The less glamorous side of Prague

The less glamorous side of Prague

Prague is a tourist magnet – it’s beautiful, has a castle and is full of history. It’s easy to see why it’s Europe’s fifth most visited city.

Unfortunately, this also attracts scammers and those wanting to make money out of unsuspecting tourists. It has also changed the city and more “in your face” tourism has appeared. Below is a list of the less glamorous side of Prague.

 

Currency exchange rip-offs

 

The currency exchange rip-offs in Prague are fierce.

Remember – Czech Republic uses the Czech Koruna and not the Euro.

DO NOT exchange currency on the street. It’s hard to believe, but when people meet a charming guy or girl with a cute story of why they can give you such a great exchange rate, they sometimes get fooled. Just don’t do it. It will always be a con – fake money, old notes or a distraction in an attempt to rob you.

 

Inside the currency exchange bureau

 

ALWAYS check the exchange rate they advertise and what they actually give you. Then compare this to the mid market exchange rate on Google or ex.com. This rate will give you a benchmark of what the exchange rate should be. The poorer the rate is, the more commission the exchange bureau has added.

If you exchange money, ALWAYS get a receipt, check that the exchange rate advertised was what you were given and count it to make sure they haven’t missed the odd 10 or 20 Koruna.

Many currency exchange bureaus in Prague advertise “NO COMMISSION” when in fact they do charge commission. But often the no commission sign is only true if you’re changing up a huge amount, say over €2,000 and not €200. Anything under will have a commission on it and you can loose 10-20%.

 

0% Commission Advertise
0% Commission advertised

 

While in Prague my hotel and tour guide told me to use the Exchange on Kaprova 14/13, 110 00 Praha.

 

Go to - Exchange on Kaprova 14/13, 110 00 Praha
Go to – Exchange on Kaprova 14/13, 110 00 Praha

 

Taxi scams

 

There are so many different taxi scams in Prague. A British friend told me on his trip to Prague he was drunk, hailed a street taxi, it drove him around the city and took him to the wrong hotel and then demanded €100. 

Other scams include – giving you change in Russian roubles (they look similar to the Czech Koruna) or taking you to the wrong hotel (e.g. The Europa hotel, instead of Europe hotel) and then charging you an extra fee to drive to the correct hotel.

 

What to do

 

1) Ask your hotel to call you a taxi and google the taxi firm to see if they look legit. Write down the name of where you’re going and show it to the driver so they can’t say you said it wrong.

2) Use a taxi app on your phone. Prague has Uber which gives you an estimate of the price before you get in and if anything dodgy happens – like they take you on a longer route, you can send a message to Uber and try and get it refunded.

 

Thai Massage Parlours

 

These are so many pink and green florescent Thai massage parlours in Prague.

I’m not talking about erotic massage parlours which are also plentiful (prostitution is legal in the Czech Republic). Some Thai massage parlours do give “happy endings” but many are legit and aimed at getting tourists in to relax their weary feet after a day of sightseeing. Others double as beauty bars where you can get a pedicure and your nails done. If you visit one always make sure you get a price upfront and make it clear that it covers everything you’ve asked for.

 

Thai massage parlours
Thai massage parlours

 

Most Thai massage parlours are dotted around the Old Town with a rickshaw outside and tourists sitting in the window having their feet nibbled by fish. I don’t like them because they stand out against the traditional architecture and are a reminder of the commercialism of Prague. While the Thai massage might be authentic, nothing else about them is.

 

Kneeling Beggars

 

I first noticed this on a busy high street in Stockholm, Sweden last year. It’s a different style of begging than I see in the UK, when (usually a man) is on his knees with his forehead on the floor, like he’s praying. I was concerned the man was hurt but people walked by ignoring him. Then I noticed a baseball cap in front of him on the pavement. He was begging.

There were at least 5 men along Charles Bridge doing exactly the same and many throughout the Old Town and leading up to the castle. I didn’t take any photos as I feel it’s invasion of privacy but there are a few in this blog post.

This can be seen in different ways:

1) They are demonstrating the ultimate humility. Bowing to show they are offering themselves to people, they feel humbled and are asking for an act of mercy.

Or

2) It’s a ploy to makes tourists feel guilty and give them money.

Given that the Czech Republic is mainly an atheist country, I don’t think this praying position is much to do with religion and I’ve seen it in other European countries so I know it’s not just a Czech thing.

This begging style isn’t aggressive but it’s not welcomed by the local police, and to give them money is seen as encouragement. 

However, while on Charles Bridge I did meet a more aggressive beggar who wanted to show me his pet mouse…

 

Hi little mouse
Hi little mouse

 

Stag Parties

 

Mostly seen in the summer months and typically made up of my fellow Brits.

You’re more likely to avoid them if you visit in winter which is out of the wedding season. It’s also too cold for them to venture outside the strip clubs where they can be contained.

 

Wenceslas Square

 

Wenceslas Square isn’t a square but a boulevard, measuring 750m long by 60m wide.

Once known for its huge demonstrations and political protests, it now boasts McDonalds, 2 x KFCs and many low budget hotels. If you’re in need of low priced clothing or some fast food then I recommend a visit. Otherwise it’s best to read up on the history and skip it.

 

Chinese Restaurant or Zombie Bar in Wenceslas Square
Chinese Restaurant or Zombie Bar in Wenceslas Square?

 

Once Wenceslas Square was full of upmarket hotels but now many of them have closed. Such as, The Grand Europa Hotel known for its art nouveau interior. Below on the left is how is appears today and on the right in its glory days.

 

The Grand Europa Hotel - 2018 (left) and in 2010 (right)
The Grand Europa Hotel – 2018 (left) and in 2010 (right)

 

Apart from the huge statue of King Wenceslas, this could be any road in Europe.

 

King Wenceslas statue
King Wenceslas statue

 

Booking a Pension

 

This isn’t the money you claim when you retire, in Czech it refers to a guesthouse – somewhere more cosy and often run by a family instead of a large company. They’re usually moderately priced and pretty basic.

As Prague is exploding in tourists, many old buildings are being converted into Pensions or let out using Airbnb. The downside is these building are usually old with creaky floorboards and no lift. We stayed in one and had to walk up 77 steps outside with a wobbly metal handrail to reach our room!

If you’re older or have luggage, check how high up your pension is before booking.

One Reply to “The less glamorous side of Prague”

  1. Thanks for another great post, a lot of time, effort and passion has obviously gone into it.

    It is a shame that the Kneeling Beggars seem to be on a increase, only saw one there when I visited a few years ago.

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