We will be ending a trip in Venice and wish to travel to travel to visit friends in Prague. Would it be better to take the train or to fly? We will be there in October 2012. Time is not "of the essence" so several hours on a train viewing the countryside might be a nice idea. However if it is an entire day's worth of train travel, that would cut into the few days we will have in Prague. Thoughts from the experts here? Thank you.
Well I'd think of the train as a great addition to a holiday. You see, ah, squat from a plane. Pack a picnic and relax. Prague is great (and the music is greater) but taking a train vs. an airplane is like entering the house via the kitchen and seeing the day to day parts of life. This said I have not plotted out a train trip from Venice to Prague so connection times, travel time will be a factor as well.
At first cut, Venice to Prague is a long way. By train it will take about 14 hour, plus or minus. However, if you find a connection by a conventional airline, it's likely to be very expensive, and low cost airlines are likely to fly that in two legs with a long hold over. For instance German Wings has a 6 hour, airport-airport connection via Bonn-Cologne. By the time you factor in getting to/from airports, you'll be spending most of the 14 hours flying or in airports. And the airlines charge more than the best fares you can get on the train. So, relax and enjoy the "mountains" (I'm from Colorado) over Brenner pass. I'd take any train from Venice to Verona, then pick up the German EC from Verona to Munich. With advance purchase from the Bahn, the fare from Verona to Munich can be as low as €39 per person. I just found €49 pP for October 13. From Munich you can take an ICE to Nuernberg and the bus to Prague. The ICE/bus will take 5 hours and you can get pretty good advance purchase fares, but if you don't purchase early, the fares go up. There is also a direct regional train leaving Munich at 17:02 and getting to Prage at 22:54. For that train, you buy a Bayern-Ticket from an automat in Munich for €29. It covers both of you to the Czech Republic. Point to point tickets from there are about €10 each.
Ellen, Since this is the last part of your trip with no pressing time constraint, I would vote taking the train over the plane. The more direct and shorter way requires a transfer in Munich. On that route you'll see the mountains and all that scenery, which I myself am not interested in. The other option, which is longer by another 2 hrs, is to go from Venice to Vienna, seeing southern and some of eastern Austria, then transfer in Vienna to Prague. I'm not adverse to multi-hour train rides, day or night, and would choose the Vienna option. If you want to arrive all in one day, then the Munich route is the better choice. If you're interested in approaching Vienna from the southwest, seeing that countryside, and spending still a couple more hours on the train, choose this option. Either way forget flying.
In addition to the daytime routes, you can take a CNL night train from Venice to Munich, connect to an express train to Nuernberg, and connect to an express bus to Prague. See the German Rail site for detailed timetables. According to skyscanner.com, there are no budget airlines that fly directly from Venice to Prague.
Several people have mentioned the express bus from Munich to Prague. It is an hour faster than regional trains. The regional train, either direct from Munich to Prague via Furth im Wald, or with a single dedicated train change in Schwandorf, takes 6 hours. The cost will always by €29 for up to five people to Furth with a Bayern-Ticket plus about €10 for a Czech ticket from Furth to Prague or €34 for up to five persons with a Bayern-Boehmen ticket to Pilsen and about €6 to Prague, about €23-25 each per person for two. Meanwhile, the train/bus combination, which is an hour faster, starts at €29 for a non-refundable ticket. If you don't buy it long enough in advance, it can go as high as €91 per person. There is a bus every hour vs four trains a day. My advice is to try to get a good fare for the train/bus combination, but if the fare is €89, like I see for 9/29, remember that the regional train is still only ~€24 each.
Two cities are too far apart to be reached via train. The route via Brenner pass involve a long and tedious detour via non-high-speed (= outdated and clogged) lines, some with speed limitations as low as 60mph near the Italian-Austrian border. Go by plane, unless you are a transportation geek that likes the idea of spending hectic hours in, for most of the journey, old trains (the ICEs are quite new and modern). I won't ever get to how crappy regular InterCity buses are in Europe. Don't take them. They are not like a chartered RS tour bus with all amenities, it will be bare basic. No fun. Take a flight, even with a connection, it will take likely less than half of the train journey time and the actual time in the sky on cramped seats will be less than 2h30.
It would be an easy choice for me to take a 1hr 40 min non-stop flight versus a 14 hour rail journey with multiple changes. Flying will probably cost more for sure, and you'll need to factor in airport arrival time and whatever your tolerance is for the inconvenience of security, but it's a no-brainer IMHO. You'll arrive relaxed with lots of time for sightseeing with your friends. I've done several 8-9 hour rail trips in Europe, and they're exhausting. 14 hours would be way too much for me. I like rail but not that much. Even on a night train, you're not going to sleep as well as you would in a hotel room with a normal bed. I'm sure someone will have something to say about planes not going from city center to city center...we'll see. Happy travels whichever you choose.
" I won't ever get to how crappy regular InterCity buses are in Europe." A.L., Centennial Frank took that "crappy" bus from Nuernberg to Prague last January, and that's not how he describes it. Unfortunately, a 1h40m flight takes 6-7 hours if you have to fly via Cologne. And Alitalia's 1h40m direct flight costs $540. But, if you love airport shuttle buses, standing in security lines, and sitting in airport waiting rooms, then, by all mean, fly.
Ellen: You'll have much more than an entire day's worth of train travel, and that would certainly cut into the few days you will have in Prague. This was your chief concern, correct? If so, fly non-stop as previously mentioned. Regarding those buses, my own experience in Germany and Spain is that they're not crappy, but they're certainly not nice tour buses either. There are no facilities, the seats aren't plush recliners, there's no entertainment system, etc. Tour buses can be very nice. These buses are nothing like Greyhound, which one should never travel on IMO. They're okay and get the job done...fairly basic, though. I will say that the buses in Spain were much newer and cleaner than the buses in Bavaria...that's my experience anyway.
According to the Bahn website, that express bus from Nuernberg to Prague has: An on-board "kitchen" with cold and hot drinks as well as snacks,
Electical outlet at your place, On-board bathroom. I believe Frank said there was also an attendant on the bus (probably to run the snack bar). My first reaction to this trip was "14 hours on the train"! Then I thought about flying - even with a 1h40m direct flight it's probably closer to 5-6 hours in transit (on shuttles, in security lines, waiting at the gate, the hassle of boarding) and far more € than the train. Or, take a lower cost flight via someplace like Cologne - long waits in airports between flights, probably 10 hours in transit, and still more € than the train. On the other hand, you can probably do this with only two changes of trains (Verona and Munich). The rest of the time you sit back in a comfortable seat and watch some nice scenery (have you ever been over Brenner Pass. For someone from Colorado it's pretty tame, but pretty nevertheless.
I guess I need to say something. If you have not ridden the Bahn bus between Prague and Nurenberg, how can you comment it? We actually rode it last December in first class It is a nice bus with two classes of seating 1st and 2nd. Even 1st and 2nd class luggage storage. It has two levels with 2nd on top and 1st below. 2nd class has the better view. Seats are typical bus seating, a little tight but more than adequate for the time. The first class seats are 2x2 facing each other with a folding table in the middle. They did recline. There was an attendant for first class with beverage service of water, tea, coffee, choc, soda. Cannot remember if wine or beer was available for sale. There was a water closet just behind first class on the first level. Did not climb the stairs to second class so I cannot comment on the seating other than it assume it was typical bus seating. The bus was very clean and a very pleasant ride for the four or five hours that it took. No stops other than a passport check somewhere near the border. Anyone calling it a crappy bus has obviously not ridden it. Post what you know from experience and not from assumptions.
Sounds nice. I'm not sure Andre was referring to that particular bus as much as he was referring to intercity buses generally when he said they were crappy. That's how I read his reply anyway. In fact, I believe the only poster who mentioned that specific bus was Lee, and he hasn't ridden it (to your point). Ellen has certainly been provided with a lot of options. Good luck with whichever mode of transport you ! Edit: Definitely agree with Frank on Spanish buses and will throw in Spanish trains. They are among the cleanest and newest of all the trains I've been on anywhere.
Maybe not, that it is still all inclusive statement -- "how crappy regular InterCity buses are in Europe." --- Not north Europe, central Europe, southern Italy --- Europe !! And for someone with min or no experience with European bus, a pretty negative statement. Spanish inter-city buses are terrific besides being very cheap and often better and faster than some regional trains. Intercity buses in and around Rome have been very good. I am sure there are crappy buses but there are also crappy trains - even in Germany.
Admittedly, my first reaction to the idea of the Nuernberg-Prague bus was somewhat negative. Although it is run by the Bahn, in whom I have great faith, it is a bus. In fact I think I even questioned Frank about his decision to take it rather than the train to Prague. But Frank came back with a rather glowing review of it. So, Michael, despite your rather snarky remark, I never claimed to have ridden that bus. I did give detailed information about the costs, and I refered to a first hand report, already posted here somewhere by Frank, who reviewed it favorably. As for A.L.'s statement. There was no reason for him to bring up other Intercity buses except to disparage the one we were discussing. In fact, other than the Prague bus, I am not familiar with the existence of any other public "intercity" buses in Germany. The public buses in Germany tend to supplement, not compete with, the trains, and there are intercity trains. I did see a sign at a bus stop in Braunlage about a day trip by bus to Berlin. I assume they were using the same local buses I rode in the Harz, and, although they were not up to the apparent standard for the Bahn bus to Prague, I certainly wouldn't call them "crappy". Now, there are private"Intercity" buses run by Eurolines. I've pointed insistent people to their website. They are a less expensive way to get between cities in Europe, but I don't recommend them and have never ridden one (and don't plan to). Perhaps these are the "crappy" European Intercity buses to which A.L. refers.
Ellen, I don't wish to get in the middle of the fray here. Just wanted to add some add'l info that somebody mentioned a flight cost of $540, but I went on Expedia for a random day (Oct 11-18; throw away the return flight) and see that Czeck Airlines has a non stop for $285 total. Enjoy your trip!
On Oct. 11, the savings fare from Verona to Munich for the EC is €49 pP. That makes the fare from Venice to Prague €92 ($133).
Thank you all for your treasure trove of information. It never ceases to amaze me how knowledgeable the Rick Steves community it. We have over a year before this trip but based on the comments here, I think we are leaning towards flying. I checked out some flights just as Bob did and I found a one stop Lufthansa flight for $240 with minimal airport layover time. Train travel is lovely. I took the train from Klagenfurt, Austria to Venice and back, and then from Villach, Austria to Vienna. Beautiful scenery. Despite the extra cost, the time flying (even with the airport routine) still seems much less than the train/bus combo and will give us more time in Prague as we will have at best three days anyway. Thank you all. Oh, and one more comment. Everyone is passionate about travel or else they would not be here, but please, let's all play nice.
That's a great suggestion to calm down and play nice. Enjoy your flight and your time in Prague with your friends!
Ellen, I can see why you are leaning towards the decision to go by plane, more so since you've already done that long ride from Villach (Kärnten) to Vienna...a worthwhile ride too. Good advice too. No train ride in Germany in 17 trips over there, since 1971, wherever, regardless of the train from the ICE to a D-Zug and present day regional trains, ever struck me as "crappy." Maybe tedious, such as going from Stuttgart to Sigmaringen in 1971 with its frequency of stops, but certainly not "crappy."