From winding cobblestone streets to 600 year old mechanical clock faces, Prague is the ultimate European escape. With its intricate history, gothic architecture and delicious delicacies Prague is a city like no other. If you are lucky enough to spend some time in this one of a kind city, be sure to use these travel tips to experience the most out of this incredible Czech haven.
1. In small restaurants, bars, and boutiques, everything tends to be paid in cash even if the establishment accepts credit cards. Many places do not accept credit cards but don’t post any signs saying so. Avoid being surprised at the end of a meal – always keep enough cash on hand!
2. Prague has a very convenient and sophisticated system of trams, buses, and subways to get you anywhere you want to go. Familiarize yourself with the system via this brief video. You can always access route information and buy intercity tickets at www.czech-transport.com.
3. Czechs are EXTREMELY passionate about beer and you will find a pub on every corner. The beer is usually cheaper than water and typically comes by the half-liter. Most of it is in the Pilsner style, which tends to be light in flavor and slightly less carbonated than American beer. You can get on a Czech’s good side by complementing it!
4. The Czechs have somewhat of a rivalry with Germany and often harbor resentment toward Russia! Do not ask about communism, Nazi occupation, or any foreign influence from their past. And asking for some German beer at a bar will get you a dirty look at best!
5. Water is almost never free at restaurants, although tap water is safe to drink and you can usually ask for that instead. It is considered rude to bring and drink your own bottled water into a restaurant, bar, club, or café, and you will be asked to put it away.
6. Although the Czech Republic is part of the EU, they use the Czech Crown, not the Euro. You can exchange money almost anywhere in the city, but beware of exchanges that list better rates while charging a processing fee of 20-30% – you will lose quite a bit of money if you don’t notice this! Make sure you see a sign that says “No Commission” and use your phone to calculate how many Crowns you are supposed to receive.
7. There is very little violent crime in Prague, but theft is common. Do not leave anything unattended or out in loose pockets; pickpockets present a big problem. Taxis have been known for trying to rip off foreigners – always agree on a price before you get in. You can try to negotiate the price, especially if it is during a slow time and there aren’t many people around.
8. When paying your bill at a bar or restaurant, it is customary to state the total, including tip, while handing money directly to your waiter or bartender. Ten percent is considered to be a good tip. Locals tend to round up in such a way that making change is more convenient for the cashier, and they will appreciate this. For example, if a sandwich costs 83 crowns, you should say “90” rather than adding 10 percent and saying “91.”
9. Many Czechs speak English, at least enough to understand you. Most restaurants will have a translation to English or can provide a separate English menu if you ask. Traditional Czech food includes heavy meats like sausages and pork knee, potatoes, and cabbages.
10. Czechs tend to have a neutral demeanor, and it makes us smiling Americans think that they are upset with us! This is not necessarily the case. Traditionally, Czechs are more reserved with their emotions and smile only at people they know well. Conversely, smiling constantly, laughing loudly, and gesticulating dramatically will be poorly received.
Best of luck on your travels and enjoy “the heart of Europe!”
Sharon co-wrote this article with University of Texas at Austin Graduate Michael Ravitsky. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS KEYE We Are Austin, popular on-air contributor, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015.