It’s a very familiar tourist complaint in Prague: being ripped off when changing money.
And even if you don’t change money in the street (please don’t even consider it), unfortunately it’s still easy to get a bad deal when changing money. In this article, we’ll suggest how you can avoid this problem.
Banks are the most secure option, and as they offer good exchange rates, which vary little between banks, you don’t have to search for the best deal. The major Czech banks include:
- Komerční banka
- Česka spořitelna
- UniCredit Banka
- Raiffeisen Bank
In larger banks, the exchange counter is marked Směnárna; at smaller branches you can change money at any counter (pokladna). Remember that banks mostly accept only the main global currencies, so you may have to use a bureau de change (see below).The main drawbacks of using banks are queues and opening hours. Banks generally open between 8.00 or 9.00 and 17.00, on weekdays only, and some close at lunchtime.
Automated telling machines
An ATM (automated telling machine) is the most convenient method of obtaining money. However, fees are charged for using an ATM, and if you withdraw money frequently, the total charge soon adds up.
You can get round this by withdrawing a large amount at once to minimise fees, although doing so is risky, especially as pickpockets are a problem in places with a big frequency of people in Prague (as in any other cities).
Another issue to bear in mind when using ATMS is bank card scams, for example thieves obtaining your bank details. Banks are addressing this problem by making ATMs more secure, but ideally you should try to use them inside a bank.
Bureaux de change (směnárna) are plentiful and many are open around the clock, making them very convenient.
However, many bureaux offer poor value, and you should check whether the most conveniently located bureau is the best. Does it offer “no commission”? That sounds good, but in such a case the bureau will compensate for zero commission with a poor exchange rate. Another bureau might offer “the best rates in Prague”, but it’s likely that the rates won’t be the best: good bureaux don’t need such advertising. For example, some smaller bureaux advertise “0 commission” but offer very poor rates, a fairly typical hoax.
Another trick is to apply different rates, depending on the amount changed. For example, a bureau quotes a rate of CZK 26 for EUR 1. However, this only applies to amounts of EUR 1,000 or more. If the transaction involves a smaller amount, the rate is much lower, e.g. CZK 16! And if you’re Scottish, you may notice that some bureaux de change offer rates for Scottish pounds and English pounds, which is unfair because the Scottish pound to Czech crown rate is less favourable.
Like everywhere else, airport exchange facilities offer poor value, as do Chequepoint bureaux, which have several branches in Central Prague. Western Union is reputable, but offers poor rates. Unfortunately, American Express and Thomas Cook offer good rates, but neither have bureaux in Prague any more.
If you decide to use exchange bureaux, we advise the company Exchange.cz with offices right in Prague city centre on the address Náměstí Franze Kafky 2, Prague 1.