COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
The Czech Republic is located in the heart of Europe. Tourist facilities in Prague are at the level of those found in most Western European countries. Expect lesser standards outside Prague, however. The Czech Republic is a member of NATO and the European Union.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Civil disorder is rare in the Czech Republic, although strikes and demonstrations may occur. U.S. citizens should be vigilant in protecting their security, bearing in mind that even demonstrations meant to be peaceful may turn violent. Americans are advised to avoid street demonstrations.
The Czech Republic generally has a low rate of crime. However, street crime -- particularly pickpocketing and mugging -- is a problem, especially in major tourist areas in Prague and on public transportation. Incidents of violent crime have become more common in Prague. Travelers should be very careful while riding the trains, trams, or metro, where most pickpocketing occurs. Keep a copy of your passport in a safe place separate from the passport itself; this copy can help you to apply for a new passport if yours is lost or stolen. Visitors should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Radio-dispatched taxis are often much more reliable.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Czech laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Czech Republic are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Prague has good Western-style medical clinics with English-speaking doctors and dentists. However, staff members at the majority of Czech medical facilities do not speak English. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services, though some facilities do accept credit cards. 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 not on a par with U.S. standards. Response can sometimes be slow, and different ambulances are dispatched depending on the perceived severity of the patient's condition. Many ambulance companies expect payment at the time of delivery. 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 providing for no exceptional interventions to prolong life cannot be respected in the Czech Republic.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Road fatalities are occurring at an increasing rate in the Czech Republic, placing it amongst the most lethal places to drive in Europe. The information below concerning the Czech Republic is provided for general reference only and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good
First-class roads in the Czech Republic generally meet West European standards. However, on side 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. U.S. drivers should pay special attention to driving on cobblestone and among streetcars in historic city centers. Traffic lights are placed before the intersection and not after, as in the United States. Speed limits are 50 km/h in towns and 120 km/h on highways. 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 road usage tax sticker is required to drive legally on major highways. Signs stating this requirement are posted near the border, but they are easy to miss. The stickers are available at gasoline stations. The fine for failing to display a motorways toll sticker is assessed on the spot.
Taxi fares in Prague are often the subject of tourist complaints. Taxis operating from stands or cruising for customers often do not use a meter. Passengers should determine the fare to be charged and agree on it before beginning a taxi ride. Information on normal charges for common routes is available at Prague Airport and at many tourist information offices. Airport taxis are allowed to charge a higher-than-normal tariff. Radio-dispatched taxis are generally reliable and cheaper than taxis flagged on the street.
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 via email at
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Czech Republic Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of the Czech Republic's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States by telephone at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD by telephone at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
July 21, 2004