Area Codes -- There are no area or city codes in the Czech Republic. Each telephone number is a unique nine-digit number, usually written xxx-xxx-xxx. Numbers that begin with a "6" or "7" indicate a mobile phone.
Business Hours -- Normal business and banking hours run from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Stores in central Prague are typically open weekdays from 9am to 7pm and on Saturday from 9am until at least 1pm; larger stores and shopping centers are likely to be open on Sundays and holidays as well. Post offices are open from 8am until 7pm Monday to Friday. Some larger post offices have limited Saturday hours. Museums are almost always closed on Mondays. Tourist attractions may have shorter hours or shut down altogether during the winter (Nov-Apr).
Drinking Laws -- Alcohol (beer, wine, and spirits) is widely available at supermarkets, convenience stores, cafes, and bars. The legal age for buying and consuming alcohol is 18, though ID checks are not common. There are no set hours for when bars can operate. Traditional Czech pubs close around 11pm. More modern bars and clubs in Prague usually stay open until at least 1am or 2am. The blood-alcohol limit for driving a car is zero, and motorists face a stiff fine and loss of their driving license if caught.
Electricity -- The Czech Republic operates on the standard European 220v using a two-pronged plug with round pins. Most U.S. appliances will need a transformer and a plug adaptor. Laptops will usually only require a plug adaptor.
Embassies & Consulates -- All foreign embassies are located in the capital, Prague. The embassy of the United States is located at Trziste 15, Prague 1, Malá Strana (tel. 257-022-000; www.usembassy.cz). The embassy of Canada is at Muchova 6, Prague 6, Dejvice (tel. 272-101-800; www.canada.cz). The embassy of the United Kingdom is at Thunovská 14, Prague 1, Malá Strana (tel. 257-402-111; www.britain.cz). The local consular office of Australia is at Klimentská 10, Prague 1, Nové Mesto (tel. 296-578-350).
Emergencies -- Dial the following numbers in an emergency: 112 (general emergency, equivalent to U.S. 911); 155 (ambulance); 158 (police); 150 (fire); 1230, 1240 (emergency road service).
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Gasoline, known as benzín in Czech is sold by the liter. Unleaded gas comes in two forms: regular (95 octane) and high-test (98 octane). Gasoline is expensive by U.S. standards. One liter costs around 30Kc, which works out to about $6.30 a gallon.
Holidays -- Public holidays include: New Year's Day (Jan 1); Easter Monday (March or April); Labor Day (May 1); Liberation Day (May 8); Sts. Cyril & Methodius Day (July 5); Death of Jan Hus Day (July 6); St. Wenceslas Day (Sept 28); the Founding of the Czechoslovak Republic (Oct 28); the Student Demonstrations of 1989 (Nov 17); Christmas (Dec 24, 25); and St. Stephen's Day (Dec 26).
Hospitals -- For emergency medical treatment, go to Nemocnice Na Homolce (Hospital Na Homolce) at Roentgenova 2, Prague 5, Smíchov (tel. 257-271-111; www.homolka.cz). If you need nonurgent medical attention, practitioners in many fields can be found at the Canadian Medical Care center at Veleslavínská 1, Prague 6, Dejvice (tel. 235-360-133; www.cmcpraha.cz). For dental service, call American Dental Associates at V Celnici 4, Prague 1, Nové Mesto (tel. 221-181-121; www.americandental.cz), open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday.
Insurance -- U.S., Canadian, and Australian citizens should obtain medical insurance with international coverage prior to arrival in the Czech Republic, as any doctor or hospital visits must be paid for out of pocket. Hospitals may demand cash pre-payment before rendering services, but be sure to save all of the paperwork for later reimbursements. The Czech Republic and the E.U. have a reciprocal health insurance agreement that covers U.K. citizens provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
North Americans with homeowner's or renter's insurance are probably covered for lost luggage. If not, inquire with Travel Assistance International (tel. 800/821-2828) or Travelex Insurance Services (tel. 800/228-9792). These insurers can also provide trip-cancellation, medical, and emergency evacuation coverage abroad.
For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Internet Access -- Central Prague has several Internet cafes. Rates typically run from 1Kc to 2Kc per minute. Near Old Town Square, try Bohemia Bagel at Masná 2, Prague 1, Staré Mesto (tel. 224-812-560; www.bohemiabagel.cz). They have a dozen PCs in a pleasant setting for 2Kc per minute; open daily from 8am to 11pm. Spika at Dlázdená 4, Prague 1, Nové Mesto (tel. 224-211-521; http://netcafe.spika.cz) is open Monday to Friday 8am to midnight and Saturday and Sunday 10am to 11pm, and charges 20Kc for 15 minutes.
Language -- Czech is a Slavic language, a distant cousin to Russian but more similar to Slovak and Polish. Nearly anyone who works in a hotel, restaurant or tourist center will be able to speak at least some English. Outside of the capital, English ability decreases, though nearly anyone under the age of 30 has had (in theory) several years of English instruction in the schools. German may also prove useful, particularly with older people.
Berlitz has a comprehensive phrasebook in Czech that is widely available locally in bookstores.
Laundromats -- Laundryland, Londýnská 71, Prague 2 (tel. 222-516-692), offers dry cleaning as well as laundry service and costs about 60Kc a load to wash. Located 2 blocks from the námestí Míru metro station and close to the I. P. Pavlova metro station, it's open daily from 8am to 10pm.
Prague Andy's Laundromat is nearby in Vinohrady at Korunní 14, Prague 2 (tel. 222-510-180). Whirlpool washers and dryers cost 66 Kc a load to wash.
Legal Aid -- Always keep your cool if you're stopped by the police. Acting angry or defensive is almost certain to backfire. Be sure to always carry your passport and driver's license and produce them when asked by a law-enforcement officer. Traffic violations are usually settled through a spot fine paid directly to the police officer. Ask for a receipt as a way of keeping the officer honest.
There are no specific agencies that offer legal services for visiting foreigners. The best advice for serious infractions is to contact your embassy as soon as you can.
Mail -- Most post offices are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 7pm. The main post office (Hlavní posta), at Jindrisská 14, Prague 1 (tel. 221-131-111), is open 24 hours a day. You can receive mail, marked "Poste Restante" and addressed to you, in care of this post office.
Postcards to the U.S. cost 19Kc; to any E.U. country, 18Kc. Rates for letters vary by weight and should be weighed at the post office to ensure proper postage. Mail service within Europe takes 3 to 5 days, and to the U.S. 7 to 10 days.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Prague has two main English-language weekly newspapers: The Prague Post (www.praguepost.com) and the Czech Business Weekly (www.cbw.cz). The former has good restaurant, culture, and film reviews; the latter mostly concerns itself with business and politics. You'll find both at newsstands around town.
The Prague Daily Monitor (http://praguemonitor.com) is a daily online "newspaper," with both original content and reprints from other publications.
Police -- Dial the European Emergency Number tel. 112 from any phone in an emergency. For Czech police dial tel. 158.
Smoking -- Smoking is generally permitted in restaurants, bars, and cafes, though there has been discussion of imposing a blanket indoor smoking ban that may or may not be in force by the time of your visit. Restaurants are required to offer non-smoking seating, though this may not always be in the most desirable section of the restaurant. Note that it's illegal to smoke outdoors near bus and tram stops. This rule is rarely enforced, but the fine, 1,000Kc, is steep. Smoking is banned on all trains and public transportation.
Taxes -- All goods and services in the Czech Republic are levied a value-added tax (VAT, or DPH in Czech), ranging from 9% to 19% depending on the item. This tax is normally included in the price.
Telephones -- Working public phones are rare thanks to the rapid growth of mobile phones. There are a few surviving coin-operated pay phones around town, but most public phones require a prepaid magnetic card. Find the cards at tobacco and magazine kiosks (cards are available for 200Kc-500Kc). Simply insert the card, listen for the dial tone, and dial. You can use pay phones with prepaid cards to dial abroad.
You can also dial abroad from the main post office or, more cheaply, over the Internet at many Internet cafes.
The country code for the Czech Republic is 420. To dial the Czech Republic from abroad, dial your country's international access code (011 in the United States) plus the unique 9-digit local number. Once you are here, to dial any number anywhere in the Czech Republic, simply dial the nine-digit number.
To make a direct international call from the Czech Republic, dial 00 plus the country code of the country you are calling and then the area code and number. The country code for the U.S. and Canada is 1; Great Britain, 44; and Australia, 61.
For directory inquiries regarding phone numbers within the Czech Republic, dial tel. 1180. For information about services and rates abroad, call tel. 1181.
Time -- The Czech Republic is in the central European time zone, the same as Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, and 1 hour ahead of London (GMT), 6 hours ahead of New York (EST).
Daylight saving time is in effect from early spring until fall (the actual date varies from year to year). Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time. The switch is made at 2am on a Sunday morning to cause the least disruption.
Tipping -- In hotels, tip bellhops 20Kc per bag (more if you have a lot of luggage), and though it's not expected, it's a nice gesture to leave the chamber staff 20Kc per night (depending on the level of service). Tip the doorman or concierge only if he or she has provided a specific service (for example, calling a cab for you or obtaining difficult-to-get theater tickets).
In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff or bartender 10% of the check to reward good service. On smaller tabs it's easiest just to round up to the next highest multiple of 10. For example, if the bill comes to 72Kc, hand the waiter 80Kc and tell him to keep the change.
As for other service personnel, tip cab drivers 5% to 10% of the fare (provided he hasn't already overcharged you). Tip hairdressers and barbers 10% to 15%.
Toilets -- Acceptably clean public pay toilets are scattered around tourist areas and can be found in every metro station. Expect to pay 5 Kc to 10Kc for the privilege. You'll find generally cleaner free toilets in restaurants, hotels, and fast-food outlets, but these are usually reserved for customers.
Water -- Tap water is fine to drink, but most restaurants won't serve it, preferring instead to charge for bottles of mineral water. Carbonated water is "voda s bublínkami." To order still water, say "voda bez bublínek" (literally: "water without bubbles").