15 Jun 2015

Prague's Dangers and how to avoid them: Changing money, ATMs and Taxis

Prague is quite a safe place and in contrast to other capitals it has no districts which could be labelled as dangerous. But there are well-known problems with some dubious companies which are trying to trick tourists. In most travel guides is written about problems with changing money and taxis. Here are few suggestions how to avoid them when you arrive to Prague via airport:

How to get Czech Crowns?

The Czech Republic is member of the Europen Union and thus is obliged to adopt the Euro currency in the future. But it has not even planned to do so, although most criteria are met (because of the Euro crisis and Czech Euroscepticism). Therefore you will need Czech crowns for your stay in Prague. Veeery roughly 1 EUR, USD or CHF is about 25 CZK (For current rates check your bank's website or the Czech National Bank). So if the beer costs 35 CZK it is around 1.5 EUR/USD/CHF.
Source: Wikipedia Czech Koruna

At the Prague airport - ATMs, exchange rates

Changing money at the airport or most of changing tubes in the city is quite bad (changing tubes are partly operated by Mafia and used for money laundering, I have heard). When you arrive at  airport you will see near beggage claim the international company Travelex, which is really bad (as anywhere in the world). Do not waste your money there. Due to their bad reputation they renamed themselves to Inter change (orange, see a pic below) - which offers still bad rates.
Do not use Travelex - their exchange rates are horrible!
(At any place in the world as LoyaltyLobby.com writes).
Credit: LoyaltyLobby.com

Attention! Travelex realised they ruined their name - so they are now called Interchange, it is still a bad company.
Instead pick up your baggage and wait after you go through the customs. At the arrival hall on the right side are ATMs of Czech branches of international banks, they have different names but have the same design – like French Societe General (in Czech Komerční banka), Italian UniCredit, Belgian KBC (ČSOB), Austrian Erste (Česká spořitelna), or the former US GE Money - now Moneta.

Much better conditions are provided by branches of international banks, in the arrival hall
Unfortunately you also have to be careful on the official ATMs since some bank misuse their position and use practices which would not be tolerated in Western Europe. Austrian Raiffeisen (also Austrian Erste = Česká spořitelna, as well French Société Générale = Komerční banka) and some other banks suggest you "a fixed exchange rate" which is usually much worse that the one which you would get from your home bank. They try to fool you to make you think that you will not get any Crowns - you will. Picture and article about this shameful practice can be found here.
Shameful practice of some banks - with conversion has a bad exchange rate - choose without!

At the city centre

To change money later in the centre it is best to change money by Alfa Prague. Easiest tube to find is at the building of the shopping centre Palladium on the yellow (B-line) metro station Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square). Here is their webpage (unfortunately just in Czech but people working there speak foreign languages).

Transport: public, taxis

Public transport

Public transport in Prague is very good with dense coverage and service during night (not metro but with night buses). What can be annoying is that the yellow ticket machines at most of stops accepts only coins.  It is possible to buy tickets at news agents, although they probably would speak rather Russian than English or German. Fortunately at the airport there is the official ticket shop of the public transport company where you can buy tickets also with notes or credit card.

You can buy tickets for the public transport at the official selling place if you do not have coins

This is how the station of public transport buses looks like before the Schengen Terminal 2


Probably one of the worst things in Prague are some taxi drivers - if you stop a no-name taxi at the most touristic places such as the Old Town square, Karlova street alias the King's Route or the Main Railway station it is almost sure you could pay even 6 times more than you should (see the video by scamsinprague.com in English below). If you want to travel with taxis book one of big trustworthy companies. It is important to look for their name, three most famous are: TickTack, AAATaxi, Modrý anděl. Or use Uber or the Czech version Liftago.

I hope I have not scared you too much - but those are the worst traps you could encounter in Prague.
worst Although there are some tourist traps in Prague it is possible to avoid them - I hope you will enjoy your stay!

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