How To Get From Prague Airport (or Prague) to Cesky Krumlov
At http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/tips_menu.htm Rick Steves writes that you'll never meet a traveler who brags after five trips, "Every year I pack heavier." The Czech Republic is a safe country but does have pickpockets. Be aware of your valuables at photo ops, outdoor restaurants, ATM machines, and metro stations or trams frequented by tourists; wear a money belt under your clothes. The prices below were accurate when written but change (see http://www.xe.com/ucc/ for current exchange rates).
(Just the basics)
a) The fast and easy way - If you are with several people, you have heavy luggage, it is a holiday or weekend when buses/trains overflow with riders, the weather is bad, you have too much jet lag to deal with public transportation, etc., consider the chauffeur and shuttle services mentioned in the "long version" below. Their drivers can meet you in the Arrival Hall of your flight outside of customs and baggage claim. If you use a chauffeur service, two hours and fifteen minutes (plus time for "pit stops") after leaving the Prague airport and at a cost of about $150, you will be at the Main Square in Cesky Krumlov; a shuttle service costs about $50 per person with the conditions noted in the long version below. (For travel between a hotel in the center of Prague and Cesky Krumlov on Sunday morning, the trip also takes two hours and fifteen minutes. However at busy times like Sunday afternoon, Friday afternoon, etc. an additional thirty minutes or so is required). As the new highway construction south of Prague opens more segments, travel time continues to shorten.
b) A thrifty option for the adventurous who have more time - Flights from North America, the United Kingdom, etc. arrive at Terminal 1 of Prague airport whereas flights from a Schengen area (a borderless zone of 25 European countries) arrive at Terminal 2. After exiting customs in Terminal 1, in the Arrival Hall are ATMs to the left of the doors directly ahead; the "Student Agency Bus" booth and the "Transport Information (Metro-Tram-Bus Tickets)" booth are near the staircase to the right. Don't worry if you are not a student since anyone can ride "Student Agency" buses. See details in paragraph "8" below, and note that their buses from Prague (Praha in Czech) to Cesky Krumlov leave from the NA KNIZECI bus station. If you have not already made an advance reservation (strongly recommended for summer weekends, holidays, etc.) at their website http://www.studentagency.eu/, their booth will make one for you. The current adult fare between Prague and Cesky Krumlov is 200 CZK ($10) each way with discounts for students, children, etc. After a wide body jet lands, the line at the nearby "Transport Information" booth can become long. If so, avoid this booth and get some coins with your "Student Agency" change to buy a ticket from the machine outside at the bus stops. (Outside Terminal 1 Arrival Hall the bus stops are directly ahead on the other side of the plexiglass wall; the ticket machines are near the northern end of these bus stops). The basic Prague public transport ticket for metro, tram, and bus currtently costs 32 CZK but is good for 90 minutes after proper validation. You can also buy a bus/tram/metro ticket using your mobile phone by sending text message "DPT32" to the number "902 06". As of this writing, only T-Mobile and several others have this service. Your ticket will be sent to your phone within one minute. If you request a ticket through an SMS, you must have received your ticket before you enter the bus or the paid zone on the subway in case a ticket inspector wants to confirm it. To purchase an SMS ticket, one must not have Premium SMS services blocked; these can be activated free of charge by calling the operator's help line. In case you accidentally delete your SMS ticket, you can get its duplicate by sending SMS „DPTA“ to the number "902 06 06"; the cost of this duplicate ticket is 6 CZK. Some ticket machines have an "English button" at the bottom of the third column. At http://www.livingprague.com/htmetro.htm are detailed instructions if you encounter a machine without an English option; only the first three paragraphs under the photo of the machine are necessary to read unless your luggage is large. For luggage larger than 25 x 40 x 70 centimeters (9.8 x 15.7 x 27.5 inches), a 16 CZK ticket is required. The machine is easier to use than it first appears. For an adult ticket, push the upper left button once; when it shows 32 CZK, insert coins to receive your ticket and change at the bottom slot. Ride the #100 bus to the ZLICIN metro station ("yellow" station at the left of the map at http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/cz/praha/praha.htm) to continue on the metro.
Usually it takes one hour by bus to get from the airport to the NA KNIZECI bus station above metro station ANDEL. A taxi to the bus station is faster but costs over twenty times as much. (See article below to avoid being ripped off on taxi fares). If the #100 bus will leave before you have time to buy a ticket from the machine, board the front of the bus and give a low value banknote to the bus driver who will sell you a ticket for a slightly higher price. Be sure to validate the ticket(s) as you enter the bus in one of the machines in the aisle. Insert your ticket into the machine with the arrow side up so the time you started your journey is printed at the tip of the arrow. If you do not hear a loud click when the ticket is inserted into the machine and see the current time printed, try inserting the ticket again or try another validation machine on the bus. To avoid a large fine, keep the ticket(s) with you until you completely exit the ANDEL metro station in case an undercover policeman stops you to check your ticket. (Metro station ANDEL is the ninth stop for this metro line from ZLICIN). At ANDEL turn to your left when you exit your metro car (the opposite exit is far from the bus station), ride the escalator upstairs, walk into the small below ground shopping area, and walk up the stairs at the far left to the NA KNIZECI bus station and your "Student Agency" bus at bus stop #1. Since it makes limited stops, this bus requires only two hours and fifty five minutes to reach Cesky Krumlov-AN (the main bus station). See right side of town map at http://www.castleview.cz/en/faq/outstanding-central-location/ and additional details in the long version below concerning getting to the historic center. As of this writing there is no "Student Agency" booth in Terminal 2 although their booth in Terminal 1 is within walking distance.
(More options and details for every step of the way)
1. FLYING TO PRAGUE AIRPORT - Although the removal of passport control made travel in the European Schengen area (a borderless zone of 25 countries) easier, passengers going from a non Schengen country to a Schengen country such as the Czech Republic must now go through passport control at their transit airport if it is in a Schengen country. Therefore it is much easier to take a nonstop flight from Atlanta, New York, London, or some other non Schengen city and go through passport control at Prague airport. (London's Heathrow airport has had problems with delays, congestion, etc. and is known as the world's only construction site with its own airport). Paris' CDG (the busiest airport in continental Europe) is a major challenge for transit passengers with long distances between gates, absent/misleading signage, indifferent customer service, frequent passenger logjams, glass ceilings that become solar heaters on sunny summer days, and a baffling positioning/naming of terminals; to avoid missing your connecting flight, change planes at CDG only if you have at least several hours between flights. Until 2008, Munich and Dusseldorf airports had some of the shortest/easiest transit options in Europe, especially when connecting between code share flights; for years they were my favorite transit airports in Europe. However now they send non Schengen passengers on a long trek through passport control, the baggage claim area, etc. to a distant check-in counter to get a boarding pass for the next flight. Fortunately Dusseldorf recognizes this new hassle is costing them income by causing many frequent flyers to transit elsewhere; therefore the airport has been building faster transit corridors to/from some international flights. Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, which historically has been one of Europe's favorite transit airports for frequent flyers, now has its own passport control barrier between the Schengen and non Schengen gates. Even though its passport control can be time consuming during rush hour and holidays, at least one is not required to go outside baggage claim to a distant check-in counter to receive one's next boarding pass. Therefore Schiphol once again is my favorite large transit airport in Europe (Prague's airport is easier but has far fewer flights). There are many transit stations throughout this airport for boarding passes, and an "XpresSpa" is available (where you can have two treatments done simultaneously) if your transit experience becomes too stressful! For those with a long wait between flights, in addition to countless shops, restaurants, and wireless Internet, it also has a free art museum (a branch of the famous Rijksmuseum), medical clinic, casino, hotel, and even offers "Schiphol Weddings" with four different options depending upon your available time and budget. The current airport at Ceske Budejovice (20 minutes north of Cesky Krumlov) is scheduled to open to commercial flights when its new terminal is built; with Prague airport having one of the simplest/shortest transits between non Schengen and Schengen flights in Europe (see map and video at http://www.prg.aero/en/passengers-check-in/transfer/), Prague will also appeal to passengers making a transfer to the Ceske Budejovice region.
2. INTRODUCTION TO CZECH BUSES AND TRAINS - Until the high speed train line from Prague to Linz is completed, most people take the bus to Cesky Krumlov because the bus trip is shorter, cheaper, and often involves no transfers. The bus station is also much closer to the tourist area of Cesky Krumlov than its train station which is near the top of a steep hill (see Cesky Krumlov map). Prague's main "Hlavni Nadrazi" train station has undergone a major renovation (see map at http://www.pragueexperience.com/maps/map.asp where the boundary between sections "2" and "3" meets the boundary between sections "c" and "d;" click the map to enlarge it then click specific sites for details). Unless you have already bought your train ticket before your day of travel, allow extra time at the station; as of this writing both domestic and international ticket windows are below the main ground floor and are reached by steep moving sidewalks. Although more ticket sellers are learning some English, it is easy for English speakers to mispronounce the names of Czech towns; hence it helps to write in block letters such words as "Cesky Krumlov, second class, one way, today" and show the piece of paper to the ticket seller. Don't be surprised when you look at your ticket; in Europe the day of the month is written before the number of the month and year. Hopefully all of the Art Nouveau architecture will be restored and the Communist era "improvements" be removed. When the station opened in 1871 and had its first renovation thirty years later, it was a showplace to welcome visitors and locals alike; its downlill course began with the Communists who built a massive highway on top of a block building in front of the train station's Art Nouveau architecture thus destroying much of the scenic park. After the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew Communism, this station became rather seedy at night with drug users, prostitutes, pickpockets, etc. The park in front of the station is even called "Sherwood Forest" by locals because of the high incidence of theft and the number of homeless people. The current renovation is scheduled to correct the station's tarnished image. However avoid the taxi drivers here who are known for their ripoff prices; the metro station, underneath the train station and also called HLAVNI NADRAZI, is on the "red" metro line between the "green" and "yellow" metro lines at http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/cz/praha/praha.htm and easy to use. Prague continues to enlarge its metro system and every several years opens additional stations.
On weekends and holidays the buses/trains can be crowded, especially during summer. If you have an unreserved seat, please give your seat to the elderly/disabled if they ask. On public buses buying your ticket in advance, instead of from the bus driver, gets you a reserved seat. On weekends, holidays, etc., sometimes all of the seats will be taken, but you can ride standing in the aisle until a seat becomes available. However at peak travel periods there will not even be any standing room left so you will need to wait for the next bus. Such private companies like "Student Agency" do not have standing room and only have reserved seats; buy your ticket in advance unless you take the chance that the bus will have vacant seats left for the stewardess to sell. At bus station FLORENC (metro station has same name) the public bus ticket office is in front of the bus platforms (see map at http://florenc.cz/index.php?site=an&usite=mapy&sel=mnad&lan=en). At bus station NA KNIZECI the public bus ticket office is underneath the bus station in the hall leading to metro station ANDEL. At bus station ROZTYLY (metro station has same name) the public bus ticket counters are next to the building containing a tiny grocery store and the stairs leading down to the ROZTYLY metro station. When going to the NA KNIZECI bus station (above metro B stop ANDEL), exit the metro station via direction "Zenske Domovy CSAD". "CSAD" is another term for the long distance bus lines. Over the years they have improved the signage here; nevertheless during rush hours, it can be easy to follow the crowds to the opposite metro exit which is far from the bus station. At ANDEL take the escalator up to the underground commercial area with small shops and the long distance bus ticket window. Then walk straight ahead until you see the last stairs on your left going up to street level.
The local public buses are not air conditioned, and few long distance public buses have air conditioning ("Student Agency" buses are air conditioned). The public buses have no toilets ("Student Agency" buses have toilets). Metro station ANDEL has underground pay toilets on the right side near the last stairs up to the bus station known as NA KNIZECI. Metro station ROZTYLY has toilets at ground level just to the right as you exit the Metro station. Bus station FLORENC has toilets on the opposite side of the bus station to the ticket office building (see http://florenc.cz/index.php?site=an&usite=mapy&sel=mnad&lan=en). Go to http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz/vlakyautobusy/spojeni/ (has an English language option mid page on the right) for bus and train schedules; use your exact day of travel since schedules for public buses vary on holidays and weekends; most schedules list the price that varies according to the number of kilometers for that route. Unless you have a reserved seat, get to the bus stop early to have a good place in the line that forms waiting for the bus. Sitting in a seat in the back of the bus decreases the chance that someone has reserved your seat ahead of time forcing you to give up your seat at the last minute when only standing room remains. In the summer the back of the bus is also much cooler since there is a large ventilation opening in the roof (near the emergency exit) on NON air conditioned buses. When going in a north/south direction during the summer, sit on the side of the bus opposite from the sun to avoid the dark fabric of your seat becoming a solar heater! Often on long distance public buses there is a small extra charge for luggage that goes into the storage area; this area is not secure so do NOT use expensive looking luggage, and sit on the same side of the bus as the storage area so that you can watch the luggage compartment being unloaded during any stops. On these long distance public buses many people use smaller pieces of luggage that can be carried on the bus; however storage space above/under the seats is limited. If the bus is not crowded, the driver will let you put your luggage in the aisle beside your seat or on the vacant seat next to you.
3. ADDITIONAL TRAIN TRAVEL TIPS - At http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz/vlakyautobusy/spojeni/ print an itinerary of your trip for your exact date of travel (weekend/holiday schedules differ from workday schedules) showing the number of your departure platform, name of your transfer/arrival stations, arrival time, second class and discount fares, etc. Another reason for printing a detailed train schedule is that even small towns may have several train stations with similar names. If you are not careful, it is easy to get off at the wrong station when you are jet lagged and only know the approximate train station name and time the train is scheduled to arrive at your stop. Other train passengers will usually try to be helpful but may not 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). Unlike Western Europe where almost every train station has a zillion signs with the station name, in Central Europe and Eastern Europe many small towns have only one sign on the main train station building. If you are sitting in the back of the train or looking through the opposite or a fogged window, the train will have left the station before you know the station´s name. Therefore sit close to the front of the train so you can more easily see the station´s name in time to gather your luggage and go to your closest exit. At small stations the train will only stop for a minute or so; be prepared to open the train door to exit as soon as the train stops. On newer trains you press the green button by the door to open it automatically; on older trains, you will need to lower manually the large lever on the door to open the door. When visiting small towns, don´t take heavy, bulky luggage unless you like mountain climbing. Many small 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 crowded summer weekend and holiday trains when finding ANY unreserved seat in second class is difficult and many passengers are forced to sit in the corridors on their luggage, first class train travel in the Czech Republic is a good option since the prices are so low compared to Western Europe. Sitting in first class, you can easily pay the train conductor the first class supplement when he comes to check your ticket; hand 100 CZK to him with your second class ticket so he will not think you are trying to cheat with the wrong ticket. If your Czech train stops at an intermediate station and everyone seems to be getting off the train, the track ahead may be undergoing repair. All passengers are expected to board the special bus near the train station and ride it to the next train station beyond the repair work. There another train will be waiting for you to continue your journey. Although a loud speaker or conductor will tell you to leave the train to board the waiting bus, the announcement will almost always be only in the Czech language.
Be cautious about close connections in Central and Eastern Europe. Whereas five minutes between trains would be plenty of time in such Western Europe countries as Holland (where close connections are on the same platform and trains wait for each other), in the Czech Republic neither is usually the case. Also with the railroad infrastructure renovation between Prague and Linz, delays can be expected. If you understand a little Czech and/or the train conductor knows some English, he can tell you what track your next train will be leaving from and which end of the train will be closer to your connecting train at your transfer station. About ten or fifteen minutes before your scheduled stop, take your belongings and go to the proper end of the train. If you wait too long, other passengers and their luggage will block your passage as they fill both ends of each train car waiting to exit the train. If your train does not arrive in Ceske Budejovice during rush hour (when the buses run more frequently) and you have missed your train connection, consider taking the short taxi ride from Ceske Budejovice to Cesky Krumlov rather than wait several hours for the next train/bus to Cesky Krumlov. Be aware that the Cesky Krumlov train station is near the top of a hill and much farther (about 1.5 km) from the historic center of town than the bus station. (2013 Update - The current average taxi ride costs 150 CZK from the Cesky Krumlov train station to Castle View Apartments for one to three/four passengers and luggage that fits inside the vehicle. Agree with the driver on the price in writing before entering the taxi.)
4. GOING FROM PRAGUE AIRPORT TO CESKY KRUMLOV BY BUS - In 2006 Prague airport opened Terminal 2 for most flights within Europe. Although the instructions in the next paragraph now refer to Terminal 1, the general concepts also apply to Terminal 2. Specifically, the bus stops for Terminal 2 are under the front roof of the terminal building. Keep walking to the far right as you exit the building until you see the last signs for buses 100, 119, etc. where the buses pick up passengers. When you return to the airport for your flight home, know from which terminal your flight leaves. Some of Prague´s previous general aviation terminals, such as Terminal 3, are now used only for government or private aviation flights (see map at http://www.prg.aero/en/passenger-services/airport-maps/airport-maps/). When on a crowded bus, it is easy to get off at the wrong Terminal if you are not careful; as of this writing Terminal 2 is the last stop for the public buses from the Prague metro stations.
If your flight arrives at Terminal 1, as you exit baggage claim (click http://360.panoramas.cz/letiste/vr.php?i=39 for a panoramic video of this area; for full screen view click the blue rectangle "na celou obrazovku" at the lower right), use the ATM machines on the left side of the exit doors directly ahead. You will need a four number pin for your VISA or MC to use these machines. Don´t use the money changing booths since their "real" exchange rates and extra fees are higher than those at ATMs and banks. Read the "Student Agency" comments below if you plan to use this bus and have not already made your seat reservation on their website. As you exit the Arrival Hall, you can buy your Prague bus/metro ticket at the "Public Transport Information" booth to the left of the stairway in the middle of the Hall. Otherwise buy your ticket from the machine near the bus stops outside or from the bus driver (if you have low value banknotes). After a wide body jet lands, the line at the "Public Transport Information" booth can become long. If you have a close bus connection, avoid this booth and use a ticket machine, some of which have an English language button at the bottom of the third column. Cab drivers waiting outside are notorious for ripping off tourists; therefore walk past them as you exit the terminal building, cross the street, and beyond the clear wall of plexiglass you will see the public bus stops on your right side. The basic Prague public transport combination ticket for metro, tram, and bus costs 32 CZK but is good for 90 minutes after proper validation. You can also buy a 90 minute bus/tram/metro ticket using your mobile phone by sending text message "DPT32" to the number 902 06. As of this writing, only T-Mobile and several other companies have this service. Your ticket will usually be sent to your phone within one minute. If you request a ticket through an SMS, you must have received your ticket before you enter the bus or the paid zone on the subway in case a ticket inspector wants to confirm it. To purchase an SMS ticket, one must not have Premium SMS services blocked; these can be activated free of charge by calling the operator's help line. In case you accidentally delete your SMS ticket, you can get its duplicate by sending SMS „DPTA“ to the number 902 06 06; the cost of this duplicate ticket is 6 CZK. Some ticket machines have an "English button" at the bottom of the third column. At http://www.livingprague.com/htmetro.htm are detailed instructions in case you encounter a ticket machine without an English language option; only the first three paragraphs under the photo of the machine are important for this route unless your luggage is large. The machine is easier to use than it first appears. For the standard adult ticket, push the upper left button once; when it shows 32 CZK, insert enough coins to receive your ticket. Any change due you will appear at the bottom slot with your ticket. Bus drivers will also sell you a ticket at a slightly higher price than charged by the machines. Each piece of luggage larger than 25 x 40 x 70 centimeters (9.8 x 15.7 x 27.5 inches) requires a separate 16 CZK ticket that also needs to be validated. Properly validate your ticket(s) in the machine on the bus as soon as you enter, and save them until you completely exit the last stop for your journey. I emphasize proper validation since undercover police will charge you a large fine if your ticket has not been inserted into the machine so the time you started your journey is printed at the tip of the arrow on the front of the ticket. If you do not hear a loud click when the ticket is inserted into the machine and then see the current time printed, insert the ticket again or try another validation machine on the bus.
Click http://czech-transport.com/images/prague-airport-public-transport.gif for a map showing bus options from the airport to the metro and train station then click the map to enlarge it. (With recent route changes this map has a significant error; the "Airport Express" bus now goes to the main train station HLAVNI NADRAZI instead of the train station HOLESOVICE). Prague has a half dozen long distance bus stations (see schedules at http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz/vlakyautobusy/spojeni/ with English option), but the ones for Cesky Krumlov are primarily FLORENC, NA KNIZECI, and ROZTYLY. If you print the Prague Metro map http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/cz/praha/praha.htm) in color, the following will be easier to understand. The long distance bus stations FLORENC (metro station same name) and NA KNIZECI (above metro station ANDEL) are on the metro line B. On the metro map, FLORENC is where line C (shown in Red) crosses line B (shown in Yellow); metro station ANDEL is five stations to the south west of metro station FLORENC on the line B (shown in Yellow). The third Prague long distance bus station for Cesky Krumlov is ROZTYLY (the metro stop three stations from the southern end of line C has the same name). To reach this bus station, transfer from line B to line C at metro station FLORENC and travel south. As of this writing all of the "Student Agency" buses to Cesky Krumlov depart from the NA KNIZECI bus station although some websites may show "departures" from other locations in Prague via "connections" on the metro, etc.
Allow at least one hour to travel from the Prague airport to the NA KNIZECI bus station; at the airport take bus #100 to the metro station ZLICIN then take the metro to station ANDEL (below the NA KNIZECI bus station). When going to the bus station, exit the ANDEL metro station via direction Zenske Domovy CSAD. "CSAD" is another term for the bus line. (If you have boarded the metro at ZLICIN, as you exit the subway car at the ANDEL station, turn to your left and take the stairs/escalator up to the underground commercial area. Then walk straight ahead until you see the last stairs up to street level. Most of the buses to Cesky Krumlov leave from bus stop #1 near the top of this last exit to the left). Novices are urged to use bus schedules between Prague and Cesky Krumlov that don't require transfers. You will seldom make a close long distance public bus connection from a town as far away from Ceske Budejovice as Prague since long distance public buses are often late; private buses such as Student Agency have a better on time record. 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 even if the bus offers standing room. Sometimes though there are a few standing room spaces left on the bus, the driver will insist that the bus is "full" (perhaps for this 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 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.
NOTE - Some people like to take the morning bus (or train) between Prague and Ceske Budejovice; then after a lunch in a restaurant on the famous Main Square of Ceske Budejovice, they take a bus to Cesky Krunlov. The main bus station in Ceske Budejovice (the largest city on the route between Prague and Cesky Krumlov) has finished its renovation. Although on the same city block as the former main bus station and across the street from the main train station, it is now located on the roof of a shopping mall shown at http://www.mercurycentrum.cz/autobusove-nadrazi-obchodni-centrum.php?mapa-centra/ with the arrangement of bus stops shown at http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz/info/C2/S4842.HTM . When you enter the mall, take the escalator or elevator to the top floor. When you reach the top floor, turn right and go outside to the roof level. 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).
5. GOING FROM THE MAIN BUS STATION IN CESKY KRUMLOV TO ITS HISTORIC CENTER - The buses from Prague let off passengers at the entrance to the main Cesky Krumlov bus station (Cesky Krumlov-AN) which is an open field with buses parked along one side and numbered stations on the other side from which the buses depart. As you leave the bus you arrived on in Cesky Krumlov, walk in the same westerly direction that the bus entered the bus station (you will see the Castle Tower in the distance above the trees straight ahead). As you reach the trees at the western end of the bus station parking lot, near the corner to your left (the SW corner of the property) you will see a paved foot path that goes up a small hill. (Near the top of this hill is a park bench with a photo-op of the town's historic center below). Keep walking on the foot path until you reach the first street then bear to your right walking downhill on the sidewalk to the main highway. There is a stoplight here with a button to halt 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 this bridge there are some 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 the park and before you reach the Main Square, look to your right along the first narrow passageway that is primarily for pedestrians; you will see a photo-op used in many postcards with the Castle Tower in the distance between many buildings (Castle View Apartments at the corner of Satlavska Street is on the left side of this passageway and has ivy on its front). In winter when there is ice/snow on the ground, an easier approach to our lodging is to walk to the Main Square, turn right, then turn right again at the Infocentrum (information center) on Satlavska Street (primarily a pedestrian passageway) to Castle View Apartments. Although the walk from the main bus station only takes about fifteen minutes, depending upon how many photos you take along the way, consider taking a taxi if you have heavy luggage, the weather is rainy, etc. There is often a taxi waiting near the entrance to the main bus station, or the clerk inside the small store by the entrance can call one for you. (2013 Update - the average price for a taxi from the main Cesky Krumlov bus station to the Main Square is now 100 CZK for one to three/four persons plus luggage if it all fits in the taxi. It is best to agree to a price in writing before you enter the taxi. Instruct the driver to take you to "Castle View Apartments" or the Infocentrum in the Main Square if Satlavska Street is too narrow for their vehicle to turn around; "Castle View Apartments" as mentioned above is a short walk down Satlavska Street and on your left side.) If you don't want to use a taxi and want to avoid walking up the small hill at the west of the main bus station, another option is to walk to the north of the bus station then through the gas station (see Cesky Krumlov map above) to the main highway that goes south to the stoplight and "zebra" mentioned above.
6. GOING FROM PRAGUE AIRPORT TO CESKY KRUMLOV BY TRAIN - The train station in Cesky Krumlov is much farther from the historic center than its bus station and up a steep hill. Nevertheless if you are taking the train to Cesky Krumlov after arriving at the Prague Airport, a faster and no transfers option is to take Bus AE (Airport Express) from the Prague Airport to the main train station "Hlavni nadrazi". (As of this writing the "official" map at http://czech-transport.com/images/prague-airport-public-transport.gif has not been updated and incorrectly shows the "Airport Express" Bus going to the wrong Prague train station although it has a lot of other useful information; click the map to enlarge the view). Assuming one is not stuck in rush hour traffic, travel time for the bus is about 50 minutes; the bus leaves the airport every thirty minutes between 5:46 am and 9:16 pm. Use one of the airport ATMs (see details above) to get Czech currency since their exchange rates are better than those at the currency change booths. The price for an adult is 50 CZK with no charge for oversized luggage; tickets are sold by the driver at the bus stops for Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. As soon as you arrive at the main "Hlavni nadrazi" train station, stop at one of the food markets to get something to eat and drink on the train in case snacks are not sold on your train (with the usually required transfer in Ceske Budejovice, the train trip to Cesky Krumlov takes between four and five hours); the water from the faucet in the train W. C. is neither safe to drink nor safe to brush one's teeth. Over the years some of the food stalls at "Hlavi nadrazi", especially those closest to the train tracks, have been infamous for high prices and low quality; thankfully the current renovation is including larger and better stores similar to those in other major European train stations. If you have extra time before your train departs to buy snacks for your journey, visit a nearby supermarket as mentioned in the next paragraph for better prices and healthier alternatives. (In downtown Prague essentially all of the larger supermarkets are underground and easy to miss if you are not aware of their street level logo or location in the basement of several large department stores and near some metro stations).
7. A PICNIC LUNCH DURING YOUR TRIP - For people who want a serene picnic lunch between their long flight and the bus/train trip to Cesky Krumlov, bus #119 goes from the Prague airport to metro station DEJVICKA (at the beginning of line A although work is underway extending the metro closer to the airport) whose trains go to stations in the historic center of Prague and beyond. One could of course reach the above mentioned metro B/C lines from this metro A line, but the large transfer station MUSTEK is complicated for novices unless you stay on metro line A and use the southern metro exit in the direction towards MUZEUM and Wenceslas Square. (Although Prague is a safe city as large cities go, it does have pickpockets both solo and working together in groups. Be especially vigilant around crowds on stairs in metro stations and crowds at opening/closing doors to metro trains/trams/buses in tourist areas. Remember that you are probably jet lagged after a long flight so remind yourself to watch your belongings and wear a money belt under your clothes). At metro station DEJVICKA board the train then exit it at station MUSTEK; walk in the same direction that the metro train is going and ride the escalator up to the underground commercial area. You will notice that this formerly large open hall has been replaced by enclosed shops in a strange pattern. As you enter the commercial space, if you go around the enclosed shops to the far left, you will reach a large underground supermarket. (Just to the right of the supermarket is an escalator/steps and pay toilets. This escalator/steps goes up to Wenceslas Square in the direction of MUZEUM). After you have bought your picnic lunch (be sure to buy an extra liter of water/juice plus food to carry with you on the bus/train to Cesky Krumlov), return to the entrance to the metro escalators just to get your bearings. Then make a hard right turn, and climb the first stairs to your right. At the top of the stairs hug the left side of the building as you walk along the sidewalk for about 33 paces (about 100 feet) until you see an interior arcade to your left. Walk straight through the arcade until you reach the entrance to a beautiful park with rose bushes, park benches, statues, etc. bordered by apartment buildings and a church to the north. Can you believe this quiet park is in downtown Prague between busy, noisy streets? Many Prague office workers eat their lunches here while sitting on the benches and admiring the beauty around them. On the historic center map link (above at "2. Introduction to Czech buses and trains") this park is shown in the upper left corner of quadrant "C3" just below the word "MUSTEK" and adjacent to the church marked "Our Lady of the Snows." There are passageways on the west of the park to Jungmannova Street where a good place to find a large assortment of maps and travel books is the KIWI store at #23 on the other side of the street. Just to the north of KIWI back across the street is an Internet cafe, etc. A short walk north on Jungmannova Street is one of the northern entrances to the MUSTEK metro station. You will need to buy another 24 CZK or 32 CZK ticket, depending on the number of metro stops, to ride the metro to the bus station or train station for the trip to Cesky Krumlov unless you walk to the nearby Hlavni Nadrazi train station to board a train there to Cesky Krumlov. Metro/tram tickets are sold near the top of metro entrance escalators in coin machines and sometimes at ticket windows near the machines. Remember to validate the ticket in a machine (usually at the top of the escalators or stairs) before you use the ticket. (Some post offices, sidewalk kiosks, and hotels also sell the metro/tram/bus tickets but may not have all types of tickets). Even after visiting Prague for more than a decade, I still make wrong turns inside this large MUSTEK station when changing between the metro lines, especially when some of the direction signs are missing.
8. "STUDENT AGENCY" BUSES - Whereas in years past one had to put the exact date of travel into the www.idos.cz website since the public buses changed their schedules so frequently, "Student Agency" now has a fixed and fast (2 hours and 55 minutes) schedule between Prague's NA KNIZECI bus station and the Cesky Krumlov main bus station ("Cesky Krumlov AN"). One does not need to be a student to ride this bus. As of 2013 they have increased the number of buses on this route to fourteen per day (not all buses have the same perks as their "F" buses; see their website for details about your date of travel), but advance reservations are still often needed at peak travel times. If you want to travel at a specific time on busy days (holidays, summer weekends including Friday afternoons, etc.), make your reservation several weeks in advance. (As of yet one can reserve a seat no more than one month in advance). Follow the link at http://www.studentagency.eu/ for details. Their site also now has the ability to buy up to six tickets at once as well as roundtrip tickets; it also shows the number/location of vacant seats on each bus, etc. These air conditioned buses have toilets, movies with English subtitles with free use of head sets, a stewardess to serve free hot beverages (there is a charge for cold drinks), free (Czech language) newspapers/magazines, and "ports" for computers/CDs. Currently they charge adults 200 CZK ($10) for a one way trip between Prague and Cesky Krumlov with student discounts if under 26 and additional discounts for children. The "Student Agency" bus schedule can also be found at http://www.idos.cz/ by noting which buses take 2 hours and 55 minutes between Prague and Cesky Krumlov then clicking the link by the bus symbol; the link will confirm if it is a "Student Agency" bus. Be aware that some other private bus companies that do NOT have toilets on board and other similar perks are now also advertising a 2 hour and 55 minute schedule between the two cities.
In Prague their buses leave from bus stop #1 at the NA KNIZECI bus station (above the ANDEL metro stop), and in Cesky Krumkov their buses leave the main bus station from bus stop #4. At the Prague airport, seat reservations can be obtained at the "Student Agency" booth (open from 7:00 am until 9:00 pm) outside of baggage claim just to the left of the staircase in the Terminal 1 Arrival Hall; as of this writing, Terminal 2 (where most flights from inside Europe arrive/depart) does NOT have a "Student Agency" booth. Once I asked the bus stewardess where one could buy an advanced reservation. She directed me to the bus ticket window below the NA KNIZECI station; however when I went there, it was closed. About an hour later there was a waiting line of people twenty feet long! When in Cesky Krumlov the Information Center at the Main Square will sell you a reserved seat. The bus driver or stewardess will sell you a ticket if there are any vacant seats on that bus; for travel during holidays, summer weekends, etc. it is most important to buy your ticket several days to a week in advance since many locals use the bus for the intermediate stops.
Since the toilet on this bus is next to the exit stairs below the seat level, persons over six feet tall, former weight lifters, and current couch potatoes will find the toilet cramped (pun?). Since the center of gravity of the bus is so high compared to public buses, persons with a tendency to motion sickness should take an over the counter medicine for it before using the bus if they plan to use the toilet. They should also sit as close to the front of the bus as possible to decrease the number of movie screens within the field of vision. On my first trip on the bus I sat in the front and watched the movie but did not try the toilet; I had no motion sickness. On my second trip I sat in the middle of the bus; after using the toilet on a winding road and bumping my head/shoulders during several sharp turns, I developed motion sickness when I returned to my seat. I am sure all of the movie screens on the bus showing English subtitles and the warm temperature inside the bus (it was below freezing outside) did not help. Fortunately the five seats at the back of the bus were empty, and I was able to lie down for thirty minutes until the next station stop. When the bus again became full, I had to return to my original seat. Persons with physical disabilities may have difficulty entering/leaving the bus since the steps are so steep and the passenger level is so high off the ground; they can forget about using the toilet since even an Olympic gymnast could have difficulty getting to and from the narrow, steep stairway and the adjacent small toilet while traveling on a winding road at high speed. Be advised that the storage space above the seats is small, even smaller than the small storage space on the long distance public buses. Therefore any luggage of significant size will need to go into the bus storage area. If you plan to use the seat back tray during your trip or are bringing children, bring a few disposable wipettes; some of the stewardesses are not so fastidious as others in cleaning food/drink debris stuck to the tray tops.
On web travel forums some "Student Agency" drivers have been called rude, making many unscheduled stops, etc. providing a negative travel experience compared to other bus companies. In this country, until 1989 dominated by Communist attitudes and tanks, one unfortunately still finds workers who consider customers to be a bothersome interruption to their day and not the reason they even have a job! From my personal experience on dozens of long distance public buses I have noticed a wide range in the behavior of drivers. Some will help you with your luggage, answer your questions, and go out of their way to help you make a close connection by blocking the path of your next bus so you can board it before it leaves (other riders might interpret this behavior as making an unscheduled stop). Other public bus drivers won't help with luggage, won't answer questions, and will not let you ride standing room (even though there is plenty of space for you between other standing passengers) when the next bus does not leave for many hours. (The latter happened to friends of mine; to add insult to injury, the later public bus developed severe mechanical problems enroute delaying their trip again for several hours as another bus had to be sent from Prague to transport the passengers. The moral of this story is to get to your bus stop early if you don't have a reserved seat). "Student Agency" buses being newer have fewer breakdowns on the road than public buses although most Czech bus drivers are very talented at making minor repairs on their own. 2009 update - Some web forums have reported that the low "Student Agency" fares are attracting drunks behaving in an obnoxious fashion towards other passengers on the long distance routes such as between Budapest and Prague, etc. As of yet I have neither heard of nor experienced such behavior on the shorter routes between Prague and Cesky Krumlov. 2012 Update - Recently several tourists have reported that some routes are being oversold with two people having a reservation for the same seat. Since the "Student Agency" website says, "No fare is returned for unused or partly used ticket," these reports are of concern. Anyway it is another reason to get to the bus early and bring with you a copy of the electronic ticket they sent you by email (the first of two emails you receive from "Student Agency" after buying your ticket online is only the reservation confirmation). Nevertheless, the "Student Agency" buses are overall a TREMENDOUS improvement over the standard long distance public buses. Previously, even the direct (no transfers) public buses between Prague and Cesky Krumlov's main bus station (Cesky Krumlov-AN) that were scheduled to take from three to three and a half hours took up to four hours in busy traffic! Since on weekends and holidays one needed to stand in line at the bus stop almost thirty minutes ahead of time to be sure to get a seat on the bus, it was not uncommon to have between four and five hours without a bathroom break! Also note that some of the movies shown on the buses are "R" rated, something to be aware of if you are bringing children.
9. CHAFFEUR SERVICES - For the trip between Prague airport and Cesky Krumlov plus options to other destinations, see Mike's Chauffeur Service (www.mike-chauffeur.cz) for details. He can be reached at email@example.com. When there are several people in your group who can lower the cost per person, chauffeur companies provide a good air conditioned alternative with flexibility concerning stopovers at the stunning Hluboka Castle between Cesky Krumlov and Prague, etc. From time to time his website lists scheduled long distance trips such as from Prague to Vienna, etc.; by using the segment between Prague and Cesky Krumlov, you could have door to door service at significant savings. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to learn if others have booked a long distance trip via Cesky Krumlov on your travel date. If you have never seen Salzburg and the mountain lake towns (ie., Hallstatt, Traunkirchen, etc.), your trip to this region would be a perfect time to see their spectacular scenery on the way between Salzburg and Cesky Krumlov.
10. SHUTTLE VANS - Since prices change often and vary from company to company based on the number of passengers and particular vehicle they are using, it is best to contact several for a quote and any "last minute" specials. Several days before your departure, reconfirm that the trip will take place; shuttle companies often cancel their long distance trips if not enough passengers sign up to cover their costs and the scheduled passengers are not willing to pay a surcharge. On the other hand the companies' websites and the Infocentrum in the Main Square in Cesky Krumlov sometimes have last minute specials at lower prices. "Lobobus" (phone +420 380 713 153) at http://www.shuttlelobo.cz/shuttle/index.php?artid=10&lang=en, "Sebastian Tours" (phone +420 608 357 581) at http://www.sebastianck-tours.com/ , "Travel Agency Expedicion" at http://www.expedicion.cz/ , and "Shuttle Bus" at www.shuttlebus.cz/destination.html have service between Cesky Krumlov and Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, etc. (2010 Update - "CK Shuttle" has begun service in the region with a website at www.ckshuttle.cz.)
11. TAXI OPTIONS - Although taking a taxi between Prague and Cesky Krumlov is MUCH more expensive, it is another option. Taxi drivers in Prague (especially at the airport, main train station, and other "tourist" areas) are infamous for ripping off tourists even for short trips into and in town. Agree on a price in writing before getting into a cab; when departing your hotel area, ask your hotel to call the taxi for you since they know the companies with better reputations. Be especially wary of people approaching you offering "taxi" services. Before travel read websites like http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/avoid-taxi-scams.htm and http://www.myczechrepublic.com/prague/prague_taxi.html for 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. Since a taxi in Europe is usually smaller than a taxi in the U.S., some companies can use a larger vehicle if there are four or more passengers with luggage that do not want to use a second taxi. However since such limited vehicles may be in use elsewhere, at least a week advance reservation by the tourist directly with a taxi company or shuttle service is strongly suggested to allow time for price negotiation and schedule synchronization. (By contacting several companies in advance, one can sometimes achieve significant price savings by connecting one's trip with a trip already established by the taxi or shuttle or chauffeur company). When calling for a taxi on one's own, as of this writing always use one of the more reputable companies such as AAA "Radio" Taxi (phone 14014 or 222 333 222). When using this company, be sure your taxi has a yellow color and has the proper logo on its doors; another taxi company that charges much higher rates now also calls itself "AAA Taxi" but uses red or silver colored cars with a different logo!
In the past one had to find a pay phone at the airport, understand how to use the phone, have the correct change or prepaid phone card, call them hoping you understood each other, and meet them at a special location outside the airport terminal building even in the rain. Now that Terminal 2 has opened, the genuine AAA "Radio" Taxi has a booth INSIDE Terminal 2 just to the right as you exit baggage claim; their cabs are just outside the terminal door underneath the large roof extension. In Terminal 1 AAA "Radio" Taxi has an information booth on the opposite wall as you exit the baggage claim and customs area. However always agree on a price in writing before you get into the cab and load your luggage. At this writing they charge about 5,000 CZK (OUCH!) on the meter to go from the Prague airport to Cesky Krumlov (compared to the public transportation cost of 32 CZK per person to go from the airport to the ANDEL metro station then about 200 CZK, depending on the exact bus route and your luggage, to take the bus to Cesky Krumlov). As of this writing, such companies as Krumlov Taxi (phone 380 712 712) have a cheaper flat rate of 3,890 CZK between the Prague airport and Cesky Krumlov. Since most taxi drivers have limited knowledge of English and most tourists have very limited knowledge of the Czech language, it could be easy for misunderstandings to develop. Hence it is important to keep sentences as simple as possible.
12. RENTAL CARS - 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").
To those who are thinking about driving in Prague, I have five words of advice - DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER IT. Downtown Prague is a medieval city with narrow, meandering streets built to confuse invading armies. Today the invading hordes are not armed with swords and knives but cameras and SUVs. It is usually faster to walk in the downtown areas than to ride, and parking places can be tough/expensive to find near the popular sites. Also, the police are infamous for slapping instant $100+ fines on unsuspecting tourist drivers for trivial offenses; often I have seen them stake out busy intersections (with a zillion seemingly contradictory directional signs) ready to write tickets and collect their big fines. 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. It is best to park your car at your lodging in the Prague suburbs (where there is less danger of your car being vandalized) and to take the metro into town each day for sightseeing.
Concerning the drive from Prague to Cesky Krumlov (very good road map at http://www.mapy.cz/), the route via R4/E49 is usually faster than E55 (the longer route taxis take when they are on the meter) unless you are leaving from the eastern part of Prague. However check with locals before your trip since updated highway segments are opening all the time to shorten the trip. For those planning to drive directly from the Prague airport to Cesky Krumlov, consider getting a good map in advance and asking local drivers to mark the route for you; historically it was faster to drive west towards Plzen for a few miles before turning south to Cesky Krumlov since it avoided long lines of trucks at highway connections along the southern rim of Prague. A massive highway construction south of Prague is nearing completion which will remove many of these bottlenecks. 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! Every time I make this journey I seem to notice at least one recent accident site. Note the "Arriving by Car" link on the left side of the Home Page of this website for directions when in Cesky Krumlov.