Money, prices and costs
Bills and Coins
The currency of the Czech Republic is the Czech Koruna (CZK) or Czech Crown. The Crown is subdivided into 100 Helar, but all sub-Crown coinage other than the flimsy 50 Helar piece is no longer in use. Czech coinage consists of 1,2,5, 10, 20 and 50 Crown pieces. Banknotes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, increasing in size with value and varying in color and graphic designs. The 50-Crown coin is bimetallic and unpopular with the Czechs, as some claim the copperclad center core pops out, but that has never happened to me in the 6 months I have lived here. The 50-Crown coin will therefore often be stuckin your change if it is apparent you are a visitor or tourist; if you are leaving the country shortly, you should attempt to exchange it for a bill instead or be prepared to be stuck with it and take the (albeit minimal) loss.
Pricetags in stores frequently have odd amounts such as, e.g., Kr. 34,70 or Kr, 9,60 (note European decimalization). These prices are rounded up or down at the register to the nearest half-Crown (50 Helar). This oddity will disappear when the country merges its currency operations with the European Union's EuroZone, expected to occur in 2009 or 2010.
Costs for Tourists
By European standards, the Czech Republic is generally very affordable. Prague hotel rooms, however, have recently seen a rise to Western European standards, which is only offset by the fact that everyday necessities that locals buy - food, public transportation, beer and wine - are a bargain for the traveler, too. Entertainment costs can be low, too - movie tickets are extremely inexpensive and many first-run films are not dubbed but rather subtitled in Czech. Gasoline prices recently reached 35Kč per liter ($5.20/gallon), but remain somewhat lower than in Western Europe.
The tourist business is flourishing not only in Prague, but in many other towns of historical, UNESCO and cultural importance as well. Locals are squeezing out as much as they can from tourists for both accommodation and food at restaurants. In general, tourists should be prepared to pay more than two- to three times as much for food and shelter in Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Brno, Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne and in other cities with larger volumes of tourism than in places "off the beaten path" in the rest of the country. Best tip: Visit local supermarkets and enjoy prices locals pay, cook your own meals and enjoy the many wonderful baked goods which are extremely reasonable at any Czech bakery or pekarstvi.
Peak tourist season begins in May and runs through October, with additional peak periods at Christmas and Easter. Prices are lower off-season, although in some of the more-touristy places such as Prague, the season is rarely ever truly "off" or "low" and prices stay fairly high throughout the year.