Visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), European Union (EU) and Switzerland need a valid passport to enter the Czech Republic. EEA, EU and Swiss nationals can use their national identity cards instead. Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US can visit the Czech Republic for up to 90 days without a visa. For longer stays, a visa should be obtained from the Czech Embassy in advance. Schengen visas are valid for the Czech Republic. Most other non-EU nationals need a visa, and should consult the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Several countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA, have embassies in Prague.
For EU citizens there are no duties on reasonable quantities of most goods meant for personal use carried in or out of the Czech Republic. Exceptions include firearms and weapons, certain types of food and plants and endangered species. Passengers from non-EU nations can import 200 cigarettes or 250 g (9 oz) of tobacco products, a litre of spirits and four litres of wine. Non-EU residents can also claim back VAT on purchases over Kč2,000 when leaving the EU (see Customs and Immigration). If you take regular medicine, bring adequate supplies and carry your prescription with you.
Visitors can get up-to-date travel safety information from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
It is advisable to take out insurance against illness, accidents, theft or loss and travel cancellations, curtailment or delays. The Czech Republic has reciprocal health agreements with other EU countries; EU residents will receive state-provided emergency treatment if they have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with them, but note that dental care is not covered. Non-EU visitors should check if their country has reciprocal arrangements with the Czech Republic.
There are no vaccinations required for visiting the Czech Republic. Tap water is generally safe, although bottled water is widely available. There are several hospitals in Prague with 24-hour emergency rooms. A reliable central hospital accustomed to dealing with English-speaking patients is Na Homolce Hospital. The Canadian Medical Centre is a recommended private clinic. If you need emergency medical services, remember to take your passport. It's also a good idea to carry cash or a credit or debit card, as you may be required to pay in advance for some services.
For even such common medicines as aspirin or cold remedies, you’ll need to visit a pharmacy, or lékárna. These are dotted across town and are easily identified by a large green cross. Most operate during normal working hours, from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, although many pharmacies in shopping centres are open on weekends. There are a handful of specialized 24-hour pharmacies.
Czech dental care is considered to be among the best in Europe. For emergencies, call the 24/7 Dental Emergency (Zubní pohotovost). For routine care, try the English-speaking dentists at Millennium Dental Care or Elite Dental Prague.
Prague, like all major cities, has its share of pickpockets and petty thieves who operate in crowded and congested areas like the metro and trams. Avoid flashing cash or expensive items in public. Violent crime is relatively rare, although solo travellers should still exercise sensible precautions. Avoid hailing taxis on the street; instead, call or ask someone to call for a reliable radio taxi (see Travelling by Taxi). Report thefts to the police, especially if you need to make an insurance claim. There are several police stations in the centre; Jungmannovo náměstí 9 is a reliable one and is used to dealing with foreign visitors. Lost items are normally sent to the city Lost Property Office.
The ambulance, police and fire brigade can be reached on the Europe-wide emergency number 112. The operators speak English and calls are free. There are also dedicated lines for the ambulance, fire brigade and police.
Prague isn’t the most accessible capital, but it is improving year by year. Many metro stations, especially the newer ones in outlying areas, have auditory beacons for the blind and lifts, although older stations in the centre are still inaccessible. Many trams and buses have specially lowered floors; visit the website of Prague Public Transport for more information. The Prague Organization of Wheelchair Users lobbies for the disabled. It offers a useful free brochure called Overcoming Barriers; this lists barrier-free galleries, monuments, restaurants, public toilets and shops, and has easy-to-read maps. Get the brochure and advice about disability issues at their office near Náměstí Republiky. Accessible Prague and Czech Blind United are other helpful organizations to contact.
The Czech Republic’s currency is the koruna or crown (Kč), divided into 100 haléřů. Notes come in denominations of Kč100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000. Coins are Kč1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50, and are handy for paying for transport tickets and public toilets.
Most banks have ATMs (cash machines) in a lobby or outside wall. These can be accessed by card at any time. Czech ATMs require a four-digit pin. Beware of ATM crime, and always shield your pin from view. Some banks require you to notify them of your travel plans before departure to avoid having the bank block your card for fraud protection.
Private money exchange counters (called bureaux de change) are not advisable for changing money. While they are required by law to post their rates on the window – and they all claim “zero per cent commission” – they almost always have hidden fees and higher charges than advertised. A safer option is to get Czech currency at a reputable bank, such as the UniCredit Bank. It is best to convert only as much cash as you will need, as it is often difficult to exchange koruna outside the country.
Prepaid currency cards (cash passports) are a more secure way of carrying money. They can be loaded with koruna, fixing exchange rates before you leave, and used like a debit card.
Major credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express, are widely accepted and very useful in restaurants, car rentals, hotels and shops and for booking theatre or cinema tickets online.
Internet access is easy to find in Prague. Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and in many public places such as restaurants, cafés and pubs. There are inter-net bars and cafés in the city but you can also surf the net at your hotel if you do not have a smartphone or laptop.
The Czech Republic’s international telephone code is 420. There are no area codes in the country, and all phone numbers, with the exception of some emergency hotlines, are unique strings of nine digits. When calling the Czech Republic from abroad, dial your country’s international access code followed by 420 and then the nine-digit number. To call abroad from Prague, dial “+” or 00 followed by the country code, then the area code and number.
To use your mobile device in the country, it will need to be equipped for GSM network frequencies 1800 MHz. If your phone doesn't have an EU SIM card, consider buying a local SIM card, available at phone shops around town. You’ll get a local number and pay lower charges for calls, text and data. To use a local SIM though, your device must be unlocked. Alternatively, ask your home provider how to use the phone abroad and activate an international roaming plan to keep costs down. Without such a plan, avoid using your phone since roaming fees soar quickly – use it only when on a Wi-Fi network.
When not out of order, payphones accept either coins or phone cards (telefonní karty), which are available at post offices and newsagents.
The Main Post Office (Hlavní pošta) is lovely inside and worth a visit, whether or not you need to mail a postcard or letter overseas. It also offers a large phone room, which is a good way of making overseas telephone calls.
If your hotel has a satellite hook-up, expect the usual fare of CNN, Sky News and MTV. Radio Prague, the foreign-language service of state-run Czech Radio, broadcasts news and features in English and five other languages. You can listen or read features in English on their website. The BBC broadcasts in English at 101.1 FM. There are no longer any locally published English-language papers in the country, but international publications like the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and the New York Times are available at city centre newsstands.
Shops in the city centre generally work 9am–6pm Monday to Saturday. Malls and shopping centres stay open until 8pm or 9pm. Sunday has limited trading hours. These vary but stores catering to tourists work 10am–6pm.
Major banks open at 9am and close at 5pm or 6pm on weekdays. Museums and galleries generally open 10am–6pm Tuesday to Sunday, with most closing on Mondays. Last admission to many attractions is 30 minutes before closing.
The Czech Republic is on Central European Time (CET), which is the same time zone as much of Western Europe. It is 11 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), 6 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time (EST) and an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The clock moves forward 1 hour during daylight saving time (last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October).
The electricity supply is 220–240V AC. Plugs come with two round pins, the standard plug type used across much of Continental Europe. Depending on the appliance, you’ll need an adaptor and possibly also a converter. Many modern electronics, like laptops and mobiles, have a built-in transformer and only require an adaptor.
To hire a car, you must be 19 and have held a full licence for at least a year. You’ll need your passport, plus your credit card for the security deposit. It is recommended that all non-EU visitors carry an International Driving Permit (IDP). While driving, you must carry your licence, proof of identification, car safety documents (technical licence and green card) and rental papers, and display the motorway vignette (see Arriving by Air).
The weather in Prague is unpredictable, and given the northern European climate, an umbrella or raincoat will be handy all year around. The best times to visit are spring and autumn, without the summer crowds and with relatively reliable weather. Winter is comparatively quiet, although the benefits of having the city to yourself are offset by daytime highs just above freezing and sunsets at 5pm. Depending on the year, summer can be hot and muggy or cool and rainy. Even in midsummer it’s wise to pack a sweater for the evenings.
Prague City Tourism is the city’s official tourist-information service. It has offices at the airport, plus three in town: on the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and at Na Můstku. English-speaking staff dispense brochures, maps and information on what’s on, where to eat, where to stay and transport. Their official website is useful and well laid out.
The popular Expats.cz and Prague.tv carry event and film listings, articles about life in Prague and restaurant reviews. The Taste of Prague blog is by a Czech couple, both avowed foodies, on what to eat and where to eat it; they also run food tours. The Living Prague site, by a tourist turned resident, offers personal experiences and advice. Houser is a countercultural site with great event and festival listings. Although it’s in Czech, it’s not hard to navigate.
There is no shortage of fun ways to tour the city, whether on foot, by bus, bicycle, boat or in a horse-drawn carriage.
Guided walking tours abound, with themes that include historic Prague, Communist Prague, and haunted Prague. Most tours meet up just below the Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square. Markéta Hradecká from Caput Regni Private Tours is a respected private guide. Wittman Tours focuses on Jewish heritage and offers highly regarded walking tours of the city’s former Jewish quarter, plus bus tours to the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezín, north of Prague.
Established bus tour companies such as Martin Tour and Premiant offer a menu of outings from a few hours to a whole day.
Filippo Mari at Biko Adventures offers mountain-bike tours of Prague and its environs and rents out bikes. Praha Bike also rent out bicycles and run guided city bike tours.
Several operators, such as Prague Venice, run boat tours down the Vltava in summer. The boats generally set off from Charles, Palackého and Čechův bridges.
For the romantics, horse-drawn carriages wait at the Old Town Square. Segways were banned from the Old Town in 2016, but Prague on Segway still run tours to other parts of the city.
Prague is an underrated shopping destination and some of the best shopping areas have been picked out in this guide. Designer labels such as Prada and Hermès, congregate along the cobblestoned Pařížská street, which runs north of Old Town Square. The area around Wenceslas Square and Na Příkopě is home to names with more affordable high-street appeal like Zara. It’s also where you’ll find the inner city’s biggest shopping mall, Palladium.
The bigger museums, galleries and tourist sites usually have gift stores with books, posters, postcards and T-shirts.
The city is a paradise for antique hunters, and the centre has several junk merchants and antique shops. Keep an eye out for the words starožitnosti or antik somewhere on the outside. Objects to look for include 19th and early 20th-century household articles, glassware, textiles and furnishings. An antikvariát is similar, but usually specializing in old books. These can be terrific places for old posters, maps and paintings.
The central streets in Malá Strana and the Old Town are dominated by souvenir shops, but very few of these flashy stores, hawking cheap trinkets, “Prague Drinking Team” sweatshirts and KGB hats, are selling anything of real value. Instead look for authentic high-quality glass with eye-catching classical designs at Moser or find deep-red Czech garnets at the three Granát stores in Prague.
Most of the larger shops will accept leading credit cards. VAT (Value Added Tax) is charged at 21 per cent and is almost always included in the marked price of the item. Some stores offer tax-free shopping for non-EU residents and will display a sign and provide a Global Refund form for customs to validate at the airport when you leave the EU (see Passports and Visas).
Diners have a wealth of choice in the centre. In addition to the restaurants and pubs serving typical Czech dishes such as roast pork and duck, there are now dozens of places where you can find decent Italian, Indian, Mexican and other cuisines.
Meat- and dairy-free dining is no longer the problem it was a few years ago. Many popular restaurants offer vegetarians a wide variety of meatless meals. These include the Lehká Hlava restaurant in the Old Town, the Country Life organic health-food shops and vegan cafés across town, the Malý Buddha Vietnamese restaurant in Hradčany and the Dhaba Beas north Indian vegan self-service cafés in eleven locations across the city. Older establishments are also increasingly sensitive to vegetarians’ needs.
Praguers generally have dinner from 7pm to 9pm and lunch from 11am to 2pm or 3pm, when pubs, cafés, and fast-food restaurants fill up. This can be a good time to frequent the more expensive restaurants, which seek to attract the lunchtime crowds by offering cheaper set menus, called a denní menu or polední nabídka. While it’s a good idea to eat breakfast at your hotel, many restaurants and modern cafés offer daily breakfast menus or weekend brunches on Sundays.
There are several online sites in English offering reviews of the latest restaurants and dining trends. Expats.cz publishes helpful feature articles written by locals. Taste of Prague and Bohemian Bites are popular and informative foodie blogs.
If you're satisfied with the service offered, a 10 per cent tip is expected. Leave the money on the table or give it directly to the server. It is always a good idea to reserve a table in advance, since the better places tend to fill up fast every night.
The better properties in the desirable parts of Prague, such as the Old Town, Hradčany and Malá Strana, can be pricey, but with so much choice, it generally pays to shop around, especially online. Visitors can save a considerable amount on their hotel bill by exploring accommodation options outside the central areas. The neighbourhoods of Holešovice, Žižkov, Karlín, and Smíchov, for example, all have good connections to the centre and an increasing number of good-quality hotels.
As well as hotels for every budget, there are self-catering apartments, B&Bs, private homes and hostels for rent. Budget hotel chains often offer double rooms in good locations for as little as €69 per night. Room-finding services like Mary’s offer accommodation for every budget. AirBnB has an active Prague section offering everything from luxurious home stays to flopping on someone’s couch. For short-term apartment rentals ideal for families and groups, Prague-stay.com has a hard-to-beat list of gorgeous flats at reasonable prices. Many Prague hotels can be found on the Booking.com site, which has a clean, easy-to-use web interface.
Hotels in Prague usually quote room rates, rather than prices per person, and include VAT in their published rates. The rates will generally, although not always, include break-fast. The best price deals at budget hotel chains are to be had well in advance and online.
The peak tourist season in Prague runs roughly from April to May and September to October. This is also when prices are relatively higher. The highest prices occur during the Christmas and New Year period and Easter. The lowest prices are to be found between November and March, outside the holiday period.
Klimentská 10, 6th floor
Ve Struhách 2
Belgická 37 • Palackého 5 • Vídeňská 800 (Thomayerova Hospital) • V Úvalu 84 (University Hospital Motol)
Na Příkopě 15
V Celnici 10
Karolíny Světlé 5
Jungmannovo námĕstí 9
Náměstí Republiky 3a
Rytířská 12 • Staroměstské náměstí 1 • Václavské náměstí 42
Na Příkopě 12
Náměstí Republiky 1
Na Příkopě 15