Written by Hadley McCollester (Bowdoin College) Student Correspondent CET Film in Prague, Fall 2018
The first time I rode a tram in Prague was with ample assistance from our CET assigned Czech Buddy (a native student who is assigned to help out us Americans with integrating into life abroad) and in a large group. I was terrified and told myself that I could just walk everywhere I needed to be in Prague. For a while, the walking thing worked, but having to plan in that kind of time before 9am classes became a hassle. Let’s just say the main motivation behind learning to navigate the public transportation system became my innate desire to sleep five more minutes. Although there are 3 types of common public transportation in Prague, I only find myself regularly using the Tram System. After a month of using the trams at least two times a day, I think I can give some advice that would have made the whole thing much easier in the beginning.
The public transportation system in Prague has a few core rules that every traveler should know:
Silence is Golden
When you enter a metro station or step onto a tram in Prague, you may feel something is a bit off. This eerie feeling, you soon realize, comes from the lack of hustle and bustle usually associated with public transportation. To be fair, I am not from a city, and therefore only have experience with public transportation in cities I have been a tourist in (New York mainly). However, the general acceptance of quiet on public transportation in Prague seems to stem from a general rule of quiet in public places. Prague even has a city-wide rule of quiet after 10pm in public places and apartments. The passengers on the trams can often be seen reading books, staring out the window, or even just watching the other people in the tram. It makes tourists immediately noticeable, as they will continue their loud chatter when they enter the tram. It also makes riding public transportation much more pleasant and calm than I have experienced in the past. American public transportation: take notes.
Old Ladies, Moms, and Children
This may be a universal rule, and it makes sense, but if you didn’t know: when an old lady, a mother, or a child enters the tram you are expected to give up your seat for them. This is a rule I try to follow to the ‘T’ now. I keep a sharp eye out at every stop for someone who might need a seat. Please keep this rule in mind, as the consequences of not following it range from angry stares from other passengers to a tap on the shoulder from the old lady in question. Let’s just say I know this from personal experience.
In all of Prague, the public transportation system is run on the honor system. The checks made by ticket checkers (I’m almost positive that is not the technical term) are few and far between, but the fines are steep. I was told that an average fine is about 60 euros. When you enter a tram, you will see small yellow boxes on some of the poles. These boxes are for ticket stamping. If you get a short-term ticket, it will need to be stamped in order to avoid a fine. As a student in Prague, I, thankfully, have a long-term pass that does not need to be stamped. However, I am absolutely positive that the honor system is taken advantage of because I have been using the trams for over a month now, and have only seen a handful of people actually stamp their ticket.
Trams Will Not Stop
One of the first real warnings I was given by a member of CET concerning safety in Prague was about the trams. I remember, very specifically, a large group of us Americans were stopped on a busy street corner and told very explicitly, “Do NOT walk in front of the trams. They will not stop. You will lose”. From then on, I have been very wary of trams when crossing the street. Although each tram has a driver and can stop, they do not like to and have the law behind them if they don’t. In Prague, the locals know this, and only fear the trams. It is common practice to walk out in the middle of a busy street and expect cars to stop for you, but trams are another story entirely.
Hopefully these general rules will be of help if you ever encounter public transportation in Prague. My favorite things about the trams are how clean they are, how safe you feel at all times of day, and how they allow me to visit parts of Prague it would take too long to reach on foot. Just hopping on a tram with a good book and riding it to the end of the line is a great way to get to a new part of the city and really explore all of the little nooks and crannies the tourists never get to see. For future visitors of Prague, my favorite lines are the 5, 6 and the 9. I live in Prague 1, which is the city center, and these two trams allow me to get to all of my classes in FAMU and studio FAMU, my favorite grocery store, the best Cat Cafe in the city (yes, I said cat cafe), and my favorite suburb, Letna.