Prague Expat Essentials

Relocating to the Czech capital? Here are five little helpers that will make your move an easier one

A job, a place to stay, and a visa are the most important things to take care of when you move to the Czech Republic.

But what else?

Here are a few items that helped smooth my transition to life in Prague.


MOBILE PHONE

According to a German study carried out earlier this year, around 65 percent of Czechs have a mobile phone but no landline -- the highest percentage in the European Union.

That's an indication of how difficult it was to get a phone line installed immediately after the fall of Communism, but also of how practical and affordable it is to use a mobile phone here.

If you're job-hunting, flat-hunting or simply socializing, having a mobile makes life far easier.

Competition between the Czech Republic's mobile carriers -- O2, T-Mobile, Vodafone and new-kids-on-the-block U:fon -- is fierce, driving prices down.

Mobile internet is also available and, if you don't want the hassle of paying a monthly bill, all four carriers offer pay-as-you-go services.


PUBLIC TRANSPORT PASS

Even if you own a car or live in the city center, you're going to need to use Prague's public transport system sooner rather than later.

So rather than being That Guy -- the one holding everybody up by hunting for change for the ticket machine -- you could just buy a pass.

With a long-term pass, you get free access to Prague's metro, bus and tram system, plus České drahy (Czech Railways) trains within the city limits, and even the funicular to the top of Petřín hill.

And although prices have risen recently, an annual pass, costing 4,750 CZK, works out at little more than 13 crowns per day.

Cost aside, the downside to getting a long-term pass is the hassle involved in getting a photo ID.

As of August 2008, DPP was in the process of switching over to a smart-card system, known as Opencard, with a view to phasing out paper tickets entirely by the middle of 2010.

Because of this, Prague residents who want a long-term pass will also have to apply for an Opencard.

For more information, see the official Opencard website.


ENGLISH-CZECH/CZECH-ENGLISH DICTIONARY

No matter how serious you are about learning Czech, it's helpful to have a Anglicko-český a česko-anglický slovník handy.

When I first arrived in Prague, in 1996, I made do with a hardback edition of dubious accuracy.

Thankfully, technology has moved on since then and there's no longer any need to rifle though the pages of a heavy book looking for a word you don't recognize.

Several websites offer free online English-Czech/Czech-English dictionaries, but I've found these to be far from comprehensive.

Instead, I use Lexicon, a computer program produced by the Czech publishing house Lingea.

The downside to Lexicon, of course, is that it isn't free, but at a cost of 1,890 CZK, the basic Lexicon 5 Anglický velký slovník version -- compatible with PC, Mac OS9 and Linux operating systems -- is probably a worthwhile investment.


STREET ATLAS

At some point, you're going to need to venture out of the center and meet someone in the suburbs.

And while getting around Prague on public transport is relatively easy, finding a street address can be more of a challenge.

For that reason, I'd recommend picking up a street atlas.

The online mapping of Prague offered by the likes of Google Maps, Mapy.cz and AMapy.cz is useful, and the mobile phone version of Google Maps is a neat gadget.

When you're on the ground and aren't sure where you are, though, it's easier to leaf through the pages of a map book than to scroll around a tiny screen.

Over the years, I've got a lot of use out of my Kartografie Praha Prague city atlas.

Be sure to get the most up-to-date version available though -- Prague is changing rapidly and many of the city's newer developments are missing from older editions.


GUIDEBOOK

Even if you're here for the long haul, there's still a lot you can learn from a well-chosen guidebook.

We'd like to think Prague TV will be your main source of information in the city but we'll begrudgingly admit that there may be times when a book is a better bet.

Not everyone can be online all the time -- no matter how hard you might try -- and it's probably easier to digest large chunks of historical background and cultural context in a printed form rather than reading on-screen.

For an all-round guide to spending time in the city, Time Out Prague is hard to beat.

When it comes to trips out of town, the Lonely Planet Czech & Slovak Republics Travel Guide and the Rough Guide to the Czech & Slovak Republics are both very helpful.

There are also a range of Prague and Czech Republic guidebooks covering more specialized areas.

Avant-Guide Prague is strong on the city's nightlife, for instance, while the Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic is a must for pivo enthusiasts.

• Got suggestions of your own? Let other Prague TV users know via the comment form below


READERS' COMMENTS


Slovnik.cz is a pretty good (and fast) online dictionary.

Jan
August 7, 2008

Alas, you seem not to have offered any kind of a practical alternative to the big, heavy, limited-vocabulary hardback Czech-English dictionary that I haul with me every time I visit Prague. I'd love a little pocket Langenscheidt Czech-English dictionary. I'd love a pocket sized Czech-English dictionary published by anybody. To the best of my knowledge, they do not exist. I don't use a laptop computer, but even if I did it is not practical to be looking a word up on your computer when you are in the middle of a transaction.

Re tramcards: okay, it's hard to get a photo ID. Why? What is it you have to do that makes it so difficult? Also, a little bit of an English summary of what is on the official Opencard website would be helpful.

As an American hoping to move to Prague before too much longer, I am still very glad I have discovered this website. I am really appreciating all the information that IS here.


Barbara Spilka
February 6, 2009

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