It's easy to reach the Czech Republic by ground or air, and once you're there, you have an array of inexpensive options for getting around. Every nook and cranny of the country is connected by public transit, but you can be even more discerning about how to travel to the gems you'd most like to see. Drive a caravan to a cave system in the Moravian Karst; bike to a brewery in Ceske Budejovice; ride a train to see the TV Tower in Prague. Check out these and more options below.
Named after the country's first post-Communist president, the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague is the primary entry point for visitors not only to the Czech Republic but also to many other Central and Eastern European countries. The tidy, easy-to-navigate airport sits about 10.5 miles north of the city, and public transport provides an Airport Express bus as well as various other bus/metro routes to whisk you to the center of Prague for less than you'd spend on a latte. You can also hire shuttle buses or taxis; Cedaz and AAA radiotaxi are recommended.
Other international airports in the Czech Republic are located in Brno, Ostrava, Pardubice and Karlovy Vary. While most Czech flights are international, domestic flights between Moravia and Bohemia are available. However, train, bus and car travel are more popular for domestic transport.
Czech Airlines is the paramount airline in the country, but many other international carriers stop here, including Emirates, Delta Air Lines, Korean Air and British Airways. A number of discount airlines also operate internationally and domestically, such as SmartWings, easyJet, Wizz Air and Ryanair. Bear in mind that discount airlines charge extra for baggage and in-flight services like food.
A tip for all Czech airports: Upon landing, exchange rates are usually much better at ATMs than at airport money exchange counters.
Csa.cz/en (Czech Airlines)
Prg.aero/en (Prague Airport)
While the Czech train system is extensive and leisurely, travel by car provides faster transit between two points. Given the size of the country, no trip within borders will last more than five hours. Another bonus of car travel is that traffic is uncongested, unless you're in a city during rush hour, and the six major motorways and numerous smaller roads are easily navigable. Czech driving maps label routes with "D" for motorway, "R" for a fast road and "S" for a normal road.
A range of cars is available to tourists, from zippy budget outfits to racy luxury vehicles, and they can be found in small local rental agencies, national chains like Czechocar and major international companies like Budget. Crossing the border of the country will increase the rate, as will renting for one-way trips. Renters must be at least 21 years of age and have held a license for no less than one year. Some agencies' websites require an International Driver's Permit (IDP), though they are rarely asked for.
To drive here, you'll need a driver's license, an ID card (E.U.) or passport (international) and vehicle documents provided by your rental company, including an insurance card and a certificate of roadworthiness. Your rental agency should also provide a prepaid toll ticket that will cover you throughout the country.
Be sure to read up on speed limits and road rules prior to driving. The Czech Republic has a no-exceptions, zero-tolerance drinking and driving rule; drivers must have a zero blood alcohol level when behind the wheel. Pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks, and intersections are generally roundabouts rather than four-way stops.
An elaborate web of railways crisscrosses the Czech Republic; at around 5,900 miles of track, it's one of the largest rail networks in Europe. And compared to the West, prices are a steal. The main provider of train transit is the public Ceske drahy (Czech Railways), but private RegioJet and LEO Express have opened lines in recent years too. All are known for being efficient and reliable.
Fares for all train travel are based on distance, and prices are discounted when tickets are bought in groups. Ceske drahy reserves you a general spot on a train, while RegioJet and LEO Express assign you a specific seat. Flexipasses are available, which give you a set price for a number of days' worth of travel. Note that outside Prague's main train station, Hlavni Nadrazi, ticket sellers may not speak English, so be sure to write down the name of your destination, as well as the date and time, to avoid any booking errors.
Most routes are quite scenic, especially if you're willing to meander a bit. Trips through the Elbe River Valley and the Sumava forests are known for their beauty, though any journey by rail will pass quaint villages, emerald woodlands and valleys, and perhaps even a castle ruin or two. Note that the more rural you get, the older a train you will most likely ride.
If you'd like your accommodation on wheels, there are caravans and motorhomes available for rent in the Czech Republic. As with car rentals, you need to be 21 in order to procure one, and you must have a valid ID and driver's license. Caravan on the Run and Wicked Campers are the two largest rental operations with websites in English, though you can also find rentals at individual camp parks and various car rental agencies.
Campgrounds abound across the country, but things can fill up fast in the summer months, so book ahead. Compare prices and extras for your rental options. Usually, the longer you rent the vehicle, the steeper the discount you get.
Trips by bus are often the most pocket-friendly transit option, and they'll get you to corners of the Czech Republic not accessible by plane or train. They range from luxury lines with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi, which run between major cities, to basic no-frills passenger outfits in more rustic areas.
Student Agency and Bohemian Lines are Czech companies known for comfortable international and domestic service, with the most popular Czech route being between Prague and Brno. Eurolines, more of an international provider, does provide limited domestic service, the most touristic being a line to Usti nad Labem, renowned for its proximity to the Bohemian Highlands and Czech-Switzerland National Park. The state-run public bus system gets you to villages, chateaus, lakes and other non-metropolitan places.
Czechs are big on bikes, and cycling conditions in the Czech Republic have improved immensely in the past decade. While spinning along forest trails has always been popular here, numerous bike lanes are appearing on roadways, and drivers have become much more accepting and courteous of cyclists. It's an excellent way to see the countryside at your own pace.
Cycling maps are available at bookstores, bike rental outfits and bike shops. Cycling paths on roads are marked with yellow numbered signs, and in the woods, you can find them by looking for colored stripes on trees, posts and fences. A newer addition to the cycling scene is greenways; a few exist not only in the city of Prague but also from Prague to Dresden and Prague to Vienna. Toward Austria, the Moravian Wine Trails and South Bohemian routes are popular.
You can bring a bike to the Czech Republic or rent one there, and you can plan your own trip or have an agency coordinate a tour for you. Many options exist for your level of experience and desired destination.
The smooth, rolling geography of the Czech Republic pairs nicely with travel by motorcycle. A few companies (see below) have English websites that make asking questions and renting easy.
According to Motorbike Ventures, the trip from Prague to Duba is an ideal route, dotted with crumbling castles and the greenery of Cesky raj, a nature preserve called "Bohemian Paradise" in English. For travels further afield, head to Blansko through Moravia or from Jicin to Trutnov. Routes that people have tested out and reported on can be found on the website MotoWhere.
Stay up to date on road laws. Helmets must always be worn, and dipped lights must be on at all times.
--written by Emily Rankin