|Getting to Switzerland from Australia and New Zealand|
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There’s a good selection of airlines that can get you to Switzerland from Australia and New Zealand, but there are no direct flights. Given the high cost of flights in general from Australasia, however, a “Round the World” fare is a good option. Destinations in southern Switzerland are also served by flights to Milan, from where you can continue your journey by land. Various rail and bus passes can be bought before you leave should you wish to extend your trip into Europe.
Fares vary significantly with the season: low season runs from mid-January to the end of February and during October and November; high season runs from mid-May to the end of August and from December to mid-January; the rest of the year is counted as “shoulder season”.
Tickets purchased direct from the airlines tend to be expensive – travel agents offer better deals and have the latest information on special deals, such as free stopovers en route and fly-drive-accommodation packages. Flight Centres and STA generally offer the best discounts, especially for students and those under 26.
Most airlines have a set fare (“common rated”) from major eastern Australian cities, while from Perth and Darwin you’ll pay between A$100 and A$200 less via Asia, or A$200–400 more via Canada and the US. Fares from Christchurch and Wellington are around NZ$150–300 more than those from Auckland.
For a scheduled flight from the Australian east coast or Auckland, count on paying A$1500–2260/NZ$1900–2800 on Alitalia or KLM; A$1900–2500/NZ$2280–3000 on Thai Airways, Lauda Air, Lufthansa or Swissair; A$2400–2850/NZ$2700–3400 on British Airways, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand, depending on the season. See the box above for a full rundown of airlines and routes.
If you want to fly to another European gateway and then travel overland to Switzerland, you’ll find lowest fares are with Britannia Airways to London during their limited charter season (Nov–March), when you can expect to pay A$1000–1600/NZ$1200–1900.
For extended trips, a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket, valid for up to a year, can be good value. Tickets that take in Switzerland include the One World Alliance “Global Explorer” (Qantas, British Airways, American, Canadian, Cathay, Finnair, Iberia) which starts at A$2400– 2900/NZ$2900–3400, and the Star Alliance’s RTW option (Ansett, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, SAS, Thai, United Airlines) which starts at A$2800/NZ$3350. These are mileage-based tickets (backtracking permitted) and can be booked through any of the partner airlines, so you should use whichever is the most convenient.
If you’re interested in activities like skiing or hiking, and prefer to have all the arrangements made for you before you leave, then seeking the help of a specialist agent is a good way to plan your trip. Unfortunately, there are few pre-packaged tours that include airfares from Australasia, but most specialist agents will be able to assist with flight arrangements as well. In turn, many of the tours we’ve listed can also be arranged through your local travel agent.
Switzerland’s “rail baggage” service is covered here. Labels cost A$20/NZ$25, and are available from Swissair offices in Australia and New Zealand. The homeward-bound version of “Rail Baggage” is “Fly Baggage”.
European rail and bus passes
If you’re planning to visit Switzerland as part of a wider European trip, it’s worth looking into the various rail and bus passes on offer, though if you’re planning to stick mainly to Switzerland, you’re considerably better off buying one of the Swiss rail passes outlined on p.35 – these are available from travel agents or from Rail Plus (in Australia: 03/9642 8644 or 1300/555 003, fax 03/9642 8403, email@example.com; in New Zealand: 09/303 2484). Eurail passes are not valid on many smaller mountain railways or on any postbus jouneys. We’ve flagged Eurail discounts in the guide text where relevant.
The Eurail Youthpass (for under-26s) allows unlimited free train travel in Switzerland and sixteen other countries and costs A$615/NZ$765 for 15 days, A$790/NZ$990 for 21 days, A$990/NZ$1225 for one month, A$1400/NZ$1750 for two months and A$1730/NZ$2135 for three months. If you’re 26 or over you’ll have to buy a first-class pass, available in 15-day A$880/NZ$1090, 21-day A$1140/NZ$1415, one-month A$1410/NZ$1750, two-month A$1995/NZ$2460 and three-month A$2470/NZ$3055 increments. For groups of two to five, the first-class Eurail Saverpass can knock around fifteen percent off the price of the standard pass.
The Eurail Flexipass is good for a certain number of travel days in a two-month period and also comes in youth/first-class versions: 10 days cost A$725/1040 or NZ$900/1285; and 15 days, A$950/1370 or NZ$1175/1700. Again, parties of two to five can save fifteen percent with the Eurail Saver Flexipass.
A scaled-down version of the Flexipass, the Europass, allows travel in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland for (youth/first-class) A$370/550 or NZ$460/675 for five days in a two-month period, on up to A$815/1155 or NZ$1020/1435 for 15 days in two months; there’s also the option of adding “associate” countries (Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal and Greece) for an additional fee. Groups of two to five can save fifteen percent with the Euro Saverpass.
Those considering travelling through Europe by bus should check out the Busabout passes; 15-day passes are A$400/NZ$500; 21-day passes are A$570/NZ$710; and a month’s pass costs A$750/NZ$940. There is a discount of roughly ten percent for students.
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