Do’s and Don’ts in Prague
Prague is one of the most beautiful cities you find in Europe. It is a very popular destination for tourists, however it can also be dangerous if care is not taken. I’ve lived in Prague for 2 years while studying so I’m sure I can give you some advice and hopefully save you some money and trouble.
The main language is Czech, many people in Prague speak German and these days many young people can speak English as it is taught in schools.
However, the locals really appreciate if you can spit out a few sentences in Czech. Look up some common Czech phrases on the web or get a book. Don’t try to just yell at them in English and expect them to cooperate.
Driving a car
Unless you love using maps and driving, don’t drive in Prague. It is a very old city, the streets are usually one way and are being repaired all the time, so the rules change almost every day. I used to drive there, but only on routes I was 100% familiar with…or at least 90% familiar and I know a lot of locals just wouldn’t drive there.
The other problem is parking in Prague. After the fall of communism, the number of cars in Prague doubled or tripled (not sure exactly) but the point is that it is difficult to park on the streets and expensive in the parking lots. Also, if you simply park your car where you are not supposed to, your car will be held down or towed away by the local city police. Either way, they’re not very fun to deal with.
If you must drive, make sure you arrange your parking with the hotel or motel or whatever and then take public transportation to get around.
If you can, avoid using taxis. There are signs at the airport to only use their taxis. It’s there for a very good reason. Unfortunately, local taxi drivers have a bad habit of overcharging. I heard a story from a tourist who was charged $400 to take a taxi from the bottom of Wenceslas Square to the top (he could walk in about 10 minutes).
If you must take a taxi, use only licensed taxis and make sure the meter is on. It is also better to agree on a rate beforehand.
The best way I found is to use the local subway (Metro). It is very cheap, fast and takes you to most of the places you would like to go.
Where to eat and drink
Going to a restaurant in the heart of Prague can be expensive even by Western standards. Try to avoid those restaurants and cafes in the main tourist areas, instead ask the locals where there is a good restaurant with local cuisine or walk a few hundred meters from the main tourist routes. You will find very good restaurants with a fraction of the cost.
Although the Czech is now a member of the EU, they still wear crowns. You’ll need to have some cash as most small businesses still operate on cash and I wouldn’t just give them my credit card. If you want to use a credit card, make sure the store/restaurant/hotel or whatever is a reputable business. There are some problems with credit card fraud.
I found that the best exchange rate you can get is to use your debit card and withdraw money from local ATMs. Just make sure you’re in a well-protected area when you make a withdrawal.
Never exchange money with people on the street.
The worst problem in Prague is petty thieves. Always make sure to close all your bags, do not have your money or passport in your back pocket and be alert. I also suggest you reduce the amount of jewelry you wear. The thieves are usually concentrated in the main tourist areas and work as a team. So even if you catch the guy who just took your wallet, he usually manages to pass it to his teammate. Also, never leave valuables in a car in unattended bags. When leaving your hotel room, always make sure to lock it.
The other problem is prostitution. After 10 pm, the main tourist areas are full of girls happy to see you. Although prostitution is illegal, the local police turn a blind eye. Do not pick up any girls from the street, especially if they are not Czech, it can be very dangerous. You could end up with no money and maybe some extra illness.