My wife Therese, her mother Eileen and I just recently returned from a fabulous trip to Prague, Czech Republic, and I am excited to share the details of what we did and ate in the days to come. But I thought that a good introduction to Prague would be to tell you about the city’s Public Transportation System. There is a very good article on TripAdvisor which gives many pertinent pieces of information on Prague’s buses and trams and so forth. I’m sure I will probably duplicate some of what you will find there; but I will also give you some information that is not in that article.
The good news is that Prague’s system of buses, trams and metro/subway trains is well laid-out, clean, safe and pretty easy to grasp. We did not use the buses at all, so I will not be talking about them – we found that we could get everywhere we wanted to go using just the metro and the trams, and we became quite adept at using them.
In terms of the size of its historic/touristy sections, I would compare the size of Prague to Philadelphia’s Center City, or Boston’s downtown. If you are a big walker, you can easily get from one end of Prague to the other in the course of a day. If you don’t choose to cover the city on foot, getting there by tram and/or metro is quick and easy.
As for how you pay for the metro and tram and how much it costs, there are a couple of ways we handled that. There is a Prague Card you can buy at the tourist office to the left of the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, that in addition to covering admission to lots of museums, gives you free unlimited access to public transportation. Since we were planning on doing lots of the main sights in Prague for our first few days there, we purchased Prague Cards for 3 days (you can get them for anywhere from 2 to 4 days).
Later in our long week in Prague, we decided to buy day passes directly from the Metro station near our hotel. After taking a taxi what felt like a short distance and paying the equivalent of $25, we reasoned that buying 2 full price and one senior day pass for about $14 was a bargain (one full price day pass costs about $5.50). If you are enterprising, you might wish to sort out the system for buying individual rides – to me, it seemed complicated, and being able to buy one ticket and ride all day on it felt easy and convenient. The automated ticket vending machines were pretty easy to figure out, and we had lots of change (they do not take paper money, their one drawback), so that was convenient for us.
With change in hand, the process takes 3 or 4 steps. First you press a white button marked “English” which changes the messages the machine gives you to English. Then you press the button for a day pass. Last, you put your coins in, and the machine spits out your card. Then you just have to remember to validate the card the first time you use it by sliding the blank end into the yellow machines found near every metro and tram entrance.
If you are buying a discounted pass, that just adds one more step. For that, you press the English button, then the green “discount” button, then select day pass, and finally you deposit your coins.
The one other thing to keep in mind is that ticketing is on the honor system. During the 10 days that we were in Prague, we were never approached while in the metro or on a tram and asked to produce our Prague Card or day pass. Nevertheless, we always bought tickets and had them handy just in case we were asked.
Prague’s Metro system, compared to that of a large city like New York or Madrid, is quite simple. There are three lines – A (or Green), B (or Yellow) and C (or Red). Each line crosses over the other two only once – A and C meet at the Muzeum stop (which is at the southern end of Wenceslas Square), A and B meet at the Mustek stop in Old Town, and B and C meet at the Florenc stop which is northeast of Old Town. Our hotel, the Hilton Old Town, is half a block from Republic Square (Namesti Republiky), and we took the Metro from there to Old Town Square several times (two stops – one on the B line, then change to the A and take that one stop). We also took the Metro to the State Opera House one night for a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata (once again, two stops – one on the B line, and one on the A line).
In my next post, I will finish up my discussion of Prague’s public transportation by telling you about our experiences on the trams. Once again, the trams were convenient and easy to use, just like the Prague Metro – in my next post, I will go into greater detail (accompanied by some useful photos).