Change money?

Q: What’s the best place to change money in Prague?

A: Back in the day, you’d walk down Wenceslas Square and be accosted by shifty characters offering to “shenj manny? shenj manny?” Many were the horror stories of folks who’d get useless old zlotys or what have you.

If you can at all avoid it, don’t even bother changing money. Change booths are total ripoffs, and the banks aren’t that much better.

Nowadays there are literally thousands of Prague merchants who accept credit cards, and the big benefit of using a card (aside from not having to carry cash) is that you’re not charged for the currency transaction. Every gas station, department store, supermarket and hotel takes plastic, and most touristy stores take ’em too. It’s about 50-50 downtown with restaurants, so it’s better to have cash available there just in case.

There are certain transactions that require cash (both licit and illicit), however, and if you insist on having cash, I’d recommend using an ATM (or bankomat as the Czechs refer to ’em). Just about every Metro station has at least one ATM (many have one at or close to each exit), and there are at least ten I can think within 1km of the Old Town Square. Usually, the fee your bank charges for using a non-friendly ATM is going to be lower than what you’d pay to the change booths or to the banks.

One other ATM tip (aside from not pulling out more than you really need in a day) is that if you’re not careful, you’ll get 2000 crown notes. These are generally unloved in most stores and restaurants (at least the four-fingered-one-eyed putyky I frequent). So try pulling out 1600 CZK or some other variation.

By all means avoid the change booths. One friend here, a lovable swine (but a swine nonetheless) put himself through university in style with the money he skimmed off unsuspecting tourists.

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