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Living in Prague
A comprehensive guide about living well in Prague
Many expats dream of living in Prague, and for good reason! Reasonable living costs, excellent international schooling, and a great infrastructure — there’s plenty to make living there attractive. From healthcare to schooling, our guide has all the information that will come in handy for expats living in Prague.
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Life in Prague
At a Glance:
- Compared with Central European cities with similar living standards, Prague is more affordable, with a lower cost of living.
- While Prague has a good range of private international schools, the Czech public education is free for anyone residing in the country.
- There are a number of both public and private hospitals in the city. Both systems are known for their high medical standards.
- An extensive public transportation system, comprising of the metro, trams and buses, connects the city’s various districts.
With its cobblestones and narrow lanes, walking through Prague’s old town takes you back in time. Sights such as the Charles Bridge across the Vltava River and the famous Prague Castle give the city an historical charm and have earned it the title of “UNESCO World Heritage Site”. Ranking 126th out of 208 cities worldwide in the Mercer 2016 Cost of Living Rankings, Prague is better value than other Central and Eastern European cities such as Ljubljana, Moscow, Riga and Bratislava. Numbeo indicates that the average rent in Prague is about 26% lower than in Berlin, 35% lower than Brussels, and an incredible 57% lower than in Amsterdam.
Discovering Prague’s Highlights
There is probably enough sightseeing and culture in Prague to keep you busy for every weekend of the year. In addition to its rich architectural heritage, the city is home to an endless number of museums, theaters, and art galleries. Popular recreational spots include Petřín Hill and Letná Hill on the bank of the Vltava River. On weekends, many families escape the city to spend time at their chata — a countryside cottage outside the city. Expats in Prague value the vibrant international community. A number of foreign cultural institutes, such as the British Council or the German Goethe-Institut also offer a variety of services and contribute to Prague’s culture.
Healthcare in Prague: Public vs Private
Prague has a good infrastructure of both public and private clinics and hospitals with high medical standards.
If you have permanent residence status in Prague, or if you work for an employer who has a registered business address in the Czech Republic, you are required to make monthly contributions to the public healthcare system. As of 2016, an employer must contribute 34% of gross wages to state social security schemes, 9% of which is for health insurance. Each doctor has a contract with a public healthcare provider and treats patients who are insured by that provider. Those eligible for public healthcare only pay minor fees for visits to the doctor and prescriptions.
Many expats choose to be treated at one of the city’s private clinics or hospitals. These can be very costly, making private health insurance an essential. In some cases, employers (particularly big multinationals) offer private healthcare plans.
EU nationals residing in Prague enjoy some additional benefits. EU citizens may keep their insurance from their home country if its complies with the EU law on public healthcare. The European Health Insurance Card will be recognized in all member states and provides its holders with the same basic healthcare as nationals. You may also choose to get additional coverage to be able to use Prague’s private healthcare institutions.
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Childcare and Education in Prague
Schooling for Expat Kids
One of the first important decisions expats with children face is what school to pick. While most expats choose to send their kids to private international schools, some opt for a Czech public or private school.
If you are planning to stay in Prague long-term, enrolling your children at a Czech school helps them integrate locally and pick up the language. The fact that university education in the Czech Republic is free for Czech-speaking students also makes it worthwhile for kids to learn the language. The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports has further information on this topic.
If your time in Prague is limited and your children will carry on their education elsewhere, it probably makes sense to send them to one of the international schools. Here, they can study in English (or their mother tongue) and follow a curriculum that they will be able to continue back home.
Czech Schools — Quality Education at Low Cost
Public schools in the Czech Republic are free of charge, even for children of temporary residents such as expats. In general, the language of instruction in public schools is Czech only.
However, there are a number of elementary schools in Prague which offer more “alternative” programs and have some experience in working with bilingual or foreign language children. Take a look at Class Acts, a community of parents of bilingual children living in Prague, for more information.
Additionally, there are several private Czech schools which offer bilingual education and are usually much cheaper than the international schools. One of these is the prominent Nový PORG Gymnázium, the first non-state Czech school.
International Schools in Prague
There is a good range of international schools to choose from in the city. The majority teach in English, and schools follow the British, American, Czech or other national curricula. Many also offer the internationally recognized International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.
The following are some of the most prominent international schools in Prague:
- International School of Prague
- Prague British School
- English International School of Prague
- Riverside School
- Christian International School of Prague
- Park Lane International School
- Deutsche Schule Prag
- Lycée Français de Prague
- English College in Prague
Many expats who send their children to an international school have the costs reimbursed by their employer. This is reflected in the annual tuition fees: depending on the school and grade, they range from 170,000 CZK to 520,000 CZK (7,600 USD to 23,300 USD) a year. If your employer does not compensate you for tuition, the good news is that you may be at the lower end of this scale as you could be eligible for a discount.
Where to Send Your Little Ones
In the Czech Republic, public preschools (mateřské školy) for children aged three to six are part of the educational system and mainly financed by the state. There are moderate fees to be paid by parents for the first two years, but the third and final years are free of charge.
In addition, Prague has an ever-increasing number of private preschools and daycare centers. Most of the international schools listed above have preschool and kindergarten facilities and accept children from the age of two or three onwards. Alternatively, Prague has a several other private international daycare centers, as well as Czech preschools.
Transportation and Driving in Prague
Public Transportation in Prague
The city’s fastest and most popular means of transportation is the Prague metro. There are three lines — green, yellow, and red — which link a total of 61 stations. Prague’s metro links are continually expanding, with the construction of a fourth line planned for 2019. Trains run in two- or three-minute intervals during peak hours and every four to ten minutes off peak. Keep in mind that the metro runs from five in the morning to midnight every day.
A familiar sight in Prague is the red-and-white tramvaj rumbling through the city’s narrow lanes. Prague has more than 900 of these tram cars, covering every district of the city. Other means of public transportation in Prague include buses and the funicular to Petřín Hill, a popular recreation spot.
Tickets are valid for all means of public transport in Prague, including the Petřín Hill furnicular. The fares vary depending on the length of the ticket’s validity, the age of the passenger, and whether the ticket was bought from the driver or a ticket dispenser. A basic single ticket valid for 90 minutes is 32 CZK for adults and a monthly pass costs 550 CZK.
Taxis with (Not So) Special Rates for Foreigners
Prague’s taxi drivers do not have the best reputation. There are regular complaints, especially from tourists and other foreigners, of having been charged more than the usual rate. Recently, however, the situation has been improving, due to the city’s efforts to enforce stricter rules.
Nevertheless, it is always better to order a taxi over the phone rather than simply hailing one on the street; dispatching offices will give you the estimated fare in advance. The good news is that regular taxi fares are still way below what you would be paying in other capital cities, and the city’s extensive public transportation system means that you shouldn’t find yourself in need of a taxi too often.
Driving in the Czech Republic
Driving is also an option for expats. Non-EU nationals with a long-term visa or permanent resident status need to check whether they must exchange their foreign driver’s license for a Czech one. Should you need it, you can apply for a Czech driver’s license at Prague’s City Hall. The standard fee is 50 CZK, but an expedited process will cost around 500 CZK.
International driver’s licenses are also accepted, but only in combination with a national driver’s license. Licenses issued in other EU countries or the EFTA member states are valid in the Czech Republic. Expats from countries bound by the following treaties can use their national license to drive in Prague:
- Agreement on Road Transportation signed in Geneva on September 19, 1949
- Agreement on Road Traffic signed in Vienna on November 8, 1968
The USA, for example, is not party to both treaties. Check to see if your country has ratified both treaties by browsing the UN Treaty Collection. There is good news for foreign drivers: though busy, Prague does not have as many problems with heavy traffic and congestion as a lot of other cities. However, Prague has its very own obstacles for drivers: cobblestones, extremely narrow streets, and trams, which always have right of way.
The country’s highways are toll roads. Drivers have to purchase a vignette, which they stick to their windshield. These dálniční známky can be purchased at border crossings, gas stations, and some post offices.
Getting There… and Back Again
Prague’s Václav Havel Airport is located a mere ten kilometers west of the city center. Václav Havel is the busiest airport in Central Europe. It is served by over 50 international airlines, with daily connections to major European destinations.
The city is also the hub of the Czech railway system. From Prague’s main station, Hlavní nádraží, there are regular connections to all parts of the Czech Republic as well as to Poland, Slovakia, Germany, and Austria.
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