Compared to many Western cities, Prague is relatively safe. You will generally find policemen very helpful. Prague is an unthreatening city to walk around. Violent crimes in the city centre are rare. The main criminal problem is petty pilfering (pickpockets) from cars, hotels, and pockets. As with any city, always use caution and care when travelling around.
The Czech Republic became a member of the EU in 2004. There are different rules for citizens of other EU member countries than for tourists from other parts of the world. Everyone must carry ID at all times.
Citizens of EU member states need a passport or other ID document to enter the Czech Republic. The same is true for citizens of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, who enjoy free movement around the EEA (European Economic Area).
Visitors from other countries require a passport with at least six months' validity on the day of arrival and in some cases a visa. A list of states whose citizens require a visa to enter the Czech Republic can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (www.mzv.cz).
From 21. 12. 2007 the Czech Republic enter the so-called Schengen Zone. This group of counties have come together to enable people to cross their borders without passport controls. Despite this, however, a valid passport or other ID will still have to be carried at all times.
In order that your stay in the Czech Republic will not be spoilt by any complications, please adhere to the following warnings. The overwhelming majority of tourists leave our country satisfied, so why spoil your memories with an unpleasant experience?
1. Do not give pickpockets a chance
Sites attractive to tourists draw not only visitors but also thieves. They are quick to take advantage of any situation when you are not paying full attention to your personal belongings in order to make some of them their own. Pay particular attention to your belongings, therefore, in places where many people congregate, such as the public transport system, clubs and popular tourist sites. Extra police are sent onto the streets of Prague throughout the tourist season and they are prepared to help resolve any problematic situation.
Where to look for help: In the case of thefts, go to the local police. Your country's embassy will help you with arranging replacement or emergency documents (www.mzv.cz).
2. Only exchange money in certified places
Every traveller, even if he or she has only a little experience, knows that exchanging money in the street never pays! The safest way is to exchange in a bank or in the hotel exchange office. Exchange offices in the town centre are more advantageous as they offer the best exchange rates. For your security, however, always verify the final amount that you receive from the exchange office. An extremely favourable exchange rate, for example, may be available only for exchanging more than a set amount (for example, 100 euro), or fees may be added for the exchange. Every exchange office must always indicate such information in several languages; however, it frequently happens that tourists do not digest this information (for example, because it is intentionally provided in small writing). Also, do not forget that the exchange rate for buying and selling must always be displayed in exchange offices in the Czech Republic!
Where to look for help: Exchange offices receive their licences from the Czech National Bank, and their activities are controlled by the Czech Business Inspectorate (www.coi.cz)
3. Prague taxis are already safer
The negative publicity that has been given to Prague by some of the city's taxi drivers has given the city a bad name throughout the world. Complaints about dishonesty have fortunately declined over the recent past. This has also been helped by the "Taxi Fair Place" campaign. On information panels marked with this symbol, you can find out how much a journey will cost you from a fixed point to the centre or to well-known tourist sites. Prague City Hall regulates the fees and has set maximum prices as follows:
Recommendation: Choose a car displaying a licence number, the name of the company and a list of prices. These prices must agree with the taxi's meter; after finishing your journey always ask for a receipt. Where possible, book a taxi by means of a radio dispatching service, where you will be notified of the price beforehand. Your hotel or any information centre will be happy to provide you with a contact number.
Of interest: Three pre-appointed companies handle passenger transport at Prague's Ruzyne International Airport (more on www.prg.aero). The register of complaints that Czech Tourism has at its disposal indicates that taxi services are a typical Prague problem. But if you take care, you will come to no harm.
Where to look for help: Prague City Hall, taxi service department (www.praha-mesto.cz)
4. Tipping in restaurants
In the Czech Republic, it is considered a good habit to leave 10% of the cost of the meal as a tip for restaurant service. In some establishments, this sum will appear as a separate item on your bill. Information as to whether you will be charged a fee for service will always be found on the menu or on other official printed matter. Your waiter or waitress must present a receipt for the entire amount paid. Should your attendant not provide you with a bill for the whole amount, and ask you for a separate payment outside of the bill, then he or she is probably attempting to illegally increase the bill. Should you disagree with the bill you should ask for an explanation from the restaurant manager, as the owners often do not know that their personnel are increasing their earnings in this way.
5. Travelling on public transport
Travelling on the public transport system can save you not only time but mainly money. That is, however, only in the case that you are travelling with the correctly stamped travel documents. After boarding your means of transport (bus, tram or metro), it is necessary to get your ticket stamped. Only in this way is the ticket valid and you will not run the risk of a war of words with a ticket inspector. Do not count upon not running into the inspector, as it will definitely cost you dearly. The fine is more than 20 times the price of a single ticket.
6. Unpleasant personnel, unsatisfactory service
In the course of your stay, were you unsatisfied with the level of service at your hotel, restaurant, travel office or elsewhere? Please, try to solve your complaint directly on the spot with the manager or director of the given establishment. In this case you will still always have the possibility of obtaining better service, whereas after your return home you may only ask for redress circuitously from the senior manager of the institution.
Where to look for help: At the relevant hotel, restaurant, or business premises of the service. If need be, you can also contact the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (www.ahrcr.cz), or the Association of Travel Agents (www.accka.cz, www.ackcr.cz).
Health insurance for citizens of EU member states
Since mid 2004 citizens from the individual EU member states, who travel temporarily to another EU member state and hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), are automatically insured. All healthcare providers in the EU, the EEA and Switzerland must accept patients from the EU in possession of an EHIC.
Health insurance for citizens of countries not in the EU
Citizens of countries outside of the EU should take out health insurance before leaving home. If they fail to do so, they are liable to pay for treatment at the point of delivery.
Extra insurance cover
Individuals from EU member countries can also take out extra health insurance cover (covering repatriation). The Czech State Health Insurance Company provides a commercial insurance product for those staying in the country for longer periods as tourists (www.vzp.cz).