German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) may be the obvious choice for many international train journeys to and from Germany, but that is certainly not the case when it comes to traveling between Germany and the Czech Republic. You’ll see DB carriages on the night train from Prague to Zürich, but that’s an exception. DB simply has no daytime trains to and from the Czech capital. Not one.
By train from Berlin to Prague
From the north there is an excellent rail service from eastern Germany into the Czech Republic with EuroCity services running every two hours between Berlin and Prague. You’ll find a choice of Austrian, Czech and Hungarian trains operating on this route—all with modern, comfortable rolling stock with big windows for sightseeing. And that’s a plus for the stretch of line south from Dresden up the Elbe Valley over the border into the Czech Republic is one of Europe’s finest rail journeys.
The Berlin to Prague service, while not served by DB trains, is however well integrated into the DB tariff system and the attractively priced Europa-Spezial fares are valid on the Czech, Hungarian and Austrian trains that ply the route.
Buses from Bavaria to Prague
Shift to the Czech Republic’s western border (ie. with the German state of Bavaria), and we find a more complicated picture. DB simply has no long-distance rail services linking the major Bavarian cities with the nearby Czech Republic. In 2009, DB launched its first ever bus service, operating on the Nürnberg to Prague route. That’s now been augmented by additional DB buses direct to Prague from Mannheim and Munich.
DB thus nudges international rail travelers off the train and onto the bus. And by integrating their buses into the DB tariff system, they make the case for the bus seem very persuasive.
The ALEX option
Our view is that the buses masquerading as trains are still buses and not half as comfortable as trains. For travel from Bavaria to Prague, our first choice is with independent rail operator ALEX, part of the Netinera Group—a faintly-disguised division of the Italian rail operator Trenitalia. ALEX run four trains a day from Munich via Regensburg to Prague. Passengers from Nürnberg to Prague can travel by local train from Nürnberg to Schwandorf to connect there onto the ALEX train to Prague.
Prag Spezial fares with ALEX for €43
ALEX offers its own promotional fares from Bavaria to Prague. And the beauty of the company’s Prag Spezial fare is that it does not need to be pre-booked. You can even buy it on the train. A return ticket from Regensburg to Prague, valid for one month, costs just €43. Your children, if aged under 15 years, can travel with you for free.
Even better deals from Prague to Bavaria for €27
For journeys starting in the Czech Republic, there are even more advantageous tariffs for journeys with ALEX to Bavaria. Here is just one example. On Saturdays and Sundays the Skupinová víkendová jízdenka+Nemecko special tariff gives unlimited travel for two adults and two children in the Czech Republic and a big swathe of Germany. It costs 750 Czech crowns and you can use it for the whole journey from Prague to Regensburg on the ALEX train. 750 crowns is about €27, so this is one of Europe’s great travel bargains. You cannot buy the ticket in advance. Just purchase it on the day of travel at the ticket office before boarding the train.