By Hannah Burns and Kylie Naughton
If you’ll be staying in our city for a few months, as a study abroad student, temporary employee, intern, or if you’re here on a long holiday, we have some tips for you. There are quite a few things that make living here in Prague a lot different from living back at home, so we’ve compiled a list of advice based on our experience.
Disclaimer: We come from the United States, so this is our experience. If you’re coming from different parts of the world, your experiences may be different, but we hope these can tips help sojourners universally.
Know before you go:
Unlock your phone – Go to your cell phone carrier before you leave for Prague, and make sure your phone will work with a sim card from a different carrier. FYI: AT&T is especially tricky with this (they require the hand set to paid off). If you’re unable to unlock your phone, there’s a service here that will do it for around 80 USD (theiphone.cz). An alternative is to use that old iPhone sitting in a drawer as your international burner phone. We encourage you NOT to rely on wifi, because you will rely on Google Maps to get you from place to place – especially considering they provide public transportation routes.
Public transport etiquette:
1. Use your INSIDE voice.
2. Give your seat up for the elderly, or they WILL sit on you.
3. Always have a ticket or your transport pass (they do check from time to time).
4. Let people OFF before you get ON.
Taxis, Uber & Liftago – You’ll want to have a secondary transport method lined up. If you’re not feeling public transport, or it’s late at night, you can take a taxi, but don’t do it from a taxi stand (it’ll cost considerably more). A good option is, of course, Uber. The downside is, anyone can be an Uber driver it seems – so your driver may not always know the most expedient route. Plus, many study abroad programs discourage the use of Uber (due to insurance concerns). Consider Liftago – it is like Uber, but more similar a regular taxi. It costs less than a taxi, but a bit more than Uber. The Liftago app lets you choose your driver and price upfront – and the drivers are real taxi drivers that know the streets better than the average Uber driver, in our experience.
Beer – It’s easy to get carried away with beer being served with just about every meal here in Prague, so pace yourself. It’s very common for people to have a small beer or two with their lunch, and if you decide to indulge, make sure you’re able to be a coherent human at work afterwards.
Coffee – Iced coffee? Forget about it. Coffee to-go? Eh, maybe. There’s a certain part of the Czech culture that surrounds coffee and cafés. What’s common in Prague, and in the rest of Europe, is to kick back at a swanky café and enjoy an espresso with something sweet, and appreciate the company of your peers. There’s Starbucks, though – but be prepared to be made fun of, and to pay 4-5x as much as you would at a normal café.
Read up – A Czech will LOVE IT if you know at least a little something about the history of Prague and the Czech Republic. A quick google search will do the trick.
People in the service industry – Don’t take it personally if they aren’t as friendly as at home (they may even seem rude). From grocery store checkout staff to servers, sometimes the locals can have a tough exterior.
Fast food – Its just better here. Especially KFC. With stringent EU restrictions on food, it’s actually not awful. Plus, Czech doesn’t allow GMOs.
Laundry – Dryers are not common here, so don’t expect to have one in your apartment. Instead they do the air-drying method and most people purchase an in-home hanging system. If you’re dying for a dryer, the Laundry Bar on Nerudova will do up to 10 pounds of laundry for 300 kc –washed and dried.
Public restrooms – or WCs as they’re called, are often “pay to pee,” no joke. Most are around 10 kc for the right to go, especially in the high traffic tourist areas.
The sniffles – As a matter of public etiquette, blow your nose, because Czechs definitely do not like the sound of a stuffy nose. On the other hand, they aren’t afraid to blow their nose in public – often. It sounds strange, but trust us, you’ll notice it.
Language – Most people you’ll encounter here can speak English, but try to use as much of the Czech language as you know. It will be appreciated! If your study abroad program has an intensive language class, pay attention and at least learn the basics: hello, goodbye, please, may I pay, do you speak English? May I have ________, etc.
Pick up some phrases from our friends at Honest Guide (:
Bring from home:
Office supplies – If you are particular about this kind of thing, it’s essential for the study abroad experience. Notebooks, for instance, are difficult to get ahold of for some reason.
Skin care – If you have a specific routine, bring enough of this stuff to last you, because you may not find the right products here (although, the higher end products are mostly available).
Medicine – Meds that you can get at any gas station or supermarket in the states, like ibuprofen, allergy medicine, any kind of cold medicine or sleep-aid, are not available at shops in CZ. You have to go to the Lékárna, or pharmacy, which often closes at 7pm. It’s a good idea to bring some from home for emergencies.
Girl stuff – Tampons, if you (girls) are particular about this as well, consider bringing your own. Let’s just say there’s no commercials on TV with mothers and daughters talking about how great the feminine products are in central Europe.
Power converters – You can buy these in Prague, but it’s smart to have at least one while traveling. Be sure and look and make sure that whatever you’re plugging in is 220v compatible (not just 110 volt).
Reusable water bottle – Finding a nice one isn’t as easy as it is in the states.
Clothing – Prague does have four seasons, so plan accordingly. Bring a few warm and cool weather options (especially if you’re traveling away from Czech on weekends). When it comes to shoes, it’s function over form – you’ll be doing a lot of walking (on mostly cobblestone streets), so you can probably leave your expensive Italian heels at home. Last of all, while lots of things are cheaper in Czech, the brands you’re familiar with probably aren’t. For instance, a pair of Converse All Stars that cost $65 in the States are $115 here.
Hopefully, following this advice will help make your study abroad experience in Prague more enjoyable and hassle-free.
Like us on facebook, and if you’ve stayed in Prague as a foreigner or study abroad student, tell us YOUR tips and tricks that maximized your experience!