The Czech Republic is an extremely popular expat destination because of its high standards of living with reasonable costs. The country has an excellent public transport network, but driving is often the most convenient way to get around the country. Choosing to drive in the Czech Republic is a decision you shouldn’t make lightly however, as it has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in central Europe. Driving laws are also extremely strict, and you need to make yourself familiar with all of the practices and requirements for driving in the country.Drivers from within the EU can drive within the Czech Republic using their national licenses, but all other expats need to obtain a Czech license to drive legally. You also need to have a certificate of insurance, which is generally valid for three months. If you survive the grueling procedure and tests to secure a Czech driving license, there are a few road safety and driving tips that you should be aware of:
• Travel through most of the Czech Republic’s road network is free of charge, but many of the country’s highways are toll roads. This means that drivers who wish to use the highways have to purchase vignettes, which have to be stuck to the windshield. Keep in mind that these window stickers need to be stuck only on the bottom right hand corner of the windshield from the inside, so as to not obstruct your view. Sticking them in the wrong place can also get you fined! These vignettes can be obtained at most gas stations, border crossings and also at some post offices. The validity of these vignettes is only for the calendar year and not for 12 months, so try and purchase them towards the start of the calendar year.
• When driving in the country you are required to have your lights on. This would typically mean having dipped headlights and rear lights turned on.
• As is the law in most parts of the world, drivers are only permitted to overtake from the left side of a vehicle, but this law is often flouted so always be alert and watchful.
• If it does so happen that you are involved in a collision do not attempt to move your vehicle. It is against the law to move either vehicle until there has been an inspection by the police. If the cars must be moved for safety reasons make sure to chalk out the position before doing so.
• You can be penalized for driving in the Czech Republic without a first aid kit. The first aid kit must be one that is officially recognized and these can be easily obtained at any service station. They generally cost around 40 euros.
• High visibility vests, which are required in a number of countries in EU, like Germany and Austria, should also be kept in the car. The vest should be stored in a location that is easily accessible, so that you can easily put it on before you step out of the vehicle.
• The country has a zero tolerance policy towards drunk driving and there is no acceptable blood alcohol level. This rule doesn’t just apply to motorists but must also be followed if you’re riding a bicycle or a horse!
• If you’ve had a night out drinking and need to drive back you can call for a driver. There are companies that provide you with drivers who will get you home in your own car. The rate you pay for the driver will cover his costs of return, so you don’t need to pay anything above the one-way charge.
• In case you do need to avail of a car emergency service you can call the automobile and motorcycle club. Both numbers, 1230 (UAMK) or 1240 (ABA) are accessible 24/7. Your insurance provider will most likely already have an agreement with these service providers. You also need to contact the police immediately in the event of an accident, especially if there is any injury or if the damage exceeds 6,000 Euros.
• Familiarize yourself with all of the signposts in the country, as there are plenty of them and many that would be confusing to any expat. For example, if you see a signpost with the letters MIMO encircled in red, it means that you cannot enter the road.
As intimidating as some of these details may appear, driving in the Czech Republic should not pose much of a problem if you observe the driving laws and regulations of the country. While there are some expats who have had bad experiences driving in the country, there are plenty of others who find that driving in the country is well worth the occasional inconvenience.