Bernina Express Train Tickets Saving Tips and Cheap Discount Deals

Many savings options and discounted tickets are available for traveling in the panoramic cars of the Bernina Express trains through the Alps in Switzerland.

Bernina Express Train requires special reservations but otherwise normal railway tickets

Many savings tickets and special deals make traveling on the Bernina Express trains in Switzerland cheaper. All Swiss Railways discount cards and deals may be applied including the Swiss Pass, half-fare, and junior cards. Eurail and Interrail passes are also accepted. The Graubünden Pass gives spectacular value for holidaymakers in this lovely Alpine canton of Switzerland. The obligatory seat reservation fee is never discounted but can be avoided altogether by using regular regional trains on the same tracks. Last-minute bookings sometimes give spectacular discounts. Special day-trip tours from Milan include bus travel to and from the Bernina Express stations, while interesting tour options are often available in Switzerland.

Reservations for the Bernina Express Train Panoramic Cars in 2024

Bernina Express - Bernina Express in front of the mountain Cambrena. Bernina Express
© Rhaetische Bahn: Donatsch

Traveling on the luxury Bernina Express trains with its huge panorama windows always requires seat reservations. This reservation fee is always charged, even for children, Swiss PassJunior Card, and other passes.

In 2024, a slightly new reservation fee scheme is used: if traveling only on the stretch between St Moritz and Tirano (or v.v.) the seat reservation is CHF28 all year. If traveling the longer route, the reservation is CHF36 from 1 May 2024 to 31 October 2024, and CHF32 for the rest of the year. The reservation fees for Bernina Express seats are the same whether traveling first or second class.

The reservation fee is per seat, per train – interrupting the journey requires a second reservation if another Bernina Express train is used. Similarly, a separate reservation is needed for traveling on the Bernina Express Bus between Tirano and Lugano.

In 2024, the reservation fees for the Bernina Express bus are CHF14 (CHF16 in the high season).

Bernina Express - A group of travellers on board the Bernina Express in Second Class, with the train conductor.
© Rhaetische Bahn: Fuchs

Reservations may be made up to minutes before the actual departure or well in advance. It is easily done online at Rhaetian Railways, where the exact seat may be selected from the diagram. Note that the direction of travel of the train is not guaranteed, although the first-class wagons are usually at the front.

The reservation and ticket purchase for the Bernina Express may be done in two separate transactions. Reserve in advance to guarantee a seat, but if the weather turns out absolutely miserable, simply don’t buy a ticket for travel. (The reservation fee is of course lost forever.)

Sample Fares on the Bernina Express Panoramic Trains

Bernina Express Train in Sankt Moritz

The price of tickets for traveling on the Bernina Express trains is the same as for traveling on regular regional trains using the same tracks – sometimes the Bernina Express panoramic cars are even attached to the rear of a regular train. The only price difference is the obligatory reservation fee for the Bernina Express.

The Bernina Express crosses the famous Brusio Circular Viaduct
© Rhaetische Bahn: Murbach

Sample fares without the reservation fee for the Bernina Express in second class (first class) are:

  • Chur to Tirano – CHF66 (CHF113)
  • St Moritz to Tirano – CHF33 (CHF57)
  • Tirano to Lugano by bus – CHF34

Travel to Poschiavo is around CHF8 cheaper.

The Bernina Express Bus from Tirano to Lugano is CHF125 plus the reservation fee.

A return ticket is simply double the single fare and thus gives no savings.

Dogs may be taken on the Bernina Express — small dogs travel free in a transport container or basket. For larger dogs, a half-price ticket adult ticket for second class is required (even if traveling first class). A dog day ticket may in some instances be cheaper at CHF25.

Bicycles are not allowed on the Bernina Express — use the alternative regional express trains.


Savings Fares and Discount Tickets for the Bernina Express Train

Rhätische Bahn (Rhaetian Railways) Train on the Albula Line

Although the Rhätische Bahn is a separate company from Swiss Railways, all regular Swiss Railways discounts and savings passes may be used. The half-fare card, which cuts virtually all public transportation fees in Switzerland in half, is often the most useful. Special short-term, one-month, international half-fare cards are available for non-Swiss residents. Eurail and Interrail passes are accepted and are great value for traveling in Switzerland.

Map of the Rhaetian Railways

Two special regional travel passes are only valid on public transportation in Graubünden:

  1. UNESCO Welterbe Pass – unrestricted travel on two days (within four) on trains on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listed railway line between Thusis and Tirano, excluding travel on the Bernina and Glacier Express trains. However, it may be used on the regular hourly trains on the same route.
  2. Graubünden Pass – valid for 2 days (within 7) or 5 days (within 14) – this pass covers almost all trains and buses within the canton Graubünden (or in a cheaper version for smaller regions).

The Rhaetian Railways sometimes have special deals for travel on the Bernina Express (and other trains in Graubünden) making it worth a peek at its website before booking. In 2024, a special last-minute deal allows for return travel in second class from Chur or St Moritz to Tirano for CHF99 or Chur to Tirano return for CHF109 including the reservation fee in both directions. Last-minute in this case is an online booking within six days of travel.

Save on Bernina Express Train Tickets with Day-Trip Tours and Group Bookings

Day-trip tours, especially from Milan but also from other destinations in both Switzerland and Italy, may offer good deals and include transportation to and from the Bernina Express departure and destination stations.

Swiss Railways also often have RailAway package deals with discount combination sightseeing admission or event tickets that may offer further savings on train travel. Many travel agents offer package deals combining Swiss train travel with hotel reservations in package deals, which can offer considerable savings over separate bookings. In the off-season, free upgrades to first-class travel are often available in such package deals.

Several British travel agents such as Rail Discoveries and Great Rail Journeys specialize in train travel and have package deals cheaper than booking various trains and hotels separately. Some of these group journeys use train travel from Britain to Europe while some fly travelers to Switzerland.

Swiss railway passes and train tickets are sold in the USA by RailEurope – exchange rates and foreign credit card charges can sometimes make a difference in prices. Both the Eurail and Interrail passes are valid on the Bernina Express.


Children Travel (Almost) for Free on Swiss Trains

Glacier Express Train

For travelers with children 6 to 16, the Junior Card is often the best public transportation deal in Switzerland. It cost CHF30 per year but allows the child to travel for free when a parent (very broadly defined) has a valid ticket. It pays for itself on a Chur to Tirano journey.

The Junior Card may be added for free to almost any international Swiss Railways travel card, in which case it is referred to as a family card. However, the child’s name must be added at the time of purchase – it cannot be added at a later stage.

Children under 6 travel for free on public transportation in Switzerland

The obligatory reservation fee for the Bernina Express and other trains or buses is not discounted for children.

Bernina Express running beside Lake Bianco
© Rhaetische Bahn – Raso

Cheaper Regular Regional Trains on the Bernina and Albula Lines

Second Class on a Rhätische Bahn Regional Train

Regular regional trains of the Rhätische Bahn operate on the same tracks and with higher frequency than the luxury Bernina Express trains.

The fares for regular regional trains on the same routes as the Bernina Express trains are the same, except for saving the reservation fee. Regional trains stop more frequently – allowing sightseeing at more sites – but are hardly slower than the Bernina Express. On longer journeys train changes may be required on regional trains but even these barely add to the overall traveling time.

A good option, when planning sightseeing along a return journey, is to enjoy the convenience of the direct Bernina Express one way and to return with sightseeing stops en route on the regional trains.

Second Class on an older Rhätische Bahn Regional Train

The express in “Bernina Express” indicates that the train does not stop very frequently – its actual speed is no faster (or slower) than regular trains using the same tracks.

Regional trains in Switzerland are generally very comfortable too. The exact train and seats will be known only when boarding the train – many travelers find the seats in the older wagons more comfortable. In contrast to the always air-conditioned panoramic cars of the Bernina Express, some regional trains only have heating but windows can be opened for great views and non-glare photos too.

First vs Standard Second Class Tickets on Swiss Trains?

Bernina Express Train in Davos

First Class or Second Class? First-class tickets are almost twice the price of second class but some may find the spacious seats and fewer passengers worth the splurge. (However, first-class seats often sell out and are particularly popular with rail pass travelers.)

On the Bernina Express panoramic window cars, seats in second class are comfortable and usually spaced two on each side of the aisle, often making seating for a group of four. First-class seats are a bit wider with two seats on one side and only a single seat on the opposite end of the aisle.

Panoramic Windows of the Bernina Express Train

The Bernina Express trains do not have a restaurant car or at-seat restaurant service as on the Glacier Express. A trolley with coffee and snacks usually operates on the train but it may take hours before it comes by. Bringing a picnic and own drinks is a cheaper (and generally much better tasting) option. Swiss Railways coffee is surprisingly good but comes at a price.

A few points to keep in mind when picking seats:

  • The reservation map will indicate the exact position and grouping of seats.
  • Being in the first or last wagon of the train gives the best views of the train on sharp turns and switchbacks.
  • Trains generally maintain the direction of travel for the entire journey.
  • The direction of travel of the train is not guaranteed. The first-class wagons are usually at the front but may end up at the rear on the day of travel.
View of the Poschiavo Lake in Switzerland

Traveling from north to south is probably a bit more interesting, as the view looking down from the Alps when coming over the Bernina Pass and around Alp Grüm is nothing short of spectacular. Going up the mountain of course improves the view constantly too but the surprise element of suddenly looking down the valley is missed when traveling northwards.

In winter, the final travel may be in the dark on the northbound trains, which truly ruins the views.

More on Panoramic Train Journeys in Switzerland

Henk Bekker in armor

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.

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