Friday, June 8, 2012

Staying Safe in Prague

By Ahmed Ahmed

Prague is a city with a lot to offer. It’s one of Europe’s most popular destinations, welcoming tourists from around the world in search of its historic architecture and lively nightlife. Too bad that the city also has a reputation for petty crime. However, there is no reason to stay away; just be smart. Here’s how to get the best out of Prague without letting its crooks get the better of you. Tips courtesy of holiday apartments.

Avoid the dodgy spots
Photo by Flickr user bartlec
Many of Prague’s main attractions are clustered around the centre of the city. The Old Town (Staré Město) is where you’ll find the Old New Synagogue, Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock. A short walk takes you to the old Jewish Quarter (Josefov), and also to the gorgeous Charles Bridge. Because these areas are known to be tourist hotspots, it’s sensible to visit them during the day, as going there at night might expose you to unwanted attention and would-be pickpockets. Other key spots where you should be on your guard are Wenceslas Square and the main train station, Praha Hlavni Nadrazi.

Don’t let cabbies take you for a ride

It can sometimes seem like Prague’s taxi drivers never got the memo about the city’s rising status as a traveller’s hotspot. Many people complain that they can be grumpy, unhelpful and downright rude. Worst still, there are a fair few who will try to overcharge you outrageously. Always agree on a price before you set off, and make sure the meter is on so you can see if the price you settled on was reasonable or ridiculous. Remember that you’ll save money and see more by walking, so consult your map before jumping into a cab.

Beware of pickpockets

Ah yes – the pickpockets. Like many popular travel destinations, the Czech capital is home to its fair share of light-fingered individuals. The common advice about keeping essential cash and documents in a money belt on your person holds true. Leave any excess cash and non-essential valuables back at your hotel or apartment, and stay vigilant when out and about. Crowded streets, buses and metro trains are favourite haunts for pickpockets, so keep a close eye on your things and hold bags in front of you, to be on the safe side.

Get a fair deal
Photo by Flickr user The Man in Blue
Somewhat confusingly, Prague is a member of the European Union, but its currency remains the Koruna, or Czech Crown. This means that even visitors from inside the Eurozone will have to find a way to swap their cash. But don’t be tempted by anyone who approaches you offering currency exchange; the rates are often poor and you could even end up with false notes. Stick to the bank or, even better, withdraw what you need from the ATMs, of which there are plenty in Prague.