Czech Republic

Czech Republic

A fairytale land of castles, colourful architecture, hot springs, mountains, and beautiful country vistas, the Czech Republic is an amazing place to explore. The medieval capital city of Prague had a renaissance after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, when it suddenly attracted scores of young artists, writers, and musicians to its cobblestoned streets. The lively city has retained an old world charm while at the same time blossoming into a trendy, cultural mecca for visitors and Czechs alike. As the historic capital of Bohemia, Prague is known for its distinct and beautiful architecture, drawing from a number of different styles, particularly Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque. Iconic landmarks include Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge. The city is also known for its top-tier museums and extensive, robust infrastructure.

Although the beautiful city of Prague is understandably no longer a secret to the masses of tourists that flood the continent each summer, the rest of the Czech Republic remains virtually untouched. The country is divided between the regions of Moravia and Bohemia which both contain numerous castles, walled cities, and rolling hills and mountains. Hikers and climbers will be drawn to the Krkonese Mountains while those seeking a spa retreat can find natural springs in towns near the German border. The Czech Republic will take you back to medieval times with its labyrinthine alleyways dwarfed by hundreds of preserved churches while constantly reminding you why it is currently one of the hottest spots to visit in Central Europe.

Currency

Czech currency is the Czech crown, the Koruna (Kc).

US $1= 20 Koruna

GBP £1= 33 Koruna

EUR €1= 27 Koruna

In the Czech Republic, ATM’s are fairly plentiful and most will accept major credit cards. The major banks are the best place to change traveller’s cheques and cash. Watch out for high fees at private exchange outlets.

Generally, travelling in the Czech Republic is cheap, although hotel accommodation in Prague can be expensive. You can save money by staying in hostels or pensions, eating at restaurants outside touristy areas, and using public transportation.

Tipping in restaurants in the Czech Republic is optional although the custom is to round up the bill by about 10%. The same goes for taxi drivers.

People

With a population of 10.5 million, the Czech Republic is one of the most populated countries of Eastern and Central Europe. About 70% of the people are ethnically Czech and 1.4% are Slovak. Other sizeable minorities include Germans, Poles, and Ukranians.

Travel

When travelling within the Czech Republic, buses are usually faster and cheaper than trains but many do not operate on the weekends. Renting a car is also an option and will give you the flexibility to stop along the way and enjoy sights off the beaten path. Prague has a decent public transportation system and you can use the bus, metro, or tram to get to most places if you cannot get there on foot.

Eurail (a single rail pass that allows travel between multiple countries) trains/tickets are also available when traveling through these countries.

Food

The most famous Czech cuisine is undeniably its beer. Bohemian beer ranks with the best in the world and is cheap and plentiful throughout the country and a great bargain outside touristy areas. When food becomes necessary, expect heavy sauces and a variety of soups to start. Dumplings and meat are both quite popular. You can find vegetarian restaurants in Prague, but expect a hearty diet. A unique favorite in pubs is the famous beer cheese (pivny syr). A smelly brie-like cheese, it is usually served with small piles of onion, butter, chopped pickle, paprika, and other spices to mix in. If you are lucky you can get a shot of beer foam from the bartender to stir in before spreading it on your bread.

Language

Not surprisingly, Czech is the official language of the Czech Republic and you may want to bring along an English-Czech phrasebook if you plan on being there for a while. A number of Czechs also understand German and in Prague, English will suffice.

Climate

The Czech Republic climate is temperate with chilly winters and rain and snow possible. The best weather is in the summer but the region is also the most crowded during July and August as well as during the holiday periods of Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter.

Visas

These countries entered the European Union in May 2004, so entry for EU citizens is now unrestricted, you will only require your passport.

Citizens of the United States, Switzerland, Japan, and New Zealand can stay up to 90 days in the Czech Republic without a visa. Those from New Zealand and Australia can stay up to 180 days. Canadians, Australians, and South Africans will need travel visas. Visas cannot be obtained at the border or the airport.

 

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