By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for the Czech Republic?
Since point-to-point train tickets are cheap in the Czech Republic, as they are throughout Eastern Europe, a rail pass isn't likely to save you much money. The main reason to buy a rail pass in this region is to avoid the hassle of buying tickets as you go. If a rail pass happens to match the countries you plan to visit, it can be a smart choice.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. (Dashed lines show bus routes, which aren't covered by rail passes.) Also, follow the links below for:
• More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
• The basics on choosing among rail passes
• More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
• Advice on deciding between first and second class
• Fare-estimate maps outside the Czech Republic
• Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Choose one of the passes below to check prices and to buy your pass (orders are fulfilled by Rail Europe).
Extra tip #1: The European East Pass beats the price of a three- or four-country Select Pass covering the Czech Republic — just note the difference in validity periods (one month for European East Pass versus two months on the Select Pass), and that the European East Pass offers no youth discount nor free kids.
Extra tip #2: If you're considering a Czech–Germany Select Pass but your only Czech leg of train travel is between the German border and Prague, you're probably better off skipping this pass, especially given that the single-country German Rail Pass covers direct buses between Prague and Nürnberg, Munich, and Mannheim. If you're opting to take the train instead, or are headed to Prague from anywhere else in Germany (say from Berlin or Dresden), it's still cheaper to just buy a train ticket between the border and Prague (about $20 each way, be sure to buy before boarding) than to pay for this two-country pass.
Extra tip #3: If you string together more than one regional rail pass (such as a Germany Rail Pass and a European East Pass), you'll use a day from each pass when crossing the border between them.
Do I need to make seat reservations on Czech trains?
For the most part, you can hop on nearly all Czech trains with just your rail pass in hand. Only overnight trains, and some international routes, require reservations (as indicated in online train schedules).
What do rail passes cover in the Czech Republic?
Passes cover travel on all trains operated by the ČD (Czech Railways), which runs the vast majority of Czech trains. Passes don't, however, cover three privately run companies now competing with the national railway: Arriva (green trains), Regiojet (yellow trains), or GW Train Regio (orange/green trains that most notably handle the České Budějovice–Český Krumlov leg of any nondirect connections between Prague and Český Krumlov).
Besides train travel, passes also cover the following extras:
- Express buses to/from Prague and several German cities, provided you make a paid seat reservation (cheapest either with a pass that covers both the Czech Republic and Germany, or with a single-country German Rail Pass, but a little pricier if you have a single-country Czech Republic Eurail Pass or a Select Pass covering just one of the two countries)
- A handful of minor bonuses (described in materials that come with the rail pass).
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.
Czech Republic Rail Passes: Key Details
Single-country Czech Republic Eurail Pass: Valid for one month, not two, after you've activated the pass (whereas multicountry Eurail-brand passes offer a two-month window of travel). The 7 p.m. rule for night trains does not apply with this pass.
European East Pass: Covers nearly all trains in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary (but isn't accepted on Austria's "WestBahn" brand private trains). Valid for just one month, not two, after you've activated the pass. Note: This is not a Eurail-brand pass, so special Eurail promotional deals don't apply to this pass.
Central Europe Triangle Pass: Covers three train trips in a circle of either Vienna–Budapest–Prague or Vienna–Salzburg–Prague (choose your cities at time of purchase). If these specific routes fit your trip, then this pass saves money over buying separate train tickets between these cities. You can start at any listed city and travel in either direction to return to your starting point via the most direct route. For instance, Prague–Salzburg travel is covered via Linz (6/day, 1 direct, most with 2 changes), but not via Germany. Not valid on "WestBahn" brand private trains. This pass is pre-validated for your specified one-month travel period, but still needs to be activated (stamped) by a train-station staffer prior to first use, and cannot be refunded after the first day of validity. Note: This is not a Eurail-brand pass, so special Eurail promotional deals don't apply to this pass.