Tourists are easy targets for scams everywhere in the world, and so it is in Prague. If you know in which particular situation you might be affected and you learn how to protect yourself, your peace of mind while travelling will be satisfied. As a tourist to Prague, the most common scam subjects are: taxi, restaurant bill and money exchange (read article where to get good exchange rate). Here we list the most common scams in Prague.
Scams in Prague Restaurants
Even though the current situation is much better compared to ten years ago, you should still be aware of this, and always check your bill carefully and you will be fine.
The most common scam is charging for additional extras like sauces, bread, rolls or pretzels on the table. Usually the menu will state that the price excludes charges for bread, but somewhere where it is hard to see. The simple solution is if you don’t want to pay for those items, then ask staff to take them away. Even if you don’t eat it and if it’s on the table then you are obliged to pay. This is usually not an issue in top restaurants.
Un-itemised handwritten bill – if you do not get an itemised bill, do a quick rough calculation and if in doubt ask staff for a detailed bill. This mostly happens in pubs, but in restaurants it is not usual practice.
Group bill scams: If you pay a large bill for more people it’s pretty easy to squeeze in a few extra items to your bill. Or they may do a wrong calculation, for example you should pay 462 CZK and they ask you for 562 CZK.
Service charge scam: by Czech law, the bill always includes a service charge, but does not include optional tips. So the total amount on the bill must be inclusive of 10%. Sometimes restaurants try to persuade customers that they have to leave an additional 10%. This is not true.
Sausage Food Stands scam: It has happened to so many travellers when purchasing a sausage on Wenceslas Square – they are given change which is short on both notes and coins. Do not be one of them, and remember that these mostly Ukrainian workers do it intentionally, and especially with tourists. Even if you immediately protest, it is too late. You might think it’s no big deal – so you paid just 50 CZK more – but if the lady does it to every second foreigner… Do not be part of that dirty practice and pay the exact change; that’s the only advice.
Having just returned from my second visit to Prague after a gap of five years I was somewhat surprised by the way city centre prices have increased to match the rest of Europe. It is still a great place to visit and our hotel, Hotel Rott, was superb. However, I would like to alert you to the high pressure selling taking place at the ‘7 Angels Restaurant.’ We knew the prices of the food were expensive when we made a reservation but the ambiance and hence the evening was ruined by being greeted with a waiter attempting to sell an aperitif of Vodka or champagne at a ridiculously inflated price, water was charged at £6.50 a bottle, canapés that were ‘given’ were then charged for, a bottle of the cheapest wine finished costing over £40 a bottle and a cover charge of £2 a head for a plate of stale bread that was not refilled when empty. Of course a 10% gratuity for service was demanded making you feel like a cheapskate as you were shown the door seemed part of the ritual. Tourists beware the 7 Angels!!!
Prague Taxi Scams
Prague taxi drivers are well known for their bad reputation. Quite often foreigners are not even aware that they have been overcharged, cheated etc. Or they find out when it is too late, or when it happens they are too shy to argue with the taxi driver, and rather choose to pay and consider it a “tourist tax”.
Apart from common practices of a cabbie asking you for a high price, there are also some practices which might be hard to recognise. For example, a fast taxi meter – the taxi tariff looks ok but, when you check the mileage travelled and the total fare charged it is not correct. This means that the driver is using a crooked adjusted taxi meter which charges more than it should. So, for that reason always check what should be the approximate taxi fare in advance.
Wrong tariff – the mileage travelled by the taxi appears to be OK but the price is highly inflated. Often this is inflated by a “luggage tariff” or a “tariff outside of city district”. The driver will probably have a good explanation. For example, taxi drivers working for a certain company set different tariffs, some lower and some higher (for example when you call a taxi over the phone they use a cheaper tariff compared to the tariff if you took a taxi off the road etc.).
Change – drivers will say that they are sorry but they do not have small change to give you – they consider it as a tip. Or they will give you change in a wrong currency hoping you do not know what local bills look like.
Another practice is the so-called “scenic route“. The taxi tariff and distance are fine for the journey but you went a lot further than necessary as the driver intentionally used a longer route in order to make you pay more.
We have also received emails that some drivers took clients to the wrong hotel, which may or may not have been intentional, but in all cases the customer had to pay more. So provide the location, not just the name of the hotel, as there are quite a lot of hotel brands with the same name but a few locations etc.
Money Exchange Ripoff
There are also other “scams” like exchange offices charging rip-off commissions etc. Please check this section for further details. ATM Scams – Prague has been targeted in the past for a copy card scam. The simple solution is to use ATMs inside of banks etc, not external ones. This scam does not represent a big danger as there were not many cases.
I must warn the tourists in Prague and other big cities about the pathetic scums who prey on unsuspecting bargain seeking/ greedy Dollar/Euro/Pound Sterling carrying people by offering them a rate sufficiently above the rates offered at other office exchanges. Happiness about the deal just concluded soon turns into despair and anger when they discover they have been given Hungarian Forint in stead of Czech Crowns. The 100 Pounds they have just shortly parted with is now worth some 10 Pounds.
Beware of plainclothes policemen looking for counterfeit money or investigating illegal money-changing. They approach tourists and ask to see their wallet. And when they check your wallet you’ll find that a substantial amount of money has been stolen. Or you might be approached by group of ‘tourists’ asking for directions (‘playing lost tourist’). Once you have been in conversation for a few minutes, two of the tourist’s ‘friends’ interrupt, claiming to be plain-clothes policemen and accusing you of changing money illegally. Again they will want to see your wallet.
If you’re threatened with an inexplicable fine by a “policeman, scare him away by saying you’ll need a receipt, or ask a passer-by if the fine is legit.
If you enter the metro (usually at night), you may find a team of con artists at the stations, saying they are metro clerks and after examining your ticket for some time that it’s invalid so you’ll have to pay a fine of 500 CZK (1000 CZK if you argue with them). So if you happen to see them, and you’re sure that your ticket is valid, tell them to call the police, or call them yourself.
Sleeper Trains Robberies
Be astute on sleeper trains, as bag robberies are on the increase between major stations. Ask for ID from anyone who asks to take your ticket or passport and lock backpacks to the luggage racks. Keep valuables on you, maintain common sense.
Some sex/strip clubs nearby Wenceslas Square routinely rip off trusting tourists. Lately this district has become the rage for British stag parties.