I had the pleasure of living in Prague for one full year from July 2013 to July 2014. Originally I had planned to stay only for one month while earning my TEFL certification, but I quickly fell in love with this historic city and decided to stay longer. My only regret was not properly handling my visa/work permit situation, which eventually forced me to leave my job and Europe. Despite the unwanted ending, I loved my time in Prague and so I’ve created this list to share the things I enjoyed and disliked about living in Prague.
The Awesome Perks
- Excellent Public Transportation! The metro lines, trams, and buses are well-organized and function like clockwork. I’ve rarely had to wait longer than 2 minutes past the scheduled time for my bus, tram or metro. Even if I missed it, they ran quite frequently. Now that I’ve returned to congested San Francisco, I can see how spoiled I was by this in Prague. The transport was also safe and much cleaner than transport I’m used to. The connections are mapped out efficiently and often overlap, giving you a few options for getting to your destination. You can easily navigate your way around town without ever needing to own a car or bike. You can even skip these methods and just walk! After getting lost in the streets of Prague a few times I was able to see how everything is connected and how easy it is to explore Prague. And for all of this accessibility, I only paid 550 kc (~$26 USD)! This cost was for a one-month unlimited pass to ride all three methods of transportation. If you’re a student and have proof of study, you can get that price reduced by half! I believe this includes TEFL courses too! I tried to live dangerously and ride without a ticket a few times and unfortunately for me the Czech ticket people could smell the fear in me. Once I got slapped with a fine roughly equivalent to buying the monthly pass, I applied for my Opencard.
- Delicious and Budget-Friendly Beer! I never thought I’d be a beer lover since cheap college beer never left a good taste in my mouth, but Prague certainly made me realize what I was missing out on. As the beer is cheaper than water, it was easy to find myself drinking quite often. There are loads of flavorful, quality beers to choose from and at such low prices (averaging $1.50-$2.50 USD per .5L), it was hard to say no. One of my favorites was Kozel, especially the unfiltered one 🙂
- Speaking of Beer… Beer Gardens! I frequented Reigrovy Sady beer garden, and when I wanted to make the extra effort I’d go to Letna park, which also has a beer garden with gorgeous views of Prague. During the warmer months, beer gardens are always full of people and their happy dogs. With a fresh, cool glass of beer and the beauty of the outdoors, it’s easy to find happiness. I once stumbled into Reigrovy during a happy hour and I ended up spending my entire Friday afternoon and evening here! Just had to refuel with a delicious burger and fries from The Tavern restaurant nearby.
- Low Cost of Living! I ended up settling in a private, furnished bedroom in a shared flat with 3 other flatmates. We had a shared bathroom, kitchen (no stove, just burners), WiFi and utilities included for 6,200 kc per month (~$297 USD). I was living in the Andel area, known as Prague 5, and I realized it was a hassle to get to and from my flat once I moved in since there were only 2 buses that passed by the flat and the closest trams or metro needed to be reached by bus, but I stayed because of the value and comfort. Laundry was done just downstairs, and drying racks were provided. I got used to not using a dryer for my laundry and having stale clothes 🙂
- Nature! I came to learn that many Czechs love nature and outdoor activities. You can take a leisurely stroll through several beautiful parks in Prague, meet up with locals or expats to play some outdoor sports, or strap on a pair of roller blades and glide through the park in style. My favorite parks were Letna, Petrin Hill, and Stromovka. Divoka Sarka also offered some amazing views and hiking, bike riding, or a pleasant picnic. My fondest memories at the parks involve playing American football with friends and watching people play with their beautiful dogs. Beer was also easy to find nearby so that was a lovely perk 😉
- Fresh Juices! When I needed breaks from beer, I loved treating myself to tasty fresh juice drinks. The drinks are prepared right in front of you with the fruits and/or vegetable combinations of your choice. The biggest size of 500ml would cost me roughly 75-100 kc ($2.35-$3USD). Whenever I passed by a Mangaloo or Fruitisimo I had to stop in and get my healthy fix!
- Always a Solid Nightlife! There are so many bars, cafes, beer gardens and night clubs to choose from, each with their own personality. You can always pack your own drinks and snacks to take to the park, or better yet, the river! Prague always had events going on and many of them started during the afternoon and progressed into the evenings. Your interests could always be catered to and taking note of particular events during certain days of the week was helpful. There were weekly karaoke nights, quiz nights, sports meet ups, and social group gatherings like book clubs, cooking classes, yoga, and language exchanges. I liked going to the Prague Beer Museum (especially during brunch specials), Saturday Karaoke nights at The Globe Bookstore, Deja Vu for an insanely awesome happy hour any day of the week, and a plethora of other random spots that were dependent on my mood. For a funky night out, I’d go to Lucerna on Friday or Saturday when they have their 80s/90s throwback event. Wednesdays were great for Retro at Namesti Miru, bringing in a nice gathering of locals and expats for electronic dance music with strobe lights. I enjoyed hip hop nights at M1 or Radost FX, although it’s not a popular genre in Europe it seems. I never made it out to Cross Club but I heard great things about it! Basically, you’re bound to find a favorite spot once you go out to explore.
- Great location for Traveling to other European Countries! The Czech Republic is a very centrally located. The country shares borders with Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria. Just past those countries you’ll find the Netherlands, Belgium, Romania, Croatia, Switzerland and Italy. Just a short plane ride to France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. It’s easy to plan a solid Eurotrip with Prague as your home base. Even the opportunities of travel within the Czech Republic are enough to fill a lengthy itinerary. If you have time to take an inexpensive day or weekend trip to places outside of Prague, you won’t be disappointed. I was able to travel to Karlstejn castle, the quaint town of Cesky Krumlov, the bone church at Kutna Hora, and Janske Lazne for a winter camp trip with my students. One day I hope to return to visit Moravia, Karlovy Vary, Cesky Raj, and Lipno. There are more options of course, but these are the ones I heard the most about. Needless to say there are plenty of opportunities to take a break from the touristy city life.
Some downsides to Prague
- Rude/Shady Service. I’ve had my share of rude customer service experiences. From waitresses rolling their eyes at me to sighing impatiently as I order or fumble around with my money. I admit that being an American I’m used to a certain style of service, but I still say they were pretty damn rude. You won’t experience bad customer service everywhere you go, but it happened enough where I believe it’s a common occurrence. As for shady service, I’ve encountered restaurants that have an English-only menu with higher prices. In this case it would be best to eat at places where there is only one menu so you can compare prices between the Czech and English sides, or you can learn Czech.
- Smoke. I don’t smoke and I grew up in San Francisco where smoking in public spaces is typically frowned upon. Knowing that, my tolerance may be much lower than most. Many people smoke in Prague and there are plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants that allow smoking indoors. I’ve often come out of bars reeking of smoke even if I was only in there for an hour. I’ve walked into heavily smoked filled places that made my eyes water and burn. For this reason I prefer to stay outdoors and take advantage of the beer gardens. Still, it sucks that I can’t fully enjoy the nightlife without giving up ‘fresh’ air.
- Noise. Given the great nightlife and ample access to cheap alcohol, there can be a lot of noise disturbing you at night when you try to sleep, or just disturbing you in general. Obnoxious behavior tends to be like that. It all goes back to getting to know the area and the street that you plan to live on. Where I lived in Andel, noise was never an issue. If you live near a beer garden or one of the many many pubs or clubs scattered around Prague then you might lose some sleep when people are hanging out outside of your window, their conversations amplified by the surrounding buildings. It mostly seems to be an issue with living closer to the center, as should be expected.
- Lack of affordable variety of food. I’m a huge lover of food, and again I would say I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to this. I missed Mexican food, burgers and American breakfast items the most while in Prague. Although there are some options for this available, they are overpriced compared to other foods, and they certainly don’t satisfy my cravings. (I did find a good burger place, but for 190 kc/~$9 USD per burger without fries and a drink, I couldn’t eat there as much as I would have liked). The benefit to this is that it forced me to be creative and cook for myself. This option is not a bad one since the produce is quite affordable and it’s nice to cook for yourself. Surprisingly enough I did a good job! I learned to make homemade pancakes, pad thai, peanut sauce, cook a whole chicken in the oven, pastas, stuffed bell peppers, chili, and much more. So despite the lack, it was a good way to become more self-reliant and it’s a good way to save money!
- Public transportation at night: It’s not impossible, but there is often a 20-40 minute wait for trams and buses after midnight and metros don’t run at all. The routes are different at night, so it might be difficult to navigate if you’re intoxicated and unfamiliar with the route you need to get home. This goes back to location of your flat or hostel! Especially during cold winter nights, waiting for a tram is the last thing you want to do. I remember being stuck out in the winter cold having just missed a tram. I was so cold (and drunk) that I feared I was going to freeze to death! A bit dramatic, I know, but luckily I knew of a KFC nearby where I sought refuge. Best to learn a walking route from where you plan to end your night. Easy task if you live close enough to the nightlife!
I would have loved to spend another year or two living here, but things didn’t work out that way. Nonetheless, living in Prague was an incredible experience and I look forward to returning for multiple visits throughout my life. I’m hoping my favorite spots will still be there!