‘Change is good’, so the platitude rings out. And goodness me, the Czech Republic has sure seen its fair share of change. Czech Republic adopted the simplified name of Czechia in 2016. But before this, the central European country was formed by what had been the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia known collectively as the Czech Lands.
The country endured German occupation from 1939 until the Soviet Union liberated it in 1945.
Three years on, under the Communists, it became a people’s republic which persisted until 1989 when popular unrest saw it replaced by a non-Communist government. Up until January 1, 1993, the country was made up of two federal republics, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The modern Czech nation-state was instated with the dissolution of the union with Slovakia at the start of 1993 and renamed the Czech Republic. The country became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO in 1999, and in 2004, the European Union (EU).
Since the Czech Republic is a member state of Europe, travelers from certain countries outside of the EU that are not Schengen countries will need to apply for the ETIAS visa before leaving for the Czech Republic. The ETIAS application process is pretty simple and travelers should check up on the ETIAS requirements when considering visiting the land of castles and chateaux.
But those are not the change in which we are interested when considering and explaining how, where, and when to change money in Czech Republic!
Despite joining the European Union (EU) in 2004, the Czech Republic has not adopted the Euro. This is largely due to public opposition but also in part because it does not fully meet all the requirements stipulated in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.
Originally, all members of the European Union were required to join the euro when they met certain economic criteria.
The Czech Republic currently complies with two of the five conditions. However, the three conditions they are yet to satisfy are: the country’s inflation rate, its incompatible domestic legislation, and that it is not a member of the European exchange rate mechanism.
The currency used in the country, therefore, remains the crown, which is referred to as the koruna in Czech and denoted by Kč in the stores and by CZK in banks. Theoretically, the crown is made up of 100 haler. Theoretically because halers are no longer in circulations.
When considering money exchange, Czech Republic has bills in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 crowns, and coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 crowns. CZK 1 is equivalent to 100 halers, although halers are only shown on price labels and don’t effectively exist. Stores and establishments round the prices off to the nearest crown since change cannot be paid out in halers.
Before Leaving Your Home Country
A word to the wise would be for travelers to get in touch with their local bank and credit card company prior to traveling to check on:
foreign transaction fees that might apply
withdrawal fees at Automatic Teller Machines or ATMs abroad
applicable daily limits
dynamic currency conversion fee
the names of the ATMs in Czech Republic that will not charge you fees.
It is not the wish of any traveler to arrive back home after a trip abroad to find that they have been charged unreasonable bank fees and unexpected currency exchange rates. Unforeseen fees debited while in a strange country for standard cash withdrawals or ATM transactions are not a pleasant surprise for anyone.
Travelers should always share with their bank and credit card companies the exact dates they will be in specific countries, towns, or cities before they travel. By doing so, the bank will recognize transactions within these areas as legitimate. If not, the bank will assume they are suspicious and you might find your bank card or credit card blocked.
Make certain that you know how to get in touch with your local bank in your home country while you are out of the country, should the need arise.
Check with your bank that your bank card can be used while in the Czech Republic. The ATMs in the Czech Republic only work with a bank card with a four-digit PIN. You will need to make sure before leaving home that your bank card has a four-digit PIN.
Be sure to take along a backup credit or debit card to see you through any possible problems. These should not be carried on your person while you are out and about in the Czech Republic. They should be in safe keeping either in a safe box at the hotel reception, in your hotel room safe, or safely stowed in a suitcase.
Currency Exchange in Czech Republic
Yes, it is in fact a better option to change money in Czech Republic rather than buying the currency in your home country.
Why? Because you will invariably be offered a more favorable rate locally than you would in your home country. Experience also shows that it pays to see to it that the bills you have to exchange are clean and in optimal condition since exchange services have been known to reject cash that shows signs of damage.
Travelers often worry that they will need the currency of their host country on arrival at the airport. This usually proves not to be the case, but if you do want to make sure you have cash on hand at the airport, simply draw cash from an ATM on arrival.
Remember, it is very important not to exchange money on the street. Among the biggest risks are scammers offering Hungarian forints of lesser value or old, discontinued crown notes.
Currency can be exchanged at most banks in the Czech Republic. You could use the many currency exchange machines installed in their offices. You could, of course use the services of a private X2 exchange office. Note that in-bank exchanges usually cost a minimum of no more than 2% of the total deal.
At the Airport
Bypass all those currency exchange locations at the airport if you are looking to change money in Czech Republic on your arrival. Walk on by until you reach the ATMs once you have cleared customs and entered the main airport hall.
Private Currency-Exchange Offices
When considering how to change money, Czech Republic is pretty straightforward and you are not likely to experience any problems. Provided you steer away from the private currency-exchange offices that seemed to have bloomed in the tourist hub areas.
These are commonplace where tourists are plentiful. As such they line such locales as Václavské námestí and the like. Use these only if you must, and then be aware of the potential problematic possibilities. Never hand over your bills before showing them to the teller and getting a written notification of how many Czech crowns they will pay in exchange.
Once the bills have been handed over, it is too late to ask. The problem arises since the rates advertised rarely match the actual rates paid. Hidden commissions are oftentimes exorbitant and this is especially so when exchanging small sums.
Currency bureaus who brag about ‘no fees’ or ‘no commission’ are more than likely making up for this by offering a less than competitive exchange rate. Knowing the up-to-date mid market rate will help you to get an exchange rate that is in line with the real market value.
For the purpose of money exchange, Czech Republic has a good many banks that are favorable to approach for this purpose. You will generally get the best rates and pay the least commission when using banks and ATM machines.
When in the Czech Republic, use the Komercní banka or KB, ČSOB, and Raiffeisen Bank. These banks do not charge extra fees for withdrawals at their cash machines.
Their ATMs are accessible 24 hours and they accept Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. Their exchange offices trade from Monday to Friday between 8 am and 5 pm. Cash withdrawals at an ATM are subject to the same daily limit that applies to your home bank. Remember this, and increase your limit before leaving your home country if you think it is necessary.
Foreign Currency Exchange Offices
Foreign currency exchange offices may not impose any fees when travelers change money in Czech Republic.
The foreign exchange office must make use of a single exchange rate and it is not permitted to apply preferential VIP rates. Travelers are within their rights to cancel any currency exchange transaction they perceive to be unfavorable, within three hours of the exchange.
Travelers should retain the receipt pertinent to the currency exchange which will reflect the date and time of the transaction. Any cancelation must be done during the working hours of, and at the foreign exchange office from which the purchase was originally made.
You will not find a bank open in the Czech Republic on weekends or public holidays. Banks charge a fee of about 2 % to change money in Czech Republic.
It is acceptable for banks to also charge a minimum fee for currency exchange, typically and for ease of reference usually CZK 30. Check before you leave home whether your local bank has a partner bank in Czech Republic.
These partner banks allow cardholders to use their ATMs at a lower fee or even without a fee at all. One of the major banks in Czech Republic is Komerční banka, with almost 400 branches.
Another is Československá obchodní banka (ČSOB), which is owned by the Belgium-based bank KBC. Among the most used retail financial institutions are: Ceska Sporitelna; Československá obchodní banka (ČSOB); Komerční banka; Czech National Bank (CNB); Czech Export Bank (CEB). The following foreign banks have branches in Czech Republic: Citibank; HSBC; Sberbank which was Volksbank; GE Capital; and Unicredit Bank.
When looking for options on how to change money, Czech Republic hotels will exchange foreign currency for crowns at a fee.
To Choose Currency Conversion or Not
Definitely NOT. You will be offered the option of converting the CZK to your local currency at ATMs or payment terminals and point-of-sale machines in stores and in restaurants.This is known as Dynamic Currency conversion or DCC.
It sounds great because you get to see your charges in your home currency. The downside is that the charge machine applies its choice of conversion rate! And it will invariably apply a conversion rate that is not in your favor. Always opt for Decline the conversion and pay/withdraw CZK.
In Czechia, cash is not king. Most establishments, eateries, stores, supermarkets, ticket machines, and street food joints accept plastic.
Carry only as much cash as you will need in the event you run into a situation where you cannot use your bank card.
Such situations may include purchasing refreshments from street stalls, small grocery stores, bakeries, or farmers markets, or when trying to gain access to some public toilets or on free tours.
Of course, when tipping, cash is preferable. Watch out for ATMs that offer only the option of withdrawing large amounts. You will find an alternative ATM nearby that will allow you to withdraw smaller amounts.
Credit And Debit Cards
It is commonplace for stores, restaurants, and hotels to accept bank cards although some stores might insist on a minimum purchase.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, as are Eurocard and Maestro. American Express, however, is not so willingly accepted. Cash machines or ATMs accept credit and debit cards backed by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. You will perhaps come across a local shop or two and those restaurants favored by the locals that do not take a credit card.
Having a little cash on hand for such eventualities is always a good idea.
Expect only the larger banks to cash traveler’s checks and do not be surprised if hotels and restaurants decline to accept them. It is really not fiscally favorable to cash traveler’s cheques and you would be better off just withdrawing cash from ATMs or exchanging currency.
When approaching the banks with traveler’s cheques for money exchange, Czech Republic banks can be expected to charge a commission of at least 2%, and exchange offices will take a commission of anywhere between 3 and 10%.
Now that we know more about why change is good, there are even more reasons to visit Czechia. This centrally positioned country with its Bohemian appeal has castles aplenty, cultural and historical sights some of which are UNESCO sites, and then there is also the Moravian wine, breweries, and great beer.