Cheaper abroad: Czechs increasingly crossing the border to buy basic items

High inflation has caused the prices of many products to become more expensive than in Poland, and even in typically pricier Austria and Germany.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 23.08.2023 16:35:00 (updated on 23.08.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

High food and consumer prices in Czech stores have led to a surge in shopping activity in Czechia’s border areas – primarily in Poland. In search of cheaper prices, Czechs are in high numbers crossing the border to buy cheaper goods.

Far more Czechs spending money in Poland

According to data from ČSOB in Novinky.cz, the volume of transactions using Czech banking cards in Polish stores for the first seven months of the year has more than doubled compared to the same period last year. A less pronounced growth is also evident in Slovakia, Germany, and Austria. 

Banks such as Airbank, Moneta Money Bank, and Creditas have reported substantial increases in the volume and number of transactions in neighboring countries, particularly Poland.

PRICES AT A GLANCE

  • Unleaded/regular fuel (1 liter): Poland – CZK 35.6 vs. Czechia – CZK 39.5
  • White rice (1 kg): Poland – CZK 30 vs. Czechia – CZK 50.3
  • Apples (1kg): Poland – CZK 20 vs. Czechia – CZK 37
  • Chicken fillets (1 kg): Poland – CZK 131 vs. Czechia – CZK 187
  • Potatoes (1 kg): Poland – CZK 16.7 vs. Czechia – CZK 22.2

    Sources: Data from Tolls.eu and Numbeo.com, valid 23/08/2023

Compared to the first half of pre-Covid 2019, the amount of spending by cardholders of Czech bank Česká spořitelna has increased by a remarkable 600 percent. Household essentials like washing powders and toiletries are often cheaper abroad. For example, Listerine Cool Mint Mild mouthwash in a half-liter package costs CZK 129 in the Czech Republic, CZK 80 in Slovakia, and only CZK 71 in Poland.

A 100-gram bottle of Hipp Bio Combiotik – a type of baby food – costs CZK 65 in the Czech Republic and CZK 43.60 in Poland.

Three-ply toilet paper, for instance, is cheaper and said to be of better quality in Austria. An eight-roll pack of toilet paper costs approximately CZK 80 in Czechia – in Austria, a 10-roll packet costs approximately CZK 70. Furniture, for instance from IKEA, is said to cost thousands of crowns less across the Czech border.

Cigarettes and the VAT issue

Cigarettes are also a big hit for cross-border shoppers. Indeed, with a higher value-added tax (VAT) rate on the horizon following the Czech government’s recently announced austerity package, this trend is likely to continue. One box of Winston-brand cigarettes in Czechia costs about CZK 136, whereas in Poland the price hovers around CZK 82.

Indeed, between January and May this year, the number of visitors and the amount of tobacco products sold at tobacconists on the Czech side of the Czechia-Poland border decreased by about 13 percent compared to last year. According to the estimates of the Czech Association for Branded Products cited by Seznam Zprávy, Czechs should spend about CZK 6 billion on cigarettes in Poland this year. 

The Polish government’s move to substantially reduce VAT rates following rampant inflation and energy prices in 2022 has helped contain prices in the country. The Czech government took no such action. In fact, under the new austerity package, alcohol is set to have a higher VAT rate and thus get more expensive.

One need only browse different countries' IKEA websites to see the difference in prices. The cost of a large “Pax–Reinsvoll” wardrobe in Poland costs the equivalent of CZK 27,000. On the Czech version of the site, the exact same wardrobe costs CZK 36,160. The same model in Austria costs CZK 30,618 when converted. 

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Poland's border village, Chałupki, also sees an influx of Czech shoppers seeking deals. People from Ostrava, the Karviná District, Opava, Nový Jičín, and Frýdek-Místek frequently travel to Polish stores for products like cigarettes, alcohol, and everyday groceries. 

Czechs are embracing cross-border shopping in response to better prices, quality, and variety. This trend is significantly boosting transaction volumes in Poland and other neighboring countries, reshaping the retail landscape and influencing consumer behavior.

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