Dear fellow travellers, if you’re planning to travel through central Europe in the month of May or June, brace yourself – roads will be constantly scattered with roadworks, which will slow down your road trip. The very first thing you have to do when you enter the Czech Republic is stop and pay for a ‘Vignette’ – a sticker which entitles you to drive on Czech motorways. Even if the price of this is very low, especially compared with Italy or France (we paid around £8 for a ten day pass), being stuck in queues for most of the way, or bumping your way over potholes in the road makes even this price annoying to pay. However, fuel is less of a problem – it’s around 35 czk per liter (about a euro) and there are petrol stations every few km. Luckily this will be the last time I’m going to complain about the Czech Republic. The country itself is beautiful – very green, verdant and scattered with tiny houses and quaint Bohemian churches. On this stint of our journey, we decided to try out Bla Bla Car for the first time as we had some space in the car. We signed up on the website advertising our route and ended up taking a Czech girl and her tiny dog with us from Frankfurt to Prague, who contributed 30 euro to our petrol costs.
This is the first moment in our trip when we are in a country where everything starts to seem totally different from our normal environs. For a start, beer here costs less than water (we’re not joking!) – half a liter of excellent Czech beer costs on average 38 czk in Prague, which is about a pound, or around 30 czk outside the city. Good news also for meat lovers (Jean is one of those) – you can fulfil all your carnivorous cravings for about 150 czk (about 5 euro). However, things are a little harder for vegetarians, as 90% of Czech dishes are meat based: you’ll probably be left with a choice of either halousky (Slovak potato dumplings) or salad. If you’re a budget traveller like us, avoid the central areas around Wenceslas Square, as prices are pitched at tourists and are obviously much higher. As soon as you walk a short way outside the centre though, you can easily get dinner for 2 with beer and dessert at a very nice place for around £15 (or less). We tried many great restaurants, for example we had dinner at a great non-touristy restaurant underground (‘Suteren’) where we had a Czech-style three course menu and beer for about £10 in total. You don’t necessarily have to tip, but if you do, it seems to be common practice to leave about 20 czk regardless of the price of your meal. Normally you should tell the waiter when you pay to add the tip to the bill rather than the English practice of leaving coins on the table afterwards.
Prague is built around the river, with several bridges connecting the two sides of the city. However, unlike other cities separated by a river, such as Budapest, both sides are equally packed with sights and attractions. From the main bridge, Karlov Most, you’ll be met with the fantastic view of the castle up on the hill on one side, and the cathedrals and buzzing bars and restaurants on the other. It’s especially worth coming at night to see the view illuminated by lights, with the castle looming above in fairytale fashion, and the city imbued with a magical atmosphere. As we’re visiting so many cities on this trip, we’re trying to see each one from a fresh perspective, without reading up too much about the tourist sights on the internet beforehand. Instead, we’re exploring from scratch by wandering around, getting lost and trying to discover all the little nooks and crannies that can be found around the city. Prague is quite a touristy city, so you can find information about every sight you can possibly see on about 100 different websites, so we’re not going to list them all here. However, you can be sure that whichever way you walk you will see something that will take your breath away.
Getting around the city is easy. From the centre you can walk to almost any sight you might wish to see – there are plenty of them, and once you’re in Wenceslas Square you can get around entirely on foot if you wish. However if you’re not such a fan of walking (especially up the hill to the castle), or you plan to check out some of the less touristy spots outside the centre, you’re best off buying a pass for the transport system. A 72 hour ticket costs 310 czk (£8) and covers buses, trams and the metro. You can get around just about anywhere by tram and they’re quite easy to use as they display the list of stops both on signs at the tram stops and on board the tram itself. You can buy the tickets at any Metro station. You can’t really get lost in Prague, as you can always use either the castle or the river as a point of reference. However addresses can be a bit confusing as they are often labelled with two different door numbers (one red and one blue). This is because the Czech Republic started renumbering buildings some years ago, but never replaced the old system completely – as a result both systems are now used alongside one another, and you can choose which one to use.
We both loved Prague and the Czech Republic as a whole – it’s very cheap for Londoner standards, the food is tasty, people are friendly and it seems like you can’t run out of things to do. If we hadn’t already decided on Lviv as our final destination we’d seriously consider Prague, and we’ll definitely be back for more.