Accommodation in the Czech Republic runs the gamut from summer campsites to family pensions to hotels at all price levels. Places that pull in international tourists – Prague, Karlovy Vary and Český Krumlov – are the most expensive and beds can be hard to find during peak periods, but there's rarely any problem finding a place to stay in smaller towns.
Camping grounds vary greatly; generally there are spaces for caravans and most have basic bungalows, huts or cabins for rent. Often tents are pitched randomly in a big open field in the centre and the cabins are arranged around the edge, near the tree line. Facilities may be basic and run-down, or you might find bars, discos, minigolf and boat rentals in a lakeside location. Most have some food service. Most camping grounds are open from May to October only. CampCZ (http://camp.cz) is a good online directory of Czech campsites.
A hostel can be anything from a bunk bed in a room of 12 to a double room with shower, the common factor being that you pay by the bed (if you want a double to yourself, you have to pay for two beds). Outside Prague and Český Krumlov there aren't a lot of backpacker-style hostels with nifty internet cafes, games rooms and kitchens. Mostly, what you'll find are basic tourist or worker hostels (ubytovna) where sleeping may be dorm style, or you may get a tiny room with shared facilities. In July and August, student dormitories are open to all travellers and provide the cheapest lodging.
Prague, Český Krumlov and Karlovy Vary have some truly stylish top-end sleeps that are comparable to anywhere in Western Europe (including pricewise). In provincial towns, standards are fairly average, and prices are lower.
The main difference between midrange hotels and pensions the facilities. A hotel will almost always have a restaurant and a bar, and may have business services, a fitness centre and pool. A 'hotel garni' means a hotel with no restaurant (breakfast is usually available, but not lunch or dinner).
Penzión (pension) equates to the similar word in English, and most of these are family-run guesthouses that have breakfast rooms, if not a small restaurant. Some larger hotels have co-opted the word to sound homey, but in general pensions have more character and are smaller than hotels. Depending on the quality of the appointments and the proximity to a town centre, you may pay just as much at one of these as at a hotel. With midrange prices, pensions are more often than not the best choice in smaller towns, especially if you want to avoid institutional high-rise lodging.
Keep your eye out for signs on homes advertising Zimmer frei (German for 'room available') or privát (private room). Renting rooms in private homes is common near the more popular tourist destinations. You may have to share the bathroom with the family but, more and more, these places are being run like tiny pensions.
The local tourist office will usually have a list of private accommodation and you can find some on town and tourist websites. Most private accommodation offers discounts for longer stays but put their prices up for Easter, Christmas and some European holidays.