Czech Republic

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Introduction to Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is still all things to all people. From the pulsing capital Prague to the back-in-time villages of Moravia, from toiling up mountains to lounging in spas, from the world-famous Pilsner to the strains of Smetana and Dvorák, there's an experience to suit every taste.

Stunning architecture is not limited to Prague - there are plenty of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque facades in other towns. Among the richest are Kutná Hora in Central Bohemia; Cheb, Loket and Domažlice in western Bohemia; Olomouc in northern Moravia; and Telc and Kromęríž in southern Moravia.

Cyclists will appreciate the undulating Bohemian plateau, drained by the Vltava, the republic's longest river, and its parent river, the Labe, and dotted with castles and modest villages. A natural pathway through Moravia is the 'Moravian Gate', the linked valleys of the Morava, Beŕva and Odra rivers, the only lowland corridor across the Czech Republic. Though this is the most densely populated part of the republic, the hills to both sides offer some of its most peaceful travelling.

Full country name: Czech Republic

Area: 78,866 sq km

Population: 10.3 million

Capital City: Prague (pop 1.2 million )

People: Czech with minorities of Slovaks, Poles, Germans, Romanies and Hungarians

Language: Czech

Religion: 40% Roman Catholic, 10% Protestant

Government: parliamentary democracy

Head of State: President Václav Klaus

Head of Government: Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek

GDP: US$69.9 billion

GDP per capita: US$15,800

Annual Growth: 1.5%

Inflation: 0.6%

Major Industries: Machinery, transport, steel, armaments, vehicles, cement, ceramics, cotton, beer

Major Trading Partners: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Russia, Italy

Member of EU: Yes

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Nationals of all western European countries, Japan, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can visit the Czech Republic for up to 90 days, and UK citizens for up to 180 days, without a visa. Nationals of South Africa and many other countries must obtain a visa, which is good for a stay of between 30 and 90 days depending on your nationality.

Health risks: leeches & ticks (Tick-borne encephalitis is a serious infection of the brain that is spread by tick bites. Vaccination is advised for those travelling in risk areas who are unable to avoid tick bites (such as campers, forestry workers and ramblers). Two doses of vaccine will give a year's protection, three doses up to three years' protection. Shortlasting vaccines are available in the Czech and Slovak Republics), Lyme disease (Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks, which are only 1-2 mm long. Most cases occur in the late spring and summer. The first symptom is usually an expanding red rash that is often pale in the centre, known as a bull's eye rash. However, in many cases, no rash is observed. Flu-like symptoms are common, including fever, headache, joint pains, body aches and malaise. When the infection is treated promptly with an appropriate antibiotic, usually doxycycline or amoxicillin, the cure rate is high. Luckily, since the tick must be attached for 36 hours or more to transmit Lyme disease, most cases can be prevented by performing a thorough tick check after you've been outdoors)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 (Central European Time)

Dialling Code: 420

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Practically every day is a saint's day in the Czech Republic, and 'special days', festivals and public holidays are widely acknowledged. On 30 April in Prague, the Czech version of Walpurgisnacht, Paleni Carodejnic (Burning of the Witches) is a pre-Christian festival for warding off evil. Politically incorrect witch burning is now replaced by all-night bonfire parties on Kampa Island and in suburban backyards. High culture follows for the remainder of the year with the Prazske jaro (Prague Spring) International Music Festival in May and June, the Prague International Book Fair also in May and the Mozart Festival in September. The Christmas and New Year season closes the year quietly for most of the Czech Republic, but Prague is overcome with tourist revelry during a fast and furious holiday season.

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Best time to Visit

May, June and September are the prime visiting months, with April and October as chillier and sometimes cheaper alternatives. In July and August hostels are chock-a-block with students, especially in Prague. Outside of Prague and other major regional centres, from October until April, most castles and museums close down.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Czech Koruna

Meals

Budget: Kc50-150

Mid-range: Kc150-300

High: Kc300-400

Deluxe: Kc400+

Lodging

Budget: Kc250-1000

Mid-range: Kc1000-3000

High: Kc3000-4500

Deluxe: Kc4500+

Costs in the biggest tourist centres - Prague especially, but also the Bohemian spas, are higher than elsewhere, though things are still fairly cheap for Western visitors. The big exception is accommodation in Prague, for which tourist prices are in line with those across Western Europe. By staying at cheap hostels and campsites, sticking to self-catering, pub grub and stand-up cafeterias, you might get away with CZK450 per person per day in summer. In a private home or better hostel, with meals at cheap restaurants and using public transport, you can get by on CZK600- CZK750. To share a clean double room with bath in a mid-range hotel or pension, and enjoy good local or Western meals, plan on at least CZK900- CZK1200. In Prague, figure a third to half again as much, and even more if you want to be close to the centre. On the other hand, except for Easter and Christmas-New Year, many bottom and mid-range hotels drop their prices by a third or more outside the summer season.

A tip of 5-10% is appreciated in any tourist restaurant with table service. The usual protocol is for them to tell you the total food bill and for you, as you hand over the money, to say how much you are paying with the tip included.

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Attractions

Prague

Maticka Praha - 'little mother Prague' - was largely undamaged by WWII, and the cityscape is stunning. Its compact medieval centre remains an evocative maze of cobbled lanes, ancient courtyards, dark passages and churches beyond number, all watched over by an 1100-year-old castle.

Sightseeing in Prague means wandering through an invigorating diversity of neighbourhoods and pounding the cobblestones between old fortifications, historically resplendent squares and streets, majestic church-fronts, green open-air cuttings, and countless museum and gallery ticket booths.

Karlovy Vary

World famous for its regenerative waters, Karlovy Vary is the oldest of the Bohemian spas, and probably the second most popular tourist city in the Czech Republic, after Prague. It's also the most beautiful of the 'big three' spas in the republic and, despite the crowds, the most accessible.

Though you can't just pop in for a sulphurous bath or gas-inhalation therapy, you can sample the waters till your teeth float. There are 12 hot springs containing 40 chemical elements that are used to medically treat diseases of the digestive tract and metabolic disorders.

Krivoklat

Krivoklat is a drowsy village beside the Rakovnicky potok, a tributary of the Berounka River. Half the pleasure of going to Krivoklat is getting there - by train up the wooded Berounka valley, dotted with bungalows and hemmed in by limestone bluffs.

The 13th-century Krivoklat Castle was a royal hunting lodge, and contains an exemplary late-Gothic chapel, impressive halls and the requisite prison and torture chambers. The area is now protected but if you have energy and time to spare, consider the 18km trail up the Berounka valley to Skryje.

Moravian Karst

If it's picture-postcard views you're after, the Moravian Karst is a beautiful heavily-wooded hilly area north of Brno, carved with canyons and honeycombed with some 400 caves, created by the underground Punkva River. Traces of prehistoric humans have been found in the caves.

Punkevni offers some great caving. You walk 1km (0.6mi) through the deepest caves, ending up at the foot of the Macocha Abyss. A small boat then takes you for a brief ride down the Punkva River out of the cave. Other great nearby caves include Katerinska, Balcarka and Sloupsko-Sosuvske.

Moravské Slovácko Region

This region's special flavour arises not only from a mild climate but also from the character and temperament of the people - passionate, jovial and relaxed. It's one of central Europe's richest repositories of traditional folk culture and one of the most delightful places to stay in the republic.

An extraordinary reservoir of colourful traditions in speech, dress, building and decorating styles, there are annual festivals all over the place, at which singing, dancing and music are the norm, and traditional food is washed down with ample supplies of local wine.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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