Is Prague really that bad?

Sep 4th, 2012, 05:58 AM
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Is Prague really that bad?

We are going to be in Prague for a few days in October. Last evening, we had dinner with friends who love Prague and have been there several times. Even as they were talking about how beautiful it is, they went on and on (and on, and on) about how everyone is out to cheat tourists in Prague. Basically, they told us not to trust the taxis. They said that if you don't speak Czech restaurants will charge double. They also mentioned that pick pockets are everywhere. This seems to be information that is also reflected in quite a few guidebooks.

Based on all of this information, my husband is thinking he doesn't even want to spend any time in Prague at all (though we've already booked our flight to start out there). Are things really that bad in Prague? Is it worse than other cities in Europe?
vict4ia is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 06:07 AM
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That's crazy! We had no trouble in Prague.

Do these friends badmouth other destinations? Are they in the habit of saying negative stuff about other destinations you visit or is Prague the only city they denigrate?

I don't remember reading this kind of comment in the guidebook we used.

I'll be very interested in reading the responses of other Fodorites.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 06:19 AM
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And I'd say don't trust these friends.
Prague was wonderful and we met only professionalism and kindness.

(Altho we did use public transport so can't speak to taxis.)

Prices are clearly marked on menus so I'm not sure how one could be charged double, unless one is mathematically challenged.
29FEB is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 06:22 AM
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The taxis will overcharge, but otherwise Prague is like any other city for scams.
TorontoSteven is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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It sounds like your friends are quite negative.

Taxis everywhere will try to cheat people. It's not every taxi driver who does this. Watch the meter, take trams. I used a private service which was less expensive than a taxi to pick me up at the bus depot and take me to my pension.

Did your friends explain how restaurants cheat people when the prices are on the menu? That's one for the books. Please let us know how this works.

Pickpockets are everywhere. They are in NYC, Chicago, LA, London, Rome, etc., etc., etc. Need I say more?

Perhaps you will form your own opinion of Prague and not depend on these "friends" to lead you into erroneous expectations.
adrienne is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 06:37 AM
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Some taxis in Prague are notorious for ripping people off and the answer is to negotiate before getting in or at least asking what the fare might be and then deciding. Other alternatives: use a car service; in many places use trams or the Metro.

Pickpockets: they used to be active in places like Hlavni Nadrazi (the main rail station) and perhaps slightly less so at Holesovice; anywhere there are crowds you are going to get pickpockets.

I've never had any of these problems in my several trips to Prague and if you are a careful traveler neither will you. The city is certainly worth seeing IMO.
Dukey1 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 06:47 AM
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Your friends should try Morocco. The gold standard for scam artists.

Prague is fine. The city is not large, the public transportation system is excellent, so no need for taxis. We only used taxis for the airport.

If your friends pulled up to restaurants in a big tour bus, talking loudly in English, they may have been given tourist menus, in English, and the prices were higher.

I suggest that you relax - if you are constantly on the alert for being ripped off, you are not going to have a good time.

It really is a very beautiful place.
robertino is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 06:50 AM
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Yet these people have been there several times?

I'd like to find a way to clear too many tourists out of Prague, maybe that's what they are trying to do

I've only been to Prague twice and didn't have problems.
LSky is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 07:02 AM
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It's entirely possible that Prague has changed, but I did not find that to be the case. I do think that Prague is likely to suffer the same problems as many tourist destinations, however. If you patronize only those establishments that rely solely on the tourist trade (and thus rarely give you a genuine experience or taste of what real Czechs do in their own city) then you are more likely to have problems.

But I only had to take a taxi twice in my trip, so that was never a problem. And I booked a pre-paid taxi from the airport to lessen the problem on arrival. Taxis has always been problematic in Prague, but the city has a reliable public transportation system consisting of a metro and trams, and the inner city is quite walkable, so I don't think you need to consider that a major issue.

It's one of the most wonderful cities in Europe, so I think your husband is overracting. I know that this isn't the Prague that's reflected in the Fodor's guide, though our book isn't the most recently updated. So I'm not sure where you are getting your information.
doug_stallings is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 07:02 AM
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Thanks for so many great (and reassuring) responses. I was having a hard time reconciling all of the praise I have heard for Prague with this negative information.
vict4ia is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 08:27 AM
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Chiming in a bit late to add to the opinion that Prague is great and no more scamy than most other places. We were there for 5 days and had a great time. We did experience 3 small negatives in Prague - very small, but perhaps things like this are the kernels that result in overblown warnings that come from people like your friends:

1. Short-changed by a guy at a food stall in the old town. We were new to the currency (first day in Czech Rep.) and we were shortchanged by the equivalent of US$5-6. It could have been an honest mistake on the food seller's part or deliberate, who knows, but it was about 5 bucks, so we figured if that was the worst thing that happened all trip, that was fine.

2. At a restaurant on the old town square, we wanted to sit outside overlooking the square and have a couple of beers while we watched the people. It was about 9pm and there were plenty of open tables. Our waiter was totally fine with us just having drinks rather than a meal. The "host" only wanted to seat people outside who were eating AND he wanted to charge a 50% markup on menu prices to sit outside (even though there were plenty of open tables). We had a nice time and were charged menu prices by our waiter - he seemed to have a difference of opinion with the host and we saw them debating about seating people a couple of times. Our waiter said that sometimes they are like that on the old town square because it is so touristy, but walk 5 minutes in any direction and it isn't a problem. And he was right.

3. At another restaurant (outside seating for Hotel U Prince, I think), we ordered beers with our lunch, but we didn't order off the menu (so we didn't know how much they cost) - we saw what other people were drinking, asked how they liked it and ordered what they had. When the bill came, the beers seemed expensive. We asked the waiter and he said that was the price. We asked to see the menu and he didn't have any available. Yeah, ok. So we paid and left - we were overcharged by the equivalent of a few dollars US.

So anyway, with almost a week in town, eating and drinking all over, wandering here and there and everywhere, these are the 3 negative things that happened - and they weren't really bad, just a little annoying. Just a few things to be aware of in Prague - things will probably cost more than they should in the Old Town Square, count your change, and check menu prices before ordering. And as others have said, ask the price for a journey before getting into a taxi, and keep an eye on your belongings.

We had many more absolutely fabulous experiences in Prague - terrific time, and would return in a heartbeat.
november_moon is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 08:28 AM
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I'm curious, though. Where are you reading all this "negative" information. Warnings about common Prague scams haven't really changed much in over 15 years. But they are not dissimilar to scams in Paris, Rome, Florence, etc.
doug_stallings is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 09:20 AM
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We were taken for cab ride in Prague, for coffee in Paris etc. we have taken our share of trips and have decided that these few incidents are part part of the cost and add up to just a few dollars. Do use a money belt wherever you go.

yipper is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 09:40 AM
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Taxis do have a reputation in Prague for cheating tourists, even the government knows that and has tried to do something about it. I never took a taxi, you really don't have to. There are other options for getting from the airport or to the train station or whatever you would use one for. I just used the trams and buses for getting around the city itself.

I never had any store or restaurant try to cheat me in Prague and I've been there 3 times. I know very little Czech, I'm sure I wasn't fooling anyone into thinking I am Czech, but a restaurant can't charge you double unless you are stupid as they have menus where you can see the prices before ordering, and you can also obviously see the bill before paying.

I don't think one should expect special favors such as to get a terrace table for free rather than the higher price. It is normal for restaurants or cafe in many cities to charge more for certain real estate, I don't dare how many seats are empty, there are two menu prices, this is normal.

I wouldn't eat at a place without menus, and I've personally never encountered one in Prague.
Christina is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:36 AM
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I am a regular traveller to prague and compared to many other ities the rip offs are nothing in comparison.yes there are people who will take advantage as in any tourist city jjust be aware.The only prblem i have ever encountered was in an Expats bar with the adding "service charge" to my bill by writing on the printed bill, they got told where to go in no uncertain terms.
there are a few real rip off resturants in the city BUT these are the ones without prices on theri menus,if you don't see a price on the menu LEAVE!
another thing that seems to have started up again recetly if folk offering to change money in the street again DON.T. last time I was in the city (june this year) there was a stand set up in Old Town Square by the police giving info to tourist on possible scams,so the authorities are aware and are trying to do something about it.
this website gives some great info about scams and rip offs so have a look and be forewarned.
unclegus is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:37 AM
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Don;t know what your freinds are doing in Prague - but I have been 3 times and had only one incident - which was obvious. A cab driver tried to take the long way around, I called him on it, he had a stupid excuse and I got out and paid him what I thought the ride was worth. He called me some (I;'m sure) nasty names, but what do I care.

Every other cab I have taken has been fine. Restaurants have prices outside so you can see the prices - and none of them ever tried to cheat us. Nor were we cheated (or scammed) in stores or elsewhere.

Perhaps that are only going to tourist traps (which exist in every city) and charge higher prices - but to everyone.
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:38 AM
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I prearranged the airport pick-up, so that was no problem.
Took Metro and trams....the city is totally walkable
Never took a taxi
The restaurant bills were correct.
I also speak some Czech, but like the PP it was just enough to order a meal.
Prague is absolutely beautiful, I would go back any time.
Stayed four full days.
danon is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:44 AM
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Sorry - the cafes in old town square do charge prices much higher than in the side street - just like those in san marco in Venice. It;s not a scam - they're charging for the view.

Also - at time they may want to seat people for dinner - or have minimum table charges at certain times. This is not a scam - just their decision as to how they want to charge. (In NYC many lunch places - even small coffee shops - have minimum charges to sit down between noon and 2 pm - like $1- per person - even if you just order a cup of coffee. It;s not a scam - it's necessary for their profit margin - and the customer can accept it or not.)
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 11:27 AM
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I spent several months in Prague a few years ago and two incidents stand out - myself and the others on my training course had gone several times to a restaurant in a very untouristy part of town when we went with Czech friends and discovered that every time the waitress walked in the room she would say things like "enjoy your meal British bitches" with a big smile on her face. I could speak a little Czech, but not enough to catch that!

Secondly, I either lost or (more likely) was relieved of my wallet in the McDonald's in Smichov on one occasion. The most embarrassing part of that story being that I was in a McDonald's (but in my defence, I was locked out of a friend's apartment and just needed somewhere warm to sit).

Other than that, I've been three times for a total of about three months and

Walk a block or two away from places like Old Town Square which are tourist traps. I seem to remember my friends deciding that anywhere that charged more than 40 crowns for a beer was a rip-off, but I can't be sure since I don't drink beer. Back then, you could get a glass of beer for maybe like 18 crowns in a non-touristy area, whereas I was always stuck paying around 100 for a cocktail, but this was 2006 so who knows what prices are now). I can't remember if anywhere charges by weight for food in Cz, maybe in some of the traditional-style restaurants (it's quite common in e.g. Russia and Ukraine to list a price per gramme for meat - and I've even seen it for cake! - which can catch you out if you don't understand what's going on).
gwan is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 11:31 AM
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*Other than that, I've been three times for a total of about three months and been all over the city with no problems.
gwan is offline  

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