Visiting Prague had been a long-standing dream of mine. The only reason I did not go there before is that the tickets were very expensive. It became possible when one day I was checking the flights on Skyscanner (read more on how to use it to find deals) and saw a really cheap price: 200 EUR both ways. Needless to say, I bought them immediately! And after having spent more than a week there, I want to share with you some travel tips for Prague.
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I went to Prague solo, and can assure you that it is absolutely safe! And not Prague only, I visited many smaller cities, and they were equally safe. I have never felt threatened even when I was walking the city at midnight. I have to say here that I stayed in the very center of Prague: first week I stayed in Charles Bridge Economic Hostel steps away from Charles Bridge and my last night I booked a whole flat in Prague Siesta Apartments not far from the Old Square.
There were hundreds of tourists everywhere, and it did not matter what day or time it was. Trust me, you will always be surrounded by people. Even at 6 AM there were people on Charles Bridge: I know it for sure because I hoped to take pictures of the bridge without any people on it. I failed 🙂
2. Exchange bureaus are scam
This one is the most important of my travel tips for Prague! The local currency is Czech Koruna or Czech Crown, and I don’t remember seeing a place where they accept EUR or USD. So, just remember: many exchange bureaus in Prague’s tourist area charge outrageous commissions like 22 or 28%. Vendors complain that tourists come to them with Hungarian Forints instead of Czech Crowns, because this was what they were given at the exchange bureaus. I saw a couple arguing and filming something at an exchange bureau at the Old Square. Before you give them your money, ask if they charge commission and ask them to write down what you will get.
I exchanged money at a bureau 5 meters away from my hostel. It has the same entrance as a restaurant, and you will easily find it. They don’t take commission, and give you the exact amount.
I guess it is much safer just to withdraw money from ATMs of which there are plenty. Just remember that your bank will have its own exchange rate and might take commission for their services.
3. Languages spoken
The thing is that after an unfortunate event in Bulgaria, I prefer to speak at least a bit of the language of the country I travel to. And before my trip to Czech Republic I was worried because despite the similarities between Czech and Russian, I did not speak it. So, if Russians read this, rejoice! Almost everyone in hotels and restaurants speaks Russian. And, of course, English is spoken as well. The guy at the reception spoke even Romanian, so my worries were in vain. But, as always, I wouldn’t expect knowledge of Russian or English in the areas outside of the touristic places.
4. Service fee on restaurant bills
Some restaurants put service fee to the bill, and I reckon it depends on the meal cost, usually 10-15% of the bill. I asked one of them, and he said that it is tips. Still wonder, if he understood what I asked 🙂 Anyway, I come from a country where we decide how much we want to tip, and I think that’s rude. The thing is that you can’t really argue and you just have to pay it. How to avoid it? You could ask about it before you order food, otherwise they will decide how much you should tip them.
5. Classical concerts
There are classical concerts in almost every palace or church in the tourist area, so if you love classical music, you will have the possibility to enjoy it. I asked for the price once for a concert in the Liechtenstein Palace. It cost 900 Crowns, there were some famous musicians playing the well-known classical masterpieces. It was the cost of my three dinners, so I said no to this.
I went then to the ticket office Via Musica next to the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and I was told that the cheapest concert is 400 Crowns. Well, this is something to consider 🙂
6. Concerts on the bridge
If you don’t want to pay for a classical concert, take a stroll along Charles Bridge closer to the evening. There are many street musicians performing music of different genres. Some of them are really talented, in my humble opinion, and you will enjoy their performance for 5-10 Czech Crowns (this is optional, of course).
There are toilets around the touristic places, but they are not free. There is a WC on the Old Square next to the entrance to the Cathedral of Our Lady before Tyn, and it costs 10 Crowns.
Even when you are in the castle complex, you will have to pay 10 Crowns for the pleasure, despite paying for the ticket. I do not know the reasoning behind it, but someone told me that it is because homeless people might use it. My guess is that it might be because some places in the castle complex are free to visit, and the administration wants to get some money from them anyway.
The toilet at Vysehrad is not totally free, here you have to pay as much as you can.
I thought that 10 Crowns is the limit, but then I went to the toilet at the Petrin Tower. And it is 20 Crowns there 🙂
8. Free areas in Prague’s Castle complex
The castle complex is the most famous sight in Prague and, while it is ticketed, there are free areas as well. Gardens are free to visit by everyone, for example. St Vitus Cathedral is by far the most popular attraction here, and, despite it being in the ticketed area, everyone can get inside for free. In this case you will have to stay not far from the entrance, but you will get to see the whole cathedral and 7 windows with paintings at the entrance. What you will miss if you don’t buy the tickets is the crypts and chapels at the farther end of the cathedral, and crowds of tourists stuck in its narrowest part. But if you are short of money, that’s an option.
I was in Prague at the end of May – beginning of June. There were many tourists in the city, but I do not know if it is considered high season or not. Nevertheless, I have never waited in queues for more than a couple of minutes, even at the castle. Well, except waiting 10 minutes outside at the St Vitus Cathedral as, like I said before, it is almost free to see. I do not know if this is the usual situation, but I kinda liked that I did not have to waste my time in lines 🙂
Accommodation is expensive in Prague, at least, according to my opinion. I prefer to stay in city center, and hotels automatically get more expensive 🙂
As I wanted to save money, I booked a bed in Charles Bridge Economic Hostel right next to Charles Bridge. What I liked most about it is that there were twin not bunk beds in the room 🙂 And there was a private bathroom. The Wi-Fi connection could be better, though 🙂 Well, another big advantage is that tourist information center is right there. I mean that the hostel reception is at the information center.
My last night in Prague I stayed at Prague Siesta Apartments not far from the Old Town Square. I really liked the place: the apartment was clean, spacious, with kitchen facilities and excellent Wi-Fi connection. Strongly recommend it if you are travelling as a family.
Pigeons in Prague can be very nasty. You see they are obviously used to be fed by tourists, and when you sit somewhere with food, they expect you to share it with them.
I was sitting not far from Charles Bridge at the statue to Charles IV, eating ice cream, and pigeons started gathering around me. I thought it was cool, and gave them bits of trdelnik. But that was not enough: there were too many of them. So they behaved just like seagulls: they started flying close to the ice-cream trying to grab it 🙂 Frankly, I was not expecting that 🙂 And they kept doing it till I left 🙂
12. Airport-Prague center for 1.3 EUR
You can get to the city center for less than 1.5 EUR. If you don’t have much luggage, there is no need for taxi. I bought a ticket for 32 Crowns, which is valid 90 minutes. You can use the same ticket on any transport, be it tram, bus, or subway, within 90 minutes. I exited the arrival’s hall, and the bus 119 was just across the road. Read signs carefully and choose the right direction, as there are two stops, one going to the city, the other to another terminal. Its station terminus is at the subway station Nadrazi Veleslavin on the green line, so you will not have to worry that you could miss your stop. From here you just take the subway to your destination using the same ticket you bought at the airport.
13. Regiojet for day trips
If you plan any day trips, I would advise to use Regiojet whenever possible. When I was booking my tickets, I had to choose between the more famous Flixbus and Regiojet. The prices are mostly similar, but I opted for Regiojet. Do you know why? Their website was more user friendly 🙂 And, as it turned out, they have very nice buses, clean and comfortable. The buses have WC, free Wi-Fi, personal multimedia screens with movies, music, games and news, and the bus attendants offer hot drinks for free (cold drinks are against a price)! And there are newspapers, but they are in Czech. In addition, you can cancel or rebook your ticket if there are more than 15 minutes before departure. There is no need to print tickets, just show the attendants your number on your phone. If you do not create an account (I did not), your tickets will be stored under a unique number, and it is the same number for all your tickets: I guess this is true if you book all of them from the same browser and computer. What I really advise you to do is to buy tickets online in advance. The buses on my routes and my dates were full, and as far as I saw it, everyone had either printed their online tickets or showed the above mentioned number on their phones.
I went with Regiojet to Karlovy Vary, Cesky Krumlov, Brno, Olomouc and Kromeriz. They have trains as well, I took one from Olomouc to Prague. Funny, they offered water for free in trains 🙂 Probably, Flixbus offers the same conditions, but I have never used their services, so can’t tell anything.
14. Bus stations
There are a couple of bus stations in Prague, and, depending on the destination of your day trip, your bus might depart from any of them. For example, Regiojet bus to Karlovy Vary departs from UAN Florenc, and to Cesky Krumlov – from Na Knizeci. Pay really close attention to the info on the ticket!
15. Main railway station
Well, being main suggests that the station operates domestic and international routes and if you want to travel to some nearby places, or even other European countries, for Prague is well connected with them, you will most likely go there by train. Of course, booking tickets online is easy, but in the mobile version I did not see pages in English, only in Czech. So, after some thinking I went to the railway station to buy tickets right there. As foreigners, there are some things we should know:
– not all ticket selling staff speak good English and not everyone is eager to answer questions. When I bought my tickets to Kutna Hora, the lady did not speak good English and was quite rude. I had many questions, as I did not know all the procedures (there was no seat, departure time, route number on my ticket. I will write more about it in my Kutna Hora post) and, frankly, she was of no help. I had to figure out everything myself. On my second visit to the station, when I was aware of almost everything, it went much better and quicker 🙂 In short, they sell open tickets for most popular destinations like Kutna Hora or Karlsteijn, meaning you can take any train going that direction. But, as some ticket sellers are not of much help, better do like I did: I checked the trains’ departure times and routes’ numbers online before my trip so that I could find them on the electronic display, bought tickets at the desk and headed to my platform. No need to ask any questions to the staff 🙂
– pay attention to the letters after your platform number. For example, when I went to Karlsteijn, the platform was 2J (J is from Jih meaning south). Don’t worry, you will not get lost, the platforms are close to each other, and there are signs everywhere.
– on weekends, naturally, there are many people at the station, and the majority line for tickets. If you want to catch a specific train, keep this in mind. There are queues during weekdays as well, but not so long. It may take even longer if in front of you there is an ignorant tourist like me 🙂
16. Storage lockers
Unlike when I went to Ronda, here they do not charge by hour, but ask for a payment for storing bags for up to 24 hours.
There is luggage storage at the main railway station at the South direction platform and they charge 100 Crowns for big suitcases and 60 Crowns for smaller ones.
The other one is at the tourist information center at the hostel I stayed at. When I asked about the price, they told me it is 120 Crowns.
17. Ticket vending machines
Even if you stay in the city center, you will have to use public transport from time to time. This is not the city where you buy tickets at the driver: instead, you will have to use ticket vending machines. The machines are at every subway station, but not at all tram or bus stations, so you better have a spare one. This happened to me when I came back from Cesky Krumlov. I went to the tram station just to find out that there were no ticket vending machines! Luckily, I remembered that there is a subway station nearby and went there to buy the ticket.
In some trams (not all of them!) I saw machines allowing you to buy tickets on board, but it is for contactless cards only!
There are only three lines in the Prague metro system. Like I said, one can use here the same ticket as for buses and trams. Trains stop at the majority of touristic places, they are fast, one station takes about 2 minutes. But there are periods when there are 5 or 6 min till next train, which is good to know if you need to catch a bus or a train.
19. Transport ticket machines
When you buy tickets in the machines in the city, it accepts either coins or cards. Some machines do not give the rest when you throw coins, so you need to have the exact amount! Others give the rest. Don’t remember any machines accepting banknotes in the city, the one at the airport does for sure and gives the rest as well, I bought my ticket there.
20. Validating tickets
Tickets should be validated in buses and trams when you are on, and subway when you enter the station. You will see yellow boxes at each station, usually at the escalators. Just put your ticket in, there is an arrow on the ticket showing how to do it. It will print time and date on it. You can use the same ticket within 30 or 90 minutes on another transport, just validate it again.
That’s all for my travel tips for Prague so far. I will update the list if I remember anything useful. Probably, you have any questions? Ask them in comments, and I will see if I have answers 🙂
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