The railway system of the Czech Republic is relatively fast, reliable and very dense. In contrast with Western Europe, train travel is inexpensive and Czech trains are very popular across all social classes. The Czech rail network is one of the densest in the world, and according to some sources it has the most kilometres of railway per square kilometre of surface area of any country. There's a distinction between "main" and "branch" lines dating to their time of construction which usually but not always reflects their current importance. Trains on the most important rail lines reach up to 160 km/h (99 mph), the maximum speed for mainland European legacy signalling equipment. The journey between the two biggest cities (Prague and Brno) takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. Most trains are operated by the state company Czech Railways (České Dráhy - ČD).
In the Czech Republic, railways are very important and form the backbone of public transport. The network contains over 9600 km of railway. The first railway - a horse drawn line linking České Budějovice in Bohemia and Linz in Austria - started operation in 1827, and was the first railway in continental Europe. Construction of the current mainlines mostly dates to the era before 1870, with most construction afterwards being branch lines or upkeep and maintenance. After the First World War and the breakup of Austria Hungary the Czechoslovak State Railways were established.
In the modern era, Czech Railways operates the vast majority of trains, although some private operators have been established, forming competition on the railways. Since the breakup of Czechoslovakia, there have been talks about new high speed rail lines. However, given the relatively small size of the Czech Republic, there would have to be cooperation with neighbouring countries, but enthusiasm, and more importantly funds, do not seem to be forthcoming. That said, the Velim railway test circuit which allows up to 230 km/h (140 mph) for tilting trains is one of Europe's most important sites for testing all types of trains prior to delivery.
Train operations consist of regional and long-distance services. Regional trains operate everywhere and with them you can get nearly anywhere. Bigger cities usually have long-distance connections to regional capitals. On most railways, trains run frequently. All trains have at least a second-class service.
- Osobní vlak (Os) - regional stopping trains. These can be a rapid transit commuter service or just a local train. You may get a new modern train with first-class or a dirty old train from the Cold War era.
- Spěšný vlak (Sp) - regional fast trains. These do not stop in some small towns and villages and offer the same mix of rolling stock as Osobní vlak.
- Rychlík (R) - long-distance express trains. These are usually modernised or new trains with first-class carriages which usually only stop in bigger cities.
- Expres (Ex) - long-distance higher-quality express trains. These stop in major cities only and, in addition to the facilities of Rx, sometimes offer a restaurant or bistro coach.
- InterCity (IC) - long-distance highest-quality national express trains. These stop in the biggest cities only and always offer a restaurant or bistro coach. Usually with mandatory seat reservation.
- EuroCity (EC) - the international equivalent of IC, just without mandatory seat reservation.
- SuperCity (SC) - long-distance highest-quality express trains. These use high-speed Pendolino tilting units. With mandatory seat reservation.
- RailJet (rj) - equivalent of EC but these use high-speed RailJet units and have additionally first-plus-class.
- EuroNight (EN) - long-distance higher-quality international night express trains. With sleeping and couchette coaches. Usually with mandatory seat reservation and always with mandatory bed/couchette reservation.
- NightJet (NJ) - equivalent of EN but these use Austrian coaches.
- LeoExpress (LE) - long-distance express trains which only stop in the bigger cities. They use the Stadler Flirt unit, and offer first-plus-class and first-class. Seat reservation is mandatory.
- RegioJet (RJ) - long-distance express trains which only stop in the bigger cities. They have new and updated coaches, and offer first-plus-class, first-class and second-minus-class.
- ArrivaExpress (AEx) - long-distance international express trains which only stop in the bigger cities.
- Trilex (TL) - usually international, stopping trains operated by Die Länderbahn using Siemens Desiro Classic units.
- TrilexExpress (TLX) - usually international, fast trains operated by Die Länderbahn with Siemens Desiro Classic units.
Train tickets sold in the Czech Republic can only be used on a single train operator. When you buy a ČD ticket from station A to station B, you can choose any ČD train of Czech Railways at any time you want to travel. However, you must travel on a given route, for example to get from A to B you must go via C. Some special discounted tickets require you to travel on a specific train. Seat reservations can be bought in addition to a ticket. If you miss train on which you have a reservation, you can travel on the next one that does not require reservations.
ČD offers many different ticket types and here are the important:
- Flexi ticket (Flexi jízdenka) - normal ticket: from A to B (possibly via C), buy it anytime, travel anytime, valid 1 day. Discounts applicable.
- Flexi return ticket (Flexi zpáteční jízdenka) - normal return ticket: from A to B (via C) and then from B to A (via C), buy it anytime, travel anytime, valid 2 days. Discount 5% from two one-way tickets. More discounts applicable.
- Flexi concessionary ticket (Flexi zvýhodněná jízdenka) - special cheaper ticket: the sooner you buy, the cheaper you go (up to 60 days before the day of travel): from A to B (via C), buy it anytime, travel anytime, valid 1 day. Return variant exists (5% off). More discounts applicable.
- Bound ticket (Vázaná jízdenka) - special even cheaper ticket available between some cities: the sooner you buy, the cheaper you go (up to 60 days before the day of travel): from A to B (via C), available in e-shop only, valid only on a selected train. More discounts applicable.
- One-off group ticket (Jednorázová skupinová jízdenka) - normal group ticket: from A to B (via C), first person in group pays full fare, second pays 75%, third and any other person pays only 50%, max 5 people, buy it anytime, travel anytime, valid 1 day. Return variant exists (5% off).
- All-day ticket (Celodenní jízdenka) - network ticket: unlimited travel during the entire day, valid in the whole of the Czech Republic or just in one region for 1 day; buy it anytime, travel anytime and anywhere.
Railways offer different types of discount based on age and other factors. The most important types of discounts are:
- Children 0-6 years - travel for free.
- Children and youths 6-18 years - a 75% discount on all Flexi and Bound tickets.
- Students 18-26 years - a 75% discount on all Flexi and Bound tickets.. You will need to prove that you are student with ISIC.
- Seniors 65+ years - a 75% discount on all Flexi and Bound tickets.
Sometimes, it can happen that a random person comes to you and tells you to give up your seat, because he/she has a seat reservation (místenka) there. This is common and and can be annoying, both for the person who was sitting there and for the person asking. To prevent this, you can buy yourself your own seat reservation. Seat reservation is free if you are buying a domestic ticket online, and costs 35 Kč if bought separately or at a ticket office. If you are crossing borders in the train, seat reservation costs 3€ (or equivalent in Kč). As Deutsche Bahn charges 4.50€ for seat reservations, you should buy seat reservations for journey where both the Czech and the German railways sell them through the Czech Railways.
If you do not have a seat reservation, you have to give up your seat to a person who has one (you can ask to see it). Sometimes, it is marked above the seat that someone has a seat reservation for a section of the journey (either with a piece of paper or on an electronic display) - in that case, it is better to sit somewhere else. If there is "expresní rezervace" (express reservation) sign, it means that seat reservations for these seats are sold in the meantime between marking seats and train departure - it is possible that someone may request this seat, but it is not very likely. The last case are seats with no marker - reservations should not be sold for these seats, but you can never really count on that. It is good to buy seat reservation usually when travelling more than 2 hours on busiest long-distance trains (usually Ex lines).
Seat reservations can be bought only for long-distance trains. In LE, SC, some RJ and some IC trains seat reservations are mandatory. For ČD trains with mandatory seat reservation, prices are higher.
In general, Czech ticket prices are cheaper than those of its western neighbors Germany and Austria, so German and Austrian cross border offers are usually aimed at residents of the respective countries and may be somewhat overpriced for the Czech part. That said, they may be rather practical nonetheless.
ČD offers many different international ticket types and here are the important:
- Basic fare NRT (Základní jízdné NRT) - normal international ticket (but quite expensive): from A to B (via C), buy it anytime, travel anytime, valid 4 days. Group and return variant exists. Discounts applicable.
- First Minute Europe (Včasná jízdenka Evropa) - special international ticket: the sooner you buy, the cheaper you go (up to 90 days before the day of travel), from A to B (via C), available between the Czech Republic and some European countries, valid only on selected international train and then 2 days. Discounts applicable.
- All-day ticket + Germany (Celodenní jízdenka + Německo) - network ticket: unlimited travel during the entire day, valid in one Czech region and in German border area for 1 day, in Germany valid only in regional trains, buy it anytime, travel anytime and anywhere. Group variant exists.
- All-day ticket + Poland (Celodenní jízdenka + Polsko) - network ticket: unlimited travel during the entire day, valid in one Czech region and in Polish border area for 1 day, in Poland valid only in regional trains, buy it anytime, travel anytime and anywhere. Group variant exists.
- EgroNet ticket (Jízdenka EgroNet) - network ticket: unlimited travel during the entire day, valid in euroregion Egrensis for 1 day, in Germany valid only in regional trains, buy it anytime, travel anytime and anywhere. Group variant exists.
- Euro-Nisa-Ticket (Jízdenka Euro-Nisa-Ticket) - network ticket: unlimited travel during the entire day, valid in Czech-Polish-German border area for 1 day, in Germany and Poland valid only in regional trains, buy it anytime, travel anytime and anywhere. Group variant exists.
- Labe-Elbe ticket (Jízdenka Labe-Elbe) - network ticket: unlimited travel during the entire day, valid in DÚK (around Usti nad Labem) and VVO (around Dresden) transport systems for 1 day, buy it anytime, travel anytime and anywhere. Group variant exists.
Also, railway operators from other countries such as the following offer many international tickets to the Czech Republic:
- Bayern Böhmen Ticket - valid for one day in the entirety of Bavaria and a bordering sliver of Bohemia from Liberec to České Budějovice. One traveller pays 28€ every additional traveller up to a group of five pays 6.60€. Only valid in regional trains on the German side.
- Sachsen Böhmen Ticket - 26€ for one person, 6.50€ for every additional person up to five. Valid in parts of Saxony and Bohemia on regional trains.
- Sparpreis and Supersparpreis Europa Tschechien - from 14.90€ (Dresden-Prague) 19.90€ (Berlin-Prague) and 29.90€ (other trips) has to be prebooked. Only valid on booked train. Only valid on trips including long distance (ICE, IC, EC) trains.
- 10er Ticket Prag - 10 Trips within any 12 month space. 199€ for Berlin-Prague; 99€ for Dresden-Prague. (Offered by Deutsche Bahn)
- Sparschiene Tschechien - prebooked tickets from Austria to various cities in the Czech Republic. Starting from 7€ for Vienna-Brno.
At the station
The station network in the Czech Republic consists of railway stations (nádraží) and railway stops (zastávka). Railway stops provide only basic facilities - usually only a shelter, and sometimes a waiting room with a ticket counter, and have 1 or 2 platforms. On the other hand, railway stations usually provide ticket counters, waiting rooms and shops. The most important stations - main train stations - called hlavní nádraží, usually have even more - luggage storage, more shops, more ticket counters and more platforms.
Slightly misleadingly, platform (nástupiště) and track (kolej) are not the same thing in Czechia. For example, in the UK, "platform" has the meaning of one platform edge. In Czechia, "platform" has the meaning of the whole area used by passengers between two tracks (or between the station building and a track), and "tracks" are numbered in the order in which they are placed from the station building, regardless of whether or not they have a platform beside them. Some smaller stations only have one platform by the station building, and several tracks leading outwards from it, which can be walked across once the train arrives (but should not be crossed before it arrives).
Every station has its own schedule posters with departures and arrivals. The yellow one is for departures (odjezdy) and the white one is for arrivals (příjezdy). Also, stations have usually electronic departure boards (and sometimes even electronic arrival boards) that usually show category, number, name, line, carrier, destination, direction, time, platform, track and delay of the connection. It also shows if it is a long-distance train or a high-quality train, in which case the category is highlighted in red or white, respectively. If the time is flashing, it means that the train is about to depart.
Important terms that might appear on a departure board are:
- spoj zrušen = train is cancelled
- spoj jede odklonem = train is rerouted
- spoj je nahrazen náhradní autobusovou dopravou = train is replaced by a bus replacement service
- spoj ukončil jízdu v ... = train ended in ...
When getting on board long-distance trains it is good to know where your carriage will stop. You will find that on train composition list at the station. Carriages are usually numbered by 3-digit codes. However, you will only find where in the train the carriage will be, not where on the platform.
On the train you can occupy any available seat in the selected travel class, like in many other European countries. Be aware that on long-distance trains it is possible to have seat reservations. Seats are usually numbered by 2-digit codes. Reservations for beds and couchettes are always compulsory.
These are the most important types of carriages. Sometimes carriages are mixed with two types (for example a carriage both with 1st and 2nd class).
- 1st class carriages - offer high comfort of travel. Seat arrangement: 2+1 or 3+0 in compartment coach.
- 2nd class carriages - offer normal comfort of travel. Seat arrangement: 2+2 or 4+0/3+0 in compartment coach.
- Restaurant carriages - offer high-quality meals from its own kitchen served in its own dining room. When the train is in Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary prices are reasonable, but they are two to three times higher outside these countries.
- Bistro carriages - offer snacks and lower-quality meals in a bar-type room. When the train is in Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary prices are reasonable, but they are two to three times higher outside these countries.
- Sleeping cars - offer high-quality over-night travel in normal beds. Bed arrangement: 1-3 beds in one compartment.
- Couchette cars - offer lower-quality over-night travel in normal 2nd class compartment with couchettes. Couchette arrangement: 4-6 couchettes in one compartment.
- Baggage car - some older long distance trains still have baggage cars, in which you can store your bicycles for a fee. Be sure to tell the conductor where you intend to get off the train.
The Czech Republic is well-connected with European railway network. It has a total of 31 railway border crossings with passenger services. Regional and long-distance services provide usually fast, comfortable and reliable international connections. You can easily get to capitals of (not only) neighbouring countries. Sleeping trains (or direct coaches) are also operated to many destinations. You can use IDOS to find your connection. Here you can find lists of long-distance international trains, lines and direct coaches.
- rj "Vindobona": Prague - Pardubice - Brno - Vienna - Graz, line , 6h45min, 8 times a day, 1 train ends in Vienna.
- RJ "RegioJet": Prague - Pardubice - Brno - Vienna, 4h, 4 times a day.
- EC "Moravia"/"Polonia"/"Sobieski": Poland - Ostrava - Vienna, line , 2h50min (Ostrava - Vienna section), every train once a day.
- Ex "Jižní expres": Prague - České Budějovice - Linz, line , 4h05min, 4 times a day.
- NJ "NightJet": Germany - Poland - Ostrava - Vienna, 4h30min (Ostrava - Vienna section), once a day, with compulsory reservation.
- EC "Berliner": Prague - Ústí n/L - Dresden - Berlin - Hamburg, line , 6h45min, 5 times a day, 2 trains end in Berlin, 1 continues to Kiel.
- EC "Hungaria": Hungary - Slovakia - Brno - Pardubice - Prague - Ústí n/L - Dresden - Berlin - Hamburg, line , 9h40min (Brno - Hamburg section), once a day.
- EC "Porta Bohemica": Prague - Ústí n/L - Dresden - Leipzig, line , 3h30min, once a day.
- Ex "Západní expres": Prague - Pilsen - Regensburg - Munich, line , 5h35min, 7 times a day.
- NJ "NightJet": Austria - Ostrava - Poland - Berlin, 7h45min (Ostrava - Berlin section), once a day.
Also, regional trains are operated on Klatovy - Železná Ruda - Zwiesel line, Domažlice - Cham line, Cheb - Marktredwitz - Nuremberg line, Cheb - Hof line, Cheb - Plauen line, Sokolov - Zwickau/Plauen line, Karlovy Vary - Johanngeorgenstadt - Zwickau line, Chomutov - Annaberg-Buchholz - Chemnitz line, Děčín - Bad Schandau line, Rumburk - Bad Schandau line, Seifhennersdorf - Varnsdorf - Zittau line and on Liberec - Zittau - Dresden line.
- EC/Ex "Varsovia": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Ostrava - Katowice - Warsaw, line , 8h05min-8h15min, 3 times a day, 1 train starts in Ostrava.
- EC "Cracovia": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Ostrava - Kraków, line , 7h, once a day, this train also carries direct coaches from Hungary (via Slovakia and Ostrava).
- EC "Sobieski": Austria - Ostrava - Katowice - Warsaw - Gdańsk - Gdynia, line , 7h50min (Ostrava - Gdynia section), once a day.
- EC "Polonia": Austria - Ostrava - Katowice - Warsaw, line , 4h05min (Ostrava - Warsaw section), once a day.
- EC "Moravia": Austria - Ostrava - Katowice, line , 1h55min (Ostrava - Katowice section), once a day.
- EC "Báthory": Hungary - Slovakia - Ostrava - Katowice - Warsaw, line , 5h (Ostrava - Warsaw section), once a day, this train also carries direct coaches from Prague (via Pardubice, Olomouc and Ostrava).
- EN "Chopin": Bohumín - Kraków - Warsaw, 6h05min, once a day, this train also carries direct coaches from Austria (via Ostrava) and from Prague (via Pardubice, Olomouc and Ostrava).
- NJ "NightJet": Austria - Ostrava - Opole - Wrocław - Zielona Góra - Germany, 5h30min (Ostrava - Zielona Góra section), once a day.
Note that all long-distance trains in/to Poland are with mandatory seat reservation.
Also, regional trains are operated on Tanvald - Szklarska Poreba - Jelenia Góra line, Trutnov - Sedzislaw line, Teplice n.M. - Wałbrzych line, Ústí nad Orlicí - Klodzko line, Jeseník - Glucholazy - Krnov line, Bohumín - Katowice/Racibórz line and on Český Těšín - Cieszyn line.
- EC "Metropolitan": Prague - Pardubice - Brno - Bratislava - Hungary, line , 4h (Prague - Bratislava section), 7 times a day, 1 train starts in Brno, 1 ends in Bratislava (EC "Metropolitan Slovenská Strela", this train also carries direct coaches to Prešov via Zvolen and Košice).
- EC "Hungaria": Germany - Ústí n/L - Prague - Pardubice - Brno - Bratislava - Hungary, line , 5h35min (Ústí n/L - Bratislava section), once a day.
- RJ "RegioJet": Prague - Pardubice - Brno - Bratislava, 3h50min, 4 times a day.
- EC "Báthory": Poland - Ostrava - Bratislava - Hungary, line , 2h50min (Ostrava - Bratislava section), once a day.
- EC/Ex "Ostravan": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Ostrava - Žilina, line , 5h10min, 3 times a day.
- SC "Pendolino Košičan": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Ostrava - Žilina - Poprad - Košice, 7h20min, line , h, once a day, with compulsory seat reservation.
- R "Fatra": Ostrava - Žilina - Banská Bystrica - Zvolen, line , 4h05min, 4 times a day, 1 train ends in Banská Bystrica.
- RJ "RegioJet": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Ostrava - Žilina - Vrútky - Poprad - Košice, 8h-8h15min, 3 times a day, 1 train ends in Vrútky.
- LE "LeoExpress": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Ostrava - Žilina - Poprad - Prešov - Košice, 8h20min-8h35min, twice a day, with compulsory reservation.
- Ex "Valašský expres": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Žilina, line , 5h25min, 6 times a day.
- AEx "ArrivaExpress": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Trenčín - Nitra, 6h25min, once a day.
- EN "Slovakia": Prague - Pardubice - Olomouc - Ostrava - Žilina - Poprad - Košice - Humenné, 12h20min, once a day, this train also carries direct coaches to Poprad.
- EN "Metropol": Břeclav - Bratislava - Hungary, 50min (Břeclav - Bratislava section), once a day, this train also carries direct coaches from Prague (via Pardubice and Brno) and from Germany and Poland (via Ostrava) .
Romantic local railways
Romantické lokálky are railways reminding of old good times. These railways can be nearly considered as a heritage from the second half of the 20th century. They are literally living history as they are not modernized and keeping them in service requires all of the old-school professions that on modern railways serve technologies. Also, trains running on these railways are often nearly historic. Nobody cares about these railways in nationwide scale. They are usually quite scenic as the trains on them pass through nice countryside. However, the number of those railways is fastly decreasing as regional authorities want to make them modern, safe and comfortable, though it will make them less interesting and adventurous.
- 1 Upper Sázava Pacific (Horní Posázavský Pacifik) (Čerčany - Světlá n/S). One of the most-known local railway. The whole railway lies in Sázava River Valley in a picturesque hilly landscape. Also, it serves important tourist attractions like Zruč nad Sázavou, Český Šternberk Castle or Sázava Monastery.
- 2 Nova Domus Local Railways (Jindřichohradecké Místní Dráhy) (Jindřichův Hradec - Nová Bystřice). JHMD is a true narrow-gauge romantic local railway. Heritage diesel and steam trains pass through the forests, fields and meadows of South Bohemia in a tourist region known as the "Czech Canada".
- 3 Moldava Mountain Railway (Moldavská horská dráha) (Most - Moldava v/K/h). This scenic railway in North Bohemia offers everything from Ore Mountains. Trains depart from industrial city and arrive in beautiful nature. This mountain railway is one of the most romantic in the region. It is very popular both in summer and in winter, as hiking and cross-country skiing are one of the best things that you can do there.
- 4 Altum Vadum Electric Railway (Vyšebrodská elektrická dráha) (Rybník - Lipno n/V). This local electric railway near borders with Austria and Šumava leads to Lipno n/V where the biggest water dam in the Czech Republic was built. It has big both economic and touristic importance. Trains on this route also stop in Vyšší Brod where famous monastery lies. Note, that trains are usually hauled by electric locomotives only in summer.
- 5 Osoblaha Narrow-Gauge Railway (Osoblažská úzkokolejka) (Třemešná v/S - Osoblaha). This romantic railway in Northern Czech Silesia is the only narrow-gauge railway operated by ČD. It lies in forgotten countryside under Jeseníky mountains, near borders with Poland.
A lot of railway lines in the country were put out of service in the second half of the 20th century. Usually due to lack of passengers, cargo or money. Some of them remained almost untouched, only nature (or thieves and vandals) took care of them and they are today very attractive to railway enthusiasts as you can (sometimes with a bit of struggle) walk them through.
- 1 Loket Local Railway (Loketská místní dráha) (Loket - Horní Slavkov). This railway is one of the most romantic in the republic, also, it is the oldest local railway in the republic. Unfortunately, the line does not have any services. However, viaducts, tunnels and the railway itself have not been dismantled, although they are in bad condition.
As railway has a strong tradition in the Czech Republic, there are many railway museums. Most of them are small, but some of them are big. The vast majority of them are worth a visit.
- 1 Railway museum Lužná u Rakovníka (Železniční muzeum Lužná u Rakovníka), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Biggest railway museum in Czechia at former railway depot of Lužná railway station. Features many steam engines, unique historic locomotives and wagons and more. In summer saison dispatches steam trains, usually to/from Prague. Interesting day trip from Prague. 90 Kč.
- 2 National Technical Museum (Národní technické muzeum Praha) (tram stop Letenské náměstí), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A large museum in Prague. Trains are just a part of its exhibition, but the huge steam engine in the main hall is really impressive. Adultsː 220 Kč Senors/students/childrenː 100 Kč.
- 3 Prague Public Transport Museum (Muzeum MHD) (Tram station Vozovna Střešovice). While not a strictly railway museum, this huge public transportation museum includes many historical tramways and buses. You can go there using historical tram number 41, which goes through the city center and costs only 35 Kč payable onboard. 50 Kč.
Historical trains and railway events
In Czech Republic, there is a strong tradition of historical train rides and numerous events with historical trains. These usually include steam engines, but also old diesel trains are growing in popularity. Such events are especially popular among families with children and railway fans. You can find extensive events list on Czech Railway fans website or at the official site of Czech Railways, which host many of these events. In summer, there is a historical train running somewhere in Czech Republic every weekend, sometimes from Prague. Company KŽC runs historical diesel trains every weekend in Prague and many other places. Online resources are often only in Czech, but you can also ask at Prague Main Railway Station in Czech Railways information office (next to cash desks).
- Railway Day (Den železnice). A huge railway event, at which you can see numerous steam engines, ride a steam train or see the newest trains. This yearly event takes place in September, and usually has one main venue (National Railway Day) and around seven smaller venues (Regional Railway Day). Venues are usually in bigger cities, National Railway Day is in different city every years.
- Children's day in Prague - Braník (Den dětí v Praze-Braník). Every year around Children's day (1st June), there is an event on the railway station Praha - Braník in Prague. You can check some steam engines or ride a historical train in numerous routes.