We are going to Prague in early June. We have booked private tour guides and private transfer, they all prefer us to pay cash. Since the total amount is quite big, we are thinking to bring USD and exchange it in Prague. Do you have any recommendation of a good place to exchange currency with reasonable exchange rate? We are staying hotel in the Old Town area.
I usually exchange currency at Komercni Banka. I found that I got a better rate there than at other banks.
" Since the total amount is quite big"
How big? If you have an ATM card with a $500 limit, you can get over 9500 Czech Koruna per day, even with a major bank card that takes 3% for the exchange rate. Before I went over the last time, I had my bank raise the limit to $700/day. That would give you over 13,000 Kc. If there are two of you, using cards from different accounts, you could get 26,000 Kc.
Big banks charge 3% on the exchange rate. You can find smaller banks and credit unions charging 2% to 0%. I saw an exchange store on castle hill in Prague charging 9.6%. Ilja, what does the bank you recommended in Prague charge?
The best place I know of to get Czech Koruna over here before you go over is Wells Fargo (they only charge 5% for euro), but they want 13½% for less common currencies like Koruna.
As a general rule, you get a better exchange rate to withdraw cash from the European ATM with a debit card than you do to exchange cash at a bank either here or there. Even if an ATM inwon't let you take out your account's whole daily withdrawal limit in one transaction, it's OK to make multiple withdrawals at the same machine or others. See also http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money.
Your bank will restrict you to a total withdrawal amount per day. One of my bank uses $300 per day, another $500 per day. I got the $500/day bank to raise it to $700/day.
The individual ATMs might restrict you to a lesser amount. You can use multiple ATMs but the total for the day is still what your bank allows. Remember, it's based on the day over here, whatever time zone your bank uses. I got caught one time because my bank defined the days as 4 AM to 4 AM, in Denver, which was noon over there (so in European time, a morning to them was the same day as the afternoon before).
As others note, ATM cash machines at Prague banks are your best rate option. The posted rates at the currency exchanges scattered about old town looked like they had big bid-ask spreads.
As a footnote I finished my Prague visit with excess CZK and found out that the airport currency exchange would only convert CZK to Euro € or USD $. I couldn't directly convert my excess Czech crowns to Norwegian crowns. It would have taken a double conversion. Lesson learned was converting too much currency is also costly.
I would just use ATMs in Prague to withdraw Crowns. Be sure to tell your bank you are travelling overseas, and if you ask them to, they will raise your daily limit so you can get more cash at one time. Also, if it isn't too late, see about getting Crowns from your local bank. Mine did this for free, but it took a couple of weeks. Finally, whatever you do, do NOT use Travelex ATMs--the fees are outrageous. I used the CSOB bank ATM in Wenceslas square with no fees at all. Have fun on your trip!
"Lesson learned was converting too much currency is also costly."
Just one more reason to plan carefully.