Please don’t hate me, but I didn’t like Prague. When Anthony and I visited in August, we had no idea we booked a 3-night stay in Euro-Vegas. Look, I love a good party just as much as the next person, but what we witnessed was just plain tacky. And the crowds, oh my gosh, let me tell you about the crowds. Just because a city is one of the most visited in Europe does not mean it’s actually worth the trip. But if you’re still keen after my rant about how overrated Prague is, here are a few tips for a more enjoyable experience.
3 Tips for Surviving Prague
Avoid touristy areas like Prague 1
The cobblestone streets in Old Town/Prague 1 look like facades in Disney World and it is beautiful. But I believe the city’s beauty is directly related to the number of tourists it attracts. Prague is crowded like nowhere I have ever been before. It’s almost like the area can’t handle it, unlike a proper big city like London. Two of Prague’s biggest attractions (both in Prague 1) are no different. If you want to see the Astronomical Clock, I recommend visiting outside the top of the hour when it plays. And as charming as Charles Bridge is, it’s littered with street vendors and foreign pedestrians to the point where you almost can’t walk. We stayed in the middle of the “action,” but maybe booking an AirBnb in a quaint neighborhood would be a more relaxing way to explore Prague. If you do visit Old Town, the best advice we received was to go one block off the main streets and wander the alleyways. It’s hard to believe quiet streets can exist amongst so much chaos, but that’s how we stumbled upon an great craft beer bar called U Kunstatu.
Visit during the week
Or better yet, visit during the winter. We were there exactly over the weekend and it was such a mistake. I can’t tell you how many bachelor and bachelorette parties we saw getting a solid noon start. They peddled beer bikes built for a dozen on land and on water (which actually looked like a lot of fun), they rode motorized scooters around the city like a bunch of drunken assholes and they partied. All. Day. Long. By 11pm, dudes were already peeing in the street. We dodged one guy urinating on a parked car and another pissing off a bridge into the river a few blocks away. But in a place where bottled water is more expensive than beer, why wouldn’t it be a party town?
Exchange money at the bank
We heard that exchanging money in Prague can be unsafe. And holy scam city! Sometimes exchange rates are not as advertised. Some ATMs force you to withdraw the equivalent of thousands of dollars in your home currency and you’ll be so confused by the foreign language (and math) that you won’t even know the difference. We heard stories of people getting ripped off by receiving a completely different foreign currency. A friend of ours visited Prague shortly after we were there, and we tried to warn her about being safe with her cash. She got scammed another way. When she got cash out of an ATM, an old man asked if he could change his notes for smaller. She thought she was being nice when she gave him €40, but got a useless Belarus note in return. Needless to say, Anthony and I were happy when we found an open Western Union bank at 6pm on a Friday. To our surprise though, there was also a money exchange machine in our hostel which was the greatest invention I didn’t know I needed in my life.
Cash isn’t the only way the locals cheat you. Goods at the markets may look cheap, but they list price by the 100g. And if you don’t speak up, restaurants will charge you for bottled water and bread (that you didn’t ask for).
Prague left me conflicted because the city was so pretty, but the throngs of tourists ruined it for us. I found it so confusing that the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited could attract such trash and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Maybe if the people (visitors and locals alike) were more a bit more pleasant, we might have had a better experience. But if there is ever a next time to the Czech Republic for me, I will definitely be going far off the grid.
Have you been to Prague? What was your experience like? Do you have any travel tips to share? Comment below!