Prague - using Public Transport
Using public transport in Prague is pretty easy. The metro, all the trams, all the red and white buses, and even the Petrin funicular, are operated by city-owned Dopravní podnik hlavního města Prahy. Tickets are transferable when you have to change, and can even be used on many of the local rail services operated by Czech Railways (ČD). Normally you buy your tickets from a machine or one of the information offices. Best value if you are making a lot of journeys are tickets for 1, 3 or 5 days.
The operator's comprehensive website is www.dpp.cz, which has a lot of information in English and German as well as Czech (click on the flags top right). The website includes a range of maps (dopravní schémata) showing metro, tram and bus services. If necessary you can also find detailed timetables in pdf format either for whole routes (linkový jízdní řád) or for individual stops (zastávkové jízdní řády). You can also input your origin and destination to find possible connections - look under Journey Planner in the English version, or Vyhledání Spojení (find a connection) in Czech.
Fares and tickets (2010 version)
The DPP website has a full chart of fares in English. Basically, a single ticket costs 26 CZK and is valid for 75 minutes (from July 1st 2011 it costs 32 CZK and is valid for 90 minutes). You must validate your ticket in one of the yellow validators when you start your journey (near the doors on board trams and buses, or at the entrance to metro platforms). You can change between modes, for example from metro to tram or bus or vice versa, as many times as necessary within the time limit. Day tickets only need to be validated the first time you make a journey and are valid for 24 hours (price 100 CZK, increasing to 110 CZK from July 1st). 3-day tickets are valid for 72 hours and cost 330 CZK (310 CZK from July 1st). 5-day tickets are valid for 120 hours and cost 500 CZK but will no longer be available after July 1st.
All tickets can be purchased in advance - their validity does not start until placed in a yellow validator, which stamps the time and date on the end of the ticket. This means that if you are staying for, say, four days, you could buy a three-day and a one-day ticket on arrival, validate the three-day ticket immediately, and save the one-day ticket for validating on your last day. Remember that these tickets are valid for a certain number of hours, so a one-day (24 hour) ticket validated at 1815 hrs on Friday will be valid until 1815 hrs on Saturday.
For short journeys there is a cheaper ticket costing 18 CZK which allows 20 minutes travel on tram or bus without changing. On the metro you can travel up to 5 stations from where you started, and can transfer between lines as long as you do not exceed 30 minutes overall. This is not valid on the funicular, ferries or night services. From July 1st the ticket costs 24 CZK and becomes a transfer ticket valid for 30 minutes on metro, trams and buses without further restriction.
Children aged under 10 and Seniors aged 70+ travel free. Children aged 10-15 and Seniors aged 60-70 travel at half price. There is no discount, however, for the 3-day and 5-day tickets. From July 1st children aged 10-15 with an appropriate 'Opencard' travel free, as do Seniors aged 65+. Incidentally, until the fare change on July 1st 2011, fares in Prague had remained unchanged since January 2008.
Public transport in Prague operates as an open system, meaning that there is no need to show your ticket unless requested. You can therefore board trams and buses at any door, and there are no entry barriers at metro stations. However, you do need to remember to validate your ticket on first use. Roving inspectors are likely to ask to see your ticket, and hefty fines are imposed for travellers without a correctly validated ticket. On trams and buses ticket inspectors are likely to be in plain clothes and if you have any doubts about their authenticity you can ask to see their gold identity badge. At metro stations they are more likely to be in uniform and work in teams.
Where to buy tickets
Ticket machines are located at metro stations and principal tram stops. They are easy to use and have instructions in English. You can buy 24-hour tickets from the machines as well as single tickets, but for 3 and 5-day tickets you may have to visit a DPP information centre or the ticket office at a metro station. If you are arriving at the airport there are DPP information centres in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, both open from 0700 to 2100 every day. If arriving at the main railway station (Praha hlavní), there are machines on the modern concourse near the exits, and the adjacent kiosk may also be open. Failing that it is only a 600 metre walk (or one stop on the metro) to the main DPP information office in the underground shopping area at Muzeum metro station, open daily 0700 to 2100. To get there from Praha hlavní station, exit through the main doors from the concourse (i.e. the lower level), turn left through the gardens and head for the front of the distinctive Muzeum building with the domed tower. Entrances to the metro are close by, designated by an M symbol - the information office is one level down and is a small walk-in glass fronted affair.
As well as the full range of tickets, the information centres sell a very nice detailed transport map (plán města Praha) and also have basic give-away maps, including an English version "Getting Around Prague: metro tram bus", which includes details of fares and how to use the system. A further free booklet has information in 10 languages. Sometimes there is also a small range of books and models aimed at enthusiasts. Other information centres are situated at the metro stations of Mustek, Anděl, and Nádraží Holešovice; these open 0700 to 2100 on Mondays to Fridays, and 0930 to 1700 on Saturdays.
Most visitors to Prague don't need to worry about fare zones as the standard Prague tariff includes all metro and tram services, as well as bus services right out into the suburbs, including the airport. You only need to pay extra if you are travelling beyond the immediate suburbs of Prague into the surrounding country area. The standard Prague tariff covers two zones, P and 0, the latter being a border zone between the Prague zone and the peripheral zones, which are numbered 1 to 5. Actually, zone 0 consists of two zones for the purposes of single tickets (0 and B) but counts as one for tickets valid for 24 hours or more.
If you are in any doubt about which zone you are in, there is a clock inside trams and buses at the front, which also displays the zone, so if you thought the "P" meant p.m. it actually indicates that you are in zone P. Since all Prague tram routes are in zone P, you will never see anything else displayed on trams!
The peripheral zones cover a large area surrounding Prague going out to places such as Beroun, Kladno, Lysá nad Labem and Milovice. An integrated fare system known as PID (Pražská Integrovaná Doprava or Prague Integrated Transport) operates throughout the whole of the area, administered by an organisation known as Ropid. The Ropid website has an English version, including maps and fares. A day ticket covering Prague and all five peripheral zones costs 150 CZK.
Tickets for the standard Prague tariff area (zones P, 0, B) are also valid on local trains operated by Czech Railways (ČD). PID tickets valid in zones further away from Prague are also valid on certain lines - those lines which are fully integrated into the fare system are shown in blue on the zonal map. Single journey PID tickets can be used on these sections of line as well as day and season tickets. Note that a couple of local lines in Prague were not previously fully integrated into the tariff system (see the old map from 2009) but this was rectified at the beginning of 2011. If you are mainly using rail services, then you should consider the good value regional and national passes offered by Czech Railways.