If you want a mobile phone in this country, you´ll have to go through one of three operators – Eurotel, Oskar, or T-mobile. If you´re only in the Czech Republic short-term, each company offers some kind of prepaid card, which comes with significantly inflated per-minute rates. If you´re here for the long-haul, however, you´ll want to get a contract. And it may not be as easy as you think.
Eurotel has two types of customers – Czech citizens and non-Czech citizens. If you have citizenship in the Czech Republic, then you can get a contract for free. No distinction is made between foreigners – EU or non-EU – and to get a contract you´ll need some kind of residency permit. Permanent or long-term residency nets you a contract for a 2,000 CZK deposit, which is returned when the contract is terminated. With short-term (less than 90-day) residency, you can also get a contract – for a lofty 15,000 CZK deposit, also returned after the contract is terminated. And yes, even though EU citizens can live indefinitely in the Czech Republic without any kind of residency permits, and U.S. citizens can stay short-term, you´ll still need the official documents to get a contract from Eurotel. Thankfully, there are better (cheaper) options out there for foreigners.
Oskar has similar conditions for getting a contract as Eurotel, with two major differences: the deposit fees are considerably lower, and no distinction is made between Czech citizens and foreigners with permanent residency. Both Czech citizens and those with permanent residency can get a contract for a 1,000 CZK deposit, which is returned after six paid invoices. Currently, holders of long-term residency can get a contract for a 5,000 CZK deposit, returned at the end of the contract, though I am told that these conditions will be changed to match those of permanent residency (1000 CZK returned after six paid invoices) in the very near future. Non-citizens without any kind of residency can also get a contract, just with a passport, for the 5,000 deposit which is returned after the contract is terminated. EU citizens still need to get the official residency documents for the lower deposit fees, but right now Oskar is the only operator that offers a contract of any kind for non-EU citizens without residency.
T-Mobile is currently the only operator to distinguish between EU and non-EU citizens. Also, no distinction is made between Czech citizens, EU citizens, or holders of permanent residency – all can get a contract for a 500 CZK deposit, which is returned after the contract is terminated. To get a contract, EU citizens will need to show a passport, a bank statement, and/or a notarized letter from their landlord (2 of the 3 documents). Non-EU citizens can only get a contract with permanent residency.
In terms of just getting the contract, on the basis of deposit fees, I´d have to recommend Eurotel for Czech citizens, T-Mobile for EU citizens, and Oskar for non-EU citizens without residency. If only it were that simple – getting a contract is only the first step. The complex, ever-changing pricing schemes for all three companies turn choosing an operator into a shell game – pick one now, sign a year-long contract, and in a month you´ll find a different pricing plan that better suits your needs. Unless you´re, say, a U.S. citizen without residency – with Oskar, perhaps, as your only option – you have a lot to consider.
Each company has a number of different plans, which will usually consist of: a) standard monthly fee, b) number of free minutes, c) per-minute prices for calls after the free minutes (within the network, to other operators, to land-lines, etc.) d) text messages, etc., etc. Add in bonus programs that lower the rates across the board, pre-paid packages for minutes, text messages, etc., and special rates for numbers you frequently call, and you could probably write a college thesis on the pricing plans for all three companies, computing different algorithms for a theoretical monthly bill. Of course, after a month, it all becomes obsolete.
Nevertheless, you can check out the current pricing plans for each operator on their respective websites:
Unfortunately, Eurotel´s website is extremely difficult to navigate, and for some reason, T-Mobile offers no pricing information in English. Just look for ‘tariffs´ or ‘tarify´. Alternatively, you can also visit a local branch any operator, but you´re likely to encounter similar expat-unfriendly conditions there as well. I visited a branch of each operator in the centre of Prague (Eurotel on Vaclavske namesti, T-mobile and Oskar on Na Prikope) and I left less than fully satisfied; each location had just a single English-speaking employee, and none had any kind of documentation in English.
It seemed to me that Oskar had more customer-friendly pricing schemes than the other operators – more options you can choose instead of the fixed plans from T-mobile and Eurotel – but I could be completely wrong. Regardless, once you get a contract and find a plan that suits you best, you should be all set – unless/until you need some customer support.