03 June 2009

Preparing for Praha

Every time I type "Praha," I want to add an extra "haha" to the end. My fingers just do it. All those years of AIM did have negative consequences. (I can just hear my mother saying "I told you so...")

Anyway, I know that my semester in Prague is three months away, but as I am waiting for my summer job to start I've been trying to do some research ahead of time. I think that I will compile some tips and tidbits that I am picking up from friends, books, and blogs that I stumble upon.

Today most of the tips are going to come from a blog I just discovered and really enjoy. Written by Douglas, an expatriate in Prague, http://www.arellanes.com/wordpress/ has a great deal of tips that I want to display here so that they are easily accessible to me.

I'll start with transportation. Living in a quiet suburb my first experience with public transportation did not come until my freshman year of college. (I know, pathetic, especially for someone who claims to be environmentally conscious.) Anyway, I am happy to know that besides the language barrier (and the pickpockets), the public transportation system will be relatively easy. Unlike my friends I had no problem with the public transportation in London or Paris, so I'm not really worried.

According to Douglas:

A ticket on public transport costs 12 CZK (something around 40 cents US), and is good for 60 minutes with unlimited transfers in that time. So you can go from tram to bus to metro to bus if you need to, as long as your time doesn’t run out. You can also buy day passes or longer-term passes if you need them. Monthly, quarterly and yearly passes require you to stand in line and speak a bit of Czech, but mean that you don’t have to worry about one of the two drawbacks to Prague public transport. (The first is pickpockets, but they’re in every city.)

These guys make money for themselves and for the Transport Authority by checking people’s tickets at random and in plainclothes. Since most locals know to buy their tickets, he usually harasses tourists who don’t know how to buy tickets and get on anyway - “riding black” in local parlance. If you don’t have a ticket, you have to pay a fine of 400 CZK (about $14).

So the best thing to do is buy a handful of tickets all at once and use them as needed. Another important point to remember is that you have to stamp your ticket. It’s not enough to carry around an unstamped ticket.

One of the great quality-of-life things about Prague is that the transport system goes 24 hours. So you can catch special night trams that run every 40 minutes. In winter months, though, 40 minutes is an eternity.

That’s why the newish Transport Authority webpage is a godsend. Not only can you see when the next tram is coming, but it will also make recommendations on the transfers you need to make (if necessary.)

I like the price! Compared to the $2ish you pay per ride for Boston's T, it sounds like I won't be draining my bank account on transportation in Prague!

Since I am paranoid about my surroundings and suspicious of everybody, I don't think that pickpockets/scam artists will be much of a problem for me. And since a few drinks makes me just obnoxiously suspicious, I don't think late-night will be a problem either!

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