Bargaining is rare in all instances except perhaps at a junk or flea market. Normally you’re expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
The Czech Republic presents few dangers you wouldn't encounter in any other European country.
- Expect beggars or homeless people to occasionally ask for spare change, though there's no expectation that you need to give anything.
- Czech drivers are notoriously bad when it comes to yielding to pedestrians at crossings. Before crossing, wait until you see the driver slowing down to yield the right of way.
- Rogue taxi drivers remain a problem. Never get into an unmarked taxi and, if possible, phone ahead to use the services of a reputable radio taxi company.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union and entry and exit formalities are the same as travelling to any other EU country.
On arrival at Prague's Václav Havel airport, if you have nothing to declare, simply walk through the green (customs-free) line. Bags are rarely checked. Formal customs regulations are as follows:
- On travel between the Czech Republic and other EU countries, you can import/export 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 1kg of smoking tobacco, 10L of spirits, 20L of fortified wine, 90L of wine and 110L of beer, provided the goods are for personal use only (each country sets its own guide levels; these figures are minimums).
- Travellers arriving from outside the EU can import or export duty-free a maximum of 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 2L of still table wine; 1L of spirits or 2L of fortified wine, sparkling wine or liqueurs; 60mL of perfume; 250mL of eau de toilette; and €175 worth of all other goods (including gifts and souvenirs).
Generally not needed for stays of up to 90 days.
- Citizens of EU countries can freely enter the Czech Republic and are entitled to apply for visas to stay indefinitely.
- Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan and many other countries can stay in the Czech Republic for up to 90 days without a visa. Other nationalities should check current visa requirements with the Czech embassy in their home country. There's more information on the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mzv.cz) website.
- The Czech Republic is a member of the EU's common border and customs area, the Schengen Zone, which imposes its own 90-day visa-free travel limit on visitors from outside the EU. In practice, this means your time in the Czech Republic counts against your stay within the entire Schengen Zone – plan your travel accordingly.
- Greetings It’s customary to say dobrý den (good day) when entering a shop, cafe or pub, and to say na shledanou (goodbye) when you leave. When meeting people for the first time, a firm handshake, for both men and women, is the norm.
- Visiting If you’re invited to someone’s home, bring flowers or a small gift for your host, and remove your shoes when you enter the house.
- Manners On the tram and metro, it's good manners to give up a seat for an elderly or infirm passenger.
- Beer Never pour the dregs of your previous glass of beer into a newly served one. This is considered to be the behaviour of barbarians.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
The Czech Republic is a relatively tolerant destination for gay and lesbian travellers. Homosexuality is legal, and since 2006, same-sex couples have been able to form registered partnerships.
Prague has a lively gay scene and is home to Europe's biggest gay pride march (www.praguepride.cz), normally held in August. Attitudes are less accepting outside the capital, but even here homosexual couples are not likely to suffer overt discrimination.
Useful websites include Prague Saints (www.praguesaints.cz) and Travel Gay Europe (www.travelgayeurope.com).
Travel insurance policies covering travel changes, theft, loss and medical problems can be quite helpful. But each has its own caveat, so check the small print. For example, some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’ (eg motorcycling, rock climbing, canoeing and even hiking), or require you to return to your home country every 31 days.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
The Czech Republic is well wired. Wi-fi (pronounced vee-fee in Czech) is ubiquitous. Most hotels, including pensions and youth hostels, offer it free of charge to guests. Many bars, cafes and restaurants offer free wi-fi (usually marked on the door with the international wi-fi sign).
- Often the most convenient and reliable places to get wi-fi access in a pinch are big-name fast-food restaurants, which offer free wi-fi around the country.
- Many hotels are dropping the practice of making a computer terminal available for guests, though some still do, including most hostels. Larger hotels will sometimes have a business centre for guests to use (for a fee).
- For those without a laptop, Prague still has a few internet cafes scattered about the city. Outside the capital, internet cafes are rare, though tourist information offices may have a computer you can use.
Foreigners in the Czech Republic are subject to the laws of the host country. While your embassy or consulate is the best stop in any emergency, bear in mind there are some things it can't do for you, such as getting local laws or regulations waived, investigating a crime, providing legal advice or representation, getting you out of jail and lending you money.
- A consul can usually issue emergency passports, contact relatives and friends, advise on how to transfer funds, provide lists of reliable local doctors, lawyers and interpreters, and visit you if you've been arrested or jailed.
- In the Czech Republic, the legal blood-alcohol level for drivers is zero.
- Cannabis occupies a legal grey area; it's been decriminalised but is not technically legal. Police will rarely hassle someone for smoking a joint, but always exercise discretion and do not smoke indoors. Buying and selling drugs of any kind, including cannabis, is illegal.
ATMs widely available. Credit and debit cards accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
The Czech currency is the crown (Koruna česká; Kč). It is listed at banks and exchange windows as CZK.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
The Czech Republic is not a traditional tipping culture, though service workers in contact with foreign visitors will expect something.
- Hotels Bellmen at top-end hotels 20Kč to 50Kč per large bag; gratuity for cleaning staff at your discretion.
- Pubs Not expected, though round up to the nearest 10Kč if service is good.
- Restaurants For decent service 10%.
- Taxis Not expected, though round up to the nearest 10Kč for good service.
Most places adhere roughly to the following hours.
- Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Friday; some 9am–1pm Saturday
- Bars and clubs 11am–1am Tuesday to Saturday; shorter hours Sunday and Monday
- Museums 9am–6pm Tuesday to Sunday; some close or have shorter hours October to April
- Post offices 8am–6pm Monday to Friday, some 9am–1pm Saturday
- Restaurants 11am–11pm; kitchens close 10pm
- Shops 9am–6pm Monday to Friday, some 9am–1pm Saturday; tourist shops and malls have longer hours and are normally open daily.
The Czech Postal Service (Česká Pošta; www.cpost.cz) is efficient, though post offices can be tricky to negotiate since signage is only in Czech. For mailing letters and postcards, be sure to get into the proper line, identified as 'listovní zásilky' (correspondence). Anything you can’t afford to lose should go by registered mail (doporučený dopis) or by Express Mail Service (EMS).
- A standard postcard or letter up to 20g costs about 20Kč to other European countries and 30Kč for destinations outside Europe. Buy stamps at post offices, but be sure to have the letter weighed to ensure proper postage.
- All post offices are open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday; post offices in large cities may also have Saturday morning hours.
Banks, offices, department stores and some shops are closed on public holidays. Restaurants, museums and tourist attractions tend to stay open, though many may close on the first working day after a holiday.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Easter Monday March/April
Labour Day 1 May
Liberation Day 8 May
Sts Cyril & Methodius Day 5 July
Jan Hus Day 6 July
Czech Statehood Day 28 September
Republic Day 28 October
Struggle for Freedom & Democracy Day 17 November
Christmas Eve (Generous Day) 24 December
Christmas Day 25 December
St Stephen’s Day 26 December
Smoking is prohibited in all indoor public places, including all restaurants and bars, hotels, schools, government offices, hospitals, libraries, railway stations and on public transport around the country. Vaping is legal but also prohibited indoors.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT, or DPH in Czech) is applied at 10% to 15% on food (including restaurant meals), books and periodicals, and 21% on the sale of most goods and services. This tax is included in the marked price. Non-EU residents can qualify for a tax refund on large purchases (over 2000Kč), subject to certain conditions.
Look for retailers displaying a 'Tax Free Shopping' sign and then inform the clerk you intend to get a refund. You'll need to save the sales receipt and ensure the goods are not used. Normally you collect the tax at the airport on departure or by mail once you return home. For details, see the Global Blue (www.globalblue.com) website.
Most Czech telephone numbers, both landline and mobile (cell), have nine digits. There are no city or area codes. To call any Czech number, simply dial the unique nine-digit number.
- To call abroad from the Czech Republic, dial the international access code (00), then the country code, then the area code (minus any initial zero) and the number.
- To dial the Czech Republic from abroad, dial your country's international access code, then 420 (the Czech Republic country code) and then the unique nine-digit local number.
The Czech Republic uses the GSM 900/1800 system, the same system in use around Europe, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. It's not compatible with some mobile phones in North America or Japan.
- If your mobile phone is unlocked, buy a prepaid SIM card, available from any mobile-phone shop. Prepaid SIMs allow you to make local calls at cheaper local rates.
- The three main mobile operators are O2 (www.o2.cz), T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.cz) and Vodafone (www.vodafone.cz). All have service centres scattered around Prague and offer prepaid SIM cards and temporary calling plans at similar prices.
- The situation is more complicated if you plan on using a smartphone like an iPhone or Android device that may not be easily unlocked to accommodate a local SIM card. With these phones, it's best to contact your home provider to consider short-term international calling and data plans appropriate to what you might need.
- Smartphones can still be used as handy wi-fi devices, even without a special plan. Be sure to switch your phone to 'airplane' mode on arrival, which blocks calls and text messages, but still allows wi-fi. Also turn off your phone's 'data roaming' setting on arrival to avoid unwanted roaming fees.
Local prepaid cards for payphones in the Czech Republic include Smartcall (www.smartcall.cz) and Karta X Plus – you can buy them from hotels, newspaper kiosks and tourist information offices for 300Kč to 1000Kč. To use one, follow the instructions on the card – dial the access number, then the PIN code beneath the scratch-away panel, then the number you want to call (including any international code).
Rates from Prague to the UK, USA and Australia with Smartcall are around 6.6Kč to 10Kč a minute; the more expensive the card, the better the rate.
Clocks in the Czech Republic are set to Central European Time (GMT/UTC plus one hour). Daylight saving time kicks in at 2am on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. Use of the 24-hour clock (eg 6.30pm is 18.30) is the norm. As daylight saving times vary across regions, the following time differences are indicative only.
|City||Noon in Prague|
In Prague and other large cities, public toilets are free in museums, galleries and concert halls, as well as in train, bus and metro stations. In rural areas and smaller towns, public toilets are rare and you're best advised to seek out a restaurant or pub. Public toilets are normally staffed by attendants who charge 5Kč to 10Kč. Men’s are marked muži or páni, and women’s ženy or dámy.
Czech Tourism (www.czechtourism.com) maintains a wonderful website, with a trove of useful information. There's a large English-language section on festivals and events, accommodation and tips on what to see and do all around the country. Prague City Tourism (www.prague.eu) and GoToBrno (www.gotobrno.cz) are also useful.
Nearly all cities have decent tourist offices. If you turn up in a city that doesn't have a tourist office, you're pretty much on your own. Local bookshops or newsagents can sometimes sell a local map.
Travel with Children
The Czech Republic is rapidly evolving into a more family-friendly destination than it has been in the past as the country experiences a mini baby-boom and more sights and attraction open up to cater to the needs of young families. The country still lags behind much of Western Europe, however, when it comes to family-friendly amenities like baby-change facilities, lifts on public transport, and smooth pavements for prams. Changing stations in public restrooms are still rare and far too many pavements are still too rough and narrow to easily accommodate a stroller.
On the positive side, it’s now relatively easy to find nappies and toddlers' needs in just about any pharmacy or drugstore. An increasing number of restaurants also now cater specifically for children, with play areas and so on, and many offer a dětský jídelníček (children’s menu) – usually a slice of ham or a chicken schnitzel, served with mashed potatoes. Many hotels, particularly pensions located outside of urban areas, are likely to have some kind of children’s play area. The more expensive places may be able to offer babysitting services.
Much of the country’s tourist infrastructure is centred on historical sights, and children of all ages will get a kick out of visiting high-top castles and medieval museums. But at some point, the endless stream of exhibitions and all of the walking is going to start to weigh on kids – particularly younger ones – and some child-specific attractions may need to be thrown into the itinerary.
Need to Know
- Admission costs The maximum age for child discounts on admission fees varies from 12 to 18; children under six often get in for free.
- Babysitting Most top-end hotels provide a babysitting service; otherwise, ask at the local tourist office.
- Transport Students and children often qualify for discounted prices on trains and buses. On public transport, children under six years of age normally ride free.
- Mořský Svět The country’s largest water tank, filled with lots of fish.
- National Technical Museum An oversized room stuffed with huge locomotives and old-fashioned cars.
- Prague Zoo Well-tended zoo, with a broad collection of exotic animals.
- Museum of Public Transport More interesting than it sounds, featuring lots of old-timer tram cars.
- Techmania Science Centre Modern, high-tech science centre will appeal to teenage geeks.
- DinoPark Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?
- City Zoological Garden Relaxing, bucolic setting and lots of interesting animals.
- Labyrinth under the Cabbage Market A stroll through the city’s medieval underground.
- Technical Museum Tons of old machines, historic vehicles and game rooms where kids can play ‘mad scientist’.
- Brno Observatory & Planetarium Great for stargazers, but sadly most of the commentary is in Czech.
Travellers with Disabilities
The Czech Republic is behind the curve when it comes to catering to the needs of travellers with disabilities. Cobblestones and high curbs present challenging mobility issues, and many older buildings, including hotels and museums, are not wheelchair accessible. The situation is better with newer buildings, and many big-name fast-food restaurants are wheelchair-friendly.
In terms of public transport, Prague and other large cities are slowly making progress on accessibility. Some buses and trams are low riders and, in theory, should accommodate a wheelchair. These services are marked on timetables with a wheelchair symbol. In Prague, a handful of metro stations, including newer stations, are equipped with lifts. Consult the Prague Public Transport Authority website for details.
- Accessible Travel (http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel) Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide.
- Czech Blind United Represents the vision-impaired; provides information but no services.
- Prague Wheelchair Users Organisation works to promote barrier-free architecture and improve the lives of disabled persons. Consult the website for online resources.
Volunteering options in the Czech Republic usually centre around teaching English, assisting with refugees or displaced persons, or helping people in need. Volunteering organisations sometimes have a religious or Christian undertone, and volunteers are sometimes expected to pay for the experience.
Prague Volunteer (www.praguevolunteer.com) is a nonprofit company that arranges trips and stays for native English speakers with the aim of teaching English and raising language literacy.
Weights & Measures
The Czech Republic uses the metric system.
Visitors are only permitted to stay in the Czech Republic for 90 days without a visa. Working in the country is possible only with a valid work visa and long-term residency permit (povolení k dlouhodobému pobytu), issued by the Ministry of the Interior (www.mvcr.cz). The process is normally carried out in conjunction with a Czech-based employer and the procedure for obtaining permits should be initiated before arrival.
- Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mzv.cz) Good first step, with information in English on entering and staying in the country.
- Just Landed (www.justlanded.com) Helpful resource for sorting out the bureaucracy and getting started.