8 tips for moving to Prague from the UK. A guide for expats, written by an expat living in the Czech Republic
Once considered a tourist haven for people wanting a taste of exotic Eastern , Prague has become a hotspot for international workers wanting a less expensive and more inviting lifestyle compared to big cities in Western Europe and Great Britain. With a number of large multi-national companies established, a booming start-up scene, a reputation as an IT-centre of the region, and low overhead costs, businesses and employees are moving to the Czech capital to settle in and take advantage of the many benefits this majestic, historical, and up and coming city has to offer.
With this transition of international people coming to Prague, comes the need for relocating families and individuals to prepare for life in a new environment. There are a large number of challenges to be expected with a move to the Czech Republic, primarily being the different culture, an entirely new language, getting socially connected in the city, and expected personal and family adjustments that come along with such a move. As a relocation expert and expat living in Prague for over 10 years, I’ve come up with a list of questions that individuals and families moving to Prague often ask me, and provided answers to help better prepare individuals for the changes that face them.
1. Is Prague an easy city to live in?
Obviously how one judges Prague depends on which city one is coming from before moving here. If one is coming from London or Berlin, Prague will seem almost like a quaint village due to its much slower speed and smaller size. If one is coming from a suburban town, Prague can feel big and bustling.
I think the best way to view Prague in context is as a small city (about the same population as Birmingham or Brussels), but one packed with unbelievable history, culture, and architectural beauty. It also offers quiet neighbourhoods, incredible natural areas throughout the city and just outside the borders, and a high quality of life.
Younger professionals will appreciate the growing culinary scene offering an endless number of restaurants to experience and of course the famous nightlife that the city offers those with a taste for music, dancing, or just hanging out in a beer garden.
Families relocating to Prague can expect a welcoming and warm expat community, an extensive number of parks and playgrounds, child-friendly restaurants throughout the city, and excellent international schools. To read a bit more on how families can better adjust to an international relocation in general, you can read my article on the topic.
So to answer the question, Prague is a city that has something for everyone, but without it feeling overwhelmingly large, making it a very good city to live in for those that relocate here. It’s highly recommended to use the assistance of a relocation consultant to have an area orientation trip before arriving or upon arrival to help get acquainted quickly with the necessities of knowing the city.
2. Is Prague a safe city to live in?
Without reservation it can be said that Prague is a very safe city to live in. It ranks as one of the safest major cities in the world, and incidents of crime are extremely low. My personal experience and the sentiment shared with me by both newly arrived and long term expats is that it feels safe walking around all neighbourhoods in the city at any time of day or night (although interestingly some of the more historic areas such as Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square have higher rates of petty crime).
It’s always better to be vigilant for pickpockets in crowded areas and the occasional scammer often seen from a mile away, and it’s advised to not leave items out in plain view when leaving your car out overnight so as to discourage break-ins, but on the whole it would be difficult to find a more secure city to live in than Prague and most achieve that feeling relatively quickly after moving here.
3. Is the cost of living in Prague as cheap as people say it is?
The cost of day-to-day expenses in Prague often shocks people the most when coming from Western Europe and the UK. Eating in excellent restaurants or grabbing a coffee from a fancy café typically costs a fraction of the price that it would in Germany, England, or France. Theatre tickets for world class performances cost next to nothing. Travelling around the country and staying in small hotels and visiting tourists sights is often half the price of similar costs to western countries. This low cost of living makes Prague a great place to live in for those that like to have a hands on experience, as it virtually allows access to nearly everything without price ever being a restricting factor.
There is still a negative regarding cost of living, which is the expensive cost of property. Due to the newfound popularity of Prague and the increase in people moving here for well paying jobs, the cost of rent has gone up drastically over the past five years. Now the average cost of a studio apartment in a desired area is nearly 20,000 Czech Crowns (700GBP) per month and a family house with a garden often costing more than 60,000 Crowns (2100GBP/mo). Of course some areas are more affordable than others, which is why it is incredibly important to communicate with a relocation consultant and employ a home finding service before you arrive. This will allow you to make a plan for finding a place in a reasonable amount of time, something many people struggle with when attempting to find a place to live on their own in Prague and can take weeks of constant searching and navigating through real estate agents and home owners.
4. How difficult is the language? Do I need to speak Czech to get around?
Czech is notoriously difficult for any English speaker who doesn’t already know a Slavic language. While French, Italian, Spanish, and German offer many shared words with English, Czech shares relatively few. This means that you must learn nearly every word from the very beginning.
While this seems daunting, the reality is that most Czechs in the capital will speak some English. If you want to increase your odds of a proper conversation, find a person below the age of 30 and they are far more likely to be able to help or have a friendly chat. In a professional setting, English is mandatory, so in the office you can expect everyone to speak English.
It’s still important to know the basics of Czech, both for more positive interactions with locals and for your own peace of mind, so getting assistance to find local language lesson providers and getting started on a few courses is strongly advised.
5. Is it difficult to commute through the city?
Prague is one of the easiest capitals to commute in throughout the entirety of Europe. The average commute time rarely tops 30 minutes, with most utilising the many trams, buses, and modern metro system to get around quickly and comfortably.
On top of this, the public transport prices are unbelievably low. A yearly pass for the entire public transportation system of Prague costs only 3650kc (about 130GBP). You can compare that to the price of an annual London transport pass for zones 1-4 which costs 2020GBP (nearly 58,000kc), and safely declare that that Prague’s transport public prices are incredibly affordable.
If you do plan to drive a car, it’s best to have a parking space at your place of work sorted out by your company to avoid the difficulty and cost of finding a parking space on a daily basis. And when parking on city streets in your home area, you’ll need a permit given by the city. It’s best to use the settling in services of a local relocation consultant to help arrange this bureaucratic manoeuvre, while also helping you to arrange the annual public transport pass.
6. Where should I live in Prague?
The most popular areas to stay in Prague for expats tend to be Vinohrady and Vrsovice, which offer the cool vibe of a semi-urban neighbourhood replete with chic restaurants, inviting cafes, and plenty of green spaces to go for a jog or to lay in the grass and unwind. The more centre-orientated areas of Stare Mesto, Nove Mesto, and Smichov offer the buzz of the city and its numerous cultural activities as well as all of the major sights to experience right at your doorstep.
For families, the neighbourhoods of Dejvice, Hradcany, Bubenec, and Nebusice within Prague 6 offer quiet, leafy neighbourhoods and are all within the vicinity of the most popular international schools. Also in demand due to their family houses and quiet communities is the area of Pruhonice, which is favoured by British families thanks to its location by several British International schools.
A smart idea when in the beginning stages of finding a place to live is to stay in temporary accommodation. This allows you to really take your time in selecting the right property before jumping into a long-term lease.
7. Is it difficult to make friends in Prague?
Due to the high number of expats living in Prague, most international people make friends with minimal effort after arrival. The workplace offers a great opportunity to meet others that have shared your experience of arriving recently in the Czech Republic (note that it may also be seen as Czechia on Google maps, but this is not a popular term used by Czech nationals) and people are often keen to help you as you get started. In addition, a huge number of expat groups exist for nearly any interest, including language exchanges, sports groups, dance groups, and travel groups. Your local relocation consultant will help connect you with the right people depending on your interests.
8. What are the best aspects and worst aspects of living in Prague?
While everyone has different ideas of what makes a city good or bad, it can be agreed upon by most that Prague is a very “liveable” city. It isn’t too big or too small. It is easy to get around from place to place. It offers more activities—whether they be cultural, social, or sports related—than one will ever have time to fully experience. But what is agreed upon by all is that it is a beautiful city that often leaves an impression upon arrival, and makes one wish they could stay even longer than the time that’s been given to them.
This is the experience I’ve had and that has been relayed to me by the clients I’ve helped relocate to Prague. Even with the normal amount of hesitance and scepticism that is expected to come with arriving in an entirely new country and city, people tend to leave Prague wishing they didn’t have to, or in some cases, decide to stay forever.
Whatever your reason for moving to Prague, allow yourself the opportunity to get things started the right way by getting help from a relocation consultant that knows how to connect you with the city based on your personal needs. This can make an immense difference in your impression of Prague and hence your enjoyment of your time there.
For more information on how to do this, get in touch with your local Gerson Relocation representative at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Nick Young