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photo:  (sxc.hu)
 

What time zone is the Czech Republic in? What’s the weather like? When are the state holidays? How late are shops open? Here are some answers to these basic questions, as well as a few Czech phrases to help you on your way.

 

Time

The Czech Republic lies in the same time zone as the rest of Central Europe; you will therefore be using Central European Time (GMT + one hour). The Czech Republic uses summer and winter time, and the time of day is told using the 24-hour system.

Therefore, when referring to time, the Czechs do not use the morning (a.m.) and afternoon (p.m.) distinction, but rather, for example, refer to 8 a.m. as 8:00, while 20:00 means 8 p.m. In the spoken language you can also hear references to time such as 8 o’clock in the morning, 10 o’clock in the morning, 6 o’clock in the afternoon (18:00), or 8 o’clock in the evening (20:00).

When is the best time of year to visit the Czech Republic?

In general, you can say that there are many places to see and events to attend in the Czech Republic at any time of the year. For instance, if you want to go sightseeing and visit castles and chateaux, you should come between early May and late September. Although some monuments and most museums and galleries are open all year round, during summer there are various accompanying events taking place at castles and chateaux that you should not miss.

The months of April and October are interim periods for sightseeing, when you can enjoy a more peaceful atmosphere, but you should also expect cooler weather, often around 10°C. If you wish to visit in winter, you should expect that some will be closed (you should check opening hours in advance). On the other hand, you will be able to contemplate in a quiet winter landscape, and if you are lucky enough to see the countryside clad with snow, sparkling in the sun, you will be charmed.

July and August are months of school holidays and vacations and the number of visitors is much higher, but interiors of castles offer a pleasant respite from the hot summer sun, when temperatures often rise above 30°C.

If you want to engage in winter sports, then the Czech mountains are usually covered with snow from December to March. Temperatures in the mountains during that period are constantly below zero, sometimes dropping as low as –20 or –30°C. In major winter resorts, all important slopes are conditioned with snow-making machines if necessary. 

All other activities can pretty much be performed in any season, including walks in the countryside, rambling, biking, visiting spas or enjoying entertainment events and shopping. It is entirely up to you to choose from the warmer days (July and August), blossoming spring (April through June), fragrant and colorful autumn (September and October), or the chilly winter (mid-November to March).

Holidays

Sundays, Saturdays and public holidays are days when the majority of authorities and banks are closed; on Sundays and holidays, shops are often closed as well. On the other hand, most restaurants, bars and tourist attractions usually stay open. You should remember that public transportation services are significantly limited on these days, and the intervals are much longer than on working days.

Public holidays:

New Year's Day (January 1)
Easter Monday (late March or early April)
Labor Day (May 1)
Liberation Day (May 8)
Feast Day of St. Cyril and St. Methodius (July 5)
Jan Hus Day (July 6)
Day of the Czech statehood (September 28)
Foundation of the independent Czechoslovak State (October 28)
Day of Students’ Fight for Freedom and Democracy (November 17)
Christmas (December 24-26)

School holidays

The main school holidays are in summer (July and August). Other holidays are at Christmas  and in spring (one week, which varies from school to school). 

Language

The official language spoken in the Czech Republic is Czech, which belongs to the group of Slavic languages, all of which are Indo-European languages. Specifically, Czech is one of the West Slavic languages and is very similar to Slovak.

Currency

The official currency in the Czech Republic is the Czech crown (Kč, CZK). Other coins in circulation come in values of CZK 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and you can also receive a CZK 50 coin. Bank notes come in values of CZK 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000.

You can find the current exchange rate on the introductory page.

Exchange

There are many exchange bureaus in the Czech Republic. Exchange services are of course provided by banks and at most hotel receptions, but the exchange rates are not very good. The best exchange rates are offered by private exchange offices, but you should always compare their current rates and fees that may apply.

Credit cards

You can of course withdraw your money using your international payment card. There are many banks in the Czech Republic that operate ATMs. ATMs commonly recognize most card types (Visa, MasterCard, Plus, Cirrus and other). However, you can get a better price if paying directly with your card. In particular, in Prague, nearly every shop, restaurant and hotel accepts cards.

Traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks are undoubtedly a safe way of transporting funds. If you are a customer of American Express, Thomas Cook or Visa, you will have no problems cashing your traveler's checks at Czech banks. Eurocheque is also accepted.

Electricity

Before traveling to the Czech Republic, you should bear in mind that mains sockets may be different from those you are used to at home. This problem can easily be solved with a universal adapter. Voltage is 230 V, 50 Hz. Sockets are two-forked.

Telephone services

It is easy and convenient to make telephone calls in the Czech Republic. The country is covered by several mobile networks.

If you wish to call a number in the Czech Republic, you must first dial the country code 00420, followed by other codes and numbers (city, subscriber), but always without any additional zero. All telephone numbers in the Czech Republic were fundamentally changed a few years ago, for example, a telephone number in the format 00420 0312 55328 is no longer valid. The best way to find out the current telephone number is to call 1180 (004201180).

If you want to make a call from the Czech Republic to another country, first dial 00, then the relevant country code, followed by the particular number (e.g. when calling the United Kingdom, you would dial 0044 7949 758866).

Public pay phones

The public pay phones network in the Czech Republic is one of the densest in Europe. Public phones require either telephone cards or coins. You can purchase such cards at post offices, newspaper stands, gas stations and sometimes in supermarkets. These cards are sold in amounts of CZK 150, 300, and 500. O2's TRICK cards can be used to make calls as well as to send short messages, write e-mails and connect to the Internet. This service is supported by all pay phones. O2 TRICK cards are also sold in O2 shops for CZK 200.Voice SMS facilitates the sending of text messages via Czech landlines. The user can use any pay phone to send an SMS text message to a landline.

Mobile phones

There are currently three mobile operators offering their services in the Czech Republic: Vodafone, T-Mobile and Telefónica O2. Their services are provided using the 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies, which most mobile are enabled to use.

Before you start using your mobile phone in the Czech Republic, consider buying a local SIM card as it can considerably reduce your telephone bills. However, your mobile phone needs to be unblocked in that case. A SIM card together with a starting prepaid credit costs between CZK 300–2,000. Czech mobile operators – Telefónica O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone – all offer mobile phone rental services. For specific terms and conditions of such services, please visit their respective websites:
Eurotel: http://www.cz.o2.com
Vodafone: http://www.vodafone.com/
T-Mobile: http://www.t-mobile.com/

Postal services

Postal services in the Czech Republic are provided by Czech Post. Their services are very reliable and good quality, provided at exceptionally low rates. Sending a regular postcard or a light letter (up to 20 grams) to a destination in Europe will cost you CZK 17 (data from 2008) and CZK 17-18 to elsewhere in the world. You can either send your postcards or letters from a post office, or buy a stamp at a newsstand and put your mail in an orange post box. Czech Post also provides express postal services. You can of course have your parcel insured, and when sending valuable items, you should also fill out a customs declaration form.
Czech post site:http://www.cpost.cz/

Internet

As in most other European countries, Internet connections are commonplace in the Czech Republic. You can either connect to the web at your hotel or visit an Internet café. Information centers and public libraries have recently also in many cases installed PCs connected to the Internet.

Opening hours

Shops

The opening hours of most shops from Monday to Friday are 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays mornings. Major retail stores (e.g. Tesco) and shopping centers are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day including weekends, and some are open 24 hours a day. Some smaller shops may close for a lunch break, which is usually between noon and 1 p.m.

Banks and authorities

Banks and public offices are mostly open on working days (Monday to Friday) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. though the hours of individual branches can vary. Post offices are also open on Saturday morning.

Restaurants

Most restaurants and cafés are open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m or later. In smaller towns, restaurants and cafés often do not open before lunchtime, i.e. from 11 a.m. Most pubs and beer halls also observe similar opening hours.

Bars and clubs

Bars and clubs usually only open in the afternoon. They are often open until 1 a.m., in some cases until 3 or 5 a.m., depending on the number of guests wishing to stay. On Fridays and Saturdays the opening hours are the longest, with some places sometimes staying open until 8 a.m. the next day.

Souvenirs

The most popular souvenirs are products of Czech skillful craftsman, in particular glass, porcelain, and ceramics. Throughout Prague will you see nicely decorated and illuminated shops with Bohemian glass and porcelain. There are also many shops with handmade ceramics in Prague, where you can also buy handmade clothes and fashion accessories.

Another major treasure of the Czech Republic is the semi-precious Czech garnet (also known as Bohemian ruby).

The Czech Republic is also renowned for delicious food. You should definitely take at least one bottle of beer or wine home with you. The Becherovka liqueur from Karlovy Vary is also unique, while you can reminisce about South Moravia over a glass of Jelínek’s slivovitz (plum brandy). If you have a sweet tooth, you should buy wafers from Karlovy Vary, made according to a unique recipe that has been passed from generation to generation, and also the Czech chocolate brand Orion.

 

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Added: 30.12.2009
 
 
 

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