Czech Republic Overview
Tourism in the Czech Republic really dates from the 1989 Velvet Revolution and has largely focused on Prague (near the middle of Bohemia), with its great museums, galleries, concerts and other attractions. Many day trips are possible from Prague, including the great western spa towns of Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázní, early settlements like Kutná Hora and castles like Karlštejn. However, the rest of the country has much to offer the independent traveler. Although prices have risen over the past decade, the country still represents very good value for money. The Šumava Mountains of south Bohemia offer excellent rambles and a range of sports, and well-preserved medieval towns like Èeskỳ Krumlov. Northeastern Bohemia’s mountains, like the Èeskỳ Øáj, offer superb hiking amidst unusual scenery. In Moravia, the eastern half of the country, life is even less hectic; Brno provides an excellent base for exploring important historic towns like Olomouc and Kromíøĩz. The country possesses an immense number of fascinating castles, churches and other architectural gems. It has always been known for its musicians, and there are an enormous number of all types of concerts and festivals to choose from. Best of all, the Czechs are an extremely hospitable people, eager to make any visit as enjoyable as possible.
Area: 78,866 sq km (30,450 sq miles)
Geography: The Czech Republic is situated in Central Europe, sharing frontiers with Germany, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Austria. Only about one-quarter of the size of the British Isles, the republic is hilly and picturesque with historic castles, romantic valleys and lakes, as well as excellent facilities to ‘take the waters’ at one of the famous spas or to ski and hike in the mountains. There are two main regions: Bohemia to the west and Moravia to the east. Besides Prague, the Czech capital, tourists are drawn to the spa towns of Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne and to the very beautiful region of Sout Bohemia. The West Bohemian spa town Karlovy Vary (also know as Calrsbad) is surrounded by 60 hot mineral springs. A typical ‘chocolate box’ town, renowned for its crystal and porcelain, it is just 1 hour 30 minutes drive to Prague and an hour from the German border.
Language: The official language is Czech. German and English are also spoken.
Currency: Koruna (Kc) or Crown
Credit Cards: Major cards such as American Express, Diners Club, VISA, MasterCard and others may be used to exchange currency and re also accepted in better hotels, restaurants and shops.
Travelers Checks: These are widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take travelers cheques in US Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling.
Banking Hours: Generally Mon-Fri 8am-6pm. Some banks close early on Friday.
Air: The national airline is Czech Airlines (OK) (www.csa.cz). There are also several small airlines. Other airlines include British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair.
Approximate flight times:
London to Prague is 2 hour 15 minutes
New York to Prague is 8 hours 10 minutes
Chicago to Prague is 14 hours 25 minutes
Los Angeles to Prague is 17 hours 35 minutes
Prague (PRG) (Ruzyne) is 20km (12 miles) from the city (travel time-30 minutes). Transport to/from city: CSA Coach every 30 minutes after flight arrivals 6am-9pm (travel time 30 minutes); 119 bus approximately every 20-40 minutes from 6am-9am (travel time-30 minutes); minibuses are available for a maximum of six people; taxis are also available to the city center (24-hour service, surcharge at night). Big hotels operate frequent shuttle-bus services during the summer months.
Social & Business Customs
is often based on Austro-Hungarian dishes; Wiener Schnitzel and pork are very popular. Specialties include bramborak, a delicacy of potato pancake filled with garlic and herbs and Prague ham. Meat dishes are msotly served with Knediky, a type of large dough dumpling and zeli 9sauerkraut). There is a wide selection of restaurants, beer taverns and wine cellars.
Popular beverages include beers, fresh fruit juices and liqueurs. A particular specialty is slivovice (a plum brandy) and merunkovice (an apricot brandy). Pilsner beers, borovicka (strong gin), becherovka (herb brandy) and sparkling wine from Moravia are also famous.
Theater and opera are of a high standard. Much of the nightlife takes place in hotels although nightclubs and casinos are found in major cities.
Souvenirs include Bohemian glas and crystal, pottery, porcelain,
wooden folk carvings, hand-embroidered clothing and food items. There are a number of excellent shops specializing in glass and crystal while various associations or regional artists and craftsmen run their own retail outlets. Other special purchases include china ornaments and geyserstone carvings from Karlovy Vary; delicate lace and needle embroidery from many Moravian towns; blood-red garnets and semi-precious stones from Bohemia.
9am-6pm Monday to Friday; 9am-12am Saturday. Supermarkets and food shops that are mainly in large towns and cities open from 6am. The number of shops, which open on Sundays, is constantly going up.
Dress should be casual but conservative except at formal dinners and at quality hotels or restaurants. Photography: Areas where there are military installations should not be photographed.
A 10% tip is expected in hotels, restaurants and taxis.
Businessmen wear suits. Knowledge of German is useful and English is widely spoken among the younger generation. Business lunches are usual. Office hours: 8am-5pm Monday to Friday.
The weather is quite unsettled, with generally cold winters and mild summers. Spring and summer have the highest rainfall. Clothing: Mediumweights, heavy topcoat and overshoes for winter; lightweights for summer.