What’s the best way to get around Prague?
I hear this question posed in various ways by nearly every visitor. My answer is consistent as well: Prague’s public transportation system is a marvel, and should be seen to be believed.
In my own experience, there’s at least some kind of public transport stop (bus, tram, metro, local train) in a 500 meter radius from anywhere you are. Most places it’s a 250m radius. Which means that you can catch a bus/tram/metro and get from anywhere to anywhere quickly and easily.
A ticket on public transport costs 12 CZK (something around 40 cents US), and is good for 60 minutes with unlimited transfers in that time. So you can go from tram to bus to metro to bus if you need to, as long as your time doesn’t run out. You can also buy day passes or longer-term passes if you need them. Monthly, quarterly and yearly passes require you to stand in line and speak a bit of Czech, but mean that you don’t have to worry about one of the two drawbacks to Prague public transport. (The first is pickpockets, but they’re in every city.)
[Cue Darth Vader Music] The Control Guy [/Darth Vader Music]
These guys make money for themselves and for the Transport Authority by checking people’s tickets at random and in plainclothes. Since most locals know to buy their tickets, he usually harasses tourists who don’t know how to buy tickets and get on anyway – “riding black” in local parlance. If you don’t have a ticket, you have to pay a fine of 400 CZK (about $14).
So the best thing to do is buy a handful of tickets all at once and use them as needed. Another important point to remember is that you have to stamp your ticket. It’s not enough to carry around an unstamped ticket.
One of the great quality-of-life things about Prague is that the transport system goes 24 hours. So you can catch special night trams that run every 40 minutes. In winter months, though, 40 minutes is an eternity.
That’s why the newish Transport Authority webpage is a godsend. Not only can you see when the next tram is coming, but it will also make recommendations on the transfers you need to make (if necessary.)
If you have a WAP-enabled mobile phone, you can also get this info by WAP at http://wapdpp.datamobil.cz.
In recent years, many popular night tram stops have become magnets for late night fast food as well. Some major transfer points, like Lazarska (one block from the Narodni trida metro) have several fast food joints within staggering distance of the tram stop. Not a total necessity, but it sure comes in handy after a night of pubbing.
My favorite way to see the Prague at night, actually, is from the back of a night tram. Forget the poor mistreated horse-drawn carriages. Get on the 51 or 54 trams.