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Travel to the Czech Republic is in a funny place at the moment. The country’s capital Prague couldn’t be more popular and yet there’s an awful lot about Czech Republic that travellers don’t know. Because the Czech Republic is much more than just city breaks and stag dos in Prague. It’s a country with culture and character that’s still grappling with independence after centuries of foreign rule. Which is why I have found myself visiting the Czech Republic over and over these past years.
I’m sure many aren’t bothered with doing much research if they’re just visiting Prague briefly. But it always pays to be prepared and the Czech Republic really is a country with hidden depths. There’s a lot more going on than many realise. Which is why I though it worthwhile putting together some travel tips for the Czech Republic. It goes beyond recommending places to go and instead some things I think you’ll want to know before visiting Czech Republic. That way, you’ll get the most of out your trip there.
1. Is it the Czech Republic or Czechia?
Names of countries can be important. Just ask Greece and North Macedonia. So understanding what to call this country in central Europe isn’t a trivial thing. Chances are you know it as the Czech Republic as that’s what most people have called it since the break up of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
But a new name, a short name, has been made official since. In 2016 the short name Czechia was adopted and has received quite a lot of strong support internationally and from groups within the country. For instance, look at Google Maps and you’ll see it pops up as Czechia. And the new name makes sense. After all, you don’t say the Slovak Republic for Slovakia or the Republic of South Africa for South Africa.
Now, the Czech Republic is its formal name and Czechia its more common name. The thing is that the name Czechia hasn’t really taken hold it seems. Tourists still mostly use the formal name out of habit, if they know the new name at all. I still use the old name as well as that’s what people are more likely to search for. None of this should impact your travels realistically, but it’s still worth being mindful of.
2. Entry and Getting There
As a member state of the European Union, the Czech Republic is part of the Schengen Area and that allows free movement between countries. This means that you can visit Czechia much like you would its neighbours like Germany, Poland and Austria.
Under normal circumstances you therefore shouldn’t encounter passport control between these borders. But it does mean that your Czech Republic holidays will count towards the 90 days of your Schengen Visa, or Visa-free period for countries like Australia. As always, you should check your visa requirements before travelling and for more information, a good place to start is here.
For those looking to fly in, Prague Airport (PRG) is your only real option. There are also airports in Brno and Ostrava, but they mostly handle flights with London Stansted and seasonal destinations in the Mediterranean.
3. Travelling Around
Being a medium sized country for Europe, getting across Czechia is manageable, but it does come with challenges. Thankfully, the country has a pretty extensive train network that will help you get about. It also will help you cross into Germany, Austria and Slovakia, but sadly not Poland. For that and plenty of other routes you’ll want to go by bus, either with Flixbus or RegioJet.
Lastly, you can of course drive around the Czech Republic using its motorways. For more remote places having your own wheels can prove very useful. But do note, that you will need to purchase a vignette to be allowed to drive on many Czech motorways.
4. More than Just Prague
Something I say regardless of the country or region is that there’s always more to see. That’s definitely the case with the Czech Republic, best known for its capital Prague. People know and love Prague but maybe don’t realise that it’s just a first step. To fully see why Czechia is so interesting requires stepping beyond Prague to any of the other great places to visit in the Czech Republic.
And you definitely have your pick of places to go. The country is overflowing destinations, both big and small, that each boast their own unique gifts. Head to cities like Karlovy Vary, Ceske Budejovice and Brno, and you’ll get a better sense of Czech culture. If you’re looking to be dazzled, then look to towns like Telc, Tabor or Cesky Krumlov. Each of these places feels wholly different from the next and will teach you more about the country that you’re likely to learn closed off in Prague.
5. Learning the Language
You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the national language of Czechia is Czech. It’s a Slavic language that is similar to others around Europe like Slovak or Slovenian. That means there is some overlap between the languages which can be useful if you know another Slavic language.
But I wouldn’t worry too much as English is fairly widely spoken thanks to international tourism. You should be able to get by without a problem in popular destinations like Prague or Cesky Krumlov. German can also be relatively useful in parts given the country’s borders with Germany and Austria.
If you do learn a little Czech it’s sure to be well received by people. So, here are a few basic phrases to get you started. They include Dobrý Den which means ‘Hello’; Děkuji for ‘Thank you’; Prosim for ‘Please’; Promiňte for “Excuse Me” and Ano and Ne for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
6. A Land of Beer
You probably think of countries like Germany and Belgium as beer-loving, but what about Czechia? It might surprise you to learn that the Czech Republic has left a big mark on the development of beer in Europe. After all, it’s the birthplace of the Pilsner beer, first brewed in the Czech city of Plzen. Today the Pilsener Urquell Brewery where that pale lager was first brewed still stands, producing one of the main Czech beers.
Americans will be familiar with another Czech lager, Budweiser, if in name only. The American beer label owes its name to the original Czech beer now called Budweiser Budvar. Its name comes from the city of Ceske Budejovice, the home of Budweiser, which was known in German as Budweis. Then there’s the other major beer brewed in Prague which is Staropramen. Together these three beers symbolise the brewing legacy of the country.
Perhaps this starts to help explain the country’s obsession with beer or why it’s home to the biggest beer drinkers in the world. Because beer-lovers don’t just have to head to the pub when they come to Czechia. Visit Prague, Ceske Budejovice or Plzen and you could do a tour of their respective breweries. I did a brewery tour of the Pilsener Urquell brewery and found it quite good informative, not to mention tasty.
Or hell, you can even go to a beer spa in Prague and bathe in the stuff. If that doesn’t say that the Czech Republic is a beer destination, I don’t know what will.
7. Managing Your Money
Something that all travellers will be glad to learn about the Czech Republic is how affordable it can be. Compare it to destinations in western Europe and you’ll find your money goes much further here. It’s in the same bracket as many places in Central Europe actually, save for Austria. This applies to everything from meals, to transport and accommodation. Each time I visit it’s a pleasant surprise just how far my money can go. In fact, after my first visit I actually wrote an article on budgeting for the Czech Republic.
Part of the reason behind its value for money is that the Czech Republic doesn’t use the Euro. The currency there is the Koruna (Kč or CZK) which means they’re free to price things differently than the Eurozone. You may get away with using Euros in Prague, but expect a bad exchange range. Instead, I recommend getting cash out from an ATM when arrive, so long as it’s not a Euronet ATM.
8. Experiencing its Underrated Nature
So far I’ve touched on things that people expect from the Czech Republic. They think of good cheap beer and Prague, because that often all that people experience. One side of the country that you don’t hear nearly enough about is the nature in the Czech Republic. And I’m not talking about the fields and vineyards of South Moravia.
No, I’m talking forests and mountains. Head out to the north and west of the Czech Republic and you can reach some superb hiking destinations. Both the Bohemian Switzerland National Park and Adrspach Teplice Rocks are fantastic places to go hiking thanks to their landscape scenery. Neither require overland treks but in terms of day hikes, they’re golden. In fact, they’re my favourite places in the entire country and you may want to squeeze them into your itinerary.
And keep in mind, those are just two places to go. The Bohemian Paradise Geopark is also meant to be a lot of fun, as are the Jeseniky Mountains. Both are places I hope to see next time. Then there are destinations that border on pristine forest, like Karlovy Vary or the town of Loket. Basically, keep the nature of Czechia in mind as you won’t be disappointed.
9. All the Cool Castles
Saving the best to last, I am. Europe’s most famous castles usually hail from Western Europe, but boy wait until you see what Czechia has in store. Over my visits I’ve seen a handful of castles around the country and so far none have disappointed. Even when I went to Hluboka Castle while it was closed, I had a good time. And there are quite a few Czech castles that are relatively easy to reach from places like Prague and Brno.
What really excites me about this is that I’ve barely scratched the surface with Czech castles. After each trip I then learn about other cool ones, that then go on my list for next time. Right now, I have Helfstyn Castle and Castle Zvíkov at the top of my list, but that’s sure to grow. If you like castles and are thinking of visiting the Czech Republic, all of this should have you very excited indeed.
Resources for Visiting the Czech Republic
- Getting There: To find the cheapest and most convenient flights to Czech Republic make sure to check Kayak.
- Accommodation: Here you can find hotels, apartments and guesthouses for across Czech Republic, plus don’t forget Airbnb.
- Tours: There are countless day trips and sightseeing tours available in Czech Republic.
- Car Hire: If you want to travel more independently, consider renting a car to drive yourself about.
- Guide Books: Lastly, if you’re after a physical guide to take with you then you can’t beat a Lonely Planet Guide.
What other things would you like to know before visiting the Czech Republic? Have you visited the Czech Republic or are from there and have other insights to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.