COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Czech Republic is centrally located in the heart of Europe. It has a democratic parliamentary system of government and a well-developed economy. The Czech Republic is a member of NATO and the European Union. Tourist facilities in the capital city of Prague are at the level of those found in most European capitals, although travelers can expect varying standards outside of Prague. Please see the see the Fact Sheet for more information about the U.S.-Czech relationship.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit the Czech Republic, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you
enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family
get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local embassy information is available below:
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS: You need a valid passport to enter the Czech Republic that is valid three months beyond the date of planned departure. The Czech Republic is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter the Czech Republic and other Schengen member states for a total of up to 90 days within a six-month period for tourism or business purposes without a visa. Once the 90 day maximum is reached, leaving for a brief period and re-entering the area does not entitle a traveler to 90 more days within the Schengen states. The traveler would have to remain outside of the Schengen zone for 90 days before reentering without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond your period of stay.
Immigration officers at the port of entry have the right to determine whether your planned activities are consistent with business or tourism. You should check with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to which you are traveling if you have questions about whether your proposed trip qualifies for visa-free travel. U.S. Embassies cannot intervene on behalf of U.S. citizens who are denied entry into a foreign country.
For further details about travel to and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen Fact Sheet.
Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-European Union visitors obtain a stamp in their passports upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If you wish to ensure that your entry is properly documented, you may need to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passports may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
You will need a visa for longer stays or to work or study in the Czech Republic.When a visa is required, it is important that you submit your application to the Embassy of the Czech Republic or the nearest Czech Consulate at least 3-4 months in advance of traveling to the Czech Republic. The Embassy of the Czech Republic’s website provides the most current information on applying for a Czech visa.
When a visa is required, we do not recommend departing for the Czech Republic without a valid visa. Please be aware that the U.S. Embassy is not able to expedite or help with the issuance of Czech visas in any way. The Czech Government requires travelers to the Czech Republic to have proof of finances to pay for their stay. All foreigners seeking entry into the Czech Republic must also carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs for hospitalization and medical treatment while in the Czech Republic. According to the Czech Government, if you have a health insurance card or an internationally recognized credit card with health insurance included, it will generally be accepted as proof of insurance to enter the country.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for U.S. citizen visitors or U.S. citizen foreign residents in the Czech Republic.
Information about dual nationality and prevention of international child abduction can be found at these links. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Czech Republic remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen Zone, the Czech Republic’s open borders with its neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country undetected.
Civil disorder is rare in the Czech Republic, although strikes and demonstrations may occur. You should be vigilant in protecting your security, bearing in mind that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful may turn violent. Avoid street demonstrations whenever possible.
Stay up-to-date by:
Take some time before you travel to improve your personal security—things often work differently outside the United States. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: The Czech Republic generally has a low crime rate. However, pick-pocketing is a problem, especially in major tourist areas in Prague. Travelers are at a particularly high risk when:
As criminals may operate in groups, and could conceivably be armed with simple weapons, victims should avoid direct confrontation with potential criminals. Pick-pocketing rings in the Czech Republic tend to be professional and highly organized.
Keep a copy of your passport biodata page (and any pages with valid visas) in a safe place separate from the passport itself; this can help you to apply for a new passport if yours is lost or stolen. Under Czech law, you must verify your identity by presenting a travel document, a residence permit card, or an identity card issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if asked by Czech police. If you are a tourist, this means that you are expected to carry your passport with you. Please ensure the security of your passport while traveling to prevent incidents of pick-pocketing or theft. If you cannot produce your passport upon request, an immediate on-the-spot fine may be levied. Laws against traffic violations by pedestrians, such as jaywalking, are also frequently enforced in the Prague city center, and a fine will also be applied.
Incidents of violent crime, while still relatively infrequent, are possible. U.S. citizens have reported incidents of sexual assault in recent years. You should be aware of the reported use of rohypnol and other “date rape” drugs in the Czech Republic. Use caution when accepting open drinks at bars or clubs, and don’t leave your drinks unattended.
You should only change money at banks or legitimate money kiosks. An offer to change money by an unknown person on the street is most likely a scam. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widely available throughout major cities in the Czech Republic. Most Czech ATMs offer instructions in multiple languages and allow access to U.S. bank accounts.
The press has reported that criminal organizations are illegally obtaining users’ ATM card numbers and PIN codes by electronically “skimming” the information from victims’ cards at ATMs. This activity has reportedly occurred at ATMs in public areas--even bank lobbies covered by security cameras. Visitors requiring ATM services should attempt to use machines at more secure or heavily traveled and monitored locations, such as commercial banks, large hotels, and the airport.
U.S. citizens have reported being overcharged by merchants on credit card transactions. While visiting the Czech Republic, you should carefully verify that charges are correct before signing for purchases, keep all receipts, and check your credit card accounts online to ensure that you are billed properly for credit card payments.
Auto thefts and break-ins are common in the Czech Republic, especially in major cities. To avoid vehicle-related crimes, you should use parking garages and anti-theft devices. You should also not leave valuables in plain sight inside vehicles, as this increases the possibility of theft.
Czech bars and dance clubs are generally safe. However, as with many cities, you may be approached to purchase illicit drugs; this is against the law in the Czech Republic. Be mindful that security at nightclubs could respond more forcefully than at similar venues in the United States. Be aware that casinos and gaming establishments are government-regulated, but some have been affiliated with, or attracted the interest of, organized crime.
Taxis: You should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Some taxi drivers charge unsuspecting foreigners two or three times the standard rate. To minimize the possibility of being overcharged, you should obtain a price estimate in advance and ensure that the driver is using the meter.
The Embassy has also received limited reports of passengers being assaulted or robbed by taxi drivers after hailing a random cab on the street. We strongly recommend that you call for a taxi, rather than hail one on the street. If calling is not possible, visitors should obtain a taxi at one of the clearly marked “Fair Place” taxi stands, which are regulated by the Prague city government. All taxis should be clearly marked.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Czech Republic is 112. English-speaking assistance is not always available from the local police, but the police station located at Jungmannovo Namesti 9 near the Mustek metro station and Wenceslaus square caters specifically to foreigners and always has an English-speaker available.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in the Czech Republic, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. The Czech Republic has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving, and this is strictly enforced. Criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States; for instance, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, by purchasing them you may also be breaking local law. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in the Czech Republic, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are traveling.
If you are arrested in the Czech Republic, authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy in Prague of your arrest. If you are concerned the Embassy may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Czech customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import or export of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, etc. You should contact the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C. or the Consulates General of the Czech Republic in New York or Los Angeles for specific information regarding customs requirements. For more information, please also see our Customs Information page. The Embassy is not able to assist with clearing goods through Czech Customs that have been mailed to private U.S. citizens.
If you are a women traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page on Travel.State.gov.
LGBT issues: Travelers to Prague will find one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in central Europe. There is a comparatively large gay community in the city, centered in the Vinohrady district, with several openly gay venues catering to the local LGBT clientele. In contrast, outside of Prague—particularly in small towns—views are still relatively conservative and open displays of affection by same sex couples are less common. LBGT travelers should use discretion when traveling in these areas. Please see the section of this report on crime and night life in the Czech Republic, as it applies equally to LGBT establishments.
Accessibility: While in the Czech Republic, individuals may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services; the government generally enforces these provisions. Most buses and new tram cars are configured for special needs access, but only 60 percent of Prague's metro stations are accessible to persons with disabilities. Of 15 major metro stations in the city center, only five were barrier-free in 2011. Accessibility outside of Prague is generally less available.
Public Transportation: Passengers on public transportation should buy a ticket prior to boarding to avoid being fined. The ticket must be validated at the outset of the trip by inserting it into the yellow box found on trams and buses and in the entry halls of Metro stations. In Prague, ticket offices are located in many Metro stations. Tickets can also be purchased at tabak shops (cigarettes stands), newspaper stands, post offices, and from vending machines at all metro stations and at major tram stops. Those travelers who do not validate their tickets face the possibility of encountering an inspector at any time. The transportation inspectors operate in plain clothes, but should display a small metal badge (emblazoned with the words “Prepravní Kontrola”) when inspecting travelers’ tickets. Fines range from 50 to 950 CZK, but the standard on-the-spot payment for traveling without a valid ticket is 800 CZK. Inspectors should provide a receipt upon payment. Information on the types of tickets and pricing can be found here.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Prague has adequate Western-style medical clinics with English-speaking doctors and dentists. However, the Czech medical system is organized differently from the medical system in the United States. Even though central emergency rooms exist in most hospitals, patients are often sent to the facility that treats their specific medical condition (i.e., broken noses are sent to the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist rather than to the General Practitioner). There are family practices in the Czech Republic that function like those in the United States, but they are located mostly in larger cities.
All major hospitals accept credit cards or cash as a method of payment. Private specialists usually expect cash payment for health services, though some private facilities accept credit cards as well. Administrative staff at the majority of Czech medical facilities may not speak English. Hospitalization in the Czech Republic is much more liberal than in the United States; conditions that would be treated on an outpatient basis in the United States are often treated on an inpatient basis in the Czech Republic. Ambulance services are on par with U.S. standards. Response time is generally less than 15 minutes. Ambulance companies generally expect payment at the time of service. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Please note that because euthanasia is not permitted under Czech law, U.S. living wills stipulating no exceptional interventions to prolong life cannot be honored in the Czech Republic.
Tick-Borne Illness: If you plan to camp or hike in long grass or woodlands from March through October, you run the risk of both tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease. You should take precautions to prevent tick bites. While there is no vaccine for Lyme disease, you may obtain a vaccine for tick-borne encephalitis in a three-shot series. The first two shots are given 2-4 weeks apart, and the last shot 6 -12 months after the second.
You can find good Information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t cover you when you travel, you are strongly advised to take out another one for your trip. Please note that Medicaid/Medicare does not apply outside the United States. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in the Czech Republic, 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.
Road fatalities in the Czech Republic in 2011 were at their lowest level since 1947, according to Czech safety experts, but caution should be exercised while driving. Driving speeds on European highways are higher than in the United States, and drivers are expected to stay in the right lane except when passing. Highways in the Czech Republic generally meet European standards; however, on two-lane roads, drivers should be prepared to encounter uneven surfaces, irregular lane markings, and sign placements that are not clear. Streets in towns are not always in good condition. You should pay special attention to driving on cobblestone and among streetcars in historic city centers, especially in wet or icy conditions. Traffic lights are placed before the intersection, so be aware of where you stop at signaled intersections. Speed limits are 50 km/h in towns, 90 km/h outside of towns, and 130 km/h on highways, but drivers routinely flout the limits. An International Driving Permit (IDP), available from AAA (in the United States only), must accompany a U.S. driver’s license; failure to have the IDP with a valid license may result in denial of an insurance claim after an accident.
Persons driving into the Czech Republic should be aware that a toll sticker is required to drive legally on major highways. Signs stating this requirement are posted near the border, but are easy to miss. The stickers are available at most gas stations. The fine for failing to display a toll sticker is assessed on the spot.
Czech law requires that drivers have their headlights on at all times when driving in the Czech Republic. The law also requires that all private cars, including those of foreign visitors, carry each of the following items: fluorescent green high visibility safety jacket, first aid kit, spare pair of prescription glasses kept in the glove compartment (if necessary), warning triangle, and complete set of spare bulbs.
Czech law allows for breathalyzer testing of drivers stopped by local law enforcement officials for any reason. There is a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol and driving; driving with any trace of detected alcohol, however slight, is illegal and those caught usually face immediate fines and possible criminal proceedings.
U.S. citizens have reported instances of motorists stopped on the shoulders of highways waving at drivers as if they needed assistance. Some drivers have reported being pressured into giving money to the person who has purportedly broken down, and it was unclear in those situations if the motorist was truly in need or trying to scam those who stopped to offer assistance.
For specific information concerning Czech requirements for driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Czech Tourist Authority offices in New York by telephone at (212) 288-0830 or by email. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of the Czech Republic’s national tourist office and the Ministry of Transport.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Czech Republic’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the Czech Republic’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page .
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Czech Republic dated January 30, 2013, to update the Special Circumstances section.