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Railroad Station in Prague

Beware of traveling in Prague's main train station. We were there for this past year's Christmas Market. We had a fantastic time in Prague, also went to the Castle. However, when we were leaving we got there an hour or so before the departure time. This is the ONLY European city I have ever been to that does not tell you what platform the outbound trains are leaving from until 15 minutes before departure. I have been from Cork to Istanbul, Copenhagen to Rome, and have never met so many unfriendly people at the train stain ticket office or help desk.
When I asked what the platform our train would be on, the rep just said I had to wait until the train arrived. This place is like a small airport, several different levels and very crowded. While we were searching for the tracks, hoping to find more information, a stranger offered to help. What he didn't convey was that he was expecting to name his own price for helping us find the right track. He told me the train going to Vienna was usually on a certain track, I forget which one. After getting us there he demanded 20 Euros! He called a tip, I call it extortion. He said if the track changed he would come back and help to the right track, never saw this crook again. In my younger days and when I traveled single I would've told him off, but my wife told me to just pay him off. When we left Vienna for Budapest, the Austrians have paid employees at the train station to help travelers out. Prague could use some of there.
The city offers free public transportation for those over 65, and the representative there was VERY helpful.

Posted by
8889 posts

This is the ONLY European city I have ever been to that does not tell you what platform the outbound trains are leaving from until 15 minutes before departure.

I beg to differ. In many countries (Italy, France, UK to name a few) the platform number is only posted 10-15 minutes before departure. In Germany and Switzerland, it is listed on posters and online, but they always warn you platform numbers may change at short notice if other trains are late.
Regular travellers may know what the usual platform is, even they can be caught out by last minute changes and track work which causes changes.

The place to look is the big departure boards and video screens. Until it is listed there, nobody knows 100%.
See photo here, only the first few trains have a platform listed:

Sorry you got conned though.

Posted by
25 posts

We had a similar experience as you while in the rail station in Prague in early December. We were approached by an older gentleman who offered to help us find our correct platform. He walked very fast and led us to the right place, however he never asked us for a "tip". My husband did hand him a couple of Euros for his trouble though. When we came back through Prague before our flight home, we spotted him doing the same for other confused looking people. We had been to Prague before and never noticed this at that time. Sorry you had this experience, but hope you had a great trip nevertheless!

Posted by
144 posts

You allowed yourself and family to be led around a foreign train station by some random stranger and now it is someone else's fault?

Happy Travels.

Posted by
5 posts

I agree with Steve. We found the departure area crowded and more confusing than other train stations. A man wearing coveralls walked up to us and said he worked there...said he knew what track we wanted, grabbed my luggage, said to follow him, and took off towards the tracks...after a few seconds I grabbed my luggage from him and he still put his hand out for a tip.(no tip...a few choice words) When the track number was posted a group of us headed through the gates and another well dressed man, carrying a dog, casually got in the lead and said he'd show us our track. When we got there he put his hand out for a tip. Absolutely No Way was I going to be taken and told him what I thought of him, although a few did tip him. Please don't be exploited by these scam artists. Someone will be around to offer help for free.

Posted by
16013 posts

It use to happen in Budapest too. I think the authorities cracked down on it because I haven't heard of it in a while. In Budapest they would even wear arm bands and try and look official. Next time give him a warm handshake and with a smile, "thank you my friend" and walk away.

On the other hand, if the guy was helpful and it appeared as though helping people was part of his livelihood and he wasn't rude or aggressive, I would be inclined to hand him a few hundred forints.

Once in the Vienna station i was approached by a crazy man. He became argumentative and a little threatening. I went and got security who told me to deal with it and walked away. One of several memories that endear me to Vienna.

Posted by
61 posts

Thank you for your comments as we did have a great time. Realistically, I should've ignored this guy and found my own way. Nobody to blame but myself, I just wanted to alert people of this as I have read alerts from RS and this forum before that really helped me out in the past. Traveling to Munich to Nuremberg, to Prague to Vienna and then to Budapest in 12 days was quite the adventure, at visiting untold Christmas markets made it even better. We found several out of the way markets where only the locals were there. Small but interesting, nothing to write home about. The Oduba Christmas Market was one such market. Not real big, but the food was all right. Kids were ice skating in 2" of water as the temp was above freezing. I'm sure James has been here before.
By Suburban Railway H5 from Batthyány Square (M2 red, metro), get off at Szentlélek tér
Next time, we will go when the weather is better but had to do this once.
Keep on travelin'