Difference between revisions of "Prague"
Revision as of 07:08, 25 September 2013
Prague (Czech: Praha) is the capital city and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is one of the largest cities of Central Europe and has served as the capital of the historic region of Bohemia for centuries.
It is regarded by many as one of Europe's most charming and beautiful cities, Prague has become the most popular travel destination in Central Europe along with Bratislava and Krakow. Millions of tourists visit the city every year.
Prague was founded in the later 9th century, and soon became the seat of Bohemian kings, some of whom ruled as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The city thrived under the rule of Charles IV, who ordered the building of the New Town in the 14th century - many of the city's most important attractions date back to that age. The city also went under Habsburg rule and became the capital of a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918, after World War I, the city became the capital of Czechoslovakia. After 1989 many foreigners, especially young people, moved to Prague. In 1992, its historic centre was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two countries and Prague became capital city of the new Czech Republic.
The Vltava River runs through Prague, which is home to about 1.2 million people. The capital may be beautiful, but pollution often hovers over the city due to its location in the Vltava River basin.
The weather conditions in Prague correspond to the overview mentioned in the previous paragraphs. But the fundamental is that it has temperate climate with variations throughout the year.
In the winter Prague has definitely its own magic. The snow may cover the surface but it sooner or later melts so it doesn't usually last till too long. However, the weather is of course pretty unpredictable so it may as well burst into snow storm but it is not very common.
Spring season - is maybe one of the best times to come for a visit, especially in the month of May. All the nature wakes up after months of hibernation. The cherish atmosphere when everything comes back to their lives is all around. Summer months - are a very popular touristic season and no wonder why. The weather is warm and sunny but sometimes the heat waves are overwhelming so the people with respiratory problems may have some trouble. The rain showers come up more often than any other time.
Colourful and chilly - these two characteristics define the fall/autumn season. Getting dressed warmer is a must because the wind and overcast sky may get in your way. Nevertheless there are also these beautiful sunshine days that literally call you out for a walk. To check the current temperatures and the forecast click here.
Many Prague residents have a small cottage (which can range from a shack barely large enough for garden utensils to an elaborate, multi-story dwelling) outside the city. There they can escape for some fresh air and country pursuits such as mushroom hunting and gardening. These cottages, called chata (plural form chaty, pronunciation of ch as in Bach), are treasured both as getaways and ongoing projects. Each reflects its owners' character, as most of them were built by unorthodox methods. There were no Home Depots under communism. Chata owners used the typically Czech "it's who you know" chain of supply to scrounge materials and services. This barter system worked extremely well, and still does today. People had to be careful building these cottages to make them nice, but not too nice that the party officials would take them for themselves. Many were designed to look dilapidated on the outside, but on the inside they are nice and comfortable. Chaty are also sometimes used as primary residences by Czechs who rent out their city-centre apartments for enormous profit to foreigners who can afford to pay inflated rent.
Also has a physical location at Trojanova 3. Stop by and pick up a free map chock-full of great tourist information! The maps are made by young locals, they are non-conventional and non-commercial, they are made for young travellers and for people who want to step out of the crowd and see Prague from a different point of view. In the infocentre at Trojanova 3 you can also find coffee and tea, internet, good mood, maps of other cities.
Confusingly, several incompatible district systems are used in Prague. Partially, different systems are from different historic periods, but at least three different systems are used today for different purposes. To make things even worse, a single district name can be used in all the systems, but with different meanings.
For purposes of this guide, the "old" district system is used. In this "old" system, Prague is divided into ten numbered districts: Praha 1 through to Praha 10. If you encounter a higher district number, a different system is being used. For example, Praha 13 is part of the "old" Praha 5 district. The advantage of the "old" system of ten districts is that it is used on street signs and house numbers throughout the city, so you can always easily determine the "old" system district you are located in.
Praha 1 is the oldest part of the city, the original 'Town of Prague', and has by far the densest number of attractions. Praha 2 also contains important historic areas. In this central area, the "old" district system (or any of the newer systems) is too crude to be practical, a finer division is needed. Traditional city "quarters" provide such a division. Their disadvantage is that they are somewhat incompatible with the modern district systems - although "quarters" are smaller than the "old" system districts, a single quarter can belong to two or even more districts. The advantage is that these central quarters are well known and widely used and identical with the homonymous cadastral areas shown on on street and house number signs along the "old" district designation, allowing easy orientation.
Buildings in big cities in Czech Republic have two numbers, one blue and one red. The blue ones are the orientation numbers - it is the ordinal number of the building on its street. Historicaly these numbers always started from the end of the street which is closer to a river. As is normal in Europe, odd numbers belong on one side of the street and even numbers on the other. This allows you to find quickly the house you are looking for. The red numbers are related to the house register of the entire quarter (for example, Staré Město), and thus usually correspond to the order the buildings in that district were constructed. Most people do not remember them; if somebody says e.g. the house is in Dlouha str. number 8, they will usually mean the blue number. Red numbers usually have 3 or more digits.
Václav Havel Airport Prague, (IATA: PRG), +420 220 111 111, +420 296 661 111. Located 20 km (12 mi) northwest of the city centre, it generally takes about 30 min to reach the city centre by car. The airport is served by a number of airlines:
Get in to the city from the airport
For a bargain, call one of their competitors listed in Get around Taxi section or cheaper Prague Airport Transfer  or Prague Airport Transfers s.r.o, an private owned and operated taxi service .
Facts about the airport
Prague is well connected to European EC train network, however there is no Czech high speed rail, so the maximum train speed is 120–160 km/h (75-99 mph), but usualy the speed is much lower, about 70 km/h. Also calculate with delays (more than few minutes) when using local trains.
The train line from Berlin to Prague passes through the Erzgebirge mountains, and for a couple of hours the passengers are treated to a series of beautiful alpine river valleys, surrounded by rocky escarpments and mountains.
All international trains arrive at Praha hlavní nádraží (the central station, abbreviated to Praha hl.n.) which has a connection with Metro Line C. The station has undergone a major refurbishment in 2010.
Beware of the taxi drivers operating from the (official-looking) taxi rank alongside Praha hl.n.; they will attempt to charge a fixed price of CZK1760 (~$100) for a trip within the city center zone, or more than this if you want to travel further.
The park in front of the main train station is a haunt for some of the city's undesirable elements and should be avoided after dark. If you do have to come through on foot, it's best to avoid coming through the park and approach from the Southeast along Washingtonova. As you get to the corner of the park there's a police station, so the likelihood of running into problems from this direction is minimalised.
The main bus station for international buses in Prague is Florenc, in Praha 8 (metro lines B and C). It is located east of the city centre. In June 2009 a new terminal building was opened. It is about a 10 minute walk from the Masarykovo train station (below which is Namesti Republiky metro station).
The second largest bus station is Na Knížecí, located next to Vltava river at west bank, south of city center. It is connected to Anděl metro station (line B). It is used mostly by regional busses.
Other, less frequently used bus stations are at Nádraží Holešovice (metro C), Dejvická (A), Zličín (B) and Černý most (B).
Prague has highway connections from five major directions. Unfortunately, the highway network in the Czech Republic is quite incomplete and some highways are old and in poor condition. Thus, the highway connection from Prague to the border of the Czech Republic is available only in two directions: southeast and southwest.
The southwestern highway (D5; international E50) leads through Plzeň to Germany. The D5 highway continues in Germany as A6. Riding from the state border to Prague takes about an hour and a half (160 km / 99 mi).
The southeastern highway (D1) is the Czech Republic's oldest and most used highway but is in a rather poor condition. It leads through Brno to Bratislava in Slovakia. It offers a good connection to Vienna, Budapest and all traffic from the east. It runs for 250 km (155 mi), and usually takes over two hours.
To the northwest, you can take highway D8 (E55), but it is not complete to the German border. It ends now at Lovosice (about 60 km (37 mi) from Prague and starts again in Usti nad Labem and continues to the northern Germany via A17 (Dresden, Berlin, Leipzig).
To the northeast, you can take highway R10 (E65). It is strictly speaking a motorway, not a highway, but it has four lanes and differs little from a highway. It leads from Liberec to Turnov. It is not regarded as an important access route, as there are no major cities in this direction (Zittau in Germany, some cities in Poland), but it offers a good connection to the Czech mountains Jizerské hory and Krkonoše (Riesengebirge) with the best Czech skiing resorts.
To the east, you can take the newly completed D11 (E67), which goes to Hradec Kralove. It leads to Poland.
Czech highways are under development (D8 and D11 are being extended, D3 to Ceske Budejovice and Linz is supposed to be completed in 2020) so things will get better. Unless there are road works, there are only seldom traffic jams on Czech highways, with the exception of D1 near Prague (and near Mirosovice (direction to Ceske Budejovice and Linz, and Brno, too)).
Prague suffers from heavy traffic and on week days the main streets are one big traffic jam. Moreover, Prague doesn't have a complete highway outer ring yet. It is a really good idea to use the P+R (park and ride) parking places, where you can park your car for a very small fee and use public transport.
The P+Rs are situated near all highways and are well marked. Note that traffic wardens are rife and parking in most residential streets in and around Prague city centre (even after dark) without a valid permit will result in a parking fine. In particular, avoid blue-marked areas which are parking-restricted area if you don't want your car to get towed away within the hour.
Public transportation is very convenient in most of the areas visitors are likely to frequent. One key thing to note if you are staying outside of the the city centre is that public transport buses do not enter the historic districts (Old Town, New Town, Lower Town, etc.), so as to prevent air and noise pollution. One must transfer to a cleaner and quieter electric-powered tram or a metro before reaching historic areas.
Prague is renowned as a very "walkable" city. For those who enjoy seeing the old and new city by foot, one can easily walk from Wenceslas Square to the Old Town Square, or from the Old Town to Charles Bridge and the Castle District. However almost all of the streets are cobbled, rendering it very difficult for disabled or elderly travellers to get around effectively. Also, pedestrians should enter crosswalks carefully in Prague, as drivers are not as likely to yield as they are in other European cities.
Remember that in the Czech Republic, it is illegal to cross at a pedestrian crossing on a red man, and if caught this incurs a fine of 1000CZK.
Tram and metro
There are three metro (subway) lines, numerous bus and tram (streetcar) lines, regional (S) trains within Prague, as well as a funicular to Petřín hill and few ferries across Vltava river - all integrated in Prague integrated transport (PID) .
The tram and bus schedules are posted on the stops, and the metro operates from early in the morning (around 05:00) until approximately midnight. Buses and trams start earlier and finish later to connect to metro. Between 11pm and 1am you an use trams going to the depot, sometimes taking unusual routes. The schedules , maps  and prices  may be consulted at their website.
Prague public transport is fast and efficient when you know how to use it. Sometimes you have to change a few times - the schedule website  is the best way to plan your trip. If you get lost, you can take some bus / tram, almost all lines pass through a metro station where you can orient yourself.
These tickets may be of interest to visitors (prices valid from July 2011):
Children under 15 years get the discount. Children under 6 years travel free of charge.
As you can see, the 24-hour or 3-day tickets are not economical unless you plan to travel more than 4 times a day for 90 minutes (6 hours).
Tickets can be bought at various places:
Validate your ticket by slipping it into one of the yellow boxes in the tram or bus, as soon as you board. In the metro, validation boxes are located inside the stations before the stairs. After having changed the tram/bus, there is no need to validate it again. Be sure to keep it handy until it expires.
Tickets are not checked upon boarding, but uniformed or plain-clothed ticket inspectors often make the rounds asking to see your ticket. One problem is false inspectors who most often ride the trams between "Malostranske Namesti" and Prague Castle - these deceivers can be detected by asking for the identity card and badge which should be possessed by every inspector. An unstamped ticket is invalid - it will be confiscated, and you will incur a 700 CZK fine. Even though "riding black" seems easy in Prague, you should invest in the cheap ticket for the simple reason that Prague's transportation works perfectly and it functions on the honor system - help it stay that way.
Public transport continues at night and it's fairly extensive . Night trams or night buses (00:00 to 05:00) usually come every 30 minutes. Every 15 minutes during this time, trams leave the central exchange stop of Lazarská in the centre of Prague. All night trams go through this stop. You can easily change tram lines here if nowhere else. At all night exchange stops, trams and buses wait for the connecting tram/bus.
Do not underestimate how close to the footpath the trams will be when they reach the stop. It's safer to take a few steps back before the tram arrives, as wing mirrors could cause injury for taller people. In Metro, you should stay behind the dashed safety line on the floor about half a meter from the edge of the platform. On an escalator, it is customary to stand on the right side and walk up on the left side. When you use public transport in Prague, keep in mind that it is good etiquette to let elderly people, pregnant women or disabled people sit down.
Shared minibus airport service is a cheaper alternative to regular door-to-door private transfers.
Try to avoid getting taxi on the street (public transportation is always the better option in Prague) and if you have to, try to negotiate the price in advance. If you take taxi on the street, you should know that maximum price designated by city council per kilometre is 28 CZK/km (approx 1,3€). It's advisable to call one of the major Prague Taxi services:
Deceptive taxi drivers are another trap that can badly surprise a tourist. Mostly they charge more than they should. The municipal council has been trying to solve this problem since the Prague mayor dressed up as an Italian tourist and was repeatedly overcharged. The most frequent cases of cheating happen between the railway station or airport and hotel. If you must take a taxi, and cannot call one directly or call your hotel for a referral, the best way to find a reputable one may be to look for a hotel and ask them to call a taxi. (Most hotels in Prague have a "deal" with taxi services or they have their own "hotel taxi" which usually charges you 50% or more than the taxi companies listed above.)
Taxi drivers at the railway station may show you a printed card that details the "fixed fares" for travel within the city. This is completely false. Don't fall for it.
Always insist on having the taxi-meter turned on and ask for a printed receipt once you leave the taxi. The receipt should have the driver's name, address and tax identification number included. Even though you ask for a receipt the taxi-meter could be tampered with using the so called "turbo", which will cause the taxi-meter price to go sky high.
If you decide to flag down a taxi on the street make sure you stop a car with the logo of one of the major companies. It's not a bullet proof solution, but at least you have some chance to get some satisfaction from the taxi dispatching company.
About two years ago, an information desk was set up on most taxi stands in the city, with orientation prices to most popular destinations from that stand. But there is a flaw in the local law, which actually allows some of the taxi companies renting the taxi stands (specifically around Old Town square) to charge VERY high prices (about 99CZK/Km). There is an ongoing law suit regarding this, however the practice still hasn't stopped. The most infamous company in this regard is a recently created AAA Taxi s.r.o. deliberately creating its name to resemble regulated and popular AAA Radiotaxi Praha, however AAA Taxi cabs charge up to four times more for a ride, they even do not provide services to Czech customers. Visitors are advised to use the services of proved phone-order taxis, as they are even reports of robberies with street cruising taxis.
If you don't speak Czech, then be prepared: There is about a 50% chance you will be cheated by the driver, if you hail a taxi in the city center. So be always on watch as that is a standard warning in any guide book about Prague.
If you are convinced you got overcharged by the taxi driver, mark the car ID numbers (license plate, taxi license number on the car door, driver name, etc.) and contact the company which the driver is working for (if any) or police. The problem is that you have to testify against the driver, which is kind of hard when you're on the other side of the world. Try to avoid suspicious taxis and when in doubt, walk away and catch another taxi.
Another alternative is to use some of the chauffeured services companies like Prague Airport Transfers s.r.o.  or FEBA Trade Limousine Car Service  or even cheaper but as reliable HFS s.r.o. - 123-Prague-Airport-Transfer.com , or Transfer-Prague.com .
Some hotels offer taxi services. Make sure to compare the price with other companies. Some hotel taxis are cheap but others are more than twice the price and the car is not always identified as being a taxi. (Most of hotels in Prague have "deal" with taxi services or they have own "hotel taxi" and usually charge you by 50% or more then companies written above)
You can travel down the famous Vltava River (Moldau, in German), which inspired writers and composers such as Smetana and Dvorak.
The Prague Steamboat Company  offers sight seeing cruises as well as trips to the Prague ZOO or the Slapy River Dam.
There also few small passenger ferries across the river , integrated to the Prague's public transport tariff.
As with many major European cities, you can get a good deal by buying a tourist card. Be discerning when choosing based on your needs (for example, cards may list free entry to locations that are normally free anyway - this concerns Prague Pass). Here are your options:
With the Prague Card you can visit Prague Castle (350 CZK), Old Town, Malá Strana and Charles Bridge historical towers and other attractions, Observatory (20 CZK), small copy of Eiffel Tour (100 CZK) and Mirror Maze at Petrin Hill, Vysehrad all castle including his casemates and gallery, many New Town Museums and Galleries and several castles outside centre of Prague.
Card Benefits Of note is that the card will grant admission to all the Prague Castle short tour, which normally costs 250CZK. Many of the town's museums and galleries--including all branches of the National Gallery and the National Museum--are also included, and over four days you can easily see 3 times the card's value. As such, this is an excellent choice if you're planning on visiting a lot of museums. The only major attraction that is not included is the Old New Synagogue and Jewish Museum.
Card Benefits There is something for everyone with Vysehrad and its casemate (catacombs) and basilica, take a boat trip through Prague on the river Vltava (Moldau), effortless up in the TV tower with the best panorama of Prague or enjoy a ride on the Petrin hill cable railway. The whole city in one hall (perfect model in 1:480 scale) - a time travel to the past in Prague’s historical most significant museum. Don't fear the sharks and marvel at the blaze of colors in the Sea World Aquarium, a magical ride at a performance of a Black-Light-Theater or let your soul swing at a concert in a church. River Navigation Museum, Army museum, Aviation museum and the UNESCO certified auto museum "PRAGA".... all for free! (Some of them however have free entry anyway !)
Also in your pack is a free map of Prague and a program guide booklet as well as a free welcome present. You will also receive discount coupons for several discounts of up to 50% for guided sightseeing- and city-walking tours, Mozart museum, galleries, concerts, internet use, computer games, real laser game or for Rent a Car (25%).
Sightjogging / Running tours
Prague has more than 120 kilometer of bike paths to its disposal. This makes Prague a suitable city to discover by bike. Nowadays Prague can be seen as a real cycle city. This is confirmed by the great offer of cycle services and centers. There are several bicycle garages, bike rental and bike tour companies making cycling in this city change for the better. For more information and exact rules concerning cycling in Prague you can take a look at this website .
If you want to discover Prague on your own, this is possible by renting a bike. However, if you want to explore the city and learn about culture and history it’s recommended to do a guided bike tour. Two bike tour companies which give bike tours as well as they offer the possibility to rent a bike are Baja Bikes and Biko Adventures. By doing a bike tour you’ll get familiar with the city’s highlights and its history in a few hours.
There are many opera and Black Light Theatre companies in Prague. There are several performance groups that cater to tourists. They aren't strictly to be avoided, but common sense should tell you that the opera advertised by costumed pamphleteers is not going to be up to truly professional standards.
List of Concerts, Theatres, Museums, Galleries, Monasteries, Antiques, Trade Fairs, History in prague:
River cruises are both popular and varied, from one hour cruises to long evening cruises with dinner or music.
Health & Massage
Meet and Greet Locals
For the travelers who wants to get a real taste of Prague, you can join real native people that will show you their city around. Everyday with small groups they share their passion of the Magical city during 90 minutes walking tours. This service is free, guests choose their tip. Learn about the main landmarks but also the everyday life, the best addresses from young energetic, fun and educated guides.
The streets around Old Town are full of gift shops geared towards tourists, selling Bohemian crystal, soccer shirts and other mass-produced memorabilia. The thoroughfare between Charles Bridge and Old Town Square is particularly bad, turning off into one of the laneways you can find the exact same merchandise for half the price. If you are looking for some decent souvenirs, try to get off the beaten path. Street vendors can have some unexpected treasures and there are plenty in the Charles Bridge area. Prints of paintings and good quality photos are very popular, and a really good way to remember Prague. Don't bother buying overpriced furry hats and Matryoshka dolls, though, because they have nothing to do with Prague - they are Russian in origin, and their sellers are just trying to capitalize on unknowing tourists.
In December, the squares host Christmas Markets selling a mix of arts, craft, food, drink and Prague memorabilia. The markets are an attraction in their own right and a great place to pick up a more unique memento of the city.
There are several large shopping malls in Prague, you should take "Na Prikope" street - the 18th most expensive street in the world (measured by the price of property), with famous shopping arcades "Cerna ruze" (Black rose) and "Palac Myslbek" and many shops. If you are looking for souvenir shops, you will find them in the city's historical centre - mostly around Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and Prague Castle. There are many other shops offering Bohemian crystal - especially in the centre near the lower end of Wenceslas Square. The other typical (if rather expensive) Czech goods is the garnet jewellery - typical Czech garnet stones (gathered near the town of Turnov) are dark red and nowadays are produced by a single company - Granat Turnov - and if you buy genuine traditional Czech garnet, you should get a certificate of authenticity. "Pařížská" street goes from Old Town Square towards the river - and includes some of the most luxurious (and expensive) boutiques in Prague.
Popular shopping malls
Palladium - situated directly in the city centre, it's the newest and perhaps most luxurious shopping mall. On the top level (+2) are some moderate to expensive restaurants and a food court with McDonald's and a few other options. Tram/metro station Namesti Republiky.
OC Letňany - the largest shopping mall in Czech Republic located near metro station Letňany (free of charge OCL and T,E,S,O bus). In addition to famous brand shops this shopping mall offers its visitors cinema, aqua center and ice rink services.
OC Chodov - a huge shopping mall with hypermarket located slightly further away from the centre at metro station Chodov.
Šestka - new shopping mall just 1 station from the Prague Airport. Very far away from the center but ideal for last minute shopping before your departure. Take bus 119 from Dejvicka metro station.
Palác Flora - medium-sized shopping mall with IMAX cinema in the top floor. Tram/metro station Flora.
OC Nový Smíchov - big shopping mall with 2-floor Tesco hypermarket, a cinema, bunch of fastfoods on the top floor and very close to metro/tram station Anděl.
Metropole Zličín - medium-sized mall with a cinema, hypermarket Interspar, fast foods, huge parking lot and near the metro/bus station Zličín. If you are hungry after your flight, take a bus 100 from the airport to Zličín and then just walk few meters to this mall and buy something to eat.
Popular design shops with original Czech design and fashion
There are several interesting design shops in Prague. All of them are worth visiting when wanting to treat yourself or searching for gifts and souvenirs.
De-Sign - De-sign.cz is an online and physical shop as well as gallery and studio. Focusing on Czech materials such as glass and porcelain, de-sign.cz cooperates with traditional workshops, colleague designers and visual artists. Sládkova 7 170 00 Praha 7
Dox by Qubus - Reflecting the top of Czech design, Dox by Qubus is a progressive concept of sales gallery by Jakub Berdych. Poupětova 1, Praha 7
Hard De Core - Well established Art Gallery, where young Czech designers can present and sale their original products. Part of the gallery is dedicated to a brand Chi-chi by designer Josefina Bakosova. Senovážné nám. 10, Praha 1
Chatty – A studio focusing on custom made tailoring and produce of limited collections of luxury caual clothes. CHATTY style is defined by progressive cuts, solid technology, attention to details and original prints on fabric. Haštalská 21, Praha 1
Kuraz – Kuráž means courage! An extraordinary shop with original fashion, design and jewellery by Czech and Slovak designers. Benediktská 7, Praha 1
Modernista – Modernista offers wide selection of original Czech porcelain and glass from cubism and functionalism to contemporary Czech designers. Celetná 2, Praha
Odivi – Clothes you can wear in most of the night and day situations. Collections combine comfortable fabrics with original design. Plzenska 33, Praha 5
Papelote – An original Czech stationary brand offering a wide selection of notebooks, sketchbooks, textile book covers and much more. Vojtesska 9, Praha 1
Room by Basmatee – Of the leading stores of men's urban fashion in Prague. Studio offers exquisite selection of apparel, accessories and shoes by original brands. Školská 7, Praha 1
Tribu – The shop offers its own collection as well as wide selection of jewellery, fashion clothes and accesories by top Czech and foreign designers. Františkánská zahrada, Praha 1
The official currency of the Czech Republic is the Czech Crown (koruna), abbreviated as Kč, with the international abbreviation CZK. The current exchange rate can be found at the official website of the Czech National Bank 
Sometimes it is also possible to pay with Euros (Hotels in the centre of Prague, McDonalds, KFC, Marks & Spencer - also accepts British pounds, Albert and Billa supermarkets, etc.), but the exchange rate may be slightly unfavourable and change is almost always given only in Kč.
In Prague, especially around tourist sights, there are plenty of Exchange offices with very bad rates which also charge commission. Best rates are found around Main Railway Station (Hlavní nádraží) - exit the station, left across the park, to street "Politických vězňů". Threre are about 5 offices, mostly arab-owned, and offer very good rates even for smaller amounts, and even better or negotiable for higher (over 1000 EUR, USD or such).
It is extremely useful to carry around a fair amount of cash, because not every place will take cards. However, the museums and most sizable restaurants do accept credit cards, and that is probably the best way to get a fair exchange rate.
If you arrive early, there are money exchange machines at the airport right outside the customs on arrival. Those machines only accept Euro bills and they don't give change. The exchange rate is bad, and the machine charges hefty 10% commission. However if you need money for the bus to the city and only have cash this would be your only option. Make sure you have a 10 Euro bill for the machine, which should be enough to get you anywhere into the city by using public transport without wasting too much money.
Lunch is traditionally the main meal in Prague. Czech cuisine is typically based around pork or chicken with starchy side dishes such as dumplings, potatoes, or fries. Fish and beef is not as popular, though these days it is widely available. Popular Czech desserts include fruit dumplings (ovocné knedlíky), crêpes or ice cream. Most restaurants become very crowded during lunch and dinner, so consider making a reservation or eating earlier than the locals.
The tip should be about 10% - in cheaper restaurants or pubs you can get away with rounding up the bill or leaving a few extra coins. Otherwise it's customary to leave at least 20-40CZK or €1-2. Taxes are always included in the price by law. Many restaurants in heavily-touristed areas (along the river, or with views near the castle) will charge a cover or "kovert" in addition to your meal charge. If this is printed in the menu, you have no recourse. But a restaurant will often add this charge to your bill in a less up-front manner, sometimes after printing in the menu that there is no cover. Anything brought to your table will have a charge associated with it (bread, ketchup, etc.) If you are presented with a hand-scrawled bill at the end of the meal, it is suggested that you take a moment to clarify the charges with your server. This sort of questioning will usually shame the server into removing anything that was incorrectly added. It should be noted that some waiters are impolite especially to people from the eastern part of Europe. Pay no attention to this, and simply find another restaurant.
If you're on the look out for fast food, you won't be able to move without tripping over street vendors serving Czech style hot dogs and mulled wine in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square in New Town. If you're after Western-style fast food, the major chains also have a large presence in Wenceslas Square and the area immediately around it. Most beer halls also serve light snacks or meals. Definitely try the hot dogs (párek v rohlíku) - they're far superior to the greasy, messy version you get in the West. Small, hollowed-out Czech rolls are used for the bread, filled with mustard and ketchup, and then the frankfurter is inserted afterwards. This turns the bread into a convenient carry-case and means you don't get ketchup all over your hands. Make sure you get mustard, even if you don't normally like it - unfortunately the hot dogs are somewhat flavorless and need that extra bit of kick. Prices range from around 15 crowns for a small one to 45 crowns for the terrifying-looking 'gigant'. Note that size of hot dog relates to girth rather than length. Try the trdelnik, a traditional tube-shaped pastry, which can be found at street vendors in Old Town for 50 crown.
Beware of food stalls / street vendors in Wencelas Square. Some of them will target tourists by providing them with extra products they did not ask for and not giving enough change. These stalls are also by far the most common place tourists get food poisoning in Prague.
Czech is the official language of Prague and the Czech Republic. Simple words and phrases in other Slavic languages (for example Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian and Polish) are also commonly understood. Slovak can also be acceptable to a certain extent, as Czech and Slovaks have historically understood each other without the need of a translator. Both languages are very similar and mutually intelligible to a very wide extent.
Most young people speak English very well, you will also have no problem speaking English at restaurants and bars. Many restaurants have English menus. The people at counters in train and metro stations, and police officers rarely speak English. Russian is widely understood by people who were attending school before the Velvet Revolution in 1989, but the language is too different from Czech to be understood without study. In addition, some people may dislike using Russian even if they know it because of the Soviet occupation of the Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Communist history in general. Many Czechs also have some knowledge of German. People studying after 1989 and even some older people can speak English. However, learning Czech will surely endear you to the locals.
See the Czech phrasebook.
Pubs (in Czech "hospoda") abound throughout Prague, and indeed are an important part of local culture. The exact brand of beer usually vary from pub to pub, and recommendations are difficult to give as natives are usually willing to argue at lengths about their preferences. The most internationally recognized beers are Pilsner Urquell (Plzeňský Prazdroj) and Budweiser Budvar (Budějovický Budvar). There are other brands famous among Czechs like Gambrinus. If you are looking for a beer brewed in Prague, go for Staropramen. Usual prices for a half-liter glass are between 20 and 35 CZK, based on the brand and locality, while certain restaurants at tourist areas like the Old Town Square are known to charge more than 100 CZK for an euro-sized glass. At a grocery store a half liter bottle may cost 15 CZK. Drinking in public is illegal in Prague, but if you are not drunk and disorderly, or in a large group, it will probably not cause trouble. Don't be afraid to experiment with different beer brands, even if they are not mentioned in this article.
In Prague it is customary, especially at beer halls, to sit with a group of people if there are no free tables, so go ahead and ask if you can join. Prague has also many excellent tearooms (in Czech čajovna) which serve different kinds of teas from around the world.
Save your money and find the bars yourself - you might be surprised at the discoveries you make away from the tourist circus.
Prague has a wealth of accommodation options, many of them within walking distance of the town centre. Peak season generally runs from April to October and a major influx of visitors can be expected during New Year as well. Prices for accommodation can be up to twice as high in the peak season and reservations are advised. Otherwise, the main train station, Hlavní nádraží, has an accommodation booking service for hotels and hostels upstairs. Normally, tax and breakfast are included in the room rate.
Around Hlavni Nadrazi, the main train station, there are many touts offering cheap accommodation. Many are Czech residents renting part of their apartment for extra cash. Prices don't vary much between them, but some may not be trustworthy so be cautious.
Even during peak season, dorm rooms in hostels close to the city center can be had for around 350CZK per person per night. Prague has its share of rough and ready youth hostels with a party vibe, but there are many with a more relaxed atmosphere and some housed in beautifully restored buildings as fancy as any hotel. Many hostels also offer private rooms, with or without shared bathrooms, for much cheaper than a pension or hotel room. There is a boutique design hostel movement with many hostels rivaling hotel accommodations.
For those looking for something a little different, a 'botel' (boat hotel) may be an appealing option. Usually relatively well placed, with gorgeous views. Most are moored on the south of the river in Praha 4 and 5, but the best is to stay in Prague 1, next to monuments to visit by foot, in the Lesser Town district (Mala Strana) or in the Old Town (Stare Mesto). Prices vary from €20 to €120 per person.
Prague 3 is easy accessable to Prague city centre and prices are very friendly, there are lot of hotels mostly 3 stars with low prices, double room in season á 60,-Eur low season á 28,-Eur include breakfast. Most of hotels and vacation rentals are on line tram number 9 from Venceslas Square.
It is quite easy and cheap to buy a local SIM card with 3G access. Packages vary so check before purchasing.
Many hostels and hotels offer free internet on shared computers or over a wireless network, so ask before you shell out extra at one of Prague's many internet cafes.
Almost all McDonald's, Burger King and KFC fast food restaurants offer unsecured, free WiFi networks to paying customers. Most other restaurants and cafes offers free WiFi as well, often without advertising - check for network with name of the establishment and ask the personnel for password.
An internet cafe located at Spálená 49 (Metro B & Tram: Národní třída) is open until midnight every day and offers printing facilities.
The most common crimes in Prague by far are car theft and pickpocketing: the prevalence of car theft and vandalism pushes up the crime statistics of Prague. But even if you do not drive, pickpocketing is common in Prague, and some violent crimes do occur in this city. You are seriously warned not to provoke drunken people as it will put you in extreme danger.
Begging is a serious problem in this city and you can even see beggars in this city's top tourist attractions. Don't carry a wallet or purse in the back pocket of your trousers; always keep an eye on your items; don't put all your money in one place; don't show your money or valuable things to anybody; don't walk alone into deserted areas even if you feel able to protect yourself. Better safe than sorry; so take precautions.
Possession of drugs has historically been a grey area under the Czech jurisdiction. Since early 2010, though, the dubious term "an amount less than small" has been finally transformed into absolute values based on the actual judicial practice and it is no longer an offense to carry less than 15 g of marijuana, 5 patches of LSD, 1 g of cocaine, etc. It is still a criminal offense to posses more than the allowed amount of drugs. Bear in mind that for possession of lesser amounts you might be still fined by public authorities as it is an offence (though not criminal one). Please also note that most bars will expect you to go outside if you intend to smoke a joint.
Be aware of teams of pickpockets  that lurk outside metro stations, overcrowded trams, Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square. They usually work in teams of 3-5 and look for lost or distracted tourists. Backpacks are especially interesting to them. Many of those groups use underage children as pickpockets because they are not liable according to Czech criminal law.
Due to the low incidence of violent crime, the threat of pickpockets has been played up as a great problem. However, common sense and basic precautions can keep most people safe from pickpockets. If you have a camera, try not to wear it openly. Always close and secure your backpack and try to keep an eye on it. Be especially careful not to fall asleep in tram or metro. Wear your wallet in a safe place (like inner pocket of your coat), never put it into your rear pocket or any other place where it can be easily stolen.
Be astute on sleeper trains, as bag robberies are on the increase between major stations. Ask for ID from anyone who asks to take your ticket or passport, and lock backpacks to the luggage racks. Keep valuables on you and maintain common sense.
If you enter the metro (usually at night), you may find a team of con artists at the stations, saying that they are metro clerks and, after examining your ticket for some time, that it's invalid so you'll have to pay a fine of 500 CZK (1000 CZK if you argue with them). So if you happen to see them and you're sure that your ticket is valid, tell them to call the police, or call them yourself. Remember that Prague Metro ticket inspectors have to produce their badge in order to check your ticket and issue a fine; if they don't do this as soon as they approach you then, they are almost certainly fakes.
Be careful with taxi drivers, particularly from the train station. Taxis that are legally registered may still be mafia-run affairs that do their best to overcharge. It is illegal for a taxi driver to refuse you a receipt in Prague, so agree to a price before putting yourself or your luggage in the taxi. The risk of overcharging is greatly overplayed but just take the usual sensible precautions of only using taxi firms affiliated with the station or your hotel, or call a reputable company and wait. Finally, if presented with a wrong bill from a taxi driver, call the police on your mobile phone. Your driver will quickly change his tune. You can of course always ask reception,a restaurant etc. to call taxi on the number you give them.
If you can't afford to haggle with cab drivers, you can always use public mass transit. The network is extensive and can take you almost anywhere in Prague 24 hours every day.
Be careful with money exchanges. Exchange your money in banks or official tourist informations and rather avoid exchange offices. Never deal with a street money-dealer: they offer better rates but frequently try to swindle you by giving you money from another country, such as Russian rubles or old Bulgarian leva.
Generally the exchange offices outside the tourist areas are fair, although there are not too many of them there. In the tourist areas, however, most of the exchange offices try to cheat customers with various tricks. One of the them is offering favourable exchange rates, but with fine print below such as if you exchange more than 1000 EUR. Another trick is putting a huge board with "we sell" exchange rates to the shop window, which makes an impression of good rates, whereas the actual rate for buying CZK is much more unfavourable. Another trick is charging commission, which could be as high as 20%!
When comparing the exchange rates, follow two simple rules. First unless the board says "0% commission", the exchange office charges the commission. Second, while looking at the board, scan all the numbers for your currency and find the smallest one, this would be the exchange rate you would get.
When the customer finds this out at the counter and wants to cancel the transaction, the money-dealer refuses with an excuse "I have already printed the bill", implying it is too late. The police won't help you, typically referring you to the Czech National Bank, which supervises exchange offices, to file a complaint (which does not help you either).
Credit cards are widely accepted at all supermarkets, hotels and also in most tourist places. As in most countries you can find cards for ATM withdrawals with low or 0% fee and often for payment with Visa or Mastercard exchange rate only (which is same as the rates of the best exchange offices); there is no need to use exchange offices anymore in the 21st century.
Czech law is weak and orders exchange offices only to display the actual rates, which you might find somewhere in the office in small print. Therefore, if you decide to use an exchange office always ask for the actual rate you will pay before making the transaction and before letting any money out of your hands.
If you find yourself in an emergency, dial 158 for police, 155 for ambulance or 150 for firefighters. You can also dial 112 for a general emergency call.
If you need medication at weekends or evenings, you can go to Lékárna Palackého, (Tel +420 224 946 982) the 24-hour pharmacy on Palackého 5 in the new town.
Beware of food stalls in Wencelas Square. Some of them will target tourists by providing them with extra products they did not ask for and not giving enough change.
Especially for American women from large cities, Prague is surprisingly safe and quiet in the evenings. Use common sense, but walking though neighborhoods late at night is not something you need to be terrified about. The bars are full, but violent crimes are comparatively uncommon.
Local foreign language media
Buses and trains are frequent and quite inexpensive and can get you to even the smallest village.
Practically every major European city can be reached by bus or train from Prague.
Regular buses are available to the following Czech towns, travel times in brackets:
For just a small selection of further places off the beaten path: