Prague is a wonderful city to visit, it may be extremely cold for the winter months, but a few mulled wines later you will soon forget your chill. Prague has a wonderful collection of old buildings, a famous opera house and a real sense of political history. It is also very cheap, the average visitor would do well to exceed spending £100 ($160) in 5 days. That is based on just going out, accomodation can be more expensive, but it is possible to find hostels for £10 ($16) a day, although, don't expect anything too fancy.
You must have passport that is valid for 8 months beyond entry date if you are an EU National or from New Zealand, this will give you a 90 day stay. Visitors from the UK, Ireland and Canada are allowed a 180 day stay, where US visitors are allowed 30 days, and visitors from Australia have to get a free visa which is valid for 3 months. Japan and other non-Europeans need to pay for a visa in advance. If you are British a E111 form is recommended. Good insurance is also recommended.
Czech money (crowns, or korun ceskych - Kc) can be got from banks in your own country, but you'll have to place an order in advance. The rate seems to be roughly 45 to the £. Prague has ATM's accepting Mastercard (Access) and Visa, these are now very frequent and won't charge commision. Common travellers' cheques should be easy to change - American Express and Thomas Cooke are both in Wenceslas Square (Václavské Námestí). Most hotels have exchange offices charging something like 10% commission.
Don't accept offers to change money on the street. It's a con, and you won't be the beneficiary. You can also change money at the 24 hour exchange desk at the airport (run by Ceskoslovenka obchodni bonka at 1-2% commission.) Banks open 8-5pm Mon-Fri, and till 1pm on Saturday.
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If you are travelling by coach and want cash for stops on the journey, Deutschmarks are probably the best idea (however the majority of motorway halts in France/Belgium/Germany will accept any major European currency). Alternatively, take along food and other supplies for the trip. The airport at Ruzyne is in the suburbs of Prague, but is served by rail, however if you shop aound, you should get a good deal for a cab. The cheapest way is to get a 119 bus to the first tube stop and transfer to the metro. It is also advisable to reconfirm return flights at least 72 days before departure. Time Out and TNT offer good discount flights as well as:
Campus Travel (02077303402 at 52 Grosvener Gdns, London, SW1W - under 26 only)
Trailfinders (02079375400 at 42-50 Earls Court Rd, Kensington, W8)
STA Travel (02079379921 at 86 Old Brompton Rd, SW7)
In the Czech Republic you're supposed by law to carry ID (i.e. your passport) at all times. In practice people tend not to. You may well feel safer leaving your passport (a valuable item on the black market) in the hotel safe, though check if it's needed when changing travellers' cheques.
Prague has the reputation of being a pretty safe place to wander. However as in almost all big cities, where there are tourists there are also some people looking to take advantage, and you can't expect to be or look as savvy as locals. Petty crime is a local growth industry, with pickpocketing just one facet. So please watch out for yourselves. The guidebooks all suggest that Wenceslas Square (Václavské Nám.) is not the place to be in the small hours of the morning.
Language: a lot of people, especially younger, will speak English (some older will know German). Czech is mainly pretty easy to pronounce if you get the basic rules (I can give a rough guide), but as a Slavonic language won't be as amenable to guessing at translation as Latin or Germanic languages.
Electricity is 220V, but you'll need a universal two-prong round-pin travel adaptor - get it before you leave, if this is likely to be important to you.
Most public toilets (like in France) cost a nominal amount to use, e.g. 2 kc. The men's is muzi and the women's is zeny. There are loos in all metro stations.
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Expect it to be cold in the winter months, I went in November and it was nearly always below 0°C, so remember some very warm clothes, then there is always the mulled wine. In the summer the temperatures can approach 90F so take your suncream.
Most of Prague can be done on foot if you are staying in the centre. The metro runs till midnight, and there are a number of all-night trams. Metro, trams and buses all use a uniform ticket which can be bought (10 kc) from metro stations and from stalls near bus/tram stops - but not on buses/trams. Please note that you are expected to frank your own ticket using the yellow machines going through the barriers at metro stations and on buses/trams. If you don't you may get fined. One-day and 3-day passes (denni jizdenka) are also available, more at a saving of convenience than of money. The Prague card (see Museums and Galleries) gives you unlimited travel for 3 days, as well as free entry to loads of museums.
Cabs can be hailed in the street, this is cheaper than going to a taxi rank, which tend to up the prices for tourists. It is always a good idea to insure the meter is switched on, and ask for a receipt at the end if you think you have been ripped off. You can expect an intial fare to be around 30kc (+20kc per km).
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Hostels can be found for approximately £10 ($16) per night, although cheap hotels can be found, if you are prepared to go a little out of the centre, as cabs are so cheap, this isn't necessarily a problem.
Some cheap hotels:
Axa (Na ponci 40) - Old style hotel central
Central (Rybna 8) - Central as the name suggests!
Kampa (Vsehrdova 16) - 5 mins from Charles Bridge
Europa (Vaclavske Namesk 25)
Lunik (Londynska 50)
Another option is to rent an appartment, we found one in the heart of the old town for £80 for 5 nights per person. Check the Prague accomodation agency for more info
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Many shops close all day Sat. as well as Sun; many that don't you should expect to close at midday on Sat. and not to re-open till Mon. However in the centre things are changing and there are several places open 7 days.
Bars, Cafes and Restuarants
Bar/cafe/restaurant meals and drink are cheap - e.g. beer at 25-30 kc, meals at 100 kc. So you can easily afford to eat out at least once a day, and it is worth it to try some of the lovely food. Czech's are mainly meat-eaters, with dishes like goulash being a speciality, but there are plenty of restaurants that cater for vegetarians. Don't forget to try the local spirit Absinthe, it is considerably cheaper than in the UK, although be warned it does odd things to you! Another word of warning if you are sick in a bar/restaurant, you may be ripped off in having to pay for a cleaner, this happened to one of our travel companions a few years ago, and they were asking £4 ($7) to clear it up! You can't blame them though, the average wage is between £2-2.50 a week.
U Fleku (Kremencova 11) - A brewery since 1499 that serves Flekovske, a strong dark beer that is served with aniseed shots. As a group you can sit on one of the many long dining tables in vaulted rooms, food is also available.
The Roxy (Dlouka 33) is an old theatre that stages films and live acts.
Peklo (a 12th Century beer cellar that serves delicious fare - Strahovske Nadvon)
Cafe Prstenu (Jilska 99) - Quiet cafe/bar serving budvar in large glasses, through an archway in the Old Town.
Coarsair (Linhartska) - Pirate themed bar that looks dilapidated on the outside but has a cosy atmosphere inside, open till 2AM
Propaganda (Pstrossova 29, Praha 1) - Predominately male clientale drink in this cool bar scattered with old radios.
Yukon (Na Moravii 3) - Best place to pay cheap pool in town (7kr per hour) that is open 24 hours, serves food, but a word of warning they use their fingers to clean the beer glasses!
U Maleho Glena (Karmelitska 23, Praha 1) - Chilled bar with a small pokey jazz bar downstairs
Zoo Bar (Jilska) - Slightly pricey underground vault bar that can get extremely crowded at night
M1 Secret Lounge (Masne) - One of the best cocktail bars in town, sit at the bar and watch your drink get created while chilling out to modern sounds.
Osvezovna (Divadelni) - Small local bar with tables outside overlooking the river, although they only seem to serve beer.
Zelezna (Zelezna) - Just off the old town square this is arguably the best jazz bar in town, with a atmospheric cavern and contemporary jazz performances. Their is also a music shop where you can buy what you have just heard and a comprehensive cocktail menu.
Uzlateho Tygra (Husova 17) - The 'Golden Tiger' is a traditional drinking hall, much smaller than U Fleku, make sure you get their early as it fills up in the afternoon.
Bily Orel (Malostranske Namesti) - Trendy modern bar with photographs by Helmut Newton hanging on the wall
L'Apertivo - Trendy cocktail bar in Old Square
Bombay Bar - Busy late night bar
Prace (Kamenicka 9) - Late night bar with communist paraphanalia all over the walls and table football.
Vejvodova (Vejvodova 4, Praha 1) - Cheap restaurant with downstairs cellar with good chili goulash
Stoleti (Karoliny Svetle 21) - One of the best Czech restaurants in town serving designer food at reasonably cheap prices. The steak in pepper sauce with banana is recommended!
Bohemia Bagel (Masne) - Breakfast Bagel bar with garden with internet cafe, great way to start your day
Ceska Hospoda V Krakovske (Krakovske 20) - One of the best traditional Czech restaurants with humble surroundings and fast service. The Old Bohemian is a must for the meat eaters with a pan of smoked pork, pork neck, franks, dumplings, sauerkraut and sweet red cabbage all in a thin stew.
Klub Architectu (Bethlemske Namesti) - Classy cellar restaurant with good service and a large menu, although the meal we ordered was slightly disappointing with rather gristly meat and smash for potato!
Karavella (Michalska 15) - Cheap restaurant with a vast menu including some excellent fish dishes. The goulash with dumplings is very tasty but a word of warning it is rather rich so be prepared for an upset stomach if you're not used to it.
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Almost all galleries and museums close on Mondays only. The gallery at the Rudolfinum (entrance along the river side) puts on good international shows. Among the small galleries worth checking out are MXM (Nosticova 6, entrance through gate and garden, open 12-7), Gallery Nova Sin (Vorsilska 3, open 10-1, 2-6), Spalova Gallery, Narodní (not sure of other details), and Jiri Svetska Gallery (Jungmannova, nr. where Palackeho intersects: not sure of other details). There is also an interesting window gallery in the windows of the British Council building on Narodní run by independent curator Andrée Cooke, showing contemporary U.K. and Czech artists. The big centre for Modern and Contemporary Art (Dukelskych Hrdinu, Praha 7) is also worth a visit, the modern art is on the 2nd floor.
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National Museum (Vaclavske Namesti)
National Theatre (Narodni 2)
Metronome (Great views of Prague, Letenske Sady, Praha 7)
Fairground (Surreal summer experience with rundown bandstands in Stromovka)
Stromovka park (Praha 7) - Beautiful park with rolling lawns and big trees
FC Sparta Prague Stadium (Milady Horakove, Praha 6)- Behind the metronome this will be of interest to the footie fanatics
Boat trips - Hire a boat or jump on a tour along the river (Slovansky Ostrov, Praha 1)
Puppet Theatre - A good one is the Black Magic Theatre on Paris Street
You can also purchase the Prague Card, which is available from the American Express office (Vaclavske namesti), it costs around 450Kc and is valid for 3 days. It gives you unlimited travel on public transport as well as entry into some 44 museums and galleries, it also includes a free tourist guide.
An excellent trip to make outside Prague is to Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp, roughly 1 hour away: chilling and poignant and for the most part completely unchanged since the day in 1945 that it was abandoned.
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Central Europe online
Downtown - Fortnightly listings
Ticket Pro - Get those opera tickets cheap and well in advance!
Welcome to the Czech Republic
Info supplied by Nat Goodden and Andy Webb