Czech Republic Train TicketsCzech Republic Train Tickets
Tickets should be bought online in advance - Czech Railways , which run on all national and international long-distance routes as well as on the vast majority (99%) of local railways, or Leo Express (Czech only) and Regiojet, the privately held companies, operating trains only on the Prague-Ostrava long-distance route. In each case, there are many advantages compared to buying at the ticket office: tickets are cheaper when bought in advance and the system automatically recommends the cheapest variant (sparing you the trouble of going through the, often Byzantine, tariffs). Visiting the ticket office is only necessary when paying with cash or when needing some special kinds of fares (for example, sleeping car reservations) unavailable online. Ticket purchased online don't have to be printed: It's usually enough to show the pdf file to the conductor on a laptop or tablet screen. The main disadvantage when buying tickets on-line is the need to supply the traveller's name and the number of a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license or a passport. You can usually cancel the online ticket for a small fee up to 15 minutes before departure.
The normal train ticket price on the CD trains, always available even immediately prior to the departure, can be discouraging (roughly 1.40 Kc per km), but Czech Railways (CD) offer plenty of discounts. Return tickets give you a 5% discount, and a group of travellers (even two travellers are considered as a "group") is treated roughly as "first person pays full price, others pay half price". Therefore, ask for "skupinová sleva" (group discount) and/or "zpátecní sleva" (return discount).
Regular travellers can use a CD loyalty card, called In-karta, which comes in varieties of 25%, 50% and 100% discount for train tickets (although some tickets may get a lower or no discount) and can quickly pay for itself. The 3-month 25% In-Karta costs 190 Kc whereas the one year 100% discount card gives you free rides for a year at 19,990 Kc. The price of the 25% In-Karta will pay for itself quickly. You have to fill in an application form at the ticket counter and provide a photograph. You will get a temporary paper card immediately and start using the discount. After three weeks you will get a plastic chip card.
On the route between Prague and Ostrava, you can choose between three competing rail carriers: the national Czech Railways (operating both standard "Ex" and premium "SC" trains) and privately held IC RegioJet and LeoExpress (LE) trains. Considering price, LE, Ex and IC trains are equivalent (about 295 Kc), while the SC trains cost usually about 100 Kc more. Speed-wise, SC is the fastest, followed closely by LE, while IC and Ex lag behind. The on-board service is better on the LE and IC trains.