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Czech Republic
Preface Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:42 AM

The Czech Republic has a rich treasure in its own history, with much of it still visible in the bridges, palaces, and streets of Prague. The legacies of Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor; of Jan Hus, the religious reformer; of Comenius, the educator; of King George of Podebrady, the one Czech Hussite king; of Hasek and Capek and other writers; of the composers Dvorak and Smetana; of Tomas Masaryk, the philosopher and statesman, are still alive in Prague. Few world capitals have preserved their past so visibly, and few are so picturesque.

Politically, the Czechs have endured centuries of storms and trials. The Czech Republic’s people, property, and institutions were decimated by the Thirty Years’ War; were dominated by the Hapsburg Austrian Empire for 300 years; experienced a brief but brilliant period of democracy and independence from 1918 to 1938; were occupied by Hitler after the signing of the Munich Pact; had an even briefer period of independence after World War II; came under Communist control in 1948; were invaded by the Warsaw Pact in 1968 after a brief burst of freedom during the “Prague Spring”; threw off communist leadership in 1989 during what is known as the “Velvet Revolution” and elected Alexander Dubcek and Vaclav Havel to top governmental posts in the country; and welcomed 1993 by officially splitting their country into two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The political, social, and economic situations here are dynamic as the country completes the dismantlement of old structures and joins the NATO alliance and prepares for EU membership, thereby furthering the transition to a free market democracy along Western lines.

From 1918 to 1938, the U.S. was intimately involved with Czechoslovak affairs. The millions of Americans of Czech and Slovak ancestry created a special bond, and former President Woodrow Wilson played a vital role in the creation of the Czechoslovak state. Czechoslovakia’s first president, Tomas Masaryk, married an American and was a great friend of the U.S. During the Cold War, the U.S. provided political and moral support for the Charter 77 dissidents. Today, the U.S. is an active partner of the young democracy that has been reborn in this ancient land.

An assignment to the American Embassy in Prague can plunge you into this history and this present. A tour in the Czech Republic, which includes Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia, is greatly rewarding, and most Americans leave Prague with affectionate regret.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:43 AM

The Czech Republic lies in the heartland of Central Europe. It is bordered to the west and northwest by Germany, to the northeast by Poland, to the southeast by Slovakia, and to the south by Austria. The Czech Republic is almost entirely surrounded by mountains. To the north and northeast are the Sudetes Mountains, which include the Krkonose Mountains and Mt. Snazka, the highest point in the country. To the southeast along the Czech-Slovak border are the Carpathian Mountains. The Sumava Mountains in the southwest form the border with Germany. These mountain ranges protect the country from the extremes of western and northern European winters.

The main geographic subdivisions are the Czech lands of Bohemia to the west and Moravia to the east. In addition, a section of what was once Silesia occupies the north-central part of the country. The Czech Republic covers a total area of 30,332 square miles (78,864 square kilometers). The terrain is typically hilly with wide, rolling plains. Bohemia has more low mountains and plateaus than Moravia, which tends to be flatter. At 20,368 square miles (52,764 square kilometers), Bohemia is twice the size of Moravia and includes the capital city of Prague. Prague lies on the Vltava River (Moldau in German), which flows northward and joins the Labe (Elbe) north of Prague. Prague, with an altitude of 800 feet, lies at the center of the gently rolling Bohemian Plain.

Prague has a humid, continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Temperatures range from January’s average daily high of 32º F (0º C) and low of 22º F (-4º C) to July’s average daily high of 76º F (24.5º C) and low of 56º F (14º) Average annual rainfall is about 30 inches, distributed throughout the year. Humidity averages about 80 percent. During the winter months, high humidity makes the winter cold penetrating. Light to moderately heavy snow can be expected during January and February. Pollution can be severe during the winter months because of soft-burning coal and frequent temperature inversions. Reduced hours of daylight from November through March combined with smog and raw weather create a gloomy atmosphere. In fact, from mid-October when Daylight Savings Time ends until early April when it begins again, Czech law requires drivers to drive with their headlights on at all times.

Population Last Updated: 1/6/2004 12:32 AM

The majority of the Czech Republic’s population of more than 10 million is ethnically and linguistically Czech (Bohemians, Moravians and Silesians). After the 1993 division of Czechoslovakia, some Slovaks remained in the Czech Republic and comprise roughly three percent of the current population. Minorities include Poles, Germans, Romany (Gypsies), and Hungarians. Before World War II, about 3.5 million Germans lived in Czechoslovakia, but most were expelled in 1945. Sixty-five percent of all Czech people live in towns and cities. Prague has approximately 1.2 million people, which is, by far, the largest population of any Czech city.

The area that is the Czech Republic today was a pagan nation until the arrival of the Christian missionaries Constantine and Methodius in 863 A.D. Christianity quickly spread and the Catholic Church became very dominant. During the 40 years of Communist rule, however, religion was virtually outlawed. Although the Czechs now enjoy freedom of religion, the effect of years of communist control of religion is a country in which nearly 40% of the people identify themselves as atheists. Of those Czechs who do have a religious affiliation, most are Roman Catholic. There is also a large Protestant minority. Of the prewar Czechoslovak population of 360,000 Jews, fewer than 10,000 remain. Most live in the Josefov district in central Prague.

A generation of Socialist rule has had no lasting effect on the traditional cultural ties of Czechs to Western Europe — France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Czechs are proud of their earlier role in European cultural and political history. Many Americans (including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) are of Czech descent, and the bond between the Czech lands and the U.S. remains strong.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:33 PM

The Czech Republic, the western two-thirds of the former Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, is a parliamentary democracy. On January 1, 1993, the Czechs and Slovaks divided their common state of more than 75 years.

The Czech Parliament is bicameral, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Senate comprises 81 members elected to six-year terms, with one third of the seats contested every two years. The 200-seat Chamber of Deputies includes delegates elected from seven districts and the capital for four-year terms, on the basis of proportional representation.

The Czech Republic has both a president and a prime minister. The president is elected by parliament for a five-year term and may not serve for more than two consecutive terms. The president appoints the prime minister. The president also appoints the 17 members of the cabinet, with the advice of the prime minister.

The president of the republic, as the formal head of state, is granted specific powers to nominate constitutional court judges, to dissolve parliament under certain conditions, and to enact a suspensive veto on legislation. He is also the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

The prime minister, who traditionally has represented the majority party of coalition, has considerable power. These powers include the right to set the agenda for most foreign and domestic policies, to mobilize a parliamentary majority, and to choose the governmental ministers.

The Czech political scene supports a broad spectrum of parties ranging from the semi-reformed Communist Party on the far left to the nationalist Republican Party on the extreme right. However, Czech governments since the fall of communism in 1989 have been coalitions of right-of-center and centrist parties, which have derived most of their popular support from the swift, free market reforms they have advocated. Today the largest parties in the Czech Republic are the center-left Czech Social Democratic Party and the center-right Civic Democratic Party. Other parties represented in the parliament include the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, the centrist Christian-Democratic Union-Czech People’s Party, and the conservative Freedom Union.

At the local level, the Czech Republic is administered by 75 local districts with power over taxation, schools, roads, utilities, and public health.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:33 PM

Prague was a major European cultural center prior to the Communist era, and Czech intellectuals and artists have made numerous and significant contributions to art, literature, and music. Well-known Czech authors include Franz Kafka, Karel Capek, Jaroslav Hasek, Milan Kundera, and former Czech president Vaclav Havel. Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak, and Leos Janacek are the three best known Czech composers.

Prague has a never-ending run of top quality concerts, operas, ballet, and theater shows. The leading theatrical institution, the National Theater, produces opera, ballet, and drama. Numerous theaters in Prague and the provincial cities are well attended. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra has a worldwide reputation, and many other excellent musical organizations exist. The annual Prague Spring Festival is the cultural highlight of the year. Western popular musicians now include Prague in their tour schedules. Several theatrical groups have gained international recognition. Czechoslovak movies of the 1960s are world-renowned, and American movies play in Prague with Czech subtitles.

Nearly all adults in the Czech Republic are literate. Education is compulsory from age 6 through 15. After completion of elementary school, most students continue their education at a secondary school or vocational secondary school, both of which offer four-year programs. After secondary school, students can continue on to university after passing discipline-related entrance exams. Entrance requirements for Czech Universities are quite strict and very competitive.

Prague’s Charles University, founded in 1348 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, is the oldest university in central Europe and the most prestigious university in the Czech Republic. Other important universities include Masaryk University in Brno and Palacky University in Olomouc.

Prague’s Charles University, founded in 1348, is the oldest university in central Europe. Czech science, education, and technology, once compared with the best in the world, suffered from the heavy hand of political control under the Communists.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:45 AM

As of mid-2003, more than a decade after the fall of Communism in 1989, the Czech Republic has a growing, fully functional market economy that is more than 80% in private hands. The economy’s recent growth is based in large part on substantial inflows of foreign direct investment that is designed to capitalize on its strategic location in Europe, its well-educated workforce and its low cost structure. The Czech currency, the koruna, freely floats and is rising in value against the dollar and the Euro because of these inflows. This rise is helping to keep inflation low, but it has a negative impact on the competitiveness of Czech exports. Although government indebtedness is still low by international standards, rising budget deficits are a potential threat to stability in the long term. The Czech Republic still faces challenges in curbing corruption, completing industrial restructuring, increasing transparency in capital market transactions, covering losses piled up by formerly state-owned banks, reforming the pension and health care systems, and solving serious environmental problems.

The Czech lands were the most industrialized part of Austria-Hungary and a key producer of consumer and industrial goods for the former Soviet bloc. Today, the Czech Republic produces and exports automobiles, machinery, chemicals, and other goods, mainly to Western Europe. A classic example of a small, open economy, the health of the Czech economy depends heavily on the state of the economies of Western Europe, especially Germany. Because of economic weakness in Europe and the strength of the crown, GDP growth in 2002 was 2% and may not be much more in 2003. Industrial production constitutes 42% of GDP, services 54% and agriculture 4%. Partly in anticipation of the country’s accession to the European Union (expected in 2004), foreign investors poured $8.4 billion of direct investment into the country in 2002, the most per capita of any country in Central and Eastern Europe. This investment is modernizing Czech plant and equipment and raising labor productivity. Unemployment, at about 10% nationally, is stubbornly high in the steel and coal producing regions of Moravia. Generous benefits, ongoing industrial restructuring and limits on labor mobility contribute to higher unemployment.

The Czech Republic has been less successful in attracting portfolio investment. However, oversight of the stock market has improved in recent years, as has banking regulation. Privatization of the formerly state-owned banks into the hands of Western European interests, completed in 2001, has curbed the sweetheart lending that nearly brought the banking system to collapse in 1997–98. The government is still in the process of liquidating the bad debts that were piled up then. These costs are one reason the government’s overall budget deficit reached 6.7% of GDP in 2002 (exclusive of privatization income) and is expected to be more than 7% in 2002. With a low birthrate and aging population, pension, health and other social benefits could boost expenditures later this decade unless the system is reformed. There is little room to increase taxes, which already amount to 36% of GDP. Government indebtedness is only 19–20 percent of GDP, but is growing rapidly.

Since 1989, overall trade between the U.S. and the Czech Republic has grown twelve-fold. According to U.S. figures, the Czechs had a trade surplus of $524 million with the U.S. in 2002. U.S. companies such as Conoco, Procter and Gamble, and Boeing are major investors in the Czech Republic. The U.S. is the third-ranking source of investment, after the Netherlands and Germany, with a total of $3.6 billion invested by end 2002.


Automobiles Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:47 AM

Public transportation within Prague is excellent, but you will need a car to see the region easily. Embassy personnel can travel freely within the Czech Republic and to neighboring countries. Within the Czech Republic, traffic moves on the right, and road signs and traffic conventions are similar to those used throughout Europe. The Czech Republic’s main roads are adequate and in winter are plowed and salted or “sanded” (actually heavily covered with cinders). Compared to the U.S. or Western Europe, traffic on the highways is light, although the traffic situation in Prague during working hours and throughout the Czech Republic continues to worsen as more vehicles take to the roads.

Although Czech authorities widely tolerate the use of U.S. driving licenses, the law states that all Americans whose permanent stay in the Czech Republic will exceed three months should also have an International Driving License. An international license is required for some neighboring countries; it is recommended that all drivers obtain one before coming to post. International licenses can be obtained by mail through AAA. Information is available on their website at The International Driving License is valid for one year and can be renewed by mail. International licenses can also be obtained locally, but only on the basis of a Czech license. Czech licenses can be obtained, though a brief test is required, even for holders of valid U.S. licenses. Without a valid U.S. license, a lengthy and expensive driver-training course and a thorough exam are required.

Compact or smaller cars are preferred because of narrow city streets, fuel economy, and resale value. Any standard make car is suitable. Cobblestone streets and poor secondary roads are common and can be hard on a vehicle’s suspension. Post personnel have a mix of American, Asian, and European cars, which may be shipped to post at government expense. Service facilities for most makes of European and Asian cars are adequate. In addition, there are at least three facilities in Prague that can service many U.S.-made, U.S.-model cars that are not sold in Europe.

Service and spare parts for American cars may be available at a military PX in Germany, or at local dealerships in Prague and the surrounding country. It is sometimes necessary, however, to import parts from the U.S., which may take several weeks. Repair facilities are available for European and most Asian cars. However, the quality of repairs varies. Some foreign residents take their cars to Western Europe for service.

Czech law requires that cars be equipped with catalytic converters, left and right outside rear view mirrors, mud flaps for rear tires, a rear fog light, a European first-aid kit and “triangle” emergency breakdown marker (available locally or at the PX in Germany), a set of spare fuses and bulbs, one spare wheel screw, and one spare spark plug. Snow tires are recommended for winter driving and radials provide better traction in cities. Austrian and German authorities often require that vehicles entering their territory in winter have tire chains.

Gas station facilities are excellent, with newly built, modern stations almost everywhere. Many stations are open 24 hours. Both leaded and unleaded gasoline are sold at Czech gas stations. Unleaded gas is sold as ‘normal’ or ‘natural’, and comes in 91, 95, or 98 octane. Leaded gasoline is sold as ‘special’, and is usually 91 octane. Diesel fuel is also sold, and can be labeled as ‘diesel’ or ‘nafta’. Gasoline in the Czech Republic is about $3.50/gallon. However, once one recovers the value-added tax and consumer tax, the cost of gasoline is a bit lower than U.S. prices. The Embassy imports lead-free gas and dispenses it at the chancery through the Embassy commissary. Motor oil can be purchased in many local stores and gas stations. Motor oil is also available through the commissary and at PXs in Germany. Motor oil purchased locally is generally more costly, particularly synthetic motor oil.

The Czech Republic places some limitations on the importation of automobiles. Since the laws on vehicles continue to change, personnel should check with post prior to shipping a personally owned vehicle. The current applicable laws are described below.

A car can be imported into the country without being registered in the Czech Republic by making sure that the vehicle continues to be registered and properly insured (green card is needed) in a foreign country and maintains that country’s license plates.

If a vehicle needs to be registered in the Czech Republic, as is customary for diplomatic personnel, a car cannot be more than 8 years old when it is imported. Please note that the clock starts ticking when the car is registered for the first ime in any country (including the U.S.).

Also, it is the owner’s responsibility to prove that the vehicle meets the EURO II emission standard. This can be problematic for a U.S.-made car. A U.S.-manufactured vehicle may need to be tested. If the technical inspection service does not find an identical engine in their computer database, a test must be conducted to see if it meets the standard. This test can cost as much as CZK 9,000. There may be a minimal charge for vehicles whose engine data is already stored in the lab’s computer.

If a vehicle cannot meet the EURO II standard it can be granted a waiver. If this occurs, it will be impossible to transfer/sell the vehicle to another owner (including diplomats) unless it is modified. Please note that no waiver for emissions can be granted in this case!

After the car is delivered to the Embassy and the customs clearance is complete, GSO will arrange for the inspection and emission’s test in an authorized facility. A copy of the owner’s title, user manual and fees in the amount of CZK 2,100 are required to begin this process. You can pay this amount to the GSO, who will manage the registration process.

The Embassy mechanics check the vehicle and take it to the inspection station where the import inspection will be performed. The inspection station then issues a technical report. GSO will then request that the Czech Ministry of Transport (MOT) to grant any technical waivers (if needed). After the waivers are granted, another MOT unit will issue license plates and vehicle registration documents.

The process is similar if an individual buys a vehicle abroad (e.g. at military base in Germany) and drives it to the country to get it registered. If a vehicle is purchased at the local auto dealer, the dealer should provide all necessary documents. No other inspections are required (only the customs clearance if it is a foreign-made car bought locally).

You may purchase a used European-made car on the open market from a used auto dealer or through a private purchase. The previous owner is responsible for recording your name on the Czech title. Required inspections should still be valid and GSO will order the appropriate diplomatic license plates.

After a vehicle is properly registered and licensed in the Czech Republic, the technical inspection and emission test should be repeated every two years. It is routine and a fee is about CZK 800.

As an alternative to bringing a car to post, many Embassy personnel buy Czech-made (and Volkswagen-backed) Skodas. Several foreign and American auto firms also have sales and service outlets in Prague. A brand new car purchased at a local auto dealer is subject to the technical inspection and emission test after four years and there after every two years.

For information on selling a duty-free car, see “Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property.”

All vehicles operating in the Czech Republic must carry Third Party Liability Insurance. Vehicles not registered in the Czech Republic must carry liability insurance. If an unregistered vehicle is transported via car carrier then third liability insurance is not needed, but if an unregistered vehicle is driven into the Czech Republic, the car must have liability insurance (green card).

If the owner does not have a green card (proof of liability insurance) when registering the car and operating it within the Czech Republic, the owner must purchase a valid liability insurance policy from a licensed insurance vendor. GSO Customs and Shipping can help you arrange the proper insurance for your automobile. The liability insurance that is customary only covers damage incurred in the Czech Republic. Premium rate for liability insurance currently costs Ck 4,700 per month.

Vehicles registered in the Czech Republic and driving with Czech license plates must purchase liability insurance through Ceská Pojištovna, a.s. It is the largest and most popular insurance company with numerous branches all over the country. The premium is based on the engine size of an automobile and is divided into five categories. The rates are differentiated as follows:

STANDARD — Coverage is up to 18 millions CZK for health and death and 5 millions CZK for damage to property.

BONUS EXCLUSIVE — Coverage is up to 50 millions CZK for health and death and 50 millions CZK for damage to property.

The cost difference between the two rates is very small. The premium is based on the engine size (i.e. how many cubic centimeters or liters an engine is) varies from Ck 2,920 to Ck 11,260 (2003 rates). The premiums can be paid yearly, semi-yearly, quarterly or monthly. Also, a driver that has no-claims is eligible for a premium discount after one year.

Liability insurance covers damage caused by the driver to other vehicles, property or persons and is purchased via GSO. If the driver at fault also suffers damage to his own vehicle, he will not be eligible for reimbursement from the insurance company. For this and other cases (fire, explosion, flood, falling trees and/or electrical poles, theft, etc.) a driver can insure himself with an all-risk/collision policy. In these cases, you can arrange insurance from companies in the
Czech Republic and in the United States.

Several Embassy vehicles have been involved in motor accidents, and one should always keep in mind the possibility of an unexpected hazard. In the event of an accident, you should stop; assess the situation (skid marks, damage, etc.); identify possible witnesses, and/or call the Police. You can dial 112 (Integral Emergency System), 158 (Czech Police), or 261–214–141 (Traffic Police Department of Prague) to reach the proper authorities. If you do not speak Czech or the situation is difficult, you can contact the Foreign Service National Investigator in the RSO’s office to help you communicate with the parties involved. If damage does not exceed CZK 20,000, injuries are non-existent or minor, and if participants reach an agreement on who was at fault, the police do not need to be contacted.

If the police do investigate, be prepared to wait for several hours. The police can take a long time to show up for a traffic accident, and investigations at the accident scene for even a minor accident may take hours while the police take measurements and photographs, and interview the drivers. If the police do investigate, try to make sure they determine that a driver is at fault. In cases where negligence is not apparent or the Police don’t assess blame, the case may be sent to another authority which can complicate matters. In some cases, even this authority is not able to determine who is at fault and the case may end before a court.

In any case, please inform GSO as soon as possible about the date of the accident, place and the address of the police station investigating the case. GSO will try to get the Police to issue an accident report. Based on the report, GSO can assist you in preparing a claim against the appropriate insurance company. If you require compensation for damage, please do not repair the vehicle until it is inspected by the insurance company’s loss adjustor!

Local Transportation Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:48 AM

Subway, trams, and buses are used in the city and suburbs. Metro trains run from 5:00 to 24:00. Trains run frequently, with intervals of 2 to 3 minutes during peak hours during the week. Off-peak and weekend trains are less frequent, but the intervals are still less than 10 minutes. Trams and buses run from 4:30 to 24:00. Most trams and buses run every 8 minutes during the early morning and afternoon peak hours. Trams and buses are less frequent during off-peak hours. Tram and bus schedules are posted on at each stop.

After midnight, trams and buses continue on a reduced schedule. Night trams — indicated at stops by a white number on a dark blue background — run every 40 minutes. There are also twelve night buses that run out to some of the farther reaches of the city. The metro does not operate at all from midnight to 5 a.m.

Public transportation, frequently used by many Embassy employees, is inexpensive, but prices are increasing. A single ticket costs about $0.40 and a monthly pass about $16.50. Quarterly, six-month, and year-long passes are also available. Passes for one month or longer require a special picture identification card which can be purchased at several of the larger metro stations. Fifteen-day passes, which cost about $11 and do not require a picture identification card, are especially useful for out-of-town guests. Single trip tickets can be purchased at all Metro stations as well as at many newspaper stands and Tabak shops. Single trip tickets can also be purchased from the driver on a tram or bus, but there is a small surcharge on the price. Tickets for children 5 to 15 years old are also available for a reduced price. Children under the age of 5 ride for free.

Public transportation operates on an honor system. You do not enter through a turnstile or have to produce your ticket upon boarding. Single trip and fifteen-day passes require you to validate them at the beginning of their use. Be aware that uniformed or plainclothes police frequently patrol public transportation to check for valid tickets. Passengers unable to produce a ticket will be fined 800 KC, or 400 KC if paid on the spot.

Taxis are usually found at stands in the central part of town and at the airport. In outlying sections, you must call for a taxi. Outside of the tourist season, service is reasonably prompt up to 10 or 11 p.m. Most Embassy personnel, as do many ex-pats, use one or two companies that are dependable and charge fair, reasonable rates. Caution is advised for the many self-employed drivers, which have the well-deserved reputation of practicing price gouging.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 1/6/2004 1:33 PM

The Czech Republic is served by a comprehensive network of bus, rail, and air transport; however, reservations are difficult to get during the holidays, music festivals, and trade fairs. Embassy personnel often prefer to travel by car within the Czech Republic.

Train service is good, and there are several modern international express train services. Rail transport within the Czech Republic and to other nearby European countries is inexpensive, though prices continue to increase. Daily flights operate between Prague and other major European capitals. The travel person in the embassy can assist with reservations and the purchase of tickets.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 1/6/2004 1:34 PM

Local and long-distance telephone, telegraph, fax, and telex services are available at reasonable cost within the Czech Republic. Rather than a flat monthly rate for local calls, as is typical in the United States, local phone charges are by the minute. Evenings, weekends, and state holidays have reduced rates. Service outside the country, and particularly outside Europe, is much more expensive. A local service called X-Call, for which you to enter a 5-digit number before the number you are dialing, offers substantially less expensive rates to the U.S. and other countries when dialing evenings, nights, weekends, and Czech holidays. USA Direct or similar American credit card services can substantially reduce the cost of personal calls to the United States. Call-back services, which are another option for moderate long-distance calls, can also be used.

Internet Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:48 AM

There are several Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Prague of varying quality, reliability, and cost. Generally, dial-up access is free, but you are charged for each minute of telephone usage. ISDN services are also offered in some areas of Prague, but they are generally expensive and only cost-effective for heavy Internet use. Some international ISPs, Compuserve, and, for example, also have points of presence in Prague. If you need access to a computer, internet cafes can be found all around Prague.

Official e-mail is available through DOS net on the post’s unclassified local area net. Classified e-mail is also available.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:42 PM

American Embassy Prague’s APO support was terminated in early 1998. Assigned personnel must rely on the diplomatic pouch system or international mail. Mail through the diplomatic pouch is extremely slow. Round-trip communications typically take 24 days or longer. Post personnel often find it impossible to make credit card payments on time if they wait for bills before sending remittances. Consequently, most Post personnel do their banking electronically. It is recommended that personnel set up their electronic accounts before coming to post.

Personal letter mail as well as small and medium-sized cushioned mailers may be sent out through the pouch. Personal packages may not however, with the exception of returned merchandise ordered from a catalog. Such items may be returned to the original place of order through the pouch system. Any other package mail must be sent using the local postal system or through other private arrangements.

There are strict limitations on what can be received via the pouch. Packages must be no larger than the combined length and girth of 62 inches and must weigh no more than 40 lbs. Length is defined as the measurement of the longest size and girth is the sum of the other four sides. In addition, incoming packages may not contain liquids, aerosols, or illegal substances. American postage must be affixed to all personal mail sent through the Diplomatic Pouch system. American and Czech stamps are sold at the commissary.

Previously, both official and personal mail sent through the pouch used the same mailing address. In the wake of the anthrax contamination in the U.S. postal system, separate addresses are now used for official and personal mail. Official mail should be sent through the official address and will be irradiated before it is forwarded to the air carrier. Our official pouch address is:

Department of State
5630 Prague PL
Washington, DC 20521–5630

Personal packages and letter mail may be sent via the other address, thereby avoiding irradiation and generally ensuring speedier delivery. Using this address is particularly important for medications and certain sensitive equipment. While personal mail may be sent via the official address, official mail should not be sent using this personal address to help retain its “clean” status:

5630 Prague PL
Dulles, VA 20189–5630

Personal mail sent to post through international mail should be addressed as follows:

Ms. Jane Doe
Trziste 15
118 01 Praha 1
Czech Republic

Personnel may also receive international mail at their local residence addresses.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:42 PM

There are many AM and FM radio stations, including the BBC (101.1 FM). Czech FM stations have play lists similar to many American pop and country stations. Occasionally, there are special programs in English. Some or parts of advertisements are even in English. Short-wave radios can pick up BBC day and night, VOA morning and evening, and other European stations in English and other languages. VOA may also be heard in English at various times in the day on 1197 AM.

Radios are available locally or at the PX in Germany at reasonable prices.

American (NTSC) TVs can be converted to the PAL system used in the Czech Republic, but with difficulty. Multi-system TVs capable of processing both local PAL broadcasts and the NTSC system used by American VCRs are available at the PX in Germany or they can be mail-ordered if they meet the pouch’s size limits.

There are four TV channels, with most broadcasts in Czech. One channel carries a mixture of foreign broadcasting. Broadcasts are sometimes dubbed or subtitled, but often are in English, German, French, Russian, and Spanish. Viewing is invaluable for studying the Czech language.

Houses in the Mala Sarka development near the International School all have cable hardwired into the houses. More than 20 channels including the four Czech channels, a few English language channels (CNN, Sky News, BBC, CNBC, Eurosport), and numerous German channels, are transmitted by installed cables straight to TV sockets in the houses.

Some employees have installed satellite dishes that enable them to receive English-language news programs and other broadcasts — also using the PAL system — from one or more European satellites. Dishes are available locally and in Germany. Post families are also able to purchase Armed Forces Network (AFN) satellites at the military bases in Germany. The AFN satellite picks up 6 channels, all broadcast in English. These channels include a news channel, a sports channel, and channels that broadcast a variety of American television shows.

VCRs and DVD players are also popular. The Embassy’s community association has a video library with more than 500 titles, many of which are specifically for children. These movies are available for rent at the commissary. While most of the collection is comprised of VHS videos, all newly purchased movies are DVDs. There is also at least one video rental business, with thousands of English-language tapes, that caters to the large American and British expatriate community.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 1/6/2004 1:43 PM

International editions of news magazines, such as Time, Newsweek, and The Economist, are available at local newsstands, as are a wide variety of other popular magazines. There is an extensive paperback library in the CLO. Current popular American paperbacks are available at Army bases in Germany and in many Prague bookstores. The Public Affairs Office has a reference library for Czech clients that is also available to Embassy staff. Subscriptions to magazines and newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune and USA Today, can be ordered and delivered to your residence or office usually on the day of the publication. Most newspapers also have a free on-line version.

Another good source of local information is the Prague Post, an English-language weekly, that provides news of the Czech Republic and surrounding countries as well as lists of restaurants, movie theater schedules, and cultural events.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 3/25/2004 5:56 AM

The Embassy has one full-time direct hire Foreign Service Health Practitioner as well as one full-time, American Registered Nurse (R.N.) and a Czech Medical Office Assistant in the health unit. Basic health care, including diagnosis and treatment of minor illnesses and injuries, immunizations, and well child exams are provided to all authorized U.S. Embassy personnel and their dependents. The regional medical officer, posted in Warsaw, and the regional psychiatrist, posted in Vienna, schedule visits throughout the year. The medical unit has a small pharmacy, but does not have X-ray or extensive laboratory facilities. Although many familiar medications may be available locally at reasonable cost, people requiring medication on a long-term basis should order from the U.S. (See Mail and Pouch section).

Emergency medical services are provided to resident foreigners in Prague at several local hospitals. Motol Hospital, which has a 24-hour emergency room, is used most often for serious illness or injury and is the only hospital with 24-hour pediatric emergency and in-patient facilities. It has a foreigner’s desk, staffed by people who speak English and who will assist you in communications with hospital staff. Many, if not most, of the doctors also speak some English. Routine health care is available at several local clinics, including the Canadian Medical Center, UNICARE, and Mediscan. English speaking clerical staff makes utilizing these clinics easy. In addition to their general practitioners, each clinic also has numerous specialists available. Most clinics have a physician on-call 24 hours/day who will make house calls.

Privatization of health care facilities is increasing, with many private physicians available in most specialties. Costs for outpatient care vary, with some costs comparable to U.S prices. Routine and emergency care in Prague is adequate, but local differences in the organization of medical care, a limited choice of physicians, cultural differences, and the language barrier can create problems.

Good quality dental care provided by English speaking dentists is readily available at several clinics. A few dentists offer orthodontia, but they are often heavily booked.

The health unit will assist employees in arranging needed medical care.

Community Health Last Updated: 3/25/2004 5:58 AM

Community sanitation in the Czech Republic is high. Public health controls help to prevent outbreaks of serious diseases. Milk products are pasteurized and generally safe as long as they are stored properly. In addition, the Embassy commissary stocks fresh, UHT, and powdered milk purchased from U.S. military facilities in Germany. The water in Prague is not fluoridated, and supplements, available from the health unit, should be given to children up to the age of 13. Generally, the water in Prague is safe to drink and meets acceptable standards according to World Health Organization guidelines for adults and children over one year of age. The nitrate level in the water is potentially hazardous to small infants (under one year of age). Bottled or distilled water is recommended for this age group.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 3/25/2004 5:59 AM

The most prevalent local diseases are hepatitis, measles, whooping cough, and respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Upper respiratory ailments are common during the winter months. Prague’s damp and sooty winter often brings on or aggravates bronchitis, viral influenza, head and chest colds, asthma, sinus trouble, and other respiratory difficulties. Coughs, hoarseness, and bronchial irritations seem to last longer, and people with a history of asthma may experience flare-ups, probably due to chronic irritation from the pollution. Ticks in the Czech Republic can transmit a viral infection known as tick-borne encephalitis. An effective vaccine is available at the Embassy Health Unit and is given to all Post personnel and their families.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:49 AM

Full- or part-time employment opportunities for spouses and/or dependents do exist, but are limited. There are some positions open to dependents within the American Embassy and the International School of Prague.

Positions at the Embassy include FMA positions, such as the CLO, mail and pouch clerk, nurse, budget and fiscal assistant, GSO assistant, Public Affairs assistant, and secretaries in DAO, MGT, and RSO.

Under the State Department’s European Bureau’s Family Employment Program, some FMA positions may be filled on a full-time basis by dependents who, before their arrival at post, are hired for the position and attend training at FSI on a paid basis. Prospective candidates for the Family Employment Program should contact the Executive Office of the European Bureau (EUR/EX) for information on which positions may be available at the time of transfer.

Other applicants should write to the Embassy’s personnel officer. Prospective teachers or teacher’s aides should write to the director, International School of Prague, c/o the Embassy, as far in advance as possible. There are several additional schools, which may have positions for teachers or teacher’s aides. Some dependents have found employment at the Riverside School and the British International Schools, both of which follow a British curriculum.

All applications for Embassy local-hire positions are submitted to the Embassy Dependent Employment Committee, which consists of voting members drawn from as wide a spectrum of the Embassy staff as possible to ensure a fair allocation of scarce work opportunities. The committee, in close consultation with the section chief involved, conducts interviews and reviews available jobs and candidates’ qualifications. It is advisable to forward or bring an updated SF-171 or OF-612 (employment form), and supporting material to post. Dependents who participate in the FLO job skills bank should send their current printout to post before arriving.

A formal bilateral work agreement that allows Embassy dependents to work on the Czech economy went into effect on Oct. 1, 1993. While this agreement allows Embassy dependents to legally work in the Czech Republic, Czech wages are generally quite low and some fluency in the Czech language is usually required. There are numerous American companies with offices in Prague, however, and dependents with particular education and skills backgrounds have found employment at American wages. The Foreign Commercial Service or the local American Chamber of Commerce can provide information on American companies in Prague to assist interested dependents in their job search.

American Embassy - Prague

Post City Last Updated: 1/6/2004 1:53 PM

Prague is an old city; a medley of Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, and art deco architecture gives the city its particular charm and makes it one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. In spite of the turmoil in Czechoslovakia during World War II, Prague remained mostly undamaged, and buildings dating back to the early medieval period are still in evidence. The green of Prague’s numerous parks and hills sets off its many historic buildings, making it particularly attractive in late spring, summer, and early autumn.

Prague has a population of about 1.2 million. German and English are the most widely understood foreign languages. Within the Western foreign and diplomatic communities, English, French, and German are spoken in addition to Czech. Americans are currently popular among Czechs, and the opinion that Czechs have of our culture is high. English is rapidly becoming the most-learned language, and is taught in the Czech public schools.

Security Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:50 AM

The Department of State has issued several Public Announcements since September 11, 2001 cautioning Americans worldwide to maintain a level of vigilance against potential terrorist incidents. We do not believe, however, that U.S. Government visitors in the Czech Republic are especially at risk at this time. All Americans are advised to be continually aware of their surroundings and be alert to suspicious activities or individuals. With regard to crime, visitors are encouraged to exercise common sense precautions and be particularly wary of Prague’s famously efficient pickpockets. Special caution is warranted in and around train stations and when boarding and exiting trams. When taking taxis, it is recommended to agree on an estimated fare with the driver in advance.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:45 PM

The Embassy’s chancery is the 17th century Schoenborn Palace, a large building with four wings built around three courtyards with a large terraced garden. Above the terraced garden and extending up the hillside is a seven-acre orchard topped by the Glorietta, from which the American flag flies. The chancery is located at Trziste 15 in the Mala Strana section of the old city, near the Mala Strana Square and Charles Bridge, just below Prague Castle. Embassy sections housed in the chancery include Executive, Political, Economic, FSC, Consular, Management (including a Marine Guard Security detachment), a Defense Attaché’s Office, and a Security Assistance Office. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The telephone number is 420–257–530–663. The main Embassy fax number is 420–257–530–920.

An Embassy representative normally meets new arrivals at the airport or railroad station.

Housing Last Updated: 1/6/2004 1:57 PM

Every effort is made to place new arrivals in their permanently assigned government quarters as soon as possible; however, it is occasionally necessary for new arrivals to spend at least a few weeks in U.S. government-owned or other temporary quarters. (Apartments, rather than hotels, are the norm for non-U.S. government temporary housing, when needed.)

Employees assigned to Prague should use airfreight to ship in advance those supplies they will need until their household effects arrive. The Embassy has welcome kits of household items to loan, but during summer months demand may exceed supply.

Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 1/6/2004 1:58 PM

The Embassy has a 2-bedroom transient apartment on the ambassador’s residence compound that is used to house new arrivals, as necessary, and temporary duty personnel. The transient apartment is completely furnished, including kitchen with microwave and dining utensils. Cleaning is the responsibility of the occupants.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:51 AM

Housing assignments are made by the Interagency Housing Board in accordance with standards established by A-171, the post’s housing profile and other guidelines. The quality of U.S. government-leased housing varies. Extra bedrooms are in short supply. Some accommodations have street parking only. Isolated instances of vandalism directed at parked cars belonging to Embassy personnel have occurred. Approximately half of post’s housing is leased.

U.S. government-owned property consists of:

The Ambassador’s residence, built in the late 1920’s and acquired in 1948, is a large, well-furnished, three-story residence with garden. The third floor has a self-contained four-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom transient apartment.

The DCM’s home is on the ambassador’s residence compound and was also built in the 1920’s. The second floor has three double bedrooms, each with bath, a small sewing room (or office), and a veranda. The first floor has a dining room, a living room, a family sitting room with fireplace, a powder room, a full kitchen, and a large veranda overlooking the community’s pool. A second kitchen, two additional bedrooms, laundry, bathroom, supply room, and underground storage wine cellar are in the basement.

The Staff House, also on the ambassador’s residence compound, has two spacious three-bedroom apartments. Renovation of the apartments has just been completed. The basement of the Staff House houses a small embassy preschool, called Green Tree Early Learning Center.

The former gate house of the Ambassador’s residence is now a charming, one-bedroom house with living space on the basement, ground level, and second floors.

Up the street from the Chancery is the so-called Volek House, which used to be the gardeners’ quarters and later the USIS library. It is a cozy two-bedroom house.

Not far from the Ambassador’s Residence is a building known as the Marine House, which is used to house the Marine detachment tasked with providing security for the embassy. The Marine House has 9 bedrooms and currently houses 9 Marines.

The Embassy took delivery of 13 brand new four-bedroom houses in the newly built Mala Sarka housing development in late 1997. The development is adjacent to the International School of Prague campus on the edge of town, not too far from the airport. The houses have two-car garages and small yards.

Many Embassy personnel live in apartments or houses that are scattered throughout the city. Some are closer to the center of town than others. Some are in the area called Dejvice, which is located at a higher altitude than the city center and near Prague’s symbol, the castle. Others are near the center, in Vinohrady, for example, that are in older, charming neighborhoods, which are being refurbished and upgraded, and are conveniently close to Old Town’s attractions. Regardless of the locale, however, each of the living quarters is in a neighborhood where residents can find the necessary services: restaurants, pubs, dry cleaners, grocery stores, vegetable and fruit stands, and other stores.

Furnishings Last Updated: 1/6/2004 2:03 PM

Government quarters are furnished as authorized in 6 FAM 782, including furniture, rugs, lamps, chandeliers, draperies, mattresses, major appliances, microwave ovens, and vacuums, as available, and two 220v to 110v transformers. Since the Embassy has little storage space, do not ship additional furnishings to post without prior approval. The following are not provided and may be brought to post or purchased locally: china, glassware, flatware, kitchen utensils, linens, small appliances (TVs, VCRs, radios, toasters, mixers, iron, etc.), baby cribs, furniture, card tables and chairs, bedspreads, mattress covers, pillows, ironing boards, adapter plugs, wastebaskets, and throw rugs. The Embassy also has a few card tables, folding chairs, and tents, which it loans for parties.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:46 PM

Government-owned quarters have central heating and complete bathrooms, including bathtubs with showers. Homes in the Mala Sarka development have European stoves. Electric current is 220v, 50-cycle, AC. Voltage stabilizers are useful but not usually required for delicate electronic equipment. Surge protectors for computers and TVs/VCRs are recommended and can be purchased locally. Cycles may vary slightly. Quarters have private telephones, though phone installation at newly leased quarters can occasionally be considerably delayed. Chancery apartments and the Ambassador’s and DCM’s residences also have Embassy switchboard extensions. Kitchens have gas or electric stoves, a refrigerator and freezer, and a few transformers. Most quarters have dishwashers. Automatic washers and dryers are provided, either in quarters or in a common area in the same building. Additional appliances and transformers are available locally or from the PX at U.S. military bases in Germany at competitive prices.

Food Last Updated: 3/25/2004 6:00 AM

Basic foods are regularly available in Prague. Fresh fruits and vegetables have been a problem in the past, but large supermarkets now offer a wide assortment of groceries, vegetables, and fruits, both local and imported. Local food stores are beginning to have a wider assortment and a more reliable supply of groceries. Neighborhood fruit and vegetable shops usually have a good selection of local and imported fresh fruit and vegetables. Post personnel have shopping privileges at the U.S. Army bases in Germany, and many families travel there regularly to stock up on favorite American products and convenience foods.

Once a month, the Prague Embassy Community Association’s commissary ships in supplies from U.S. Army training bases in Germany and sells them in the small commissary in the Embassy. The Embassy commissary stocks groceries, toiletries, household supplies, liquors, and frozen foods, including meat, chicken, and fish. Individuals may place a monthly order from the commissary for fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, bakery goods, baby foods, and case lots of canned goods. Other items sold at the Army training bases, such as car tires, electronics, and garden furniture can also be ordered. Most orders are picked up at the embassy commissary, but orders can be delivered to your home for a fee. Orders must usually be placed a month in advance. Write to the commissary before arrival if you wish to place an order. A commissary membership deposit of $300 is required, but it is returned prior to your permanent departure from post.

Clothing Last Updated: 1/6/2004 2:08 PM

Though acceptable clothing can be found, and both quality and selection are getting better, you may still wish to purchase or order outside of the Czech Republic. Many items are available at military PXs. Prices of products on the German economy are higher than in the U.S. In addition, Post personnel and their families take advantage of the many companies that sell clothing on-line. Mail-orders can be shipped through the pouch address.

Military personnel should contact the Defense Attaché’s Office for any special clothing requirements. Army uniforms can be purchased at the clothing sales stores on the U.S. Army bases in Germany. Uniforms and related items for all of the services can also be ordered online through AAFES.

No unusual clothing is required for Prague. A fall and winter wardrobe suitable for damp New York weather should be satisfactory. Bring many pairs of low-heeled, perhaps crepe-soled, shoes or boots for Prague’s cobblestone pavements. Overshoes, galoshes or boots, raincoats, and umbrellas are needed. Because of the soft coal used for heating in the Czech Republic, light-colored clothing requires frequent cleaning in the winter.

Winter is the formal season in Prague. Senior male officers need a dinner jacket. Other male staff members and dependents taking part in representational activities may find a dinner jacket useful, although a dark suit is acceptable. Female officers and dependents taking part in representational activities need cocktail dresses and perhaps one evening dress, particularly for the Marine Ball. Short dinner dresses are a real necessity. White tie is never worn.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 1/6/2004 2:09 PM

Basic toiletries, cosmetics, tobacco products, medicines, and household supplies are readily available in the local stores and pharmacies. They can also be purchased from the Embassy commissary, ordered by mail, or purchased at PXs in Germany.

Basic Services Last Updated: 1/6/2004 2:10 PM

Good, reasonably priced tailors and dressmakers are available in Prague. Local dry cleaning, laundry, and shoe repair services are adequate. Beauty and barbershops are widely available. The beauty shops, which cater to foreigners, charge rates typical in the United States. Hair care products can be purchased at large grocery stores as well as pharmacies. Some women prefer to supply their own hair care products and these are readily available at military PXs in Germany.

Repair facilities for many makes of newer automobiles, audio and video equipment, and household appliances are available. However, parts may be unavailable. Repairs can take a long time, and the quality of the work varies. More complex repairs are sometimes done abroad, at the PX (for American and some foreign products), or on the German market (for European products).

Domestic Help Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:47 PM

Many Embassy personnel employ part-time or full-time domestic help. Waiters and cooks are often employed for representational dinners. Household help is particularly useful for local shopping or various errands if you know there will be a language barrier in local shops. Inform the Embassy in advance of the sort of domestic help you will need, and the staff will begin looking for you.

Qualified personnel are available, but it can sometimes be difficult to find someone who has satisfactory English skills. Minimum wages are set by Czech regulations and are still not high by U.S. standards. The average price for domestic help is approximately $4.50 USD per hour.

Many embassy families hire domestic help through several agencies in Prague. These agencies can provide English-speaking babysitters; housekeepers do not generally speak English well. The agencies set the wage paid to the housekeeper or babysitter, and the domestic help hired through these agencies are responsible for paying their own Social Security tax. Vacations and holidays are negotiated between the family and the help. It is customary to pay the domestic help a bonus at the end of the year.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:52 AM

Prague now has services in English for those of the Anglican, Baptist, Interdenominational Christian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Jewish faiths. There are also several discussion groups in English for various religions. A listing of times and places for services can be found in the English-language weekly, the Prague Post. Czech-language Protestant services are held in local churches. Roman Catholic Mass is said regularly in Czech in local churches, including St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle, and traditional Czech Masses are sung for religious holidays. Jewish services are held in the Old-New Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, the Jerusalem Synagogue, and Bejt Simcha.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:48 PM
The International School of Prague (ISP), founded in 1948, was for many years located in the U.S. Embassy. Now it is housed on a beautiful new campus in Prague 6 (an administrative district in the northwestern part of the city), next to the Mala Sarka housing development, where the Embassy owns 13 homes. The school is governed by a nine-member board, most of which is elected by parents, but with an Embassy representative as well. The school is fully accredited by the Middle States Association in the U.S. and the European Council of International Schools. The school employs an American director, and many of the teachers are recruited from the U.S. The enrollment has grown rapidly in the last few years and now has about 600 students representing more than 60 nationalities. Grade levels offered are preschool through grade 12, with both the U.S. and the International Baccalaureate diplomas offered. Children must be 3 by September 1 to be enrolled in preschool.

The school follows a U.S.-based curriculum, enriched by international perspective and content. Re-entry into U.S. schools is generally not a problem. Facilities include a large library, two computer labs, four science labs, two gymnasiums, and a theater as well as outdoor playgrounds, sports fields, and basketball and tennis courts. No boarding facilities are available. The school has a full extracurricular activity program, which includes intramural and interscholastic sports (soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, and swimming), drama productions, student newspapers, student government, literary magazines, band, and choir. Transport to and from school is a parental responsibility via private car, taxi, or public transportation. The school year is divided into trimesters and runs from late August to the second week of June, with a one-week vacation in October, a two- to three-week Christmas/New Year’s break, a one-week winter break in February, and a week off in April.

Contact the ISP Admissions Officer in care of the Embassy in the early spring for applications for the following academic year. Early application is encouraged because of increasing enrollment.

In addition to ISP, some Embassy personnel have enrolled their children in schools that follow a British curriculum, as well as a German-language school. The Riverside School is a Christian-based school that follows a British curriculum. They have classes from preschool through grade 12. The British International Schools also have classes from preschool through grade 12 and follow a British curriculum.

An elementary school, including nursery and kindergarten, is run by the French Cultural Center in Prague. The demand for enrollment in the nursery and kindergarten often exceeds available space. Instruction is in French and follows a standard French curriculum.

The Staff House on the grounds of the Ambassador’s residence houses a preschool for children 2 to 5 years old. The school, called the Green Tree Early Learning Center, has a board comprised of parents of embassy children attending the school. The board sets policy for the school, including class size, and works with the embassy commissary association board to set tuition rates. The school is run by a director who reports to the parent advisory board and the commissary board.

Other options for younger children include a number of privately run English-language schools, some recently opened. These schools take children as young as 18 months old until 6 or 9 years of age; others enroll children at 3 or 4 years of age until they are 18. There are at least two Montessori preschools in Prague.

Embassy nursery and kindergarten-aged children have attended the schools described as well as Czech public nursery schools and kindergartens. There may be some delay before a child may attend a Czech school. For current enrollment information about nursery schools or kindergartens, write the Embassy CLO in spring for assistance with the following academic year.

Away From Post Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:52 AM
The Office of Overseas Schools (A/OPR/OS) has determined the International School of Prague to be adequate for grades K–12. “Away From Post” education allowance rates for grades 10–12 are the same as the “at post” rates.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:53 AM

Adults may attend Charles University in Prague; generally, however, diplomatic personnel have attended only for language instruction. The Prague Center for Further Education (PCFE) offers continuing education classes for the adult English-speaking community in Prague. Courses usually convene once a week for a total of eight sessions. Classes are offered in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate working schedules. Courses offered in the past have included Czech Language, Contemporary Czech Art, Prague Art and Architecture, Czech Film, The Great Czech Composers, Acting, Writing, Drawing, Photography, International Cuisine, Fashion Design, Wine Tasting, Yoga, etc.

Private instruction in art and music can also be arranged.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:53 AM

A large, outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court are available to Embassy staff members and their families on the ambassador’s residence compound. Indoor tennis courts are available around Prague, as well as squash and other exercise facilities. Rates are reasonable, and instruction is available. Embassy personnel participate on a regular basis in a local softball league. In addition to the outdoor swimming pool on the ambassador’s residence compound, there are several indoor swimming pools and water parks in and around Prague. Children of embassy personnel have taken inexpensive private swimming lessons at a local hotel.

There are numerous golf courses in the Czech Republic. Golf Club Praha has a small, but challenging, 9-hole course in the Motol area of Prague. There are excellent golf facilities near the town of Karlstejn, about 30 minutes from Prague and Konopiste, about 45 minutes from Prague. Farther afield, there are first-class 18-hole courses at Marianske Lazne and Karlovy Vary, both of which are about two hours from Prague. In order to golf in the Czech Republic, you will need a handicap card (called a ‘'green card’). Those not having a green card already can usually obtain one by being checked out by a pro at the club, or by becoming a club member.

Skiing and ice skating are popular winter sports. The nearest ski slopes can be reached in a day’s outing. Small hotels can accommodate overnight trips, but reservations must be made well in advance. Ski lift tickets in the Czech Republic are generally much less expensive than U.S. prices. U.S. Army recreation facilities in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Bavaria and other resorts in Austria and Germany also provide both summer and winter sports on a space-available basis for U.S. government employees assigned outside Germany. Skis, boots, clothing, and other equipment can be obtained both locally and from outside sources. Several ski shops in Prague sell previously owned equipment. New equipment is much less expensive in the Czech Republic than in the United States. Indoor ice skating rinks are open to the public in Prague. Weather permitting, skaters use outdoor rinks and ponds, though indoor facilities are also available and inexpensive. Skating instruction is readily available and inexpensive. Through the auspices of a local skating club, an ice skating rink is made available to foreigners for two hours on Sundays during winter months for a reasonable fee.

Hunting and fishing have long traditions in the Czech Republic and can be excellent. Several Embassy personnel have become associate members of local hunting clubs. Pheasants, ducks, red deer, wild boar, stag and other game is plentiful. Membership in hunting clubs, as well as individual hunts for big game, can be expensive, and those wishing to hunt must pass appropriate firearms tests (see “Firearms and Ammunition”). Fly-fishing in the Czech Republic is very good, and licenses and permits can be arranged.

Well-marked hiking trails cover the countryside. Riding horses are available. Boating on both rivers and lakes, camping with tents or trailers, and outdoor bathing are popular. Cycling is a favorite Czech activity, and there are bike paths all over the Czech Republic. Maps of marked bike paths can be purchased at local bookstores and sports shops. Equipment for sports and outdoor activities is available locally or at the PXs in Germany, or it can be imported from the U.S.

Children’s sports are most easily pursued through intramural and inter-scholastic school programs. Some American children have participated in Czech youth sports programs, such as ice hockey, basketball, and baseball. The Czech programs tend to require almost year-round practice and can be very intense with little possibility of pursuing more than one sport in a year.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:50 PM

The opportunities for sightseeing and exploring in and around Prague are many. Prague is an architectural and historical gem — walking is a pleasure. Parks, both large and small, public gardens, and a zoo add to the variety of things to be admired. The Czech Republic is a small country, making it possible to get to any sight within several hours. Many sightseeing and picnic areas are in the immediate vicinity of Prague, and weekend excursions to castles and historic cities and sites are popular. There are also numerous museums and historic buildings that can be visited in and around Prague. Prague Castle offers tours of the castle itself as well as St. Vitus Cathedral. Several other well-known Czech castles, including Karlstein, are within an hour’s drive from Prague. Tours of Czech breweries and wineries are also popular weekend trips. Several towns in the Czech Republic, particularly Marianske Lazne and Karlovy Vary, are built around thermal springs and are spa destinations. The Czech Republic boasts numerous caverns for exploration, including the Konepruske Jeskyne which are about 40 minutes from Prague. Hiking in the warmer months and skiing in the winter can be done in the Krkonose Mountains to the north or the Sumava Mountains to the south. Vienna, Berlin, Budapest, Munich, and Nuremberg are each within five to six hours by car. Other European centers can be easily reached by air.

Entertainment Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:50 PM

Prague provides a varied and entertaining musical diet. The Czech Philharmonic, one of Europe’s outstanding musical organizations, performs twice a week, except in summer. During summer, the philharmonic has out-door concerts. Light classical music is performed in Prague’s public gardens. Both Western and Czechoslovak operas are performed, and some foreign operas are translated into Czech. In addition, numerous recitals and performances by the Prague Symphony, the country’s second most famous orchestra, are given. The famous Prague Spring Music festival in May boasts performers from around the world.

Numerous theatrical presentations, classical and modern, are performed, usually in Czech. Puppet shows, pantomime, and operettas are performed, as are some world-renowned theatrical performances unique to Prague, including the Black Light Theater and Magic Lantern.

Prague also has several movie theaters showing U.S., British, French, and Italian films in the original language, with Czech subtitles or dubbing. The Italian and French cultural centers have regular film programs in Italian and French. The British and Canadian clubs sponsor regular film showings and social activities at their embassies. Membership is open to all American personnel for a nominal fee.

Prague has many museums and a fine National Gallery of Art.

Soccer, known as “fotbal”, is the most popular spectator sport. Czechs have always placed well in international soccer tournaments. Hockey is also extremely popular in the Czech Republic, and the Czech National Hockey Team is currently ranked 2nd in the world. Other spectator events include horseracing, such as the famous steeplechase at Pardubice, tennis, basketball, softball, and ice hockey. Occasionally, American athletes participate in international competitions, and some exhibition teams visit Prague.

Although it is not known for its fine cuisine, Prague has good restaurants, as do other large cities, such as Brno. Prices are considerably lower than in the U.S. and Western Europe. New restaurants are opening seemingly every day. The variety of ethnic restaurants ranges from Indonesian to vegetarian to Thai to Chinese and Tex-Mex. Pubs also offer traditional Czech food. Traditional Czech dishes consist of fried or roasted meat, usually pork or beef, covered in a simple sauce and served with dumplings, potatoes, or sauerkraut. Several restaurants have picturesque interiors. Some provide dinner music. Western jazz and country music are popular. Good dance music can be found in nightclubs. Czech beer is excellent and inexpensive. Moravian wine is also quite good and inexpensive.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:54 AM
Social life among Americans is informal. A bar (the Dobry Den) is located in the Chancery and is used occasionally for Marine- or community association-sponsored events. It is also available for private parties and functions.

The CLO organizes frequent events for the Embassy community, including the annual Christmas party, Easter Egg Hunt, pool party, and New Year’s Eve Party. The CLO also organizes periodic excursions such as ski trips and tours of local wineries and breweries.

The American Women’s Group, founded in 1999 by an embassy wife, has nearly 100 members. The group is open to American citizens living in Prague and their spouses. Through information and activities, the organization seeks to promote a better quality of life and foster a sense of community among Americans in the Czech Republic. They have a meeting the first Wednesday of every month. Membership is 300 Kc/year. The AWG also maintains a website with information about living in Prague which is very useful for those planning a move to Prague.

The Marine Security Guard detachment sponsors an annual birthday ball in early November. The Marine Ball is a formal event which is usually held at a local hotel, and which is attended by most of the embassy community.

In addition, there are several American-owned restaurants and clubs in Prague that provide natural gathering places for Americans.

International Contacts Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:55 AM
Relations with Czech officials are formal, though close personal and social relations with Czech citizens are common, as Czechs remain attracted to contacts with Americans. The diplomatic and American business communities maintain an active social life.

There is an International Women’s Group, begun in 1991, that now has more than 600 members. The purpose of the IWAP is to welcome women to the Czech Republic, to promote friendship among them and to acquaint them with the local culture by organizing various activities for members and their families. The IWAP is also involved in raising funds for the benefit of selected charities in the Czech Republic. They have a coffee meeting the last Tuesday of every month and a newcomer’s coffee the second Tuesday of every month, either in the morning or the evening to accommodate members’ working schedules. Membership is Kc 1,500/year. A monthly newsletter is distributed to members. The club is advertised in the local English weekly, the Prague Post.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 1/6/2004 2:37 PM

Most official Americans take part in the annual Independence Day reception at the Ambassador’s residence. Official Americans, particularly those with Czech-language skills, can expect to be invited to other official receptions for visiting groups, such as trade missions. In general, only senior officers and their spouses are invited to official receptions given by other embassies or Czech officials.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 1/6/2004 2:38 PM

Most officers do not use formal calling cards but have business cards printed locally or in the U.S. Most official entertaining takes place at representational lunches or evening receptions. Business cards and personal invitations can be purchased very inexpensively through the Embassy commissary.

Military Personnel. Military personnel attached to the Embassy generally wear civilian attire. Uniforms are normally worn for receptions, when conducting official business within the Ministry of Defense and General Staff buildings, when escorting U.S. official military visitors in uniform, and when meeting host-national military in uniform.

Special Information Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:55 AM

Post Orientation Program

Orientation of newcomers is done on a formal basis organized by the Community Liaison Officer and a sponsor. Czech-language training is available, though generally at personal expense. Depending on each agency’s policy and funding situation, some reimbursement may be possible. FSI tapes and materials are available at post.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:56 AM

No special precautions are necessary for shipping effects to the Czech Republic. Shipments should be insured and securely sealed to reduce pilferage and weather damage. If necessary, temporary storage for sea freight can be arranged at ELSO Antwerp. Household effects and airfreight for Prague should be clearly marked:

American Embassy
for (owner’s name)
Prague, Czech Republic

Post strongly recommends routing surface shipments (HHE) through ELSO Antwerp. The Embassy must arrange customs clearance before trucks can be unloaded. Prague has no storage facilities available for HHE and is unable to accept delivery of the shipments until the employee occupies permanent quarters, which may be several weeks after arrival at post. In the event the post of origin routes the shipment directly to Prague, rather than via ELSO, it is essential that the Embassy be notified well in advance. Delivery to Prague should be performed by an international company that has its agent and warehouse in Prague (e.g. AGS, Allied Pickfords, Corstjens, Interdean). Only the availability of a branch office and a warehouse guaranties that the company is capable of providing customs, unloading and destination services. A packing list and at least an approximate value of the HHE shipment must be available for customs clearance.

Air shipments (UAB) should be shipped directly to Prague. UAB, HHE, and POV may be cleared through customs prior to the owner’s arrival. However, POV registration requires the owner’s presence at post and the owner’s registration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see vehicle registration). Liftvans’ size limitations: liftvans dimensions should not exceed the following: length: 220 cm; width: 140 cm; height: 220 cm.

Automobiles may be shipped directly to Prague. As noted above (see “Automobiles”), any car imported must be able to pass a technical inspection and be equipped with a catalytic converter installed for it to be licensed in the Czech Republic.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 1/6/2004 2:43 PM

All personnel are entitled to duty-free entry of personal effects imported during the whole tour. Included in this category are clothing, new and used household equipment of all kinds, and other nonexpendable household supplies for personal use. Please note that customs regulations are being reviewed by the Czech Government at this time and may be made more restrictive.

Embassy personnel also enjoy duty-free entry for automobiles and household appliances, such as freezers and refrigerators. Czech regulations on importing motor vehicles are under review. Do not plan to ship any vehicle before contacting the general services section for the most current information.

Passage Last Updated: 3/25/2004 6:17 AM

Permanently assigned personnel and personnel assigned TDY for more than 30 days should apply several weeks before traveling for an "entry-only" visa from a Czech Embassy, which is usually valid for one entry within five months of issue. After arrival, a multiple-entry visa will be issued. (No visas are necessary for American tourists for visits of up to 30 days.) Dependent students, traveling with diplomatic passports, who visit post during their school holidays and stay more than six months require a visa as well.

No immunizations are required, unless the traveler comes from areas where yellow fever or cholera is endemic.

All arrivals aged 12 or older need a minimum of six small photos (American military ID card size, maximum 1 x 2 inches) for identification cards. If not brought, photos may be obtained in Prague at reasonable cost.

Pets Last Updated: 11/3/2004 9:47 AM

As of October 1, 2004, the regulations governing the importation of pets into the Czech Republic are set forth in the New EU Pet Scheme, which lays down the animal health requirements for both the movement of pets between Member States and from third countries. For more information, please refer to the following web site:

For pets entering the Czech Republic from within the EU the following are requirements:

· A valid rabies vaccination.

· A pet Passport. You must contact a veterinarian at your present post. The national authorities in every EU country are responsible for issuing the passport to the vets. Please note that the European Commission does not issue the pet passport. The pet passport is only used for pets traveling between Member States of the European Union.

· A "chip." The animal shall be identified by an electronic identification system (transponder), or by a clearly readable tattoo. The tattoo, as a means of identification will only be accepted until 3 July 2011 and not for movements to the UK, Malta and Ireland (transponder obligatory). From 3 July 2011, the transponder will be the only identification system allowed.

For pets entering the Czech Republic from a country outside the EU:

· If you are coming from one of the countries listed below, which have a favorable situation regarding rabies and animal health, the following is required:

1. A valid rabies vaccination

2. A health certificate for non-commercial movements of pets (cats, dogs and ferrets) entering the EU from Third Countries, which can be found on the Embassy intranet web page at or by contacting GSO.

3. A "chip" as above

* Currently (September 2004), these countries are: Ascension Island, Antigua and Barbuda, Netherlands Antilles, Australia, Aruba, Barbados, Bahrain, Bermuda, Canada, Croatia, Fiji, Falkland Islands, French Polynesia, Jamaica, Japan, Cayman Islands, Mayotte, Montserrat, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, United States of America, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.

· If you are coming from a country that does not appear on the list above, which means that rabies may be endemic among domestic pets in that country, your pet must be vaccinated and tested three months before entering all EU countries except for Ireland, Sweden, Malta and the UK, where quarantine will be required. The following is required:

1. Vaccination and testing carried out by an approved lab on a blood sample taken three months before movement will be required for entry. (Note: The only approved laboratories in third countries are in Australia, Switzerland, Israel, and the United States. This means that those in other countries can expect to have to pay for the cost of the blood test in addition to the shipment cost).

2. A health certificate for non-commercial movements of pets (cats, dogs and ferrets) entering the EU from Third Countries, which can be found on the Embassy intranet web page at or by contacting GSO.

3. A "chip" as above

In both cases, the health certificate for non-commercial movements of pets (cats, dogs and ferrets) entering the EU from Third Countries must be completed by a veterinarian. The form must be stamped with the official stamp of the state veterinary service of the third country (for import from the U.S.A. by the specific State veterinary service).

The health certificate will need to be printed on a single sheet of paper in the language of the Member State of entry or in English and completed in block letters either in the language of the Member State of entry or in English.

The certificate must be accompanied by supporting documentation, or a certified copy of it, including vaccination details and the result of the serological test. This documentation must bear the identification details of the animal concerned.

The certificate is valid for movements within the EU for a period of four months from the date of issue or until the date of expiry of the vaccination, whichever is earlier.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:58 AM

The Czech government revised the firearms laws in 2002 to come into line with EU norms. The new law has been valid since January 1, 2003. Importation of firearms (both shoulder arms and hand guns) is permitted. Individuals wishing to bring firearms into the Czech Republic must obtain written permission from a Czech Embassy or Consulate before shipping the weapons. All firearms brought into the Czech Republic must be re-exported. Post policy permits importation in household effects of only the following non-automatic firearms and ammunition:


Rifles, caliber .22 through .458 3
Shotguns, gauge 20, 16, or 12 3
Ammunition for above firearms 1,000 rounds

Prior approval of the Chief of Mission is unnecessary for the above-listed arms; to bring additional firearms and ammunition into the country, individuals must seek permission of the Chief of Mission in advance.

All firearms imported to the Czech Republic must be registered with the police presidium. The RSO will help with the registration process. Shipping and customs can help with the de-registration process and export.

All individuals wishing to use firearms for any purpose must pass an examination. The test has both a written section and a practicum, which is held at a shooting range. The test is administered in Czech, but individuals are permitted to employ a certified translator. There are fees for both the test and the translation services, which must be borne by the individual.

If you receive permission from your next Chief of Mission to ship firearms and ammunition in excess of those prescribed, and will ship them between foreign countries only, no license is necessary from PM/MC. No Department of State license need be issued if you ship only shotguns (with barrels 18 inches and over in length) and shotgun ammunition in excess of quantities listed. You must, however, comply with the Chief of Mission’s determination and with export regulations of the Office of Export Control, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:54 PM

The official currency unit of the Czech Republic is the crown (koruna), abbreviated “Kc,” which is divided into 100 hellers. Exchange rates vary, but are about US $1 = 27.80 CZK.(Aug 2003). Bills come in a variety of denominations from 50 to 5,000 KC. Coins come in denominations of 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 KC. Fifty-crown coins exist but are no longer minted. Coins also come in 50, 20, and 10 heller denominations, but hellers are being phased out because of their low value. Large shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but smaller establishments, including markets and restaurants, accept only cash.

The Embassy cashier is open for accommodation exchange Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. U.S. and foreign currencies may also be obtained from the local banks or exchange dealers for a commission. ATMs are readily available throughout Prague, and many American residents obtain Czech crowns through these machines, which take CIRRUS, PLUS, MOST, and leading credit cards. However, there is usually a charge for these transactions.

Embassy personnel usually maintain a dollar checking account with an American bank for buying local currency, paying commissary bills, etc. Travelers checks in dollars are sold through the Embassy commissary.

Czech banks provide the usual banking services, although checking accounts are not used that often, as the banks charge for each transaction. Embassy personnel generally have little occasion to use local banks, except for purchase of other foreign currencies (which may be done by personal dollar check), and occasional transmittal of funds to other European countries.

The metric system of weights and measures is used.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:02 PM

Embassy personnel pay local value-added and consumer taxes, then file reimbursement forms quarterly for return of the taxes. Embassy personnel must purchase a yearly highway usage sticker for each vehicle. This sticker allows you to drive on the main highways that are subject to fees. These roads are denoted by blue highway signs. Highway tickets can be purchased at post offices, filling stations, border crossings, and motor associations. Fines of up to CZK 5,000 can be assessed for driving on these roads without the sticker.

Regulations require that all personal property imported or purchased tax-exempt be used by an American employee and his or her dependents or for use as a bona fide gift and not be held primarily for sale or barter. No imported, tax-exempt item may be bartered for other goods or sold to anyone other than another American official without the express permission of the DCM. Permission for sale of automobiles, high-cost household furniture, and electrical appliances is generally granted upon receipt of onward-assignment orders. Permission may be obtained for sale of tax-free items imported during your tour of duty, provided evidence indicates that the items were imported for you or your family’s use. Proceeds of sale in crowns may be converted to dollars up to limits, which are specified by the ambassador and are subject to change. Czech regulations permit the sale of imported, tax-free automobiles to other nonpermanent resident foreigners with or without tax-free status. But, because waivers for a nonconforming car are not transferable, the new owner must bring the car up to Czech standards before he or she may acquire a registration booklet and obtain a Czech title. Bringing the car up to standards can be difficult. Cars may also be sold to private companies or as spare parts. Both options may not bring a high price.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 1/6/2004 3:09 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Bugajski, Janusz. Czechoslovakia: Charter 77’s Decade of Dissent. Praeger: New York, 1987.

Cornej, Petr and Jiri Pokorny. A Brief History of the Czech Lands to 2000. Prah Press: Prague, 2000.

Demetz, Peter. Prague in Black and Gold. Hill and Wang: New York, 1997.

Golan, Galia. The Czechoslovak Reform Movement: Communism in Crisis 1962–1968. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1971.

Hasek, Jaroslav, trans. Cecil Parrott. The Good Soldier Svejk. London, 1973.

Kennan, George F. From Prague After Munich: Diplomatic Papers, 1938–1940. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1968.

Korbel, Josef. Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1959.

Leff, Carol Skalnik. National Conflict in Czechoslovakia: The Making and Remaking of a State, 1918–1987. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1988.

Levy, Alan. So Many Heroes. Second Chance Press: Sagaponack, N.Y., 1980.

Little, Robert, ed. The Czech Black Book. Avon Books: New York, 1969.

Masaryk, Thomas G. The Making of a State. Fertig: New York, 1970.

Mlynar, Zdenek. Nightfrost in Prague. Karz: New York, 1980.

Skilling, H. Gordon. Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. George Allen & Unwin: London, 1981.

Skilling, H. Gordon. Czechoslovakia’s Interrupted Revolution. Princeton University Press: Princeton, N.J., 1976.

Sterling, Claire. The Masaryk Affair. Harper & Row: New York, 1969.

Taborsky, Edward. Communism in Czechoslovakia, 1948–1960. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1961.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 1/12/2004 9:58 AM

Most Czech offices and facilities are closed on the following holidays:

New Year’s Day Jan. 1
Easter Monday Varies
Labor Day May 1
Liberation Day May 8
St. Cyril and Methodius Day July 5
Jan Hus Day July 6
Czech Statehood Day Sept 28
Founding Day Oct 28
Freedom and Democracy Day
(Velvet Revolution) Nov 17
Christmas Eve Dec. 24
Christmas Day Dec. 25
St. Stephen’s Day Dec. 26

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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