Hindsight being 20/20, public transportation in Czech (and Austria, for that matter) was not hard to use. That didn’t stop me from being just a tad anxious when we arrived. What follows is a fairly cut and dry explanation of moving around Prague, and getting from Prague to Brno.
If you have used the subway or a city bus here in the States, you know that in our system one buys a token/ticket as you board the subway or bus. In Czech, however, you buy one single ticket for the full public transport system that is good (on bus, subway (metro), and tram) for a certain amount of time. You then “validate” the ticket once you begin using transport by stamping your ticket with the date and time in a yellow box (available at each entrance on the bus, and before you enter the subway). Now, this is important: Make sure you validate your ticket before riding! Plain clothes inspectors board transportation and randomly check to see if all tickets are validated. They will show you their badge and ask to see your ticket. There is a hefty fine of 400 Kč (Česká Koruna or Czech Crown) per ticket if you have not validated. I sigh as I write that yes, we paid 800 Kč on our first bus ride for not knowing this.
With this in mind, tickets are sold based on how long you will be traveling. If you will be using public transport all day long (for exploring, etc.), you can purchase a 24-hour ticket for about 110 Kč. If you’re traveling short term (getting from the airport to the train station), you can purchase a 90-minute ticket for about 32 Kč. The Prague Guide Online transportation area can give you more in-depth details on public transport. I recommend browsing sections on buses, trams, and the metro, and tickets and passes (left side of the page). Okay, time for step-by-step.
How to get to the train station from Vaclav Havel Airport (or the Prague Airport Marriott).
The main train station in Prague is called Praha Hlavní nádráží. Abbreviated to Praha hl.n, it literally means “Prague Main Station,” and is pronounced prah-hah / h-lahv-nee / nah-drah-gee. The “g” in “gee” is pronounced like the “g” in ‘beige.’ To get there:
- Take bus #119 to Nádraží Veleslavín from Terminal #1 at the airport. The bus stop is right across the parking lot from the Prague Airport Marriott.
- At the yellow ticket machine, purchase a 90-minute ticket. Have Czech coins on you; exact change is not needed. If a ticket is 32 Kč and you only have a 50 Kč piece, the machine will give you 18 Kč in return.
- When you get on the bus, validate your ticket.
- You’ll be able to see what stops you’re passing on a digital screen on the bus.
- Enter the subway and follow signs to the Green line. Take the green line to Muzeum (pron. moo-say-oom). Get off at this stop and transfer to the red line. Get off at the very next stop: Hlavní nádráží. (You can get the full Prague subway map here.)
To get from Praha hl.n to Brno:
Before you leave for the train station (when you still have wifi connection; whether on a laptop, using the hotel computer, or using your phone (in airplane mode, so you don’t rack up insane data usage charges!)), check this train schedule site to look up timetables for the train you want to take.
- Change Timetable to “Trains and Buses.”
- From: Praha hl.n
- To: Brno hl.n
- Check the box that says “Direct connections only.”
- Choose your date and time. Time in Czech is on the 24-hour clock (commonly referred to as military time here.). So instead of 1pm, it’s 1300. 2pm is 1400. If you’re unfamiliar, look here.
- The page will show you several choices of trains and departure times/dates. Don’t bother with trains starting with “R” and marked in red. They are very slow trains. Only take trains that start with “EC” and “EZ”, as they are fast trains.
Once you know what train you want to take (for example, from the photo above, EC 171 departing at 11:42 am for 210 Kč):
- When you exit the subway from the Hlavní nádráží metro stop, you will already be in the train station. Walk out and go to your left, past the metro ticket kiosk. On your left, you will see an escalator taking you to shops on the top floor (this is also the area where the trains depart from). To the right of the escalator, down a large ramp, is the area to purchase your ticket. You will see “CD Centrum” along with the Czech word for ticket: Jízdenka (pron. eez-dane-ka).
- Buy a one-way ticket to Brno. It should cost around 210 Kč (about $9.00 US). If you desire, you can reserve a specific seat in advance for a little extra money; just make sure to tell the person at the desk. The only reason to do this is to guarantee a seat on a busy train. We didn’t reserve seats and had no problem. Note: it’s not necessary to purchase a first class ticket, but if you can, it’s nice (they run about 452 Kč, or $19.00 US). The cabin chairs recline so you can lay out, the windows are tinted, they are climate controlled, and – here’s the big one – when I traveled in the summer, it was MUCH less crowded than the main cabins. However, if you choose not to purchase 1st, unless you specifically reserve a seat, you can find any area on the train that is open. First class is at the front of the train. In the middle are private “cabins,” with 6 seats (3 facing each other) and a door that closes to the rest of the train. If you find an empty cabin that isn’t reserved (it will have a yellow ticket just outside of the cabin stating from which station it’s reserved), grab it! These are quite nice for private and quiet travel. At the end of the train is the coach area, which isn’t as nice as a cabin, but is still good.
- Keep your ticket available. The conductor makes his rounds, and will stamp/validate your ticket for you.
- You will go through three stops before reaching Brno: Kolín (pron. Koe-leen), Pardubice (pron. par-doo-bits-eh), and Česká Třebová (pron. chess-kah ch-ray-boe-va).
- It’s a trip that takes about 2 hours 45 minutes total. It takes almost exactly 1 hour to get from Česká Třebová to Brno; make sure you have all of your belongings ready to go! The train only stops for 3 minutes. As you’re pulling in to Brno, people usually exit their seats and start lining up in the corridor to get off.
- Once you arrive in Brno, exit the train station. If you are staying at the Grand Hotel Brno, it is across the street and to your right (about a 3 minute walk). If you are staying elsewhere, the tram station is across the street and to your left. The same public transport rules apply here as in Prague: purchase a ticket for the time necessary (it’s always good to overestimate in case you get lost or miss a stop). If you contact your hotel ahead of time, you can ask from directions on the tram from Brno Hlavní nádráží.
Welcome to Brno! If you’re using this as a guide, I wish you all the luck in the world. 🙂