Glacier Express: 5 Things To Know Before You Go

Yes, you should go on the Glacier Express. After all, it is one of the most popular attractions in the country and is renowned for its marvelous scenery, world-class service, and one-of-a-kind experience.

However, there are a few things you should know before you book the Glacier Express.

Things that will make your booking, your trip and your experience better than you can imagine.

1. Make Sure You Get A Seat

The Glacier Express fills up fast. Especially in high season – aka, summer.

So, book a seat as soon as you know when you are going.

You can book up to 3 months (exactly 93 days) ahead. Don’t be fooled by the reservation calendar, they show you further than that ahead, but you can’t book it! I have no clue why.

Oh, and seat reservations are expensive AND mandatory!

2. Train Tickets Are Optional, For Some

When you are booking your mandatory seat for the Glacier Express, it will show that you are also paying for a ticket. However, further down in the process you can apply any discounts (in the Reduction field) that you have.

So, if you have any of the following they will help you a lot:

  • Swiss Travel Pass, Eurail/Interrail: The ticket is free (you only pay for the seat reservation). You only have to show your pass when checked on the day.
  • Half Fare Card: You get 50% off the ticket (not the seat). And need to show your half fare on the day.

And don’t worry if the ticket and the seat are shown at first, once you have entered your reduction, the price at the top changes accordindly.

3. No Seats – You Have A Backup Plan

Everyone worries that if they miss out on a Glacier Express seat their dream of a Swiss Alpine journey are dashed! That is not the case.

The Glacier Express uses the same rails as normal Swiss regional trains. So, if you can’t get on a specific “Glacier Express” train, just take a train at another time from the same place, to the same place.

It won’t be “as luxurious”, but in second class, it will be 90% the same! Trust me.

4. Which Side Of The Train

A lot of people write to me stressing about which side of the train to sit on, and I have some good and bad news.

  1. There is no ideal side of the train, because the train switches directions in a few places.
  2. It is not always easy to tell when you book the seat which way is “forwards”. So knowing the ideal side might not even help you.
  3. The ideal side varies depending on which part of the journey we are talking about – some say “right” for the Landwasser Viadukt bridge and coming down from Zermatt, some say “left” for the Rhine Gorge.

But you can always get up and ask your neighbor for a photo op anyway. And it’s good to make friends along the way. So, don’t sweat the “best side” and just enjoy the journey!

5. There Are Classes

Excellence Glass on the Glacier Express
Excellence Glass on the Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is a little like flying. There are three classes – Second, First and Excellence.

Second Class is actually fine for most of us. The seats are comfy, the windows are almost as large and the views are the same. There are two seats on either side (so sets of 4 – two facing each other).

First Class offers a little more space (with 2 seats on one side, and 1 on the other – so a couple can take the window seats opposite each other), the windows are slightly larger, and the carriage might be less occupied – as its more expensive.

Excellence Class is where the five star service happens! There are only sets of two seats on each side, so you are guaranteed a window seat with your travel partner. But it gets better, there is a:

  • concierge, and luggage service
  • 5 course meals and wine
  • a glacier bar and welcome service on the platform

It is super luxurious and expensive. Plus you need a first class train ticket to go with your expensive seat!

Written by

One thought on “Glacier Express: 5 Things To Know Before You Go

  1. Booked on Tauck tour of Switzerland and just learned Tauck was unable to secure Glacier Express Train tix and now will be taking regional train first class from St. Moritz to Chur. How much of a drop-off from Glacier Express to regional train first class?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *