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“The guy manning the desk in Prague was fantastic. Was a bit miffed having to pay extra to take the car out of the country. But otherwise great service”
Ireland-sized Czech Republic is hotting up as an alternative destination, loaded as it is with historic towns, incredible castles and cheap prices. Prague is the main draw, while the countryside is diverse and easily explored by car—the plains and old villages of Bohemia, the Karkonosze Mountains and the MutÄnice wine region are all stunning.
Roads and signage are generally good, and there is a decent network of motorways. Motorways are tolled and drivers should have a windscreen sticker—provided by a car rental firm or bought at a petrol station. The carrying of a first-aid kit and triangle, and dipped headlights during the day are mandatory. Give way to trams.
Driving licences: licences from the UK are accepted, provided they have a photo. If you only have a UK paper licence, be sure to get an International Driving Permit.
Which side does the Czech Republic drive on: the right.
Motorways: 80mph (130kph)
Rural areas: 56mph (90kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: zero tolerance. Even half a pint will tip you over the edge and could cost you a huge fine and even the loss of your licence. Police carry out random testing nationwide.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: are compulsory for all people in the vehicle. Children under 4 feet, 10 inches (1.5m) and/or less than 5 stone, 9 pounds (36kgs) should be seated in an adapted seat or restraint.
Mobile phones and GPS: talking with a mobile phone pressed to your ear while driving is prohibited, as is the use of handheld GPS devices. Such equipment must be used with hands-free kits.
Cost of fuel in the Czech Republic: petrol and diesel are cheaper than in the UK, especially petrol, which is among the cheapest in Europe.
Car hire and fuel payment: major credit cards are accepted at fuel stations around the country. Always notify your card issuer prior to travelling overseas to negate potential card suspension due to antifraud measures.
Insurance: hire cars usually come with fully comprehensive insurance as standard. However, it is recommended to take out excess insurance.
Traffic and parking: driving in Prague is not as hard-going as in many other European capitals, though it is easier to use public transport. Parking is at green (six hours maximum) or orange (two hours maximum) automats. Avoid parking in blue (residents only) and yellow zones. Prague has park and ride schemes in the city’s outskirts.
Convenient services come in from Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna, and international rail travel is comfier than going by bus. The daily Berlin-Vienna Vindobona Express is a popular service that takes in Prague and Brno. Czech Railways covers the country extensively, with regular services between main cities as well as to remote parts of the country, including on weekends. Fares are cheap, though express trains cost extra and out of the way routes are generally older and slower with fewer facilities. Trams run in main towns and cities, plus Prague has an efficient metro.
Official taxis (yellow with ‘Taxi’ on top) are metered, although drivers won’t always use the meter so you may need to negotiate. Prague taxi drivers are notorious for ripping off passengers, going round about ways to destinations, especially from the airport. The standard per kilometre rate is reasonable and typically cost around £1 per mile. Popular Prague taxis firms are City Taxi and AAA Radio Taxi.
Within the Czech Republic, Student Agency offers fast connections between main towns. Buses run in all towns, including trolleybuses in Prague, Brno and Ostrava until midnight.
There are a number of international airports in the Czech Republic, but the main hub is Václav Havel Airport, or as it is more commonly known, Prague Airport, which lies about 10km from Prague and is well-connected to the capital. Other airports with international and domestic services are located at Brno and Ostrava.
Although it doesn’t have the best driving, Prague is a safe city and has the nation’s standout landmarks. The World Heritage city centre features Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Prague Castle is the main highlight and is within reach of the Old, New and Lesser towns.
An easy drive southwest of Prague is the popular hiking area of Karlstejn, which sports a pretty castle, while also nearby are the KonÄprusy Caves. Tours take visitors through the caves to witness the unusual rock formations which resemble rose blooms.
Continuing west brings visitors to some of the Czech Republic’s most intriguing landscape, amid the Bohemia region. This basin surrounded by mountains has many highlights, including the Teplice-Adršpach Rocks (east), ancient villages (south), lots of spas (west) and innumerable castles and forests (central).
Šumava is part of southern Bohemia, near the Austro-German borders, and offers some of the best, uncluttered hiking terrain. At the opposite end, at the Polish border, are the Karkonosze Mountains, which feature national parks and ŠpindlerÅ¯v Mlýn ski resort.
Many visitors also head to Brno in the southeast, which is noted for its excellent museums, the Moto GP Grand Prix and its old theatre. Not far to the southeast of Brno is the stunning MutÄnice wine region, while the beautiful town of Litomyšl, with its charming square and castle, is to the north.
Owing to its landlocked locale in Central Europe, the Czech Republic has a typical mid-continental climate of hot summers and cold winters. Summer average highs are about 24°C (79°F), with hot days well into the 30s (°C). It also tends to rain a lot in spring and summer, while December to February (winter) typically sees temperatures of -5°C (23°F) in cities and as low as -28°C (-22°F) in the mountains.