Published on June 1st, 2014 | by Ashley Williams6
The Horribly Awkward Metro System in Prague
In my travels and hops to cities across the globe, I’ve used a multitude of public transport networks. Some have been fantastically brilliant, others horribly expensive, and others downright terrifying. But all of them have at least been black and white in terms of agreement between you and the transport provider.
If you pay, you ride. If you don’t pay, you don’t ride.
This seemed to be clean cut, a simple fact of life, like death, taxes and Tuesdays.
That was until I found myself using Prague transport.
Now before going to Prague, Lindsay filled me in on the awkwardness of the transport system in the Czech capital and how when she had been backpacking as a teenager, she and friends, had been kicked off a Czech tram by a couple of thug like grannies for not having the right ticket and forced to pay a hefty 700CZK fine! So from the outset I was very aware of the conning grannies threat and the need to pay my way in Prague.
After arriving in the city and finding an elusive ticket machine in the metro, the system looked pretty straight forward, though a little mission impossible / steampunk. Tickets were categorised by the amount of time you planned to spend on the network, rather than how many different transport links you made. So in theory you could buy the cheapest 30 minute pass (24CZK) and hope to not get stuck in traffic and end up on the wrong side of the tracks when your time runs out. Alternatively you can skip the palaver altogether and get a day pass for 110CZK. We opted for the cheap 30 minute option as not only are we stingy, but we also estimated we’d only need a couple of journeys at most that day.
So after buying a donut for 9CZK to split a 500CZK note, gaining a pocket of coins in the process, we were then able to buy the tickets.
Click, clank, ticket done! Screw you grannies! You can’t touch this! Leaping on the first metro and second bus, keeping an eye on the time, ready to wave my validated 30 minute ticket in the face of anyone who challenged us! But my shield of ticket validated righteousness soon faded as I realised no one in Prague seemed to feel the same way towards commuting, avoiding the barrel roll from metro to tram commando like, in favour of a laissez-faire attitude to the whole experience of timed tickets, in fact no one seemed to be paying for tickets at all…
With no barriers at the metro or angry bus drivers by the doors, the ticket system in Prague was based completely on honesty, which it looked as if it was failing at massively. Nobody ever seemed to pay to use the buses, trams or the underground and I saw no sign of militant grannies attacking commuters. In fact when working out the system at a rare ticket machine, we saw over a hundred people pass through the barrier-less barriers and only one person used the ticket validator! Think they may have been a tourist too on a mission against the clock!
Ok, so people ride for free here. Whether or not they all had some kind of Oyster Card style pass, I don’t know, but it’s a little confusing as a tourist nevertheless.
“Well let’s buy tickets just to be sure..where do you buy tickets?”
Outside of the underground there was no sign or clue as to how or where to buy tickets, which for a tourist hot spot was quite surprising. In fact it took asking our Airbnb host that evening before we got any basic understand of the whole system. She explained that, “oh you get it from, how you say, news paper shop.” This led to an awkward conversation with a Chinese Czech shop owner who seemed personally insulted that we wanted to buy tickets from him!
So again we paid and rode into the centre of the city, watching passengers hop on and off without any intent at paying to ride. Maybe that’s just how it’s done here.
Now I’m all for being absorbed into the culture of a country, doing as the locals do and frankly if they don’t pay, why should I?
However, this lead to an emotional and theoretical discussions about the public transport system in Prague (possibly the dullest sentence I’ve ever written in my life) and the for and against argument for paying to travel in Prague.
|No one seems to pay.||But you still have to.|
|Buying tickets is impossible.||Doesn’t matter, it’s still the law.|
|I feel like a frube stamping my ticket when 30+ other commuters don’t!||
Saying this however, we actually felt so frightfully awkward that we walked most of the time to avoid the whole situation altogether.So for budget travellers, this could leave you wondering what’s the best money saving option? Of course, it would be completely possible (but naughty and not recommended) to ride with an unvalidated ticket the whole time in Prague and play dumb tourist when/if you’re confronted by a ninja granny, which might not fly with the strictest of ticket controllers. Or even ride completely ticketless. A perfectly simple but horribly dishonest method.
So in summary the real winner was a balanced diet. The money we saved not buying tickets we spent on beer and food, which we then burnt off walking to avoid spending money on the awkward transport network.
Check out this short video we made about our experiences with the Prague transport system:
What do you think? Have you has similar experiences of the Prague transport system? We’d love to hear them. Or if you’re Czech yourself, can you explain the system? We’d genuinely love to know!