As an expatriate living in Prague, you’re likely to end up spending a good deal of time at the foreign police (cizinecká policie). But what if you find yourself relying on the help of another of the Czech Republic’s police bodies, the state police (policie České republiky)? Prague’s violent crime rate is generally low, but pick-pocketing and car theft are prevalent. Should you fall victim to or be involved in a crime, notify the police; you can approach any police officer on the street, though s/he’ll probably be a member of the municipal police (městská policie), who handle minor infractions such as traffic violations. The municipal police officer is obliged, however, to direct you to the nearest police station, where you can file a report. You can also telephone for help: 158 is the police contact number, but the general EU emergency number 112 guarantees English-speaking operators. Both numbers are free and can be dialed from any phone. Crimes must be reported at the main police station of the district in which the crime occurred. The police are obliged by law to provide you with an interpreter, but at most stations you will end up waiting while they search for one. Your best bet is to go to the station at Jungmannovo Náměstí 9, where they have an in-house interpreter who will escort you to the appropriate district station. After the report has been filed, you will be given a Police Report Crime Number. For crimes specifically involving stolen property such as passports and wallets, you’ll need to go to the Malá Strana police station at Vlašská 3. They are open 24 hours and have English-speaking officers on hand. Any police report should be filed within 24 hours of the crime’s occurrence. If you are concerned about being treated fairly, you have the right to be accompanied by a lawyer, who will ensure that your complaint is being handled according to the law. You can request that you be notified of any actions taken by the police for up to one month after the occurrence of the crime.
Upon investigating the alleged crime, the police may decide that criminal prosecution is warranted. According to Czech law, the victim has little say in whether or not a case will be brought to court—this is decided by the police under the supervision of the state attorney (státní zástupce), who subsequently prosecutes the matter against the defendant in court. The victim of a crime may make a claim for compensation as part of the criminal proceedings; depending on the nature of the claim, you might wish to seek the services of a lawyer experienced in similar cases. It is advisable to make the compensatory claim to the police as soon as possible, since later you may only be able to seek damages in a separate civil court action.
If you’re in a car accident, you must not move your vehicle until there’s been a police inspection. If the cars have to be moved for purposes of safety, mark the original position of each car on the ground (chalk or lipstick will suffice). In case of emergency, motorists can call road traffic assistance (UAMK) at phone number 1240. They operate 24 hours a day and can be called from highway telephones, located every two kilometers alongside the road. You can also flag down a UAMK van: they’re yellow and say road assistance (silniční služba).
If during your stay in the Czech Republic, you’re unfortunate enough to feel the cold clamp of handcuffs around your wrists, know that (as a foreigner) you have the right to the presence of an interpreter during any interrogation. You also have the right to speak privately with a lawyer and to have him or her present during any questioning—be aware, however, that the lawyer cannot give you advice on how to answer a question that’s already been asked. Make sure that proper protocol is being followed by the police: they must note the time and place of your arrest, and if they do not have a court-issued warrant, they are obliged to release you after 48 hours. It would be wise to contact your embassy as soon as possible, since they will often have somebody on hand for dealing with just such an emergency.
Czech Drug Laws
Despite some media reports, drug possession is still illegal in the Czech Republic. A government directive from January 1, 2010 set out the possession limits for a misdemeanor offense and a criminal offense. Up until the end of last year, the law stated that possession of a small amount was a misdemeanor, whereas amounts “larger than a small amount” were criminal offenses. The amounts were based on internal police directives and apparently there could be variations between regions. These new directives have merely brought consistency to an already existing law. What are those all important amounts? As reported in other sources, it is a misdemeanor to possess the following drugs up to the following quantities; or rather, to clarify, if you have less than the amount listed, it’s still illegal, just not a criminal offense: marijuana (15 g), heroin (1.5 g), cocaine (1 g), methamphetamine (2 g), amphetamine (2 g), ecstasy (4 tablets), hashish (5 g), hallucinogenic mushrooms (40 pieces), and LSD (5 tabs).
These limits have nothing to do with any of the substances being legalized. As a misdemeanor, drug possession up to the amounts mentioned above can carry a fine of up to 15,000 CZK. However, since it is a misdemeanor, someone charged with this type of possession will not have their name on a criminal record. The government has also set limits for growing plants. Regarding cannabis, anything above five plants is a criminal offense; possession of five or fewer is a misdemeanor. For mushrooms, the limit is 40 fungi. The question of whether this is liberal will depend on the enforcement by police. Generally, the Czech Republic has quite a liberal reputation as far as marijuana use goes. Criminal possession of drugs can include imprisonment. For cannabis, it can be up to one year. For hard drugs, the punishment can be up to two years.
Even if you do not have Czech health insurance, you will be treated at a hospital in the Czech Republic. Whether you pay up front or not, depends on whether your insurance company recognizes the hospital and is willing to provide a coverage letter. In emergency situations, a hospital will not turn you away—but your insurance company may not want to foot the bill. Health insurers often will prefer that you be treated in a state hospital as it is cheaper. They may ask you to be treated at your home if the procedure is not life saving, and they may refuse to cover certain procedures if you have a medical history with a particular problem. If you are insured from home, it’s best to check what they will cover while you are living or staying here.
Emergency Numbers and Contacts
112 General Emergency Number
This is the general emergency line throughout the European Union (similar to 911 in the US). It should be used for large-scale emergencies, especially for those who don’t speak Czech—operators speak English and German as well as Czech. The number can be dialed from any phone and the call is free. The call is also traced with Caller ID; even mobile phones can be located to within a 200-meter radius. Depending on the severity of the emergency, an ambulance will be dispatched to take the patient to the hospital best equipped for the medical concern. A mobile doctor can also be dispatched to the scene if the situation calls for a doctor to treat the victim on site. The 112 number may be used for urgent help from Police, Fire, or Emergency Medical Assistance, though these numbers can also be dialed directly:
Fire – 150
Medical Emergency (Ambulance/First Aid) – 155
Prague City Police – 156
Police – 158
Important numbers for car trouble or road services
Emergency Road Service (ABA) - 1240
Emergency Road Service (UAMK) - 1230
First Aid and Hospitals
In case of a non-urgent emergency, doctors and/or hospitals can be contacted directly. The hospitals at Na Homolce and Motol are the most expatriate-friendly, with special departments for foreigners and English-speakers. Motol Hospital also has a department dedicated to care for children with short- and long-term medical needs, and is able to provide translators and information in English. Here are some of the 24-hour doctors and hospitals:
24-Hour Doctors/First Aid
Prague 1 & 2 (children) +420 224 947 717
Prague 1 & 2 (adults) +420 224 949 181
Prague 3 (children) +420 284 861 979
Prague 3 (adults) +420 284 862 149
Prague 4, 11, & 12 (children) +420 241 733 916
Prague 4, 11, & 12 (adults) +420 241 733 917
Prague 5 (children) +420 224 433 654
Prague 5 (adults) +420 224 438 590
Prague 6 (children) +420 233 358 944
Prague 6 (adults) +420 233 340 912
Prague 7 (children & adults) +420 233 370 391
Prague 8 (children) +420 283 842 224
Prague 8 (adults) +420 266 083 301
Prague 9 (children) +420 286 881 517
Prague 9 (adults) +420 286 881 518
Prague 10 (children) +420 281 019 213
Prague 10 (adults) +420 274 810 990
NOTE: The above hospitals and doctors operate non-stop on weekends and 19:00–7:00 on weekdays.
Nemocnice na Homolce (Prague 5) +420 257 271 111
Nemocnice na Františku (Prague 1) +420 222 801 111
Poliklinika Palackého (Prague 1) +420 222 928 111
Všeobecná fakultní nemocnice v Praze (Prague 2) +420 224 961 111
Fakultní Thomayerova nemocnice s poliklinikou (Prague 4) +420 261 081 111
Nemocnice Podolí gynekologie a porodnice (gynecology and childbirth services; Prague 4) +420 296 511 111
Fakultní nemocnice v Motole s poliklinikou (Prague 5) +420 224 431 111
Fakultní nemocnice Královské Vinohrady (Prague 10) +420 267 161 111
The Czech Republic does not have a centralized Poison Control Center number to contact, such as is found in the US. However, Charles University does have a Poisons Information Centre that can be contacted for general information, and also in emergencies:
Poison Information Center
Clinic for Occupational Medicine, 1st Medical Faculty, Charles University
Na Bojišti 1, Prague 2
Telephone: +420 224 964 234
Emergency telephone: +420 224 919 293 or +420 224 915 402
The pharmacy (lékárna) is generally open Monday–Friday 8.00–18.00. However, there are several 24-hour pharmacies, many of which are provided by hospitals:
Prague 1, Palackého 5 +420 224 946 982
Prague 2, Belgická 37 +420 222 519 731
Prague 4, Thomayerova hospital, Vídeňská 800 +420 261 084 001
Prague 5, Štefánikova 6 +420 257 320 918
Prague 5, Hospital Motol, V Úvalu 84 +420 224 435 736
Prague 8, Bulovka Hospital, Budínova 2 +420 266 082 017
If you’re from the US, be aware that even over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, cough syrup, etc., must be purchased at a pharmacy and that some stronger over-the-counter drugs may require a prescription in the Czech Republic. At each pharmacy there is a counter for prescriptions (výdej na recept) and one for non-prescription medication (výdej bez receptu). Medication with a prescription is subsidized, whereas medication without prescription is not, and the patient must pay the full cost. Processing a prescription now costs 30 CZK.
The following dental offices offer services from 19:00–7:00 on Monday–Friday, and are open 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday:
Dental Clinic (Zubní), Prague 1, Palackého 5 +420 224 946 981
Dental Clinic (Zubní), Prague 4, Pacovská 31 +420 241 733 918
Should there be a problem with gas, water, electricity, etc., use one of the following numbers to report it, and hopefully have it repaired:
Problems with the (O2) phone line +420 800 184 084
Urgent gas leak 1239
Problems with water, pipes, or sewer system +420 840 111 112
Problems with electricity +420 224 915 151
Problems with roads +420 224 231 856
Problems with street lighting +420 244 470 800
O2 offers several over-the-phone information services for a fee. Note that many of the services are offered only in Czech:
Info Line: Czech Number Directory 1180
Info Line: Foreign Number Directory 1181
Operator for changed numbers (re-numbering) 141 11
Information on air quality 141 10
Exact time 141 12
Weather 141 16
Medical Information 141 20
Operator for international phone calls 133 003
Emergency – Naléhavý případ
Help – Pomoc
Sick – Nemocný
Doctor – Doktor, Lékař
Hospital – Nemocnice
Child – Dítě
Poison – Jed
Dentist – Zubař
Tooth – Zub
Pharmacy – Lékárna
Miscellaneous Emergency Services
Drink too much?
The Czech Republic has zero tolerance on drinking and driving. As an alternative to taxis, if you’ve driven somewhere and had anything alcoholic to drink and can’t (or don’t want to) leave your car behind, they’ll pick you up and drive both you and your car back home:
Drink S.O.S. 604 707 070
Modrý Anděl 737 222 333
Lost your keys?
Call Key Nonstop and they’ll come help you. Rates for this service will be at a premium.
Key Nonstop 602 202 470
Lost or stolen credit card?
Call one of the following services to take care of it:
Visa +420 224 125 353
American Express +420 222 800 111
MasterCard/Eurocard +420 222 412 230
Diners Club +420 222 316 675