On the Brussels to Prague railway route there is a neat little trick which will allow you to book a high-speed train ticket for a cheap 29 EUR in second class (or 43 EUR in first class) on pretty much every travel date possible – even if you book just a day in advance!
Train travel in Western Europe can be highly expensive, with cheap-ish tickets only available if you book months in advance. This is quite a pity, as a journey by train can be a highly relaxing way to travel – and it is for sure way more comfortable than a cramped seat on a low-cost airline. Let’s take the Brussels to Prague route as an example. If you want to book a ticket shortly before departure, prices will most likely be very high. Irrespective whether you book your journey on the Belgium Railways website, with the Germans, or with the Czech Railways, prizes likely start at around 150 EUR for a one-way journey.
Cheaper saver prices
The situation gets a bit better if you book your journey in advance. If we look at a random date in the middle of March, we find a so-called ‘sparangebot’ (saver fare) on the German Railways website. At 68.90 EUR it is decently priced for sure, but not an outright deal in the same way which low-cost airlines often have. A quick look at the Ryanair website confirms this. On the same date (17th March), Ryanair has a 14.99 EUR ticket from Brussels Charleroi to Prague. Even if you factor in a bus from downtown Brussels to Charleroi Airport and a combined bus and metro ticket from Prague Airport to downtown Prague, the train is still some 40 EUR more expensive.
A special trick to lower your train fare!
There is however a trick to buy cheap train tickets on the Brussels to Prague route, one which has been doing the round for years among train travel enthusiasts. With this trick, you can buy a 2nd class ticket from Brussels to Prague for just 29 EUR or travel in first class for 43 EUR! The most amazing aspect is that you can book such tickets even a day or two in advance, as there does not seem to be a hard requirement to book as far in advance as possible (as long as there is space available on the Thalys train from Brussels to Cologne and Frankfurt – as this train has mandatory reservations). More interestingly, this price is not a ticketing error but a genuine, fully legit ticket offer. Of course, the same offer is also valid if you want to travel the other way around from Prague to Brussels!
How to book this ticket
To book this ticket, you must go to the website of the Czech Railways (if it does not automatically switch to English, select the British flag on the top of the page). Before you start enter ‘Brussels’, ‘Prague’ and your date of travel in the booking tool, you click first on ‘More options’ just below. In the ‘via’ box you must enter the station name of Cheb. Cheb is a border station on the German-Czech border which is basically located halfway between Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and Pilsen (Plzen). This travel hack is basically forcing the ticketing tool to put you on a train via Cheb, as only those are eligible for the special Brussels to Prague fare. You will see that if you do not do this, also the Czech Railways website will quote you much higher fares and route you on trains via Berlin.
How is the journey like?
From Brussels to Prague on this ticket will take you approximately 11 hours of travelling. You start by taking a high-speed train from Brussels South to Frankfurt’s main station. Depending on your time of departure, you either travel on a Belgium Thalys train or a German ICE (InterCity Express) train. Both are comparable in comfort, although personally I have a slight preference for the ICE train as it has a proper restaurant wagon while the Thalys only has a cafe car with less choice in food and drinks. What’s not to like about drinking a pint of German weizen beer for under 4 EUR while watching the scenery slowly change?
At Frankfurt, you will change for an ICE train to Nuremberg. From Nuremberg, you will travel on a comfortable local train to the border station at Cheb. There you will make the last change of trains of the trip by boarding the Czech express train to Prague. Even though this is not a high-speed train, it is a comfortable ride in old-fashioned wagons with compartments.
Once you have safely made it to Prague, do not forget to check out the magnificent hlavní nádraží, which is Czech for main railway station. Even though the main departure concourse is now a nondescript underground hall, you can still enter the old Art Nouveau station building by heading up to platform 1.
Unfortunately, this is a very specific trick/ticket offer which only works on the Brussels to Prague route and vice versa. With a bit of creativity, you can however use it to your own advantage on a few other routes too. If you want to travel from Cologne to Prague, there is nothing to stop you from book Cologne to Prague via Cheb! The same counts for pretty much any other station on the route, such as Liege or Aachen to Prague, or Plzen, Frankfurt and Nuremberg to Brussels.
Even if you need to head to a destination which is not located on this route but isn’t too far off either, you may be able to make advantage of this. For example, if you need to travel from Brussels to Munich, why not just book a Brussels to Prague ticket via Cheb, but instead of boarding the train to Cheb at Nuremberg, buy a second ticket for your journey to Munich and board that train instead! Nuremberg to Munich tickets can be had for as low as 26 EUR if you buy a Bavaria ticket (only valid in regional trains). Or buy a cheap ticket from Prague to Budapest on the Czech Railways website and use this special Prague deal for a longer railway trip to Hungary! If you think out of the box, there are lots of possibilities.
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