7 insider tips about visiting Prague in the most comfortable, profitable and safer way.
Prague is certainly a city full of beauty and history, located in one of the safest regions of the current world. These are some hints on how to make your stay in Prague even more comfortable, enjoyable and worth of your time and money.
Reaching the city, from the airport or from its main train or bus station, it is quite important to know you should be attentive and avoid people offering various services at the very moment your foot lands on the ground. Even a simple transfer to your hotel or lodging may cost you a lot more than necessary. It is recommended you either book your transfer ahead through your hotel or use the Prague public transport.
Prague public transport is very efficient, generally clean and really cheap – one way adult ticket costs approx. EUR 1,30. If you plan to stay for two or more days, consider buying the 24 or 72hrs pass, which will make your getting around Prague even cheaper. The passes can be bought in majority of underground stations or at the airport and train arrivals hall, where you can pay by card. Believe it or not, the public vehicles such as trams and buses have the right of the way and get you through the city much faster then a car can do.
Nothing is like walking
Walking is by far the best way to go sightseeing around the city center. If you are lucky enough to be staying in or near the city center, put on your comfortable shoes, get a detailed map and spend your day walking. You will not miss any of the sights concentrated in the area of just a few square kilometres, but you can discover much more – tiny side streets full of small shops, hidden nooks, small gardens and unexpected views that remain hidden from those on four wheels. Moreover, walking is healthy and produces very little carbon dioxide!
Certainly we cannot avoid the question of money. Since the Czech Republic still keeps the koruna (or Czech crown as it is called), you will inevitably have to convert your currency as many places accept only koruna. A procedure which, again, can get a bit tricky. Try to check the exchange rate and exchange fees at your hotel. Hotel Rott offers one of the best options around the Prague Old Town. If you look for buying your crowns on your way, definitely avoid all offers of money exchange on the streets! Reportedly very advantegous act which may leave you with a handfull of Romanian lei or Bulgarian leva, if not worse. You will not buy a single match for these!
Even the small exchange offices, which swarm the city as obtrusive insects, may pose a danger for your wallet. The same applies to the numerous ATM machines not associated with any bank. If you do not pass by a bank, look for ATM machines with the bank logo – that is a guarantee of a fairer exchange and commission rate. Prague citizens use the large Exchange office in Kaprova street, close to the Jewish quarter. It has the best exchange rates in the area if not in the whole city…
Getting a city guide
And now the question of the tours and guides… You come to see the city and learn something about its history. This is a story similar to those in our previous paragraphs. You can hire a guide everywhere – those with a large colourful umbrellas try to talk to you on every corner, some offer their services free of charge and will take you to the best pub along the way – do not let them catch you in their trap! The validity of their information is questionable and the bill in that best pub will definitely far exceed the usual cost of a glass of beer and plate of „traditional“ goulash. When looking for reliable guides, enquire either at your hotel or with the Prague City Tourism Offices. These provide knowledgable and certified guides – for the whole city, specific parts (such as Jewish quarter) or just the Charles Bridge. You can even visit Prague cemeteries with a certified guide – the gravestone architecture belongs to the city history as well, not to mention their natural particularities!
Eating a lá Czech
Last but not least, food should, undeniably, belong to your touristic experience. Trying new smells, tasting other flavours and eating habits make our journeys colourful and rich. But here, you too, need to stay on your guard! Most of the food offered in the streets does not have much in common with the traditional Czech food. To the contrary: Trdelník, the circular piece of baked dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, sometimes filled with ice-cream and presented as a very Czech speciality, actually comes from the mountains of Romania, while „The old Czech gyros“ is a phrase belonging to a dictionary of absurdities. Even the goulash served in bread or apple strudel are not originally Czech dishes, so do not let anybody fool you! The central European cuisine is a mixture of influences of the nations that lived here: the Slavs, Jews, Germans, Hungarians etc, and there are not many trully original Czech dishes, if any at all.
Breathing out of the city
Visiting other places of our country then Prague becomes more popular. Especially with returning visitors. There are, indeed, many parts and spots of the country that are worth a visit, both for their architectural and natural attractivness. Even this point shall be thoroughly considered – going to places like Český Krumlov just for a day trip may turn out to be a tiresome and ungrateful day. It is not that the town is not beautiful, but it is rather far from Prague and the journey takes 2,5-3 hrs each way. Looking for other places to make a sensible day out of Prague may take you to some old Gothic castles, such as Karlštejn (city train will get you there in 20 minutes) or some ancient towns, i.e. Kutná hora, the medieval mining centre with a splendid cathedral and many other architectural jewels.
Souvenirs to bring your friends
The most frequented tourist streets of Prague are bordered with souvenir shops of all kinds. Beware of them! The same story – most of the souvenirs offered do not have much in common with the Czech handicraft traditions. You must search to find some real Czech crystal glass, glass beads, handmade wooden toys or real Czech gingerbread hearts! Bohemia also prides valuable graphic and photographic art. If you want to buy some look for a seriously looking gallery rather then buying staff on the streets.
Well, even such a thing as a holiday visit is not easy… but with a bit of attention and gathering of information it can turn into a better and valuable experience that will remain in you heart and mind for a long time. Just the reason why you came.