Prague

Basics

Basics

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Alcohol

With a robust beer drinking habit of nearly 143 litres per capita per year (based on 2014 stats) you will be pleased to know alcohol is in no short supply in Prague. The legal drinking age is 18 and those with a cute baby-face may be asked for ID to prove you are of age. There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol; police do set up roadblocks on occasion and any driver may be breathalysed on the spot. If you are planning on driving and still want a beer, most pubs have non-alcoholic brews and they are quite good.

Drinking and biking riding also falls under the zero tolerance policy which is a little strange considering the high number of recreational bikers in the country, and the specially designed wine trails through the vineyard of Moravia. In 2016, the senate was mulling over a plan to allow bicyclists to have a blood alcohol content of up to .08%. If passed though it would only apply to cyclists on trails and in villages; not those riding home on city streets – zero tolerance for you.

For the most part, there are no open container laws which means you are free to walk about with an open bottle of beer. That being said, drinking alcohol in public is banned in places like bus, train and metro stations, playgrounds, parks and around schools. Many Old Town streets also ban walking around with your beer, mainly because it often is accompanied by boisterous behaviour.

Climate

Czech Republic has a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. Seasons tend to blend together with lots of unpredictability especially in the spring and autumn. Summer temperatures can reach 30 C, but mid to high 20s is more likely. In the winter, snow is a possibility in Prague with temperatures rarely dropping below 0 C in the city. The mountainous areas are colder and with more snow.

Customs

If you are travelling within the EU those over 18 can take home 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer. Most countries will not allow more than 800 cigarettes from Czech Republic. If purchasing art, you need to consider the piece’s age and value. In order to leave the country, art must be both less than 50 years old and under 30,000 CZK. If these conditions are met, the gallery curator will need to provide a certificate in the form of a statement documenting the acquisition of the work, or the appraisal by a certified expert in economics or in price assessment and artwork valuation. This expert must be included on the list of certified experts kept by the relevant municipal or district courts. If the work exceeds the permitted age or value, you must get permission from the Ministry of Culture, filling out four forms and providing photos and documentation about the piece. Plan accordingly as this process could take a couple of months. Be sure to speak with the gallery owner when purchasing something that may need to be claimed at customs – if they are reputable they’ll be able to advise you.

Electricity

Electricity in Czech Republic is 230V, 50Hz AC. Plug sockets are round with two round-pin sockets. If you are coming from the US, UK or Ireland you will need a plug converter. Buy one before your trip or check out the airport shops before leaving or upon arrival. You can try your luck with your hotel reception but if they don’t have one to loan you they should be able to direct you to the nearest store to purchase one.

Facts & Figures

Territory

The Czech Republic’s 78,866 square kilometres ranges from rolling vineyards in the south east to mountains suitable for skiing in the north to high plains in the centre. It shares a border with four countries: Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria.  

Rivers

The Vltava, which runs through Prague, is the country’s longest river at 430 kilometres. It hooks up with the Elbe (Labe) near the town of Mělník which eventually makes its way to the North Sea. While the famed Danube doesn’t flow through the country, the Morava River meets it in Bratislava.

Mountains

The Czech Republic is surrounded on nearly all sides with mountains. In fact, two of the countries four national parks border mountain ranges: Šumava and the Krkonoše. The country’s highest point is in the Krkonoše, Sněžka sits at 1602 metres above sea level. Other high points of interest included Ještěd near the town of Liberec which has a unique hotel & restaurant structure sitting atop its 1012 metres.

Population (2015)

Czech Republic – 10.5 mil
Prague – 1.2 mil
Brno – 378,000

Local Time

Czech Republic is in the Central European (CET) time zone (GMT+1hr). When it’s 12:00 in Prague it’s 6:00 am in New York City, 11:00 in London, 12:00 in Paris and Berlin and 19:00 in Tokyo. Czech summer time (GMT+2hrs) starts and ends on the last Sundays of March and October.

Health & Emergency

In the case of an emergency, mobile phone users should dial 112 to be forwarded to the police, fire department or ER. From a landline or public phone dial the following: ambulance: 155; fire: 150; police: 158. English speaking operators will always be available if you phone 112.

For urgent medical emergencies, the hospital Nemocnice na Františku in Prague 1 has a special department for foreigners (Na Františku 847/8; +420 222 801 111; Bus 207). Chemist shops are on nearly every block, look for a lékárna. Most keep weekday hours only with some being open till noon or 13:00 on Saturdays. The lékárna at Palackého 5 in Prague 1 is open 24 hours (+420 224 946 982; Můstek metro, green or yellow line). There’s a dental clinic (+420 224 946 981) at the same address. If you are not up to battling a Czech hospital, contact the Canadian Medical Centre (+420 235 360 133 during business hours; +420 724 300 301 for an emergency, at night or on weekends). Further help can be provided by contacting your local embassy or consulate.

Law & Order

In general Prague is far safer than most West European cities, and visitors are unlikely to face any problems if they simply employ common sense. Petty crime does exist, and travellers should be on guard against pickpockets; if you’re in a bar or restaurant keep your wallet inside your trouser pocket, not inside a jacket casually left lying around. Be especially vigilant on public transit and in crowded tourist areas like Wenceslas Square.

Unless you are planning a crime spree, most people shouldn’t fall afoul of Czech authorities. Be smart if you are with a group who may be taking full advantage of Prague’s affordable alcohol prices. Rowdy groups have been known to run into trouble through vandalism and public urination; both of which are frowned upon. Most people won’t be out to cause trouble if you are respectful of them. Men especially should be aware of nightclubs and strip clubs in which the hefty prices for drinks and other services can be forcibly required.

Czechs rank amongst the highest cannabis users in Europe. While cultivation and distribution of cannabis is a criminal offence, possession for personal use of an amount ‘greater than small’ is only a misdemeanour punishable by a fine but not by imprisonment. According to the Czech Supreme Court, an amount ‘greater than small’ of herbal cannabis equals 10 grams of dry matter. Again, be smart and don’t toke up in front of a cop.

Public transport is cheap and easy – don’t ride black. All tram, metro and bus lines regularly have inspectors roaming and they are experts at picking out tourists. Buy a ticket and be sure to validate it in the yellow box. Having an unvalidated ticket is the same as no ticket at all in the eyes of the ticket inspectors.

Market Values

Prices in Czech Republic are still quite low compared to Western European countries, especially when it comes to dining out and attractions. Here are some typical everyday products and prices.

Market values as of May 28, 2016 based on €1 = 27Kč.
Product Price (Kč) Price (€)
McDonald's Big Mac 50Kč € 1.85
Snickers bar 13Kč € 0.48
0.5ltr vodka (shop) 150Kč € 5.55
0.5ltr beer (shop) 18Kč € 0.67
0.5ltr beer (bar) 35Kč € 1.30
Loaf of white bread 23Kč € 0.85
Pack of Marlboro cigarettes 100Kč € 3.70
1ltr of unleaded petrol (98) 33Kč € 1.22
Local transport ticket (1 journey) 32Kč € 1.16

Money

Thinking of paying for your tram ticket with one of the 500Kč notes in your pocket? Think again. Small shops, newsagents, public toilets, and even the occasional restaurant or bar, will often refuse to break a large note for you. As annoying as coins can be, do carry small change for such moments.

Currency can be exchanged at airports, hotels, banks and anywhere with a sign proclaiming ‘směnárna' although they all typically say ‘currency’ too. While you can find some good exchange rates, be wary of those located in high tourist areas. You best bet is to withdraw money from the ATMs here. If you have a lot left over, exchanging back into Euros isn’t typically too costly.

While prices on some goods, like electronics, clothing and food in shops, seems rather high, eating out and enjoying the country’s many cultural attractions is still extremely affordable. Both Prague public transportation and bus and train fares around the country are very affordable. A ticket to the cinema typically costs 140Kč, while admission to most museums costs around 120Kč and you can see an opera for around 500Kč.

National Holiday

The Czech public holiday calendar is fairly well-spread out, affording workers the opportunity to stretch their holiday allocations a bit further. Unfortunately, if one of these dates falls on a Saturday or Sunday, no extra day off for you. In the centre, most restaurants will still be open and larger shops. In neighbourhoods though most places, especially food shops will be closed. Some museums and other attractions may stay open, some may not so be sure to check their website before visiting. Public transport runs a Sunday schedule on public holidays. If you are planning on taking a bus or train to other parts of the country on or near one of these holidays, be prepared for crowds.

1 January – Restoration Day of the Independent Czech State, New Year’s Day
1 May – Labour Day
8 May – Liberation Day
5 July – Saint Cyril and Methodius Day
6 July – Jan Hus Day (burned at the stake in 1415)
28 September – St. Wenceslas Day
28 October – Independent Czechoslovak State Day (created in 1918)
17 November – Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day
24 December – Christmas Eve
25 December – Christmas Day
26 December – St. Stephen’s Day

Religion

Czech Republic is reported to be one of the most atheist countries in the world with 88.5% of people claiming to be non-religious or non-declared according to recent figures. Historically it wasn’t always this way with Christianity dominating until the first half of the 20th century. Today, about 10% of the population claim to be Roman Catholics. That being said, the country has a large number of churches, many of which can be visited.

Toilets

Generally speaking, toilets in Czech Republic will be marked with a universal male or female body symbol. If not, men should look for ‘muži’ and women should look for ‘ženy.’ Free toilets are hard to come by – even fast food restaurants have some sort of payment system or locked door in place – so plan to have at least a drink in a café or restaurant if you want to use their facilities. Most metro stations will have pay toilets, typically 10Kč. Have exact change unless you want an argument.

Water

Czech tap water is perfectly safe, although a large number of Czechs still prefer to buy it bottled. Still water is neperlivá voda while carbonated is perlivá voda. In restaurants, water is not complimentary, you’ll be forced to buy a small overpriced bottle. Some cafes are getting better, bringing a small glass with your coffee. Beer is still cheaper than water, even though there have been recent rumblings in Parliament about a law that would make at least one non-alcoholic drink the cheapest item on the menu.

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