Main information

Population

1,184,000

Area

496 sq km

Geographic location

North latitude 50° 05′
East longitude 14° 27′

Elevation

235 m (average)

Time Zone

Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour (two hours in summer): Time in Prague is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in New York. (7 hours ahead of central time in Chicago, etc.) Prague uses the 24 hour clock, so the numeral 1 on a US watch would be read as 1in the early morning or 13 in the afternoon, etc. Transportation timetables and schedules will use this method of representation of time. (designations of am and pm are unnecessary)

Language

Czech, a Slavic language closely related to Slovak and Polish, is the official language of the Czech Republic. Learning English is popular among young people, but German is still the most useful language for tourists. Don’t be surprised if you get a response in German to a question asked in English.

Telephones

The country code for the Czech Republic is 42.
The city code for Prague is 02.

Entertainment Listings

To find out what’s on for the month and to get the latest tips for shopping, dining, and entertainment, consult Prague’s weekly English-language newspaper, The Prague Post. It prints comprehensive entertainment listings and can be bought at most downtown newsstands as well as in major North American and European cities. The monthly Prague Guide, available at newsstands and tourist offices provides an overview of major cultural events and has listings of restaurants, hotels, and organizations offering traveler assistance.

Emergency Numbers

Police (158).
Ambulance (155).
Breakdowns (154 or 123).

Packing

Formal clothing is not necessary for a vacation in Prague. Fashion was all but nonexistent under 40 years of Communist rule, and Western dress of any kind is considered stylish. A sports jacket for men, and a dress or pants for women, is appropriate for an evening out. Everywhere else, you’ll feel comfortable in casual corduroy or jeans. The Czech Republic has all the extremes of an inland climate, so plan accordingly. In the higher elevations winter can last until April, and even in summer the evenings will be cool.

Take a pair of sturdy walking shoes and be prepared to use them. Dress shoes will present considerable problems on the cobblestone streets of Prague.

Many items that you take for granted at home are occasionally unavailable or of questionable quality. Take your own toiletries and personal hygiene products with you. Few places provide sports equipment for rent; an alternative to bringing your own equipment would be to buy what you need locally and take it home with you. In general, sporting goods are relatively cheap and of good quality.

Bring an extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses in your carry-on luggage. Contact lens wearers should bring enough saline and disinfecting solution with them, as they are expensive and in short supply

Late-Night Pharmacies

There are two 24-hour pharmacies close to the city’s center, both called Lékárna (Stefánikova 6, Prague 5, 02/537039; Belgická 37, Prague 2, 02/258189).

Embassies

United States (Trziste 15, Malá Strana, 02/2451-0847).
British (Thunovská ul. 14, Malá Strana, 02/2451-0439).
Canadian (Mickiewiczova ul. 6, Hradcany, 02/2431-1108).

Average Temperatures (In Fahrenheit)

High Low
January – March 44F 23F
April – June 70F 38F
July – September 73F 55F
October – December 53F 27F

 

When to Go

The tourist season runs from April or May through October; spring and fall combine good weather with a more bearable level of tourism. Bear in mind that many attractions are closed November through March. Prague is beautiful year-round, but it might be wise to avoid midsummer (especially July and August) and the Christmas and Easter holidays, when the city is crowded with visitors, provided there is flexibility in the travel schedule.

Useful measurements

Equivalent Weights And Measures
1 cm – 0.39 inches
1 meter – 3.28 feet / 1.09 yards
1 km – 0.62 miles
1 liter – 0.26 gallons
1 inch – 2.54 cm
1 foot – 0.39 meters
1 yard – 0.91 meters
1 mile – 1.60 km
1 gal. – 3.78 liters

Czech Republic Holidays

1 January – New Year, Independent Czech State Renewal Day
March or April (varies) Easter Monday
1 May – Labor Day
8 May – Liberation Day (1945)
5 July – Cyril and Methodius Day – the Slavic Christianity Prophets
6 July – Master John Hus burning at the stake (1415)
28 September – Czech Statehood Day
28 October – Independent Czechoslovak State Proclamation Day (1918)
17 November – Day of Fight for Freedom and Democracy
24 December – Christmas Eve
25 December – Christmas Day
26 December – St. Stephen’s Day

Visas

US travelers just need a valid passport (no visa).

Electricity

220V, 50 Hz Electrical sockets take plugs with two round prongs or sometimes three. American appliances will need a plug adapter and will require a transformer if they do not have a dual voltage capability. Most hotels will supply guests with an ironing board and iron if requested.

Lost and Found Office

Praha 1, Karoliny Svetle 5
Phone 2423 5085

Money

The unit of currency in the Czech Republic is the koruna, or crown (Kc), which is divided into 100 halér, or halers. There are (little-used) coins of 10, 20, and 50 halers; coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 Kc, and notes of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 Kc. The 1,000-Kc note may not always be accepted for small purchases, because the proprietor may not have enough change.

Changing Money

Try to avoid exchanging money at hotels or private exchange booths, including the Cekobanka and Exact Change booths. They routinely take commissions of 8%-10%. The best place to exchange is at bank counters, where the commissions average 1%-3%, or at ATMs. The koruna became fully convertible late in 1995, and can now be purchased outside the country and exchanged into other currencies. Ask about current regulations when you change money, however, and keep your receipts.

Between the airport and town by bus

The Cedaz minibus shuttle links the airport with Námestí Republiky (a square just off the Old Town). It runs hourly, more often at peak periods, between 6 AM and 9:30 PM daily and makes an intermediate stop at the Dejvická metro station.

The Czech complex of regional bus lines known collectively as CSAD operates its dense network from the sprawling main bus station on Krizíkova (metro stop: Florenc, lines B or C). For information about routes and schedules call 02/2421-1060, consult the confusingly displayed timetables posted at the station, or visit the information window, situated at the bus unloading area (open weekdays 6 AM-7:45 PM, Sat. 6-4, Sun. 8-6). The helpful private travel agency Tourbus, in the pedestrian overpass above the station, dispenses bus information daily until 8 PM. If the ticket windows are closed, you can usually buy a ticket from the driver.

Traveling by Train

Train fares in Europe are lower than those in the United States. Czech tickets are particularly inexpensive but are getting more expensive. Because European countries are compact, it often takes less time to travel city-to-city by train than by plane. Prague is about 5 hours by train from Munich, Berlin, and Vienna. The European East Pass is good for first-class unlimited rail access in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. You must purchase the pass from a travel agent or Rail Europe before you leave for Europe. A pass for any 5 days of unlimited train travel in a 15-day period is $185 for adults and $93 for children 4 to 11. A pass for any 10 days of unlimited train travel in a 1-month period is $299 for adults and $150 for children 4 to 11. Also available is the Czech Flexipass, good for rail travel within the Czech Republic. It costs $69 for 5 days of travel within a 15-day period. However, it’s twice as expensive as buying tickets yourself.

Many rail passes are available in the United Kingdom for travel in Britain and Europe. However, one of the most widely used of these passes, the InterRail card, isn’t valid for travel in the Czech Republic. Passengers under 26 with lots of holiday time sometimes opt for a EuroYouth ticket, which allows unlimited stopovers en route between London and the Czech border, after which it costs the equivalent of 10 to 20 pounds to reach Prague. Passengers traveling to Prague by train typically pull into one of two central stations: Hlavní nádrazí (Main Station) or Nádrazí Holesovice (Holesovice Station). Both are on line C of the metro system and offer a number of services, including money exchange, a post office, and a luggage-storage area. At both terminals you’ll find AVE Ltd. (tel. 02/2422 3521 or 02/2422 3226), an accommodations agency that arranges beds in hostels as well as rooms in hotels and apartments. It’s open daily from 6am to 11pm. If you arrive without room reservations, this agency is definitely worth a visit.

Hlavní nádrazí

Wilsonova trída, Praha 2
02/2422 3887
Is the grander and more popular of the stations, but it’s also the seedier.

Built in 1909, this once beautiful four-story art nouveau structure was one of the city’s beloved architectural gems before it was connected to a darkly modern dispatch hall in the mid-1970s. From the train platform, you’ll walk down a flight of stairs and through a tunnel before arriving in the ground-level main hall, which contains ticket windows, a useful Prague Information Service office that sells city maps and dispenses information, and rest rooms. The station’s basement holds a left-luggage counter, which is open 24 hours and charges 20Kc per bag per day. Though cheaper, the nearby lockers aren’t secure and should be avoided. The public showers beneath the main hall are surprisingly clean and a good place to freshen up; they cost just 40Kc and are open Monday to Friday from 6am to 8pm, Saturday from 7am to 7pm, and Sunday from 8am to 4pm. On the second floor is the train information office (marked by a lowercase “i”), open daily from 6am to 10pm. On the top floor is a tattered restaurant I recommend only to the most famished.

After you leave the modern terminal hall, a 5-minute walk to the left puts you at the top of Wenceslas Square and 15 minutes by foot to Old Town Square. Metro line C connects the station easily to the other two subway lines and the rest of the city. Metro trains depart from the lower level, and tickets, costing 8Kc to 12Kc, are available from the newsstand near the metro entrance. Gouging taxi drivers line up outside the station and are plentiful throughout the day and night but are not recommended.

Nádrazí Holesovice

Partyzánská at Vrbenského, Praha 7
02/2461 7265
Prague’s second train station, is usually the terminus for trains from Berlin and other points north. Although it’s not as centrally located as the main station, its more manageable size and location at the end of metro line C make it almost as convenient.

Prague contains two smaller rail stations.

Masaryk Station

Hybernská ulice at Havlíckova
02/2461 7260
Is primarily for travelers arriving on trains originating from other Bohemian cities or from Brno or Bratislava. Situated about 10 minutes by foot from the main train station, Masaryk is near Staré Mesto, just a stone’s throw from Námestí Republiky metro station.

Smíchov Station

Nádrazní ulice at Rozkosného
02/2461 7686
Is the terminus for commuter trains from western and southern Bohemia, though an occasional international train pulls in here. The station contains a 24-hour baggage check and is serviced by metro line B.

 

Getting Around

Prague City Transport Fares

Travelling by city transport is only possible with a valid ticket. Passengers have to obtain their tickets before boarding the vehicle or entering the Metro system. Tickets can be bought at selected Metro stations or in Dopravni podnik Information Centers, hotels, at news stands, travel bureaus, department stores, etc. Single tickets can also be bought from the slot machines located at Metro stations or near some stops of surface transport. To see Prague properly, there is no alternative to walking, especially since much of the city center is off-limits to automobiles. And the walking couldn’t be more pleasant-most of it along the beautiful bridges and cobblestone streets of the city’s historic core. Before venturing out, however, be sure you have a good map.

By Bicycle

Though there are no special bike lanes in the city center and smooth streets are unheard of, Prague is a particularly fun city to bike in, when the crowds are thin. Vehicular traffic is limited in the center, where small, winding streets seem especially suited to two-wheeled vehicles. Surprisingly, few people take advantage of this opportunity; cyclists are largely limited to the few foreigners who have imported their own bikes. The city’s ubiquitous cobblestones make mountain bikes the natural choice. Check with your hotel about a possible rental or try Cyklocentrum at Karlovo nám. 29, New Town and fax 02/294 312 www.cyklocentrum.cz

By Public Transportation

Prague’s public transportation network is one of the few sound Communist-era legacies and is still remarkably affordable. In central Prague, metro (subway) stations abound. You can buy tickets from yellow coin-operated machines in metro stations or at most newsstands marked Tabák Or Trafika. Hold on to your validated ticket throughout your ride–you’ll need to show it if a plainclothes ticket collector (be sure to check for his or her badge) asks you. If you’re caught without a valid ticket, you’ll be asked, and not so kindly, to pay a fine on the spot with all the locals looking on, shaking their heads in disgust. The fine is 200Kc on trams and the metro, double that on buses.

By Bus \& Tram

The 24 electric tram (streetcar) lines run practically everywhere, and there’s always another tram with the same number traveling back. You never have to hail trams, for they make every stop. The most popular trams, nos. 22 and 23 (the “tourist trams” and the “pickpocket express”), run past top sights like the National Theater and Prague Castle. Regular bus and tram service stops at midnight, after which selected routes run reduced schedules, usually only once per hour. Schedules are posted at stops. If you miss a night connection, expect a long wait for the next. Buses tend to be used only outside the older districts of Prague and have three-digit numbers. Both the buses and tram lines (which have two digits) begin their morning runs around 4:30am.

By Metro & Light Rail

Metro trains operate daily from 5am to midnight and run every 2 to 6 minutes. On the three lettered lines (A, B, and C, color coded green, yellow, and red, respectively) the most convenient central stations are Mustek, at the foot of Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square); Staromestska, for Old Town Square and Charles Bridge; and Malostranská, serving Malá Strana and the Castle District. The Prague Metro network consists of 3 lines designated by letters and differentiated in colour: green colour (Skalka station – Dejvicka station), yellow colour (Cerny most station – Zlicin station), red colour (Nadrazi Holesovice station – Haje station), with transfers possible at Museum station (lines A and C), Mustek station (lines A and B), Florenc station (lines B and C). Metro operates daily from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m.. The time interval between train departures is approximately 2 minutes during the rush hours and 4 to 10 minutes during off-peak hours.

By Car

Don’t rent a car if you intend to visit only Prague. Most of the center of the city is closed to traffic, and it is best to stick to public transportation. The Czech Republic follows the usual Continental rules of the road. A right turn on red is permitted only when indicated by a green arrow. Signposts with yellow diamonds indicate a main road where drivers have the right of way. The speed limit is 110 kph (70 mph) on four-lane highways, 90 kph (55 mph) on open roads, and 60 kph (40 mph) in built-up areas. The fine for speeding is 300 Kc, payable on the spot. Seat belts are compulsory, and drinking before driving is absolutely prohibited. A permit is required to drive on expressways and other four-lane highways. Permits are sold at border crossings and some service stations.

In the Czech Republic your own driver’s license is acceptable. An International Driver’s Permit is a good idea; it is required in Slovakia for car rentals of more than one month and in the Czech Republic for rentals of over six months. It’s available from the American or Canadian automobile associations, or, in the United Kingdom, from the AA or RAC.

By Taxi

Dishonest taxi drivers have been known to alter the meter and charge extra. This can be prevented by walking or taking the subway. In an honest cab, the meter will start at 10 Kc and increase by 12 Kc per kilometer (1/2-mile) or 1 Kc per minute at rest. Most rides within town should cost no more than 80 Kc-100 Kc. The best alternative is to phone for a taxi in advance. Some reputable firms are AAA Taxi ( 02/3399) and Sedop ( 02/6731-4184). Many firms have English-speaking operators.

The Funicular

The Funicular onto Petrin Hill operates along the route Ujezd – Nebozizek – Petrin. The Funicular operates daily from 9:15 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. with traffic intervals from 10 to 15 minutes.

Business Hours

Though hours vary, most banks are open weekdays 8-5, with an hour’s lunch break. Private exchange offices usually have longer hours. Museums are usually open daily except Monday (or Tuesday) 9-5; they tend to stop selling tickets an hour before closing time. Stores are open weekdays 9-6; some grocery stores open at 6 AM. Department stores often stay open until 7pm. On Saturday, most stores close at noon. Nearly all stores are closed on Sunday.

Taxes

If you shop in the Czech Republic, get a value-added tax (VAT) refund. The basic VAT rate in the Czech Republic is about 25%, applied to most consumer goods. A 5% rate applies to most services and some goods, including fuel and most food.

Events

The Czech government publishes an annual “Calendar of Tourist Events” in English, available from Cedok or the Prague Information Service.

March
Prague City of Music Festival; Czech Alpine Skiing Championships (Tourist Information Center, Box 24, 543 51 Spindlerův Ml‡n, 0438/93330).

May
Prague Spring Music Festival (Hellichova 18, 118 00 Prague 1, 02/533473); Prague Marathon; Prague Writers’ Festival (Viola Theater, Národní 7, Prague 1, 02/2422-0844) offers dramatic readings by major writers from around the world.

Classical concerts take place throughout the year in concert halls and churches, the biggest event being the Prague Spring (Prazské jaro) international music festival, which traditionally begins on May 12, the day of Smetana’s death, with a performance of Má vlast, and finishes on June 2 with a rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth. As well as the main venues, watch for concerts in the churches and palaces, especially in summer.

June
Prague International Film Festival.

July
Prague Summer Culture Festival.

September
Prague Autumn International Music Festival (Sekaninova 26, 120 00 Prague 2, 02/692-7470).

October
Agharta International Jazz Festival; Festival of 20th Century Music (Festa Arts Agency, Dlouhá 10, 110 00 Prague 1, 02/232-1086).

Mozart in Prague 02/643 7560 Studio Forum Praha. A month long celebration.

November 17
Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution which took place on November 17, 1989.

Christmas Market in the Old Town Square. Mid-November- December.

December 5-26
Christmas in Prague is celebrated with many events. Santa, dressed in a white bishop’s robes starts it off on 12/5 with treats for the children who are well behaved, and coal and potatoes to the rowdy ones.

December 31
Enjoying New Year’s Eve in Cesk‡ Krumlov: At midnight in Bohemia’s Cesk‡ Krumlov, the Na plásti bridge at the castle overlooking the town turns into a mini-United Nations, as revelers from all over gather to watch and light fireworks, see who can uncork the champagne the fastest, and just plain celebrate.

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