In March 2022, Iain from Ski Flight Free travelled to Andermatt in Switzerland by train. He left London St Pancras at 08:01 GMT and arrived in Andermatt at 19:06 CET (18:06 GMT). This is his report of the journey.
Although I started in Brighton, let’s start off this blog post from London, as this is where everyone travelling by train to a ski resort will leave the UK.
I’ve travelled on Eurostar dozens of times now and the check in process is so smooth, compared to flying, that by most people’s standards I tend to cut my arrival at London St Pancras relatively fine.
So, my train from Brighton pulled in to St Pancras at 07:20 – just 41 minutes before departure. If I had been on a later departure, I would have allowed more leeway but first thing is never an issue.
I was at the Eurostar check in counters by 07:25 and in ‘departures’ by 07:40. I had enough time to visit the toilets, buy a cup of tea and still had to wait before boarding opened.
The train left exactly on time as it invariably does (unlike flying).
We arrived exactly on time in Paris Gare du Nord at 11:23. You might not be surprised to learn that I tend to cut the time required to cross Paris relatively fine as well.
My connecting train from Gare de Lyon was departing at 12:22, but it really is not difficult to cross Paris. On this occasion it took me 27 minutes platform to platform, leaving plenty of time to buy a salad and drink and even sit down to eat it before boarding opened.
I recently put together the video below to demystify the transfer across Paris. I would add that I usually have a stock of Metro tickets as I buy a carnet at a time, so I cut out any time queuing for tickets.
NB: When coming back to the UK, I do leave more time in Paris as you have to get through customs and this can be less predictable than at St Pancras. I tend to leave at least 90 minutes from arrival at Gare de Lyon to my Eurostar departure time.
If you do arrive at Gare du Nord with plenty of time to spare, if is often possible (if you ask nicely) to be given a free upgrade to an earlier train. This is exactly what happened on my return leg of this trip.
I love the Lyria trains. I always book my SNCF section of a journey to the Alps direct through their website, requesting an upstairs aisle seat, with a table, forward facing. There’s always a socket to plug into and the WiFi is more reliable than on Eurostar.
As this was a four hour journey, there was time to work and have a quick snooze. The seats are big, comfortable and the views, if you simply want to gaze, are excellent.
I had thirty minutes in Zurich until my connecting train and it was a beautiful, sunny day, so I took a short stroll out of the station and down to the river. Glorious. You don’t get this when you fly!
Sometimes you can get a direct train to Göschenen, but I had to change at Arth-Goldau. It was very simple, just a matter of walking from one platform to another, straight onto the next train.
For Andermatt, all train passengers have to change at Göschenen, as the track gauge changes to suit a cog railway train.
It was dark by this final leg of my journey, but you can still feel the excitement as the train slowly gains altitude.
Of course, we arrived exactly on time to Andermatt (note the station clock in the photo), from where it was a five minute walk to my hotel, the Radisson Blu.
It is typically more expensive to take the train than fly. Looking purely at the cost of travelling from London-Zurich, this trip cost £219.
Two-thirds of that was the journey with Eurostar from London to Paris. This was primarily because I only booked on 11 February, less than a month before travel. My timings also meant I was limited to the first departure from London and the last departure back from Paris on a Sunday evening. With more advance planning, you could take £50 off the cost of this segment.
The Paris-Zurich fare was a more reasonable €84.
I was lucky enough to be given a Swiss Travel Pass by Switzerland Tourism for the internal Swiss trains. This is a brilliant ticket that allows you travel on almost all of Switzerland’s buses, trains and ferries over a given period of time. It’s probably most useful if you are on a road trip as I was (I moved on to Aletsch Arena after Andermatt).
A point-to-point ticket may be cheaper, depending on your itinerary…but it won’t be as much fun!