Driving has compelling advantages. With your own wheels, you're free to explore off-the-beaten-track destinations and small towns. Additionally, you're no longer at the whim of capricious bus schedules and inconvenient, early-morning train departures. That said, driving in the Czech Republic is not ideal, and if you have the chance to use alternatives like the train and bus, these can be more relaxing options.
- Roads, including the most important highways, such as the D1 motorway between Prague and Brno, are in the midst of a long-term rebuilding process, and delays, traffic jams and long detours are more the norm than the exception.
- Most highways are two lanes, and can be choked with cars and trucks. It's white-knuckle driving made worse by aggressive motorists in fast cars trying to overtake on hills and blind curves. When calculating arrival times, figure on covering about 60km to 70km per hour.
- Western-style petrol stations are plentiful. A litre of unleaded 95 octane costs about 34Kč. Petrol stations invariably accept credit cards, but you'll need to have a four-digit PIN to use them.
- Czech roads and highways are covered by most satellite-navigation systems like Garmin or TomTom. If you're going to be driving, download the most recent European maps and bring along your home sat-nav device.
Driving In The Czech Republic
- The Czech Republic is covered by a network of generally good roads, though many towns still do not have a bypass – beware of suddenly reduced speed limits as highways narrow and pass through the centres of towns and villages.
- There are also hundreds of railway level crossings where the official speed limit is 30km/h, but you're better off stopping and looking since many have no barriers and some in rural areas don't even have flashing lights.
- Driving on Czech motorways requires a toll kupón (sticker), which can be purchased at border crossings and some petrol stations (per 10 days/month/year 310/440/1500Kč). This is usually included with rental cars.
International rental companies have offices in large cities and at Václav Havel Airport in the capital. In addition, locally owned car-hire companies usually operate in large cities and can be cheaper. Book cars in advance via company websites to get the best rates. Drivers must normally be at least 21 years old, and the renter must hold a valid driving licence and credit card. Note there may be restrictions on taking the car out of the Czech Republic, particularly to places like Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.
- The minimum driving age is 18.
- Traffic moves on the right.
- The use of seat belts is compulsory for front- and rear-seat passengers.
- Children under 12 years or shorter than 1.5m (4ft 9in) are prohibited from sitting in the front seat and must use a child-safety seat.
- Headlights must be always on, even in daylight.
- The legal blood alcohol limit is zero; if the police pull you over for any reason, they are required to administer a breathalyser.
- In cities, trams have the right of way when making any signalled turn across your path. Drivers may overtake a tram only on the right, and only if it’s in motion.
- You must stop behind any tram taking on or letting off passengers where there’s no passenger island.
- In case of an accident, contact the police immediately if repairs are likely to exceed 20,000Kč or if there is an injury. Even if damage is slight, it’s a good idea to report the accident to obtain a police statement for insurance purposes.
- For emergency breakdowns, the ÚAMK provides nationwide assistance 24 hours a day.
Watch speed limits in towns and villages in spots where the legal limit drops quickly from 90km/h (56 mph) to 50km/h (30 mph). Highway speeds are often monitored by mounted surveillance cameras. On expressways the speed limit is 130km/h (78 mph).