In January there are a lot of Erasmus students arriving to Brno. I should know, I was an Erasmus student once. I went to Poland, but I believe I can still share some valuable information about spending a semester abroad. I am currently on an Erasmus internship at Foreigners.cz in Brno and I want to help you out before you get here so that you can avoid doing the same mistake as I did. Let’s start with accommodation!
You really should get one before coming to Brno, unlike me. You can easily find an affordable accommodation if you start to search in time. I made the mistake of coming to Brno without having a room or apartment chosen upfront. I can tell you, it was hard to find one! There are lots of websites with offers but most of them are in Czech, and they have lack of information. I discovered that the best way to find accommodation is to do so on Facebook. The pages I can recommend are: Flat Sharing with Foreigners.cz, Multilingual Flats in Brno, Rooms in Brno and Flat to rent in Brno. If you decide to give a Real Estate agency a try, you should choose very carefully. Most of them don’t give any kind of support after the contract is signed, and if you have some kind of problem like difficulty with the communication with the landlord (in case they don’t speak English, which is very common), problems in the apartment or some issues related with light, water or internet, you have to resolve it by yourself.
You can also choose student dorms, but there are some things you should consider. The price-quality ratio is not the best, the dorms are usually old and they aren’t in the best conditions. In Poland I lived in a brand new dorm with great conditions. But the old dormitories had a lot of problems since small rooms, bugs, old stoves and a lot of noise. You can find apartments fully equipped, in great conditions for a price not so higher than what you would in a student dorm. To give you an idea, for a bed in a dorm in a shared room for 2 at Kounicova you will be paying 120 CZK per night, which comes up to 3600 CZK per month. I am living in an apartment near the city center, at Merhautova, and I am paying 3850 CZK, utilities included, for a room for 2 people and fully furnished. Some people are not interested in living outside the dorms because they will miss out on all the Erasmus life and parties. Sure, I see your point, but not everyone is excited about being up all night because of the non-stop parties that are going on at Vinarska. And yes, they are. Non-stop.
Okay, so now you have decided on accommodation, it’s time to get here. It’s possible to get to Brno by train or by bus. The most popular bus service is called Student Agency. The prices are very nice and they have connections directly from the airports in Prague, Vienna, Bratislava… The bus will drop you off in front of the Grand Hotel. From there you can take a tram to your place. You will have to purchase a ticket from this yellow machine (you will need some change). The ticket for 15 minutes costs 20 CZK (1 USD, 0,7 EUR). When you get on the tram, you need to validate the ticket you get by putting it in this machine. In case there is a strange man approaching you and showing you some kind of badge, it’s the public transport control and they simply want to see your valid ticket.
Now you are at your place. What’s next? You’re going to need your transport card. How to get one?
You have to go to Novobranská Street, number 18, they have an office there. And it is very affordable to travel in Brno transports, I only pay 1370 CZK for a 3 months card and I can use any transport in Brno. For students is even cheaper, just 685 CZK. You must do a transport card. The public transports are the best in the world, you can travel very fast to any part of the city and there is tram each 5 minutes.
You might also need to get a Czech bank account. The recommended bank is KB (Komerční banka). It is located at Náměstí Svobody. They have a special counter for Erasmus students and there should be someone who speaks English available. The process is that you fill out some forms and they will let you know when your contract is ready by e-mail. Then you come to the bank again, sign your contract and there you are. Feeling Czech yet? No? Okay.
Now this is an important step. If you are not staying in a dorm, you will have to report your arrival and stay at the Foreign Police or at the Immigration Office (depending on whether you are a EU citizen or not). EU citizens have 3 months to do so, but everyone else has 3 days!!! The biggest problem with this is the communication at the offices. You won’t find almost any information in English, usually nobody speaks English there (I know, Foreign Police indeed) and if don’t have someone to translate stuff for you, you are screwed. If you find yourself in such situation, feel free to contact the Foreigners.cz agency. My colleague, who would go there with you has been there so many times considers moving closer to the Immigration office so that she does not have to take such long trips all the time. And it’s FAR from the center, it is.
Calling in Czech Republic. Well the easiest way is to get a SIM card that is prepaid, so that you do not have to sign any contract and you simply top-up the credit when you run out of it. I would recommend OpenCall. The prices are very fair, it is easy to top up and they have different services for different parts of the world as well so you can call home every once in a while and make your mommy happy. The SIM cards are available for free at the Foreigners.cz office so feel free to stop by and get one. Once you are there, I would also recommend to pick up this map. It is a map made by locals and there are amazing places to visit on it. Again, for free.
Now you should be more or less settled, right? Anyway, I hope this was helpful for you and if you have any more questions, just send an e-mail to us, we will be happy to help you. Oh and f you would like to meet some foreigners and Czech outside the student community, come to our MeetUp, it’s every second Thursday in a month. Follow us on Facebook for more info. Welcome to the Czech Republic and Jedno pivo, prosím.