Should I rent a flat over the internet before I arrive in Prague?
While it’s a good idea to become as familiar as you can with the housing situation before you arrive, we do not recommend signing a lease before you get to Prague.
Before my move, I went on Craigslist, which is pretty legit in American cities, but 11 years ago, it seemed to be the epicenter of scams in Prague. I came very close to wiring money to a total stranger online (and probably being taken for a sucker). Now Craigslist is more legit, but it's priced for expats with company budgets. It’s easy to take advantage of people who are not familiar with the market, and that’s what we’re trying to protect you from in this course.
The key piece of advice is: don’t send money to someone before you’ve seen the place, and before you know they’re the owner, period.
While we don’t recommend signing up for a flat before you arrive, it's a good idea to get familiar with the housing market by checking out some websites and facebook groups in the next lesson.
(***The only exception to this is if temporary housing is included in a verified program—such as a recommended Teaching English as a Foreign Language Course. In this case, the school will likely provide you with a month of housing, and you will pay for that in advance along with payment for the course. You'll then use that month to go over the tips in this module to find a long-term living situation.)
Are you taking a TEFL Program?
If you’re interested in becoming a certified English as a Foreign Language Teacher you might want to sign up for a TEFL program. (We'll talk more about this in the TEFL MODULE) You'll likely share temporary accommodation with either another TEFL student taking your course, or with a TEFL graduate in the alumni community. If you get along well, you might end up flat-hunting together.
The benefits of this plan is that you are living with the others taking your program, you can study together, you go to classes together, and you might meet someone whom you’d want to eventually get a flat with.
The main drawback to this plan, which you’ll understand from the VISA MODULE, is that you need two documents from the owner of your flat in order to start the visa application process. Since you arrive on a 90 day visa, and the visa process can take a few months, you’re under a lot of pressure to find a flat sooner rather than later. It’s doable, and most TEFL students go this route, but be forewarned that it can add stress to your first few months in Prague
From the week I arrived in Prague, I started viewing flats while I was studying and teaching in the TEFL program. I had two teaching jobs literally the Monday after the course ended. It was difficult to do all that AND look for a flat, which didn’t happen right away. I wish I had done more research or maybe spent a week or two in a hostel and securing long-term housing before the TEFL program started.
For those of you who prefer to plan ahead, you can follow the route Patrice took:
When I first moved to Prague, I made a three-night reservation at a hotel. But because I had extensively researched the housing market, I was prepared to move fast. I knew what I was looking for and where I was looking for it. I knew whether or not I was willing to pay extra for a realtor fee. In the end, I didn’t need that last night in the hostel and I didn’t need to settle for a crappy apartment. I found a place before my TEFL program even started.
Here are some hostels we recommend:
If I lease a flat I don’t like, can’t I just move?
Trust us, you won’t want to keep jumping from place to place.
Not only is it a pain in the ass, but if you're a non-EU citizen, it’s really important that you maintain your address for visa purposes. You can learn the details in our VISA MODULE, but the basics are this: if you want to get a visa, that is, the ability to stay in the CZ for a year, you need a landlord, who is the majority owner of the residence to give you permission to stay there for the length of your visa.
You can’t stay in a hostel and you can’t stay on someone’s couch (unless of course, that person is the majority owner of that piece of property.
Most landlords will sign this “permission slip”, but only for the length of time that you live in their flat. So, if you have a 6-month lease you will get a 6-month “permission slip” for the purposes of your visa, and only a 6-month visa, as opposed to a year-long visa.
Do yourself a favor and put in the time to find a place you’d like to stay for a full year.
How do I find a roommate I can trust?
if you're not moving to Prague with a friend or a partner, it's easy to meet someone to live with after getting to know them in a TEFL program (we'll get to that in the TEFL MODULE). After 4 weeks, you’re bound to find someone you’d like to live with.
What areas of Prague are safest?
First of all, the Czech Republic as a whole is incredibly safe. It ranks in the top 10 of the Global Peace Index for most peaceful countries in the world.
There are always isolated incidents of crime, but those mainly revolve around theft and economically-motivated crimes. Violent crime or interpersonal crime is extremely rare.
In general, look for a neighborhood that's well-lit, accessible to main streets and near populated areas. In my personal experience, I know a few people who've been pick-pocketed (visiting tourists, acting like tourists) but I also know of people who've dropped their wallets on the street and had them returned by locals, cash and all.
If you want a more detailed report on crime in the Czech Republic, you can view the US Department of States official Czech Crime Report here.
How do I know if a potential housing situation is a scam?
Like we said before, if you haven’t actually been in the flat, if you haven’t met the majority owner or the official representative of the owner, if they are asking for payment up front without signing a lease, do not send money. Period.
So, how do I know if landlord is the majority owner?
Why does this even matter? Well, it really only matters for non-EU citizens, because if you need to get a visa to live in the Czech Republic, you will need the majority of the owners giving you that “permission slip” indicating that you are able to stay there, then you don’t technically have permission to stay there.
We will show you how to check who owns your flat in the Visa module (again, importantly only for non-EU citizens.
- Fill out the housing worksheet, and start perusing the housing websites we listed in the previous lessons. Those might already be rented by the time you arrive, but the exercise will help you set your expectations.
We'll see you in the next module!