7

I'm preparing to travel to Stuttgart, Germany.

The following map shows cost from my nearest airport to various locations near Stuttgart.

The most economical option seems to be to go to Zurich and get a train to Stuttgart. I do not intend to stay in Zurich, but only in Stuttgart for a few days.

Is this indeed economical? Do travelers frequently do this? If yes, should I get my visa from German or Swiss embassy?

There's also the question of CHF/EUR. If I only ever have to spend on rail(which I can do online as such), does it make sense to keep CHF with me?

enter image description here

Edited to add: I had used google flights. Those were round trip costs from New Delhi, India(DEL) to Europe for a one week trip in May. Later I did realize the prices are extremely variable and keep changing a lot.

9
  • 3
    I'm surprised that Zurich is the best option. Did you check Frankfurt? The train connection is fast, only about 1 1/4 hours (as opposed to 3 hours from Zurich). Frankfurt is a major, well-connected airline hub with cheap flights from all over the world. (Oh, I see only now that you have price tags attached to the cities. OK. Try some different airlines, cheap carriers, even Lufthansa, and opodo and expedia). Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 1:37
  • 2
    I live in the Eurozone and used to travel often to Switzerland for business purposes. All those years I've never held a single CHF banknote or a coin in my hands. Virtually everything can be paid by a card (including train tickets). Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 8:01
  • 3
    Keep in mind that the train connection to Stuttgart is pretty abysmal. It still contains quite some single lane segments and given the state of DB and its punctuality, you are likely to arrive late in Stuttgart
    – Manziel
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 13:14
  • 1
    I've heard abysmal tales of the DB and that's so odd to me, @Manziel. When my father was in the Army, he was stationed in Frankfurt and told me you could set your watch by the trains. I guess things have changed in the ensuing decades...
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 16:02
  • 1
    Years of neglect, mismanagement and wrong priorities... Stuttgart is a great example for that. Given the budget wasted for the prestige project of moving the main station underground (and considering that the tunnels will already be pretty much at max capacity on the opening iff all trains are exactly on time), there could have been plenty of investment in regional rail, such as improving the single track segments on the Swabian Jura.
    – Manziel
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 9:23

9 Answers 9

16

Mark Johnson answers your questions about visas (if Germany is the main destination for your visit, you should apply for a visa from Germany, even if you fly into Switzerland or another country). As for your questions about trains and money:

You can buy a ticket for this journey either from the Swiss train operator SBB or the German train operator Deutsche Bahn. It's worth taking a minute to check both operators; both sell tickets for the same trains on this route, but sometimes one is cheaper than the other. You will want a ticket from Zürich Flughafen, the train station in the Zürich airport, to Stuttgart Hbf, the main train station in Stuttgart. The Zürich airport train station is connected to the airport; the path is very clearly marked and you will not even have to go outside. The train journey to Stuttgart will take about three hours. You can save a significant amount of money by buying your ticket in advance and for a specific train, rather than a flexible ticket that can be used on any train, but be warned that if you buy an inflexible ticket, you will not be able to use it for a later train if your flight is delayed. You can also buy a ticket at the train station on the day of travel, but this is the most expensive option.

It is true that Francs are the currency of Switzerland, but most Swiss businesses—and certainly all business in the airport or train station—will also accept cashless payments with a credit or debit card, so you should have no problem buying a train ticket or a coffee or some chocolate in the train station without withdrawing any cash. Many (but not all) businesses will also accept cash Euros as payment, but possibly at an unfavorable exchange rate.

Bonus tip: the Zürich airport train station has a couple of supermarkets in it (Coop and Migros), and buying a couple of bars of decent-quality chocolate in one of them on your way to or from your flight is one of the few good-value-for-money purchases you can make in Switzerland.

5
  • 1
    Most places in Switzerland, in my experience, will accept Euros but give change in CHF. Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 14:52
  • 1
    You can also buy a ticket at the train station on the day of travel, but this is the most expensive option — is it? I think it costs the same as buying a fully flexible ticket in advance.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 6:51
  • @gerrit that is correct, there are some exceptions like when buying a day card early in advance it will oftren be significantly discounted compared to buying on the day of travel, even though they both come with the same flexibility. Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 13:39
  • AFAIK buying the ticket through DB is cheaper than through SBB, even if it is the exact same connection.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 14:28
  • @YanickSalzmann That's an SBB thing though, the day card? I don't think that would be relevant for the OP. And I thought advance day cards had less flexibility as they aren't cancellable? It may be a great alternative for onward domestic travel from a plane, as hopefully the plane is not so much delayed that the travel date changes…!
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 17:59
12

You should apply for a visa at the consulate of the country of your main destination

  • where you will be staying the longest

In this case Germany, independent as to whether you arrive in the Schengen Area in Frankfurt, Munich or Zürich, is where you must apply for the visa.

All 3 cities have good train connections, so it a matter of checking when you arrive and the best connection time/price relation.

1
  • I live in Germany and fly from Zürich (because it's the nearest airport and has cheaper airlines). If you say you are going to Germany they will just wave you through. The border guards are (usually) just not interested.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 9:32
10

Additional information: Going through Zurich is certainly doable but the most convenient option is IMO Frankfurt.

Frankfurt airport has a high speed train station and there are plenty of non stop trains to Stuttgart directly from the airport. Takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. And you only have to deal with a single country and currency.

Most trains from Zurich will require two changes and it takes over 3 hours. Switzerland is not part of the EU so you will occasionally run into a passport check at the border (or when boarding the train). You typically can get by using a card, but everything (snacks, drinks, yummy chocolates) will be way more expensive.

Munich is somewhere in between. The airport is out in the boonies, so you always have a longish S-Bahn ride to Munich main station first.

Prices for trains are not much different.

9
  • 3
    Hilmar, Switzerland is not EU but it is Schengen so passport checks should not be done. (There can be customs checks though.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 12:13
  • 2
    @Willeke it’s actually not because it’s not the EU but rather because it’s not Germany and there is a temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders declared by Germany (and many others) home-affairs.ec.europa.eu/policies/schengen-borders-and-visa/…
    – jcaron
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 13:01
  • 1
    @Willeke: Schengen just means that they do not need to do border checks but they sure can (and do) if the want to. I got checked on the Austrian/Swiss border when riding the Inter City Bus from Munich to Zurich. My son used to live in Kleve, Germany which is a short bus ride away from Nijmegen, Netherlands. The checked the bus at the border all the time (primarily looking for weed). The train from Copenhagen Airport to Malmo has a dedicated stop for passport control (although it's not done often. Typically you just sit there for a few minutes)
    – Hilmar
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 15:31
  • 1
    In pratice passport checks at the Swiss/German border are basically non-existent, even now. Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 23:40
  • 2
    Passport checks when boarding the train in Zürich? That seems unthinkable, because the train also serves domestic traffic.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 6:52
7

I would second Hilmar's suggestion of looking at Frankfurt.

  • Frankfurt's airport is larger than Zurich, so if anything happens to your flight, you may have a better chance for a rebooking. (Larger airports may also be more prone to delays - I don't know about the track record of FRA vs. ZRH here, though.)
  • The train connections from FRA to Stuttgart are much better: it takes about 1:15 hours from FRA, vs. 3:20 hours from ZRH, and most connections from FRA are either direct or with a single change, whereas coming from ZRH, you will probably have to change trains at least twice or even more often. Far more ways for things to go wrong, and things going wrong is usually the last thing you want after a long flight in an unfamiliar country.
  • Plus, if anything goes wrong with the train, you only have the German system to worry about, rather than both the Swiss and the German ones. (Should not be a major problem though, your ticket should be valid, and both websites at bahn.de and SBB.ch are integrated and should give you the same information.)
  • The frequency of train connections is about the same, though - no need to pre-book a specific train, especially since your flight might be delayed, just buy a flexible ticket and hop on the first train.

Munich (MUC) is so far out of the way that you first have to take a train to Munich main station, that's a bit painful. From there, there are frequent direct trains to Stuttgart, though, so overall, I would consider it on par with Zurich.

Finally, Stuttgart does have its own airport (STR), with mostly regional connections. Depending on where you come from, you could fly there and take local transport to your final destination, regional trains or a taxi.

Source: I live rather close to Stuttgart and actually work close to Zurich.

4

I'm from the area, travelling frequently between Stuttgart and Switzerland.

Yes it's feasible. And if these are indeed the prices at the only time you can fly then I would go via Zurich.

Frankfurt is more convenient in terms of train connection (direct fast rail, 1.5hr, 40-55 EUR), but it's actually slightly more expensive than Zurich Airport-Stuttgart (3.5hr, 30-40 EUR) by train (due to higher train class).

Munich-Stuttgart takes similarly long as Zurich-Stuttgart but costs as much as Frankfurt-Stuttgart.

Overall the price differences of rail travel are quite small, but I don't know how tight your budget is. For some people saving 20 EUR is worth 2 hours of extra time...

If you really value saving money, you can look at bus instead of train. They are often half price of rail, but less comfortable and potentially less reliable due to traffic jams (but rail is also not that reliable) so most people don't seem to consider bus. But if you're keen on saving that's the way to go.

Given your provided flight price options, Zurich would be a no-brainer for me. Other people here seem to answer the more general question: "which city is best for travel to Stuttgart" and disregard the price difference.

3

One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet: When you fly to Germany you can add a "Rail and Fly" segment to your booking. Most airlines offer this. The cost is 30,- euro one way in second class and it equates to a flexible train ticket to anywhere in Germany. So you do not have to worry about train schedules in advance, and can just hop on the first train that comes along that goes your way.

You can book that with most airlines flying to Germany. When you do not see it offered directly try seeing what turns up if you try to book the QYG, which is the airport code for "anywhere in Germany by rail". This is even offered from Zurich, so you could still fly through there.

https://w2ticketing.com/deutsche-bahn/ https://www.bahn.de/service/buchung/bahn_und_flug/rail-and-fly-english

Note that depending on how you book this a Rail and Fly ticket may have a entirely fictitious train segment added to your booking, because the airline ticketing system cannot deal with tickets not tied to a particular service. Your ticket is nevertheless still fully flexible, and you are supposed to find out the trains you will take in the end yourself.

1

To expand on answers provided by others: I also wouldn't look at Zurich as the first choice. What you save on airfare, you may end up spending on inconvenience, especially if you end up spending an extra night in a hotel or so.

In this scenario, I would look at Munich. In part because based on the provided screenshot, the fare is lower than FRA, and in part because the train station may (or may not, depending on which terminal you arrive at) be more convenient.

Munich is Germany's second-largest airport (after Frankfurt) and also a major hub, so it has most of the same benefits as Frankfurt. But the train station is probably closer to your arrival gate than in Frankfurt (or maybe I just like Munich's layout better). The price for that is that you have to change trains at the Munich main station (Hauptbahnhof).

Last time I flew into Frankfurt (which is way too long ago, and may be outdated - others may be able to provide more up-to-date information), the long-distance train service from Frankfurt Airport had been discontinued, so in FRA, too, you might need to take a train into the city to the main station.

2
  • 3
    Bahn.de offers a lot of connections from Frankfurt am Main Flughafen Fernbahnhof to Stuttgart Hbf. FRA is not the kind of train station where you simply discontinue service... there may have been problems at some point, but they probably were fixed the next day. Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 10:23
  • 1
    @StephanKolassa You are probably right about today's situation. I do recall that in the past, long distance service to Frankfurt Flughafen was in fact "permanently" discontinued because ICE trains did not fit into the tunnels, and IC trains had been demoted to local-ish service. At the time, the only option was to take the S-Bahn to Hauptbahnhof. It shouldn't surprise me that apparently, a new Fernbahnhof was built since I last was in Frankfurt. I must be older than I thought that I missed that ;-) Thanks for the correction. Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 4:05
0

Why not fly directly to Stuttgart? Just looking at the map you posted any savings you make by going to a cheaper airport would be lost by the costs of transportation to Stuttgart. Some tickets fly via FRAnkfurt and will include the connecting flight or a high-speed train link onward to Stuttgart.

Also, Switzerland is very expensive compared to the Eurozone so any snacks etc may hurt your budget.

2
  • 3
    Difference between the plane tickets is 330 USD. Costs of transportation to Stuttgart by train is an order of magnitude smaller.
    – whoisit
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 12:45
  • 1
    You are right. I am surpised to see that tickets for the 3:30h journey are between €20 and €40. Much cheaper than I expected...
    – paul
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 14:26
-4

I might be unaware of something, but in my experience traveling from Switzerland to Stuttgart is extremely painful. The Swiss train system (SBB) takes you as far as Basel Badischer Bahnhof, which is the Deutsche-Bahn (German railway) station in Switzerland. From there you will have to travel by local trains with two (or more) changes on small stations.

As suggested in other answers, you would do much better traveling to Frankfurt or to Strasbourg (or even Paris) and taking an express train from there (ICE in Germany or TGV, if you start from France, i.e., from Strasbourg/Paris.)

An intermediate option is traveling to Mulhouse-Basel-Freiburg airport, and continuing from there via Freiburg, using German railways - it is likely to involve changing trains.

4
  • 4
    This is not true. The first link that Google currently shows from Zürich Flughafen to Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof is a direct local train to Zürich Hauptbahnhof, and then a direct train to Stuttgart with 7 stops. None of the trains go anywhere near Basel. Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 14:55
  • 1
    There is no rail link from Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport (yet). Getting from the airport to Freiburg involves a nearly hour-long, relatively infrequent bus trip. And once you are in Freiburg, it takes 2 hours and one change to get to Stuttgart. Not much better via Basel.
    – jcaron
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 16:24
  • @jcaron every half hour or so, as far as I remember.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 17:00
  • The main train connection between Zürich and Stuttgart goes through Schaffhausen (which is north of Zürich). Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 9:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .