How to Adapt to Public Transport Abroad: Prague Edition

By: Isabella Pereira

Transitioning from not having public transport or using it very little to being highly dependent on it can be a big change, but with some time you’ll be an expert!

Something that helped me the most was Google Maps. You can enter the location you want to go to where you are in and then you can arrange the time you want to get to your destination. This was a lifesaver as Prague is constantly undergoing tram repairs, so if I had not used Google Maps and thought about using a tram that was under repair I might have risked not getting to my destination on time. 

The feature above is amazing not only because it helps navigate what transportation is available and which one is not but also because you can adjust it to for example arrive 15 minutes earlier than you need to get there, which is something I did sometimes to get to CIEE so I could finish my homework or talk with a specific person. I also did the 15-minute hack a lot because I am always late, so that way if I missed “my time” or missed something at home I could run get it, and still be on time for my class. 

At the same time, something that helped regarding Google Maps was that it shows the name of the tram you need to get on. Let me explain, in Prague if you need to get on tram 18 for example, there will be two number 18 trams. Why? Because one goes one way and the other one another way. So Google Maps shows you the name of the #18 tram you need to hop on, so that way you are sure about it. 

Now, enough Google Maps. Another thing that helps a lot is traveling with friends or people from your program to the same destination. You can all help each other if you are lost, don’t have battery, or don’t know which tram or metro to take. 

Similarly, something that helped me when traveling alone in the morning for my classes, is that I would see someone from the program most of the time using public transportation, and if I did not I knew I had done something wrong or double-checked to see if I was okay. 

But also if you are lost or do not have battery to check Google Maps ask a local! It is so intimidating, but I got lost twice with no battery and it was my only option. Learn a couple of local words like Hi and Excuse me and then ask them for help. This happened to me during my first and second week of the program and they were all so kind and helpful. 

Regarding locals, be mindful of their rules or customs in public transportation. For example, here in the Czech Republic, they don’t talk frequently as they like their quiet time, so knowing this you will be able to adapt and not be seen as rude. These types of things will make your experience flow smoother.

Lastly, I would just say take it easy. Public transportation in a foreign country can look scary, and sometimes all the stops and information are in a language you might not understand. So gather all the tools you can like Google Maps or ask a CIEE staff for advice and also rely on your friends as you navigate this together.