The airport is a perfect example of a tourist trap. If you are hungry there is nowhere else for you to go. You only have a couple hours till your connecting flight and the armed security guards make sure you do not leave through the glass door into the real world. They have you trapped and the restaurant and store owners know it. They take advantage of this reality by raising the prices and milking as much as they can.
Besides the airport, Prague is a city full of tourist traps. Last year there were over 8 million tourists on its cobbled streets. It would not be an exaggeration to guess that all of them strolled along the Charles Bridge. Like the airport, it is a mandatory stop for tourists – you cannot claim to have visited Prague without being on the iconic 700 year old bridge.
Unfortunately for tourists, with its narrow deck and water on both sides, it makes a perfect trap. As mystical and magical as the bridge is, it does not compare to the magic of the higher prices on and around the bridge.
Beer is the Czech people’s most famous contribution to the world. Deep in their hearts Czechs believe they are the only ethnic group that can brew it correctly. For locals beer is an essential compliment to the hardy and greasy Czech cuisine – even a beer with breakfast is not frowned upon. This is why every couple of years when the reality of monetary inflation forces breweries to raise the price of a mug of beer by a single krona (4 cents at today’s exchange rate) there is a national uproar.
Let’s use beer to illustrate the power of Prague tourist traps. A half liter can of the popular Pilsner Urquell costs 32 krona ($1.25) at the supermarket. To enjoy the same half liter from a tap in the ambiance of a local pub it will cost you a little more at 35 krona ($1.37). But the very same beer, if bought anywhere within 200 meters of the Charles Bridge will cost you 60 krona ($2.35).
There are two reasons tourist traps thrive in Prague. This first is sites like the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and Old Town Square are mandatory stops for all tourists. A shop owner fortunate to open shop in any of these locations is certain of a steady stream of hungry, thirsty and souvenir collecting tourists.
A second equally import factor is language. Most tourists are weary of venturing too far out of the safety of the English speaking cocoons surrounding tourist traps. They fear the local restaurants and their foreign speaking waiters. And so trapped they are.
Fortunately it is very easy to avoid overpaying at tourist traps – don’t pull out your wallet. Prague traps are tiny islands with local Prague pressed close and all around them.
All you need to do to avoid paying double for a can of beer is to randomly head in any direction for 10 minutes. Suddenly you will hear a hallelujah from the church choir as the numbers on the price tags go down.
Roman lives in Prague and shares his tips and advise on Prague Travel. He invites you all to come visit the city of a thousand spires for the cobbled streets, the medieval history and a beer at a local restaurant.
And what do you do to avoid tourist traps when you visit a popular destination?