How to get from Linz, Salzburg, Munich, or Vienna to Cesky Krumlov
Travel on trains between Linz and Cesky Krumlov historically involved many "hassle factors" such as poorly synchronized connections, having to ride north to Ceske Budejovice then south to Cesky Krumlov on a train that takes almost twice as long as the bus, the train station in Cesky Krumlov being located far from its historic center, etc. Hence over the last decade there has been the appearance of more and more shuttle services between Linz and Cesky Krumlov varying in speed, convenience, and perks. As of this writing the market even appears close to a saturation point as some shuttle companies with different names have the same physcial address in Cesky Krumlov, same prices, and same telephone number! Many take the train as far as Linz then use a shuttle van described below from Linz to Cesky Krumlov OR use a long distance shuttle between Salzburg (or Vienna) and Cesky Krumlov. When there are three or more people in your group, you have a lot of heavy/valuable luggage, etc. using one of the chauffeur services becomes more cost effective especially since then one has the option of making side trips along your journey (ie., seeing the stunning Melk Abbey on the Danube River when riding between Vienna and Cesky Krumlov or seeing the beautiful mountain lake town of Traunkirchen when riding between Salzburg and Cesky Krumlov).
1. Travel by Shuttle Van
If you request a private car or van (price based per vehicle and size of vehicle), you choose the exact departure time and often the option of a specific route. If you request a shuttle (price per person), you'll join a group of travellers at preset departure times. As the time for your trip draws closer, email/telephone at least several companies for last minute "specials" with considerable savings and updated departure times; always reconfirm that the trip will take place on your date of travel unless you have requested a private vehice. Many companies lower the price for individual passengers as more people join a trip. As noted on internet travel forums, some companies cancel their longer trips if not enough passengers sign up for them even though their website may say otherwise; recently reviewers have complained about the condition of the vehicles/drivers of some companies whose main business is "other tourist activities" and have a shuttle service only as a sideline. Therefore now it is more important to check a number of shuttle websites and get quotes from those companies who are currently primarily shuttle companies and have good reviews on travel forums. When comparing prices at different websites, note which of their different perks are important to you (ie., side trips, drivers understanding specific languages, free beverages, child seats, music, etc.). See http://www.xe.com/ucc/ for the current exchange rate for CZK (Czech crowns). Although prices/times below were correct when this article was written, shuttle prices/perks frequently fluctuate. Sometimes the prices listed at their ticket offices are less than the posted internet prices, and sometime the "Infocentrum" in the Main Square in Cesky Krumlov has additional discounts. (Increasing competition has lowered prices at the same time that inflation and more perks have raised prices). The January 2008 removal of passport control on the Czech/Austrian border made the trips faster/easier, especially on summer weekends.
"Lobobus" with email at firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone number +420 380 713 153 (website http://www.shuttlelobo.cz/1/en/transfer_Krumlov_Vienna_Salzburg_Hallstatt_Prague/) as of this writing quotes 450 CZK per person between Linz and Cesky Krumlov with departures at 9:00 am, 11:00 am, and 1:00 pm. A trip between Cesky Krumlov and Linz usually requires one hour and fifteen minutes. Their main office is on Latran Street between the Castle and the Post Office; their seasonal office is near the northwest corner of the Main Square. (The "Infocentum" in the Main Square also sells shuttle van tickets). Pension Lobo offers a shuttle service between Cesky Krumlov and Vienna and a service between Cesky Krumlov and Salzburg that costs 1,100 CZK currently. See their website for additional information.
"Sebastian Tours and Transport" (phone +420 608 357 581 or +420 607 100 234) at http://www.sebastianck-tours.com provides service between Cesky Krumlov and Linz with three departures per day (9:00 am, 11:00 am, and 1:00 pm) for 399 CZK per person Their three hour trip to the center of Salzburg costs 1,090 CZK and leaves at 9:00 am; their three hour trip to the front of Vienna's West Bahnhof (train station) costs 1,090 CZK per person and also leaves at 9:00 am. One can also contact them at email@example.com for additional details.
"Travel Agency Expedicion" (www.expedicion.cz) with an office near the Main Square in Cesky Krumlov makes the same trips at a higher price (with this increase in price their website notes they have "free non alcoholic beverages or beer on the our trips as well as a large choice of music"). "Travel Agency Expedicion" as of this writing has shuttle service between Cesky Krumlov and Linz (990 CZK), Vienna (2,300 CZK), Prague (1,800 CZK), Salzburg (2,100 CZK), etc. For reservations call +420 607 963 868, or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Shuttlebus" (www.shuttlebus.cz) has service between Cesky Krumlov and Linz (400 CZK), Hallstatt (1,100 CZK), Salzburg (1,100 CZK), Munich (1,700 CZK), Vienna (1,100 CZK), Melk (800 CZK). and so forth. They can be reached at email@example.com or by telephoning +420 604 914 496.
"CK Shuttle" has service in the region. They have shuttle service between Cesky Krumlov and Linz (400 CZK), Salzburg (1,100 CZK), Vienna (1,100 CZK), Hallstatt (1,100 CZK), Munich (1,500 CZK), and Prague (1,000 CZK) as of this writing. They can be reached at www.ckshuttle.cz/contact/ for additional details.
"Shuttle JIFI" travels between Cesky Krumlov and Linz (350 CZK), Salzburg (980 CZK), Vienna (980 CZK), etc. Their website at www.shuttle-jifi.cz has more details; they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"ShuttleCeskyKrumlov" at www.shuttleceskykrumlov.com (email@example.com and phone 00420 607 963 868) as of this writing offers travel between Cesky Krumlov and Linz for 420 CZK per person (last minute specials available) in a shuttle bus at specific times or 1750 CZK in a private car at any time; see their website for prices/schedules/options to Salzburg, Hallstatt, Munich, Vienna, and Prague.
2. Travel by taxi or chauffeur service
Before travel read such sites as http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/avoid-taxi-scams.htm and also http://www.myczechrepublic.com/prague/prague_taxi.html for an overview and guidelines to some customary taxi rates. Websites such as http://www.prague-taxi.co.uk/60-taxi-drivers-prague-overcharged.htm write, "You should always request a receipt (ucet prosim) although the driver is supposed to do so without being asked. The full receipt must contain: document number; taxi company's name and address; car registration number (SPZ); identification number; date; time and place of departure and arrival; basic rate plus the rate per kilometre plus total distance price including VAT; driver's name and signature." Such a receipt promptly shown to the police station would increase your chance of getting a partial refund from the taxi company in cases of an overcharge. Krumlov Taxi at phone +420 380 712 712 (website at www.krumlov-taxi.cz) quotes 1890 CZK for a taxi between Cesky Krumlov and the Linz airport; the cost is 1690 CZK from the Linz train station to Cesky Krumlov.
If there are several people in your group or you need more route/time flexibility with personalized service, visit the website www.mike-chauffeur.cz for an exact quote. As of this writing his price is 5,500 CZK between Cesky Krumlov and Vienna and 5,800 CZK between Cesky Krumlov and Munich; Mike offers clients of "Castle View Apartments" a 3% discount on these and other trips mentioned on his website. Every Wednesday and Sunday in May, June, July, August, and September he drives a minibus between Prague and Salzburg via Cesky Krumlov. The price per person for the entire journey is 1,500 CZK between Prague and Salzburg (less between the intermediate stops) and operates if there are at least five passengers. If you are interested, email him to learn his schedule/prices for the segment of the route you wish to use (ie., his return trip from Salzburg to Cesky Krumlov or from Linz to Cesky Krumlov). From time to time his website also lists long distance trips from Vienna to Prague; if it fits your schedule, you could have "door to door" service from Vienna or Linz to Cesky Krumlov for a significantly lower price.
3. Travel by train
Linz is on the high speed train line between Salzburg (one hour and ten minutes west of Linz) and Vienna (one hour and thirty five minutes east of Linz) where trains run several times per hour during peak travel times. Munich is one hour and a half to two hours west of Salzburg by train; Budapest is about three hours east of Vienna by train. There are discounts to reduce the "walk up" price (for Austrian Rail see http://www.oebb.at/en/Tickets/SparSchiene/index.jsp and for a second quote see German Rail http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany/dauer-spezial.shtml?dbkanal_007=L16_S02_D002_KIN0001_kv1-sparpreis_LZ001); both of these sites have an English language option at the top of their webpages. With the lowest fare one is limited to travel on a specific train on a specific day; these discount tickets usually must be purchased at least three days in advance, and seats on holidays and weekends often sell out quickly). When buying a discount "international train ticket" (between adjacent countries), also check the price of two separate domestic tickets to the common border; the availability is often greater, and the price can be less. Use train schedules between Budapest and Linz that do NOT require changing trains in Vienna; some so called "connecting" trains leave from stations in different parts of Vienna, making transfers difficult. (2010 Update - Austrian Railways has placed their high speed "Railjet" http://www.seat61.com/railjet.htm in service between Budapest and Munich with stops in Vienna, Linz, etc. As more track is upgraded, travel time will shorten further). The main Linz train station has completed its extensive modernization and is now much easier to use than previously. For specific details about bus/train travel from Linz, etc. to Cesky Krumlov visit www.idos.cz with an Engligh language option on the right side of the home page. Use your EXACT date of travel since weekday, weekend, and holiday schedules are often different. Also, remember to use the European system of writing dates (ie., December 25, 2008 would be written in Europe as "25.12.08").
When riding the train in Eastern Europe (actually the Czech Republic is in Central Europe; to call it "Eastern Europe" is to use old Cold War terminology), ride in the front of the train. Unlike Western Europe, many small train stations here have only one location sign. If you are in the back of the train, the train will have left the station before you know the name of the station. Especially on "local" trains, before your trip print a detailed itinerary so that you know the EXACT name of every stop so that you can mark them off the itinerary as you pass them. Even small towns may have several train stations with almost the same name. There is nothing worse than getting off at the wrong station at night in the rain when the next train is many hours in the future. If you are not sure if you are at your destination, ask the conductor on the train. Unless you speak Czech, don´t ask locals riding on the train for clarification; they will usually try to be helpful but may not fully understand your question. In many cultures people would rather tell you the wrong answer than admit they don´t know the answer or understand your question. A train passenger whose native language does not use definite and indefinite articles as English speakers do may not realize that you are not asking if the next station is "a" Salzburg train station (a seldom used station out in the boondocks) but instead are asking if the next station is "the" main Salzburg train station (where almost 100% of tourists want to arrive). It is better to take a train earlier in the day than later in a case you miss a connection. Unlike such countries as Holland where close train connections are on the SAME platform and connecting trains will wait for a late train, many trains/buses in the Czech Republic and at times in Austria are late; connecting trains are often on distant platforms. Even if you ask the conductor to hold the next train for a few minutes, they seldom will do so. Although it is improving now with more electronic or preprinted connection information on EVERY platform as in western Europe, until recently many small train stations in the Czech Republic listed connections on a single chalk board just outside the main building at the station. Also, don´t take heavy, bulky luggage unless you like mountain climbing. Many small train stations have no raised platforms beside the trains; to board the train you climb from the ground to the train compartment. Many times when I have carried a heavy backpack, I have been unable to board the train without taking the backpack off and putting it in the train before climbing the steps; the heavy backpack would pull me backwards as I tried to climb the almost vertical steps to the train. On weekends and holidays second class on the trains can be very crowded with people even sitting on their luggage in the corridors. Since first class is so inexpensive in the Czech Republic (compared to Western Europe), consider sitting in first class if you do not have a reserved seat in second class; when the conductor comes by to check your ticket, hand him about 100 CZK with your second class ticket so he will know you are buying an "upgrade" and not trying to cheat the system. In Europe children between 6 and 15 years of age usually pay half fare, and children less than that pay nothing if they are not taking a seat. There are many special fares so it helps to search the train travel website for that country before your trip.
4. TRAVEL BY BUS
After you have printed your itinerary at www.idos.cz (shows the departure platforms at large bus and train stations and has an English link mid way down the page on the right side), look for the shortest, convenient schedule. Some schedules involve multiple bus and train transfers. Don´t worry if you can´t understand the schedules posted in bus stations; even native born well educated Czechs have problems with these schedules and sometimes stand at the wrong platform waiting for a bus. (On certain days bus drivers stop at a different location than the "posted" one). At large bus stations, confirm the departure platform for that day at the ticket window. (2007 UPDATE - The new main bus station in Ceske Budejovice is now operational and on the same city block as the former bus station, across the street from the main train station. However now it is located on the roof of a new shopping mall shown at http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz/info/C2/S4842.HTM instead of being at ground level. After entering the mall, take the escalators or elevator to the top floor. When you reach the top, turn right, and go outside on the roof. Look to your right, and you will see bus stop #1 where most buses to Cesky Krumlov depart. Bus stop #1 is located at the northeast corner of the roof from which you can see the top of the main train station across the street. If there is a long wait at bus stop #1 until the next bus to Cesky Krumlov, check with the information counter to determine if the next bus to Cesky Krumlov leaves from a different position. Novices to the area are urged to use bus schedules that do not require transfers. Even though transfers are much easier than when the temporary bus station caused a several block walk between some transfers, there can still be problems; many long distance public buses are late, making it easy to miss close connections). The number of people waiting for a given bus at busy times will exceed the number of seats AND standing room spaces on the bus. Sometimes even though there are a few standing room spaces left on the bus, the driver will insist that the bus is now "full," I assume so there will be some space left for his friends at the next bus stop. To avoid a long wait for a later bus, sometimes I have used my best high school German and said to the bus driver, like Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, "Hier stehe Ich" (Here I stand) as I showed him that there was indeed one square foot of standing room space left for me. Be prepared to wait for a later bus especially on holidays, weekends (includes Friday afternoon), and during rush hour unless you have a prepaid ticket (available at the bus station earlier) for that particular bus. Whereas in most places people waiting in the Czech Republic stand in a British line patiently waiting their turn, at some bus stops people use the south European line (that is, a large crowd pushing from all sides towards the front door of the bus). In smaller towns it is much safer than in Prague, but always wear a money belt under your clothes and be aware where your valuables are located.
It is best to use a schedule that involves few transfers unless you have a lot of time between connections in case your bus is late. Notice that most bus/train schedules from Linz to Cesky Krumlov go via Ceske Budejovice, a town about 25 km NORTH of Cesky Krumlov. To avoid paying for a trip north then south, transfer at Kaplice; the trip from Kaplice to Cesky Krumlov is usually thirty minutes by bus and even less by taxi. (Unlike Prague, most taxi drivers in small towns are honest and won´t cheat you. Nevertheless it is always best to agree on the price in WRITING before getting into a cab). Whereas the main bus station in Cesky Krumlov is a very short walk east of the historic center (during winter when the leaves are off the trees, you can see the old town towers from the main bus station), the train station is far to the north of the old town and up a steep hill (see Cesky Krumlov map). The out of town buses stop at the main entrance of the main Cesky Krumlov bus station. As you leave the bus, walk in the direction that the bus entered the bus station (you will see the Castle Tower in the distance above the trees). As you reach the trees at the end of the bus station parking lot, follow the foot path up the hill slightly to your left. At the top of this hill is a park bench with another good photo-op of the town. Keep walking until you reach the street at the top of the hill then hug the left side of the buildings walking downhill to the main highway. There is a stop light here with a button to stop traffic. Cross at the "zebra" (there is a grocery store to your left), and walk straight ahead towards the bridge to the old town (you will be on Horni Street). Just before you cross the bridge there are some good photo-ops on the right side behind the corner building. Between the bridge and Main Square there is a small park to your right for good pictures of the river below and the Castle across the river. After you pass this park and before you reach the Main Square, look to your right along the first side "street", and you will see a famous postcard view of the Castle Tower in the distance between the buildings ("Castle View Apartments" is on the left side on this side street with the ivy on the front). Actually this side "street" is so narrow it is primarily used for foot traffic. If you have heavy luggage, taking a taxi between the bus station (and even more so when using the train station) and the Main Square of Cesky Krumlov is an easier option.
5. TRAVEL BY RENTAL CAR
Historically it was cheaper to reserve a rental car in one´s home country before arriving in Europe; now there are special deals locally from time to time. Check both options in advance for your dates of travel. In most countries it helps to have an "International Driving Permit" available at such places as AAA Motor Clubs to translate your license into an "International" one. Automatic transmission is rare on cars in Europe; if this feature is important to you, make sure the car rental agency agrees to your wishes. Some rental agencies in Germany and Austria prohibit your taking their cars into countries such as the Czech Republic where the danger of theft and risk of an accident are high; in any case, don´t leave valuables visible in your car even when it is locked. Know in advance the drop off fees to leave the car in a different location. Special "country and date specific" decals are needed on the car to use certain superhighways without running the risk of an instant fine from police. Also note what special equipment (first aid kit, warning triangle, etc.) is required in your car for the specific countries you visit; there is such a good summary of the driving rules for the Czech Republic on pages 8 and 9 at http://www.globalcars.com.au/site/uploads/globalCARS_EuropeanDrivingGuide26OCT2010.pdf that I suggest your printing those two pages (plus the pages for any other countries you plan to visit) and carrying them with you on your trip. The links on the left side of the web pages at http://www.ideamerge.com/motoeuropa/car_leasing_europe_car_leases_france.html#car_rental_europe have information about road signs, an automotive phrasebook, etc. Pay particular attention to the rules of the road that may be different from your home country; in an accident, police usually assume the foreign driver is at fault since the local customs would not be familiar to him/her. Before your trip read such articles as "Renting a Car" (click the FAQ menu bar option near the top of this web page) and http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/carrental.htm (including its link to "Behind the European Wheel").
Although customer service is gradually improving in the Czech Republic, do not try to push the envelope with the traffic police in this former Communist dominated country; ie., a stop sign means a full stop not a rolling stop. Many local roads are narrow with no shoulder and have large trees with deep ditches close to the pavement. (Fortunately it is the custom to move to the right edge of the road when another vehicle is trying to pass; unfortunately a lot of drivers pass in "no passing" zones). Prior to air conditioning, such trees kept the roads cooler in the hot summer sun; now they can be a traffic hazard especially at night or in fog. There is a zero tolerance for ANY alcohol in one´s sytem while driving here. Note that Czech drivers are not known for their driving skills; I have seen driver education cars pull out in front in the left passing lane then slow down! Note the "Arriving by Car" link on the left side of the Home Page of this website for directions when in Cesky Krumlov.