One of the most frequent woes of foreign tourists in the Czech Republic is being ripped off when changing money. The Czech National Bank has just revoked the licences of three currency exchange offices in central Prague for violating their obligations under a 2019 amendment to the Foreign Exchange Act. So how much has the situation actually improved since the new regulations protecting clients went into force? A question for journalist Janek Rubeš who exposes Prague scams in his Honest Guide videos.
“The ones whose licenses were revoked and that got the fines are the very worst ones, I would say they are part of a scam exchange chain and they keep violating the law, even though the law changed. Although the law now says that tourists have three hours to get their money back if they come across a bad exchange office, these offices simply do not give people receipts and then say “So why did you sign it? It’s your fault, I am not going to give you any money back.” And that’s partially why they got the fine.”
You say these three are the worst. What about the others? Is it safe to go to them?
“In Prague there are hundreds of exchange offices; literally hundreds. And I would say that only twenty or maybe ten percent of them are really bad, and it is mostly the ones that are on the main locations, like the main train station, the airport and downtown Prague. But with every bad exchange office you always have the option to cross the street or walk a couple of minutes – not even that – and there will always be a good one.”
What are most frequent violations? You already mentioned one…
“The most frequent one is that they use double exchange lists, so as you walk in you will see a sign that will say 1 euro – 25 crowns but either there is a message in small print below saying this is not an exchange list or else whey will advertise this rate but you will find that that is the amount for which you can buy euros from them, not the amount they will give you for a euro. If you look closely you will see that you will only get 16 crowns for a euro.”
So what would you advise foreign tourists who need to exchange money to do? How can they tell the good ones from the bad?
“It’s very easy. Just give it a minute, look very closely at the different boards, look for the small print in particular and make sure you ask, multiple times. But the good thing is that if you do fall into a trap you have three hours to get your money back. If they tell you they will not give you the money back you can call the police and then they will have to. But if they don’t give you a receipt –then you are in trouble.”
These new regulations protecting clients have been in force since 2019. How much has the overall situation improved since then?
“A bit. The crooks are still crooks. They will never change and they will always try to find loopholes. So overall, it changed only a very little, because if you are a crook you will always be a crook.”