Hi, My husband and I will be in the Czech Republic in March. We are flying in and out of Munich. We are picking up the car at the Munich airport and driving straight to Cesky Krumlov for 3 nights. After that we are headed to Prague for 4 nights. From Prague we head back into Germany to Regensburg for a conference. Does anyone have any tips for driving in the Czech Republic? Any suggestions about where to buy the toll sticker when crossing over from Germany? Is one GPS better than another for the Czech Republic? We will not drive in the tourist areas of Prague. We are staying on the outskirts in the RS recommended monastery hotel Adalebert between the airport and the city. Any comments/suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
The roads are narrower than in the US. Drivers are more aggressive, often speeding. To drive certain distance (except on freeways) take longer in C.R. than in US because of slower traffic in front of you (trucks, tractors etc.), many small towns and villages where speed limit is 50 km/h. Speed limit on freeway is 130 km/h, speed limit on other highways outside towns 90 km/h. Have an international drivers license, learn international traffic signs. Buy toll sticker for freeways at the first gas station after the border. In C.R. there is zero tolerance of alcohol behind the wheel. Police is stopping drivers standing in the road with little round red target showing you to stop on the shoulder. Fines are usually paid on the spot. Police don't have to have reason to stop you like in the US. I was stopped few times for speeding. Police with radar is hiding and then radio ahead to other policemen who stop you and fine you. So sometimes there is a line of cars stopped. I just paid fine, otherwise no problem.
I go to CZ at least once a year with my Czech citizen husband & can tell you that it may not be a good idea for you to rent a car for the Czech part of your trip. 1. Its expensive, 2. very inconvenient for Prague, 3. extremely high theft and break-in rate. You are much better off taking a bus, shuttle, or train to CK, Prague, and back to Munich and staying closer to town centers. We don't use GPS when we drive in CZ & just use maps. The reasoning is that GPS is one more thing we have to worry about getting stolen. Also the GPS has to be d to real time. There's been a bunch of road construction for at least the last 10 yrs so routing changes frequently. Every time we are there, we always say "wow, that wasn't there before". If you do decide to rent a car reserve a compact if you can & I suggest that when you are at the rental counter you ask for an older model if they have it of a midsize for the same pricing. Something with a bunch of dings already on it. Many times we were able to negotiate a standard size car. Having an older beat up looking car makes you less of a target. Also, do not leave anything of value in the car, not even the trunk. Do not leave the registration in the car when parked anywhere in CZ - take it with you. If your car is stolen & you leave the registration in it you'll be liable for the car by CZ law.
Ditto what Ilja said. Make sure you have Czech koruna to pay off a fine on the spot.
Not every car company will permit their cars to enter the Czech Republic; some will and some won't. Just a matter of finding one that will. (We had to change our plans one year). We used a TomTom to navigate and no problems but there is a lot of construction as previously stated. Don't think the theft /breakin problem is overstated, our younger cousins had their VW Van stolen within 10 minutes of arrival into Prague a few years ago. We felt perfectly safe in Prague wearing our moneybelts.
I have to echo what other travellers have written. I lived in Munich for about six months, and noticed that most rental car companies would not allow you to legally drive their cars into the Czech Republic due to theft concerns. That being said, I had a boss that drove to Prague from Munich many times without incident, but I'm sure he never mentioned his intent to drive across the Czech border. I think any GPS you choose should be fine. A lot of the rental cars in Munich are Mercedes with built in GPS, which is a real treat. (There are also many low-cost airlines flying from Munich to Prague (check skyscanner.com) ) Staying on the outskirts of Prague should not be an issue. Prague has an excellent and inexpensive tram and subway system. I usually stay at Guest House Lida in Praha 11 (I think) and have no trouble getting to the city center. If you have never been to Prague before, don't be worried about the car theft issue being an indicator of overall crime. I have never not felt safe in Prague. But I always wear a neck wallet or money belt anywhere in Europe. Sounds like a great trip! P.S. While in Cesky Krumlov, be sure and visit the Baroque Theater if possible. It's quite amazing.
Make sure you have secure parking at the hotels.. And good insurance if parts of the car are stolen, not just the whole thing.
Thanks for all of the excellent advice. Our hotel parking should be relatively secure but we will remove everything, including vehicle registration, from the car when we park it. And, we will try our best not to exceed the speed limit! We hope to get euros before leaving the airport in Munich and I'm hoping To get CZK crowns at the same time - that will allow us to pay for vignettes, etc with CZK currency. It's been some time since I've used a cash machine in Europe so I can't remember if I can get currency other than euros in a country that uses euros. Anyway, thanks again for all of your help. It really is appreciated. Best regards, Velda
Hi, I must live in a different world. I have driven in the Czech Republic pretty much every trip there (maybe five-six times in ten-twelve years). In the early years locals were very worried about finding "secure" (out-of-sight, or behind a gate) parking for our car. That seems to have diminished. As for Czech drivers...well...they use their blinkers and we generally don't. On a divided highway they stay in the right lane unless passing, and we don't. Drinking and driving might occur but the penalties are much higher, in Wisconsin we still wink at a few beers before driving. I would trust a Czech driver more than I would a driver up here in the north woods. Prague, like any big city, is a difficult city to get around in with a car. But if you map out where you are going, it is like anywhere. Be cautious, be careful. And remember that parking is non-existent. wayne iNWI
To respond to previous posts - I actually live with Czech family in towns dotted around CZ when I'm there each year & they definitely do still worry about theft. And not just car theft. Folks lock all their doors even if they are home & it doesn't matter if they live in a big city like Praha or a small town like Chodova Plana. Its a completely different world than most Americans are used to. This is a country where you still pay money in bribes or "special fee" in order to do any business there, it could be to have your coal delivered at a certain time (so folks don't steal it right out of your driveway in minutes if you are not there for delivery) or paying off an official (going rate is approx CK3800 - about USD200)to get your bathroom rennovation signed off. Many business owners will not express concern about car theft as they do not want to scare off customers. And also they have lived so long with the situation that they automatically take the precautions without even thinking about it. I took me years to get my husband to stop taking our car registration with him here in the USA. He just does everything like at home in the CZ without thinking about it. Having said that, as long as folks take the normal Czech precautions when parking a car all should be OK. Driving is no problem at all if you read up on all the Czech rules and signage. CZ is a beautiful country to visit and has far more to it than Praha.
@Wayne... I must live in your world. I have driven there a few times without any incident whatsoever, but if I had read this first I might have changed my mind. It is correct that you cannot take all cars into Cz, but you can't take lots of cars to Italy either. Last trip I rented at the Prague airport and drove to Poland and then all around Cz, including Cesky Krumlov and had a lovely drive. It was no different than other areas in Europe or in the US.
It was wonderful to be able to stop in any small town that we wanted, as well as stop to take pictures at a beautiful field of poppies. I did have a GPS. but would have been fine without it. Roads were well marked.
Under communism they even used to take wipers off the car. Because if they were stolen you could not buy new ones, it was enormous shortage of them. Thank God it's over. It's not that bad anymore. My son lives in the second largest city of the C.R., parks on the street and so far no problems. Of course, something can always happen but that's true here, too.
I drove from Munich to Prague last May - I didn't notice any difference between Czech drivers than the knuckleheads I drive around the DC beltway with - some fast, some not. Driving to Prague's center was comparable to driving in DC or any other big city - watch for pedestrians. We parked in a secure lot (about $35/night), locked the doors and took our Garmin in the hotel. Take the time to learn what the street signs mean - it doesn't take long, but it'll lower your stress level. As long as you tell the rental agency you're driving in the CR, they're fine with it - we may have had to pay a bit more, but nothing exhorbitant. As the prior posters have said, exit off the "interstate" immediately after crossing the border and go to a gas station - prepare for a possible language barrier with a canned phrase "vignette prosim" and "dekuji". Pay in cash, if possible. Do your homework so you know where to apply the vignette on the windshield. You're going to LOVE Prague! Scott
Hi, I forgot to mention three things.
#1. Get a credit card that will cover the CDW charges of the auto rental, which some times equal the rental fee. I have a Capital One and as long as I charge the entire amount using that card and decline the CDW offered by the rental company, the card company provides the CDW. This can reduce your rental costs by hundreds of dollars. #2. Get the OK from the rental company to take the car into the Czech Republic, and any other country you plan to visit before you sign on the dotted line. Get this permission as you make the rental. DO this from the USA, don't wait until you get to the check-out counter. I was once told I couldn't take the car into the "east" by the clerk. I showed him my rental agreement which listed the countries I had asked permission for. #3. You might talk to the credit card company and find the web page listing which countries they provide CDW in ( Ireland, the entire island is a no-no for them as is Israel). So you can show the clerk if needed when you pick up the car. wayne iNWI