A 2-berth sleeper in the Prague-Krakow sleeping-car...
Prague to Krakow by direct sleeper train...
A comfortable, cosy and safe direct sleeper train links Prague with Krakow, city centre to city centre in either direction every night. It's an experience in itself and saves a hotel bill too! This page shows you what this train is like and tells you where to get tickets. In summer 2017 there will also be a new direct daytime train between Prague & Krakow, called the Cracovia. Either train can easily be booked through one of two agencies or at certain times of year booked online direct with Czech Railways, the black art of buying tickets for this train is explained here...
Note A = The Cracovia will run from Prague to Krakow between 13 April & 30 September 2017, fares from 19.
Note B = The Cracovia will run from Krakow to Prague between 14 April & 1 October 2017.
Always check times for your own date of travel at www.bahn.de (works from Prague to Krakow, but may not find these through cars Krakow to Prague).
The overnight train consists of one sleeping-car with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments, some with en suite toilet & shower. From March to November there's also a couchette car with 4 & 6 bunk compartments.
What is the Silesia's Prague-Krakow sleeping-car like?
As of 2017, this sleeping-car is now of the most modern type owned by the Czech Railways, with 9 standard compartments with washstand and 3 deluxe compartments with en suite toilet and shower. The rest of the train consists of a Ukrainian sleeping-car for Kiev and Slovakian sleeping-cars for Humennι in Slovakia. Inside the sleeping-car it's quiet and civilised. A carpeted, air-conditioned corridor runs down the side of the car (pictured above right), off which open 9 sleeper compartments with washbasin and 3 deluxe sleeper compartments with a compact en suite toilet & shower. Each compartment can be configured as a 1, 2 or 3 bed compartment depending on demand. There's crisp clean bedding, soap, towel, bottled water. Morning tea or coffee is included. There's a hot shower at the end of the corridor for regular (non-deluxe) sleeper passengers. The compartments have a hotel-style card-key lock and a security deadlock which cannot be opened from the outside. Sleeper berths are sold individually, you can book one bed in a 2 or 3 berth and share with another passenger of the same gender. Compartments are single-sex unless your party occupies the whole compartment. An excellent way to travel. Photo below courtesy of Shaiq Ali Khan
What is the Silesia's Prague-Krakow couchette car like?
The Prague to Krakow couchette car runs daily from March to November. It's a comfortable Czech car with 9 compartments, each of which can be used as 4-berth or 6-berth. Pictured above right is a 6-berth compartment with middle and upper berths visible, the bottom bunks almost out of shot. Clean sheets and a pillow are provided, the doors have a normal lock and security lock or chain. Toilets and washrooms at the end of the corridor. Couchette compartments are not segregated by gender, as you do not normally get fully undressed.
How much does it cost?
Bought at the station in Prague, a basic Prague-Krakow 2nd class ticket costs around 42.
Bought at the station in Krakow, a basic Krakow-Prague 2nd class ticket costs around 54. Don't ask me why it costs more in Poland!
For the overnight train you pay a berth supplement In addition to a 2nd class ticket or railpass. This is 11 for a couchette in 6-berth, 16 for a couchette in 4-berth, 28 for a bed in a 2-bed sleeper or 51 for a bed in a single-bed sleeper, all per person.
To travel in a deluxe sleeper with shower & toilet you need a 1st class ticket or railpass plus similar berth supplements for a bed in single, double or triple sleeper compartment. A 1st class ticket costs around 50% more than a 2nd class one.
Cheap advance-purchase fares...
If you can get to the station in person even a week or two before departure and are not travelling in the busy June-September summer period, limited-availability advance-purchase fares for the overnight train start at 29 with couchette in 6-berth, 39 with couchette in 4-berth, 39 with a bed in a 3-bed sleeper or 49 with a bed in a 2-bed sleeper or around 75 with a single-bed sleeper all to yourself. However, these fares are not available in the busy summer period June-September when they can sell tickets at full-price.
On the daytime train Cracovia there are special advance-purchase fares from 19, bookable online starting from Prague, but only bookable at the station at the Polish end.
Berths are sold individually, so you do not have to pay for sole occupancy if you are a solo traveller. You can book one bed in a 3-bed sleeper and share with other civilised sleeper passengers of the same sex, which is much cheaper.
If you have a Eurail or InterRail pass, you simply pay the sleeper or couchette supplement: 11 for a couchette in 6-berth, 16 for a couchette in 4-berth, or 28 for one bed in a 2-bed sleeper. A 2nd class pass is all you need for these. A 1-bed sleeper requires a 1st class pass plus a 55 sleeper supplement.
How to buy tickets: For journeys starting in Prague...
Option 1, buy direct from Czech Railways at www.cd.cz/eshop... Booking opens 60 days ahead.
This is the cheapest option, but it only works at certain times of year, apparently due to railway politics. From June to September 2016 it was impossible to book the overnight train online as their website wouldn't allow you to change seat reservation to couchette or sleeper. This I gather is deliberate, something to do with an agreement between the Czech and Polish railways. But for travel dates after mid-September suddenly you could switch it to couchette or sleeper and it was bookable online again. Go figure, as the Americans say.
So run an enquiry on the journey planner at www.cd.cz/eshop and see if the night train appears, select it and see if you can book it. If it lets you change Seat reservation to couchette or sleeper, then comes up with an available price, go ahead and book. If you can't, give up and proceed to option 2 below.
There is one other quirk you may need to know about, even at times when it is bookable online. For this route, www.cd.cz/eshop can only sell the cheap advance-purchase tickets, not regular price tickets. When the cheap fares sell out (or for busy dates when they aren't made available in the first place), you may see no availability. This does not mean the sleeper is full, only that the cheap fares have sold out so you need to buy a regular price ticket, which you can't do online. It's easy to get around this, by making a 'reservation only' booking online and buying the ticket separately at the station. To do this, simply re-run the enquiry with the default Ticket and possible reservation changed to Supplementary services, reservation. Change seat reservation to couchette or sleeper, and go ahead and make the reservation. It'll ask you to pay the sleeper or couchette berth supplement and you are then safely booked on the train. You now simply need to buy the necessary travel ticket to go with it at the regular price at the station any time before the train leaves. Regular price tickets have unlimited availability and cannot sell out, so it's no problem to buy any time.
Deluxe sleepers: OK, so there's now one other quirk to tell you about now that they've allocated a modern Comfortline sleeping-car to this route with several deluxe sleepers with shower & toilet. To book a deluxe rather than regular sleeper you must select 1st class at the start of the enquiry at www.cd.cz/eshop. At least, that's what you normally do to book a deluxe sleeper on other routes. On this route, when I do that the train fails to appear in the search results at all. It could be a temporary glitch, but if you get the same problem you have three choices: Either book in person at the station (but there are only three deluxe compartments which may well sell out) or book by phone (but from a western agency you'll pay much, much higher prices) or just give up, leave 2nd class selected and book a regular sleeper with washstand - which is what I'd do, given that deluxe and regular compartments are so similar apart from the compact en suite, and there's a shower at the end of the corridor for regular sleeper passengers.
Option 2, buy from local Czech agency www.czech-transport.com... This method always works, the only downsides are (a) you can't buy cheap advance fares through them, only regular price tickets and (b) of course they add a fee. www.czech-transport.com charge around 71 per person including a bed in a 2-bed sleeper, tickets can be collected from their offices for a booking fee of around 15, or sent to your hotel in Prague or to you at home for a booking fee of around 20-25. They may be able to book a deluxe sleeper if you ask them. If you use them, feedback would be appreciated.
Option 3 if you live in the UK, you can buy tickets by phone by calling German Railways UK telesales line, 08718 80 80 66. You can buy full-price tickets this way, but not the advance-purchase rate as German Railways cannot access these.
Option 4, buy at the station. This train can of course be booked in person at the station, there are normally places available even on the day especially in the couchette car, but on the busiest dates in summer the sleeping-car can leave fully-booked, so booking ahead is recommended.
If you have a Eurail or InterRail pass, you can make a sleeper or couchette reservation at the station, or by phone with most European train ticketing agencies or at certain times of year when it's feeling co-operative, you can make a reservation-only booking online at www.cd.cz/eshop by running a Prague to Krakow enquiry with the default Ticket and possible reservation changed to Supplementary services, reservation. But this only works off-season, read the saga in option 1 above!
How to buy tickets: For journeys starting in Krakow...
For journeys starting in Krakow, it's easy to order tickets online through reliable and highly-recommended Polish ticketing agency www.polrail.com - you can collect tickets in Krakow. The fare shown on their site is the full price, but if cheap advance-purchase fares turn out to be available, they'll offer you those instead.
If you live in the UK, you can also buy tickets by phone by calling German Railways UK telesales line, 08718 80 80 66. You can buy full-price tickets this way, but not the advance-purchase rate as German Railways cannot access these. However, I'd suggest using Polrail as it may be cheaper.
If you have a Eurail or InterRail pass, you can make a sleeper or couchette reservation at the station or by phone with most European train ticketing agencies. You cannot make a reservation-only booking online. Reservation on the daytime Cracovia is optional, so you can just get on, find any empty unreserved seat and show your pass when asked.
Seat or berth? Always book a couchette or sleeper on the overnight train. It's a false economy to sit up all night slumped in a seat, for both comfort and security.
Couchette or sleeper? For the modest amount extra, the additional comfort and privacy of a carpeted 1, 2 or 3-berth sleeper with washbasin is well worth it over a more basic 4 or 6 bunk couchette.
But if the sleeper is full, don't be afraid to book a couchette, it's a nice smart Czech car and you'll sleep just as well as in a sleeper. In couchettes, I recommend paying the small amount extra for a bunk in a 4-berth compartment rather than a bunk in a 6-berth as this gets you a lot more space per person.
If travelling solo, a bed in a 2-bed sleeper is the recommended option if you don't want to fork out a lot more money for single occupancy, nice through that would be. You might be lucky and get a compartment to yourself, otherwise you'll share with another civilised passenger just like you, of the same sex.
If you're a family of four, the decision between two 2-berth compartments in the sleeper or one 4-bunk couchette compartment is marginal. Couchettes are cheaper and great fun for a family group, with the benefit of all being together not split into two compartments (there are no inter-compartment doors on this type of sleeper). But sleepers are comfier and don't cost that much more on this route. I think on balance I'd go for the sleeper unless I was watching every penny...
Berth numbering... This always confuses people, as they get berths 21 & 25 and think that they aren't in the same 2-berth sleeper compartment. Of course they are! See the way sleeper & couchettes are numbered here.
Is the overnight train safe? Yes it is. In a sleeper or couchette it's both comfortable and safe for families, solo females, or anyone. Look at the sleeper corridor above and see how quiet and civilised it is. All compartments have a normal lock which can be opened from outside with a staff key and a security deadlock which cannot be opened from outside - just make sure you use the deadlock as well as the normal lock, plus the same common sense you'd use in a hotel room - For peace of mind I usually put my daypack with any valuables by my pillow, I don't leave my wallet in my jacket hanging up near the door. An attendant is on duty in each car throughout the journey. Sharing isn't a problem either, if you don't want to pay for a whole compartment to yourself. You'll share with other passengers just like you, often fellow tourist or InterRailers or Eurailers. Sleeper compartments are single-sex when not booked in their entirety by people travelling together. Couchettes are mixed sex as you don't normally get fully undressed.
Finding & boarding your train: As with virtually all European trains, there's no check-in. Just stroll into the station, find your train and get on, any time before it leaves. And yes, Prague and Krakow stations are both safe at night, with plenty of people around. See Prague station information.
At Prague Hlavni, look on the departure screens for the train going to Humennι as that is the destination of most of the Slovakian sleeping-cars to which these Prague-Krakow cars are coupled. There's a bar-restaurant just inside the station main entrance, perhaps a good place to wait until your train starts boarding, usually 30-45 minutes before departure.
In Krakow look on the departure boards for the train going to Bohumin, as that's where the various portions of the train for Prague, Vienna, Budapest split up.
If you're interested, you can see what the whole train formation is like at www.vagonweb.cz, which might help you find your car. Click the UK flag then composition then look under Czech Republic and 'R' - the train is called the Silesia. Click the camera icon under each car for photos.
Luggage... You take your luggage with you onto the train and simply stick it on the luggage racks above the window, over the door to the corridor or under the lower berth. Nobody weighs it, measures it, or worries about how much you take. More information about luggage on European trains.
Going to Auschwitz? The Prague-Krakow sleeper train calls at Oswiecim, the modern name for Auschwitz. The station at Oswiecim is just 10 minutes walk from Auschwitz I, and 30 minutes walk from Auschwitz-Birkenau II just outside the town. However, the arrival time is a bit early and departure time a bit late, so you may prefer to double back to/from Krakow itself. Hourly local trains link Krakow with Oswiecim, buy a ticket at the station, see more information here.