Welcome back to Living Abroad, a series that shows you what expat life is like in cities around the world. Today we’re speaking to Riana, a Canadian freelancer living in Prague. She and her partner, Colin, are spending a year in Prague on Youth Mobility visas.
Here, Riana shares what it’s really like to live as an expat in Prague, including how she found her beautiful, light-filled apartment, the curious Czech habit of parking on the sidewalk, and what she misses most about Canada…
Quick facts about living in Prague:
- Language: Czech
- Currency: Kč Czech koruna (CZK)
- Level of crime in Prague: Very Low
- Cost of living in Prague: Low
- Quality of life in Prague: Very High
- Cost of a beer in Prague: A pint in Prague costs approximately 30-50 CZK ($1.30 – $2.15 USD) at a restaurant. Beer here is cheaper than water!
Pros and cons of living in Prague (as reported by author):
- Pros: Beautiful architecture, cheap cost of living, easy access to the rest of Europe
- Cons: The difficult language, no coast, Czech food
Riana’s background: Hello! My name is Riana and I’m from Vancouver, Canada. I work online as a freelancer in social media, blogging, and travel planning. I’ve always had a love for travel which has led me to working, interning, studying and volunteering abroad. After studying abroad in Amsterdam in 2014, I told myself that one day I would live in Europe. Fast forward five years and I’m now living in Prague! I live here with my partner, Colin, and our dog, Ellie.
On moving to the Czech Republic: Colin and I both have Youth Mobility visas (sometimes called Working Holiday visas). These are one-year visas that allow us to work and live in the country.
To be eligible for these visas, your country has to have a reciprocal partnership with the Czech Republic and you have to be under the age limit (usually 30 or 35 years old). If you’re interested in applying for a Czech Youth Mobility Visa, I have written about the process on my blog.
On finding an apartment: I began looking into apartments a few months before we arrived in Prague as I wanted to get an idea of what was available and what typical prices in Prague are like. The general feeling in Prague is that the rental market is very competitive – good places go fast and rent is much more expensive than it used to be.
A few months before we arrived in Prague, I ended up finding our apartment through a Facebook rental group, where it was being listed by a property agent. Since we couldn’t see the place in person, the agent did a video call with us to show us the apartment. We didn’t want to lose a good place in this market, so we signed the contract without seeing the apartment in person. Having our apartment ahead of time made life so much easier when we arrived.
On rent: We pay about $920 USD per month for our one-bedroom apartment, and that includes utilities. It’s 700-square-feet, fully furnished, and has a dishwasher, washer, and dryer. It’s beautiful, bright and spacious, and located in Vinohrady, a great and more expensive neighbourhood.
On where to live in Prague: The best place to live in Prague may be Vinohrady, our neighborhood. Vinohrady is popular with expats so the English level here is quite good. However, not everyone speaks English. It’s definitely helpful to know a little bit of Czech for daily interactions.
On how much it costs to live in Prague: Living expenses in Prague for expats are quite cheap, which is one of the main reasons why we decided to do our expat year here. Everything from rent, groceries, internet, and phone bills seem to be about half the price of what we pay in Vancouver.
On getting a phone plan: We brought our phones from Canada, which were unlocked, and then got a local SIM card and phone plan. We went through T-Mobile and we’re really happy with the service. We’re paying about half of what we used to pay back home for more than double the amount of data.
On learning Czech: Unfortunately, Czech is a very difficult language to learn. There are many tenses and rules and even locals have told us they don’t quite have the language down perfectly. So far, we’ve learned a few words such as hello (dobrý den), thank you (děkuji), and I don’t speak Czech (Nemluvím česky). We have gotten by so far but it would be great to learn more. We have Duolingo on our phones to help us practice and we have posters up around the house with some words that we can study.
On customer service: Customer service isn’t as big a deal here as it is back in North America. That’s not to say that people are rude; they just don’t bend over backward to make the customer feel important. If your barista is chatting with a coworker, you’ll just have to wait.
If you don’t bag your groceries fast enough, the cashier will just throw your receipt on top of the food instead of handing it to you. I have to constantly remind myself that the service industry is different here. Not better or worse, but different.
On Czech cultural quirks: One little local custom is parking on the sidewalk. Cars are allowed to drive right up on the sidewalk and park there for deliveries, drop-offs, etc. I was freaking out the first time I saw it as I thought the car was going to run me and my dog over!
On making friends: We’ve met a few friends through Facebook groups. Someone reached out to me on an expat women group and we ended up getting drinks with her and her husband, which lead to hanging out more and meeting their friend circle.
I’ve also joined an expat freelancer group that meets up for co-working and social events. And my partner, Colin, has met friends through his job at a hotel.
On the food: Confession: I do not like Czech food! I find it very heavy. There’s a lot of stews, gravies, and carbs. I haven’t tried every dish but the Czech food I’ve tried has not been my favourite.
Luckily, Prague is home to a big Vietnamese population and the Vietnamese food here is delicious. My favourite restaurant is Chilli & Lime and I order from them way too often.
On Czech beer: The Czech Republic drinks the most beer per capita in the entire world, meaning the beer here is delicious and cheap. We’re big fans of the local pilsner!
On feeling safe in Prague: I feel very safe here. I often walk our dog by myself at night and feel totally comfortable. We’re just outside the tourist centre, so our neighbourhood doesn’t get loud or rowdy. But it’s also not out in the suburbs where it would be completely dead.
On public transportation: The public transportation in Prague is really great. The trams are so efficient and well-connected. We got annual transit cards that allow us to ride for a full year for about $250 USD per person.
On traveling around Europe: It’s very easy to travel to other places by train or plane, and we live just a 15-minute walk from the train station. So far, we’ve taken the train to Dresden, Germany (2 hours) and Vienna, Austria (4 hours). We’ve also done some local exploring in the Czech Republic to Kutna Hora.
Plus, we’ve grabbed some cheap flights! I’m headed to Stockholm next week for $37 USD round-trip and we’re going to Rome in November for $45 USD round-trip.
On over-packing: We brought four suitcases with us when we moved and most of that was clothing. I wish we had brought even less! I’m very glad we didn’t bring household items as everything we need is here.
One extra thing we did bring was over-the-counter medication, like for colds or headaches, as I’ve heard they are not as easy to get here. But (knock on wood!) we haven’t gotten sick yet so I haven’t had to test that theory.
On missing home: I definitely miss the food. And we miss our friends and family a lot. Colin and I have a list of foods we can’t wait to eat when we get back to Vancouver – like Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwiches and sushi.
On living in Prague long-term: Unfortunately, we can only stay in Prague for one year due to our one-year visas. However, I know lots of expats switch to a self-employed freelance visa that allows them to stay. While I have loved living here, I do think we’ll return to Vancouver at the end of the year.
On making the most of living abroad: Because our visa is only good for a year, we really want to make sure we’re taking advantage of every opportunity to travel around Europe, enjoy expat life in Prague and make the most of our year as expats.
Thank you so much, Riana!
What about you? Would you ever consider living in Prague?
More resources for moving to Prague:
- Lonely Planet’s Prague travel guide
- Tips for getting a job in the Czech Republic
- A breakdown of living expenses in the Czech Republic
Read more Living Abroad interviews and articles:
- What Living as an Expat in Norway is Really Like
- What Living as an Expat in Madrid is Really Like
- What Living as an Expat in France is Really Like
- What Living as an Expat in Scotland is Really Like
- What Living as an Expat in Hamburg is Really Like
- What Living as an Expat in Stockholm is Really Like
- What Living as an Expat in the Czech Republic is Really Like
- What Living as an Expat in London is Really Like
- The Truth About Dating as an Expat