How Prague Has Changed Over The Years
When I first travelled to Prague in 1999 the Irish pound had an of exchange rate was of 45 CZK, British pounds sterling pounds was 65 CZK and the US dollar was 45 CZK. I wasn't uncommon to pay less than 15 CZK for a beer even in the city centre. But there were no cheap flights to Prague. At that time one had to pay at least £250 for a return ticket form Dublin to Prague. Budget airlines did not come a long until Ryanair started flying into Prague in the mid 2000s.
Prague 1999 Vs Today
- Toilet Paper
We take for granted "soft" toilet paper, I remember the "sand paper" toilet roll too well. You could only buy the soft toilet paper in supermarkets. I remember going mad when I seen my flatmate in 1999 using my specially bought Kittensoft toilet in Tesco to clean a frying pan.
- No English
The servers or waiters in a restaurant or bar or hotel/hostel/Pension spoke very little English if any at all. But somehow their English always improved if there was a problem with the bill.
This is still a part of the culture but not to foreigners anymore. When walking into a restaurant you would greeted by a server who would say "Prosim" at least 5 times in 5 different tones before you would even get your English menu. Today the server/waiter will normally recognise that you are an English speaking tourist or expat and cut out the "Prosim" routine. I miss it though.
- The Tier System
As we all know during Communism foreigners had to pay a far more inflated price for services in Czechoslovakia as it was called then. A hotel that I stayed in frequently had a 3 tier payment system, one price for "Westerners", or one for Russians and another lower price for Czechs and Slovaks. But still today there is a 2 tier system for Czechs and foreigners at some of the restaurants on Old Town and Wenceslas Square's, so be careful.
Shops or Potraviny's had very a bad variety and you had to go to speciality shops called a drogerie to buy cleaning products and the lekarna to buy toiletries. Now the Vietnamese Potraviny's now offer a greater variety of products, somethings been even cheaper than the large supermarkets.
- Chinese Restaurants
A lot of Chinese restaurants in Prague were actually run by the Vietnamese. In mid 2000s, a lot of Chinese restaurants converted to Vietnamese restaurants and even more Vietnamese restaurants opened up in Prague and the Czech Republic serving the finest Pho and fresh spring rolls. Some of the best Vietnamese Restaurants in the world are located in Prague. One of the best is Pho Tuanlan (Fast food Service and stand up eating inside or outside on the terrace) beside Jiřího z Poděbrad Metro stop.
- Vegetarian Restaurants
There are many different types of vegetarian and vegan restaurants popping up in all over Prague. I thought it would never happen because the Czechs in general are such a meat eating nation.
The traditional "Hospoda" and beer halls are becoming few and fewer. The early 2000's saw the emergence of more and more cocktail bars. Today with many newer bars are trending towards serving and/or brewing a micro brewed beer.
The standard of Hotels, Hostels and Pensions has risen dramatically over the last 10 years. If you are looking for a charming little hotel beside the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, The Nicholas Hotel is the place to stay. If you want the flash packer hostel experience we recommend The Czech Inn. Sir Toby's Hostel has a more rustic and retro feel to it and Miss Sophie’s is a sophisticated boutique hotel which also offers self-catering apartments, and a separate hostel, Sophie's Hostel featuring all-girl shared dormitory room with their own kitchenettes and bathroom.