Most visitors spend their time in the historic centre of Prague, administratively called Praha 1 and comprising the Old Town (Staré město), the New Town (Nové město), the Jewish Quarter (Josefov), the Lesser Town (Malá Strana), and the Castle District (Hradčany).
The historic centre is very much walkable – Praha 1 is just one hundredth the area of the entirety of Prague. But there are always going to be times when getting around on foot just isn’t the best way. If you find yourself wanting to get around quicker, there are plenty of options available, but…
Never just flag down a cab
It is a truth universally acknowledged that taxi drivers tend to overcharge unsuspecting tourists. Prague is no exception when it comes to inflated taxi prices. Despite legal limits on prices, many drivers tend to not use meters or have technology to trick you into paying more.
Just hailing a taxi cab in the street is a good way to pay up to ten times what’s fair – especially if you do it at night or in a foreign language.
That’s why using a service like Uber, Taxify or Liftago is a good idea. Even if you have ethical issues with Uber as a company, the fact the price you pay is governed by the app and outside the influence of the driver may be reason enough to make an exception.
If you prefer to stay with traditional taxi companies, a good practice is to call for a taxi from one of the bigger companies (e.g. AAA Taxi, Tick Tack Taxi) and while you have them on the phone, ask for a price estimate on your ride.
Then, as you’re getting in the car, confirm that price with the driver.
If you decide to use public transport instead, please know you should…
Never dodge fares on public transport
The public transport system (MHD in Czech, “Městská hromadná doprava” or “Municipal mass transit”) is an underappreciated miracle of modern urban management. Prague is lucky to have a dense, reliable and cheap (i.e. subsidised) public transport system, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it, too.
The tickets come in many forms, but for a visitor from abroad, there are only four to worry about. The system is entirely time-based. Each ticket can be used for all forms of transport (buses, trams, metro, funicular and even the mini-ferry) for a given length of time: 30 minutes for 24 crowns, 90 minutes for 32 crowns, 24 hours for 110 crowns, or 72 hours for 310 crowns.
You can find them in any newsagent’s, any tobacconist’s, every metro station and some tram and bus stations as well. When you’re using vending machines, some people find it surprising they have to press the buttons first to request the tickets and throw money in afterwards to pay for them.
There are no gates or turnstiles in Prague, and you might often notice people getting on public transport without doing anything at all – locals mostly use monthly and yearly coupons, and they don’t need to worry about paper tickets.
You should, however, because there are random inspections done by plainclothes ticket inspectors on all forms of transport at all times of day. When someone flashes a small badge and asks for your ticket, you’d better have it. The fine for not having a ticket is 800 crowns (about 40 USD or 32 EUR) on the spot.
So, make sure you get your ticket ahead of time and stamp it when you get on public transport the first time, but also make sure you…
Never stamp your public transport ticket more than once
In many cities around the world, tickets for public transport have magnetic strips that are scanned by machines and they have to be entered into slots every time you pass a turnstile or get on a tram. Not so in Prague – each ticket is stamped exactly once. No more, no less.
That’s because at the bottom of each ticket is a designated area for a literal stamp – and the machine will print the time and place of your first point in the public transport system. From that moment, you have the designated time, whether it’s 30 minutes or 3 days.
Should you stamp the ticket again, it’s as if you were cheating the system, re-setting the clock on your ticket. And that’s besides the fact that two stamps printed on top of each other are simply illegible for the inspectors.
Either way, the rules state plainly a ticket stamped more than once is automatically invalidated. Make sure you remember to stamp it the first time, but then keep it safe until someone with a badge asks for it.
And make sure you use the designated printing area, too. You may notice, minutes after getting your ticket stamped, the colour of the ink partially changes to red. That’s another security feature to prevent recycling of tickets, and it only works in a certain part of the ticket.
Instead of vehicles with four or more wheels and a motor, maybe you’ll decide that fewer wheels will suffice. Two wheels one behind the other, perhaps? If so, then…
Never get careless on a bicycle
Another route you may decide to take is that of a bicycle. There are many rental companies in Prague, and there are even a few bike-sharing projects underway. Maybe you’ve already noticed pink bikes parked all over the place – ReKola.
Bicycles have it hard in Prague. The historic centre is not big enough for all the people who visit. It isn’t big enough for all the cars driving and parking there. It isn’t big enough for the bicycles, either. And it especially isn’t big enough for all of those things combined, and so it can get a bit messy.
Make sure you wear a helmet (it’s compulsory for under-18-year-olds), try to stick to bike paths in those few places where they are available, and pay attention to people, cars, and generally everything else, too.
One thing you should definitely pay attention to is the law. Sure, even as a pedestrian you should follow the traffic code, but outside of jaywalking there isn’t much you can do wrong on two feet. On two wheels, on the other hand, you become much more involved in traffic, and that brings obligations.
Most common traffic infractions that cyclists commit would be ignoring traffic lights and signs, riding across pedestrian crossings (you’re supposed to walk your bike across), not using dedicated bike paths when those are available (some cyclists prefer to ride on the pavement instead) and riding under the influence (there’s zero tolerance for alcohol for bikes and other vehicles).
One last warning – at the time of writing, the centre of Prague is struggling with bike tours threatening pedestrians in the historic parts, and so bikes are banned in many areas between 9 am and 5 pm. This restriction is marked by white lines across the roads and streets at entrances to the affected areas, end even though bike groups are opposing this, while the signs are in place they are valid and enforceable by the police.
I’m not much of an urban cyclist, myself, and there’s a chance I’ve missed something, so feel free to ask more questions when you’re renting your bike, as the staff there should be more than happy to help.
Getting around Prague should be a breeze if you stick with these few tips, and if you’re eager for more, check out the dedicated category!