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How to Use the Swiss Travel Pass on the Bernina Express in 2024

The Bernina Express is a bucket list train journey covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.

Imagine sitting comfortably on this panoramic train, steadily climbing towards the highest point across stunning viaducts. In your hands is the Swiss Travel Pass, your best travel companion on the Bernina Express.

The fabulous Bernina Express train journey is included in the Swiss Travel Pass. This means that you will not have to buy a separate ticket as long as you hold a valid pass.

In this informative overview, we'll guide you through the ins and outs of using the Swiss Travel Pass on the Bernina Express. Whether you want to know how to maximize your pass's value, understand the routes and schedules, download a Bernina Express map, or uncover hidden gems, we've got you covered.

Understanding the Bernina Express

The Bernina Express holds a special place in our hearts among the premium panoramic trains of Switzerland. We have dedicated an ultimate guide to the Bernina Express that goes into great depth about every aspect.

Here’s a snapshot to get you up to speed. The Bernina Express is a roughly 4-hour, 20-minute scenic train journey from eastern Switzerland to Italy. The narrow gauge train shares the route between Chur and Samedan with its sister train, the Glacier Express. One of the highlights is the crossing of the Landwasser Viaduct, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

South of Pontresina, the Bernina Express climbs 2253 meters above sea level at Ospizio Bernina, then descends through fir trees down to Tirano, Italy.

Bernina Express entering a tunnel
Bernina Express entering a tunnel

Traveling with the Swiss Travel Pass on the Bernina Express

If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you're in luck! The pass covers the entire Bernina Express line from Switzerland to Italy.

There’s one caveat: the Swiss Travel Pass only provides free rides on the regularly scheduled regional trains. In other words, you can ride the same tracks as the Bernina Express while seated on a local train with locals and other tourists.

Insider tip: to upgrade your experience on a local train, locate an unreserved seat in one of the first-class compartments at either end of the train.

The Allegra engines hauling the Bernina Express each have modern first-class sections with unreserved seats. These iconic red engines are indicated by a yellow stripe, offering first-class seating on a first-come-first-served basis.

This comes in handy during off-peak travel periods. But we highly recommend reserving a seat during most times of the year. The Bernina Express is very popular among Swiss locals, who often do not reserve seats.

So, to fully enjoy the panoramic windows and amenities of the Bernina Express train, you'll need to purchase a seat reservation. While seat reservations incur a fee, this is the most hassle-free way to use the Swiss Travel Pass on the Bernina Express.

Riding the Bernina Express with the Swiss Travel Pass

When embarking on a memorable trip on the Bernina Express, careful planning is essential to make the most of this scenic train journey. Here is a step-by-step instruction to help you plan your trip:

1. Check the Bernina Express Route

Familiarize yourself with the Bernina Express route to understand the different landscapes and iconic landmarks you will encounter. From Swiss farmland to raging rivers and high-alpine peaks to charming Engadine villages, the journey promises captivating views at every turn.

2. Bernina Express First Class vs. Second Class Seats

The Bernina Express offers first and second-class compartments. First class provides a more luxurious experience with fewer seats and extra legroom. The second class still offers comfortable seating, yet less space and a more affordable price.

In short, the key difference between first and second-class cars on trains is the seating layout:

  • First-class seats are arranged 2 plus 1 across the car width. Tables for two are located on either side of the aisle.
  • Second-class seats are arranged 2 plus 2 across the car width. Tables for two on either side of the aisle are shared among four passengers. 
Bernina Express First-Class Seat Chart

Bernina Express First-Class Seat Chart
Bernina Express Second-Class Seat Chart

Bernina Express Second-Class Seat Chart
Bernina Express First-Class Compartment
Bernina Express First-Class Compartment

3. Choosing a Seat with the Best Views

You can sit wherever you like on the Bernina Express, but the best views are on the right-hand side of the train going south and the left-hand side going north. The most spectacular views include the Brusio Spiral, the Ospizio Bernina area, and the Landwasser Viaduct.

Swiss Travel Pass Bernina Express Crossing Landwasser Viaduct in Winter

And if you're lucky and find a seat in the very front of an Allegra engine, the driver might leave their blinds up to reveal an amazing POV across their shoulder. Alternate windows open wide for fresh air and reflection-free photography. For this reason, many travelers actually prefer the Allegra to the panoramic cars.

4. Make a Bernina Express Seat Reservation

To secure a guaranteed spot on the panoramic carriages of the Bernina Express, we highly recommend making a seat reservation in advance. This is especially true during peak travel seasons when the train line can get crowded.

Although the Swiss Travel Pass covers your train fare, a separate reservation fee is required to secure your seat. Given the popularity of the Bernina Express, we recommend making your seat reservation as early as possible, especially during peak travel seasons.

  • Be sure to have your travel dates, class, and preferred seating options ready when making the reservation. The Bernina Express operates daily.
  • Head to the official Bernina Express website to reserve a seat. Click through the ordering process and select your desired seat - just like when buying an airplane ticket.
  • At the end, where you enter the passengers, select “Swiss Travel Pass” as the “Reduction.” This will effectively remove the train fare. You will only pay the CHF 36.00 reservation fee.
  • Once complete, you will receive a “print at home” QR code.

Seat reservations on the Bernina Express are available 365 days before the travel date. Children under six who don't need their own seats pay no reservation fee. Children aged six to 16 must purchase a child ticket and pay for an adult reservation.

Remember that seat reservations are subject to availability, so we advise booking as early as possible, especially during peak travel seasons. And note our advice on how to ride in modern first-class seats without a seat reservation.

5. Plan Connecting Trains

The Bernina Express journey from Chur to Tirano takes approximately 4 hours 20 minutes. On the day of your journey, arrive at the designated train station early to allow enough time for checking in.

If you are planning to continue your trip to Milan or other parts of Switzerland, it's essential to familiarize yourself with train connections.

And finally, it is possible to hop off the Bernina Express anywhere it stops. You could visit the train museum in Bergün, stroll through St. Moritz, or see the Morteratsch Glacier. Once you get done exploring, you can easily continue on an hourly regional train to the final destination. That way, you can see places along the route but complete the entire Bernina Express.

Are you ready to ride the Bernina Express?

The Swiss Travel Pass is the ultimate ticket to explore the captivating beauty of the Bernina Express train line. With its panoramic windows and breathtaking landscapes, this bucket list train adventure is truly an experience of a lifetime.

Remember, the Swiss Travel Pass covers the cost of the train ride, giving you the freedom to sit back, relax, and take in the awe-inspiring views without worrying about additional expenses. You must pay for the seat reservation or “hack” your Swiss Travel Pass by hopping on a local train without mandatory reservations…


Dimitri Burkhard

As the founder, editor, and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of Swiss Travel Communicators. Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.

Dimitri Burkhard

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