). If you are going to be in Switzerland for a little bit, another great option is the Swiss Travel Pass. We bought a Swiss travel pass flex (http://www.swissrailways.com/en) and it paid for itself several times over, including free trains, buses, museums, boat rides, cable car rides, discounted fairs on private train lines, etc. You could potentially buy a Swiss Pass, the equivalent of a French pass (I'm not sure what they have in France, you could always just buy a Eurail for France only), and then a BritRail pass.

If you're visiting some of the out of the way places (like the Appenzell region) a rental car is the way to go. We rented a car for about a quarter of our trip and it was great!

Keep on travelin'! (a la Rick Steves)