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A Pause in Prague
Ruzyne Prague International Airport (PRG)
Member Name: Kukana
Ruzyne Prague International Airport (PRG)
Date: 11/10/04, updated on 20/02/05 (355 review reads)
Advantages: Spacious and very clean, Plenty of shops to browse, good prices in restaurants, Excellent toilets, non-smoking everywhere
Disadvantages: Not much choice of restaurant, Nothing for small children, almost nothing in English, Not much seating available
1) It was only 5.30am, and we were told that nothing much would open in the city until 9.30 or later
2) Our hand luggage was fairly heavy, and we couldn't find anywhere to leave it
3) We were all incredibly tired
4) It was apparently three degrees Celcius outside!
So having decided not to go out, we were faced with several hours in the airport. Our needs were not great. We wanted to be able to sit quietly and take it in turns to read or nap; we wanted toilets; we also wanted a restaurant of some sort with coffee (vital!) and perhaps some fruit or bread rolls for a light breakfast.
Prague Airport is spacious and airy, with huge windows and marble floors. It looked extremely clean, and to our relief it was non-smoking, other than in one bar restaurant. While we take non-smoking for granted in most Western European airports, it's only fairly recently that Eastern Europe has followed this trend.
We arrived in what seemed to be a long hallway, with moving floor sections in the middle. There were plenty of chairs visible, but unfortunately most of them were behind glass, only for use when checking in to another flight. However we did quickly find some toilets, and were pleased to note that they were fresh and clean, with plenty of liquid soap and paper towels.
There were a fair number of shops, although most were closed when we arrived. But gradually they opened, and we were able to browse as much as we wanted without problem.
There was a standard duty-free shop with perfumes and alcohol, etc, and a rather nice (expensive) chocolate shop. There were also several shops containing local ware such as wooden toys, china, and some stunning blue glassware. We saw a bookshop and headed there eagerly, but were disappointed to find that there was nothing in English. While it's not unreasonable for Prague Airport to have most of their books and magazines in the Czech language, it did seem a little surprising not to offer at least a small selection in a few other major languages - and, like it or not, English is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world.
It took a bit longer to find our coffee. There was a signboard directing us back the way we had come, but when we followed the arrow we found nothing but the bar restaurant, as it was called - which sold drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, and a few snacks, and was filled with people smoking. Surely, we thought, there must be somewhere else?
Eventually we did discover it, upstairs (via a lift)and along a further corridor, but not well signposted. Only one place, however. Unless we managed to miss something. It wasn't exactly a restaurant, more a self-service buffet, with seating outside. However it sold coffee, pleasant looking bread rolls, yogurt and fruit, which is all we wanted at the time.
As we were looking at the (limited) range of food, it struck us that we had no Czech currency! We had some British pounds, and some Cyprus pounds, and we had our UK credit cards, but that was all. They told us that they would take Czech money, euros, American dollars - or credit cards. There were machines where we could exchange our sterling pounds, but for the small amount we wanted the commission would be huge. So we decided to use our credit card.
Then we realised we had no idea of the exchange rate: items were marked simply in Czech money. We asked the girl on the till, and she assured us that our credit card company would work it all out, and we didn't need to worry. Perhaps she didn't know herself. We didn't really want to spend vast amounts, but knew that sometimes airports charge well over the going rate for food. Still, we needed our coffee and something to eat, so we went ahead and bought what we wanted, which came to 246 of the Czech currency. Had we spent £25, we wondered?
Fortunately one of my teenage sons was more awake than the rest of us, and picked up a duty-free leaflet which he'd found, advertising whiskies. I told him we didn't want anything like that, and he looked at me pityingly. 'Mum, it gives the price in Czech money and euros too... we can figure out the exchange rate from this!'
He was right. A bit of mental arithmetic - fortunately not too difficult, as I was very tired - and we had it worked out. We had spent the grand sum of 8 euros... or about £5, for which we had bought: three mugs of coffee, one orange Fanta, 1 fresh orange, 3 large bread rolls, 3 large fruit yogurts, and 3 pots of milk for the coffee. We thought that was surprisingly good value. Admittedly the coffee was fairly dire, but it did its job in keeping us awake, and the food was excellent.
Somewhere to sit
This was more difficult. We sat for a while outside the restaurant, but it wasn't all that comfortable, so we went down in the lift again, and managed to find some unoccupied seats. They weren't particularly comfortable, but we were able to sit down and rest a little. Fortunately we all had some books to read in our hand luggage. We noticed some people lying or sleeping on the floors, and wondered why they didn't provide more seating! There was plenty of room for it.
Since the restaurant had proved such good value, we went back mid-morning and bought some ice-cream! This time we ordered a coffee (with two milks), a banana, and four Magnum ice creams.. which came to a grand total of 218 in the Czech currency: about seven euros. Would they accept such a low amount on our credit card, we wondered? There was no problem at all. A couple of weeks later, when we received our credit card bill, we were proved to be correct in our exchange rate calculations, and there didn't seem to be any surcharge.
There were some interesting displays in the airport, including two real cars on podiums, with adverts next to them, which seemed to attract a lot of interest. I preferred a display which showed a bench, with two realistic statues of people sitting on it reading magazines, and another statue lying on the floor, also reading. We're not quite sure what it was for, since it didn't seem to be advertising anything, but it was quite attractive.
For a short stopover, for adults and teenagers, this is a pleasant enough airport. Our second stop there was much shorter; by the time we'd visited the café and loos, and had another quick browse around the shops, it was almost time to leave again. It's quiet and reasonably attractive, and while it's not like a busy London airport, there's plenty of interest for an hour or two.
On the other hand I wouldn't like to be there with small children for any length of time. There's very little to amuse a toddler, and the marble floors were quite slippery: I can imagine tumbles and tears all too easily. It also wasn't much fun for a long stopover. Going into Prague, despite the temperature, might have been a better option if we hadn't been so tired.
I'm giving it three stars for the general appearance and cleanliness, the excellence of the toilets and the inexpensive café with good quality snacks. For extra stars it would need more facilities for the whole family, at least a few books or magazines in English, and a great deal more seating!