Dangers & Annoyances
- Prague is as safe as any European capital, but pickpockets can be a problem. There's no need to be paranoid, but keep valuables well out of reach, and be alert in crowds and on public transport.
- Prime pickpocket spots are Prague Castle (especially at the changing of the guard), Charles Bridge, Old Town Square (in the crowd watching the Astronomical Clock), the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery and Wenceslas Square.
- Carry shoulder bags or backpacks in front of you on crowded trams (especially trams 9 and 22), metro carriages and escalators.
- At night, avoid the seedy park in front of the main train station, which attracts a lot of vagrants, and the upper part of Wenceslas Square, which becomes effectively a red-light district at night.
- Taxi rip-offs are an occasional problem, especially among drivers who congregate in popular tourist areas like Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. The usual tactic is to quote an inflated fare upon arriving at the destination and then refuse to budge when you complain that it seems high. Ask the driver in advance for an approximate fare, and if it feels too high, don't get in. Also, avoid unmarked cabs (ie those that aren't obviously part of a reputable firm).
- If you intend to visit several museums during your stay, consider purchasing a Prague Card (www.praguecard.com), which offers free or discounted entry to around 50 sights. Included are Prague Castle, the Old Town Hall, the National Gallery museums, the Jewish Museum, the Petřín Lookout Tower and Vyšehrad.
- Prague Card passholders are entitled to free public transportation on metros, trams and buses, including the Airport Express transfer bus from the airport to the main train station.
- The pass is available for two to four days, starting at around 1450/1075Kč per adult/child for two days.
- Cards can be purchased at Prague City Tourism offices, public transport information centres as well as select hotels and travel agencies around town. They can also be purchased online through the card website.
Electricity in Prague is 230V, 50Hz AC. Outlets have the standard European socket with two small round holes and a protruding earth (ground) pin. If you have a different plug, bring an adapter. North American 110V appliances will also need a transformer if they don’t have built-in voltage adjustment.
Emergency & Important Numbers
To dial a number in Prague from outside the country, dial your international access code, the Czech Republic country code, then the unique nine-digit number.
|Czech Republic country code||420|
|International access code||00|
- Greetings It’s customary to say dobrý den (good day) when entering a shop, cafe or pub, and to say na shledanou (goodbye) when you leave. When meeting people for the first time, a firm handshake, for both men and women, is the norm.
- Visiting If you’re invited to someone’s home, bring flowers or some other small gift for your host, and remove your shoes when you enter the house.
- Manners On trams and metros, it's good manners to give up a seat to an elderly or infirm passenger.
- Beer Never pour the dregs of your previous glass of beer into a newly served one. This is considered to be the behaviour of barbarians.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Prague is a relatively tolerant destination for gay and lesbian travellers. Homosexuality is legal in the Czech Republic, and since 2006 the country has allowed gay couples to form registered partnerships. The city has a lively gay scene, anchored mainly in Vinohrady, and is home to Europe's biggest annual gay pride march (www.praguepride.cz), held in August.
Travel Gay Europe (www.travelgayeurope.com) Useful website with information on both Prague and Brno
Prague Saints (www.praguesaints.cz) This recommended gay bar maintains a useful website on what's on in Prague.
Prague is well wired. Wi-fi (pronounced vee-fee in Czech) is ubiquitous. Most hotels, including pensions and youth hostels, offer it free of charge to guests, though occasionally more expensive properties charge (or only offer free wi-fi in the lobby).
- Many bars, cafes and restaurants offer free wi-fi (usually marked on the door with the international wi-fi sign).
- Many hotels are dropping the practice of making a computer terminal available for guests, though some still do, including many hostels. Larger hotels will sometimes have a business centre for guests to use (often for a fee).
- For those without a laptop, Prague has a few internet cafes scattered around town. Globe Bookstore & Café has a bank of computers for customer use. Relax Café-Bar is a conveniently located internet cafe.
Foreigners in Prague, as elsewhere, are subject to the laws of the host country. While your embassy or consulate is the best stop in any emergency, bear in mind that there are some things it can't do for you, such as getting local laws or regulations waived, investigating a crime, providing legal advice or representation, getting you out of jail and lending you money.
- A consulate can normally issue emergency passports, contact relatives and friends, advise on how to transfer funds, provide lists of reliable local doctors, lawyers and interpreters, and visit you if you've been arrested or jailed.
- In the Czech Republic, the legal blood-alcohol level for drivers is 0.0.
- Cannabis (marijuana) occupies a legal grey area; it's been decriminalised, but it is not technically legal. What that means in practice is that police will rarely hassle you for smoking a joint, but one should always exercise discretion and not smoke indoors.
- Buying and selling drugs of any kind, including cannabis, is illegal.
The currency is the Czech crown (Koruna česká, or Kč). Euros do not circulate. ATMs are widely available, and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Hotels Porters expect 20Kč to 50Kč per bag in top-end hotels; not typical for cleaning staff.
- Restaurants Normal practice is to add around 10% if service has been good.
- Pubs and bars For table service, round up to the next 10Kč (or 20Kč for bills over 200Kč).
- Taxis Tips are not normally expected, but 10% if the driver helps with bags.
You’ll find ATMs all around Prague. There are ATMs on the concourse of Prague’s main train station as well as at both arrivals terminals at Prague airport. Most ATMs accept any credit or debit card, provided you have a four-digit PIN code.
Changing money on the black market is illegal and dangerous. Rates are no better than at the banks or ATMs and the chance of getting ripped off is infinitely greater. Firmly decline any offers you may hear to 'change money?’. If you do change money on the street, make sure you receive valid Czech notes in exchange; the black market is flooded with outdated Polish zlotys and other worthless bills.
The Czech crown (Koruna česká, or Kč) is divided into 100 hellers or haléřů. Bank notes come in denominations of 100Kč, 200Kč, 500Kč, 1000Kč, 2000Kč and 5000Kč; coins are of 1Kč, 2Kč, 5Kč, 10Kč, 20Kč and 50Kč. Hellers do not circulate, but prices are sometimes denominated in fractions of crowns. In these instances, the total will be rounded to the nearest whole crown.
Keep small change handy for use at public toilets and tram-ticket machines, and try to keep some small-denomination notes for shops, cafes and bars – getting change for the 2000Kč notes that ATMs often spit out can be a problem.
- The easiest and cheapest way to obtain Czech currency is through a bank ATM, drawn on your home credit or debit card.
- For exchanging cash, the big banks – including Komerční banka, Česká spořitelna and UniCredit Bank – are preferable to private exchange booths (směnárna) and normally charge a lower commission (around 2% with a 50Kč minimum fee).
- Always avoid private exchange booths in the main tourist areas and at Prague Airport. They lure you in with attractive-looking exchange rates, but in fact often charge outrageous fees and commissions. Moreover, the best rates usually apply on only large transactions, above €500. If you insist on using private exchange counters, always ask exactly how much you will get before parting with any money.
Credit & Debit Cards
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted for goods and services. The only places you may experience a problem are at small establishments or for small transactions (under 250Kč). American Express cards are typically accepted at larger hotels and restaurants, though they are not as widely recognised as other cards.
Travellers cheques are relatively rare. They are normally not accepted by shops and restaurants, and can only be exchanged at banks and currency-exchange counters.
Most places adhere roughly to the hours listed below. Shopping centres and malls have longer hours and are open daily from at least 10am to 8pm.
- Banks 9am–4pm Monday–Friday; some banks offer limited hours Saturday.
- Bars and clubs noon–2am Tuesday–Saturday, shorter hours Sunday and Monday
- Museums 9am–6pm Tuesday–Sunday
- Post Offices 8am–7pm Monday–Friday, 9am–1pm Saturday (varies)
- Restaurants 11am–11pm daily
- Shops 9am–6pm Monday–Friday, 9am–1pm Saturday (varies)
The Czech Postal Service (Česká Pošta; www.cpost.cz) is efficient, though post offices can be tricky to negotiate since signage is only in Czech. For mailing letters and postcards, be sure to get into the proper line, identified as 'listovní zásilky' (correspondence).
Prague's main post office is centrally located not far from Wenceslas Square in Nové Město. It uses an automated queuing system: take a ticket from one of the machines in the entrance corridors – press button No 1 for stamps, letters and parcels; then watch the display boards in the main hall – when your ticket number appears (flashing), go to the desk number shown.
- A standard postcard or letter up to 20g costs about 20Kč to other European countries and 30Kč for destinations outside Europe.
- Buy stamps at post offices but be sure to have the letter weighed to ensure proper postage.
Banks, offices, department stores and some shops are closed on public holidays. Restaurants, museums and tourist attractions tend to stay open, though many may close on the first working day after a holiday.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Easter Monday March/April
Labour Day 1 May
Liberation Day 8 May
Sts Cyril & Methodius Day 5 July
Jan Hus Day 6 July
Czech Statehood Day 28 September
Republic Day 28 October
Struggle for Freedom & Democracy Day 17 November
Christmas Eve (Generous Day) 24 December
Christmas Day 25 December
St Stephen’s Day 26 December
Smoking is prohibited at all indoor public places, including schools, government offices, hospitals, libraries, train stations and on public transport. As of May 2017, smoking is also no longer allowed in restaurants, bars and hotels.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT, or DPH in Czech) is applied at 10% to 15% on food (including restaurant meals), books and periodicals, and 21% on the sale of most goods and services. This tax is included in the marked price.
Non-EU residents can qualify for a tax refund on large purchases (over 2000Kč), subject to certain conditions. Look for retailers displaying a 'Tax Free Shopping' sign and then inform the clerk you intend to get a refund. You'll need to save the sales receipt and ensure the goods are not used. Normally you collect the tax at the airport on departure or by mail once you return home. For details, see the Global Blue (www.globalblue.com) website.
Most Prague (and Czech) telephone numbers, both landline and mobile (cell), have nine digits. There are no city or area codes, so to call any Czech number, simply dial the unique nine-digit number.
- To call abroad from the Czech Republic, dial the international access code (00), then the country code, then the area code (minus any initial zero) and the number.
- To dial the Czech Republic from abroad, dial your country's international access code, then 420 (the Czech Republic country code) and then the unique nine-digit local number.
The Czech Republic uses the GSM 900/1800 system, the same system in use around Europe, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. It's not compatible with most mobile phones in North America or Japan (though many mobiles have multiband GSM 1900/900 phones that will work in the Czech Republic). If you have a GSM phone, check with your service provider about using it in the Czech Republic, and beware of calls being routed internationally (very expensive for a 'local' call).
- If your mobile phone is unlocked, a cheaper and often better option is to buy a prepaid SIM card, available from any mobile-phone shop. Prepaid SIMs allow you to make local calls at cheaper local rates.
- The three main mobile operators are O2 (www.o2.cz), T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.cz) and Vodafone (www.vodafone.cz). All have service centres scattered around Prague and offer prepaid SIM cards and temporary calling plans at similar price.
- The situation is more complicated if you plan on using a 'smartphone' like an iPhone or Android device that may not be easily unlocked to accommodate a local SIM card. With these phones, it's best to contact your home provider to consider short-term international calling and data plans appropriate to what you might need.
Local prepaid cards for payphones in the Czech Republic include Smartcall (www.smartcall.cz) and Karta X Plus – you can buy them from hotels, newspaper kiosks and tourist information offices for 300Kč to 1000Kč. To use one, follow the instructions on the card – dial the access number, then the PIN code beneath the scratch-away panel, then the number you want to call (including any international code). Rates from Prague to the UK, US and Australia with Smartcall are around 6.6Kč to 10Kč a minute; the more expensive the card, the better the rate.
Prague and the whole of the Czech Republic lie within the same time zone, GMT/UTC+1 – the same time zone as most of continental Europe. Prague local time is one hour ahead of London and six hours ahead of New York.
- The Czech Republic observes Daylight Saving Time (DST), and puts the clock forward one hour at 2am on the last Sunday in March and back again at 3am on the last Sunday in October.
- The 24-hour clock is used for official purposes, including all transport schedules. In everyday conversation, people commonly use the 12-hour clock.
Public toilets are free in state-run museums, galleries and concert halls. Elsewhere, such as at train, bus and metro stations, public toilets are staffed by attendants who charge 5Kč to 10Kč. Men’s are marked muži or páni, and women’s ženy or dámy.
In the main tourist areas of Prague, there are public toilets in Prague Castle; opposite the tram stop on Malostranské náměstí; next to the Goltz-Kinský Palace on Old Town Square; on Templova, just off Celetná close to the Powder Gate; on Uhelný trh in the Old Town; and next to the Laterna Magika on Národní třída.
Prague City Tourism branches are scattered around town, including at both airport arrivals terminals at Václav Havel Airport Prague. Offices are good sources of maps and general information; they also sell Prague Card discount cards and can book guides and tours.
Prague City Tourism – Old Town Hall The busiest of the Prague City Tourism branches occupies the ground floor of the Old Town Hall.
Prague City Tourism – Rytírská In addition to the usual services, such as handing out maps and advice, this office is a good place to buy tickets for various events around town.
Prague City Tourism – Wenceslas Square Handy tourist information kiosk on the busiest square in the city. Hands out free maps and advice, and is the place to buy Prague Card discount cards and arrange guides and tours.
The official travel promotion bureau for the Czech Republic is Czech Tourism (www.czechtourism.com), which maintains offices in several major countries. Check the website for contact information.
Travel with Children
Czechs are family-oriented, and there are plenty of activities around the city for children. An increasing number of Prague restaurants cater specifically for children, with play areas and so on, and many offer a children’s menu (dětský jídelníček).
The classic outdoor play area in central Prague, Petřín has a whole range of diversions, from the lookout tower and observatory to the mirror maze.
- Prague Zoo
As it's located on the northern outskirts of the city, just getting to the zoo can be part of the adventure. Take a boat trip along the river with Prague Steamboat Co, enjoy a walk through lovely Stromovka, or rent bikes and cycle through the park. Once there, you'll find a children's zoo (petting allowed), a miniature cable car, a huge kids' play area and, of course, the animals.
- Children's Island
At the southern end of Malá Strana, traffic-free Children's Island is equipped with playground equipment, rope swings, a mini football pitch, a skateboarding area and a cafe-bar where parents can sip a coffee or beer.
- Skateboarding & Skating
The area around the metronome monument in Letná, the huge park to the east of the castle, is a favourite with local skateboarders, while the park's paths provide a perfect surface for inline skating.
If you're visiting in winter, an outdoor ice rink (10am to 9.30pm December to February) gets set up at Ovocný Trh (behind the Estates Theatre) in Staré Město. Skate hire is available.
- Parks & Playgrounds
There are safe, well-designed playgrounds all over the city, with convenient city-centre ones at the north end of Kampa Island (at the Malá Strana end of Charles Bridge) and on Slav Island. There's an extensive list of play areas at www.livingprague.com/kids.htm.
- River Play
In summer (generally April to October) you can hire rowing boats and pedalos from several jetties dotted around Slav Island, and splash around on the Vltava. If that sounds too energetic, there are lots of organised boat trips on offer.
- Hergetova Cihelna
Long famed among Prague parents for its family-friendly Sunday brunch, riverside Hergetova Cihelna now actively encourages you to bring the kids any day of the week. The upper lounge is equipped with high chairs, a nappy-changing station, a breastfeeding area and a play area with lots of toys.
- Ambiente Pizza Nuova
Kids love pizza and parents will love the large, supervised play area for kids. Ambiente Pizza Nuova welcomes families and provides high chairs and a children's menu.
Sakura is an unpretentious Japanese sushi restaurant that has a children's play area.
- Vozovna Stromovka
Vozovna is a garden restaurant in the middle of leafy Stromovka park, next door to a playground – parents can eat and drink while the kids can run around in safety.
Rainy Day Fun
- Puppets & Plays
Children's theatre is a long-standing Czech tradition, and there are several places in Prague that stage regular children's entertainment. The Spejbl & Hurvínek Theatre puts on puppet shows, while Minor Theatre stages live children's theatre.
- Mořský Svět
Shark tanks and touch pools are among the attractions at Mořský Svět, Prague's only aquarium.
- TV Tower
Prague's space-age TV Tower offers a trip in a high-speed elevator to the 93m-high observation decks – if the view proves 'boring', there are futuristic suspended chairs and free wi-fi for WhatsApping and SnapChatting.
- Prague Planetarium
Regular tours of the heavens (in Czech, but a summary text in English is available) at the Prague Planetarium.
Child-Friendly Museums & Galleries
- Art Gallery for Children
The clue is in the name: at the Art Gallery for Children the kids not only get to look at art, but make it, add to it and alter it. There are paints and materials to play with, and even workshops for five- to 12-year-olds (only in Czech at present, though staff speak English).
- Lego Museum
The Lego Museum is Europe's largest private collection of Lego models, with a play area at the end where kids can build stuff from Lego themselves.
- National Technical Museum
Sadly, all those vintage trains, planes, cars and buses are off-limits at the National Technical Museum, but there are interactive exhibits in the photography and printing-industry sections.
Need to Know
- Admission costs The maximum age for child discounts on admission fees varies from 12 to 18; children under six often get in for free.
- Transport Children under six years of age travel free on public transport, but be sure to carry proof of age.
- Kids in Prague (www.kidsinprague.com) has loads of useful information on places to go and things to do.
- Babysitting Most top-end hotels provide a babysitting service. Domestica is an agency that provides English-speaking babysitters.
Travellers with Disabilities
Prague and the Czech Republic are behind the curve when it comes to catering to travellers with disabilities. Cobblestones and high curbs present challenging mobility issues, and many older buildings, including hotels and museums, are not wheelchair accessible. The situation is better with newer buildings. Many big-name fast food restaurants are wheelchair-friendly.
In terms of public transport, Prague is slowly making progress on accessibility. Some buses and trams are low riders and, in theory, should accommodate a wheelchair. These services are marked on timetables with a wheelchair symbol. A handful of metro stations, including newer stations, are equipped with lifts. Consult the Prague Public Transport Authority (www.dpp.cz) website for details.
Volunteering options in Prague and the Czech Republic usually centre around teaching English, assisting with refugees or displaced persons, or helping people in need. Volunteering organisations sometimes have a religious or Christian undertone, and volunteers are typically expected to pay for the experience.
Prague Volunteer (www.praguevolunteer.com) is a nonprofit company that arranges trips and stays for native English speakers with the aim of teaching English and raising language literacy. Sites like www.volunteerabroad.com list many other options.