Housekeeping Notes on Prague
Where to Stay
Prague is a city with excellent public transportation and in Old Town, the Little Quarter, Wenceslas Square, and large portions of New Town, the vast majority of vendors and hoteliers speak English. Staying in any of these areas typically places you within a 10-15 minute walk to most of the major tourist attractions, and essentially precludes the use of public transportation.
Keep in mind that if you plan on staying outside of these districts you may have a problem if you can’t speak Czech. Many businesses speak only Czech or very broken English/German outside the city centers. Even though the tourist district is considerably more expensive for both food and lodging, you essentially don’t ever have to worry about finding your next meal or catching the tram on time, and in my opinion it saves alot of headache. Just be ready to budget more.
Walk if you can- there are several reasons for this. Again, if you’re outside of Old Town, the Little Quarter, Wenceslas Square, or New Town the shopkeepers who sell tram and bus tickets may not speak any English. Good luck communicating “I would like a 90 minute standard ticket” without knowing a word of Czech (fun fact- you can’t mime it. I’ve tried). Another great reason to consider walking? The views are amazing. If you’re in the city center you can almost always get from one tourist destination to another within 15 minutes. There are SO MANY AMAZING SHOPS AND BUILDINGS TO SEE and they are definitely best-suited to a walkers pace.
If you do end up wanting to use public transportation- don’t worry, it’s excellent. Some hotels actually stock tickets and if yours does, it’s totally feasible to stay outside the center of the city. If not, you can try purchasing tickets at newsstands, small shops, or the Metro stops. At the Metro, we found ticket machines that we were able to use with relative ease. You have four options when considering what to purchase: 2 passes, one that is 24 hours and one that is 3 days, and 2 ticketing options, one 30 minute short-trip ticket and one 90 minute standard ticket. The ticket options really are your best bet- you are given unlimited transfers within the life of the ticket and frankly, once you’ve gotten yourself into the primary tourist districts, you don’t need to pick up another ticket unless you have an impairment of some type.
Prices are as follows:
30 minute ticket–> 24 Kč
90 minute ticket–>32 Kč
24 hour pass–>110 Kč
3-day pass–>310 Kč
One last thing- Validate your tickets as soon as you get on the tram!! It’s a 700 Kč fine if one of the authorities catches you with an unvalidated ticket. One thing I learned the hard way- on the trams, both the stop you are at and the next stop on the route are broadcast over the speaker. This can make you think you are one stop farther than you are, especially if you are still struggling to grasp the pronunciation of Czech words. We never used a taxi (we typically don’t in larger cities) so I would refer you to the Rick Steve’s travel guide and the Rough Guides book as a reference, since they both have an excellent section on taxis. We used the Metro a few times and although it’s very easy to navigate, it’s really not set up for tourists and you often end up walking so many extra blocks that you should’ve just walked there to begin with.
Czech is hard. Unless you’re some type of language savant or already have a grasp on languages with a Slavic base, you’re not going to be able to get an even rudimentary understanding of Czech pre-visit. This, of course, does not excuse even the most language-incompetent traveler from knowing the phrases ‘Hello’ (Ahoj or Dobrý den), ‘Goodbye’ (Na shledanou), ‘Please’ (prosím), ‘Thank you’ (Děkuji) ‘Excuse me’ (S dovolením) and ‘I’m sorry’ (Promiňte). For pronunciations, I used Innovative Languages YouTube video series which you can find here. It takes almost no time to learn these phrases and it will make a world of difference in your experience!
The Czech people use the koruna, abbreviated as CZK or Kč. The exchange rate as of October of 2017 is 1 Czech koruna to 0.046 U.S. Dollars. 22 Kč is around 1 U.S. Dollar. Many Czech businesses use card, but the vast majority are still dependent on cash. Beware the ATM’s in the main train station (Praha hlavní nádraží)- the number of Kč you withdraw will always be in the thousands. What I mean is this- if the ATM gives you the option to withdraw 20 Kč, it means 20,000 Kč. If it says 5 Kč, it means 500 Kč. I understand that this sounds obvious, but if you’re hitting the main station exhausted and hungry, your brain’s first instinct will be to default to U.S. dollars, and it’s totally reasonable to withdraw a $20 from a U.S. ATM. So when the screen pops up with the option to withdraw 1, 5, 10, or 20 Kč, just remember the corresponding zeros aren’t gonna pop up beside the number, and the machine is asking if you want to withdraw 20,000 Kč or $915.00 (by the way, the Praha hlavní nádraží ATM is the only one I found that would go to 20,000- typically Czech ATM’s stop at 10,000 Kč but that’s still almost $500 dollars and at that point, you’re just begging to be robbed).