Practical Travel Information for Tourists Visiting Czechia
The purpose of this page is to collect relevant and useful travel tips for English-speaking tourists travelling to Czechia. It may be also useful to expats and other people interested in this country. Traveling to and within Czechia is simple and can be very enjoyable if you plan everything properly.
Information for travelers – CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
As of August 2020, the coronavirus pandemic still poses a serious threat to the world. While the situation has been satisfactory stabilized in many countries, some parts of the world still deal with the progression of this disease. The situation is quickly evolving and the changes are dynamic in any country all around the globe and Czechia, of course, isn’t an exception.
Because of the rapid development, it’s essential for all tourists visiting Czechia to pay attention to the latest official news and up-to-date information about the measures and restrictions in the region they want to travel to.
Useful practical information can be found at the following links:
- Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic – e.g. information about the rules for entering Czechia and important notices
- Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic – e.g. current protective measures, list of countries according to the level of risk, important phone numbers and links
- The Actual Epidemiological Situation in Czechia (in Czech only) – This map specifies the risk of getting COVID-19 infection in specific Czech counties (or okresy in Czech) on a 4 colour scale. Every county has its colour based on the danger of catching the coronavirus in this area. White symbolises a negligible risk. Green indicates a presence of the infection, but without community spread (low risk). Orange means the beginning of the community spread (medium risk) and the colour red indicates a growing or a stable spreading inside the community (the highest risk).
Moreover, the European Union has launched a project called Re-open EU, which aims to present actual info for the visitors of any of the 27 member states of the Union – including Czechia – plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.
What are the symptoms of this illness?
According to the WHO, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- dry cough
Other symptoms are, for instance:
- aches and pains
- sore throat
- loss of taste or smell
- a rash on the skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes.
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
- chest pain or pressure.
- loss of speech or movement.
If you’re experiencing serious symptoms, you should seek immediate medical help. Make sure to call your doctor or the health facility before visiting them.
How you can lower the risk of getting COVID-19 while travelling?
First of all by maintaining good hygiene. Wash or disinfect your hands regularly. Do not touch your face with dirty hands. The danger of catching and spreading the virus may also be decreased by covering your nose and mouth with a face mask or a respirator. If possible, try to avoid the crowds and practise social distancing. More advice for the public can be found on the WHO website. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We wish everyone visiting Czechia good health and we hope you return home from your journey safe and sound.
2. The Most Popular Tourist Destinations
3. Train Travel
4. Traveling by Bus
5. Traveling by Air / Main Airports
6. Private Transportation
7. Useful Websites to Check Timetables and Connections
11. Important Emergency Numbers
12. Visa Requirements
13. Currency Exchange
15. Common Sense and a Few General Safety Tips
17. Public Holidays
The Best Time to Go
What is the best time to visit Czechia? It depends.
If you like warm temperatures, then July and August are the warmest months. It is also the peak season, which means that some prices go up and you can expect more crowds in the most popular places than in other months. However, it also means that most attractions should be open during that time. You can also take part in many outdoor activities that would not be as enjoyable in the colder months.
The late spring months of May and June, as well as the early autumn months of September and October can be an interesting alternative to the peak season. Popular destinations will be somewhat less crowded, and some prices can be a little lower. If you’re lucky, the weather can also be very pleasant. If you’re less lucky, it can be rainy and chilly.
Winters in Czechia can also have their special charm. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict in advance if and when it is going to snow (at least not in the lowlands). December, January and February are the coldest months. Prague in the snow is beautiful, but don’t forget to take winter clothes with you. If you’re a skier, the Krkonoše mountains with Špindlerův Mlýn or the Bohemian Forest (a.k.a. Šumava) with Železná Ruda are great places to visit in the winter months.
Each of these periods has its pros and cons, so the best time for a visit depends on what you would like to do. More information about the climate and the current weather reports from several major Czech cities is on this page.
As everywhere in the world at this latitude, the length of the day varies significantly between the seasons. On the longest day, which is June 21st, the sun rises in Prague around 4:52 AM and sets around 9:15 PM. The longest day is thus approx. 16 hours and 23 minutes long. On the shortest day, December 21st, the sun rises in Prague around 7:58 AM and sets around 4:02 PM, which means that the shortest day of the year is only approx. 8 hours and 3 minutes long.
The Most Popular Tourist Destinations in Czechia
One of the goals of this site is to prove that Czechia has much more to offer than only Prague, but of course, Prague is the country’s main magnet for tourists. Prague is fantastic if you’re interested in culture, history, architecture or perhaps nightlife. Prague is great whether you travel alone or with a family and kids. It is undeniably one of the top tourist destinations worldwide.
So, what is there besides Prague? If you’re a beer fan or interested in beer tourism, then Plzeň (Pilsen) and České Budějovice (Budweis) should be in your itinerary. If you’re a wine connoisseur rather than a beer drinker, then South Moravia is the place to go and especially the region around the beautiful town of Mikulov.
Fans of old small towns with Central European charm should consider visiting Český Krumlov, Telč and Kroměříž – they are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you prefer somewhat larger towns or cities, then Brno, Olomouc and České Budějovice are great choices.
If you prefer spending time in unspoilt nature, the Šumava mountain range and Bohemian Switzerland in western Bohemia should not disappoint you. Northeast of Prague you will find a very picturesque region called Bohemian Paradise. It brims with castles and chateaux – a perfect destination for hiking and landscape photography.
Czechia has a very dense railway network. Train travel is inexpensive, safe and convenient (as long as your destination has a train station). If you would like to come to Czechia by train from a neighbouring country, there are many options.
The main train station in Prague (Praha hlavní nádraží) has direct international connections with the following cities: Graz, Linz, Vienna (Austria), Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, Regensburg (Germany), Budapest (Hungary), Katowice, Tychy, Warsaw (Poland), Bratislava, Košice, Poprad, Žilina (Slovakia).
If you’d like to go directly to Brno by train from a city in a neighbouring country, you may do so from Graz, Vienna (Austria), Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg (Germany), Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia).The main railway operator in the country is České dráhy (ČD). It is the Czech successor of the Czechoslovak State Railways. Besides České dráhy, there are two private operators offering train services in Czechia: Leo Express and RegioJet. However, these two companies operate only several connections between selected major cities, for example, Prague-Ostrava or Prague-Brno. There are many smaller private providers of passenger rail transport which may be encountered mostly on regional lines, for instance, the multinational company Arriva.
The best website to check connections and timetables is idos.cz, also known as Jízdní řády. This site is also available in English and German. It is currently not possible to link directly to these versions. You need to click on the rather small icons with the respective flags, and the website’s interface will switch to that language. This website is extremely useful for planning trips because it includes also bus connections.
The website of the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) also has a database of train connections in many European countries. It may be useful if you would like to plan a train trip to Czechia from another country (even as distant as e.g. Portugal), or if you would like to purchase a train ticket from the German Railways.
If you would like to travel by train from one Czech town to another, naturally you can buy the ticket at the train station, or in advance from the website of Czech Railways (České dráhy) or one of the private operators. An interesting alternative is buying a rail pass, which will save you the hassle of buying tickets, is purchasing a rail pass in advance. A rail pass will allow you to travel on most passenger trains during the time specified in the pass. There are two major types of European rail passes: global and one-country passes. A global pass will allow you to use trains in 30 countries, whereas a one-country pass is valid only in the specified country.
European rail passes are valid in Czechia on trains of České dráhy (ČD) and trains of national operators from the neighbouring countries going to Czech cities (EuroCity trains). The passes are also valid on trains of some private operators, e.g. Leo Express and RegioJet.
There are two variants of European rail passes, and you must select the correct one, depending on the country of your citizenship or official legal residence.
If you’re a citizen of a European country or a legal resident of a European country, you should order your pass from INTERRAIL. This includes European countries which are not members of the European Union and European countries which don’t have railways (e.g. Iceland) and European countries with railways not participating in the rail pass system (e.g. Ukraine). Citizens and legal residents of all these countries should purchase the rail pass from INTERRAIL.
If your country is not on the European continent (e.g. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, USA, etc.), you need to buy your rail pass from EURAIL. The main difference between them is the price. INTERRAIL passes have discounts for seniors, but you can only choose between one-country and global passes. At EURAIL, you can combine two or three neighboring countries into one pass, which is not possible at INTERRAIL. At the time of writing, EURAIL was slightly more expensive than a comparable INTERRAIL global pass. Both INTERRAIL and EURAIL offer discounted rates for young travellers, and their definition of “youth” is very generous: 12-27 years of age. You’re an adult if you’re 28 or older.
A rail pass does not include seat reservations. However, for most train connections in Czechia reserving seats is not required. You need to reserve a seat if you want to take, for example, a high-speed SuperCity train. You may reserve a seat on such train at the train station, or on the website of České dráhy (available also in English). Trains with obligatory seat reservation are normally marked as such in the timetables.
A rail pass gives you great flexibility if something unexpected happens during your journey. With a rail pass, your itinerary can always be relatively easily adjusted, and you can travel more spontaneously. You will rarely have the same flexibility if you book tickets for specific connections long in advance.
The Czech word for train is vlak (plural: vlaky). They are divided into the following categories:
- Osobní (Os) – The slowest category of local trains, they stop practically at every station. Operated by ČD.
- Spěšný (Sp) – A little faster than osobní, because they skip some less important stations. Operated by ČD.
- Rychlík (R) – Fast trains. They stop only at important stations. Operated by ČD.
- Rychlík vyšší kvality (Rx) – Fast trains of a higher standard. Similar to regular rychlíks, but their carriages are more modern and more comfortable. Operated by ČD.
- Expres (Ex) – They are faster and usually have a higher standard than rychlíks. Operated by ČD.
- Eurocity (EC) – European category of fast long-distance international trains. They stop only in major cities and can be used for travels within one country as well.
- Railjet (RJ) – High standard and high-speed trains offering direct connections from major cities in Czechia (e.g. Prague, Brno or Pardubice) to Vienna and Graz (Austria), Berlin (Germany) and Bratislava (Slovakia). They are operated by ČD and by the Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB.
- Intercity (IC) – These trains have similar standards to Eurocity, but typically their routes are domestic only.
- Supercity (SC) a.k.a. Pendolino – The fastest category of trains operated by ČD. High speed and high standard. Seat reservation is mandatory. Currently, they connect only certain major cities (e.g. Prague, Ostrava). They also go to Košice in Slovakia.
- Euronight (EN) – International night trains. They have sleeping cars and optionally may have also sitting carriages.
Traveling by Bus
It is very easy to get to major cities in Czechia from another country by bus. The German company Flixbus is relatively young, but it is already one of the leading long-distance bus operators in Europe. Their fares are quite competitive, usually much lower than train or plane tickets on the same routes. Tickets can be conveniently booked through their smartphone app. They promise wi-fi and power sockets on their buses. Obviously, long-distance bus travel is somewhat less comfortable than a train ride and takes significantly longer than a flight. If you’re on a tight budget, it is an interesting alternative, nevertheless.
Czechia has a very well-developed network of bus connections. Local buses go to major cities and towns but also to tiny villages which are not served by railway lines. Bus tickets tend to be cheaper than train tickets. However, travelling by local buses in a foreign country may be tricky if you don’t speak the language used there. Drivers of international buses going to Czechia are likely to speak English or German, but this may not be the case when you’re on a local bus. If you’re going to some small village by bus, you should not assume that the driver will speak English. Learning how to pronounce the name of your destination correctly may be very helpful, so that the driver or other passengers may inform you when you should get off.
There are many bus companies in Czechia. RegioJet, a.k.a. Student Agency operates many long-distance lines, both domestic and international ones. The multinational transport company Arriva is also present in the country.
As in the case of trains, the best way to check the timetables and connections is the IDOS website. IDOS is also available as an app for Android and iPhones. When you use the IDOS site to search bus connections, you may find the bus line numbers somewhat confusing at first sight. This is because IDOS is an integrated system and its database contains local lines from the whole country. It happens very often that multiple cities or towns have bus routes designated by the same numbers, for example: there may be a bus line no. “10” in multiple towns and cities. Therefore, they must be differentiated by a prefix, so e.g. the line 509 from Brno appears in IDOS as 729509 in IDOS. For international bus lines, this prefix is usually “000”.
The great thing about IDOS is that it includes both buses and trains. Therefore, you can easily find the most convenient connection without having to use multiple sources.
Traveling by Air / Main Airports
There are five international passenger airports in Czechia: Václav Havel Airport Prague (PRG), Brno-Tuřany (BRQ), Leoš Janáček Airport Ostrava (OSR), Karlovy Vary Airport (KLV) and Pardubice Airport (PED). There are several more airports, but currently they don’t serve any scheduled commercial flights.
Most passengers flying to Czechia use the airport in Prague and this is the airport with the most connections. At the time of writing (2018), the airport in Prague served flights from and to the following destinations:
Please note that some of the above connections are seasonal only and the situation may differ due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Airlines may cancel any connection at their discretion and new travel restrictions may be put in place. An up-to-date list of destinations served by Václav Havel Airport Prague can be found here.
After you arrive at Prague Airport, obviously you will need to get to your accommodation in the city (or to continue your journey by another mode of transport). To get to the center of Prague from the airport you have several options.
The cheapest option is using public transportation. In front of Terminal 2 (Exit D), there is a bus stop. Bus no. 119 will take you to Nádraží Veleslavín, where you can change to metro (subway) Line A going to the city centre (direction: Depo Hostivař). The journey to the city centre takes around 30 minutes. The other option is to use bus no. 100. Bus no. 100 goes to the Zličín terminus bus and metro station on Line B which is heading to the city centre as well (direction: Černý Most). Even though it’s around a 45-minute long trip to the centre, it’s often better to use the bus no. 100 rather than no. 119. Not only it’s usually less crowded than the latter, but it can also save you some time, especially if your accommodation is located in the southwestern part of Prague.
There’s also the Airport Express bus service operated by the Czech Railways (ČD). The Airport Express buses depart from the Prague Main Train Station or Hlavní nádraží and arrive at Prague Airport Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 respectively in approximately half an hour. Indeed, it’s a direct connection, but it’s more expensive than the connections including transfers. At the time of writing, the cost of a public transportation ticket valid for 90 minutes was 32 CZK (approx. 1.25 EUR), the price of a 24-hour ticket was 110 CZK (4.20 EUR). If you would like to use public transportation in Prague for 3 days, you would pay 310 (11.8 EUR). Compared to many major cities in Western Europe, these prices are a bargain.
Another option is taking a taxi. There are many good and reliable taxi companies. But unfortunately, some taxi drivers are “black sheep”. Instead of driving you straight to the requested address, they might give you a little “tour” of the city and make you pay more than the straight route should cost. There have also been reported cases when some taxi drivers in Prague tried to rip off their customers by tampering with the taximeter in their car. If you hail a random taxi, you can never really know if the driver will be reliable or a scammer. Alternatives to the standard taxis in Czechia include international ride-hailing companies Bolt and Uber or the Czech company Liftago. However, these companies are available only in Prague, except for Liftago which is present in some other major cities as well.
The most comfortable option is booking your airport transfer through a reputable company, such as e.g. Prague Airport Transfers. They operate taxis, shuttle buses, minibuses and limos. You will be picked up by an English-speaking driver who will drive you to your accommodation. You pay a flat fee in advance, which depends on the type of vehicle you book for yourself or your group. Their prices are very attractive and you don’t risk having to deal with a rogue taxi driver. Their service is not limited to Prague only, they can drive you to other cities as well. You can even book private transport from Prague to other great cities in Central Europe, such as e.g. Vienna, Dresden, Salzburg, Budapest, or Krakow.
A very attractive alternative to using public transportation is booking your own private transport. You might associate private transportation with taxis and think that it is very expensive. It doesn’t have to be like this. At least, not in Czechia. Private transportation can offer a surprisingly good value for money, especially if you’re travelling in a group of several people. And obviously it offers convenience that cannot be matched by public transportation.
The Czech market leader in the field of private transportation is Prague Airport Transfers. Their name is somewhat misleading, because they offer much more than only transfers from Prague Airport. They can drive you or your small group to many places in Czechia, and not only in Czechia. They can drive you from Prague to many great cities all over Central Europe, for example Bratislava, Budapest, Dresden, Krakow, Munich, Nuremberg, Salzburg, Vienna or Wroclaw. The rates are much lower than regular taxis and you know them in advance. There is no meter, as in taxis, so you’ll never be overcharged. Simple flat rate, that’s it.
If you’re based in Prague and would like to visit some other destination in Czechia and return to your hotel on the same day, they have a great deal. You only pay a one-way fare + a low hourly waiting fee. This is very fair, because the driver would have to get back to Prague anyway, so he can just wait for you and you don’t have to pay for the return trip.
They accept cash payments, credit cards and even Paypal. You can choose a sedan car, a minibus or even a limo. They usually have a wi-fi hotspot onboard, but please confirm it with them during booking if you absolutely need it. Here you can find their simple price lists for the popular places, and for the less popular destinations there is also a kilometre price list at the bottom of the same page.
Useful Websites to Check Timetables and Connections
Jízdní řády (a.k.a. IDOS.cz) – Timetables of Czech trains and buses (the website has an English-language version). An essential website for all who want to explore Czechia using public transportation.
Czech Railways (České drahy) – There you can check the connections and buy electronic tickets for Czech trains (no pun intended).
Bahn.de – Great for checking timetables of international trains going to Czechia. You can also buy an electronic ticket for Deutsche Bahn, if you’re travelling from Germany.
Flixbus – This young company operates a very large bus network in many European countries. You can take their bus from many places in Europe and travel to Czechia at a price that is very hard to beat. Great for backpackers and everybody who wants to save money.
Expedia – You can find great combined deals there, e.g. Flight + Hotel, or Flight + Hotel + Rental Car. Great for those who wish more comfort than you can get on long-distance buses.
Skyscanner – Great for finding the most convenient or the cheapest flight to and from any airport in the world.
Driving in Czechia
While the country’s public transportation network is very dense, and tickets very affordable, some more remote places or smaller destinations are best accessible by car. If your driver’s license was issued by an EU country, it will obviously be recognized in Czechia. Otherwise, you should have your International Driving Permit with you. However, you are allowed to use a non-EU driver’s license only if you are a tourist. If you’re a resident you will need to get a Czech driver’s license.
Speed limits in Czechia are 50 km/h in towns and cities, outside of urban areas the maximum speed is 90 km/h, and on highways it is 130 km/h, unless road signs inform otherwise. As most European countries, Czechia drives on the right-hand side of the road. More information about Czech traffic laws can be found here.
If you plan to use motorways / expressways (in Czech: dálnice), you need to purchase a sticker a.k.a. vignette. At the time of writing, there were three types: 10-day, monthly and annual vignettes. More detailed information about the Czech toll system can be found here. You can buy vignettes at gas stations. Some very short sections of certain Czech motorways are free, so you are not required to have a vignette while using them. However, you won’t go far using these free sections, so you really should purchase a vignette. They are not expensive, anyway.
There is a zero-tolerance policy towards drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s simple: don’t drink and drive. Not even a beer. Don’t even think about it. The penalties can be severe.
If you arrive in Czechia by plane, you can conveniently rent a car at the airport and return it before you fly back home. All major international car rental companies operate in Czechia. You can use Expedia to compare car rental deals.
Even though Prague belongs to the most attractive tourist destinations in Europe and plays in the same league as e.g. Paris, London or Rome, hotel prices are significantly lower than in those cities. There is great competition between the hotels in Prague and a great variety of them, which probably is the main factor driving accommodation prices down in the Czech capital. The value for money in Prague is excellent. You would pay significantly more for a hotel of a comparable standard in most major European tourist destinations.
You can easily find a 4-star or even a 5-star hotel room in Prague in the price range EUR 100-200 per night. Bargain. Accommodation in an excellent 3-star hotel should cost you less than EUR 100 per night, often significantly less than that. Also backpackers should not be disappointed, as there are plenty of hostels in the Czech capital. Sometimes a low-cost hotel room in Prague can cost much less than a bed in a hostel room in another European major city. This dedicated page displays a convenient map with available accommodation options in Prague.
Other Czech destinations, such as Brno or Karlovy Vary may be less popular among tourists than Prague, but accommodation costs may still be higher, because there might not be the same extreme level of competition between the hotels there as in the Czech capital. A general rule of thumb is that the more vacant rooms the hotels in a particular destination have, the lower the cost per night tends to be.
Accommodation costs can go up during certain periods or events in some destinations. For example, during popular trade fairs in Brno you may expect to pay more for the hotel than at other times. Prague may not be affected by this as much as other destinations, because of the huge number of hotels and vacant rooms in that beautiful city. The hotels must compete very hard and this is excellent for you as tourist coming to Prague.
Hotels.com is a great website to book accommodation, not only in Czechia, but worldwide. If you haven’t known them, they are a reputable company that has been in this business for a very long time. Almost every serious hotel in the world offers their rooms through hotels.com. Their standard prices are usually quite competitive and typically lower than when you book directly with the hotel. But what is great about them is their loyalty program, called Hotels.com Rewards. If you register, for every 10 nights you book and pay you will receive a discount for the next night. The value of the discount will be equal to the average price per night you paid in your 10 nights. All in all, it is a significant discount and if you’re a frequent traveller, you can save quite a lot of money when booking through hotels.com.
Finding the optimal accommodation through hotels.com is simple. The website is very user-friendly and has parametric search functionality.
Another good option when you’re looking for accommodation is using a so-called metasearch engine. They are also known as aggregators. A good example of a metasearch engine is Hotels Combined.
The standard voltage in Czechia is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. Standard Czech sockets are of type E and they will work also with C-type plugs. If the label on your appliance reads: INPUT: 100-240V, 50/60 Hz, then it should work in Czechia without a voltage converter, as long as the plug type is the same or you have a simple plug adapter.
Many modern devices have smart power supplies recognizing the voltage in the socket and can be used all over the world as long as the plug type is compatible. But don’t take it for granted and check the label on the device or consult the user’s manual before you try it.
Important Emergency Numbers
112 – Universal European Emergency Number
150 – Fire Brigade
155 – Emergency Medical Service
156 – Municipal Police
158 – Police
Czechia is a member of the European Union and belongs to the Schengen Area. Travelers with a citizenship of a country that belongs to the EU or to the Schengen Area do not need visas to enter Czechia as tourists. As of 2020, the following countries are members of the European Union:
Certain overseas territories of several European Union members are not part of the EU.
The following countries are in the Schengen Area (as of 2020):
Schengen countries have practically abolished border controls between them, unless exceptional circumstances arise. Therefore, if your country is in the Schengen Area, naturally you don’t need a visa to enter Czechia. If you cross the border by land, most likely you won’t even be controlled. Nevertheless, you must still have an official ID with you.
Citizens of certain countries not belonging to the EU or the Schengen Area are exempt from the visa requirement if they arrive as tourists and their stay does not exceed certain length. The official list of these countries can be found here.
If the country of your citizenship is not a member of the EU or doesn’t belong to the Schengen Area or is not exempt from the visa requirement, you will need to apply for the so-called short-stay Schengen visa. Normally, it will allow you to stay in the whole Schengen Area for the duration specified in the visa. In exceptional cases, the validity of this visa may be restricted to countries specified in the visa. More information about Schengen visas can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. An official list of states and territories whose citizens are required to apply for a tourist visa can be found here.
The official currency in Czechia is the Czech koruna, also known as the Czech crown. Its symbol is Kč and the code is CZK. One Czech crown equals 100 hellers (Czech: haléř). However, heller coins have been withdrawn from circulation, due to their low value. The smallest coin currently in use in 1 Kč. Other commonly used coins are 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Kč. Frequently used banknotes are: 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 2000 Kč. 5000 Kč banknotes are rarely used.
The best way to exchange money is usually using an ATM belonging to a reputable bank, especially if you can withdraw a larger amount in one transaction. You can use your credit card or your debit card. In most cases, the bank will charge you a transaction fee for the withdrawal, but the exchange rate should be reasonable. Many ATMs show the transaction fees, or you can contact your bank for details. Because of the transaction fee, you will be better off withdrawing a larger amount at once, than repeatedly withdrawing smaller sums. Some credit cards promise cash withdrawals from certain ATMs without the transaction fee.
Especially in areas frequented by tourists, you will find currency exchange booths. While some of them may offer good rates, others bait potential customers with “0% commission” signs and once you’re in, you may receive an extremely unfavorable rate. All transactions at such places are usually final. Therefore, exercise extreme caution when using these places to change cash. Find out the mid-market exchange rate (for example at xe.com). Obviously, you won’t receive the mid-market rate anywhere, because these places must somehow earn money. However, the difference between the transactional rate and the mid-market rate should be no more than a few percent.
Some exchange booths located away from the popular areas may offer you an attractive deal. If you prefer to change smaller amounts and you find a good exchange booth with a 0% commission and reasonable rates, then you might be better off than when using an ATM and being charged a withdrawal fee. Using the calculator in your smartphone will be a good idea in such cases.
Obviously, you should never change money on the street. If somebody approaches you on the street and offers you currency exchange, just thank them politely and move on. Don’t get into any sort of discussion with them. This way you will avoid problems. Don’t discuss with them anything.
At the time of writing (2018), 1 US dollar was worth approx. 20.35 CZK. For 1 EUR you could receive 25.35 CZK, all at mid-market rates. Real-world transactional rates would have been naturally slightly lower.
If you are a citizen of the European Union and you unexpectedly fall ill during a temporary stay in another EU country, you are entitled to any medical treatment that cannot be postponed until you return home, under the same conditions as people insured in that country. Obviously, you must remember to take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you. If you forget it, you won’t be able to prove that you’re insured in another EU country and might have to pay for the treatment upfront and claim reimbursement after you return to your country. EHIC is also valid in several non-EU countries, e.g. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Of course, EHIC is not a replacement for a proper travel insurance. EHIC won’t cover, for example, the costs of the return trip to your country after the medical treatment. If you’re not an EU citizen, you should definitely have the right travel insurance plan. And even if you are an EU citizen entitled to medical treatments in other EU countries, a proper travel insurance is highly recommended.
A good travel insurance plan gives you a peace of mind. It won’t cost a lot, but if something bad and unexpected happens, it won’t be a disaster. A good travel insurance plan includes urgent medical treatments, lost property, costs of cancellations if one mode of transport is delayed and you miss a connection. Buying travel insurance from a reputable insurance company is a safe choice.
A favourite insurance company for many travellers and travel professionals is World Nomads.
Common Sense and a Few General Safety Tips
Having a travel insurance will minimize your losses if something bad happens. Using common sense will minimize the chance of something bad happening. While violent crime is relatively rare in Czechia, you may never completely exclude the possibility of theft or accidental loss of property.
Pickpocketing is a real issue in certain places in Prague which are frequented by many tourists. Nevertheless, there are lots of places in Europe and all over the world where this problem is more serious, so it should not discourage you from visiting the Czech capital. Being cautious in crowded places greatly minimizes or even eliminates the risk of falling victim to pickpockets. Don’t take out your wallet or purse in a crowded place, keep it in a deep pocket (obviously not in a back pocket), don’t use a waistpack. Carry your documents in a neck wallet or leave them in a safe if your hotel room has one. Avoid any contact with shady characters which you might meet.
The general safety tips listed below apply to traveling everywhere. Whether you travel to Czechia or anywhere else in the world, following certain simple common-sense safety recommendations makes sense.
It has been often recommended to have copies of all your important documents (passport, insurances, etc.) and to keep them in a different place than the originals. But nowadays, there is a better way. You can scan or photograph your documents and upload them to the cloud. Some password managers, e.g. the premium version of Last Pass, offer also encrypted storage which you can use for storing documents in the cloud. You can access them at any time in any place with Internet access. Just don’t forget your master password.
An alternative to this kind of service would be password-protecting an archive file containing your documents and sending this encrypted file to one of your email addresses which can be accessed through a browser. You can create such an archive file, for example, with 7-zip. It uses a very strong AES-256 algorithm to encrypt the files. All your documents can be encrypted in a single 7-zip file. Of course, remembering the password is essential and the password should not be too short.
You should not enter your Internet passwords on any public device which you cannot trust, e.g. Internet cafes. If there is a keylogger installed on that computer, your password may get stolen and your accounts compromised.
Most people carry a smartphone everywhere these days. It is a good idea to encrypt the contents of your phone. This way, the finder or the thief won’t be able to access your data. If you travel with a laptop, it is highly recommended to encrypt its hard drive. As in the case of an encrypted phone, the finder or the thief won’t be able compromise your accounts. A regular Windows password is not sufficient, because it is not required if somebody removes the hard disk and connects it to another computer. The Professional editions of Windows include BitLocker, which is a very good drive encryption program, integrated with the operating system. Owners of Apple laptops can use FileVault or third-party tools to encrypt the drives.
The main official language spoken by the vast majority of population in Czechia is, as you might expect, Czech. A characteristic feature of this language are consonant clusters. The stress typically falls on the first syllable of the word, with some exceptions. The pronunciation may seem hard to English speakers at first. However, it is quite regular, and one letter usually represents only one sound, so it is relatively easy to learn the rules.
Czech is a West-Slavic language, mutually intelligible with its brother: Slovak. Czechs and Slovaks normally don’t need interpreters. Younger generations of Czechs and Slovaks are reported to have a little more difficulty understanding the other language than their parents or grandfathers. This may be due to the less frequent exposure to the other language than in the times of the common state of Czechs and Slovaks.
Czech is also related to Polish, but the level of mutual intelligibility is significantly lower than in the case of Slovak. Some phrases and sentences are quite similar, while others are completely different. Some words look very similar but mean completely different things in Czech and Polish. There are quite a few words which are perfectly normal in one language but may be vulgar and inappropriate in the other language. Very simple communication may be possible, depending on the linguistic talents of the interlocutors, but sometimes misunderstandings can occur. People from Czech Silesia may understand Polish better than in the rest of the country.
Mutual intelligibility with more distant Slavic languages, such as Bulgarian or Ukrainian, is even lower. While certain simple phrases or individual words can definitely be understood, it is usually too little for a meaningful conversation without resorting to a third language.
Younger generations of Czechs learn English and German or another foreign language at school. Practical knowledge of English naturally varies greatly by person. Some people have more linguistic talents than others, more motivation to learn it or simply more practice in using it. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, Czechia ranked 20th in the world in 2016 and achieved “High Proficiency” level. However, it is debatable whether the sample of respondents in this survey is representative or not.
German is a significantly less popular foreign language than English. Nevertheless, quite many Czechs can speak it fluently. People working in tourism and having direct contact with foreign tourists will typically be fluent in English, German or another foreign language.
Generations born around 1975 or earlier learned Russian at school. However, the exposure to that language through everyday contact with the culture has been incomparably lower than it is in the case of English. Also, an average person who learned Russian at school years ago has had very limited opportunities to use it in real life situations. Therefore, you should not assume that many people aged 40 and older will be able to converse in Russian. Nevertheless, some people do speak that language. Especially in places and establishments frequented by Russian-speaking tourists, there may be staff members able to speak Russian.
Public Holidays in Czechia
- January 1st – New Year’s Day
- late March or early April – Easter Monday
- May 1st – Labor Day
- May 8th – Liberation Day
- July 5th – Feast Day of St. Cyril and St. Methodius
- July 6th – Jan Hus Day
- September 28th – Day of the Czech Statehood
- October 28th – Foundation of the Independent Czechoslovak State
- November 17th – Day of Students’ Fight for Freedom and Democracy
- December 24-26 – Christmas