Wednesday 17 March 2010

Taking your bike by train in the Czech Republic

You can transport bikes on most trains in the Czech Republic. However, the options available are pretty complicated. Read on for a guide to the system.

Most of the information that follows is translated loosely from the Czech Railways (České dráhy) website. I’ll explain how to book tickets in a follow-up post.

There are two options for transporting bicycles on Czech trains: (1) as accompanied luggage, or (2) as unaccompanied luggage. In neither case do you have to dismantle and/or pack the bike in any way.

Option 1 - transporting your bike as accompanied luggage

This means the bike travels with you in the relevant carriage. This is permitted in all trains labelled with the following bicycle symbols in the railway timetable:

bikes allowed as accompanied luggage - reservation not possible

bikes allowed as accompanied luggage - reservation possible

bikes allowed as accompanied luggage - reservation compulsory

You can also take your bike as accompanied luggage onto the three most basic classes of train even if they are not labelled with any of the symbols above, i.e. on all local (Os-class), semi-fast (Sp-class) and fast (R-class) trains. In such trains you should put your bike in the door space of the front or rear carriage. The rules state that no more than two bikes may be placed in each such space, although I’ve often seen considerably more than this number.

A charge of 25 Czech crowns applies for bikes as accompanied luggage. If you change trains, you have to pay again. If you’re planning to travel on more than two different trains in one day it’s worth buying a bicycle day pass for 50 crowns, as this covers unlimited changes.

Bicycle signs on or next to the doors show where you can put your bike
(Who'd have thought my passion for cycling would turn me into a trainspotter?)

Option 2 - transporting your bike as unaccompanied luggage

This involves putting your bike in the guard’s van. Trains with this facility are labelled with a suitcase symbol in the timetable:

bikes allowed as unaccompanied luggage - reservation not possible

bikes allowed as unaccompanied luggage - reservation possible

bikes allowed as unaccompanied luggage - reservation compulsory between April 1 and October 31; reservation possible outside this period

The advantage of this service is that your bike is guarded (at least theoretically) from theft and damage during the journey. The cost is slightly higher than for accompanied bikes: 30 crowns per bike per train or 60 crowns for a day pass. The 60-crown ticket can also be used for legs of your journey where only option 1 is available (i.e. in trains with no guard’s van).

You can find out where the guard's van is in advance by clicking on the yellow "Train composition" icon against the relevant train in the railway timetable.

To find the guard's van, look out for the suitcase symbol

Reserving a space for your bike

On some trains, reserving a space for your bike is possible or even compulsory. This is indicated in the timetable by, respectively, the round- and square-framed symbols shown under options 1 and 2 above. Reservations can be made up to two months in advance and no later than 2 hours before departure. A reservation fee is charged on top of the bicycle ticket price.

Reservation fees:
Seat+bicycle reservation on SuperCity trains: 200 crowns
Seat+bicycle reservation or bicycle-only reservation on other trains: 70 crowns

Note: I strongly advise against travelling without a bicycle reservation on trains where reservation is compulsory. A few years ago, a friend and I tried this and were thrown off the Bratislava-Prague train at Brno station. No amount of pleading would change the conductor’s mind. We managed to continue our journey on a later train the same day, but you might not be so lucky!


Anonymous said...

that seems unneccessarily complicated. do the czechs "like" cyclists of not. from the sound of this I dont think they do!

Circuit Rider CZ said...

Officialdom here usually is unnecessarily complicated. I wouldn't say it's cycling-specific. It's a long time since I travelled with a bike by train in the UK, but I gather it's even more difficult there -

Colin said...

It's far from compicated in practice, the provision is often excellent with proper bike racks and usualy someone to give you a hand

Unknown said...

Hello Simon, we are cycling from Prague to Vienna and there are 2 legs of the journey that i will not be able to manage due to the steep incline.
Trebon to Telc and Cesky Budejovic to Cesky Krumlov...
Your explanations are perfect regarding trains but just double checking if i would have any issues with transporting my bike in the accompanied husband will be cycling and i will be doing the journey alone hence i was keen to get any extra tips.thanku!!! Much appreciated

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