PRAGUE FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

Travelers will be arriving by air in the Czech Republic at Vaclav Havel Airport Prague (IATA code PRG). It is located in Ruzyne, 7 miles from the Prague city center. The only means of public transport that leaves or arrives at the Ruzyne airport is the bus. To take public transport, you will need a ticket for 32 CZK, which you can buy at the Public Transport Information booth at the airport or directly from the bus driver (he will charge you a little more). The Prague airport is served by the following buses:

Bus 119 leaves from outside the arrivals terminal and runs from around 4:45am until around midnight. The bus connections run every 7 to 20 minutes and the ride takes 23 minutes. It will take you to the Dejvická Metro station (Line A - Green), which is the last stop. From there, you can take the Metro using the same ticket to continue to your destination.

Bus 100 leaves from outside the arrivals terminal and runs from 5:45am until 11:39pm. The bus runs every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes after 7pm. The ride takes 16 minutes. It will take you to the Zlicín Metro station (Line B - Yellow), which is the last stop. From there, you can take the Metro using the same ticket to continue to your destination. Once you get on the Metro, expect the ride to take about 20 minutes to get you into the center.

The Airport Express is a special bus that connects the Ruzyne Airport with the Main Train Station (Hlavní nádrazí), which is on line C (Red Line) of the Metro. The Airport Express bus is scheduled to coincide with the arrivals and departures of SuperCity (Pendolino), EuroCity and InterCity trains. A ticket costs 60 CZK and covers the Airport - Main Train Station route.

In case you need to travel from the Prague Airport into town at night when none of the above buses run, you can take the night bus 910, get off at Divoká Sárka and change to the night tram 91. The tram will take you into the city center where, if necessary, you will be able to change to other night trams or buses to get to your destination. Keep in mind that the Metro does not run at this time of night. Bus 910 runs roughly between midnight and 5am and leaves the airport every half hour.

Taking public transport will include some walking and the buses and subway can be crowded at peak hours. Additionally, for each piece of luggage larger than 25 cm x 45 cm x 70 cm (10 in x 18 in x 28 in), it is necessary to purchase a 16 CZK transfer ticket; so if you have a lot of luggage, you may want to use a transfer service or take a taxi.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

Prague is serviced by two International rail stations. Praha Hlavni Nadrazi is the main station. It is also the biggest and busiest railway station in the Czech Republic. It is a 5 minute walk to Wenceslas Square and 15 minute walk to the Old Town Square. There is a Metro station, Hlavni Nadrazi (line C - Red Line) and a tram stop outside, which services lines 2, 119, 191.

Prague Holesovice station is 3 km outside the center and mainly services trains departing to and arriving from the east and the north. Holesovice has access to the Metro on line C (Red line). Take direction `Haje` and its two stops to Florenc (the main bus terminal), three stops to Hlavni Nadrazi (the main train station) and four stops to `Muzeum` (Wenceslas Square) with connections to the Green line Metro (Line A). Holesovice is serviced by tram lines 1, 25, 119, 191.

Taking public transport will include some walking and the Metro can be crowded at peak hours. You will need to purchase a ticket for 24 CZK for a maximum of five Metro stops. If you need to change to a bus/tram then you will need to purchase the 32 CZK ticket. Additionally, for each piece of luggage larger than 25 cm x 45 cm x 70 cm (10 in x 18 in x 28 in), it is necessary to purchase a 16 CZK transfer ticket; so if you have a lot of luggage, you may want to book a transfer service or take a taxi. However, we do not recommended taking the taxis on queue outside either train station as they have a reputation for dishonesty and overcharging. Hire a taxi by phone instead (from one of the reputable companies below).

How do I get around Prague using the Metro?

The Prague Metro is efficient, clean and easy to use. Its three lines consist of about 65 km of tracks, running mostly underground and 61 stations. It is safe and reliable, but pickpockets can be an issue, especially for tourists, so pay close attention to your bags, wallets and purses on the platforms and in crowded Metro cars.

The three lines of the Prague Metro currently are: Line A (Green) runs east to west from Depo Hostivar to Nemocnice Motol and has 17 stations. Line A should eventually run all the way to the Prague Airport, which is currently serviced only by bus. Line B (Yellow) runs east to west from Cerný most to Zlicín and has 24 stations. Line C (Red) runs north to south from Letnany to Háje and has 20 stations.

There are three transfer stations in the city center where two subway lines intersect: Mùstek (lower end of Wenceslas Square) is where lines A and B intersect. Muzeum (upper end of Wenceslas Square) is where lines A and C intersect. Florenc (main bus station) is where lines B and C intersect. These are transfer points from one line to another. Each transfer route is clearly marked and takes 3-5 minutes walking time.

Trains run from around 5:00am and the last train leaves its station of origin at midnight. Night trams and buses must be used when the Metro is closed. Trains arrive in 1-3 minute intervals during the peak hours of the morning and afternoon commute and in 4-10 minute intervals in the off hours. The time that has elapsed from the moment when the previous train left the station can be seen on the clock at the head of the tracks. All stations are equipped with escalators and about two thirds of all Metro stations allow access for the disabled.

How do I get around the city using other public transportation?

Prague`s public transportation systems, which include the Metro, trams and buses, make it very easy to move around the city. A 90 minute ticket costs 32 CZK and a 24 hour ticket costs 110 CZK. With 142 km of tracks, trams (tramvaj) cover a large area of Prague and ridership is clocked at just under one million each day. Daytime trams run from 4:30am until midnight in 8 - 10 minute intervals (8 - 15 minutes on weekends). Night trams (numbers 51 - 58) run from 12:30am until 4:30 am in 40 minute intervals.

Tram 22 follows one of Prague`s most scenic routes, passing by the National Theater to Staromìstská and Malostranská Metro stations, and continuing up to the Belveder, Prague Castle and Pohoøelec, with some stunning views along the way. The Nostalgic Tram no. 91 (nostalgická linka c. 91) is a historic tram that runs on weekends and holidays from April through mid-November. The tram leaves from Vozovna Støešovice every hour from noon until 5:30pm and continues through the city center. The ticket costs 35 CZK for adults and 20 CZK for children under 15.

Buses (autobusy) cover the outskirts of Prague and areas where trams or the Metro do not run. Daytime buses run from 4:30am until midnight in 6-8 minute intervals in peak hours, 10-20 minute intervals in the off hours and 15-30 minute intervals on weekends. Night buses (numbers 501-513) run from around midnight until 4:30 am at 30-60 minute intervals. For more information on bus, tram and Metro lines, visit www.dpp.cz/en.

The funicular to the top of Petrín Hill starts at the Újezd tram stop (trams 6, 9, 12, 20, 22) in Malá Strana and runs daily from 9am to 11:30pm (11:20pm from November to March) in 10-15 minute intervals. To take the funicular, use the same public transport ticket as you would on trams or the Metro.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Getting around Prague by public transportation is so easy and convenient that you may never need to use a taxi. Taking a taxi is a good idea only when you are traveling with a lot of luggage, it is freezing cold, you need to get to a distant part of Prague, or you need to travel at night when the subway isn`t running and the trams and buses run less frequently.

Unfortunately, taxi drivers in Prague have a reputation for overcharging and dishonesty. But if you follow a few simple rules you shouldn`t have a problem. First, don`t get into a taxi that is parked in front of the train station or at a tourist site. These are often waiting to prey upon tourists and are known to charge very high rates. If you need to catch a taxi on the street, make sure it is a registered taxi. The yellow roof lamp must be permanently installed and must say `TAXI` in black letters on both sides. The driver`s name, license number and rates should be printed on both front doors.

Try to find out how much your ride should cost BEFORE getting in the car. You can even pay in advance if the amount sounds reasonable. If you`re ordering a taxi by phone, which is your best bet, you can get a price estimate or even the exact fare from the dispatcher. Once in the car, make sure that the rate on the taximeter corresponds to the price list posted in the car. If it doesn`t, bring it to the driver`s attention or have him stop the car, so you can get off. The driver should offer a printed receipt. If he doesn`t, you have the right to request one or refuse to pay the fare. If in doubt, order a taxi by phone from one of these reliable and courteous taxi companies: AAA Radiotaxi (tel. 14 0 14 or 222 333 222), City Taxi (tel. 257 257 257), Profi Taxi (tel. 261 314 151), Halotaxi (tel. 244 114 411) or Sedop (tel. 281 000 040).

Is Prague a walking city?

Prague is a great walking city and we recommend that you wear comfortable shoes and hit the cobblestones. The main sightseeing areas of Prague are separated by the Vltava River. On the left bank there is the Prague Castle area and Lesser Town. The right bank is home to the Old Town, the Jewish Quarter and the New Town. Spanning the Vltava River and connecting the Old Town and Lesser Town is the beautiful Charles Bridge.

Is Prague a dangerous city? Are there certain areas I should avoid?

Aside from petty crime (pickpockets), Prague is a relatively safe city. The rate of violent crime is low and most areas of Prague are safe to walk around even after dark. That being said, be careful on Wenceslas Square, in crowds in public places, and on public transport, especially tram 22 between Namesti Miru and the Castle. These areas are usually packed with tourists and the crowds make things easy for pickpockets. Also, the park around the main train station (referred to by locals as `Sherwood`) is not the safest place after dark. The major renovation of the train station has resulted in much improved security inside the station, but you should still be careful in the park immediately outside the station after dark or avoid it altogether. If you need to contact the police, call 158 (state police) or 156 (city police) or the Emergency Central Number 112.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of the Czech Republic is the Czech Koruna, or Czech Crown (referenced as CZK for short in our guides). US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Koruna upon arrival. Some establishments may accept Euros but there is no legal obligation for them to do so and large Euro notes (over €50) are unlikely to be accepted. Also bear in mind that the exchange rate that will be used will definitely not be in your favor.

Be careful when using money exchange offices. Many of them target tourists, especially in Prague, and you may end up paying a high commission. Always change money in a bank or take cash out of ATM machines, which are plentiful in Prague. ATM machines are a very convenient way to get Czech crowns and major credit cards are accepted in most locations.

I don't speak Czech. Will many people speak English?

English is widely spoken and understood in Prague, and is common in all the tourist areas. We suggest you learn a few common phrases such as hello (Ahoj!), goodbye (Sbohem!), excuse me (prominte) and numbers 1-10 (jedna, dva, tri, ctyri, pět, šest, sedm, osm, devět, deset).

Is a boat cruise on the Vltava a good way to see the city?

Seeing Prague from the Vltava river as dusk descends is a truly unique experience. The historical center with its famous monuments presents itself from a different perspective, surrounded by reflections on the water. On the longer cruises, you will go by several islands on the Vltava and find yourself on a stretch of the river that lets you see a part of the embankment that you would not normally visit. There is a three hour cruise, which departs from a port under Cechuv Bridge with a buffet dinner, aperitif and live music included in the price. Some reputable companies include Prague Boats (www.prague-boats.cz) and Prague Venice (www.prague-venice.cz).

What is Czech food like? Are there other options for dining out?

Czech food is usually heavy with lots of meat, dumplings and potatoes. Classic, hearty dishes such as goulash with dumplings (thicker than Hungarian goulash) or roast duck with dumplings are great on a cold day. There`s also a lot of pork, as in the traditional Czech `vepro-knedlo-zelo` (pork, dumplings, cabbage) or a roasted and/or smoked pork knee, accompanied with horseradish. Pork or chicken schnitzel with potato salad is among the lighter choices. Unfortunately, vegetarians don`t get many options on a typical Czech menu. Don`t worry if Czech food doesn`t seem to your liking. Today, with the huge influx of tourist dollars, Prague now boasts many very good restaurants, including French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Indian restaurants.

Where can I pick up necessities like bottled water and toiletries?

There are supermarkets and self-service convenience stores throughout the city. Supermarkets are usually open until 9pm. Some convenience stores are open 24 hours. In many shops, including supermarkets, customers are expected to bring their own bags. If you don`t have one, ask for a `taska`; it will cost about 5 CZK.

What are the best areas for shopping?

The L-shaped half mile running from the middle of Wenceslas Square around the corner to the right on Na Príkope and to the Palladium Shopping Center on Námestí Republiky has become Prague`s principal shopping hub. In this short distance you`ll find several multilevel shopping gallerias. Between the centers is a wide array of boutiques and antiques shops.

The wide, tree-lined Parízská, from Old Town Square to the Hotel Inter-Continental, is filled with top-end luxury names and along the streets running off of Parízská, many of the best Czech designers have set up shop. And in the streets radiating off Old Town Square, particularly Celetná and Dlouhá, you`ll find many of the city`s best outlets for glass, porcelain and jewelry. In fact, Celetná has evolved into Prague`s `glass alley.`

Please note: In an effort to keep precious pieces of Czech heritage in the country, the government now requires export permits for a large range of objects, including glass and graphics over 50 years old, miniature art objects valued at more than 3,000 CZK, and paintings valued at more than 30,000 CZK. Most antiques shops provide export permits; ask for one if necessary.

What are the typical Czech items for purchase?

For those looking for a piece of Czech handiwork, you can find some of the world`s best crystal and glass. Fine crystal has been produced in the Bohemian countryside since the 14th century. Today, the quality remains high, and you can still purchase contemporary glass for prices that are much lower than those in the West. Blood red garnets are the official Czech national gem, and the ones that you can buy here are among the worlds finest! Be warned; however, that fake garnets are common, so purchase your stones from a reputable shop.

The art of Czech marionette and puppet making goes back to the 18th century. You will find many stores in Prague that sell Czech marionettes and puppets made by Czech artisans as well as traditional handmade wooden toys. Likewise, boxes of beautiful hand painted Easter eggs are a nice souvenir and are true works of art! You can find Czech Easter eggs at many Prague markets and souvenir shops year round.

When are the Christmas Markets in Prague?

Visitors come from all over to experience the Christmas markets (vánoční trhy) in Prague. Some unique products that are available at the markets are Christmas ornaments and holiday decorations, traditional Czech Christmas cookies, tablecloths, Frankincense or the Czech Christmas potpourri called purpura. Other items on offer are Czech wooden toys, crafts, clothing accessories, scented candles and handmade soap. You can also taste traditional Czech foods that are made fresh right in front of you. Hot mulled wine (svařené víno or svařák), grog, and a warm honey liquor called medovina are especially popular in the cold weather. Czech Christmas carols add to the festive atmosphere and after dark, the markets are lit up beautifully.

The dates during which Prague Christmas markets are open are usually different from year to year. In general, you`ll find at least some markets running from the last week of November into the first week of January. Almost all of Prague`s Christmas markets are open in the three weeks before Christmas, including the largest and most popular markets at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

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PRAGUE FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

Travelers will be arriving by air in the Czech Republic at Vaclav Havel Airport Prague (IATA code PRG). It is located in Ruzyne, 7 miles from the Prague city center. The only means of public transport that leaves or arrives at the Ruzyne airport is the bus. To take public transport, you will need a ticket for 32 CZK, which you can buy at the Public Transport Information booth at the airport or directly from the bus driver (he will charge you a little more). The Prague airport is served by the following buses:

Bus 119 leaves from outside the arrivals terminal and runs from around 4:45am until around midnight. The bus connections run every 7 to 20 minutes and the ride takes 23 minutes. It will take you to the Dejvická Metro station (Line A - Green), which is the last stop. From there, you can take the Metro using the same ticket to continue to your destination.

Bus 100 leaves from outside the arrivals terminal and runs from 5:45am until 11:39pm. The bus runs every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes after 7pm. The ride takes 16 minutes. It will take you to the Zlicín Metro station (Line B - Yellow), which is the last stop. From there, you can take the Metro using the same ticket to continue to your destination. Once you get on the Metro, expect the ride to take about 20 minutes to get you into the center.

The Airport Express is a special bus that connects the Ruzyne Airport with the Main Train Station (Hlavní nádrazí), which is on line C (Red Line) of the Metro. The Airport Express bus is scheduled to coincide with the arrivals and departures of SuperCity (Pendolino), EuroCity and InterCity trains. A ticket costs 60 CZK and covers the Airport - Main Train Station route.

In case you need to travel from the Prague Airport into town at night when none of the above buses run, you can take the night bus 910, get off at Divoká Sárka and change to the night tram 91. The tram will take you into the city center where, if necessary, you will be able to change to other night trams or buses to get to your destination. Keep in mind that the Metro does not run at this time of night. Bus 910 runs roughly between midnight and 5am and leaves the airport every half hour.

Taking public transport will include some walking and the buses and subway can be crowded at peak hours. Additionally, for each piece of luggage larger than 25 cm x 45 cm x 70 cm (10 in x 18 in x 28 in), it is necessary to purchase a 16 CZK transfer ticket; so if you have a lot of luggage, you may want to use a transfer service or take a taxi.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

Prague is serviced by two International rail stations. Praha Hlavni Nadrazi is the main station. It is also the biggest and busiest railway station in the Czech Republic. It is a 5 minute walk to Wenceslas Square and 15 minute walk to the Old Town Square. There is a Metro station, Hlavni Nadrazi (line C - Red Line) and a tram stop outside, which services lines 2, 119, 191.

Prague Holesovice station is 3 km outside the center and mainly services trains departing to and arriving from the east and the north. Holesovice has access to the Metro on line C (Red line). Take direction `Haje` and its two stops to Florenc (the main bus terminal), three stops to Hlavni Nadrazi (the main train station) and four stops to `Muzeum` (Wenceslas Square) with connections to the Green line Metro (Line A). Holesovice is serviced by tram lines 1, 25, 119, 191.

Taking public transport will include some walking and the Metro can be crowded at peak hours. You will need to purchase a ticket for 24 CZK for a maximum of five Metro stops. If you need to change to a bus/tram then you will need to purchase the 32 CZK ticket. Additionally, for each piece of luggage larger than 25 cm x 45 cm x 70 cm (10 in x 18 in x 28 in), it is necessary to purchase a 16 CZK transfer ticket; so if you have a lot of luggage, you may want to book a transfer service or take a taxi. However, we do not recommended taking the taxis on queue outside either train station as they have a reputation for dishonesty and overcharging. Hire a taxi by phone instead (from one of the reputable companies below).

How do I get around Prague using the Metro?

The Prague Metro is efficient, clean and easy to use. Its three lines consist of about 65 km of tracks, running mostly underground and 61 stations. It is safe and reliable, but pickpockets can be an issue, especially for tourists, so pay close attention to your bags, wallets and purses on the platforms and in crowded Metro cars.

The three lines of the Prague Metro currently are: Line A (Green) runs east to west from Depo Hostivar to Nemocnice Motol and has 17 stations. Line A should eventually run all the way to the Prague Airport, which is currently serviced only by bus. Line B (Yellow) runs east to west from Cerný most to Zlicín and has 24 stations. Line C (Red) runs north to south from Letnany to Háje and has 20 stations.

There are three transfer stations in the city center where two subway lines intersect: Mùstek (lower end of Wenceslas Square) is where lines A and B intersect. Muzeum (upper end of Wenceslas Square) is where lines A and C intersect. Florenc (main bus station) is where lines B and C intersect. These are transfer points from one line to another. Each transfer route is clearly marked and takes 3-5 minutes walking time.

Trains run from around 5:00am and the last train leaves its station of origin at midnight. Night trams and buses must be used when the Metro is closed. Trains arrive in 1-3 minute intervals during the peak hours of the morning and afternoon commute and in 4-10 minute intervals in the off hours. The time that has elapsed from the moment when the previous train left the station can be seen on the clock at the head of the tracks. All stations are equipped with escalators and about two thirds of all Metro stations allow access for the disabled.

How do I get around the city using other public transportation?

Prague`s public transportation systems, which include the Metro, trams and buses, make it very easy to move around the city. A 90 minute ticket costs 32 CZK and a 24 hour ticket costs 110 CZK. With 142 km of tracks, trams (tramvaj) cover a large area of Prague and ridership is clocked at just under one million each day. Daytime trams run from 4:30am until midnight in 8 - 10 minute intervals (8 - 15 minutes on weekends). Night trams (numbers 51 - 58) run from 12:30am until 4:30 am in 40 minute intervals.

Tram 22 follows one of Prague`s most scenic routes, passing by the National Theater to Staromìstská and Malostranská Metro stations, and continuing up to the Belveder, Prague Castle and Pohoøelec, with some stunning views along the way. The Nostalgic Tram no. 91 (nostalgická linka c. 91) is a historic tram that runs on weekends and holidays from April through mid-November. The tram leaves from Vozovna Støešovice every hour from noon until 5:30pm and continues through the city center. The ticket costs 35 CZK for adults and 20 CZK for children under 15.

Buses (autobusy) cover the outskirts of Prague and areas where trams or the Metro do not run. Daytime buses run from 4:30am until midnight in 6-8 minute intervals in peak hours, 10-20 minute intervals in the off hours and 15-30 minute intervals on weekends. Night buses (numbers 501-513) run from around midnight until 4:30 am at 30-60 minute intervals. For more information on bus, tram and Metro lines, visit www.dpp.cz/en.

The funicular to the top of Petrín Hill starts at the Újezd tram stop (trams 6, 9, 12, 20, 22) in Malá Strana and runs daily from 9am to 11:30pm (11:20pm from November to March) in 10-15 minute intervals. To take the funicular, use the same public transport ticket as you would on trams or the Metro.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Getting around Prague by public transportation is so easy and convenient that you may never need to use a taxi. Taking a taxi is a good idea only when you are traveling with a lot of luggage, it is freezing cold, you need to get to a distant part of Prague, or you need to travel at night when the subway isn`t running and the trams and buses run less frequently.

Unfortunately, taxi drivers in Prague have a reputation for overcharging and dishonesty. But if you follow a few simple rules you shouldn`t have a problem. First, don`t get into a taxi that is parked in front of the train station or at a tourist site. These are often waiting to prey upon tourists and are known to charge very high rates. If you need to catch a taxi on the street, make sure it is a registered taxi. The yellow roof lamp must be permanently installed and must say `TAXI` in black letters on both sides. The driver`s name, license number and rates should be printed on both front doors.

Try to find out how much your ride should cost BEFORE getting in the car. You can even pay in advance if the amount sounds reasonable. If you`re ordering a taxi by phone, which is your best bet, you can get a price estimate or even the exact fare from the dispatcher. Once in the car, make sure that the rate on the taximeter corresponds to the price list posted in the car. If it doesn`t, bring it to the driver`s attention or have him stop the car, so you can get off. The driver should offer a printed receipt. If he doesn`t, you have the right to request one or refuse to pay the fare. If in doubt, order a taxi by phone from one of these reliable and courteous taxi companies: AAA Radiotaxi (tel. 14 0 14 or 222 333 222), City Taxi (tel. 257 257 257), Profi Taxi (tel. 261 314 151), Halotaxi (tel. 244 114 411) or Sedop (tel. 281 000 040).

Is Prague a walking city?

Prague is a great walking city and we recommend that you wear comfortable shoes and hit the cobblestones. The main sightseeing areas of Prague are separated by the Vltava River. On the left bank there is the Prague Castle area and Lesser Town. The right bank is home to the Old Town, the Jewish Quarter and the New Town. Spanning the Vltava River and connecting the Old Town and Lesser Town is the beautiful Charles Bridge.

Is Prague a dangerous city? Are there certain areas I should avoid?

Aside from petty crime (pickpockets), Prague is a relatively safe city. The rate of violent crime is low and most areas of Prague are safe to walk around even after dark. That being said, be careful on Wenceslas Square, in crowds in public places, and on public transport, especially tram 22 between Namesti Miru and the Castle. These areas are usually packed with tourists and the crowds make things easy for pickpockets. Also, the park around the main train station (referred to by locals as `Sherwood`) is not the safest place after dark. The major renovation of the train station has resulted in much improved security inside the station, but you should still be careful in the park immediately outside the station after dark or avoid it altogether. If you need to contact the police, call 158 (state police) or 156 (city police) or the Emergency Central Number 112.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of the Czech Republic is the Czech Koruna, or Czech Crown (referenced as CZK for short in our guides). US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Koruna upon arrival. Some establishments may accept Euros but there is no legal obligation for them to do so and large Euro notes (over €50) are unlikely to be accepted. Also bear in mind that the exchange rate that will be used will definitely not be in your favor.

Be careful when using money exchange offices. Many of them target tourists, especially in Prague, and you may end up paying a high commission. Always change money in a bank or take cash out of ATM machines, which are plentiful in Prague. ATM machines are a very convenient way to get Czech crowns and major credit cards are accepted in most locations.

I don't speak Czech. Will many people speak English?

English is widely spoken and understood in Prague, and is common in all the tourist areas. We suggest you learn a few common phrases such as hello (Ahoj!), goodbye (Sbohem!), excuse me (prominte) and numbers 1-10 (jedna, dva, tri, ctyri, pět, šest, sedm, osm, devět, deset).

Is a boat cruise on the Vltava a good way to see the city?

Seeing Prague from the Vltava river as dusk descends is a truly unique experience. The historical center with its famous monuments presents itself from a different perspective, surrounded by reflections on the water. On the longer cruises, you will go by several islands on the Vltava and find yourself on a stretch of the river that lets you see a part of the embankment that you would not normally visit. There is a three hour cruise, which departs from a port under Cechuv Bridge with a buffet dinner, aperitif and live music included in the price. Some reputable companies include Prague Boats (www.prague-boats.cz) and Prague Venice (www.prague-venice.cz).

What is Czech food like? Are there other options for dining out?

Czech food is usually heavy with lots of meat, dumplings and potatoes. Classic, hearty dishes such as goulash with dumplings (thicker than Hungarian goulash) or roast duck with dumplings are great on a cold day. There`s also a lot of pork, as in the traditional Czech `vepro-knedlo-zelo` (pork, dumplings, cabbage) or a roasted and/or smoked pork knee, accompanied with horseradish. Pork or chicken schnitzel with potato salad is among the lighter choices. Unfortunately, vegetarians don`t get many options on a typical Czech menu. Don`t worry if Czech food doesn`t seem to your liking. Today, with the huge influx of tourist dollars, Prague now boasts many very good restaurants, including French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Indian restaurants.

Where can I pick up necessities like bottled water and toiletries?

There are supermarkets and self-service convenience stores throughout the city. Supermarkets are usually open until 9pm. Some convenience stores are open 24 hours. In many shops, including supermarkets, customers are expected to bring their own bags. If you don`t have one, ask for a `taska`; it will cost about 5 CZK.

What are the best areas for shopping?

The L-shaped half mile running from the middle of Wenceslas Square around the corner to the right on Na Príkope and to the Palladium Shopping Center on Námestí Republiky has become Prague`s principal shopping hub. In this short distance you`ll find several multilevel shopping gallerias. Between the centers is a wide array of boutiques and antiques shops.

The wide, tree-lined Parízská, from Old Town Square to the Hotel Inter-Continental, is filled with top-end luxury names and along the streets running off of Parízská, many of the best Czech designers have set up shop. And in the streets radiating off Old Town Square, particularly Celetná and Dlouhá, you`ll find many of the city`s best outlets for glass, porcelain and jewelry. In fact, Celetná has evolved into Prague`s `glass alley.`

Please note: In an effort to keep precious pieces of Czech heritage in the country, the government now requires export permits for a large range of objects, including glass and graphics over 50 years old, miniature art objects valued at more than 3,000 CZK, and paintings valued at more than 30,000 CZK. Most antiques shops provide export permits; ask for one if necessary.

What are the typical Czech items for purchase?

For those looking for a piece of Czech handiwork, you can find some of the world`s best crystal and glass. Fine crystal has been produced in the Bohemian countryside since the 14th century. Today, the quality remains high, and you can still purchase contemporary glass for prices that are much lower than those in the West. Blood red garnets are the official Czech national gem, and the ones that you can buy here are among the worlds finest! Be warned; however, that fake garnets are common, so purchase your stones from a reputable shop.

The art of Czech marionette and puppet making goes back to the 18th century. You will find many stores in Prague that sell Czech marionettes and puppets made by Czech artisans as well as traditional handmade wooden toys. Likewise, boxes of beautiful hand painted Easter eggs are a nice souvenir and are true works of art! You can find Czech Easter eggs at many Prague markets and souvenir shops year round.

When are the Christmas Markets in Prague?

Visitors come from all over to experience the Christmas markets (vánoční trhy) in Prague. Some unique products that are available at the markets are Christmas ornaments and holiday decorations, traditional Czech Christmas cookies, tablecloths, Frankincense or the Czech Christmas potpourri called purpura. Other items on offer are Czech wooden toys, crafts, clothing accessories, scented candles and handmade soap. You can also taste traditional Czech foods that are made fresh right in front of you. Hot mulled wine (svařené víno or svařák), grog, and a warm honey liquor called medovina are especially popular in the cold weather. Czech Christmas carols add to the festive atmosphere and after dark, the markets are lit up beautifully.

The dates during which Prague Christmas markets are open are usually different from year to year. In general, you`ll find at least some markets running from the last week of November into the first week of January. Almost all of Prague`s Christmas markets are open in the three weeks before Christmas, including the largest and most popular markets at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.