Monday, March 7, 2016

The Definitive Tourist Guide to Prague Public Transport

Good Job, You Made It

So you made it to Prague. Now you need to figure out how to get to all those amazing sites you've seen on billboards, guidebooks and whatnot. You could walk, because Prague is small, but why deprive yourself the pleasure of using Prague's public transport system -- especially trams in the summer.

Many tourists stick to the metro, because it is easy and efficient and goes to many places people want to see. Braver tourists, Czech and foreign alike, try their luck on tram number 22. That tram goes to the castle and many other places tourists like to visit, like Malastrana.

If you read this guide before you go to Prague you will be using public transport like a local and avoid all the dirty looks. I'm going to tell you everything you need to know to get your ticket and ride like an OG Praguer. I'm even going to use photos, so you can see what I'm talking about. Keep in mind that some metro entrances are hard to find. Just ask someone if you're not sure, but there will always be a sign with the name of the station, color of the line and an arrow telling you where it is.

First Thins First

First and foremost and this is the most important thing: buy a ticket! Don't be that guy. A ticket costs 24czk. The inspectors profile and look for tourists. The fine is 800czk.

Got it, Buy a Ticket -- How?

Okay, so no you know to buy a ticket. Where exactly to you do that, and how? You have several options. The easiest is to use a machine. You will find the machines on the right when you enter a metro station. Every station, every time the machines are on the right. Look:

Okay, so now that you know where the machines are what do you do? It's really pretty simple. Realistically, as a tourist there is almost no place in the city that will take more than 30 minutes to get to. So just buy the 24czk ticket from the yellow machines. The photo below has it all explained for you. 

That really is it. If you want 3 tickets, push the button three times. If you make a mistake or change your mind, push the "Storno" button and start over.

The F@#king Machine Won't Take my F@#king Money?

Not "if" but "when" because Czech coins aren't the best-made things in the world. It's simple, just rub the edge of the coin on the side of the machine. If you look at the photo you will see rusty sections on the sides. That is from people rubbing their coins on them to make them work in the machine.

Now that you know the easiest way for tourists to buy tickets I'll describe some of the other ways. You can buy them via sms, it's very simple but if you don't have an EU sim card maybe not something you want to do, because it will be expensive. All you do is fire up your phone and send an sms to the number 902 06. DPT32 will get you a 90-minute ticket. DPT24 will get you a 30-minute ticket. DPT110 will get you a 24-hour ticket and DPT310 will get you a 72-hour ticket. The number you text is the price of the ticket in crowns. Texting DPT32, for example, will charge 32czk to your phone bill. It can take up to two minutes for you to get a text back with your ticket, so keep that in mind. If you buy the DPT110 or DPT310 ticket you will be sent a text asking you to confirm it. Reply to that text with "ano" and then you will have successfully purchased the ticket. 

Don't worry too much if you forget what to text to what number. There are stickers on the door windows of most tram and metro cars, which technically mean's you're late buying your ticket. You should have the ticket before you start your ride. 

 The last, and maybe the most intimidating way because maybe you don't think you will be able to conduct a transaction with another human using Czech, is to go to a mini market, potravny or bodega and ask to buy a ticket. All these places have them and they are used to it so if you see a line of idiots who don't seem to be able to figure out the ticket machines and you don't want to send an sms, this is what you want to do. This also comes in handy for trams, because there are perhaps two outdoor ticket machines in the whole city, but almost every tram stop has a mini market or tobacco shop nearby. 

I Finally Bought a Ticket, Where do I Stick it?

You have your ticket by now, what's next? You need to validate it. There are small yellow boxes all over the place. They are at the entrances to the metro, on the trams by the doors and on buses. You stick your ticket in the slot in the yellow box and listen for the sound of your ticket being stamped with the current time. After that, you are good to go for however long the ticket says you are. As I suggested 30 minutes. Look at the photo again, see the text next to the yellow boxes?

Now that you're all validated and ready to travel, it's time to get where you are going and you need to know when to get off for that. The metro is easy. Of course doing some research in advance to know which stop you want will go a long way to making your metro experience more efficient and pleasurable. For trams it is essential. 

There are Two Metro Tracks, Now What?

Essentially every metro station has the same layout. They are central platforms with tracks on either side of the platform. The only two that are different are Vysehrad and Hlavni Nadrazi on line C. Those two have central tracks with platforms on either side. Honestly, the most difficult part of using the metro is finding which street exit you want, especially at the Karlovo Namesti station. I have Czech friends who say they can never find the right street exit there, so don't feel bad if you can't. 

Using your map or guidebook, find the stop you want to get to then just head down to the platform. It doesn't matter if you aren't sure which train you need, finding out is easy. Google directions tells you to take the train heading in the direction of the final stop. In my opinion that is just the name of a place you'll never go and it's a waste of time to remember due to how easy Prague's transport is to use. All you need to do is look at the sign board on the metro platform for the stop you need. There will be an arrow telling you which train you need. Like this:

When you are riding, as the train approaches a stop there will be an announcement telling you what that stop is. There are also digital signs hanging from the roofs of the cars that display the next stop. Over each door is a map of the metro system with pictographs of tourist attractions next to the stop names they are near.

When is my Metro Coming?

Fortunately in the last year Prague got with the program and installed countdown clocks in all the metro stations. Really, it's been less than a year since this has happened. On Sundays trains run every 6 or 7 minutes. The clock will tell you the final destination of the train and how long it will be until the train arrives. Like this. 

How do I Know Which Tram I Want?

I'm going to assume you already know which tram number you want. If you don't this could help you, but probably not. Unlike the metro, knowing the final destination of the tram might help a little, especially if you are going more than one or two stops. There are a few ways to get information about the tram you see. These photos should help. 

There will be a sign on the front, and back, of the tram telling you the final destination. Also, as you can see in the photo above there is a sign on the side of the tram. The top of the sign tells you the final destination, the bottom of the sign tells you the next stop. I really hope I don't need to explain what the number means. Night trams all start with the number 5 and their schedules are on the back of the signpost. If there is a night tram visiting a stop the number will be in brown, like the 51, 57 and 59 above. Night trams run at 30-minute intervals, don't miss your drunk-filled car because it will be a while before the next one. 

Next to the tram you can see the schedule board. It will tell you what trams and buses will stop there and where they are going. Also in the photo, if you look under the number 10 on the tram to the right of the man giving you a dirty look, you will see a ticket validation box. Now for the tram schedules. 

I hope you can tell I highlighted the important parts. Here is the breakdown. The stop where you are will be in bold with a line under it. EVERYTHING under the line is where the tram is going (hence the green box). The numbers to the left of the stop name give you an APPROXIMATE time of travel to that stop. If the stop you need to go to appears above the stop where you are, you merely need to walk across the street to the other stop for the same tram. You will basically see the reverse of what you see here. If the stop has a metro station near it there will be an "M" symbol. 

When is my Tram Coming?

Most days trams come on time. If you look again to the photo above you will see boxes with times to the right of the destination list. It doesn't matter if you speak Czech, there are pictographs to help you know what the days are. Workdays are designated by a crossed pick and hammer. Saturday has a "6" for some reason and Sunday shows a cross. When the tram stops there will be an announcement telling passengers the stop you are at and what the next stop is so listen closely for the next stop. The trams also have electronic signs hanging from the roof that should tell you the next stop.

What, no Buses?

You're a tourist the only bus you need goes to the airport. It leaves from Nádraží Veleslavín on the green line and is bus number 119 it takes about 15 minutes. There is also an airport express bus leaving from the main train station that takes about 35 minutes. Otherwise. You won't need a bus. 

Etiquette and Dos and Don'ts

Stasi-style ticket inspectors are ruthless, they will march you to an ATM to get cash to pay the fine. The often roll with uniform police in tow. In the metro they wear a uniform, on trams and buses they do not. On the trams there will be more than one. They will flash a red badge at you. If they don't have a special machine for reading the city pre-paid pass ask to see ID. 

If you do get a fine they are required to give you a receipt. This is the most expensive 90-minute transport pass you will ever buy, but it does allow you to travel for 90 minutes so that is nice. Do not let them forget to give you a receipt, some of them will try to "forget." I'll let you imagine what happens to your fine after that. Usually they are on "tourist" trams 22 and 18 but don't quote me on that. 

  1. Don't get on public transport, then decide that getting on is enough and  stop right inside the door. This is not a good idea and it pisses people off, especially the 20 people behind you trying to get to work who now have to push past your stupid ass to get to the empty parts of the tram or metro. 
  2. If you get stuck in the doorway, but need to go a few stops, exit the vehicle and stand to the side and get back on. Blocking the door because it's not your stop is rude.
  3. If you are wearing a giant backpack, take that stupid thing off and put in on the floor. No one wants to be smacked by your damned bag every time you twist a little to look at something. It is also possible that your freaking bag is so big that it is blocking the isle.
  4. Don't put your bag on the seat next to you. Come on now, this is just bush league. 
  5. Stand on the right side of the metro escalators. The left is for walking. No one cares how interesting the conversation you are having with your friend is, if they are in a hurry and need to walk the escalator your party on the stairs is really annoying. 
  6. Give up your seat to old, handicapped and pregnant people sometimes even small kids. If you don't know this by now please find your nearest adulting class and attend it. 
  7. Don't stop immediately at the top or bottom of escalators. Move to a place out of the flow of traffic to look at your map or whatever. 
  8. Old ladies will straight up knock you over in their quest to get to an empty seat. We're talking NFL-defensive-tackle-looking-for-a-sack type power and speed. Get out of her way, she will break you.
  9. If you see a mom with a stroller on a tram with steps, help her. See tip 6.

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