Prague is a wonderful city and is also very safe. I had no problems at all in my five days visiting. Obviously use common sense when it comes to pickpockets, but as I said I had no problems and didn't see anything to make me feel awkward.
I am used to taking the metro and I like flying but I found the escalators in some metro stations overwhelming. If there are passengers before me, I won't have any problem but I have had the "pleasure" of being one of the few passengers (was not peak time when I was doing my sightseeing). The heights really scared me.
At the front of Hlavi Nadrazi station, there is a large park. This park has alot of beggars and homeless people there, and it isnt really a problem, they dont approach you or anything, but I would advise that you avoid the area at night.
I was stung by a jellyfish a week before visiting Prague and was fortunate enough to have the swelling go down within the first few days. However, while in Prague, the swelling came back and much much worse. Also, the itching was unbelievable. So I called the front desk and asked what I should do. The options were (I should also mention it was 5:30am on a Sunday- great timing, right?):
1. Call the hotel doctor and have them visit my room - cost $250 Euros
2. Call the hotel taxi and have them take me to the emergency room (called "ambulance")
I decided on option 2, as the price of option 1 was too high. The taxi came to pick me up and took me to a nearby hospital. That's where the panic set-in. The hospital was closed but the taxi driver still drove into the lot (enclosed by tall brick walls). Once he realized the hospital was closed (the building didn't even look like a hospital) he started to freak out and drive around the parking lot really fast trying to find the exit. The driver started to hyperventilate until I finally calmed him down and told him to ask someone for directions, and take me directly back to the hotel (I wasn't going to spend another minute with this guy). After arriving back to the hotel I tried option 1 (from above), however, the doctor couldn't arrive until later that morning. In the midst of an itching nightmare and a terrible amount of pain, I decided to wait it out. I finally called my insurance company who sent a doctor within an hour (for only $40 USD) and everything worked out fine.
Tips: be prepared and make sure your global health insurance is indeed global and covers the area where you are at. Also, when going to a hospital, make sure you go to the biggest one in town, ask for an English-speaking doctor, and make sure that they are indeed open and expecting your visit.
When I arrived at the hotel on my first day at the city, a man at the reception staying at the hotel arrived and I heard him complaining to the receptionist in hope that she might be of help.
He said he was forced by a policeman to pay a fine of CZK700 (about EUR28). The story is, he's been in Prague for 3 days now and everyday he's buying a day pass/ticket that allows unlimited ride to all public transport (tram, metro, bus, funicular). On this third day he forgot to validate his 1-day pass and unfortunately there came an inspector and he was checked and found his ticket unvalidated when he's already inside the tram for maybe quite sometime. So would constitute sort of transport regulation violation.
So remember, no excuses.
Don't forget to validate (insert) the ticket on the validating machines - the time and date will be imprinted at the bottom of your ticket (see picture) - which are located right near the entrance of the tram/metro/bus/funicular as soon as you board your first car. Second ride would no longer require the validation. Just remember that if your ticket is 75 minutes validity ticket, you must ride the next transport within that time period.
No excuse on this if you forgot and you were caught by an inspector. The penalty is CZK700!
I know, most tourists do not vandalise historical monuments, but still there are many who want (mostly in alcoholic delirium) to make picture with Charles bridge statues or while sitting on St. Venceslas horse.
climb on statues or "hug" them. After numerous incidents almost all of them are protected by special inteligent video system. The instance the invisible "privacy zone" limit is violated by any person - alarm sounds at the police dispacher and nearby policemen arrive at the scene in 1-2 minutes.
And with your transgression documented on the videorecord - YOU WILL BE FINED!!!
Interesting one, this.
In a couple of places I wasn't given a bill..........one provided a hand-written list, the other nothing at all. Not sure whether this is legal (many countries insist on provision of bills, so that VAT etc can be properly calculated) but that's irrelevant really.
The problem I had was that I was not convinced the total was entirely accurate; in fact, in one place I am certain it had been conveniently 'rounded up' already (both places had perfectly functional electronic tills). Not a huge problem really, because I considered the food cheap anyway and simply didn't leave a tip. But it left me with an uncomfortable feeling, and is worth watching for (especially if you are a large group and thus spending more than is easily totalled in your head).
The other point to note is that some restaurants still follow the practice of pricing meat by weight. Thus the listing on the menu is for the 'standard' weight, and your piece of meat will be priced above or below, depending on what it weighs. This is a hang-over from practices under the Communist regime and is fair enough, as long as it's made clear that's what is going to happen.
Update for 2010: what I came across in a cpouple of places this time ws the presntation of an electronically-produced bill, and the waiter/waitress then saying 'that's x amount [adding 10%] with service'. I don't like that either. If I want to tip (and I usually d, outside the UK) I don't like being pushed into it or told how much.
But there we go...different places have different ways of behaving. It's just useful to know beforehand.
Taxi, Exchange booths, and pickpockets are pests of Prague, as others have already written, and I have already encountered. However, even museums and shows could be faked. I hazarded once the "Chocolate Museum" behind the Old Town Square, which boasted over 1000 pieces of collections. But in fact there were just pictures of cocoa trees and some brief introductions to the history of chocolate which you can find in any encyclopedia. Their proud collections were some old Eastern European chocolate wrappers. Later I found similarly specious museums were rampart over the city. Just don't venture any of them.
Then I bought a "The Best of Swan Lake" ballet ticket in a ticket agency, boasting in its cast "the soloists of the National Theater." The cheapest ticket was 700 crowns, or c.a. 40 dollars. The theater building, Divadio Hybernia, is situated right opposite to the grand Municipal House. But the performance was on the barely accessible second floor, with cheap-looking seats, no orchestra (CD playing for the music), no stage design (screens with projected scenes), accelerated scenes, drastically reduced number of dancers, and disconcerted group dances. Even the leading roles had wobbling legs, unable to perform a decent spin. The whole ballet was fake to bamboozle the tourists. Don't go to any such shows not housed in a national theater.
Be a little bit paranoia in Prague.
Like in any big city traffic is a nightmare in Prague. The reason why it is particularly bad here is that the old town with the narrow streets is not built for modern traffic. Add that the locals are apparently impatient and don't obey to driving rules and you get the picture.
I spent about an hour or a bit more with a friend in Cafe Slavia watching the traffic at the crossroad Narodni trida-most legii/Smetanovo nabri-Masarykovo nabri. It was highly interesting. Two police officers stood across the street in front of the National Theatre and watched the traffic. They only seemed mildly interested in drivers who violated the rules. As you can see on the picture one of the guys only jumped on the street to give orders if the traffic got too bad and came to a halt because trams, cars and motorbikes blocked the crossroad. I observed one accident when a driver was obviously a not courageous enough and hit the brakes - which was totally unexpected by the following driver. Bang. Nothing except a minor damage to the autobody happened. The drivers got out, the police officer slowly walked there and after another minute of arguing they separated and drove on as nothing had happened. Jeez. Cannot imagine that in Germany, LOL.
Like in most popular and big tourism city, also Prague has its own thieves, scams etc. Personally I had no problems hanging around the old city at any time of the day, in general, be aware of your belonging, keep your money and papers in safe pocket, do not be tempted to any "good deal" and all the usual stuff of a big city.
*There is often police around in crowded places and with these two watching, I felt completely safe ;-)
There were some reports about "pharro" ATM problems.
"pharro" is smaler bank independand ATM chain. They have ATMs located in some shopping malls and a few other locations - not very common to see. But there were incidents reported when people lost money with them. It is difficult to solve the claim as the (your or any other) bank can not influence in any way investigation of the claim.
The problem is as follows: client attempts to take money from the ATM, machine refuses indicating some technical fault - client leaves believing transaction did not happen. Unfortunately, bank report shows that transaction was completed and funds are withdrawn from the account.
"pharro" company insists that they investigated the issue and that ATMs in question did not have excess of bills which would confirm the fact of "not issued money".
I can not judge if the claims are true, but it is better to be careful because in case of problems it will be very difficult to solve the issue from abroad.
Prague is generally safe city. That doesn't mean that pickpockets do not operate here or robberies/killings do not happen here at all. I just want to say that criminality level is low and there are no "no go" areas - you can stay in and walk around any part of Prague.
Of course there are some areas which are not pleasant AT NIGHT because drug addicts and homeless people (or drunks) tend to gather there and can be annoying to passers by.
Here is the list of the worst places:
1. Celakovskeho park - on the right side/behind of National Museum
2. Park in front of the Main railway station
3. Pedestrian tunnel under the hill between Karlin and Zizkov
4. Vicinity of Vltavska metro station
5. Vicinity of non-stop bar on Vitezne namesti (Dejvice)
6. Charles square (Karlovo namesti) area
7. Masaryk railway station - Florenc bus terminal area.
If your Acrophobic (scared of heights).and Agrophobic (fear of open spaces).
I went on the Klementinum tour, it starts off going up a spiral staircase after about eight stairs you get to the next floor so you can rest to compose yourself, after about ten floors your half way there where you can see the old library. (It has a lift which is only for the use of the librairians).
Then you go up more stairs which are straight and steep and wooden, to get into the old Astronomical tower, the tour is very interesting, but it is a long way up. From the top you can see magnificent views of the city.
For me it was very difficult getting up but i was determined, the hardest part was coming down the wooden stairs, I had to crawl down backwards on my knees, there was no other way to get down, and by the time i had got to the spiral stairs,9the rest of the group had gone on) I was so distaught I asked my partner to get help from one of the librairians, who said we had to use the stairs.Eventually he took me in the lift.
I was glad I did it but it was very tough.
Eating at a sit down tourist eatery near Wenseslas square ( they are all tourist eateries: no Czeck would be caught dead eating there as they are a total rip-off.
1. Check the price on the billboard.
2. Double it.
3. If you want drinks: double it again. That is your bill.
The system works thus:
The cost of the menu items
Add those free pretzels hanging off the the condiment tray.
Add the condiments: they are not free either!
Add the service charge
Add the Tax
Add the Tip ( 15%) They will kindly do that for you automatically and add it to your bill.
Or : more simply : just double the price of the menu board.
And: usually the food tastes like cardboard to boot with minute portions.
If you come to Prague by train in the night beware of homelesses and weird people in front of the building. There is a park, called Sherwood (cross the park and you are at Wenceslas square) , especially there be careful. They will not kill you, just take money :-)) No seriously, there are many policemen and hope nothing happen to anyone. Anything has never happen to us.
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