Prague - Facts and Travel Tips
Inhabitants: ca. 1,300,000
Currency: Koruna (CZK). 100 koruna is 3.96 euro (in 2008).
Country code: 00 420
Prague's Ruzyne Airport (PRG) is almost 20 km from the city centre.
There are several ways of getting into town. The cheapest is to take a bus and change to the metro (see the airport's website for a detailed instruction).
Mini-buses depart from the terminal's exit E to Námestí Republicky every half hour (price ca. 100 CZK). A taxi to the city centre will cost you ca. 600 CZK, but beware - read more about Czech taxis in transportation.
The most comfortable is to book a shuttle service. It will cost you the same as a taxi fare (about 600 CZK), and they will wait for you in arrivals making you feel important. We used (and recommend) Prague Airport Shuttle. You pay the driver directly, and he/she will speak more than just Czech.
Trains & Buses to Prague
Prague's central station is close to the Vaclav (Wenceslas) Square. Depending on where you live a package tour by bus may be the cheapest option.
Transportation - Metro, Tram and Taxi
Of course you can drive and go by car. But don't venture into the city centre unless you love getting lost in one-way streets trying to find a parking space.
Prague's has excellent and efficient public transportation. The metro is fast although you must climb and descend many stairs. Trams are not as fast as the metro, but you get a better flavour of the city. You can buy tickets that are valid for 1, 3 or 5 days. If you just want single tickets the safest is to buy a "basic ticket" (26 CZK in 2008), which is valid for 75 minutes. Tickets are sold in kiosks and stations.
Always stamp the ticket. Control is frequent (especially tourists!) and the fine for not having a valid ticket is high. You stamp the ticket by the entrance to the metro or in one of the yellow machines in the tram. If - despite being warned - you mess up and get caught, it is cheaper to pay up front than to wait.
Metros and trams belong to the pickpockets preferred hunting grounds so beware - especially when there's a crowd.
Taxis in Prague have a very bad reputation for cheating tourists in every possible way. Have a look at this article at BBC News, where Prague's mayor disguises himself as an Italian tourist and discovers that the tales about cheating are depressingly true.
It is always best to phone for a taxi from a recognized company. Avoid taxis parked in front of the station or known sights - they are often waiting for innocent tourists and charge far too much. Taxis must have a yellow light on the roof saying "TAXI", and the company name and licence number must be on the front doors.
Ask what the price will be (approximately) before getting in. You can always ask for a printed receipt. If the driver refuses to give you one, you can refuse to pay.
There is more information about taxis in Prague on the following pages: The Magistry and "Prague Taxi services - how to avoid being fooled" with company names and telephone numbers of reliable companies.
I wouldn't recommend cycling in the city centre. There is a lot of traffic, the drivers are not used to cyclists, and cobblestones and tram rails make it a risky and uncomfortable business.
Like in all big cities it can be a nightmare to find a parking space. It is not quite as insane as in Rome for instance, but the authorities are strict and go by the book.
When we were going to the airport, our driver came to the hotel lobby, and he was very nervous because he had parked in a pedestrian crossing. He sprinted with one of our suitcases to the car. I shall not repeat his description and opinions of Czech police.
Where to stay?
There are many hotels and also B & B in Prague. The price level for a hotel room is almost like in Western Europe, and not surprisingly it peaks in the city centre. Of course it is nice to stay in the city centre, where you can walk to most of the sights. However with the efficient public transport you can easily stay in a suburb and get to the centre pretty fast. So if you are on a tight budget, accommodation is an obvious money-saver.
The Czech currency is koruna (CZK) - Czech crowns. 100 CZK cost 3.96 euros in 2008, so 4 is the number to use when calculating prices.
There are lots of places where you can change money, but ATMs will usually be cheaper for you. If possible use ATMs in or outside banks. You will often get (unpopular) large bills, and then you can change them into smaller.
Restaurants in Prague
Considering how many tourists visit Prague every year it is no wonder that the city centre is a minefield of restaurants. Many serve traditional Czech food (heavy!), but others have an international cuisine. Many Czech beer halls serve (traditional Czech) food.
In general eating out is cheap. Beer is very cheap and usually cheaper than pop. Wine is a luxury.
In my Prague travelogue I describe the places/restaurants we visited. The blog Czech Please, The food and drink scene in Prague and beyond, is written by an ex-pat living in Prague, and he eats out a lot!
First and foremost: Czech beer! Prague has been called The Golden City, and in my mind it is a tribute to the beer and not the roofs. Compared to watery international brands like Carlsberg, Heineken, Fosters etc. Czech beer has much more fruit and body and usually also more hop. I didn't taste the Czech absinth, but we have a bottle waiting.
Of course you should taste traditional Czech food. It is solid, and their dumplings - well, they don't defy The Law of Gravity. If you like the style, there are lots of places where you can get more and it is usually cheap.
It is normal to tip at restaurants, hotels and in taxis. Pay a round number.
I have tasted better tap water, but it isn't dangerous to your health, unless you have a chlorine allergy. Bottled water is better for drinking.
There are many sights in Prague, and guide books love the city because they don't have to make things up. Among the most famous are the castle, Charles Bridge, the astronomical clock, the powder tower, the Jewish district Josefov and various theatres. There are lots of guides with long lists on the Internet.
For us however the best 'sight' was the city, its beautiful houses and dense historical atmosphere.
Shopping in Prague
I am not a big shopper and really should not advice on what to buy. I guess crystal and jewellery must be a good buy since shops selling the stuff are littered all over the city centre, where the tourist concentration is high.
As of July 2008 a decree allows police to fine anyone caught littering the streets - be it cigarette butts, chewing gum, wrappers, food scraps etc. The decree also applies to drinking, spitting or urinating in public. It is not unlike Singapore, but the fines are cheaper (not cheap though!).
Nelso: Interactive map with beer prices in Prague. Entertainment value!
Honest Prague City Travel Guide. Lots of practical info.
Czech Language Learning Resource.
A page with audio exercises. Learn a few Czech phrases before you go - it is a great ice breaker and a bit of the local lingo is appreciated no matter where you go.
Museums, Galleries and Sights.
Tourist Information in English.
There are lots of guide books. We got one in Danish, and that is the only one I have read. I always avoid the ones with lots of glossy pictures; they either contain too little information or are too heavy to carry around.
Other peoples travelogues and trip reports are often great sources of information and inspiration. Of course there is my own Prague travelogue from March 2008, and here are some tales that I enjoyed:
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Updated January 10th, 2010