First off, there’s a new rule here on The Czech List. This entry was long, and full of lots of super fun and exciting words like “insurance” and “savings” and “licensing.” And of course, it is what it needs to be, but to keep myself from turning into a stodgy bureaucrat myself, I’m instituting a new policy. Pictures! All blog posts must have at least one picture to make me happy. Doesn’t have to relate to anything, just has to be there, look pretty and shine up my blog and keep me sane. So here goes!
There. Now I’m happy, onto the rest of the post…
I’ve done a lot of messaging and reading in the past day and I don’t want to lose track of what I’ve learned. Though I still don’t have an simple answer to my question, “How much in savings should I bring with me to get settled in Prague?”, I think that might be due to the nature of the question – some things are hard to pin down to a precise numerical amount, as everyone has slightly different spending habits, circumstances, and expenses.
In fact, it seems for every question I research, three more pop up! It’s really exciting how much is going to be new for me, though I have to say I’m very glad to have started looking into this so far ahead of time. There might be a lot of unknowns ahead of me, but at least I’ll be familiar with some of the options before I get arrive.
I had the opportunity to ask my question to a group of alums from The Language House on Facebook, after I was given temporary access their secret group. I didn’t even know Facebook had such a thing – I feel like a real secret agent now, forging contacts abroad in Europe through a ‘secret’ group. Anyhow, I’d like to share the amounts they said they’d started out with in savings upon completing their course at The Language House:
- $7000 – “covered the course, housing, travel, visa and foods and partying for the first 5 months…I was hired a week after my course. Started a week after that and didn’t get paid until 5-6 weeks after”
- $2500 – “took me a month or so to get my first class…(the money) went by really fast with rent and visa stuff”
- $5000 – “definitely needed it all…I had a job right away and got paid about a month after the course was done but it took me about 3 months before I got a full schedule”
- “The more the better…My ‘gap’ was around a month… How quickly one finds a job is very closely related to how motivated said person is to finding a job.”
- $5000 – “If you only come with $3000 extra, I would be sure to make a budget and stick to it as soon as you get a handle on what your weekly expenses will be”
Interestingly, two people also gave a nearly identical piece of extra advice:
- “When you come here you’ll want to compare USD and CZK which is ok for the first few months, but once those savings run out think in CZK. It makes life a lot easier.”
- “The best advice I can give is immediately think in crowns when you arrive. You feel really rich when you get here because you’ll translate everything back dollars and it will all seem amazingly cheap, but remember that you’re not going to be earning dollars anymore.”
Lots of food for thought! But let’s continue, and go over the list I made yesterday again, but a little bit more in depth this time:
- Remainder of my Language House tuition €1300 – €300 deposit – €100 discount = €900 Euros = $980 USD
- Accommodation fee during my TEFL course €250 for a shared room in shared apt, €400 for private room in shared apt = $275 or $435 – I’ll probably go ahead and share a room if the budget is as tight as it seems it’s going to be, but I’d like to have my own room, in an ideal world. It might be worth it to me to fork over the extra for it, depends on how saving goes.
- Cash for food and transport and miscellany during the course: ??? Still need to look into this, found some resources to look into later: Cost of Living in Prague 2014, Cost of Living Report: 2015 Edition
- Deposit for an apartment: Still have yet to find, though I could always calculate a “worst-case” scenario, and expect them to want a single’s month rent down as deposit
- First month’s rent: From what I’ve read, rent for apartments in Prague seem to range from 4500 CZK to 12000 – I’m more than willing to give up having a fancy apartment in the nicest area, but I don’t want to be in a bad living situation either. I’ve decided to prepare for having a rent of 10000CZK/mo ($400) – leaning towards the upper end of numbers I’ve seen, it’s honestly probably more than I’ll actually pursue if my gauge of the rental market is accurate. But better safe than sorry.
- So, worst case scenario I’ll need a deposit, and two months rent. Playing it safe with an estimated 10k/mo in Czech crowns, or $400USD, that’s $1200 to bring to ensure housing for at least two months with no income.
- Beginning the visa process: I’ve read so much on the topic I really need to start making dedicated pages for this already! Needless to say, I’ve discovered some of the things I may need – depending on what route I take to pursue my visa, either through an employer or getting a trade license. These potential expenses include:
- A year of health insurance (see next bullet) – $350
- At least one, and possibly two, trips to a Czech Embassy in Vienna, Berlin, or Bratislava – $? (more research needed!)
- The hiring fee for a visa “guidance counselor” (as I’ve been calling them in my head, though seems people just call them a ‘visa person’ which sounds rather vague to me, it’s a professional who guides expats through the visa/license process and assists with all the paperwork) – this is optional, and it is possible to get everything done without one. Rates seem to be around 5000czk ($200) to arrange a long-term visa, 2500czk ($100) for a trade license. Work licenses are arranged with an employer, I’m not sure what costs are associated with that.
- An unknown (as of yet) amount in administrative fees for the visa, but the helpful writer of A Canadian in Prague, has told me that getting a trade license is 1000czk (about $40) on top of the visa
- Note: Several places advise getting a Czech friend to help out, reduce the need for a translator or hiring a visa counselor, and just making the whole trip down the bureaucratic rabbit-hole a bit more bearable
- Travel/health insurance: So I don’t think anything is required as far as the my tourist visa or course requires (that I’ve seen yet), but if I missed a travel insurance requirement somewhere (I know some TEFL courses require them), I looked into it and one month is about $35, which is negligible in the grand scheme of saving. More of interest to me the requirement of either 6/mo or a year (not sure yet) of health insurance in order to get a trade license (which is one way to obtain a visa). Some health insurance names I found thrown around as offering cheap insurance for just this purpose: VZP Insurance (quoted as 8700czk/year), Slavia (quoted by several different people as 2300/6mo, 3k/6mo, and 6k/1yr), and two others, Maxima and Uniqua, quoted as being ‘inexpensive’
- All this chatter leads me to choose to calculate in the 8700czk to buy a years worth of health insurance – as I’m trying to plan for worst/most-expensive case scenario here, better to have the money for it than not. So into the budget it goes: 8700czk, or $350 for a year of cheap health insurance.
- Note: I haven’t actually researched what kind of coverage is offered, but I’m just trying to get the basics of how much money to save covered for now
- Teaching expenses: ??? Haven’t even touched this topic. I’m getting there, though!
Note: Two TLH alums also mentioned buying furniture as an unexpected expense, which although is definitely something to consider to some extent, I had to have a little chuckle as I’ve been living very nearly furniture-less the past five years. I own a mattress and a desk and a chair, and a wire shelf. Only one of those items I actually purchased, and that was secondhand. I feel very well prepared to live in a barren apartment, as long as I’m in Prague. In fact, Bonus photo!