If you’re making the trip to Europe from the U.S. you might want to divide your time between a number of cities. Here at JayWay we’ve got you covered on all the top destinations in Central & Eastern Europe so why not combine them into a mini Grand Tour with a multi-city itinerary.
We’re often asked how to get between Prague and Krakow. Up until 2009 ago there was a direct daytime train service between the Czech capital and Poland’s former capital. Sadly that is no more, though there’s still a non-stop night train. if you want to travel in daytime, you’ll need to change, twice and the journey time is a minimum of 7 hours and 6 minutes. You’ll first take a train from Prague to Ostrava (plenty of choice as this route has been privatised, but if you take one of the alternate operator’s trains, you’ll need to buy separate tickets for this part), change there for a Eurocity train bound for Warsaw, get off in Katowice and take a local express train to Krakow. Some connection times are a little tight, so there’s always a risk that you might not make it the next train.
The night train is just over 8 hours, but you’ll be asleep for most of that right? (read on for why that’s not necessarily true) The only straight through option (you don’t want to be changing trains at 2am!) departs Prague at 22:26, getting in to Krakow at 06:30 the following morning.
If you’re going one-way the basic price is around €40. A return ticket is around €70. There are group discounts available too, so tickets for six or more people will work out cheaper, as long as you ask for a group ticket – but remember you’ll have to travel together.
International train fares and sleeper supplements are priced in Euros but charged in Czech crowns, so the price fluctuates according to the prevailing exchange rate applied by the Czech Railways company. Tickets can be purchased from the international desks of the ticket hall on the lower level of Prague’s main station. Unfortunately no online options are available for anything other than the night train, and even those are very limited in availability online, but for guests who are also having us make their accommodation arrangements, our local representative in Prague will buy the tickets in person. Please note we can’t make any exception to this, it is part of the overall package we provide. Get in touch and we’ll help plan the perfect Prague, Krakow (and other cities) itinerary for you,
On the Night Train
A lesson we’ve learnt from bitter experience are that of the two types of sleeping car, if you can get it, the sleeper as opposed to the couchette is worth the extra. With the sleeper you can choose between a single, double or triple – you can only get the single if you’ve also got a first class ticket. Whilst it’s not the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have, the beds are more comfortable than the six or four to a compartment cots of the couchette. In Czech, the sleeper carriage is referred to as lůžkový and the couchette is lehátkový. In the past there have been concerns over safety, both personal, and of possessions. If you take a sleeper, you’ve got a lock and chain on the door that can only be opened from the inside (so you only have to worry about the people you’re sharing with!) Below are the supplemental costs (on top of the ticket price) for the various types of sleeper compartment.
1 berth in a 6 person Couchette: €9.40
1 berth in a 4 person Couchette: €14
1 berth in a 3 person sleeper: €14
1 berth in a 2 person sleeper: €21
1 berth in a 1 person sleeper: €49
From this you’ll note that the 4 person couchette and the 3 person sleeper cost the same. For this reason the 3 person sleeper berths get sold out often. Buy your ticket as early as you can!
Some general tips for the journey – bring water, large bottles of water can be bought cheaply at the Billa supermarket in Prague Main Station, and are more expensive at other shops in the station. Snacks are a good move too, if you’re likely to get hungry. This will work out cheaper than buying drinks and food on the train. If you’re taking the night train and have a problem with light and noise, pack a blindfold and some ear plugs too. Also bear in mind one big disadvantage of the night train – even if you did manage to sleep, you’re arriving hours before you’re able to check in to your accommodation, so you might not be feeling your best not being able to shower until the afternoon.
Couldn’t I just fly?
If you can’t stand the idea of 8 or 9 hours train travel (and we wouldn’t blame you) then flying is an option. Unfortunately you’re at the mercy of the flag carriers, and since 2013 Czech Airlines have dropped their excessively expensive direct flight, so the only realistic option is LOT (Polish Airlines) but LOT don’t offer direct flights so with the hassle of getting to the airport, changing planes (the quickest routing is around 3 hours), then getting into Krakow from the airport most of the time saved is eroded and given the expense, it becomes not worthwhile..
And getting back?
Trains back are the same situation in reverse, the westbound night train leaves Krakow at 22:03, arriving in Prague at 7:37 the following morning. The best daytime option is the 10:51 train from Krakow to Katowice, where you’ll have around an hour (not long enough to see any of Katowice but believe me there’s not much worth seeing) to wait for the 12:56 Eurocity bound for Budapest, then changing at Ostrava for a train bound for Prague, getting you into the Czech capital a few minutes before 6:30pm. Make sure, if you’re going to Krakow and returning to Prague, to buy a return ticket, and ask for the MOST (pronounced with a short ‘o’, most is the Czech word for bridge) discount, as it offers a significant saving.
If you’re totally set on train travel, then take the day train and enjoy a good book or two, or travel through the night if you can manage to sleep given all the problems, and maximise your time in one of Poland’s most beautiful cities. Whilst you’re at Prague’s main station (Hlavni Nadrazi) take a moment to head up to the street-level original ticket hall, now a cafe and marvel at the early 20th century architecture (pictured top right). If you’re open to traveling by road, we can arrange a private car or van, as part of an Eastern Europe vacation package, to take you between these two cities, this way you get to leave when you want and make additional stops along the way.
Image credit: Luisvilla via Creative Commons on Flickr.