Photo: Jim Grady
It’s not hard to have an awesome trip to Prague — the city is so easygoing, you can even order a beer with your McDonalds meal. And while most of the people who travel there have a blast, every once in a while you’ll get a sourpuss who folds their arms across their chest and declares, “Prague, dude — it’s so overrated.”
While it’s hard to really ruin a trip to Prague, these things could definitely mar what would otherwise be a killer experience abroad.
Forget to validate your metro ticket.
In Prague, you purchase a ticket at one kiosk, validate it at another kiosk, and then can board the train without ever pushing your body through a turnstile. Failing to validate the tiny piece of paper will result in a gorilla-sized Transportation Cop fining you ten times as much as your ticket is actually worth.
Go to Charles Bridge in the middle of the day.
Charles Bridge is a great spot for reflection, for taking photos, and for admiring the architecture of Prague. But the sheer number of visitors who cross Charles Bridge each day between 9am and 5pm makes it nearly impossible to get from one end to the other in a short amount of time. The tide of tourists will literally picks you up and drags you away from a statue you might have stopped to admire. Avoid it at peak hours, and you’ll be alright.
Watch the Astronomical Clock with a huge crowd of people.
If you absolutely have to watch the puppet show that occurs on the hour at the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, make sure you do it with the least amount of people possible. Thieves do their best pickpocketing in this area of the city; it’s easy to swipe a wallet when everyone is staring upward with slack jaws.
Get on/off at the wrong train station.
If you’re taking a day trip outside the city or meeting a group of friends coming into town, make sure you know which train station to go to. Hlavní Nádraží and Nádraží Holešovice are often mixed up, but the train conductor doesn’t give a crap if you realized that just as you exited the train and the doors have closed behind you.
Forget your inhaler.
The Czech Republic has yet to adopt a universal smoking ban. Currently, the only regulation bars and restaurants must abide by is posting whether smoking is, or isn’t, allowed in their establishment and if there are separate rooms for smokers vs. nonsmokers. So if you’re prone to bad asthma or don’t want to smell like an old man’s basement, make sure to seek out smoke-free zones ahead of time.
Refuse to learn any Czech.
While the number of English speakers in Prague is growing every day, there are still a lot of people who don’t know as much English as you do. Even a trip to Tesco for contact solution can result in a frustrating game of charades and false cognates. I once tried to ask for a hair dryer and was taken to the baby products aisle. Knowing even as little as Mluvíte anglicky? will get you far.
Wear high heels.
While there are these amazing women who somehow get away with wearing stilettos with ease, generally, you’ll probably regret wearing high heels around Prague. Lots of the streets are either cobblestone, Belgian block, or other uneven pavement.
Decide to bike, anywhere.
Prague is not a bikable city — at all. Maybe in the outlying areas, but the combination of cobblestone streets, electric trams, tourist bunches, and the odd driver or two make it not worth trying. Prague’s public transportation system is pretty comprehensive anyway, and worth the five dollars you’ll spend on a 24-hour pass. Plus, there are really weird parts of the city that include roads leading to nowhere and unexpected hills / valleys that don’t show up on many maps.
Order the wrong kind of beer.
Maybe the imported Czech varieties you’ve had Stateside were lackluster, but Czech beers in the Czech Republic are totally different — and way better. There are a lot to choose from other than just Pilsner Urquell, and there are some cool Czech liquors, like Becherovka and Slivovice, to try as well. Don’t insult this city by ordering a Heineken, or worse, an American brew.