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Travel Update: Prague is Overrated! April 5, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Travel.
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prague-bridges1

Prague can look incredible from afar, but...

[Note: Travel Diary has been updated to include Munich (including Neuschwanstein Castle and Dachau Concentration Camp) and Berlin!]

I never thought I would say this, and undoubtledly it will be heavily disputed, but in my opinion it’s true: Prague is overrated!

When I first arrived in the UK, Prague was near the top of my list of travel destinations.  Not because I knew very much about the place myself, but because every tourism book I read raved about the place and every person I spoke to kept telling me: ‘you have to go to Prague!’ 

Hence when we planned our big anniversary vacation and an opportunity came up where we had a couple of extra days on our hands, I insisted that we go to Prague (even though my wife had been and said it was nothing special, a view that 2 of her sisters concurred with).  ‘But it’s Prague‘, I would say, ‘we have to go to Prague!’  And so we did.

However, out of all 12 cities we went to on this giant trip, Prague was by far the most disappointing.  If asked, I would say it’s ‘okay’ because the place is not without merit, but given its glittering reputation (or at least the reputation I thought it had), I had expected a lot more.  It’s one of those places that look good in postcards and photos and from afar, but when you are there and everything is up close it doesn’t live up to the hype.

Perhaps I don’t really know the city well enough to be making such comments – after all, I did only spend roughly a day and a half there, so it’s really not much more than a generalised first impression; or maybe my expectations were too lofty or unreasonable – either way, these were my main gripes:

1. Appearance – I was very surprised when we stepped off the train at Praha Holesovice station, one of the main stations for international trains.  It was old, dirty and looked incredibly runned down.  Not just on the platforms but even inside the small, no-frills terminal.  I expected that to change when we caught the subway to the central station, Praha Hlavni Nadrazi, but it didn’t.  It was bigger, but still old, dirty and runned down.  When we walked outside, more of the same – the roads, the buildings, the walls.  It wasn’t even in a kind of charming or romantic sort of way.  For some reason, it just felt dull and gloomy.

2. Tourist-unfriendly – the appearance of the city was unexpected but was something you could put down as a different experience.  However, Prague also turned out to be relatively tourist-unfriendly compared to all of the other European cities I’ve visited.  There are very few English signs around and the public transport system, though not dissimilar (to say Germany), was the most confusing.  But that’s not the main problem.  The main problem is the lack of help you can expect to get from locals.  If it were just one or two people I would have put it off as bad luck or coincidence, but pretty much every single person behind a counter we sought assistance from (with the exception of the hotel receptionist) had ‘I’m not going to help you’ written all over their face – and this includes the people from the Information office! 

For instance, when we couldn’t figure out how to purchase subway tickets at the machine (no ticket office), the one guy working there in uniform quickly turned his back on us when he saw us approaching and had to be prompted by his friends to help us.  All he told us was that we had to break our notes as the machines only take coins, then ran off.  Funnily we saw the same guy on the subway asking to check our ticket.  Fortunately we did our research and bought a half-ticket for our luggage, or else we would have been fined!  Strangely, he only targeted touristy-looking people and the locals simply ignored him and the little badge he kept flashing. 

Another example was when we tried to purchase train tickets to Vienna – though the woman behind the window spoke perfect English and we were perfectly polite, she acted as though she was doing us the world’s biggest favour.  If we didn’t keep prodding her with multiple questions, we would have never: (1) purchased 2 tickets instead of 1 despite there being obviously 2 people in front of her; (2) found out what time the trains departed; (3) gotten seat reservations (apparently compulsory for international travel); and (4) found out that the train actually departed from a different station to the one we purchased the tickets from!

3. Attractions – there are a few good attractions in Prague; after all, it does have a tremendous amount of history.  I suppose that’s what attracts the tourists.  However, there was nothing overly exciting about what I saw in Prague.  The number 1 attraction, Prague Castle, was just average in my opinion, but it was probably because I had seen much more spectacular places elsewhere.  The view over the city from outside the Castle walls was worthwhile though.  The next best attraction would be Charles Bridge, with its many sculptures along the sides.  Apart from those 2 I would struggle to find anything else worth recommending, maybe except a quick peek at the Astronominal Clock and Tyn Church.

4. Rip-offs – probably the most irritating thing about Prague is how the locals try to rip off foreigners.  This was something I had read before, but I didn’t expect it to be so prevalent.  All I will say is that when in Prague, you need to be extra careful.  Read every receipt, every bill, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Check prices beforehand and make sure there are no hidden costs or charges.  Ensure, even in what may look like a respectable restaurant, that the waiter has not tampered with the bill, ‘miscalculated’ or added things that aren’t supposed to be there.  Be very wary of ‘service charges’ that magically appear out of nowhere.  We were caught off-guard by that one at this recommended restaurant called Sherwood on Opletalova (food was very salty), where the waiter added a 15% ‘service charge’ to our bill as though it was restaurant policy (even though the amount didn’t even appear on the bill).

We were almost ripped off at Prague Castle too, where we were strongly recommended to purchase the audio guide (which actually cost more than the entry tickets!) because there were no English explanations anywhere (which turned out to be untrue) and because otherwise we would have to wait in line for up to an hour to enter St Vitus Cathedral (we waited for about 1 minute to get in).

I also read elsewhere that train conductors have a tendency to try and intimidate foreigners by pretending there is something wrong with their ticket and insisting further payment or a fine.  I thought it was an exaggeration before but now I don’t find it hard to believe.

On the plus side though the prices were relatively cheap compared to most other European cities I’ve visited, and the food was pretty good in general.

Anyway, that was my first experience of Prague.  Unfair?  Perhaps.  I’m sure there are many out there who absolutely adore the place and with good reason too, but I found the city rather unappealing.  Much of it probably has to do with the local attitude towards the tourists that keep invading their city!  Can’t say I blame them.

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Comments»

1. Pictures of Prague: Part I « About Writing - The Personal Blog of An Aspiring Writer - April 17, 2009

[…] Cathedral, Fujifilm, FinePix trackback My blog has been going haywire the last couple of days over my post about Prague being overrated.  Upon closer inspection I realised that a lot of people were actually looking for pictures of the […]

2. Pictures of Prague: Part II « About Writing - The Personal Blog of An Aspiring Writer - April 17, 2009

[…] Now looking back at these photos, Prague does seem like a beautiful city, doesn’t it?  However, I stand by my earlier statement that Prague is overrated! […]

3. Matt - April 18, 2009

i actually agree with most of your comments based on my own experience. prague station does look very rundown. yeah u have to be wary of those extra charges – i think its “standard” in prague to do that. they also charged us for bread when we didnt have any.

having said that though, i thought some parts of the city were beautiful and i like the medieval feel to it. its cheaper than most european cities (the further east you head), but i think its still developing its tourism industry as are most eastern european countries.

pacejmiller - April 18, 2009

Yeah they are a bit sneaky over there like that. Now looking at the photos the city does look quite pretty, but I think a lot depends on where you’ve been and what you’ve already seen. After a while, a lot of the European cities seem to melt into one, especially the ones with a lot of cathedrals!

4. jaime - May 6, 2009

Thank you!! I was just in Prague and upon return have expressed similar feelings to those above about my experience (all RIGHT-on, in my opinion) and am met with the most appalled responses. How could one not LOVE, further, how you YOU not LOVE Prague!!???!!?

OVER. RATED. I almost feel I should go back with a more scrutinous eye to see what I missed the first time around but would hate to be disappointed again.

pacejmiller - May 6, 2009

Thanks for commenting! I guess people just have different experiences, but I was truly disappointed when I went. I just put up a post of my thoughts on TripAdvisor’s annual survey on European cities and Prague didn’t make the top 3 for most overrated (but nor did it make the list for underrated!).

5. Thoughts on TripAdvisor’s Best and Worst of Europe « About Writing - The Personal Blog of An Aspiring Writer - May 6, 2009

[…] I didn’t get to visit.  In my personal opinion, I thought Prague was hugely overrated.  I even devoted an entire post to it.  The other place that disappointed me a bit was Bruges.  People rave about how it is a Medieval […]

6. My European Adventure Round-up « About Writing – The Personal Blog of An Aspiring Writer - June 6, 2009

[…] surprises here because I just posted a rant about Prague.  It’s probably the only place out of all the places we went to that I found […]

7. Helena - June 21, 2009

Hi, I just read your comments and even though I’m Czech and should be proud of our capital, most of that you say is true.
Yes, train stations are old and sometimes dirty. Even the Main/Central Train Station (Hlavni nadrazi) and the Main Bus Terminal (Florenc). There have been plans for reconstructions but only a few of them are carried out (e.g. Florenc is just being rebuilt). I guess money is the main issue.
As far as people unfriendliness is concerned, I believe that people would be glad to help you, but Czechs are often shy and especially the elderly cannot speak English. My advise would be to ask people younger than 35 for help (most of them took English classes at school) and also people with that “business” or “educated” look. You’ll probably won’t get help from bus/tram drivers, people behind counters, because very often they just don’t speak English.
Bus/train tickets for the most popular destinations (domestic, international) you can also buy in travel agencies’ offices such as Student Agency or Asiana Travel throughout Prague. There are no extra fees (as far as I know), no lines, no stress and usually the employees speak English. In the Main Train Station (Hlavni nadrazi), I guess on the 2nd floor, there is a travel agency office (unfortunately I cannot remember the name) and you can buy train tickets there (no stress, no lines).
To rip off tourist is unfortunately a common practice especially downtown. Please never ever pay for what you didn’t order, always complain, always ask them to show you where any note about fees is in a written form. Don’t even hesitate to threaten them with a Police calling (911 or 158) or ask for a manager. Do not let them to trash you. They always have to give you a receipt/bill (with all the items) and remember in the Czech Republic it’s not a common practice to give tips if you’re not satisfied with the service (unlike in USA).
Attractions – yes, we maybe do not have utterly breath taking tourist attractions in Prague (no Disney World ;-), but Prague is not about that. It is about the atmosphere. It’ s a city with a long history and the best way to find a beauty of this city is to see the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Staromestske namesti (Old Town Square) and then to throw away the travel guide and just stroll, get lost. Take the side narrow streets, not only the streets of which you can read in guides and you’ll find marvelous hidden parks, cafes, tea houses, pubs, beautiful old houses, cemeteries… It’s a city for romantics and dreamers (and also beer lovers ;-). Places like Kampa, Mala Strana, Zidovske mesto (Jewish town and cemetery), Vysehrad, parks such as Petrin (with Petrin’s tower), Stromovka are the places I like. But unfortunately one, two days are probably not enough to fell in love with Prague, especially if you don’t know the town and don’t know its hidden jewels. The best way to explore the town is of course to know someone local.
Just please do not forget, that until 1989 we were a communist country with a strong Russian influence and event though it’s gonna be 20 years in November, we’re still recovering. Trust me, those times were grey, dull and gloomy and you wouldn’t like Prague at all ;-)
I’m very sorry that you didn’t have a good time, just maybe someday give it another try ;-)

pacejmiller - June 21, 2009

Thanks for commenting! I certainly did not intend to discourage anyone from going to Prague or insult anyone from there – it was just a personal experience that probably had a lot to do with circumstance and bad luck. With the reputation that Prague has it seems my opinion is in the minority anyway. That said, it’s refreshing to see someone defending their home country rather than trashing it!

mitch - June 26, 2009

i think you have a city similar to prague there in UK – it is london. and please, don´t tell me london is nicer and brighter and cheaper and cleaner – i spent there a few years unfortunately. anyway, you are talking about the prague, but you admit you spent there one (1!) and a half day. which is nothing. when you come to prague for the first time, you can´t see what it is really like. you are moving with other donkeys (pardon me, first-time tourists) through streets full of other donkeys and expensive restaurants, shops etc. when you come there for the second, third etc. time, you find places with no donkeys, just locals. all friendly, all english speaking, all willing to help.

pacejmiller - June 26, 2009

Thanks for commenting! As someone who has been to London quite a few times I must say I agree. It’s insanely expensive and ridiculously dirty, especially if you’ve been in the Tube. But I think as you pointed out I was barely in Prague, so it was really just a first impression, and very much a tourist one. The language barrier was probably also a contributing factor. That said, it’s going to be hard for me to head back there in the near future.

mitch - June 26, 2009

one more thing i forgot – to have a czech or slovak friend who guides you there in prague is priceless!

Ripon - September 4, 2009

i agree with it..I have vited Prague in 199 and felt the same too. People there do not like tourists and they do not offer any help at all. i think Prague needs to be little friendly ith the outside world. They need to learn there are people who live in the same world and they are not prague residents. there are other countries too that exist in the world map. sorry to say that but this is how i felt about people in Prague

Mike - June 4, 2010

A strong Russian influence is not an excuse. The waiters dont try and rip you off in Moscow. Czechs are thieving scum. Its got nothing to do with the Russians although you are both a miserble fucking race of people!

pacejmiller - June 4, 2010

That’s a bit harsh…

Betty - August 21, 2011

What a pity to read so many unpleasant things about a city I am in love with! I am now 63 and when I was 17 I studied the Czech language in my country just for the pleasure of speaking the language of a country I loved because of its famous writers and composers. And I couldn’t visit it until last month. Yes, after so many years my dream came true! And unlike so many people who have written here before me, it didn´t disappoint me at all! On the contrary, it was much more beyond my expectations. I didn´t pay too much attention to all those details concerning whether the station was clean or dirty. I was just admiring the magnificent buildings (as my daughter said: “wherever you turn your head you see beauty”), jewels of architecture that you hardly find in any other city. Prague has to be proud of the architects who created such beautiful buildings. OMG, what other city in the world has such amount of castles, palaces, gardens? It looks like the whole city you see from Vysehrad, where everything started, is plenty of history and culture! Those famous cities we all know have maybe a quarter or two where you can find extraordinary places or buildings. Or maybe it is a small area, just that. I have traveled too. But when I do, I try to find the good things in a city, not the bad ones. Bad things and dirt is everywhere. There is no ideal city. New York disappointed me because of the beggers and the many people wandering around despite Tiffany’s or Central Park. But I don’t think it is overrated just because of that. Prague is the golden city, yes, it is. And as you say, it was a communist country and that has to be taken into consideration when we see things that shouldn’t be the way they are. But despite that, and in my opinion that is a challenge Prague is trying to meet, it welcomes tourists from all over the world who go there because there is culture and beauty in there. Be proud of being Czech! We, people who love that city are the great majority of visitors. And of course than in one day and a half you shouldn´t even dare to give an opinion of a city you just don’t know at all! Na shledanou!

8. PM - June 24, 2009

couldn’t agree more about the people in prague. i normally hate anyone passing an all-encompassing judgement about an entire group of people, but jeez – i’ve never in my life come across a more cold, unfriendly, unhelpful and miserable bunch of people. they seemed really annoyed that anyone wanted to see their city. what’s more, my husband and i had the brilliant idea of getting off the beaten path to go hang out with the locals. people STARED at us and made comments laughing, pointing, looking at us again. the whole time, i was thinking, “er, i can see you…” – i’m brown and my husband is white. i initially wondered if that was it. but we bumped into three swede girls we were on the train with from budapest and they had similar stories. no one would help us at the train station. on the street. anywhere. there was one shopkeeper who refused to look at me or talk with me and wouldn’t sell me anything. he just ignored me till i left his store.

all that said, i couldn’t agree less about the city itself. i thought it was beautiful and quite a miracle about how splendidly things had been kept up. it all looked unreal to me and i would visit again in a heartbeat. despite everything. crazy? well, i’m a sucker for old beautiful cities with gorgeous churches. i wish we could have spent a few more days there. we had a great tour guide on our 3 hour walking tour (a teenage girl from prague – maybe the next generation is kinder?). and the most amazing food. we really researched where we would be eating and had the best meals all three days we were there.

the czech tourism board should put out a campaign to help the city become more tourist-friendly.

9. Dave - July 4, 2009

I went through about 40 cities on my last trip out of my 10 other trips to Europe, giving each the same amount ot time and going into each with an open mind. What I found is that Prague especially, and both London and Florence as well, we’re very much overrated. For Prague, I just don’t see what the hype is all about. Prague has a a bridge, a square, and a large cathedral/castle. So what! A hundred of other cities in Europe, like Paris, Regensberg, Munich, Fuessen, Lucern, Zurich, Venice, Cologne, Budapest, etc etc etc also have this. So what is the big deal about the place? You can’t honestIy be sane if you say it’s the atmosphere. I can name a countless number of other cities that have the same charming, village-like atmosphere minus the millions of tourists crammed into a 6 square kilometer area. It’s like Epcot or Disneyworld. It’s horrible! And the only TWO bad experiences I had with the locals out of my entire trip across 40 cities was in Prague. Also, the food was mediocre at best and there is WAY better beer and food for that matter right next door in Germany. TO be fair, one thing that Prague has going for it is its music. I truly believe Prague is a place for a beginner traveller, like someone who just goes on tour buses or to the book store or listens to other beginner travellers, because they clearly have not seen much else. These are the people who fly into London (big mistake), go to Paris, skip Berlin for Prague (big mistake), maybe spend half a day in Munich (another big mistake), then go to Venice, Florence (big mistake), and Rome, being sure to eat the crappy food they serve at all the restaurants right on top of a square or next to a tourist attraction, and then coming home saying how amazing the food was.

As for London, it’s also overrun by tourists, and the really annoying kind, like the kind that only goes to London and the rest of England because they don’t want to go to other places in Europe in fear that they don’t speak English. They may go to Dublin or Paris, but that would be it. London is ridiculously expensive, the tourist attractions are few and not nearly as great as other attractions in the rest of Europe, and the food is crap. Also, the beer is terribly weak and I’d place it in the same boat as most American beer. Finally, you almost feel like your in Pakistan while in London. It’s also dirty as well as shady in many parts. Given that, why does everyone go to London? What is SO incredibly special about the place that puts it in the top 3 European destinations for Americans?

Finally, there’s Florence. Yes, it has an amazing basilica and some of the best pieces of art in the world, but what else? I even met with the last surviving family member of one of Florence’s founding families, and even he says the city sucks now. The city if filthy dirty, it’s flooded with tourists, it’s filled with a bunch of shady characters, a bunch of crappy restaurants, and a bunch of fake gelaterias. Also, there are literally thousands upon thousands of really annoying American university students attending college there who represent the worst of the worst. They are clearly not there to study abroad, but rather to shop abroad. If you say Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, it’s not anywhere close to the beautiful parts of Tuscany, which rest about 60 miles south. Siena is a much better gateway city to Tuscany at its best. Out of all four of my visits to Florence, my accomodation has always been awful.

All I wish for is that for people who haven’t really left their closet, that they perhaps explore other cities off the touristy path that offer everything that Prague, Florence, and London have, but so much more authenticity and so much less trash that comes with a city overrun by tourists.

Tomas - July 13, 2009

I would really like to know, what is the best place for you!! :) Because I cant agree with you that Prague is a place for travellers beginners..If I compare Prague to Paris..I would say that Prague is a little Paris..I have been to Paris..and I was littlebit dissapointed and what was the reason? Everything I saw in Paris I have already seen in Prague..but in a smaller form..big river, big churches, nice parks..architecture and old medieval atmosphere..narrow streets..plenty of tourists every day..Prague is a small Paris..and saying that there is nothing special about it is the same as saying that Paris is overrated because I have already seen its beauty in Prague before, so it didnt give me anything new…I think that the beauty of the city has to be seen through an everydaylife..so you have to spend there at least 1 week..best maybe 1 month..than when you awake in the centre of the city every day..and you see the routine..you feel the atmosphere and the beaty and you fall in love with a city..That happened to me in London..allthough the first impression was not so good…I expected more from London..but then after 2 or more weeks i Have known its hiden beauties its beautiful parks for example, which you cant see anywhare in the world and wchich are unique..!Every city has smth special to offer..What did you expect from Prague? The sea?? Go to Lisbon..Skyscrapers: Go to New yourk..standard of living as seen in Uk? Be aware that Czech republic was not developing for 50 years due to comunist regime..it is normal and predictable that the level and standard of tourism – organization, social or technical equipment will be barely comparable with that standards in Uk or in France or Usa..So dont expect the living museum if you come to Prague..It is not a living museum..It is a city with its faults, homeless people..cheap people..dirty..drunkers, but focus on the beauties and highlights of the city..Charles bridge and the Prague Castle is not the all that Prague offers to you..as Buckingham palace and Big ben is not all you can see in London..And the last thing ..Nobody is saying that Prague is undoubtedly the best or nicest city in the world..They just say it is lovely and you should see it, it is worthy that..And if you are such advanced traveller or touristic expert..what is for you a city that is famous and not overrated? I think this list will be very short for a critic like you ;) !

pacejmiller - July 15, 2009

Hi there, thanks for commenting! I think my experience with Prague was one of unfulfilled expectations. All I heard before was how Prague was wonderful, romantic and a must-visit, but when I got there it wasn’t what I expected, and it caught me off-guard. As for the best place – I liked most other cities I visited! In particular Athens, Rome, Munich. Paris is similar to Prague in some ways I suppose but the people I encountered there were really nice and friendly, and the attractions I visited were better. As for London, I only like it for its free museums, just about everything else is appalling!

Betty - August 21, 2011

Nice reply! Congratulations! What else could be said! I totally agree with you!

10. Hamid - July 9, 2009

Thanks for all comments. I am planning to go to Warszwa or alternatively to Prague since I have herad that it is the best cities in eastern Europe. I have been in Budapest for 5 nights and it was amazing and full of attractions. Do you have any idea about Prague comparing to Budapest?

pacejmiller - July 10, 2009

Hi – sorry I haven’t been to Budapest! Not sure about Warsaw either unfortunately.

Amber - September 8, 2009

hi, I’ve also been in Budapest (beautiful!) and I believe that Cracow is the better city to travel to in Poland, versus Warsaw. I find that the people there are friendlier, it has a nicer atmosphere than the rebuilt Warsaw, and it’s also close to the Tatry mountains if you like to hike. I’ve also been to Prague and don’t agree that it is a totally unfriendly city. I believe it’s hard to generalize an entire city culture based on a handful of experience. In 2006, I lived in Poland with my Polish husband and, what I did find was that, some Czechs absolutely do not like Polish people. In fact, I was with a group of Polish folks as we finished skiing and went into a place for something to eat and watched as our group was refused service. Funny how old animosities die hard but this is what makes Europe such an interesting place to visit.

On another note, people in these countries do stare at those who are obviously foreigners. I’ve noticed in Poland that people will sometimes become agitated when they see a darker skinned person but, fortunately, I think this is something that will gradually go away as more and more of these tourists visit those countries.

Brg09 - April 8, 2010

I spent some time in Europe a few years ago and visited Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Salzburg. Prague was my least favorite, but I LOVED Budapest. It seemed more lively and vibrant than stuffy Vienna or Prague. It was more genuine.

As for Poland, yes, I’d agree that Krakow is THE city to go to if you only have time for one. Krakow has that same medieval feel to it that Prague does, whereas Warsaw (which was rebuilt, as you point out, after WWII) has a more modern feel to it, which is understandable. And the Tatra mountains are beautiful, and only about 2 hours or so away.

pacejmiller - April 9, 2010

I wish I went to Hungary, Poland, Turkey and Croatia. Four of my biggest regrets!

11. Ultimate European Adventure Round-Up! « About Writing – The Personal Blog of An Aspiring Writer - July 10, 2009

[…] prizes for guessing that Prague was my least favourite city (see my rant here) but at least I can say that I may have just had some bad luck with my experiences and that I […]

12. K.S - August 3, 2009

why travel when the best you have is that something is over rated. Why not stick to notes about places you actually like, instead of putting others off when you are clearly in the minority. Most of europe is dirty with people ripping off tourists, you have totally missed the magic if you want somewhere clean and tidy with signs in English perhaps stay home.

pacejmiller - August 3, 2009

Hello, thanks for commenting. Clearly you missed the point. If I knew what every place was like then I wouldn’t have to travel! I have put up plenty of notes about places I like – Prague is the only place out of the 40 or so cities I have visited in Europe that disappointed. Partly because of the lofty expectations I had before I visited. As you say, I am clearly in the minority, so why should the opinion of one person bother you?

13. Kasia - August 9, 2009

It seems like the experiences you’re talking about seem like most european cities, because they are just so touristy and it takes more than a day to get to know them. I have felt that way about London and i spent a week there on 4 different occasions, so that’s a month all together. Especially the lack of help, even though everyone speaks english, they also seem to ignore people and act bothered when asked for information. And in Rome I found people to be very rude as well, although I did like the attractions. I come from Poland but I’ve lived in Canada most of my life. Polish people seem cold to foreigners as well, but they are actually very friendly and helpful people, you just have to be open minded when interacting with them. I think european cities have so many more tourists that people just get frustrated with them. Also, it’s a different culture, people have a different way of relating to each other. Especially after communism a lot of the mistrust and past still affects modern people. Before you travel to places like that you have to research their history and be more understanding of their way of being. It is your perception that judges people, not the way they actually are.

14. Irina - October 15, 2009

Prague is not only beautiful, it’s magical!!! We went there in February and my brother discovered that prices of cameras and memory cards were much cheap than in Spain (already cheaper than here). A paradise for photographers

pacejmiller - October 15, 2009

Thanks for commenting – the thing is, so many people love Prague and justifiably so (including the reasons you stated). Our problem was that we had heard too many positives about the place before we went there and it failed to live up to expectations. The same can be said for any city in the world.

15. Ondrej - December 6, 2009

Hi, I’m from the Czech Republic. It’s inspiring to read your thoughts on Prague… and it’s irritating. Unfortunately I do agree on most of your points. Ticket inspectors trying to fine tourists instead of being helpful, especially given the lack of English info on how to choose the right ticket… people trying to rip you off – and you haven’t used a taxi from the airport! I hate that. The progress is there, but it’s too slow. My advice: be well informed. It’s always the same, no matter if you’re in Prague, Budapest or Delhi – if the catch you uninformed, they rip you off.

About meeting unfriendly people unwilling to help… too bad. There’s absolutely no excuse when people who’s job is to deal with tourists don’t behave professionally. They shouldn’t be doing the job, also the management of the company is responsible for employing such bad people. But also this is geeting slowly better. And my advice: don’t count on a staff. Look around and ask some young people in their 20-30s. Most of them speak English and they usually love to help.

I completely disagree with “attractions” part of your post – I think that you’ve missed a lot of nice places. You’d have to spend more time. Even I, as local (although not really resident of Prague), like to spend some time in the centre of Prague again and again, re-exploring the places I’ve already been to many times. Of course, I try to evade the “tourists” places as they are too crowded and full of the rip-offs. My advice: use locals as guides :-)

pacejmiller - December 7, 2009

Hey – thanks for commenting! It’s great to finally see a well thought out, constructive response on my Prague post.

For sure, some of the problems I outlined exist in a lot of other cities around the world. And thanks for your comment on the attractions. I have a feeling I might have been too harsh. If I ever go back to Prague again I am sure I will check out more places and hopefully the experience will be better than my first.

16. edresearcher - February 23, 2010

Much of Europe is way overrated and far too expensive anyway. And in many places they really don’t like Americans, so they will try to insult you as much as they can. Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia are all very nice places to visit with a lot to see and do.

Jeff - June 23, 2010

I agree with you edresearcher.

17. sara t - February 28, 2010

I just returned home from a weekend in Prague and I have to say that of all the cities in Europe that I have visited Prague has by far the most unfriendly and outright rude local population.

This rudeness includes, staring, leering, shouting jibes, extortionate taxi fares, shoulder barging my boyfriend whilst walking in a busy street, attempted pick pocketing of our camera, spitting etc the list could go on all day.

I’m glad to be finally home, they need to stop letting foreign visitors into their country or else tidy the place up!

pacejmiller - March 1, 2010

It’s unfortunate that you had to experience these things! We didn’t have nearly as terrible a time as you did.

18. Michael Murray - April 12, 2010

I totally agree. I visited with family in 2008 and the reception was very cold from the locals. I have traveled all over Europe and I have never had any issues with friendliness until Praha. The city is beautiful from afar, especially at night. I told my wife when we arrived in the central station, Praha Hlavni Nadrazi, by train I felt like Jason Bourne where everyone is out to get you.

19. Paul from Dublin - April 13, 2010

I have just looked through your story on Prague and I am convinced that you’re an elderly, naturally disappointed tourist :). Some tourists pay more attention to the railway station dirtyness and communistic design, rather than the real beauty of the city and its citizens. This city has some disadvantages like similar cities in the Eastern European region (e.g. Krakow, Poland) as it has been affected by the communism – how on earth can you compare it to Germany that is one of the most developed countries in the World!? I believe that both Krakow and Prague are magic places, full of students and gifted people. What can I say.. maybe I should say it in latin: Historia magistra vita est.

pacejmiller - April 13, 2010

Well, I do feel old these days. Unfortunately I didn’t get an opportunity to go to Krakow and Poland (both of which I really wanted to visit). I’m sure you do find Prague a magical place, as many others (and probably the majority) do. From the experience I had, I didn’t. I mean, seriously, how could I, after having had no such problems in any of the other 40+ cities I visited in Europe? It’s one thing to keep a country’s past in perspective, but at the same time it’s hard to ignore the blatant lack of courtesy and respect we encountered. It’s a personal opinion, and as I said, it was from just a couple of days, so perhaps I was unlucky. But I can’t lie about what I felt. Well done with the Latin, but if you want to use it I would recommend you at least spell it correctly :).

20. Myra - April 21, 2010

I must say I’m a little taken back by all the negative comments, I am planning my first trip to Prague for 4 nights this summer, it’s already booked and there’s no going back. I’m very excited to be getting the chance to visit the city, I have always wanted to go to see the history of it, though I don’t have huge expectations but now I’m worried that all I will meet are rude people, those who will try to pick pocket and rip me off. I don’t like to go anywhere in the world with high or huge expectations but now I’m feeling worried…..I try to take reviews on hotels, cities, etc with a grain of salt and go forth with a positive outlook and make my own opinions once I have been, which I think I should continue to do, but I’m hoping that there are other people out there with better experiences than some of those above.

pacejmiller if those four places are your biggest regrets why don’t you go to them, is there something stopping you from traveling more? I’m going to London, Malaga and Prague – total of 3 weeks by myself because I love to travel and want to do it now while I’m young (I’m 28), single, footloose and fancy free!!! I’d say go visit those places, never live with regrets.

pacejmiller - April 21, 2010

Oh no. Sorry I didn’t mean to put you off Prague. The place is still worth a visit, but just be aware and be careful. Plenty of people don’t have problems when they go there and think it’s the greatest place on Earth! Definitely, take all reviews with a grain of salt and go with a positive attitude! I’m sure now that you’ve lowered your expectations you’ll find it’s not that bad at all.

And yes, a couple of things stopping me from travelling to Europe a bit more — one of which is that I live in Australia!

Myra - April 21, 2010

Perhaps you are right and now that I am going with eyes wide open knowing the good and the not so good that m expectations will be met. It just concerned me a bit to hear so many negative things about one place, I know there are lots of great things said about Prague but I hadn’t heard the negative. Though I suppose you get that anywhere!

I’d love to visit Australia one day too! Unfortunately for me it’s far as I live in Canada (Ontario) however one day I’m sure I will get there :) Thanks for the response!

21. Mr.Ronald Wengraf - May 21, 2010

Dear All,
I live in Paris, so I am used to tourists being badly treated, as they are an invading army. I have just been to Prague, and I saw armies of schoolchilden and students taking up the whole pavement. So, look at it from a local’s point of view. Also, you should realise that the locals do not have much money, whereas the tourists come to get rid of their excess money. I would imagine that causes some resentment.
The locals are not there to look after the tourists, they are not paid anything.Prague was a top European city until the Germns and Russians decided to rape it.
Personally, I got well treated most of the time, with two or three bad experiences, which I accept when one travels.
In a few days, I will be back for second helpings.
Obviously, if you go there expecting paradise, you might be disappointed.
It is cheaper than most developed countries, safe compared to the Arab areas of Paris, no dog shit on the pavements, and cars stop to let you cross the road.
My only contact with a government employee was excellent, who gave me a map, and wrote down,how to get to where I wanted to go.
I have no complaints.
Byeeeeeeee,
Ron

pacejmiller - May 21, 2010

Hello and thanks for the insightful comment! I guess everyone has a different experience no matter where they go. Before I went to Paris, all people kept telling me was how rude the locals were, so I expected the worst and ended up getting nothing but a warm and friendly reception. Conversely, for Prague, I guess I was expecting paradise, and ended up getting a rude awakening! And just so there is no confusion, I absolutely understand why the locals would resent foreigners. I would too if I was in their position. But strictly from a tourist’s perspective, that is still disappointing to experience.

22. mike - June 4, 2010

Yes Prague is the most over rated place in the world! Infested by thieving gypsies and swindling and disshonest Czechs. Corrupt Police also! Not a nice place. go some somewhere more civalised and pleasant. Anyone who says its good is just saying that because they think its fashionable to say it. It is far from the truth!

23. Mel - June 6, 2010

I will go to Prague in Nov, is the central train station safe at night? cos I plan to take a overnight train from Prague to Vienna. The train departs around 11:00pm, is it not safe to hang around in that area after dark?
I’m a female solo traveler.

on the topic, I think it’s almost impossible to be disappointed by Europe.

pacejmiller - June 6, 2010

I’m sorry I don’t think I can answer that question. Generally the streets don’t seem too dangerous to me. It’s more scammers trying to rip you off than armed robbers you need to worry about I think.

Mel - June 7, 2010

Thanks for you reply. I’ve heard the city is a bit seedy after dark and the locals hate the tourist industry. I hope they feel less miserable when I visit in winter which is low season, when the city isn’t swarmed with tourists, haha!

Jeff - June 23, 2010

Like they say you can’t please everyone. Europe is not going to please everyone. I’m sure they are people that have been disappointed with there travels to Europe. There are also those that have no interest in going to Europe.

pacejmiller - June 23, 2010

Great comment. And you are absolutely right.

24. Lukáš - June 8, 2010

Hi, I am from Prague. I must say that you speak from ignorance. Let me tell you some information about us. I hate to see when someone is talking about things they do not understand. At the start of some data on the Czech Republic:
HDI – human development index – a very high
GDP per capita: 24 093,-USD (more than Portugal, Israel, and South Korea)
GDP, total – 36 world’s largest economy (as large as Ukraine, with the difference that we are 4 times less, bigger than Norway)
Czech Republic is 13 safest place on earth. In per capita terms there are very few murders, compared to Western Europe and the USA.
Czech Republic produces more cars than Italy. In per capita terms they produce most of the world.
Region Praha (Prague, including the countryside) is 7 richest region of Europe.
GDP per capita in Prague is close to 50 000, – USD. Is much greater than is standard in most European countries.
Unemployment in the outskirts of Prague, does not exceed 2.5%
Prague has the most cars per capita in Europe.

Data from: CIA FACTBOOK

So you are wrong, because a lot of people of Prague is richer as you ;-)).apologizes to you is that you have a minimum of information.

pacejmiller - June 8, 2010

Ignorance often is bliss. But if it is the case that people in Prague are richer than their tourists, aren’t the rudeness and scams even more unacceptable?

Lukáš - June 9, 2010

The reason is different. In Prague restaurants, local people rarely work. Usually there are working people of the town far from Prague, or Slovakia, which is considerably lower standard of living. Restaurant owners do not even know that employees steal. Usually owns several businesses, and control is not perfect. These people still rob Cech. The average waiter could hardly earn 1000 Euros. The average housing costs are about 450 euros. While Prague residents working in the Business sector and industry, 1500-3000 to the Euro as standard. So the reason is that.

25. Lukáš - June 8, 2010

Czechoslovakia was the 2 world wars seven leading industrialized nations of the world. Unfortunately it could not comply with the Western Powers. betrayed and handed us Hitler. Naively thought that Hitler and also satisfy the Czechoslovak destroy unpleasant competition. The latter succeeded. Since then we experienced a decline. To make matters worse, after the war, our “allies” reproached the Soviets. Decline continued. In 1968 the Allies with a smile watched Soviet tanks destroyed in the Prague Spring and how the Soviets kill mothers, students, and innocent people. Only in 1989, we helped ourselves and Communists destroyed. Remained after they burned the country, ruined the economy and devastated the nation’s morale. So what do you expect? Older people watch on tourists disbelief. Betrayed them British, French and their allies. The Germans murdered us directly and devastated. Russians do the same. The people they are wrong and will be long. People over 45 can not speak English. Required only was Russian. Talk with them and speak Russian is well with them. You have no right to scold them. To understand what these people had to spend, so you respect.

The young generation is different. I am 29 years old, I do not mind tourists. If you know how to behave. On a drunken Englishmen or Germans do not have the mood, they get drunk at home. But decent people, are welcome. I have friends in France and the USA and I’m looking forward to visit me. Make at the Prague bars, excellent restaurants (of which there are many) put in place is a magical place, I will show them the beautiful countryside around Prague. Prague is not only Charles Bridge, Prague has so agglomeration is almost 2 million inhabitants. It has a beautiful modern suburb. For example Pankrác Budějovická Chodov etc, where the number of top restaurants and cultural facilities. Prague does not know for 1 day. I know her for 29 years. Still surprises me. It has its ups and downsides. Man she loves and hates. It is simply love that develops throughout life. Open your heart to Prague and she is open to you. And do not rank according to anecdotal experience. That’s not fair.

pacejmiller - June 8, 2010

Great comment. Thanks for providing the local’s point of view. Much appreciated.

26. James - July 6, 2010

Lukáš, one story is an anecdote. When there are many stories, it is a trend. Here is mine:

I got into Prague last week on a pretty hot day, and I was taking a tram to my hostel, and the tram happened to be very full. I happened to brush against some guy as the tram bounces around and he says something angry in Czech. I say “I’m sorry” in English because I just arrived and didn’t know how to say sorry in Czech. He yells “FUCK YOU!” in my face, chews me out some more in Czech, then gets off the tram.

Welcome to Prague.

Now, I could have viewed that as an isolated incident, but throughout my stay there I sensed a higher level of “tourist disdain” then I have sensed anywhere else in Europe. Even Russians were nicer. Every time I bought something or had any interaction with locals, it was always unsmiling, wordless, almost angry service.

They have the tram system all re-routed downtown because of construction and I ended up waiting a stop that I suspected was not in service because no trams were coming by. But there were some locals waiting there too… So I studied the sign and deciphered what I thought said that you needed to go somewhere else to catch a tram. I politely asked one of the locals if that is what the sign read, and this lady read the sign and asked me where I was going. I told her and she said I should wait there. Then they all left! After 10 minutes some more locals came by and read the sign, and I just followed them to another tram stop.

Prague was my single worst experience in Europe, and I have been to almost every country (the west, the baltics, the east, scandinavia, russia).

pacejmiller - July 6, 2010

Oh my, I don’t know what I was complaining about — you seem to have gone through a much tougher experience than I did!

27. Hemi - July 6, 2010

I lived in Czech Republic for one year, both in Prague and in Brno. I fell in love with the country, the language and the mentality of that people. Somehow completely different from the surrounding countries.

Mostly, I’d like to say Prague is not mindblowing for a tourist. The usual cathedrals and castles that you can see also in Vienna, Wroclaw, Budapest or other big city nearby, they’re not the thing that makes Prague special. I guess I had to live in CR to realize something inexplicable about the whole place. Many of the interesting things to see in Prague have already been mentioned here in the comments, and I agree with most of them, so I won’t add any more. For experienced and braver tourists, I recommend some other city in CR than Prague or Brno.There’s lots of small cities and towns with their own queer charm in them. And you don’t see that much tourists there in the smaller cities, so the people are more willing to be of service to the occasional travellers with true wanderlust. I have to admit, even I was a bit fed up with the rude behaviour of the tourists in Prague, as if they had been pre-informed about the unmannerly Czechs and to fight it off with counter-rudness. Meh.

Much like in e.g. Paris, you can’t expect people to speak English to you. The old people more willingly communicate with German or even with Russian, for example (I tried all three and they work fine, depending on the situation). I have to say they are generally really shy to even talk at all, so you’re well off being happy if you get any kind of responses. This is why I learnt the language myself. Now I’m fairly fluent in everyday situations and noticed quite a difference in behaviour very early on. The Czechs are impressed if someone tries to speak their otherworldly vowel-void language, and sometimes go off the beaten path of customer-personnel conversations, to ask about you or even compliment you if your pronounciation happens to be good. Towards me, they instantly became the polar opposite of the shy people that shunned speaking English.

That’s when I also noticed from the accents that definitely not all the workers and people living in the tourist-infested areas of Prague are native Czechs. So calling the whole of people rude is uncalled for, and frankly, ignorant. I got the same fuck-yous and cold shoulders from the Czechs during my first few weeks in Prague, when my knowledge of the language extended to being able to order in restaurants that didn’t have English language menus. And when they additionally asked for something like the preferred ripeness of the steak, I had to, to my great shame finally change to English or German to get out of the bloody mess (sic.).

I know the regular tourist will most likely not want to learn a language just so they can get more out of the city they visit for a week, but in any case it’s all about perception wherever you’re travelling. Learn to swim in the deep end, is all I know to say for people who really are interested in culture, peoples and history, Open-mindness and self-resourcefulness are something I find most tourists are in serious lack of.

But the most important thing, Czech dark beer is easily the best beer in the whole world.

pacejmiller - July 6, 2010

Excellent comment! Thanks — this is the type of response I was hoping for.

28. Adam - December 23, 2010

Pacejmiller, I’d be very interested to read a comparison between Krakow and Prague. I have been to Krakow several times and can’t get enough of it. I hope you get a chance to visit.

pacejmiller - December 23, 2010

Hi — I’d very much like to visit Krakow actually! Unfortunately it looks like it’ll have to be at least a few years before I can go back to Europe again :(

29. About Writing: 2010 in review « About Writing – The Personal Blog of Pace J Miller - January 2, 2011

[…] Travel Update: Prague is Overrated! April 2009 62 comments 4 […]


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