Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bicycle hire from Czech Railways

In my recent post on cycling trip tips I mentioned that Czech Railways operate a bicycle hire service. The scheme runs from 1 April to 31 October every year. Read on for more details about how it works.

Bicycles can currently be hired from 30 railway stations around the Czech Republic and the number is steadily increasing. I’ve marked these stations on the map below (click on the bicycle icons to reveal phone numbers, opening hours and dates of operation; note that some stations are only for bike returns, not bike hire, and some are not in operation for the full season). As you can see, South Bohemia has the largest number of hire facilities. Unfortunately there are none very near to Prague as yet. The company claims to offer good quality, properly serviced trekking and mountain bikes.

View Bicycle hire from Czech Railways in a larger map

To hire a bike you will need to present two valid pieces of ID. The company doesn’t specify exactly what that means, but I assume they will accept passports, residency permits and driving licences. You’ll then have to sign a rental agreement and pay the hire fee, which ranges between 160 and 230 crowns per day (i.e. 24 hours), plus a returnable deposit of 1,000 crowns (or 2,000 crowns per group of 2-5 persons; at some stations a “family deposit” of 2,500 crowns applies). Half-day (up to 5 hours) and multi-day hires are also available.

One feature of the scheme is that you can return the bike to a different station than the one you hired it from (in some cases even if it is in a different region). Other advantages include free storage of bikes at railway stations and free transport of bikes on selected intra-regional train routes.

Please note that all the information given above is taken from the Czech Railways website. I’ll try to keep it up to date, and I also intend to try out the scheme for myself later in the year. However, I strongly advise checking the details with Czech Railways when planning your trip. I’d welcome any feedback from anyone who has tried this service (see the comments below).

11 comments:

Laura said...

I tried it a few years ago. We wanted to hire bikes from CD in Tabor. It was ok and all worked out in the end....but I would advise phoning ahead to reserve your bike. We emailed them the day before and when we got there they didn't know what we were talking about. The only bikes they had were mens (and we were a group of not very tall girls) so it was an interesting day of cycling. Plus I remember it being more expensive than the CD website stated. Maybe the service has improved since then....like I said, call ahead to make sure they have what you need.

Just found a photo from that Tabor trip to have a better look at the bikes they hired us. They were alright, no front fork suspension, I guess they were some kind of hybrid bike. Nothing to write home about, but then I suppose that is to be expected for 1000kc deposit. I think for anyone who has their own bike then it is better to pay to take their own on the train.

Circuit Rider CZ said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Laura. As you say, maybe the service has improved since then. I'll definitely be checking it out as soon as I get the chance.

Captain Oddsocks said...

I've done it once and hope I never need to again. I took a group of people cycling around Lednice-Valtice one weekend last year and with last minute extras we had to hire a few bikes from Breclav train station.

The hiring was no problem, and the bikes were good standard trekking bikes that were perfect for what we needed.

The problem was in the returning. A different guy was there in the afternoon and went out of his way to pick faults in the bikes for which he wanted to charge ridiculous prices. One of the girls had twisted a mudguard and we were happy to pay for that, but we weren't going to to shell out for missing lights, scratched paint and a missing identification badge that had nothing to do with us.

It was our word against the fat guy's though and we argued back and forth and the office staff got involved until eventually one of them threatened to phone Franta, who'd been working in the morning.

"Great! phone him"

Of course Franta said, "oh nah mate, bike 2 didn't have lights, bike 7 was already pretty scratched up, blah blah blah".

You'd think after that we'd deserve an apology but Fatso fumed around in the background and the surly desk ladies took 20 minutes to reluctantly refund our deposits.

I've had some crap service in ten years in this country, but this just about took the cake.

I'd say don't use Czech Rail bike hire if you can help it. Or go into it expecting a combative, arrogant and dismissive aftertaste to spoil your day in beautiful South Moravia.

Circuit Rider CZ said...

Thank you, Captain. Pretty negative feedback so far. The bad service is disappointingly predictable. I've had some really good experiences with Czech Railways staff, but I've had some atrociously bad ones as well. Czech businesses really need to learn that one employee with one bad attitude can ruin all their best efforts to win customers.

I should point out to other readers that Captain Oddsocks is an true expert on travel and tourism in the Czech Republic. I highly recommend that you check out his blog (listed on the right under "Blogs I like".

Anonymous said...

Hi, I wondered if you could help with a few more details about the czech railways bike hire, i've searched all over the web but haven't been able to find a thing! Do you know if it is possible to hire equipment (e.g helmet, pump, puncture repair etc) along with the bikes, and do you have any ideas about current prices?

Cheers,

Chris

Circuit Rider CZ said...

Hi Chris,

There's information in English here:
http://en.cd.cz/bikehireservice.htm

and in Czech here:
http://www.cd.cz/volny-cas/pujcovny-kol-cd/-5888/

You'll find prices there, but no info on equipment. Note also that the service ends on October 31.

Given the negative comments above, I would consider hiring from a private company rather than from Czech Railways. I can send you some contacts if you're interested.

Simon

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Simon, i've emailed them asking about equipment.

The scheme doesn't sound perfect, but it looks quite convenient with the pick up and drop off at stations. Some details of any private companies you recommend would be fantastic!

Cheers,

Chris

Circuit Rider CZ said...

Hi Chris,

You could try Topbicycle at http://www.topbicycle.com/BikeRental.htm

and/or

Harfa Sport at http://www.harfasport.cz/pujcovna-praha-jizdni-kola-cenik/ (in Czech only).

I should point out that I have no direct experience with either of them, so I can’t vouch for their quality.

I'd be interested to hear how you get on with hiring bikes, as I receive similar inquiries quite regularly.

Simon

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I went ahead and rented some bikes with a friend from Cesky Krumlov railway station. The bikes we were given cost 180kc a day each, plus 20kc a day each for a helmet. The bikes came complete with a a lock, front and back lights, puncture repair kit and a multi-tool. We were also required to make a 1000kc deposit on each bike. The guy in the station was really helpful, and contrary to other reports we only needed to show one item of photo id each (passport)

The bikes themselves weren't fantastic (not surprising given the price), they were heavy and the gears weren't very smooth.

I would recommend brining your own puncture repair kit, the one provided was awful. My mate got about 7 punctures at once, and after using all 12 of the patches we had between us were weren't able to fix the tire. Thankfully we were able to switch the inner tube at Horni Plana train station (the bike hire contract has a useful list of stations participating in the scheme along with there opening hours

After 3 days cycling we returned the bikes to vimperk railway station and were returned the deposit in full. Even though the bikes weren't the best the scheme seems to be well worth the money, if like us, cycling only comprises a small part of your trip. If cycling the whole time it would probably be better to bring your own bike on the plane.

One general word if warning, if cycling in Sumava national park take note that many of the cycle paths in the south west of the region enter Boletice military training area. This was marked on our Shocart cycle map, but as many routes go through it we thought it would be ok. However, after cycling in the area for a while an army truck pulled over and a solider got out to tell us that it "would not be good for us" if the military police saw us and asked us to leave the area before he drove off. The sound of gunfire in the distance convinced us that it was probably best to leave. This meant a lengthy detour. on exiting the area we noticed a sign that said entry was only allowed on weekends and public holidays. Bare this in mind if cycling through sumava!

Chris

Circuit Rider CZ said...

Many thanks, Chris. This is really useful information.

Arthur Sorrells said...

That was a very informative blog post.

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