The Czech Republic, as a part of Middle Europe, is squeezed between Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland, and is bordered by mountains. Its area is almost 79.000 sq. km (30.000 sq. miles), about the same size as the island of Ireland. The highest point is Snezka, at 1602 m (5222 ft), while the capital Prague lies in the middle of the western part of the country, some 300 m above sea level.
The Czech Republic operates on Central European time zone – GMT+1, and in summer – GMT+2.The People
Czechs are West Slavs, as are Poles and Slovaks, with the capital Prague often referred to as ‘The Heart of Europe’. There are about 10 million people in the Czech Republic and about 1.3 million of those live in Prague. The western part of the Czech Republic is called Bohemia, the eastern Moravia.
Since the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union on May 1st 2005 there has been huge excitement amongst the Czechs regarding the possibilities this brings. Accession has also meant an increase in interest amongst other nationalities in travel to the Czech Republic and the country is undergoing a period of growth economically. The dynamism that this is bringing to the country is palpable on the street and lends to the attraction of the country. Prague, the capital, is an intensely lively city, home to a huge community of expatriates attracted to the warmth and sincerity of the people, as well as their ‘joie de vivre’.
The official language is Czech, a Slavic language. Many of the older people speak some Russian, while English (and often German) is spoken well by the younger generation.
The Czech Republic has a mild continental climate with warm, sometimes damp summers and cold winters. The average temperature in summer is 24 °C (74 °F), although temperatures can rise to 30 °C (92 °F). At night, temperatures fall to 15 °C (46 °F). In winter, the daily temperature averages around freezing point and falls at night into –4 °C (26 °F). January and February are the coldest months when the daily temperature hovers around –5 °C (23 °F). Spring and summer tend to be the sunniest months, with the period between May and August being the rainiest. Snow is rare in Prague during winter.
The currency is the Czech crown, which uses the czech symbol Kc, and the international symbol CZK. The crown is made up of 100 groat, which have the symbol h. Banknotes are in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000 Kc. The Czech Republic is expected to join the Euro monetary union in 2009. Some establishments may accept Euros.
VAT and Tax Refunds
Every shop in the country will charge up to 22% VAT on all purchases. Goods purchased in the Czech Republic and taken overseas are eligible for a tax refund. The main tax refund office is located at Jindrisska 7, close to the main post office in Prague. The office can also be contacted by the toll free number 800 174 953.
Most museums and shops are open daily from 9am to 6pm and closed Sunday. Banks operate similar hours, but remain closed on Saturday afternoons.
The standard electricity supply in the Czech Republic is 230 volts (50/60 cycles). Visitors may require a transformer and a plug adaptor.