The smog is turning a deeper shade of yellow and stags are frolicking in Prague 1. Summer is coming. If you are already daydreaming of empty beaches or clean mountain air, now is the time to book your holiday. Travel agencies are the most time-efficient way of booking a trip, so we have looked into what Prague has to offer.
There are 134 agents registered in Prague, and most have some help for English speakers. It is wise to bear in mind that agencies provide a service which their clients pay for, and it is rarely cheaper to book a package through an agent than to buy flights and accommodation separately, either through an agent or direct from airlines and hotels. If you do decide to book separately through an agent, remember that in most cases agencies only provide insurance, helplines and support abroad for clients who have booked packages, not those who have booked separately, so remember to get your own insurance (pojištění) – available through most agencies. Agency websites often provide cheaper options than are promoted in brochures, so be sure to check online before booking in-house. Last minute offers can be good, but sometimes there are hidden costs and the price advertised on the main page is usually for one cheap week among twenty offered. Even if you speak no Czech, do not discount using Czech language travel websites. They tend to be well laid out and with the help of an online translation service not difficult to use. Although some agents are helpful, poor customer service is the norm. Allow plenty of time for visiting agencies, queues are long and customers are regularly expected to wait while agents answer phones or catch up on paperwork.
The oldest and biggest Czech travel agency spans the market, with luxury yacht cruises at one end and bus tickets at the other. There is an English website for tourists travelling to the Czech Republic (www.cedok.com) but the website for tourists travelling from the Czech Republic is only in Czech. Catalogues are also in Czech, and can be picked up from the offices or ordered online. Unlike most other agencies, Čedok promotes low-price accomodation in-house, and their catalogue “Tuzemské pobyty“ contains cheap Czech breaks. Branch offices have a currency exchange desk and a last minute bureau (available online at http://www.cedok.cz/Last-minute/). Service is variable, and be warned that even the central offices often do not all employ English-speaking agents – for instance the Václavské náměstí office does, but Rytírská does not.
Čedok, Václavské náměstí 53, Prague 1, Mon-Fri 9am-7pm Sat 9am-1pm, 221 965 243, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eso (www.esotravel.cz) is a mid-sized business best known as the sponsor of Česká Miss. Their package holidays are high-end, with all accommodation based in four or five star hotels. Sightseeing tours, cruises and resort holidays are offered, and apart from Mediterranean summer breaks most vacations are outside of Europe. The USA and China are Eso´s most popular destinations. There are three offices in Prague. The main office is oddly positioned inside a bureu de change on Václavské, and manned by one helpful but harried agent. Allow some waiting-time and expect your conversation to be interrupted whenever the phone rings.
ESO Travel, Václavské náměstí 56, Prague 1, Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, 222 211 120, email@example.com
The focus is on sun-chasing, and resorts are located in UAE, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Tunisia and Egypt. Most hotels are 3-5 star and in large resorts. There are discounts for early-bookers, a loyalty scheme that awards 5% off a second visit, discounts (starting at 3%) for groups of more than eight, and up to two children can go free to many resorts. On last-minute deals children travel for 4,990 CZK. The website is in Czech only.
One of the bigger agencies, with 12 offices to choose from in Prague (www.fischer.cz). Fischer specializes in high-end resort holidays to coastal areas. Supervised children´s clubs (‘Funtazie´ Clubs) in the resorts offer Czech language childcare for under-16s. Although brochures and the website are only in Czech and Slovak, the central offices have English-speaking staff. You can also use the website to book flights and accommodation; the website links up to more than 20,000 hotels worldwide and there are cheaper options online than in the brochures. Some reasonable last-minute deals can also be found. Because of a clever marketing gimmick whereby children booked into the Funtazie club this August are given a playstation as a ‘gift´, family summer holidays are almost sold out, so book fast.
Fischer, Národní třída 10, Prague 1, Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 9am-4pm, 224 951 805 www.fischer.cz
Offering flights, bus tickets, travel insurance, language courses, car rental, summer and skiing package breaks and visa help. GTS covers cheaper options and is popular with students. There is also an easy-to-use English language website (http://en.gtstravel.cz/) which allows price-comparison on flights. The central office on Ve Smečkách has the world-weary pokiness of a school staffroom and at 800 CZK the commission charged on flights booked in-house is double what you pay on the website, so consider booking from home.
GTS International, Ve Smečkách 33, Prague 1, Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm, 222 119 700, firstname.lastname@example.org
Founded by an American expat living in Prague, the company provides tailor-made package holidays to Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Montenegro, as well as to the Czech Republic. Representatives are available for advice and help either in person or by phone – clients are lent a local mobile for their stay. When it comes to prices the company is slightly cagey, no guide rates are available online and when we asked for information none was forthcoming – though it is possible that the company´s client-based approach could make estimating costs difficult. To get a quote on your holiday, you can fill in an online request form. The website is in English and the agents are English speakers.
Stay In Castle
The name says it all; live like a lord for the weekend. Stay In Castle (www.stay-in-castle.com) provides a choice of more than 60 palaces, fortresses and chateaux. Most are privately owned hotels, some city-based but most located in the country. Outdoor activities from cycling to golf to riding are offered. Prices range between 1700 CZK and 13,508 CZK per night. The agency will also take bookings for weddings, work conferences or seminars. Dana Michková, who runs the business, is prompt and helpful, and even responds to emails, which makes her a rarity among Prague agents. She is also a trained massage therapist, so if the stress of booking your holiday proves too much help is near at hand.
Stay In Castle, 603 497 413, email@example.com
For more travel agent information, Expats.cz has a travel agent database. Have you used one of these, or another local travel agency? Share your experience!