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Travel Info & Tips How to travel on the RhB (Rhätische Bahn/ Rhaetian Railway)
Travelling on the RhB (Rhätische Bahn/ Rhaetian Railway) trains heading to Tirano

How to travel on the RhB (Rhätische Bahn/ Rhaetian Railway)

How to travel on the Rhaetian Railway network including details of the routes, trains, scenic highlights, connections, ticketing and rail pass usage.

| Last Updated: 19 days ago
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Introduction

The Rhätische Bahn/ Rhaetian Railway isn’t one line from one place to another, it’s a network of routes in south east Switzerland.

The RhB railway lines include The Albula Route , taken by trains between Chur and St Moritz and The Bernina Route, taken by trains between St Moritz and Tirano.
Both of which are so fabulous in terms of scenery and construction, that they have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

And both of these lines have merited inclusion on the list of the 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Rides - the Chur <> St Moritz route at No.4 and St Moritz <> Tirano is at the top spot!

The Bernina Route is also featured on Wanderlust's list of Five Fabulous Offbeat Rail Adventures AND on Far And Wide's list of the Most Remarkable Train Journeys in Europe.

The Bernina Express (see below) is the only DIRECT train service that travels on the both The Albula and The Bernina routes and connects Chur with Tirano.
Though if you're willing to make two straightforward connections, you don't have to take the Bernina Express in order to make the incredible journey between Chur and Tirano, the most spectacular route taken by RhB's trains.

The regular trains that travel on The Albula and Bernina Routes also have on board maps and commentary that point out the multiple scenic highlights.

The routes:

The longer-distance regular RhB train service operates over the nine routes listed below and unless stated otherwise trains depart hourly in each direction.
(The stations which have been highlighted, are where connections can be made between trains on the different RhB routes).
1. ChurReichanau-Tamins – Ilanz - Disentis/Muster (connect for MGB trains to/from Andermatt and Brig)
2. Chur – Arosa
3. Chur – Reichanau-Tamins - FilisurSamedan – St Moritz (the Albula Railway route - a UNESCO World Heritage site)
4. Landquart - Klosters Platz – Davos Platz
5. Landquart – **Klosters Platz –Saglians - Scuol Tarasp / Davos Platz
6. Landquart – Klosters Platz – Samedan – St Moritz (every other hour)
7. St Moritz – Pontresina – Tirano (the Bernina Railway route, a UNESCO World Heritage site)
8. Scuol Tarasp – SagliansSamedanPontresina
9. Filisur – Davos Platz

Usually the connections between RhB trains involve only waiting a few minutes and the timings are very reliable.
Popular journeys by REGULAR trains, that require connections are:

  • Chur > Tirano; change at Samedan and Pontresina
  • Chur > Davos Platz; change at Filisur
  • Tirano > Klosters or Landquart; change at Pontresina and Saglians
  • St Moritz > Disentis/Muster; change at Reichanau-Tamins
  • St Moritz > Davos Platz; change at Filisur

By changing trains at Samedan and Saglians it’s also possible to travel in a circular route in either direction from Chur in a single day.
The route is:
(1) Chur – Saglians (on trains heading to Scuol Tarasp)
(2) Saglians – Samedan (on trains heading to Pontresina)
(3) Samedan – Chur

Regular trains (the red trains):

RhB operates multiple types of regular trains, the more modern of which have larger windows, but on the older trains the windows can be opened - which can help with taking photographs and videos!

On some departures both older and newer trains are joined together.
Catering is not available on board the regular RhB trains.

On some departures the Glacier Express coaches are attached to ordinary trains, so if when waiting for, or boarding an ordinary train service, you can only see The Glacier Express coaches, you may have to walk along the platform to find the ordinary coaches.

A tick in the box for travelling 1st class on the regular RhB trains, is that 1st class tends to be much quieter, so you can virtually guarantee having window (seats) and you can also dart across the train from one side to the other to take in all the best views.

Winter observation cars:

In winter many trains on the Chur to St Moritz route also convey observation cars in addition to the ordinary coaches.
Seats in these observation cars must be reserved prior to boarding the train and have a higher fare than standard tickets.

All rail pass users must pay a reservation fee/supplement to travel in these observation coaches.

Special trains

Rhb also operates special trains that provide longer direct services, in addition to the regular train service.

Bernina Express

The Bernina Express is operated by the Rhätische Bahn/ Rhaetian Railway (RhB)

What makes the train unique is that is the only train that runs over both the Albula AND Bernina Railways - the only railways in Switzerland that are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
So it is the only train to provide direct Chur <> Tirano journeys.

The Bernina Express uses special panoramic coaches with extra large windows.
Regular coaches, which are cheaper because they don't have the mandatory reservation fees required for travel in the panoramic cars, are also typically available on Bernina Express departures, though not all departures have them.

In the panoramic and regular coaches both first and second class is available, in first class the seats are larger, they have more leg room and are arranged 2 + 1 across the aisle instead of 2 + 2.
So parties of two people can avoid having people occupying the seat next to them.
Note that there is no catering benefit included with 1st class tickets.

The booking process

Be aware that a ticket + a reservation are required to travel in the Panoramic cars/coaches and these can be booked separately.
Or if you have a valid rail pass, including Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes, you will only need a reservation to travel in the panoramic cars.
You have to choose specific seats on a seating plan, though you cannot choose on which side of the train to sit.
If you want to travel on a specific departure, note that seats in the panoramic cars can be fully booked months ahead of a travel date.

If you have a valid Eurail, InterRail or Swiss Travel Pass, or Saver Day Pass you can travel in the panoramic cars on The Bernina Express by only paying the reservation fee.
But if you will be using a rail pass, you can board into the ordinary coaches/cars which don't require a reservation.

If you don't have a rail pass and want to travel in the panoramic cars, you can either:

  • Book a reservation up to 12 months ahead and then make a separate booking for a ticket; which become available up to six months ahead of the travel date.
  • Book a ticket up until six months before the travel date, which will automatically include the reservation(s).

So note that you can book reservations more than 6 months before you can buy a ticket.
The tickets are not discounted, so you won't save by booking ahead, but booking reservations as soon as your travel date is known is highly recommended, even if the tickets are not already on sale~

The info on how to travel on the Bernina Express has a step-by-step guide to booking the tickets.

Glacier Express

The Glacier Express runs over RhB lines between St Moritz/Davos and Disentis/Muster, and short-hop tickets are solely available for travel between the RhB station calls in St Moritz and Chur.

Seat reservations and tickets can be booked on the Glacier Express website.
Three types of accommodation are available:

  • Glacier Express Classic 1st class - larger seats, arranged 2 + 1 across the aisle
  • Glacier Express Classic 2nd class
  • Excellence Class features a swathe of exclusive benefits including a 5 course meal - the Excellence Class charge is the cost of making a reservation, but a 1st class ticket(s) is also required.
    Also only available on journeys over the full route between St Moritz and Zermatt.

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.

If you do want to travel solely between Chur and St Moritz on the Glacier Express, something to look out for, is that on the first booking screen you will see...
Choosing destination on the Glacier Express website
If you select Chur as a starting point, you won't be able to select St Moritz as a destination and vice versa.
So click on the 'Booking' link instead and you will be taking to a screen on which you can choose more destination options.
Choosing a destination when booking Glacier Express tickets

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.

Scenic highlights:

Crossing The Landwasswer Viaduct

The most iconic structure on the RhB network is the Landwasser Viaduct.

It's located between Reichanau-Tamins and Filisur just to the north of Filisur station and is used by trains on the the Chur - Samedan - St Moritz route (trains between Filisur and Davos don’t cross the viaduct).
For the best views of the viaduct and tunnel - you need to be on the right of the train AND facing the direction of travel, when heading south from Chur (and on the left facing backwards when heading north from Samedan/St Moritz).

the spirals between Bergun and Preda

When heading south from Chur on the Albua route to St Moritz the best views of the spirals between Bergun and Preda, pictured above, that the line takes as it climbs up to the Albula Tunnel, are on the left (so are on the right when heading north).

However, arguably the most spectacular line on the RhB network is the Bernina Line between Pontresina and Tirano.

On this line, when heading north* from Tirano - the best views of the beautiful Lago di Poschiavo and the spectacular ascent up from Poschiavo, can be seen from the right of the train.
The spectacular views on The Bernina Raiway

Though as the train enters and traverses the Bernina Pass, between before Alp Grum station and Morteratsch station, when heading north, the best of the views are on the left – and this includes Lago Bianco, frozen in winter and turquoise in summer.
Lago Bianco
*flip the sides of the train advice when heading south.

Ski resort access

Corviglia winter sports area is accessed by the St Moritz Corvilgia funicular and its base station is a 5 - 10 min walk from St Moritz RhB train station.

Disentis winter sports area has bus links from Disentis/Muster station

Flims Laax Falera - bus connections from Chur and Reichenau-Tamins stations.

Obsersaxen-Mundaun - bus connections from Ilanz station.

Parsenn winter sports area is accessed by the Parsenn Bahn funicular and it base station is a few minutes walk from Davos RhB station.

Scuol Motta Naluns - Scuol Tarasp station is a couple of minutes from the cable car station.

Connections:

Connections with mainline trains are available at Landquart and Chur.
From both Chur and Landquart stations direct trains operate to/from Basel, Zurich and Buchs - at Buchs connect for Railjet trains to/from Austria.
There are also 2 x ICE trains per day that provide a direct service between Chur/Landquart and Hamburg, Hannover, Frankfurt (Main), Mannheim and Karlsruhe.

Buses operate between Scuol-Tarasp and Landeck station on the Austrian main line between Bregenz and Innsbruck (change of bus required).

Buses also link Tirano with the resort town of Lugano on Lake Como.

Connections with trains to/ from Milano are available at Tirano.

Using tickets and rail passes:

Ordinary journey tickets by RhB trains can theoretically be booked online on the RhB website - click on Timetable or Fahrplan - but it seems glitchy.

So it's simpler to book on the SBB national rail website, despite the fact that SBB doesn't operate the trains.
Another plus is that SBB sells cheaper, discounted tickets for journeys on the RhB routes.
They are named SuperSaver tickets aka Sparbillete tickets and are typically cheaper the further ahead that they can be booked - they are available from 6 months ahead.
Though something to take note of is that these SuperSaver tickets are both train departure specific, so if you don't make the train, you will need to re-book - and they can't be refunded if you change your travel plans.

If you'll want the freedom to choose any departure on your travel date, you'll need to buy the more expensive Point-to-Point tickets instead - though this is in effect the same ticket that will be sold last-minute at the station, so you won't save money by booking these tickets online in advance.

SBB will also SuperSaver tickets and Point-to-Point tickets for journeys to and from other destinations in Switzerland, which involve a combination of SBB trains + Rhb trains.
Though if Saver Day Passes are cheaper than tickets, you will be offered them instead, as the default best option.

For first time users the SBB website can be a comparatively unconventional experience, so take the time to check the step-by-step guide.

Using Rail Passes

If you have a rail pass - Eurail, InterRail, Swiss Travel Pass or Saver Day Pass, you can hop on and off the the Rhb / Rhaetian Railway 'red trains' on the days on which your pass is valid - you won't need to buy any tickets.

If you have a Eurail/InterRail pass, you won’t have to pay any additional charges for journeys in either direction between Milano and Zurich (and beyond).
There are easy connections available in Tirano, Pontresina, Samedan and Chur.
It’s possible to set off from Milano in the morning, travel up to Zurich via Tirano and Chur and arrive in Zurich in time to catch the final direct EC train of the day back to Milano!

Holidays

Alpine Cruise Holidays include unlimited travel by regular trains along the Rhaetian Railway routes, and ShowMeTheJourney users can obtain a 5% discount, and save more than 60 Swiss Francs.

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Author

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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This second version of ShowMeTheJourney is exciting and new, so we are genuinely thrilled that you are here and reading this, but we also need your help.

We’re striving not to let anything get in the way of providing the most useful service possible, hence a facility has been set up with DonorBox which can be used to support the running costs and make improvements.

Instead of advertising or paywalls, your financial support will make a positive difference to delivering an enhanced service, as there’s a lot of ideas which we want to make happen.

So if you have found the info provided here to be useful, please consider saying thank you.