The Czech Republic has an excellent network of rural railways (photo © Tomás Simek / dreamstime.com)
It is easy to explore the Czech Republic by train, and in the latest edition of Europe by Rail – published in November 2017 and fully updated and enlarged for travel in 2018 – we include some fine Czech journeys. Join us on spa diversions, on slow trains to Babylon and Kladno or on the main line from Prague to Brno and beyond.
For devotees of slow trains, and we mean very slow trains, the Czech Republic is railway heaven. The country is well served by a dense network of rural railway lines, many not shown in the regular monthly editions of the European Rail Timetable. Even such a masterpiece of compression as the European Rail Timetable cannot quite do justice to a passenger network which serves about a thousand stations.
Lesser rail routes in Bohemia in particular often recall an era of rail travel which has long disappeared in western Europe. It is a region to which we return time and time again and, so dense is the rail network, we rarely cover the same ground twice. If, like us, you find yourself becoming addicted to Bohemian branch lines, then it’s worth investing in a printed copy of the Czech national rail timetable (jízdní rád in Czech). It is published in December each year, costs just a few euros, and makes splendid fireside reading for winter evenings.
It would be interesting to hear if any dedicated track basher has even ridden the entire Czech rail network. The country’s fares system is well geared to travellers keen to cover lots of routes within a day. There are regional one-day passes, each covering one of the country’s 13 kraje. These kraje are the top-level administrative regions into which the Czech Republic is sub-divided. The passes have no time restrictions and are valid on all trains run by the dominant national operator Ceské dráhy (CD), as well as local trains within the Czech Republic run by a handful of independent operators (such as Vogtlandbahn and GW train Regio).
The price of each regional pass ranges from 159 to 239 Czech crowns, depending on the size of the region – that is about 6 to 9 euros. This is a tremendous deal but if you are really thinking of covering a lot of ground, you may want to invest in the country-wide one-day ticket. Ask for celodenní jízdenka (celá CR). This rover bargain costs 579 Czech crowns (that’s about €23). There are no supplements for travel on EC or RJ trains. The only extra is on Pendolino services (ie. those Czech trains prefixed SC in the timetable) where a seat reservation is necessary.
In some border areas of the Czech Republic, there are variants on the regional day passes which extend the validity of the pass beyond the frontier into a neighbouring country. Here’s an example. The pass for the westernmost kraj in the country covers the Karlovy Vary region. It costs 159 crowns. But there is a variant of this pass, called the EgroNet ticket, which is valid not just in Karlovy Vary kraj, but also in parts of three German states: Bavaria, Thuringia and Saxony. So a huge area, but there is one restriction – on Mondays to Fridays the EgroNet pass is not valid for travel prior to 7.30 in the morning. And the price of the EgroNet ticket, provided it’s purchased in the Czech Republic is just 200 crowns. That’s about €8. (It can be purchased in Germany, on trains within the validity area of the ticket, but then the price for exactly the same ticket is a whopping €18).
The 13 standard Czech regional passes and the network-wide one-day ticket can all be purchased in advance online on www.cd.cz. Or you can buy them on the day of travel at any staffed station or (with a small supplement) on the train. The special cross-border variants such as the EgroNet ticket can only be purchased on the day of travel, either at a booking office or with a modest surcharge on the train.
The prices quoted in this article were valid in mid-November 2017. It is likely that these prices may increase slightly for 2018.