Czech Republic Europe Lifestyle slow travel

A sneak peek into life in Prague

And just like that, the first month of our Slow Travel World Tour went by. When I planned this slow travel tour I expected 4 weeks in one place to be long enough. It doesn’t seem to be after this first month.

We only just started to get into the zone of beginning to speak and understand the Czech language, we only were able to visit some restaurants and cafes from the list I compiled and only explored some areas of Prague. There’s much more to see, do and experience but doing things slow means we don’t have busy schedules and don’t run around 12 hours/day to do it all. This month taught me it’s all about prioritising.

Prague felt familiar from day one (it’s not that different from what we know from Poland) and that made things more straightforward, which was exactly what we needed to slowly ease in into this new lifestyle.

Our neighbourhood & accommodation

We did a little bit of research on Prague’s neighbourhoods and also asked our friend who is a Prague native for his recommendations. We wanted to be close to the city centre but far from where tourists usually stay to get a real feel for local life.

On our shortlist we’ve had: Letná, Žižkov, Vinohrady and Karlin. Residential areas with a rather good choice of cafes, restaurants and shops.

After going through several “short-term rental” websites and finding nothing, I retreated to the good old Airbnb where I found a nice, one bedroom apartment in Žižkov.

Žižkov had a lot of good things going for it. We were very close to the number 9 tram which took us straight to the Old Town. We had a choice of 5 supermarkets within 20 min walk. There were some small convenience stores, restaurants and a cafe where we could get a decent flat white every weekday morning. Vitkov Park was pretty much in our backyard so we had a great spot for walks and runs. It was a quiet area where we felt safe and didn’t mind walking around at night.

The streets around our apartment building were mostly one way only, which meant less traffic. They were also lined with trees with wide, cobblestone sidewalks. They were ok to walk on but some weren’t kept too clean (cigarette butts, dog poop) or had holes in them.

Our apartment wasn’t fancy or especially insta-worthy but had almost everything we needed to survive the month. During the heatwave that was happening in Czech Republic we wouldn’t mind an AC but we know that isn’t really common in this part of Europe. A fan maybe could have helped. Also, one month without a dishwasher reminded me why I can’t live without one. I hate doing dishes.

The neighbours were always nice, saying hi when they saw us in the lift or corridors. Some days we heard more than we would wish for when they were living their lives with windows wide open but that’s apartment living anywhere in the world.

Impressions about Prague – likes & dislikes

First look

There’s no doubt, Prague is absolutely beautiful. It had more charming buildings and streets than I was able to photograph. All architecture lovers should visit. Day, night, sunrise, sunset, rain or shine – Prague is looking good no matter what so it’s good to have your camera on at all times.

Full of tourists

When you hear “In summer, Prague is full of tourists. It’s high season, hotels are booked out and restaurants full to the brim” – that is mostly correct. The thing is, tourists tend to go to the same places, through the exact same streets and eat in recommended restaurants. Nothing wrong with following guide books but there is a simple way to avoid that craziness – take a street parallel to the one marked on the map, chances are it will be almost empty. When looking for a restaurant, why not walk a few streets out of the Old Town? One day, I found a great cafe – Pauseteria – just around the corner from the Old Town Square. It was almost empty at 1pm while the nearby well-known chain restaurant was packed with tourists.

There are also many tourist traps in the Old Town area. I watched a lot of Honest Guide videos before coming to Prague so I knew what to expect and what to avoid. Highly recommend to watch at least this one:

Working on it

Everywhere we went there were street works, buildings renovations, construction sites and temporary closures. This may be a summer thing – to do it before it’s snowing and cold but also, one of the locals told us it’s also because of EU budget, which they won’t get if they don’t spend the previous one. It was often inconvenient and didn’t look too nice.

Holiday season

Many of the neighbourhood cafes, restaurants and shops were closed for summer or at least for a bigger part of it. Google Maps doesn’t know it and often we would go to a place that was currently having a summer break.

Smoky

Some days I had the impression that everyone in Prague smokes. And as a cigarette smoke haters, we were bothered everywhere. Having a beer at a beer garden? There’s no smoke-free zone. Entering/exiting a shopping mall – the smokers are right at the door, making it impossible to walk past them without inhaling the smoke. Nice outdoor section of a restaurant or a terrace? Not for us. That’s where smokers sit.

Green

There are many parks, gardens, tree-lined streets and greenery everywhere. It was a very nice surprise – for some reason I always thought Prague wouldn’t be this green.

Language

Ah, Czech Language. The beautiful Čeština. It’s unbelievably frustrating for Polish language speakers. You almost understand what they’re saying, you almost get what is written and you almost know how to reply. Almost.

Some words are almost identical, like beer = piwo [PL] = pivo [CZ] or coffee = kawa [PL] = káva [CZ] but then other words are completely different. Potato in Polish is ziemniak while in Czech it’s brambor.

By the end of our month in Prague, we were quite confident in our day to day language abilities. We knew what people say to us at the shops and we were able to order in Czech (although our accent wasn’t perfect and people would just switch to English most times). If we had more time, I’m sure we would pick up much more.

In Prague, it’s very easy to go by with just English. Although shop assistants were visibly nicer when we tried to speak Czech other than just English from the get-go. We weren’t treated as yet another annoying tourist who can’t be bothered learning a few words. So I highly recommend learning at least good day = dobrý den, thank you = děkuji and please = prosím.

Prices

Exchange rate

In August 2018 1000 CZK cost us around 62 AUD (at the same time, it would be around 45 USD). This wasn’t a great exchange rate and as a result, Czech Republic wasn’t as cheap for us as we expected it to be.

Grocery prices

For day to day grocery shopping you can see the prices on supermarkets’ websites. Check akční letáky on Billa, Albert, Lidl, Tesco and Kaufland.

How much we paid for our groceries? For example:

  • 1.5L sparkling water: 4.90 CZK (0.30 AUD) at Lidl to 13.90 CZK (0.85 AUD) at Albert
  • the best Czech chocolate Studentská 200g: from 25.90 CZK (1.62 AUD) to 67.90 (4.30 AUD)
  • 6 eggs: 24.90 CZK (1.55 AUD)
  • 250g pack of cherry tomatoes: 16.90 CZK (1.05 AUD) to 34.90 CZK (2.20 AUD)
  • 100g of ham: 14.90 CZK (0.95) to 33.90 CZK (2.15 AUD)
  • butter: 54.90 CZK (3.50 AUD)
  • beer: Radegast 0.5L can 17.90 CZK (1.14 AUD) vs 1.5L bottle 32.90 CZK (2.10 AUD)
  • bread roll: 5.50 CZK (0.35 AUD) to 8.90 CZK (0.55 AUD)

How much you should expect to pay for:

  • one small flat white in a cafe: 60 – 80 CZK (3.80 – 5.10 AUD)
  • a restaurant dinner: 120 – 220 CZK for a main local dishes like goulash, svíčková etc (7.65 – 14 AUD) and 40 – 80 CZK for a bowl of soup (2.55 – 5.10 AUD)
  • a fancy restaurant meal for two with drinks: 799 CZK (49.15 AUD)
  • for 0.5L beer in a beer garden or a pub: 30 – 60 CZK for local beers (1.90 – 3.80) and up to 95 CZK for craft beers (6.05 AUD)
  • a kebab: 80 – 95 CZK (5.10 – 6.05 AUD)

How much we spent in 1 month (2 people)

Accommodation: 31 171.80 CZK = 1 962.02 AUD

Groceries: 7 376.23 CZK = 455.12 AUD

Eating out (we went out for meals, snacks or ice cream 34 times): 10 563 CZK = 652.38 AUD

Coffee: 4 041.00 CZK = 249.90 AUD

Alcohol: 6 579.60 CZK = 405.83 AUD

Transport (public transport, Uber, Taxi): 1 330.25 CZK = 81.97 AUD

Entertainment (cinema, museums etc): 1207 CZK = 74.84 AUD

SIM (each): 350 CZK = 21.54 AUD

Total: 62 618.88 = 3 903.60 AUD

Random thoughts

A few more things that aren’t just specifically about Prague but the whole Czech Republic.

Cobblestones

I know it’s cute and oh-so-European but why aren’t we replacing it with something more suitable for walking? It’s impossible to walk more than 2 blocks with a suitcase when the wheels get stuck in every gap. Some cobblestone roads are so uneven it’s really hard to walk – I can’t imagine walking there in heels or drunk.

Drivers

As a pedestrian, you really need to be careful when crossing a road. Even on a pedestrian crossing. Czech drivers do not like to stop for you. They also aren’t big fans of road signs telling them not to enter – they seem to know better.

No freebies

Don’t expect free water in a restaurant – there’s no such thing. Although at some good coffee shops a glass or a bottle of tap water was offered at no charge. And often, in a restaurant, a glass or bottle of water will be more expensive than half a litre of beer. The choice is easy.

Toilets are not free either. Even in some shopping centres, train stations or other places you paid for admission to, you still need to pay for the WC.

Bags in supermarkets also come at extra cost. It’s better to always carry a spare bag.

Tip me

At first, they got me by surprise – while paying, I was asked how much I want to add as a tip (not IF but HOW MUCH). Then it happened many more times. We have a theory that it happens more often when we speak only English and when we tried to speak Czech we were asked maybe once or twice. And at some places, people just stare silently while you pay, you can almost feel they really expect you to tip. I’m against tipping culture, but that’s a discussion for some other day.

Weekend

Weekends are for sleeping in. There’s no point in waking up early, as most cafes, shops etc open from 10am or 11am (if they’re open on weekends at all).

Wasps

Hate those little buggers! They were everywhere and they don’t know what personal space is. Crawling all over your hair or beard, munching on your food or flying into your can of beer (the last one happened to my poor Hubby and it wasn’t fun). Even throwing things into rubbish bins was scary like Russian roulette – you never knew if it’s going to be just normal or if you’ll be attacked by a swarm of wasps.

Please wait to be seated

Most restaurants and cafes don’t have any “please wait to be seated” signs. You’re supposed to come in, take a sit and hope someone notices you and brings you the menu. For us it was confusing. I guess we’re used to the Australian way of being shown to our table, asked how our day is going and having a friendly chat with the staff. Yet another reason I don’t feel like I should tip people who don’t show any effort.

Tips

Install Sejf Mobile Wallet app on your phone for easy public transport ticket purchases. Link it to your credit card and you won’t need to look for change or ticket machines and instead, you’ll get your ticket in 30 seconds on your phone. The app is a bit slow and laggy but makes life easier.

Výkup lahví – bring your empty beer bottles to any supermarket and look for machines marked výkup lahví. Put the bottles inside, one by one and press a button when you’re done – you got yourself a refund that you can now use as a discount for your shopping.

Next stop: Berlin


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