The Czech Republic is a rapidly developing European nation undergoing profound economic and social change. Tourist facilities, particularly those found in the capital, Prague, are quickly approaching the level of those found in most western European countries. Outside Prague, these facilities are not as developed, and some goods and services taken for granted in other European countries may not yet be available.
A passport is required, but a visa is not necessary for U.S. citizens for tourism or business visits of up to 30 days. The Czech Government recently made major changes in visa requirements for longer stays and for any purpose other than tourism or business. For further information concerning entry requirements for the Czech Republic, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Czech Republic at 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 274-9173 or visit the Embassy's web site at http://www.czech.cz/washington/.
The Czech Republic has a low rate of violent crime. However, there has been a dramatic increase in street crime, particularly pickpocketing, especially in major tourist areas in Prague and on public transportation. Visitors should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. It provides useful information on safeguarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad.
Medical facilities are available, but they may be limited, particularly in remote areas. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more.
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Czech Republic is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good
First-class roads in the Czech Republic generally meet western European standards. However, on side roads drivers should be prepared to encounter uneven surfaces, irregular lane markings, and sign placements which are not clear. Roads are often under construction. Streets in towns are not always in good condition. U.S. drivers should pay special attention to driving on cobblestone and among streetcars in historic city centers. Speed limits are 50 km/h in towns and on highways 110 km/h.
Persons driving into the Czech Republic should be aware that a road usage tax sticker is required to drive legally on several major highways, including the E-50 motorway. Signs stating this requirement are posted near the border, but they are in Czech only and are easy to miss. The stickers are available at gasoline stations on the highways. The fine for failing to display a motorways toll sticker is 2,000 Czech crowns (about $70) if assessed on the spot.
Taxi fares in Prague are deregulated. There is no fixed charge. Passengers should determine the fare to be charged and agree on it before beginning a taxi ride. Taxis operating from stands in the most common tourist areas charge significantly higher fees than many taxi services which are radio dispatched.
For specific information concerning the Czech Republic driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Czech Tourist Authority offices in New York at (212) 288-0830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Czech laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Czech Republic are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Czech customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, or send an e-mail to email@example.com, or visit www.uscib.org for details.
Americans living in or visiting the Czech Republic are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic and obtain updated information on travel and security within the Czech Republic. Information is also available on the Embassy's website at www.usembassy.cz. The U.S. Embassy in Prague is located at Trziste 15; tel. (420) (2) 5753-0663; for after hours emergencies only (420) (2) 5753-2716.