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On the other hand, others seek adventurous travel, or spontaneous travel, i.e. completely without any preparations or plans. Regardless of whether you belong to the former group or among the adventure seekers, you should certainly gather some basic facts and accept a bit of practical advice from us before your trip.
On the following pages, you will find information about in which time zone Prague, the Czech Republic is located, which seasons of the year are suitable for various activities and what kind of weather to expect, as well as when there are public holidays and school holidays. You should definitely know which language is spoken in Prague, Czech Republic, what currency to use and whether your electrical appliances will work. Today, it is crucial to know a bit about telephone calls, postal services and the Internet, and you might also be interested in learning when you can do your shopping or visit various institutions. We would also like to give you some tips regarding souvenirs that you can buy in the Czech Republic.
After that, we will touch upon more serious topics, such as which personal documents are required, what entry formalities to expect, and which telephone numbers and contacts are recommended. It is also useful to know a bit about Czech information and tourist centers.
TimeThe Czech Republic lies in the same time zone as the rest of Central Europe; you will therefore be using Central European Time (GMT + one hour). The Czech Republic uses summer and winter time, and the time of day is told using the 24-hour system.
Therefore, when referring to time, the Czechs do not use the morning (a.m.) and afternoon (p.m.) distinction, but rather, for example, refer to 8 a.m. as 8:00, while 20:00 means 8 p.m. In the spoken language you can also hear references to time such as 8 o’clock in the morning, 10 o’clock in the morning, 6 o’clock in the afternoon (18:00), or 8 o’clock in the evening (20:00).
Best time to visit PragueIn general, you can say that there are many places to see and events to attend in the Czech Republic at any time of the year. For instance, if you want to go sightseeing and visit castles and chateaux, you should come between early May and late September. Although some monuments and most museums and galleries are open all year round, during summer there are various accompanying events taking place at castles and chateaux that you should not miss. The months of April and October are interim periods for sightseeing, when you can enjoy a more peaceful atmosphere, but you should also expect cooler weather, often around 10°C. If you wish to visit sights in winter, you should expect that some will be closed (you should check opening hours in advance). On the other hand, you will be able to contemplate in a quiet winter landscape, and if you are lucky enough to see the countryside clad with snow, sparkling in the sun, you will be charmed. July and August are months of school holidays and vacations and the number of visitors is much higher, but interiors of castles offer a pleasant respite from the hot summer sun, when temperatures often rise above 30°C.
If you want to engage in sports during a particular season, you should know which sports you would like to partake in. Obviously, winter is the only season when you can ski and enjoy other winter sports. The Czech mountains are usually covered with snow from December to March. Temperatures in the mountains during that period are constantly below zero, sometimes dropping as low as –20 or –30°C. In major winter resorts, all important slopes are conditioned with snow-making machines if necessary.
All other activities can pretty much be performed in any season, including walks in the countryside, rambling, biking, visiting spas or enjoying entertainment events and shopping. It is entirely up to you to choose from the warmer days (July and August), blossoming spring (April through June), fragrant and colorful autumn (September and October), or the chilly winter (mid-November to March).
HolidaysSundays, Saturdays and public holidays are days when the majority of authorities and banks are closed; on Sundays and holidays, shops are often closed as well. On the other hand, most restaurants, bars and tourist attractions usually stay open. You should remember that public transportation services are significantly limited on these days, and the intervals are much longer than on working days.
School holidaysThe main school holidays are in summer (July and August). Other holidays are at Christmas (usually December 23–January 3) and in spring (one week, which varies from school to school).
LanguageThe official language spoken in the Czech Republic is Czech, which belongs to the group of Slavic languages, all of which are Indo-European languages. Specifically, Czech is one of the West Slavic languages. It is very similar to Slovak, and if they make a bit of an effort, Czechs can also understand quite a bit of Polish fairly well as well.
Currency and services (Prague currency)The official currency used in Prague, the Czech Republic, is the Czech crown (Kč, CZK). One crown is divided into 100 hellers, but today only crown coins are used, and retailers round the total sum of your purchase to the nearest 1 crown. Other coins in circulation come in values of CZK 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and you can also receive a CZK 50 coin. Bank notes come in values of CZK 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000.
The Czech Republic has slowly been preparing itself for its transition to the euro, which is expected to happen around 2010. Nonetheless, it is already common today that many shops and restaurants will accept payment in euros (but the exchange rate is less favorable than in exchange bureaus), or even in U.S. dollars.
There are many exchange bureaus in the Czech Republic. Exchange services are of course provided by banks and at most hotel receptions, but the exchange rates are not very good. The best exchange rates are offered by private exchange offices, but you should always compare their current rates and fees that may apply.
Actual Prague Currency Rates
Here are basic exchange ratios using actual rates (without a warranty):
Credit cardsYou can of course withdraw your money using your international payment card. There are many banks in the Czech Republic that operate ATMs. ATMs commonly recognize most card types (Visa, MasterCard, Plus, Cirrus and other). However, you can get a better price if paying directly with your card. In particular, in Prague, nearly every shop, restaurant and hotel accepts cards. However, in smaller towns you may find retailers who do not accept cards but who will be happy to tell you where you can find the nearest ATM.
Traveler’s checksTraveler’s checks are undoubtedly a safe way of transporting funds. If you are a customer of American Express, Thomas Cook or Visa, you will have no problems cashing your traveler's checks at Czech banks. Eurocheque is also accepted.
ElectricityBefore traveling to the Czech Republic, you should bear in mind that mains sockets may be different from those you are used to at home. This problem can easily be solved with a universal adapter. The AC plug system is similar to the ones used in Germany and Austria. 220 V is only used.
Telephone servicesIt is easy and convenient to make telephone calls in the Czech Republic. The country is covered by several mobile networks plus you can use VOIP telephony as well (Czechs are crazy about new technologies and you will find many wi-fi hotspots for free, in Prague at least).
If you wish to call a number in the Czech Republic, you must first dial the country code 00420, followed by other codes and numbers (city, subscriber), but always without any additional zero. All telephone numbers in the Czech Republic were fundamentally changed a few years ago, for example, a telephone number in the format 00420 0312 55328 is no longer valid. The best way to find out the current telephone number is to call 1180 (004201180).
If you want to make a call from the Czech Republic to another country, first dial 00, then the relevant country code, followed by the particular number (e.g. when calling the United Kingdom, you would dial 0044 7949 758866).
Public pay phonesThe public pay phones network in the Czech Republic is one of the most compact in Europe. Public phones require either telephone cards or coins. You can purchase such cards at post offices, newspaper stands, gas stations and sometimes in supermarkets. These cards are sold in amounts of CZK 150, 200, and 300. “Trick Cards” can be used to make calls as well as to send short messages, write e-mails and connect to the Internet.
Mobile (cellular) phonesThere are currently three mobile operators offering their services in the Czech Republic: Vodafone, T-Mobile and Eurotel/O2. Their services are provided using the GSM 900/1800, which is compatible with the rest of Europe, Asia and Australia, but generally not with the systems used in Japan and North America. Before you start using your mobile phone in the Czech Republic, consider buying a local SIM card as it can considerably reduce your telephone bills. However, your mobile phone needs to be unblocked (by the original operator) in that case. A SIM card together with a starting prepaid credit costs between CZK 300 – 2,000. Czech mobile operators – Eurotel/O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone – all offer mobile phone rental services. For specific terms and conditions of such services, please visit their respective websites:
Postal servicesPostal services in the Czech Republic are provided by Czech Post. Their services are very reliable and good quality, provided at exceptionally low rates. Sending a regular postcard or a light letter (up to 20 grams) to a destination in Europe will cost you CZK 9 (data from 2004) and CZK 14 to elsewhere in the world. You can either send your postcards or letters from a post office, or buy a stamp at a news stand and put your mail in an orange post box. Czech Post also provides express postal services (for example, a parcel of up to 500 grams will cost you about CZK 600). You can of course have your parcel insured, and when sending valuable items, you should also fill out a customs declaration form. Czech post site: http://www.cpost.cz/.
Internet, wi-fiAs in most other European countries, Internet connections are commonplace in the Czech Republic. You can either connect to the web at your hotel or visit an Internet café. Information centers and public libraries have recently also in many cases installed PCs connected to the Internet.
Opening hours, ShopsThe opening hours of most shops from Monday to Friday are 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays mornings. Major retail stores (e.g. Tesco) and shopping centers are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, and some are open 24 hours a day. Some smaller shops may close for a lunch break, which is usually between noon and 1 p.m.
Banks and AuthoritiesBanks and authorities are mostly open on working days (Monday to Friday) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Post offices are also open on Saturday morning.
RestaurantsMost restaurants and cafés are open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m or later. In smaller towns, restaurants and cafés often do not open before lunchtime, i.e. from 11 a.m. Most pubs and beer halls also observe similar opening hours.
Bars and ClubsBars and clubs usually only open in the afternoon. They are often open until 1 a.m., in some cases until 3 or 5 a.m., depending on the number of guests wishing to stay. On Fridays and Saturdays the opening hours are the longest, with some places sometimes staying open until 8 a.m. the next day.
SouvenirsThe most popular souvenirs are products of Czech skillful craftsman, in particular glass, porcelain, and ceramics. You can for example buy beautiful Czech glass products at the Moser store (located at Na Příkopě 12, Prague 1). The store bears the name of a prestigious Bohemian glass factory that was founded in 1857. At Náprstkova 4 in Prague 1, they sell modern glass products, which often include semi-precious stones artfully set inside. Nonetheless, all over Prague will you see nicely decorated and illuminated shops with Bohemian glass and porcelain. There are also many shops with handmade ceramics in Prague, where you can also buy handmade clothes and fashion accessories. To see examples of skillfully crafted Czech products, in this case made mainly from wood and other natural materials, go to the small shop called Tupesy lidová keramika at Havelská 21 in Prague 1.
Another major treasure of the Czech Republic is the semi-precious Czech garnet (also known as Bohemian ruby). You can buy jewelry made from this beautiful stone at a store called Granát Turnov at Dlouhá 28-30 in Prague 1, for example.
The Czech Republic is also renowned for delicious food. You should definitely take at least one bottle of beer or wine home with you. The Becherovka liqueur from Karlovy Vary is also unique, while you can reminisce about South Moravia over a glass of Jelínek’s slivovitz (plum brandy). If you have a sweet tooth, you should buy wafers from Karlovy Vary, made according to a unique recipe that has been passed from generation to generation, and also the Czech chocolate brand Orion.
Traffic InformationsThe Prague metro is an underground public transport network in Prague, Czech Republic. It is the fastest means of transportation around the city and serves over one million passengers a day.
The Prague Metro comprises three lines, each of which is represented by its own color on the maps and signs: Line A (green), Line B (yellow) and Line C (red). There are 54 stations in total (three of which are transfer stations) connected by more than 50 kilometers of mostly underground railways. The metro service operates between 5 A.M. and midnight every day, with about two- to three-minute intervals between trains during rush hours. Over 420 million passengers use the Prague Metro every year. More info incl. tarrifs, tickets, maps etc available at http://www.dpp.cz/.
Taxi in Prague
The maximum prices for taxi services in the district of the capital city of Prague:
Important Telephone Numbers
Important Customs Offices
Pharmacies offering non-stop service
Lost and Found Office
Embassies in Prague