A “gateway” between Western and Eastern Europe lies on the Charles River in the Czech Republic—Prague. It’s been a Western tourist hotspot for many years now. Many people consider it a city “overrun” by the Westerners. Ruined, and no longer worth it.
I’ve spent the last month of my travels here in Prague, and have had a good opportunity to contrast to a place further east–Ukraine.
With that being said, here are 10 observations I’ve made about Prague.
1. Yes, It’s Overrun, BUT…
That doesn’t mean you can’t find places that aren’t overrun. Yes, if you choose to stay in Prague zone 1, you’re going to have a drastically different experience. There will be hoards of people with selfie sticks, and fat Western girls wobbling all over Old Town (blocking the already narrow streets).
If you head out to Prague 2, 3, 5, etc., you’ll have a much different experience. You’ll get to meet some locals, try beer other than Staropramen, and avoid the throngs of tourists.
Of course, it’s important to note that Prague is a beautiful city. It’s natural to want to see some of the sights. If you choose to go this route, there’s simply no way around it.
2. The Reaction From Locals Changes Over Time
Simply put, locals are used to Westerners. And most of them roll their eyes at them. However, once they know that you’ve laid down some semi-permanent roots, they’re far more friendly.
Just the cashiers at the market below my apartment have done a complete 180 on me in the few weeks I’ve been here. It went from a general coldness that they show all English speakers to genuine warmth.
3. The Beauty (Of The City) Is Unreal
This is my third time in Prague, and I’m still blown away by how beautiful of a city it is. From the castle to the riverwalks to all the colorful buildings, it’s just a very pleasant place to be. There are a lot of beautiful cities in Europe, but Prague is definitely near the top of all of them.
You can’t really blame people for wanting to come and see it.
4. Cheap By Western Standards, Expensive By EE
Simply put, if you’re looking for short-term rentals—you’re getting hosed. And there’s not many ways around it. Prague landlords know the power of Western currency and know that the short-term stag parties don’t mind blowing it.
It’s far, far cheaper to sign a lease for a 3, 6, or 12 month period.
A meal in a nice restaurant will probably run you between $8-12 USD. This is incredibly cheap compared to places like Italy, Spain, or London. At the same time, it’s definitely a bit more expensive than places such as Kiev, Budapest, or some cities in Poland.
If you want actual numbers, I’d say it’s about 30% more expensive than Kiev. Probably about 10-15% more expensive than Budapest (the last time I was there was April 2015, so keep that in mind), and just marginally more expensive than Poland.
Of course (as I keep harping on this), it’s going to get cheaper the further you go from the Old Town area.
5. The Girls
I know this is probably a large part of the reason you’re reading this. So let’s break it down. The girls are hot. They’re not as hot as Ukrainian and Russian girls, but they’re a step above Polish women.
At this point, it’s easy to see that any and all local Czech girls living in Prague are basically immune to foreigners. You aren’t going to impress a girl by swooping in for a weekend and renting out a great pad with a view of the Old Town. In fact, she’d probably rather do almost anything but hang out in that area.
However, being a foreigner will give you some major value if you’re living there. In Colombia, girls will bang you just because you’re a foreigner. In Ukraine, they’ll probably at least give you one date for being foreign. In Prague, they’ll do neither—especially the high quality ones.
However, the same things apply if you’re living there (or coming back consistently).
Plus, it’s not exactly rocket science to be higher value than the drunken tourists stumbling around. Just keep your liquor in check, and avoid putting a GoPro on your head–you’ll already be ahead of the game.
6. Conclusion—Is It Livable?
When you come from a place like Ukraine, Prague feels much more like home. The English is better, and it has a more Western feel. You can find the larger supermarkets and other comforts that are often rare in the Former Soviet Union countries (Ukraine, Belarus, etc.).
The question is whether or not it’s worth it to deal with what comes with those Western amenities—high amounts of tourism and a general feel of it being taken over. There’s no denying that Prague has probably lost a lot of luster for the adventurous single man compared to how it was 20 years ago.
However, Prague is definitely a good spot for a digital nomad to settle in and get some work done. The internet is fast, the city is interesting, and there are good expat groups that put on cool things to do.
You could do a lot worse.
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