It is a strange sensation, with a quick click of the button you have spent half your monthly wage, and have your fingers crossed that you will get a package in the post in the next week or month - depending on your faith in the postal system. The pros and cons to online shopping are constantly being compared; on one side you have the convenience of shopping from home, avoiding crowds and belligerent salespeople plus not having to transfer your purchase(s) home by yourself. On the other hand, you can´t actually try or hold anything, there is no salesperson who can offer advice or suggestions, and navigating the Internet can be just as exhausting and time-consuming as navigating a shopping mall. However, in my mind, there are two major benefits to online shopping that the retail stores in Prague just can´t compete with: Prices and the range of international products.
Generally speaking, products are often cheaper online than in the store. However, there are a few things that you need to be wary of: How much will postage or delivery to your address cost, what currency is the product´s price in, and has tax been included? That being said, below is a list of several websites that cater to a range of needs. Please feel free to add any of your favorites in the comment box.
For large international internet marketplaces that sell basically everything and anything try www.ebay.com or www.amazon.com. You can find both brand new and secondhand items. eBay also has an ongoing auction where you can find yourself some real bargains. However, a frequent eBay customer suggests when bidding for an item, wait until the last three minutes. If you bid early on it you will just make the price of the item jump, where if you wait, you may end up paying an amount lower than you expected. Both eBay and Amazon have websites which are based in different countries; for the UK versions, change .com to .co.uk. Unfortunately, neither of these marketplaces has opened a site in the Czech Republic, so when you decide to make a purchase you need to check if they will post the item to the Czech Republic, and if it is still worthwhile when you add the postage costs. Amazon generally only ships books, music, and movies internationally. One tip from an avid Amazon user is that Amazon charges shipping by the book or DVD, not weight, and a box set counts as one item - so the shipping cost of a massive box set is the same as a single DVD.
For a Czech alternative to eBay, try www.ikup.cz. This website is only an auction site, where you bid for the product you wish to buy. It is shown in several different languages, including English. There is also the classifieds section on www.expats.cz, where there is always a large turnaround of products.
For last minute flower deliveries within the Czech Republic there is www.krasnekvetiny.cz and www.flowers4u.cz . Both websites are available in English and Czech. Flowers4u also delivers internationally. Instead of sending flowers to friends and relatives back home, you could always send them a traditional Czech product. www.czechpresents.com is an e-shop where you can order Czech presents to be delivered world-wide.
If you enjoy reading books, but don´t want to be constantly paying for international delivery, there is www.shakes.cz and www.antikvariaty.cz. Both websites are for bookstores within Prague, so you have the possibility of picking up your purchases at the store or having them delivered to your front door. Shakes, also known as Shakespeare and Sons, is completely in English and deal mostly with English books. Antikvariaty is a combination of three secondhand bookstores in Prague, so most of their products are in Czech. They do have an English website, but the descriptions of the products don´t transfer into English. However, if you write ‘english´ in the search field it will pull up many books written in English.
If you are looking for electrical/computer goods, check out www.alza.cz. It has an English website and advertises a large range of electrical products. Delivery can be either to your flat or you can pick up your purchase in their store near the Holešovická market in Prague 7.
If you understand Czech, or have a good Czech friend who shares your passion for shopping, the following websites might be useful to check out. None of them have English websites, but if you type in what you are looking for English, and if it is advertised that way, it will come up. However, remember that more often than not the descriptions will all be in Czech, as will be the payment and delivery procedures. www.zbozi.cz is linked to www.seznam.cz and acts as a search engine where you can search for the item you want to buy new or from the Seznam bazaar. www.aukro.cz is an auction site with an enormous range of products being sold constantly. www.onlineshopy.cz is like an internet shopping centre, linking you to different internet stores catering to different needs. There is also www.korunka.cz which has a large assortment of products available, ranging from electrical/computer goods to household appliances.
A final reminder; next time you are out shopping and are about to make a large purchase, consider trying to find the product online first. Check if the store has a website, as often the products are sold at a better price online than in the store. If you are happy to exchange your window shopping for web browsing, or perhaps doing a combination of both, there is nothing to stop you getting the best deal on exactly what you want!