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Money & costs




It's pretty much unheard-of for Prague restaurants to include a service charge on your bill (check, though; a few do). In most tourist-area places the helpful message 'Tips Not Included', in English (hint, hint), is printed on the bill. The normal rate for tipping is 10% of the total.

Normal practice in pubs, cafés and midrange restaurants is to round up the bill to the next 10Kč (or the next 20Kč if it's over 200Kč). The usual protocol is for the staff to hand you the bill and for you, as you hand over the money, to tell them the total amount you want to pay with the tip included.

Change is usually counted out starting with the big notes, on down to the smallest coins. If you say děkuji (thank you) during this process the staff will stop and assume the rest is a tip.

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Prague's economy is largely a service one, and an estimated 60% of the city's cash comes from the pockets of visiting tourists. Although Prague was once an industrial powerhouse, only about 9% of its population is now employed in manufacturing (major industries are textiles, machinery, brewing and food processing); even so, it is still the largest industrial centre in the republic. Although the nationwide unemployment rate is around 9%, in Prague it is only 3%.

The average monthly wage in Prague is about 23, 000Kč (€770), enough for a reasonably comfortable life if you live in its outer suburbs; for Prague residents living in the central tourist zones, however, costs have gone through the roof. And the average wage for the whole country is only 18, 900Kč (€670) a month, making the capital expensive for most Czech citizens.

Prague is not a cheap destination for visitors either, unless you're on the backpacker trail. You can expect to pay around 4000Kč to 4500Kč a night for a double room in an attractive central hotel, and budget 500Kč a head for lunch and 1500Kč a head for dinner (without wine) if you plan to sample the best of Prague's restaurants.

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The Czech crown (Koruna česká, or Kč) is divided into 100 hellers or haléřů (h). Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000Kč; coins are of 50h and one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50Kč.

Keep small change handy for use in public toilets and tram-ticket machines, and try to keep some small-denomination notes for shops, cafés and bars - getting change for the 2000Kč notes that ATMs often spit out can be a problem.

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Changing money

The easiest, cheapest way to carry money is in the form of a debit card from your bank, which you can use to withdraw cash either from an ATM or over the counter in a bank. Using an ATM will result in your home bank charging a fee (usually 1.5% to 2.5%), but you'll get a good exchange rate and provided you make withdrawals of at least a couple of thousand koruna at a time, you'll pay less than the assorted commissions on travellers cheques. Check with your bank about transaction fees and withdrawal limits.

The main Czech banks - Komerční banka, Česká spořitelna, Československá obchodní banka (ČSOB) and Živnostenská banka - are the best places to change cash. They charge 2% commission with a 50Kč minimum (but always check, as commissions can vary from branch to branch). They will also provide a cash advance on Visa or MasterCard without commission.

Hotels charge about 5% to 8% commission, while Čedok travel agencies and post offices charge 2% - similar rates to the banks.

Try to avoid the many private exchange booths (směnárna) in central Prague - they lure tourists in with attractive-looking exchange rates that turn out to be 'sell' rates (if you want to change foreign currency into Czech crowns, the 'buy' rate applies). There may also be an even worse rate for transactions under a certain amount, typically around €500. Check the small print carefully, and ask exactly how much you will get before parting with any money.

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Credit cards

Many midrange and top-end hotels and restaurants accept credit cards. You can use a card to get a cash advance in a bank or to withdraw money from ATMs, but charges will be higher than with a debit card.

You can report lost credit cards (or travellers cheques) to the following:

Amex (222 800 222)

Diners Club (267 197 450)

MasterCard/Eurocard & Visa (272 771 111)

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Travellers cheques

Travellers cheques are not much use here, as they are not accepted by shops and restaurants and can only be exchanged at banks and currency exchange counters.

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