Culture

Janek Rubeš & Honza Mikulka: The Honest Prague Guide

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It’s a Wednesday afternoon in Old Town Square, and the postcard-perfect scene is already swarming with tourists snapping photos of the historic gothic church and medieval astronomical clock. But Janek Rubeš is here on the lookout for one thing only: scams.

“Here we are in Old Town Square, the mecca of tourist traps and of bad things happening,” Rubeš jokes, pointing out taxi drivers who will charge up to 15 times the legal rate and a currency exchange center that offers customers 12 Czech korunas for one dollar, instead of the roughly 24 korunas the official rate dictates.

Rubeš, a local videographer whose viral YouTube series “Honest Prague” exposes scams like these, is becoming something of a vigilante against Prague’s notorious tourist traps. With weekly videos that cover everything from where to safely party in Prague to how to leave the airport without getting ripped off, Rubeš says he’s helping break down the “wall” between tourists and locals.

The 28-year-old made his first big break last summer, when he went undercover as an American tourist and filmed his rides in Prague taxis, some charging him more than $40 for a two-mile trip. The video has since racked up more than 77,000 views on YouTube, and in November, a court trial began for six of the drivers accused of ripping off passengers.

In one more recent video with more than 900,000 views, Rubeš stood for hours outside the aforementioned currency exchange center warning more than 200 would-be customers of the scam and handing them flyers with alternative places to exchange.

“If you think about it, this is happening for two decades, three decades, 25 years,” Rubeš says, treading Old Town’s cobblestone paths in beat-up Converse. “These same guys are standing on the same corners, the same exchange place, same everything, and they’re getting away with it.”

Lifting the lid off these scams is something of a thrill for Rubeš, a lifelong skeptic who likes to look for cracks in the status quo—and see just how much he can get away with.

Honza Mikulka, a longtime friend of Rubeš’ who films the “Honest Prague” series under the internet television channel Stream International, says he admires Rubeš’ thirst for truth.

“Janek has been living in this city nearly 28 years, and when I say ‘living,’ I mean it,” Mikulka says. “Because he’s so into this city and cares about it, he asks questions and he questions the status quo.”

But Rubeš’ work as a pseudo-vigilante is only half the job. The videographer also publishes a range of videos with smart, frank advice for tourists on how to deal with phone data abroad, eating on a budget, how to park in the city, and other useful topics. He’s even got a popular video explaining which Czech sweets to avoid, and which are a must-try (hint: skip the trdelník).

“We want people to come here, have a fantastic time, want to come back and talk about the city,” Mikulka adds. “The reason is simple—we just love our city and we want other people to share this feeling.”

And despite the presence of scams, tourism in the Czech Republic continues to flourish. Nearly 28 million foreign tourists visited the Czech Republic in 2015, an eight percent jump from the previous year, according to CzechTourism, the country’s official travel site. The same report found that each tourist spends an average of 2,769 Kc per day, or about $115.

Still, Vit Hofman, a spokesman for Prague City Hall and its tourist marketing organization, Prague City Tourism, maintains that the government’s hands are tied when it comes to regulating scammers.

“We know that some exchange offices in Prague are doing our city bad reputation abroad, but we cannot solve the situation,” he explains over email. “We are drawing attention to this unethical behavior, because the city has no legal possibility to intervene.”

With tourism continuing to soar in Prague, Rubes’ role as resident watchdog is more important than ever—and it’s not going unnoticed.

Rubeš, who has lived in Prague his whole life, has grown used to foreigners stopping him on the road to ask, “you’re the YouTube guy, right?” Walking across the Charles Bridge on a recent October day, an Australian couple stopped to tell Janek that they spent their first few hours in Prague watching the entire “Honest Prague” series in their hotel room.

“If you want to ask me, it does bring tears to my eyes,” Janek admits after snapping a photo with the couple. “But please don’t make fun of me for that.”

Find the Honest Prague Guide’s videos here on our website. Or visit them on their Facebook Page or their YouTube channel.

BY TATIANA CIRISANO

18 Comments

  1. Marlon Soriano

    March 5, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Thank you for Janek and Honza. We (with my wife and daughter) just spent a week in beautiful Prague. Their videos were our guide and I think we got our money’s worth through them. Sad to say that we didn’t cover everything before our time was up. I wanted to absorb as much as I can about your society and history including food but I know we have to come back again for more. We had the opportunity to listen to chamber music at St. Giles church and Swan lake at the Divadlo Hybernia. I want to see a marrionette show next time. Prague is so beautiful and full of historical places to see, that you can not fully appreciate all in a week. Although the strangers we met don’t speak English well, they have been very helpful and they tried their best. I fell in love with the place!

  2. Staszek

    March 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    I have watched almost all your videos with Prague, because I am going to go there on May. I’ve never been to Prague yet. Thank you very much for showing traps and opportunities. I would park behind the blue line if I hadn’t seen your advice. One more thing I’d like to know: are there any machines changing banknotes into coins close to ticket machines (I mean tickets to trams, underground and parkings park&ride)? Even small group 5 persons needs many coins therefore it can be a problem to get them.

    • Marie

      July 4, 2017 at 12:04 am

      Unfortunatelly, there are no coin changing machines in Prague, that I am aware of.. You can save the change or change it in a near by shop.

  3. Ray

    April 1, 2017 at 3:30 am

    your the best man keep it up , I Just wish there where more people who cared about there country like you do ! I will be there in August 2017…

  4. Martin

    April 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Hey Janek, have you ever done a review of absinthe bars in Prague? Are there some to avoid and some that you should definitely check out? Cheers.

  5. Mike

    May 10, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Do you act as a tour guide? Do you have a tour guide business that we could book tours with?

  6. ASK

    July 25, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Dear Janek,

    I’m from India and visited Prague last week with my family. It wouldn’t have been a fun filled trip if I hadn’t watched your videos before hand. It was really informative and make our leisure time much more easier. We took your advice and did not exchange money at the airport. We had an infant with us and all the insider tips you have given in the videos really really helped us. Thanks for all your videos and really loved the way you explained things. Wish you all the luck in the world.

  7. Huong

    July 31, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Do you have email contact.

  8. Vaclav Stehlik

    January 28, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    Janku a Honzo,

    delate Bozi praci. Jezdim do Prahy, zpravidla, kazdy rok.
    (Narodil jsem se tam a stravil tam prvni polovinu zivota.)
    Zatim jsem si nikdy nemusil menit penize (americke dolary),
    ale kdyby na to prislo, kterou smenarnu byste, specificky,
    doporucili? Mimochodem, je to jen muj dojem, kdyz se mi
    zda, ze kazda poulicni smenarna je v rukou mafianskych
    individui?

    Diky,
    Vaclav

  9. Anand

    March 20, 2018 at 6:46 am

    I want to know when coming from Germany Nurenburg to Prague why does the train stop at the main Railway station and not the central station next to the square? Are there no trains going out of Check Republic from the central railway station? Its very inconvenient for tourist coming to Prague. I have watched all your videos and read so many reviews of various travellers, it seems that it is better to avoid Prague as it is not Avery tourist friendly city. Heard more negative reviews about the place then positive. Heard a lot of positive reviews about Bratislava. So wondering fi I should pass Check Republic for being such an inconvenient country to visit.

  10. Kai CHRISTMANN

    June 12, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    hej hej…erst mal danke für die super tips.
    komme im august mit meine eltern zu ihrer goldenen hochzeit.
    eine idee war eine bootstour .
    sind das auch touristfallen, auf was muss ich achten ?
    es soll eine abendrundfahrt sein mit essen und bier. soll aber kein reinfall werden.
    im vorraus danke .
    hej då Kai fron Sveden

  11. Mike Moravec

    June 24, 2018 at 12:36 am

    I too would like to know if Janek does tour guides.

  12. Dan

    December 13, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    Totally agree, man I miss Prague

  13. Pierre

    August 16, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Hello going for the first time to Praga next week. Luckily I found your films & advice just in time.
    Will het your book ASA I arrive.
    Do you have colleagues in other countries doping this same super job??
    Would be fine to know.
    Thanks a lot
    Pierre

  14. James Longworth

    September 8, 2019 at 12:56 am

    I am in the initial stages of retirement planning and considering relocation to the Czech Republic. Any direction and assistance above your book would be greatly appreciated. I’ll buy you some beers! Thanks Jim

  15. Joe and Tere Cintron

    September 15, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    We got our copy of the Honest Guide Prague in the mail yesterday, Saturday, 14 September, 2019.

    We immediately started to read it! Wow, we loved it from the start – thank you Janek, Honza and Eliska.

    We’ll be in Prague this 25 September and are very excited to tour, on the off the beaten track, and places you have suggested.

    All the best from two new fans!

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