Prague: Why plan a trip to Europe from India
Prague has always been a very popular European travel destination among some famous people from around the world. While many were frequent tourists, Albert Einstein and Che Guevara actually lived in the city. Home also to the famous 20th century writer Franz Kafka, you can also see the hanging sculpture of Sigmund Freud if you keep your eyes up while you walk in the streets of the Old Town, Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic is a must for any Euro trip from India.
The cosmopolitan city has always been renowned among young Indian exchange students traveling to Europe. The beautiful historical city has a lot to offer for Indian family travel. As an Indian in Europe living in Milan since 7 years, I have traveled to Prague twice to only love the fascinating city ever more. So what makes the “Mother of Cities” or the “Heart of Europe”, one of my favorite European cities along with Amsterdam and Lisbon?
Innumerable reasons including modest travel expenses make Prague really attractive. An evening in Prague can go easy on your pocket in comparison to other popular destinations in Western Europe. The value for money traveling to Prague can even surpass travel within India. But before we dig deeper in all the cool stuff you can do in Prague, let us ponder about all the popular complaints that tourists have with the city. No point in being an European travel blog by an Indian, if we don’t start with some criticism!
Two reasons why you should not travel to Prague?
#Reason 1: Poor Customer Service
Though Prague may lag behind in some aspects like friendly customer service, as an Indian tourist you will hardly notice the difference. Our Brazilian walking tour guide reiterated this point of being a local cultural aspect that the tourists would have to compromise with. It could probably have been affected by the 40 years of communism. A time when shops and restaurants were owned by the state and lack of competition did not foster the “Customer is King” idea. But nonetheless, the cheaper meals in the city can also be attributed to the same reason. You can’t have your cake and eat it too!
I myself had a very mean lower level employee at the KFC near Wenceslas Square, rudely refusing to allow my old father to use the accessible toilet. He expected my father to climb down several steps to use the Men’s washroom. Fortunately, I was not going to tolerate any of his mood swings or racial bias. I went straight to a very friendly young lady employee who was probably the manager. She let me know that there was no problem at all in using the accessible toilet while apologizing on behalf of her fellow male employee. As I accompanied my father to the washroom, I stood outside with a grin and had a very pleasant staring contest with Mr. Fried Chicken as he cleared the tables.
#Reason 2: Learning how to travel safe and avoid scams in Prague
The city attracts so many tourists from all over the world that it has become prone to scams and thefts. But, thanks to technology we managed to overcome this by practicing sound travel hindsight. The first time I visited Prague, I was hardly aware about the numerous ways I could get ripped off in the city. So before you decide to plan your Europe trip from India, here are a few tips that will make you enjoy the city like a Bohemian King!
Cash Withdrawal and why Cash is King in Prague:
- Never exchange your currency at the numerous money exchange shops. A lot of them charge a higher transaction fee with possible hidden costs.
- Always use the ATM of an official Czech or International bank and not just any ATM machine you may find which may usually impose extra charges.
- Use a Debit card if possible instead of a Credit card for lower fees.
- Do not pay using the option of “Home Currency”, but choose the option of “Local Currency”
- Do not get conned by someone in the street willing to offer you a great rate for currency exchange. Quite often in such cases you may be offered some other foreign currency that looks similar to the Czech Crowns.
Travel in Prague:
- No more worries about Taxi scam thanks to Uber which is really cheap in Prague.
- Make sure to have some Czech Crowns with you as you may be charged extra for paying in Euros. This one time we had only Euros with us and the Uber driver got aggressive wanting 5 Euros for a short trip that costed about 2.5 Euros or around 60 Crowns. The assertive sales man in me let him know politely that we will pay him 5 Euros but we will also give him a 1 star rating. Without hesitation he accepted my 3 Euro offer for the trip which was still almost like 75 Crowns.
- Public transport is also quite convenient in Prague. You can buy a common ticket for all means of public transport from the vending machines in Metro stations or even in any Tobacco shop.
Caution for Single men in the Sin city:
- Prague is so liberal that it caters to a lot of vices. I am not aware of all that the city has to offer. But without beating around the bush, I can tell you that the city has a wide assortment of strip clubs and other avenues of erotic entertainment.
- While the ladies may entice you within these establishments, they may also often approach you in the streets. An unsuspecting single male tourist would usually be delighted to be approached by a beautiful local woman. But just make sure that she doesn’t get too close to your precious personal belongings when she has you distracted. Travel safety is very important in Europe and you always need to watch out for pick pockets at the train stations.
Ten reasons to start your family trip to Europe from Prague!
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 1: Prague Castle
- The largest ancient castle in the world is among the most visited tourist attractions in Prague.
- Dating from the 9th century, the castle is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. It has also been the seat of power for the kings of Bohemia and the Holy Roman emperors.
- St. Vitus Cathedral: Walking into the prague castle complex, you are bound to enter the magnificent Gothic style cathedral which reminded me a little of the Duomo in Milan.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 2: Charles Bridge
- The Charles Bridge named after the King Charles 4 connects the Old Town with the Prague Castle.
- The baroque-style statues that decorate the bridge make it a perfect setting for photography.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 3: Old Town Square
- The square has a lot of interesting sights around and is also the usual starting point for the free walking tours.
- Tyn Church: The 80 m high gothic church is the prominent feature of the Old Town.
- Astronomical Clock: The third oldest astronomical clock in the world dates back to 1410.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 4: Wenceslas Square
- Located in the New Town of Prague, this is one of the main city squares with a lots of shops, Museums and modern fast food joints located near by. You can find a Starbucks, a KFC and even a Mcdonald’s.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 5: Towers of Prague
- Henry’s Bell Tower: The 15th century bell tower is the tallest one in Prague. Accessible by stairs and an elevator, the Henry’s Bell Tower features an observation deck that presents a fantastic view over the historic center of Prague.
- Powder Tower: The Gothic tower is one of the original city gates that separates the Old Town with the New Town. It was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century and hence is named as the Powder Tower.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 6: National Theater
- One of the best things about Prague is that you can visit theater at a very reasonable price in comparison to visits in other big cities across Western Europe.
- With top Opera, Ballet and Drama performances, a visit to a theater in Prague is highly recommended for fascinating cultural and artistic experience.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 7: Prague Churches, Jewish Synagogues, Museums and Cemeteries
- Prague has a lot of beautiful churches around that present breathtaking views from the inside.
- Along with the many churches, Prague also has one of Europe’s oldest active synagogue and several fascinating Jewish Museums.
- The Old Jewish Cemetery is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe and one of the most interesting Jewish historical monuments in Prague.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 8: Vltava River
- The Vltava river which flows through the city center makes the city of Prague more easily navigable as you can never get really lost in the city.
- Apart from the famous Swans by the river that have grown a lot in population, you even have the Dancing building also known as Fred and Ginger.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 9: Absintherie Náměstí Franze Kafky
- We reached the popular Absintherie a bit late in the night towards closing time. Nonetheless, we still managed to get ourselves some Absinthe served in French style.
- The fascinating thing about our drink was that it was served on the Absinthe fountain set with 4 taps. The Absinthe drinking ritual with the dry ice filled fountain set creates a wonderful atmosphere.
#Indian in Europe Recommendation 10: Dhaba Beas
- As an Indian in Europe, I was pleasantly surprised to find a North Indian cuisine based Vegetarian restaurant operated by local Czechs in Prague. Looking at their website, I came to know that they actually operate multiple branches in the city. We had ourself visited the Dhaba Týnská in Praha 1, Týnská 19.
- The unique thing about the Dhaba Beas was that you pick up a large plate with segregated sections which is popularly called as a Thali in India. You then fill the plate up with food from a Buffet and then pay for the meal by weight. Certain items like the Roti or the Indian flat bread, Samosa, Drinks and Desserts are charged separately. But you still can fill your plate up with several tasty and nutritious vegetarian dishes including Rice.
- Poor Customer Service in Prague, Incident 2: Though the food at the Dhaba Beas was really delicious the customer service was rather disappointing as expected in Prague. A girl in our group who did not understand the concept of the restaurant very well. Confused on what dishes she could fill up on the plate she had a staff shouting at her. The short sighted staff did not know that the Indian girl was visiting from the United States. Moreover she would have gladly spent a lot more if not for the rude behavior of the staff. Not only would she have recommended the place to her friends, but I myself would not have to mention the particular negative experience in my blog.