Prague Transport: The Best Ways to Get Around
As long as you’re not living in Southern California, you can usually count on the biggest city closest to you to have a decently reliable public transportation system. Prague, being the capital of the Czech Republic, is no exception. Boasting a metro system that runs from 6AM to midnight and a tram system that’s 24 hours, it isn’t hard at all to get around. However, there are some things to note before you hop on.
I live in Prague 2, a neighborhood that’s a solid 20 minutes away from my school, so I use the metro almost every day. Since my school provided me with a transportation pass called an OpenCard, I don’t need to buy a ticket. When you visit, however, you can select “English” as your language of choice on the machines found at every station so you can purchase your ticket with ease. But be warned! Before getting on the escalator that goes at 400 MPH for no ostensible reason, make sure to validate your ticket by sticking it into the unmarked yellow box.
Transportation in Prague runs on an Honor Code, so if an officer stops you in the middle of your ride with a flash of his badge and you present an unvalidated ticket, you will be fined. I forgot to carry my OpenCard with me one day, so when I was stopped (as I usually am—if my appearance doesn’t immediately convey “American,” it does indicate “foreigner” because I’m one of the few brown people in the entire city), I was forced to pay a fine. Thankfully, they knew I was a student so my fine was less than 5 USD (but you may not be so lucky).
Once you’ve situated yourself with your validated ticket and make your way downstairs towards the metro, you’ll be given the option of going left or right. I’m extremely grateful for the very clearly marked signs that show you which direction you need to stand to get on the right train. It’s really that simple. Get inside, choose an empty seat if there is one (though it is always common courtesy to offer your seat to an elderly person or pregnant woman) and try not to stare at people or talk too loudly. Czech people are, by nature, extremely quiet unless inebriated. They are raised to blend in and never stand out. Thus, conversations on the metro are whispered, and speaking at an audible level is considered rude. Additionally, avoid making eye contact and trying to smile. What we consider American hospitality is considered invasive and shallow.
I’m still trying to figure out the trams myself since I use the metro more often, but once the underground goes to bed at midnight, we’re left to navigate this slightly more complex system to get ourselves home. Although I’m almost always asked for my ticket on the metro, I have never once been asked for my ticket on the tram (nor have I witnessed anyone be asked). That doesn’t necessarily mean you should not purchase a ticket, but if you forget to, don’t stress too much. There are, however, also yellow boxes on the buses that you have to use to validate your ticket.
Trams have varying degrees of niceness: some look more modern, are cleaner, and boast electronic signs that will tell you which stop you’re fast approaching. Others require you to know exactly where you are, as they don’t plan on telling you where you’re stopping.
Make sure to download Google Maps, which works offline once you’ve already plugged in your destination while online. Plus, GPS always works without data, so you can track exactly where you are and where you need to be. Google Maps can tell you which metro station and tram stop to go to.
NEVER pick up a taxi on the street unless you’re in an emergency situation. They will always overcharge you. Instead, program the number for Tick Tack Taxi (721 300 300) and/or AAA Taxi (222 333 222) into your phone. They’re available 24 hours, speak English, will always charge you a fare rate, and are extremely prompt. It also helps that both have some of the kindest drivers around.
One memorable moment was when a cab driver waited until I was safely inside my home before driving away. Make sure to tip well for friendly service! You’re more likely to get a friendly taxi driver than a friendly waiter or waitress anyway. They’re more deserving of your tips.
When it doubt, walk it out! Prague is a very walkable city if you have a few hours to kill. In fact, it’s a much better way to explore the city rather than hiding underground. If Google Maps ever fails you, download the Trip Advisor City Guide for Prague and it’ll point you in the right direction, even if you’re not connected to wifi.
Have fun and stay safe!
Prague Transport: Best Ways to Get Around