If you have read some of my earlier blogs (and thank-you very much if you have), you may have gathered that I am rather obsessed with public transport networks, maps and signs. The very efficient metro, bus and tram network in the Czech Republican capital of Prague – where I spent three enchanting days exploring last week – certainly tickled that obsession.
Travelling on Prague’s trams (a mixture of old and new models depending on which line you’re travelling on) was a delight, although the Czech names for the stops were at first rather incomprehensible and disorientating to a non-Czech speaking tourist like myself (and some would probably score highly in a game of Scrabble). However, armed with a copy of the very useful “Getting Around Prague” map (which you can pick up in various key languages at any of the city’s metro stations or hotels) made it rather easy to navigate around the city and find one’s bearing very quickly. Not only does it detail every tram-line route colourfully throughout the city centre, but it also has very useful and recognisable silhouettes of the main tourist attractions above the key stops to disembark at to reach those must-see places.
The three metro lines (conveniently named A, B and C) complement the tram network perfectly. Where a tram can not service a key part of the city centre, there will definitely be a metro stop there to do so instead. What is more, you don’t have to buy separate tickets to travel from tram to metro and vice versa. Depending on which of the four main tickets you have purchased, you can make as many transfers between the two as you like.
You can either buy a ‘Basic’ ticket (valid for 90 minutes), ‘Short-Term’ ticket (valid for 30 minutes), a ‘1 Day’ ticket or a ‘3 Days’ ticket from any metro station. I bought a ‘3 Days’ ticket which only cost 310 Czech Koruna (approximately £10/$15/€13). You must stamp it in one of the little yellow boxes at the top of the metro escalators or just inside the door of a tram/bus on your first journey after purchasing it … and then just put the ticket in your pocket/bag/wallet and never take it out again (unless a plain-clothed inspector asks to see it). There is no need to stamp it ever again. Such a convenient system! (If only London’s ticket system was as straight-forward).
NB: if you’ve got a large suitcase (or a dog) with you, then you must purchase an additional ‘luggage transport’ ticket. It doesn’t cost much but if you are caught by an inspector without one, the fine may be a hefty one.
You can use the bi-lingual machines in metro stations to purchase a ticket, but you must have the right coinage. They do not take notes, and will not offer any change. If you put a 50 CZK coin in to buy one of the cheaper tickets, the machine will simply throw the coin back at you. If this happens, go to the attended metro kiosk instead … but don’t worry, English seems to be Prague’s second language and almost every Prague citizen speaks it perfectly.
If you want to endear yourself to the attendant then ‘hello’ and ‘thank-you’ are reasonably easy to say in Czech, pronounced (near enough) as ‘dobb-bree-den‘ and ‘deh-koo-wee‘ respectfully. I however, could not get my tongue around the Czech word for ‘goodbye’ (na shledanou). The staff at my very comfortable hotel tried to teach me, but sadly to no avail. I just couldn’t quite achieve the throat-clearing part of the word convincingly enough, so I just smiled as sweetly as I could and gave a little head-curtsey instead when required.
The metro network is very reliable albeit not that aesthetically pleasing to the eye. When you reach the platform the trains run on either side of you, so when you look up at the train-line map above your head it is very easy to work out whether you need to take the train to your left or your right.
However, there was one sticking point I had with the whole metro network: unless I crouched down inside the carriage on arrival at every station – and that by luck the carriage I was in stopped in front of one of the very few signs naming the station – I couldn’t actually see which station I was at. A good thing I didn’t have a bad back at the time.
Also, some of the escalators seemed to move as fast as the trains, which was a little scary and a bit sickly to ride as a result. The latter feeling was exasperated by the disorientating angle of the advertising posters lining the route:
If I have put you off using Prague’s public transport system to get around this beautiful city (though that was never my intention), you could always pay for a private, chauffeured tour in one of these instead:
PS – I share further snippets about my travels on Twitter also.