Although Prague might be safer than most European capitals, it certainly has its fair share of tourist traps. One of the most visited cities in Europe thanks to its stunning architecture and world-class cultural and entertainment scene, it shouldn't come as any surprise that it is also very easy to overspend. On the other hand, if you successfully avoid the tourist traps, Prague remains a very affordable destination.
1 - Never Change Currency on the Street
Changing money on the street in Czech Republic is illegal, and there are many notices around the centre of Prague to remind people of this fact and raise awareness of the risk of getting scammed. Prague has no shortage of official currency exchange offices, and they often offer good rates. The only main exception is the airport exchange offices, which tend to have extremely poor rates.
2 - Avoid Concert Venues for Tourists
Prague is a truly world-class cultural capital, making it an ideal destination for lovers of cultural activities such as theatre and classical music. However, the excellent music scene in the city is rarely best represented by the concerts for tourists, often advertised by large English-language notices and people in 'period' costumes selling tickets. If you want to visit a truly excellent concert venue, try the Rudolfinum instead.
3 - Stay Away from Wenceslas Square during the Night
Although it is not unsafe as such, Wenceslas Square is a pretty unpleasant place at the best of times, and it is despised by both locals and expats alike. Although the City Hall has tried (and largely failed) to gentrify this architecturally fine plaza in recent years, Wenceslas Square is best avoided during the night when it becomes swamped by disreputable types trying to sell drugs or drag people into strip clubs.
4 - Don't Go Near the Astronomical Clock on the Hour
The astronomical clock in Prague's stunning Old Town Square is one of the city's main sites, but it is best avoided near the turn of the hour, when countless tourists gather around to wait for the bells to chime. It is also a perfect opportunity for pickpockets to catch tourists off guard, and it also tends to be extremely crowded even at the best of times.
5 - Keep Clear of Tourist Restaurants and Bars
Tourist restaurants and bars are clearly obvious in Prague once you know what to look out for. If you see a venue in or near the centre with boards outside in English or Russian (Czech may be present too), you can be pretty sure that it's an overpriced tourist trap with sub-par food and abysmal service. There are, of course, some exceptions, but be wary of places that clearly cater primarily towards tourists.
6 - Only Use Reputable Taxi Companies
Taxis in Prague love to rip tourists off, particularly if you take one from the street. Even if you get an honest taxi driver, rates still tend to be very high. If you must take a taxi, be sure to only use a reputable company, such as AAA Taxis, and call in advance to reserve a car. Fortunately, Prague has an excellent (and very cheap) public transport system.
7 - Get a Public Transport Pass
Prague's public transport is exceptionally reliable, and it runs 24 hours, with the exception of the underground, which runs from around 5:00 until 24:00. Tourists will generally be best off getting a 1-day or 3-day pass. These cost 110 CZK (€4) and 310 CZK (€11) respectively, and they cover the whole city day and night. You can purchase them in most kiosks around the city as well as from the ticket machines.
8 - Avoid Tacky Souvenir Shops
This one should be obvious, but many tourists still fall victim to the often outrageous prices in souvenir shops, which are often owned by Russians or Ukrainians selling completely non-Czech 'souvenirs' like matrioshka dolls and ushanka hats anyway. Stay clear of such shops, particularly those in Malá Strana and near the Old Town Square, and instead try some alternatives away from the main tourist routes.
9 - Explore off the Beaten Track
Prague is one of the finest cities in Europe, but you need to get off the beaten track to really appreciate it in its true form. Although there are still a few good venues hidden around the city centre, consider trying the regions of Vinohrady, Letná and Žižkov for bars and restaurants. They're popular among expats and tourists, but off the beaten track to the vast majority of tourists.
10 - Wake Up Early to Explore the Main Sights
Of course, no visit to Prague would be complete without a visit to the most important sites, such as St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square. Unfortunately, however, these areas of town are also extremely crowded with tourists throughout the day. The earlier during the day that you see them, the better. In fact, getting up at dawn will afford you the best possible experience.