Wednesday, 28 December 2011

ITTP TEFL Prague: Getting around Prague - monthly transport pass

In my blog post ITTP TEFL Prague: Getting around Prague - discovering the city by public transport, I discussed various Prague public transport ticket options. In this blog post I am going to discuss options for the Prague public transport monthly pass. The monthly pass should be an essential purchase item for anyone spending more than a few weeks in the city.

UPDATE (25th Sept, 2012).
It is currently no longer possible to obtain the 30 day ticket at the Muzeum metro station. The Mustek metro station ticket office now handles these requests.

There are currently 2 options for obtaining a monthly pass:

1. Buy a 1 month (30 days) ticket without the need to provide ID and photo. Cost is 670 CZK.
2. Apply for an Open Card, providing ID and a photo. Monthly pass cost is 550 CZK.

OK, so if you are coming to Prague for just a month and if you then plan to head off somewhere else then your best option is to head out to the infocentrum at the Muzeum metro station and go for the convenient no-hassle 670 CZK ticket - located before the metro vestibule entrance and on the left - open Monday to Sunday and public holidays (7:00am - 9:00pm). You don't have to provide ID or a photo and you just have to validate the ticket once and then you are good on all buses, trams, metro, funicular, ferry and Prague Integrated Transport regular trains for 30 days.
If you plan to stay longer than a month, as the vast majority of our graduates do, then you really want to be looking to apply for your Open Card as soon as possible upon arrival. My advice in this case is to head out to the Muzeum metro station anyway and buy a 1 month no-hassle ticket for your first month of stay because it does take a few weeks for your Open Card to be authorized and having a monthly pass in your pocket means that you don't have to do the Find Your Coins Dance associated with each time you need to buy a Basic or Short-Term ticket.

The infocentrum at the Muzeum metro station

OK, so you made it out to Muzeum, purchased and validated your monthly no-hassles ticket, and now you need to know where and how the hell you apply for your Open Card.
Well, the first question which probably springs to mind is what the Dickens IS an Open Card?
The official blurb is: Opencard is an “intelligent” smart-card designed for Prague residents and visitors. It is issued by Prague City Hall. The aim of the project is to establish not only new ways of communication between the City and its citizens but also less complicated and more convenient access to the services provided by the City.

Basically the Opencard fits in your wallet like a Visa card does and contains a chip. How it works is that you can charge credit to the card for the public transport system. You can also use it as a library card and the Opencard is accepted by 38 automated branches of the Municipal Library of Prague. The benefit of having such a card for Prague public transport use is that if you lose it you can simply replace it and your credit won't be affected. On the other hand if you lost your hassle-free monthly ticket then you would need to purchase a new one. The Opencard is really a convenient alternative of having to buy a new hassle-free ticket every month and by owning one you are distinguishing yourself from the Tourist and short-term expatriate crowd. Opencards can also earn you discounts - for example 60% off the full entrance fee at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague 1. So basically, if you are planning on spending an extended time in Prague then you'd be crazy not to get an Opencard.

Where can I apply for my Opencard?
I recommend using the expat-friendly Opencard kiosk in the Magistrat Praha Hlavniho Mesta Prahy building entrance - right next to the Palac Adria). This building is located at Jungmannova 29, Prague 1. The Opencard kiosk staff are bilingual and willing to converse in English - remember the Dobry den rule though when entering the office. At this kiosk you can also find leaflets and general information about the Prague public transport system as a whole. When you enter the building the kiosk is on the right, just after the INFORMACE window.

What does it cost?
The Opencard is valid for 4 years and is FREE. Yes, that lovely word FREE which rolls off one's lips like herb butter effortlessly sliding off the side of a warm, lusciously seductive, 3-star Michelin baked potato. F-R-E-E :-) You should also take into account that a recent passport size photo is also required and if you don't have one then you can get one (4x photos) taken for you in the same building for 120 CZK.

How do I apply?
To begin with I recommend making the trip down to Jungmannova 29 (to the Magistrat Praha Hlavniho Mesta Prahy building entrance - right next to the Palac Adria) and applying at the Opencard kiosk there. This kiosk is open Mon-Fri 8:00am - 6:00pm. This is advisable in case you have any questions which you need to ask the staff, and you should be able to find here an application form in English. If Czech language forms are only available then you can ask the staff how to complete the form, or simply take the form away and politely ask one of your students if they wouldn't mind spending a few minutes with you going over the form either before or after classes.
Please note that it is important that you read the Opencard Conditions of Issue and Use to clarify for yourself the responsibility of the Opencard system and yourself as Opencard user.

The Magistrat Praha Hlavniho Mesta Prahy building entrance at Jungmannova 29 (Praha 1)

You will need to complete 2 identical Opencard application forms and 1 form is then given back to you. Together with the completed form you will also need to present 1 passport sized photograph, 35x45mm, with your full name written on the reverse side in capital letters. In addition to this you will also need to provide a valid ID card upon submission of the form - this can be either a valid passport or valid residence permit.

To collect your card we recommend having your card sent to your address as this is currently the least time-consuming option. If you don't have a secure address yet and if you are currently taking the ITTP course, then pls feel free to have your Opencard mailed to the school address and we will happily collect it for you. The card takes from between 7 and 14 days to be issued. If however you applied for the option of collecting the card in person then the date when you can collect the card will be stated on the copy of your application form (pls make sure to bring your ID and your copy of the application form if collecting your card in person).

How do I use the card for the Prague public transport system?
To purchase your monthly (or longer) pass I recommend traveling again to Jungmannova 29 and simply purchasing at the Opencard kiosk where you originally collected your application form for the card. You can choose how many months in advance you want to pay for, and also for when you want the transport pass to begin - you can choose to begin your transport pass on any day of the year. The current pricing options for the Opencard Prague public transport passes are:

Monthly:   550 CZK
Quarterly: 1,480 CZK
Yearly:      4,750 CZK
5 Month:   2,450 CZK

My advice is to charge up your credits every month so that you save money in case there are some days between where you won't be using the public transport.

Opencard kiosk at Jungmannova 29

Once you have your card charged up you just need to keep it with you at all times when traveling the Prague public transport system. Inspectors carry special machines to read the validity of Opencards and the good news is that you can check your card validity for yourself at one of the many Opencard validators, located at metro stations and Municipal Libraries - this is a handy option for you if you can't remember when your Opencard is charged up until. If you lose your card then you should head to Jungmannova 31 (located in Palac Adria and next door to Jungmannova 29) and report your card lost to the Opencard Customer Center. Please note that there is a handling charge of 200 CZK for a replacement in case of loss or damage to the card. The Opencard Customer Center at Jungmannova 31 is open: Mon and Wed 8:30am - 8:00pm / Tue and Thu 8:30am - 6:00pm / Fri 8:30am - noon.

Neville :-)