Prague has a cheap and efficient public transport system consisting of an integrated network of buses, trams, metro and a funicular on Petrin Hill. The historic centre is compact and pedestrian-only, but trams offer an inexpensive way of seeing the rest of the city and there are plenty of metro stations in the centre. Tram lines criss-cross the centre and are the best way to get around, after the metro. Buses need rarely be used, as they tend to operate outside the centre and are more irregular. After midnight night trams and buses offer a limited service, usually every hour. Tickets are valid on all modes of public transport, but must be bought in advance and validated before each journey. A number of travel passes are also available; these are the best way to avoid the hassle of different single tickets and need only be stamped once at the start. Prague is inundated with dishonest, unregistered taxi drivers who attempt to rip off tourists. It’s best to book taxis over the phone and demand a receipt for the fare before setting out. ProfiTaxi or AAA Taxi are the most reputable companies. A car is unnecessary since much of the city is pedestrianised, parking is a major problem and vehicle crime is rife. Car rental is also expensive.
Punctuality is vital in the Czech business world and dress should be smart and conservative. Initial greetings are usually formal, with a firm handshake. Titles and surnames are used, unless otherwise indicated. There is generally some small talk to establish rapport at the beginning of meetings; be polite and courteous. German is the most common foreign language used in the Czech Republic but English is widely spoken by younger generations. Translators are available and any attempts at speaking Czech will be appreciated. Deals can take a long time to manifest due to significant bureaucratic red tape and it is important to be patient. Business hours are usually 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday and some businesses close during the month August.
The international access code for the Czech Republic is +420. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Area codes are not required, and the first two digits of the number indicate geographical location. There are high surcharges on international calls from hotels; it is cheaper to use the public telephone boxes – phone cards can be bought from newsagents. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with all major international operators, except those in the USA. Internet cafes are available in the main towns.
The official currency is the Czech crown, locally known as the Koruna (CZK), which is divided into 100 haler. Most credit cards including American Express, Diners Club, Visa and MasterCard are accepted, but it is best to have cash handy when travelling away from Prague and the main tourist centres. Traveller’s cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some hotels; commission is highest in hotels. Banks are closed on weekends. ATMs (known as ‘bankomats’) are becoming more common in Prague and are probably the best way to obtain local currency at a good rate and without commission. The Czech Republic is still cheap compared to the rest of Europe, though the gap is closing.
Czech Tourist Authority, Prague: +420 221 580 111
There is also a fantastic website providing comprehensive information for expats in Prague: http://www.expats.cz/
GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs with a hole for a male grounding pin are standard. Most sockets also take the standard European two-pin plugs.
Czech is the official language but English and German are also widely spoken.
There are no vaccination requirements for international travellers, and no major health risks are associated with travel to the Czech Republic. A reciprocal health agreement with the UK entitles citizens with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to free emergency health care, however medical insurance is still advised. Visitors to forested areas should seek medical advice about immunisation against tick borne encephalitis.
Tipping in restaurants is optional and no service charge is added to bills. Gratuities of 10% are expected if the service is good. Taxi drivers are tipped by rounding up the fare at the end of the journey.
The majority of visits to the Czech Republic are trouble-free, although the country has a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which it shares with the rest of the world. Petty theft is on the increase, especially in Prague, and visitors should be vigilant about their belongings particularly on public transport and around the main tourist sites.
Drunken behaviour and drinking in public is punishable by law.
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