Prague offers a great introduction to Czechia / the Czech Republic – but boy there were some things I wish I knew before heading there.
Czech isn’t that bad, actually – it just looks that way.
The good news: it probably won’t even matter all that much. This Wikipedia page has plenty to help you understand how things sound, if you’re the sort that learned the IPA in college.
Don’t. Miss. The. Beer.
Some aspects of the city might drive you to drink – but for beer-lovers like myself, I’ll get on the tram. Czech’s history of beer goes back century further than the current governmental structure does. Whether you hit up the Beer Museum in Prague, try the Beer Spa, take the tour of the Pilsner Urquell bottling plant in Plzen, or just enjoy a mug at the local bar, it’s about as far from hidden as it can be.
…but avoid drinking in public.
If you need a locker, Prague’s luggage lockers are huge and cheap at the train station.
You should be able to take them for granted, but no, you can’t. Keep an eye out for the signs.
Don’t go to the Prague Castle in the middle of a day. Or on a weekend, if it can be helped.
Freakin’. Crowded. It’s a fine mainstream destination, but the various buildings just aren’t built for the kinds of crowds that often arrive here.
Commission for currency exchange is a crushing 11.9% at the train station, on top of a poor exchange rate.
…and you probably won’t be seeing the euro being adopted anytime soon. Pull your money from a local ATM once you’re in the country.
Tram and metro systems work very well for traveling in / around the city…
…and they’re pretty beautiful.
…but for getting out of town, buses are better.
Buses are cheaper and faster than trains for shorter trips out of town, such as to Plzen. The Student Agency Bus is how we got to Plzen – from Prague, take metro line B to Zlicin, then get your tickets at the counter inside the building with the public restroom. It’s right next to the metro station. There should be a couple of buses an hour.
Prague card not that great a deal
I wrote about the Prague card as part of the epic post on European city cards, in which I noted you really have to hustle to feel like you’re getting a good value from this card. It comes in 2-day (46€), 3-day (56€), and 4-day (65€) varieties, and covers public transportation and offers free admission to many of the city’s more touristy attractions. A three-day, transportation-only option is both cheaper and easily purchased at the train station or most metro stations.
Blue-colored labels or caps = still/non-gassy water
Whether you know it as sparkling water, fizzy water, carbonated water, or just water with gas, it’s not to everyone’s taste. If it’s your thing, finding it is easy in Prague. If it’s not your thing, look for blue-colored labels as a more-or-less standard way to tell sparkling water from still water.
Try to know the local names of places
With signs like these, knowing the local names will really help.
Once again, don’t miss the beer.
Unless you can’t drink beer for some reason, it’s one of the best reasons to be merry in Prague. There are more varieties than you can shake a stick at, many made locally, and all surprisingly cheap.