Driving in the Czech Republic

Driving in the Czech Republic

Written by Dominic Swire
for Expats.cz

Just glancing at the road signs in the Czech Republic can be enough to make you want to jump in a car and drive: Budapest down that road, Vienna down this one and Dresden over there. Yet while possession of a car may be the most convenient way of appreciating life in the very centre of Europe, the decision to drive in a country with one of the highest number of traffic accidents in central Europe should not be taken lightly. Expats offers a crash course (so to speak) of things to consider.

 

The first thing you need is a driving license. A license issued in any EU country is valid across the whole of the EU. Drivers from the USA, Canada, and other countries who are residing in the Czech Republic will need to get a Czech license to be able to legally drive here. A certificate of insurance, or ‘Green Card´ is also required. This is normally valid for three months and shows that you have full liability insurance.

 

Before setting off, make sure that you´ve not had any alcohol to drink (there´s a zero tolerance policy in the Czech Republic); that you and your passenger´s seatbelts are fastened – including those in the back; and that you´re over 18. The passenger in the front seat should be over 12 years old and a special baby seat is required for youngsters. Use of a mobile phone is not permitted while driving even though many Czechs do. Hands-free is ok, though.

 

The maximum speed allowed in built up areas is 50 km/hr; this rises to 90 km/hr on roads and 130 km/hr on motorways. The maximum speed for motorcycles is 90 km/hr. Both the motorcyclist and passenger must wear helmets. From July 2006 a new law will come into force stating that all vehicles must drive with headlights on at all times.

 

Driving in town can be a little hair-raising with trams, pedestrians, the odd pothole and often ill placed street signs to contend with. Don´t be fooled by the friendly bell from the tram driver. It means, “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” They show no mercy for other forms of transport. If a tram stops, it´s forbidden to pass it on the inside as this is where passengers alight. Drivers must also stop for passengers at crossings, although this is a new law and doesn´t seem to have filtered down to all Czechs (so don´t rely on it when you´re walking across the road); and don´t be alarmed by flashing traffic lights – or, rather, do: it means they´re not in service. In this case traffic approaching from the right has right of way. This rule is also sometimes applied at T-junctions, so watch out for cars pulling out in front of you from the right. All this, coupled with the fact that many Czechs don´t indicate, should keep you on your does.

 

If you want to take full advantage of travelling by car, the ‘pleasure´ of motorway driving is inevitable. So, unfortunately, is paying for it. Unlike many other countries, the Czech Republic has no tollbooths. Instead, you have to purchase a window sticker that needs to be attached to the inside of the windscreen. The stickers can be bought at petrol stations, border crossings and some post offices. Fill the sticker out with your car registration number and attach the shield-shaped portion to the bottom right hand corner of the windscreen. You have to keep rectangular part as proof of purchase and to show the police upon request. All rented cars should come with a motorway sticker already attached. If you´re caught without a sticker, you´ll have to pay a very hefty fine.

 

On the motorway, it is only permitted to overtake on the left side – but keep your eyes peeled all around you because this law is regularly flouted. Should the worst come to the worst and you are involved in a collision, bear in mind that it is forbidden to move your vehicle until there has been a police inspection. If the cars have to be moved for safety reasons then you should mark the position of both cars with chalk or lipstick before doing so (although, easy on the lipstick if it´s red – this could make the crash seem more gruesome than it actually is). In an emergency, motorists can call road traffic assistance, or UAMK on 1230 or 261 104 123. They operate 24 hours a day. You´ll find telephones every 2km on motorways. It is also possible to flag a UAMK van if need be. They´re yellow and display the symbol SILNICNI SLUZBA (road assistance).

 

Regarding fuel, the following is readily available in the Czech Republic:

 

Unleaded petrol 95 Oktan (NATURAL)
98 Oktan (SUPER PLUS)
Diesel (NAFTA)
LPG (PLYN or LPG)
Unleaded petrol Natural 95 is available in all petrol stations, Super plus 98 at most petrol stations.

 

A petrol cap with a lock is advisable to stop unscrupulous people filling up with your fuel.

If you´re lucky enough to find somewhere to park, try to take everything of value out of the car. If this is impossible, at least remove everything from view. Even an empty coat or bag may make a thief think there is might be a wallet inside. Unfortunately, cars that show any sign of coming from outside the country are more likely to be broken into.

Remembering all this should make your time on the road safe and more enjoyable.

 

Happy motoring!


Important Telephone Numbers

Emergency Call – phone 112
Czech Police – phone 158
Municipal Police – phone 156
Medical emergency – phone 155


Emergency Service – Road and Tow-off Nonstop Services

ABA – Autoklub Bohemia Assistance – phone 1240
Ustredni automotoklub – phone 1230
Servis 24 – phone 261 104 477 (for buses, coaches, lorries and trucks)
Skoda Assistance – phone 261 104 666


Speed Limits in km/h:

 

 

Built-up area

Outside built-

up area

Motorway

Motorcycle

50

90

130

Private car to 3.500 kg

50

90

130

Car with trailer or caravan

50

80

80

Truck over

3.500 kg

50

80

80

Bus

50

90

130


Minimum speed on motorways is 50 km/h.


Motorway stickers:

Validity

Type of vehicle*

Price in CZK

a) for one year
(valid from 1st.December 2004 to 31.January 2006)

1.vehicle up to 3,5 t

900,-

2.vehicle over 3,5t up to 12t

7000,- 

3.vehicle over 12t

14000,-

b) for 2 months
(valid from the day marked on the coupon and 2 immediately following months

1.vehicle up to 3,5t

300,-

2.vehicle over 3,5t up to 12t

1750,-

3. vehicle over 12t

3500,-

c) for 15 days

(the day marked on the coupon and 15

immediately following days)

1. vehicle up to 3,5t

200,-

2.vehicle over 3,5t up to 12t

650,-

3.vehicle over 12t

1300,-

 


Czech words appearing on traffic signs:

PRŮJEZD ZAKÁZÁN

closed to all vehicles

DÁLKOVÝ PROVOZ

by-pass

OBJÍŽĎKA

diversion

NEMOCNICE

hospital

CHOĎTE VLEVO

pedestrians must walk on the left

ZÁKAZ ZASTAVENÍ

stopping is prohibited

ROZSVIŤ SVĚTLA

lights on

BEZ POPLATKU

free of charge

ÚSEK ČASTÝCH NEHOD

area where accidents often occurs

NEBEZPEČÍ SMYKU

danger of skidding

PŘI SNĚHU A NÁLEDÍ 
CESTA UZAVŘENA

road closed due to snow or ice

POZOR DĚTI

attention children


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