Sticking around Prague this holiday season but wanting to venture out and see some nearby countries? Wondering the best way to travel? Well read on, we’ve got some info for you!
One of the great things about living in Prague – and there are many great things – is its centrally located location in Europe. The Czech Republic is known as “The Heart of Europe” for good reason and we are surrounded by excellent cities for a bit of touristing. From Bratislava to Warsaw, from Berlin to Vienna, or even Budapest, you can get to our neighboring countries relatively easily and, if you’d like to hop further abroad to places like Paris or London, for example, you only have to take a flight for around 2 hours.
Since it’s December, we thought we’d present some options for a little nearby getaway in case you’re thinking of sticking around this holiday season. So let’s dive into some options from the easiest (aka shortest or most comfortable), to the longest and, perhaps, least comfortable.
TRAVEL BY CAR
There are a number of car rental agencies in Prague and, depending on the type of vehicle you want to rent, prices can go from “not too bad at all,” to “wow, that’s pricey” pretty fast.
The first thing you’ll need to sort out is an international drivers license if you’ve been here a while. Now, technically, the law says that if you’re living here more than three months and intend to drive you need to take a Czech Driving course as U.S. licenses are not able to be exchanged 1-1, but if you’re an EU citizen living here, you’re going to have a far easier time.
In a city with such great public transport, perhaps not driving was part of the appeal of Prague for you and I don’t blame you at all for that. It’s a fantastic city for getting around by tram, bus, or metro… but if you want to rent a car, you’re going to need that license.
The good news is there are companies that will get you an International Drivers License in no time at all. With some, you can even print it out yourself. You’ll just need to have a digital copy of a passport-like photo to upload.
Once you’ve got your license, you’re now free to drive about, though again, if you want to drive year-round in Czech, you’re going to need to take that course… which is quite expensive and no less than 28 hours. Yikes.
So. Car rental companies. All of the usual suspects are available here, or most anyway. Probably the most popular local company is Sixt. Sixt car rentals has locations at the main airport, main train station, the Florenc Bus Terminal, one in Old Town Square, and one in Wenceslas Square.
After looking up a five day rental, the low end of the price was a VW Polo (that’s a four door, compact car with five seats, a manual transmission, and room for one large suitcase in the trunk) at 1,087 Kč per day. The high end (a Mercedes C-Class “Combi” or similar BMW with an automatic transmission) will run you 3,901 Kč per day as a base.
Looking at Budget Car Rental (also at Vaclav Havel airport), if you reserve and pay online, there’s a slight discount, but prices are higher than at Sixt and calculated in Euro.
It all comes down to, ultimately, what you’re willing to pay and whether you want the convenience of being in control of travel time and stops. You could, for example, plot out a proper trip and make strategic stops along the way to see more than one place. Gas (as of the time of this writing) seems to be hovering around 32 or 33 Kč a gallon and you’d need to factor that in. A full tank on the average economy car would run somewhere around 1600-1800 Kč.
There’s also the issue of highway placards. Driving in Czech requires a pass to utilize portions of local highways. These passes can be purchased at almost any fuel station and come in a variety of configurations with 10-day being the minimal purchase (it’ll run you just over 300 Kč). Altogether it’s starting to sound pretty pricey, but if you were to travel with friends, you could share the cost of everything which would then bring the overall down.
Should you decide to travel by car, make sure to know at least the basic signage and traffic laws not only in Czech, but in whatever countries you’re planning to travel to.
Here are the distances (in hours) of travel to a number of nearby cities using Vaclav Havel Airport as the starting point… Traffic/road closures not taken into account.
Prague to Dresden: 1 hour and 46 minutes without stops.
Prague to Bratislava: 3 hours 51 minutes without stops.
Prague to Berlin: 3 hours and 52 minutes without stops.
Prague to Vienna: 4 hours and five minutes without stops.
Prague to Budapest: 5 hours and 52 minutes without stops.
Note that all of those take less time than driving from, say, Los Angeles to San Francisco!
Want to venture further out? Probably makes more sense to fly a local carrier like Wizz Air or Ryan Air, but if you want to make an adventure of it, here are a few travel times:
Prague to Venice: 8 hours 56 minutes without stops.
Prague to Paris: 9 hours 28 minutes without stops.
Prague to Bruges: 9 hours 37 minutes without stops.
Prague to Rome: 12 hours 29 minutes without stops.
Prague to Dubrovnik: 13+ hours without stops.
TRAVEL BY RAIL
The next best option is to travel by rail. The train system throughout Europe is excellent (though delays can throw a real kink in your plans if you’re trying to keep a specific schedule). Even the older trains (I’m looking at you ČD) are pretty comfortable and will likely save you a lot of money vs driving. Trains are also an excellent option if you want to just hop out of Prague for a day and come back at night. Plus you can just sit back and stare out the window.
When it comes to trains, a little pre-planning will serve you well. You’ll definitely want to reserve a seat or you could end up standing the whole trip or leaning on the windows in the tiny hallway.
There a number of railway station in Prague, but if you want to get directly out of Czech you’re going to want to book your ticket from the Main Railway Station. If you were to leave from, say, Masarykovo nádraží, you’d likely need to transfer along the way as it services mostly local destinations.
Some additional perks of riding the rails? Long-distance trains provide WiFi (though it can be spotty or just not working at all), USB or electrical outlets, snacks, or even sleeping and dining cars for longer journeys which are quite comfy. Additionally, they often offer space for bikes, strollers, and, if you’re handicapped, they offer reserved seating areas. Wanna take your furry friends with you? Most trains will allow pets (you’ll need to buy them, a pass) as long as you keep them on-leash and in a muzzle. If you’re a cat person, well, your kitty can come too… but in a carrier.
There are a variety of carriers in Czech with RegioJet proving one of the more popular and inexpensive. A trip to Vienna on RegioJet, for example, will get you to Vienna for only 359 Kč!
There are generally two classes on the trains here: Economy or Business. Business is basically First Class. Roomier and with better service. With the trains you can either purchase a ticket for a specific time or buy a regular ticket and just hop on whenever you’re ready (though the latter is a bit more expensive).
For an example of time/price, you could go from Prague to Bratislava in 3 hours and 57 minutes. In Economy, you’ll pay 18 Euros or about 458 Kč, and in Business you’ll pay about 29 Euros or 739 Kč. Again, it’s all about where you’d be more comfortable.
There’s also České Dráhy, which can get you to Budapest for about 522 Kč.
One more tip: You can download the free app iDos which allows you to check not only local transport schedules (like trams) but also trains and buses out of the country… and yes, it’s also in English! Yay!
TRAVEL BY BUS
Buses, while coming in third as a travel option for me personally, are actually getting better in terms of service quality. The two most popular seem to be Student Agency (https://www.studentagency.eu/en/), which also runs the RegioJet trains, and Flixbus.
With Student Agency, you could head to Budapest for 469 Kč. It’s just over a 7 hour trip. For info on their on-board services, you can jump right to this page: https://www.regiojet.com/services/services-on-board-of-buses/self-service.html
With Flixbus, you could go from Prague Florenc to Berlin in a bit over four hours for a cost of about 18.90 Euro or 480 Kč. On board, they offer WiFi and snacks and drinks for purchase. Oddly, they don’t seem to show any flix on a Flixbus, so you’ll just have to bring your own screen and watch your Netflix account.
So that’s it! Thinking of heading off on an adventure? Where do you want to go? What would you like to see? Leave us a note in the comments!