Since the early 1990s, Prague has been reborn as a place that welcomes millions of travelers from all over the world every year. As the tourists stream in, others flourish. Among them, the pickpockets, thieves and "businessmen".
Pickpocketing is one of Prague's most common crimes. We are sad every time we hear stories about someone getting their money, documents, camera or cell phone stolen.
An advertising campaign run by the City of Prague
in 2005 to try and reduce the incidence of petty theft
First of all, we have two rather contradictory pieces of advice:
1) Don't underestimate Prague pickpockets and don't think you can outsmart them. Many of them are highly skilled "professionals".
2) Don't become paranoid. Make sure you are still enjoying yourself on your trip. Although pickpocketing is a problem in Prague, just like it is a problem in many European tourist destinations, it doesn't mean that thieves are waiting for you at every corner. We have been robbed in Naples and Genoa, but never in Prague - knock on wood.
Czech police probably won't do much to help you if you're robbed (just like the police in some other European cities), so prevention is your best protection. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of a pickpocket:
|• Don't carry large amounts of cash with you. Carry a credit card and take
- money out of a cash machine as you go. Cash machines are plentiful in
- Prague and their screens usually come with an English language version.
|• Leave important documents in a safe deposit box at your hotel. You should
- carry your passport with you, but leave a copy of it at your hotel in case the
- original gets lost. Making copies of your important documents is always a good
- idea in when traveling.
|• Be careful on crowded trams and subways, especially in the historical center
- of Prague. Know what's happening around you, try not to find yourself
- squeezed in a crowd of other passengers.
|• Wear a money belt instead of a handbag. Although it can be a bit of a
- nuisance, we have found it to be a very secure place to keep our valuables.
- In addition, not having to worry about a handbag or wallet will free up your
- mind to fully appreciate the beauty of Prague.
|• If you are carrying a handbag, always be aware of it. Keep it closed up and
- hold on to it in busy areas.
|• Don't take out your wallet or money in busy areas.|
|• Don't change money on the street. There are plenty of banks to choose from.|
• Be especially careful in very touristy areas: on Karlova and Melantrichova
Car break-ins are the leading type of property crime in Prague. The advice here is simple: never leave valuables in your car. Car theft is also quite common in the Czech Republic although the situation has gotten a little better in recent years. To prevent your car from being stolen or broken into, always park it in a guarded parking lot or a parking garage. Don't leave your car on the street if you don't have to.
However, if you decide to park your car on the street here are some useful information about the street parking. If you do find a parking spot, you will pay 20-40 Kč (0.70 - 1.30 EUR) per hour using the parking meter. There are three parking zones in the city center: orange - 2 hour parking (in effect 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.), green - 6 hour parking (in effect 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.), and blue - reserved for residents and offices. If you leave your car parked on the street, make sure you don't leave any valuables inside that could attract the attention of car burglars. Car burglary and theft are common crimes in Prague and other bigger cities.
You will have better luck finding a spot in a parking garage where your car will also be safer. These are some parking garages in the center:
Divadelní Street (National Theater)
Králodvorská Street (Kotva department store)
The Renaissance Hotel
Hotel Prague Marriott
Opletalova Street (near Wenceslas Square)
Bolzanova Street (near the main train station)
Wilsonova Street (Garage Helios)
Unless you absolutely have to drive and park in the city center, you will be better off leaving your car at a guarded parking lot on the outskirts. There are a number of Park & Ride lots located at many metro stations outside of the city center, e.g. at Skalka, Zličín, Nové Butovice, Radlická, Opatov, Rajská zahrada, Černý most, Nádraží Holešovice. The purpose of these lots is to encourage people to take public transportation and therefore improve the bad traffic situation in the center. The lots are guarded and cost only 10 CZK (0.30 EUR) for the whole day. They close after the metro stops running, around 1 a.m.
Taking a taxi in Prague can turn into one of those experiences that can ruin your day. Prague taxi drivers are known for their shameless and often rude treatment of tourists and for charging prices several times higher than what you should pay.
Fortunately for you, getting around Prague by public transportation is so easy and convenient that you may be able to simply forget about the existence of taxis. Taking a taxi is a good choice when: you are traveling with a lot of luggage, it is freezing cold, you need to get to a distant part of Prague, or you need to travel at night when the metro isn't running and the trams and buses run less frequently.
Although the situation is getting better (and the City of Prague is working on it), many Prague taxi drivers are still as rude and dishonest as ever and will try to rip you off if you're a foreigner and "don't know the ropes". Luckily, there are more and more reputable taxi companies that you can rely on for good service and fair rates.
Here are some tips that might save you nightmares and a few hundred crowns:
|• Don't get into a taxi that is parked in front of the train station or at a tourist
- site. These are waiting for unsuspecting tourists and are known to charge rates
- several times higher than they should be.
|• If you need to catch a taxi on the street, make sure it is a real, registered
- taxi. The yellow roof lamp must be permanently installed and must say TAXI
- in black letters on both sides. The company name, license number and rates
- should be printed on both front doors.
|• Try to find out beforehand how much your ride should cost. If you're stopping
- a taxi on the street, you can ask the driver before getting in and even pay in
- advance if the amount sounds reasonable. If you're ordering a taxi by phone
- (always a good idea), you can get a price estimate from the dispatcher.
|• Once in the car, make sure that the rate on the taximeter corresponds to the
- price list posted in the car. If it doesn't, bring it to the driver's attention or
- have him stop the car and get off.
|• You have the right to request a printed receipt from the driver. If he refuses
- to give it to you, you can refuse to pay the fare.
Aside from property crime, Prague is a relatively safe city. The rate of violent crime is low and most areas of Prague are safe to walk around even after dark. Be careful on Wenceslas Square at night - there have been cases of trusting "love-seekers" being robbed of all their money. If you use common sense and follow your intuition, you should be able to stay out of harm's way.