My tips after a month in Prague
My wife and I just spent nearly a month in Prague. It is an amazing city filled with amazing people. I don’t travel that often in Europe, and I hate looking like a tourist, so I always spend a lot of time looking up local details, for anyone in the same boat, here are my compiled tips after our extended stay in Prague.
The language barrier:
As with many cities in Europe, I felt that english was best spoken at the city center, and even though we lived out in Prague 10 (15 mins from city center by metro), I felt like at least in restaurants they knew enough english to help us. Also every restaurant had some kind of english menu, even if they pulled up their website on a tablet for us. Czech people understand that their language is difficult, as with anyone they love it if you try, but they aren’t like the French or Italians — they don’t expect it or act like they don’t speak a word of english. We met people that had been living there for 2 or more years and still didn’t know how to say basic Czech phrases, and they were ok with that.
- Getting from the airport to city center is easy — you can buy a metro pass at the airport, then take the bus straight to the metro line.
- Buy a metro card — hidden in the terminal 1 area just past a grocery store you can buy extended passes (ie. 7 days or 1 month) — this gives unlimited access to all buses, metros, and trams — the system is very extensive and runs 24/7 (only trams at night though) — if you are taking a taxi then you are doing it wrong.
- I felt like Prague was an extremely safe city. We would get off the train at our stop at 00:30 in the morning and be the only ones on the street, and that didn’t bother me in the slightest.
- To any well versed traveler this should go without saying — stay away from places that put english first on the outside signs.
Not acting like a tourist:
- I’m going to assume you drink beer — you should know that most pubs serve a standard beer (it is the one advertised on the sign by the door) — you can easily walk in and say “pivo prosim”, you will get that beer.
- Put a coaster down on the table before your drinks come — all Czech people that we met are big into coasters, treat it like grandma’s coffee table — if you don’t use one you are being rude.
- Czechs love to drink, but the locals are usually home by midnight — if go into a regular pub (their name is always something “Something U Something-else” like “Hostinec U Vodoucha”) you will find great local cuisine and beer, but you should know they close by 23:00 (but locals may linger for the next hour or so).
- If you go to Billa and buy produce, you MUST weigh it before you checkout — the staff gets pretty mad and does NOT speak english.
- A LOT of people smoke in Prague, also smoking in many restaurants is allowed (especially more local ones), usually they have smoking and non-smoking sections, I never saw a sign designating which was which but I also don’t speak Czech.. but the smokers seemed to stay in the front area.
- It is customary to tip for food and drinks in Prague, it is usually a small amount, rounding up to the nearest 10th (so a good tip would be 100 Kc for a bill of 89 Kc), and as with anywhere in Europe, don’t leave the money on the table.
- This one takes some getting used to for americans, but when the restaurant isn’t busy, walk in and sit down at any table you want, there is no host or greeter at the door, if you walk in and stand their you might as well walk around with bright flashing “we don’t belong here” signs.
- Everything is quite cheap in Prague, a good meal and a beer should run you about 200 Kc with a handsome tip (about $8 as of 11/11/16).
Food and beer places:
- Hostinec U Vodoucha: This is an awesome little local place, I highly recommend it
- Beergeek — fantastic beer from all over the world is their focus and they do it well
- Vzorkovna — this is a crazy bar built of out what looks like a labyrinth, definitely for the younger crowd, but if you want to see a cool bar that would probably be condemned if it was in the US, check this place out (note it looks like a hole in the wall from the outside, immediately after the entrance is a gate with a bouncer — you just need to get this e-chip reader thing from him to enter).
- Le Caveau Pekarna — Fresh baguettes and croissants on par with those I have had in Paris
- Zizkovska Strudlarna — unbelievable fresh strudel, go in the mornings, it is literally a store front behind a gated door, but they are fantastic
Internet and working:
- Cafes are a great place to work for a bit if you need, but the expectation is that you keep ordering things, one latte for 6 hours of work will leave the wait staff annoyed at you.
- Monolok cafe: great lattes and soups, the staff speaks english well and is very friendly.
- Locus co-working: I HIGHLY recommend this place if you want to get a bit of work done and meet awesome people. They cater to english speakers from many countries — I felt VERY comfortable working here, and the people that run it are awesome. We made fantastic friends from half a dozen countries in the two weeks we were there.
Things you MUST do before you leave:
The Prague castle (St. Vitus Cathedral) at night — pro tip: get off at the Malostransk station and walk up the stairs to the entrance. During the day the buses drop off at the other entrance so the line can get really long.
- Saturday morning farmers market on the rivers edge
- Obviously the Charles bridge during the day is cool, but I highly recommend going there late at night
Exploring the rest of the Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov — this was a cool place to visit, people told us they could spend at least a day there but we were happy after about 6 hours. Make sure to climb the tower and try the trdelniks from the MLS window, and if you need lunch try crepes from MLS too. Getting there by train is quite easy. Use seat61 for advice, and buy the tickets from cd.cz.
Pilsner Urquell brewery tour — being from Wisconsin we have seen our fair share of breweries, but this place is much different, there is real history here, and its almost “Charlie and the chocolate factory”-esque in its design and size. The tour guides are great and they finish the tour by checking out hand-carved cellars where they used to store the beer in giant barrels. You even get a glass of beer straight from a 10ft tall barrel, same as the brew masters taste to make sure the quality stays consistent.
Overall, I am very happy that we spent so much time in Prague, it is a fantastic place, and I hope to visit there again soon.