Czech Republic travel guide
About Czech Republic
A historic jewel at the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic packs a sizeable punch for such a small country; from majestic castles to medieval towns, elegant spa resorts to scenic national parks, it has much to offer international visitors. It is also, lest we forget, the birthplace of the world’s finest beer.
At the heart of it all is the culture-crammed capital, Prague. Dubbed the “city of a thousand spires,” it comprises beautiful churches, cobbled lanes and medieval bridges, all watched over by a fairytale castle. Add to that a mix of ancient monuments, fine dining, old breweries, bustling markets and lively jazz clubs and there really is never a dull moment.
Yet those who fail to venture beyond the city boundaries are truly missing out. Located just a short drive from the capital are some extraordinary attractions; the hot springs of Karlovy Vary; the giant gothic castle of Karlštejn; the church made of human bones in Kutná Hora; and the city of Plzeň, where pilsner beer was born.
Formerly part of Czechoslovakia, since the Velvet Divorce of 1993 – when Slovakia and the Czech Republic parted company – the latter has emerged the more popular with tourists. And to understand its appeal one must consider its assets; the stunning wine-growing region of Monrovia, home to rolling hills, traditional food and the spirited cities of Brno and Olomouc; the snow-capped mountains of Krkonoše; the otherworldly rock formations of Český Ráj; the wild forests of Šumava National Park; and the historic town of Český Krumlov, a fully deserving UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And yet, for all this, the Czech Republic is far more than the sum of its sights. This is a nation of proud, forthright and friendly people, eager to take a significant role on the European stage. It may only be a small country – and a relatively new one – but the Czech Republic leaves a big impression.
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq miles).
10,550,085 (UN estimate 2016).
135 per sq km.
President Miloš Zeman since 2013.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka since 2014.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Most visitors to the Czech Republic experience no difficulties but you should be aware
of street crime and petty theft, particularly in Prague.
Prague city police advises visitors of the following:
- always exchange currency at a currency exchange office or bank, never on the street as this money is often counterfeit
- avoid contact with women and men acting as street prostitutes as they are often pickpockets
- take care when using cash machines
- don’t buy drugs on the street as sale and distribution is illegal and the drugs are often hazardous counterfeits
- be aware of consumption charges in night clubs; they are often high. Be careful with consumption cards, which carry high financial penalties if they are lost before the bill is paid
Never leave drinks or food unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. There have been a small number of incidents involving drinks being spiked and visitors having their valuables stolen while intoxicated.
Petty theft is a problem, especially in major tourist areas in Prague. Pickpocketing is common at the main railway station and on public transport, particularly the routes to and from Prague Castle and other major tourist sites, and on the buses to/from the airport. Try to avoid busy carriages on the metro and trams, which are favoured by pickpockets. There is also a risk of pick-pocketing on flights from the UK. It is best to keep your passport and valuables with you before and during your flight.
Make sure you know where your belongings are at all times, particularly while at restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Use a cloakroom if available. There have been several cases of theft from hotel rooms and even safes.
Beware of bogus plain-clothes policemen, who may ask to see your foreign currency and passport. If approached, don’t show your money, but offer instead to go with them to the nearest police station. If you suspect that you are dealing with a bogus police officer, you can call 158 or 112 to check their identity. No police officer in the Czech Republic has the right to check your money or its authenticity.
Report any thefts in person to the Czech police within 24 hours and get a police report crime number. Police Station in Prague:
Jungmanovo namesti 9,
(nearest metro stop is Mustek).
This police station is open 24 hours. English translators are provided.
If your passport is lost or stolen you will need to obtain a police report and apply for an Emergency Travel Document from the British Embassy in Prague.
It’s possible to obtain a reference number for a crime related incident by reporting it to a police station in the UK, but it’s much better to report the crime in the Czech Republic. There is a police station at the airport where you can get a police report.
Every lamppost in Prague has a 6-digit number posted at eye-level. Should you require assistance from the police or emergency services, these codes will help pinpoint your location if you’re unable to offer an exact address.
If you’re travelling in a group keep a careful note of your hotel telephone number and address in case you are separated from the rest of your party. Leave contact details of your travelling companions with a friend or relative at home who you can contact if you get separated from your group.
If you travel on public transport you must buy a ticket and validate it before you travel. You’ll be fined on the spot if you are travelling with a ticket that has not been validated. The fine, usually 800 crowns (around £22.00), is paid directly to the ticket inspector. You should get a receipt. If you can’t pay the fine you may be arrested. The fine can be higher if you’re unable to pay on the spot. You can buy tickets at most large hotels, metro stations and at many newspaper stands (‘Trafika’) and convenience stores.
Every year there are accidents involving trams. Take extra care when near tram tracks and make sure you look both ways. Trams can’t stop quickly.
Seasonal flooding (normally during the Spring) occurs occasionally. Check the Ministry of Agriculture website for more information. By selecting ‘Enter’ you’ll see a map of the country which showing any current flood warnings.
It’s safer to use a major taxi company like Tick Tack tel: 14 144 or AAA tel: 233 113 311. If you do pick up a taxi in the street, always check the fare per km before getting in. Some taxis can charge highly inflated prices. The rates should be clearly marked on the side of the taxi.
You can drive using a UK Driving licence.
In 2015 there were 732 road deaths in Czech Republic (source:Department of Transport).This equates to 6.9 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.
If you’re planning to drive to the Czech Republic, you may like to consult the
green line motoring helpline run by the Czech Central Automobile Club (UAMK), which has information available in Czech and English (telephone: 00 420 1230).
To drive on motorways you’ll need to buy a special vignette (sticker) from a Post Office, petrol station, bureau de change or at the border. Failure to display a valid vignette can result in a fine. More information about vignettes can be found on the website of the Czech Ministry of Transport.
There is a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
You must have your headlights on dipped beam when driving anywhere in the Czech Republic, even during the hours of daylight.
All private cars, including those of foreign visitors, must carry the following items by law:
- fluorescent green high visibility safety jacket
- first aid kit, warning triangle
- complete set of spare bulbs
- complete set of electric fuses
- spare wheel or special tyres repair set
You need winter tyres between 1 November and 31 March.