5 things to avoid
Prague has moved quickly from backwaters communist city to a top tourist destination. As can be expected, the locals have found ways to help the approximately 5.5 million tourists a year part with their hard earned crowns. To ensure that you enjoy your time in Prague without getting ripped off, below are 5 things to avoid while visiting the City of a thousand spires.
1. Having a beer on old town square
Old town square can be a charming place, the square looks like something out of the set of a Disney movie. Everywhere you turn on the square, you can find patios or terraces offering a view of the tower or astronomical clock. While the setting is undeniably pleasant, the surprise when you get the bill will put a downer on any day in Prague. This city is famous for its’ beer, but it is best enjoyed in local authentic pubs, as opposed to tourist traps charging almost 5 times the average price for a beer, and oftentimes also charging a “cover charge” for the privilege of sitting on their patio.
2. Sex Machine Museum
On your way from Wenceslas square to the old town square, you will most likely pass by a small museum whose entry way is filled with gawking tourists taking pictures and clubbing music pouring out of the speakers. You have successfully found yourself at the sex machines museum in Prague. The museum does an excellent job in advertising and they employ a whole herd of attractive women to lure you inside. They are counting on the fact that you are either inebriated or confused by the exchange rate, for the price of entry, you could get yourself a very nice sit-down dinner in the old-town. The interior of the museum packs as many historical and sex toys as you can possibly imagine into a tiny space. If you want to visit a sex museum, save your money for the real deal in Amsterdam.
3. Riding a Taxi
In recent years, there has been a crackdown on overcharging taxis in Prague, but with millions of tourists a year flowing through the city, the temptation for drivers to take advantage of tourists who are lost or do not understand the exchange rate always exists. Everyone living here knows someone or personally had the experience of a taxi driver sometimes charging up to ten times the going rate. Prague is a very walkable city and the public transport runs 24 hours a day, so there shouldn’t be a time when you really need to use a taxi. If you must, be sure to agree on a price before you get in, and make sure you have that exact amount in cash, to prevent the taxi driver from claiming he doesn’t have change once you get to your intended destination. If a problem does arrive, you are completely within your rights to call the police, although sometimes just the mention and getting out a cell phone is enough to convince many a taxi driver to modify their rate.
4. Paying Entry into Prague castle
Prague castle is the largest ancient castle complex in the world, it is a beautiful combination of multiple architectural styles and best of all almost the entire castle can be viewed for free. Unless you have a serious penchant for castles, there is no need to pay for entry. The ticket is overpriced and grants you entry into just a few interesting buildings. The majority of the castle is off-limits even to ticket-holders, as it is also the seat of the President of the Czech Republic. Without a ticket, you can still walk through all of the courtyards, the royal garden (in season), watch the changing of the guard and after closing time (6pm in the summer, 4pm in the winter) you can walk down the golden lane for free.
5. Exchanging money at a change booth
The Czech Republic has not expressed a keen interest in joining the eurozone anytime in the near future, so during your time in Prague, you will need to pay for everything in Czech Korunas, otherwise known as Crowns. It may be somewhat difficult to obtain this currency outside of central Europe, so you will probably need to get crowns once you make it here. Under no circumstances should you ever try to use the exchange booths in Prague, even the ones that look legitimate. The exchange rate you see outside the booths usually looks pretty good, but somewhere in the fine print is the part where that rate is only if you are selling more than 1,000 Euros worth of crowns, those trying to exchange money for crowns will get a very bad rate (sometimes half the market rate) and be charged a commission and an exchange fee. Once you have been handed your crowns, there is no way to make a complaint. The best way to get crowns is to use your bank card at an ATM/cash point. Many large stores and restaurants will allow you to pay in Euros and receive your change back in crowns, but be careful doing this at a souvenir shop, as often the rate will be very poor.