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Travel Info & Tips Travelling on The Glacier Express
Things worth knowing about travelling on The Glacier Express

Travelling on The Glacier Express

Our guide to making the incredible ride focuses on the less obvious aspects of making this journey, including how rail pass users can now take this train!

| Last Updated: 5 months ago
How to travel on the Glacier Express The Glacier Express heads dpwn the valley to Andermatt

All of the core information you will need about The Glacier Express train is on its website but a summary of the less obvious aspects of taking this train will hopefully be useful.

The two largest independent mountain railway networks in southern Switzerland are the Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn (MGB) and the Rhätische Bahn/ Rhaetian Railway (RhB), and what makes the Glacier Express train unique is that it is the only service that travels between BOTH networks.
Therefore the Glacier Express is the only DIRECT train in either direction between Zermatt/Visp/Brig and Chur/Davos/St Moritz.

The longest journey possible on the Glacier Express is that between St Moritz and Zermatt, which takes around 8hrs and 10 mins; it’s not a fast train (speed isn’t the point of making a journey).
In contrast, making the journey between St Moritz and Zermatt by a combination of regular MGB and RhB trains requires at least 4 (usually 5) changes of train.

  1. St Moritz to Reichanau-Taimins
  2. Reichanau-Taimins to Disentis-Muster
  3. Disentis-Muster to Andermatt
  4. Andermatt to Zermnatt or Brig
  5. (Brig to Zermatt)

Good to know about tickets:

The cost of purchasing separate tickets for a journey by regular trains between Zermatt and St Moritz is similar to the cost of a Glacier Express ticket; so those Glacier Express ticket prices are actually good value.
For journeys by The Glacier express the total price is the journey price + the reservation fee, so the 'journey price' is not the total cost.
The journey price varies according to distance travelled, but the reservation fee is a fixed price, irrespective of distance.

You also don’t have to travel the length of the whole route to experience a ride on The Glacier Express – short section tickets are now available.

Booking a minimum of a couple of weeks ahead is highly recommended, as many departures sell out completely in advance.
When making a booking, you will select seats on a seating plan, so can see if window tickets are available etc.

The booking process

The booking process is unconventional, because seat reservations can be booked from 93 days ahead of the travel date, but tickets aren't released for sale until two months ahead.
However, don't wait until the tickets are released, as it's a very good idea to book reservations as early as possible
At peak travel times, such as June - August and December - February, it's not unknown for Classic 1st and 2nd Class seats to be fully booked on certain departures more than two months ahead; and window seats inevitably sell particularly quickly.
You will need to travel with a reservation + a ticket, or a reservation + a valid rail pass; which include Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes.

Booking reservations up to two months ahead:

If you book reservations up to two months ahead, the tickets will also have been released for sale, so they will automatically be included with the booking.
So users of Swiss Travel Passes, and Eurail / InterRail passes, will in effect need to remove the ticket element.

At the seat selection stage:
Booking Glacier Express tickets
note that:
1: This is the cost of the seat reservation - which is a flat fee regardless of the journey.
2: This is the cost of the ticket for this particular journey.
3: The total cost = the ticket and the reservation.
4: Note that this journey was looked up 59 days ahead of travel, but on many days all 1st class classic seats were already fully booked.

If you will be booking a ticket, there are a couple of things to look out for on the next booking screen.
booking tickets for the Glacier Express
1: The reservation charge will still be visible.
2: But the ticket cost will have been removed.
3: Though you haven't lost it because the total cost, which is still visible, includes the reservation and the ticket.

If you have a valid rail pass you need to take and additional step, which is to click on the reductions arrow and select your type of pass from the drop down menu.
booking rail pass reservations on the Glacier Express

Then having done so, the type of pass will be included in the Travellers section and the total cost will now solely be the cost of the reservation.
Booking an Interrail reservation on the Glacier Express

Booking reservations more than two months ahead:

Reservations can be booked up until 93 days ahead of the travel, which is before the tickets have been released for sale, but booking more than two months ahead is recommended.
Booking reservations more than two months ahead for the Glacier Express
Take note that:
1: You will be alerted to the fact that you won't yet be able to also book a ticket.
2: The number of travellers can be specified here - the maximum number is 9.
3: Note that the number of seats available in the travel class you have selected - 1st or 2nd, per day is shown on the calendar. However, this is not the availability per departure, so you may need to look through the day's departures to find available seats.
4: What tripped SMTJ up is that one green circle indicates low availability for a specific departure, with up to 4 green buttons indicating good availability; at first I assumed it was the other way round.

Note that having chosen your departure, you then have to select a specific seat(s) from the seating plan.
A seat(s) will have been pre-selected, but you choose alternative seats - when available.
Choosing seats on the Glacier Express

At the next stage of the booking process, if you will be travelling with a valid rail pass, you can add it to your booking
The price for the reservation fee won't be reduced, but this is how you show Glacier Express that you will be travelling with a rail pass, and therefore don't need a ticket.
Booking rail reservations on the Glacier Express

Note that the reservation fees for both rail pass users and ticket holders, are a flat rate regardless of distance.

If you won't be travelling with a valid rail pass, you will need to return to the booking site any time up until two months ahead of the date you have reserved for, and select the 'ticket only (reservation already booked)' option
The tickets will be the same price regardless of when you book them.
You will be taken down an entirely separate booking path, but have the departure time that you have reserved for, to hand.
Because you will see a range of journey options, most of which won't involve taking the Glacier Express
Booking tickets for the Glacier Express after you have booked the reservation
So take care to book tickets to travel by the departure you have already reserved for, on the example above 1 = The Glacier Express and 2 = a different train service that you shouldn't book tickets for.

Travelling with rail passes:

If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, Saver Day Pass, or a Eurail or InterRail pass that’s valid in Switzerland, you only have to pay the reservation fee – so using any of these passes to travel on The Glacier Express is a great deal!
Rail pass users can book reservations without journey tickets on the Glacier Express website.
The Glacier Express coaches have extra large windows

5 Other Things Worth Knowing:

(1) The reservation fees/supplementary charge is cheaper in the winter compared to the summer.

(2) Connections to Swiss mainline SBB trains are available at Brig, Visp and Chur - SBB trains from Basel and from Zurich operate to Chur.

Brig and Visp stations are served by trains from many Swiss cities including Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich.
EC trains also provide a direct service between both Brig and Visp and Milan.

(3) Optional quality meals are served from the restaurant car on the trains to passenger’s seats in both 1st and 2nd class, but meals are only served to passengers who have requested meals prior to boarding.
Meals can be added to a booking on the website - so the ticket prices therefore do NOT include the price of meals.
A snack bar is available to passengers who do not want a hot meal or have not reserved a meal prior to boarding.

(4) The train will reverse direction on departure from Chur station.

(5) The journey between St Moritz and Zermatt has five distinct sections:
St Moritz to Chur
On the Albula Railway, including the famous Landwasser Viaduct, but it is not the only viaduct on this twisting part of the route – sit on the left facing backwards for the best views of the viaduct (when travelling in this direction)
Between St Moritz and Chur on the Glacier Express

Chur to Andermatt
As the train approaches Andermatt it climbs to the highest past of the route at Oberalp, with spectacular views over the Oberalpsee and down into the valley from the left of the train; the train will have reversed direction in Chur.
Between Andermatt and Oberalp on the Glacier Express

Andermatt to Brig
This section of the route used to take a spectacular path across the Furka Pass, but the line was blocked by snow too often; hence the train now travels under the pass in a tunnel.
As a result this section of the route is now pretty, rather than jaw-droppingly incredible.
Between Andermatt and Brig on the Glacier Express

Brig to Visp
Between these stations the route runs parallel to a mainline operated by SBB and there is a more urban, less spectacular flavour here, though the views from the right of the train, of the valley walls towering above, have their moments.

Visp to Zermatt:
As the train ascends the valley the views are incredible from either side of the train.
Between Visp and Zermatt on the Glacier Express


Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.


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