On the Road
One rule you can be people will follow is that they drive on the right. Well, mostly. There might be occasions when they're swerving to avoid potholes on back country lanes.
Believe or not, there are speed limits. With each depending on the type of road or its location.
- 50 kph (30 mph) in built-up areas,
- 90 kph (56 mph) outside built-up areas,
- 130 kph (78 mph) on expressways (rychlostní sílnice) and freeways / motorways (dálnice),
- 30 kph (48 mph ) before tram stops
- 80 kph (50 mph) for a car with a caravan or trailer traveling outside built-up areas or on expressways.
The degree to which people adhere to these speed limits is another thing. Perhaps that is why wearing seatbelts is compulsory whenever someone is in a moving vehicle, or a child seat for kids weighing less than 36 kg or measuring up to 150 cm. Don't worry, there are a variety of child seats. You're not expected to cram your six year old into a baby carrier.
Even though beer and stronger spirits are a matter of pride here, sometimes lauded for their medicinal qualities, they are not viewed as improving one's driving abilities. That's right, the permitted blood alcohol level here is 0%.
Car lights must be on during the day all through the year. As of the 7th February all new cars in European Union countries must be fitted with so-called daytime lights.
Licenses should be carried at all times. If you're from a European Union nation, your license is accepted automatically. If not then the validity of your license depends on the length of your stay. If you are here for under a year, your license or an international license is accepted. However, if you have permanent residency or temporary residency for over a year then you should apply for a Czech license, which means sitting a Czech driving test. Or so say the police (in Czech).
The Paper Trail
Like so many aspects of living here, there is quite a bit of paper work. If you have a car it has to be registered and in order to register it you have to submit the car's certificate of registration as well as documents from a technical inspection. You will also have to have third party insurance (povinné ručení). On top of that, if you want to drive on a motorway, you must have a motorway registration (dálniční známka), which comes in two parts. One is stuck to the right bottom corner of the inside of your front windscreen. The other is carried with the driver. The car's registration number should be on both parts. There are three prices: 1200 CZK for 14 months, 350 CZK for a month and 250 CZK for 10 days. This registration can be bought at post offices and petrol stations.
The Right Stuff
Once you've sorted out the documents, you have to make sure your car is properly equipped. There are certain mandatory items (povinná výbava) which every vehicle on the road must carry. A full list including the new requirements for this year can be found here (in Czech).
Here is a summarized list to give you an idea what it is necessary to carry: spare light bulbs for each light, spare fuses, jack, a triangular reflector (which is placed 50 m from broken down vehicles) and first aid kit including a first aid guide (see bottom of previous link for example), first aid blanket 140 by 200 cm and a resuscitation mask.
On the plus side, a spare tire is no longer required for new cars which have such wheels which can drive up to 90 km following a puncture.
If you were to fly over Prague in the late morning, you would be excused for thinking that vast parking lots are placed outside the city where cars are curiously parked bumper to bumper. These are the motorways. The D1 is especially notorious for traffic jams. The most widely named culprits are the trucks.
Pedestrians and Cars
Cars should stop at zebra crossing (crosswalks), but often don't. Perhaps, the drivers think that their vehicles are trams, which do have right of way at cross walks. Regarding pedestrian crossings, drivers should always be aware that when turning at a crossroads there may well be a pedestrian crossing directly at the junction, with either someone crossing or the car in front of you stopping abruptly to let the person in front of them cross. You have been warned! :)
Always park facing the same direction as the traffic flow. This may sound obvious but in many countries this is not enforced whereas here it is.
So, there may be a few things to remember, to carry, to be aware of and be scared of, but hey, happy driving people!
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