Are you planning a trip to the Czech Republic? Are you considering moving here? Either way, you might be wondering about the safety of the country in regards to violence, property crime, and hygiene. Well, put any concerns to rest. According to several tables, the Czech Republic rates quite well.
A Peaceful Place – The GPI
This year's Global Peace Index (GPI), carried out by an Australian group called Vision of Humanity, ranked the Czech Republic the fifth most peaceful nation in the world. While this is no doubt a boost for the Czech Republic, the results require some qualification.
Firstly, of the 23 indicators, only five relate to the domestic situation directly. These are political stability, perceived criminality, homicides, violent crime and number of police and security. Many of the remaining indicators relate to engagement in war and the arms industry.
With regards to violent crime, we can compare the number of reported incidents for the Czech Republic from 2009 with this table printed in the Daily Mail for the same year.
Second-place Austria has a similar-sized population, but ten times more incidents of violent crime. One of the reasons for these discrepancies could be that what constitutes assault is wider in Austria than here, or more crime is reported. However, while that might account for some of the difference, it might not explain the gulf entirely. The Czech Republic could simply have a lower rate of violent crime than its neighbor.
We should point out that the GPI has been criticized for ignoring racially and sexually motivated assault. Recent events in the Šluknov region show that racial tension here can spark into violence. The US State Department also warns of reported cases of rohypnol, the 'date rape drug' being used on American women here in 2010.
The same caution about data on personal safety could also apply to looking at crime statistics. Czech Tourism conducted a study in 2009 that 682 crimes were committed in Prague per 10,000 inhabitants. This is compared to 1032 crimes per the same amount in Vienna.
Again, the numbers might be deceiving. Were the rates different for residents and tourists? The same Czech news article linked above showed a drop of 4% for incidents of property crime which would back up Czech Tourism's claims. Again, these numbers might reflect the willingness of people to report theft as much as it shows the actual results.
Prague, like any city with a lot of tourists, has people who prey on the unwary, so regardless what the statistics say, take care of your personal belongings in crowded areas, especially on the metro, on the Old Town Square if you're watching the Astrological Clock and anywhere else people are packed tight together.
Food and Water Quality
In a report from the World Health Organization on water-borne diseases, the Czech Republic had some of the lowest numbers of outbreaks for the period 2000 to 2007. The group of nations included Scandinavian countries and the UK. Water-borne disease is only a potential problem here during floods such as the appearance of West Nile Disease in the country in 1997 after heavy flooding.
The Czech Republic's hygiene status is backed up by the recent Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011, which ranks the Czech Republic 6th in health and hygiene.
The International Association of Medical Assistance for Travellers also states that food and water in the Czech Republic is safe, citing low rates of illness among the wider population. The site does point out that E. coli can be found in 'small concentrations' and may result in upset stomachs because a person's immune system is not used to it. However, this can happen when visiting any country. On the whole, the water here is safe to drink.
Note: A recent article cites a report, which states that half of the rivers in the Czech Republic have dangerously high levels of phosphorous. It should be pointed out that this is of course untreated water, so to be safe only drink from homes or springs marked "pitná voda" (drinkable water).
Though the Czech Republic has one of the lowest rates of HIV infection among adults in the world, an article from last year suggests infection rates are increasing. According to a report from 2009, an increase in hepatitis A has also been observed.
One disease which poses a problem for campers and hikers is tick-borne encephalitis. Over the last ten years, the number of cases has been dropping. But if you plan to enjoy the outdoors, wear closed boots and long pants, avoid crossing through long grass, and inspect yourself regularly. It is also possible to be vaccinated against tick-borne encephalitis.
Overall, the Czech Republic presents few worries to the modern traveler. It is a hygienic and stable country, so if these concerns have kept you away, maybe it's time for a visit.
Let us know what you think.