Czech koruna bank notes, 2014


There are (at least) three parts to “Europe”:

  • The European Union
  • The Schengen Area
  • The Eurozone

The Czech Republic is in the first two, but not the third. What that means is, they have their own currency — namely, the Czech koruna (or Czech crown). Most places these days accept credit cards, but many still don’t. Which means, you’re going to need some crowns. However, you should not bring cash. You will be extremely hard pressed to find a good exchange rate. With almost 100% certainty, the best exchange rate will come by using your ATM card. So, before you come, call you bank and make sure they know you’re going to be using your card abroad. If you don’t travel often and don’t do that, there’s a very real chance they’ll block your card for fraudulent activity, and getting it unblocked can be a serious PITA. Do the same thing for your credit cards.

If you’re traveling around Europe either before or after the wedding, most places you go will be on the Euro, however, it is worth noting that 8 other EU countries, plus Switzerland (which is in the Schengen Area, but not the EU) still use their own currency: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and (as of this writing) the United Kingdom. So, depending on your plans, it’s still possible to end up with a pocket full of change from different countries, just like you could in the pre-Euro days.

OK, back to Czechia. How much money do you need? Well, that depends on who you are and how you live. Generally speaking, I think of Prague as being cheap, but that’s compared to San Francisco, New York, or Melbourne. Also, regardless of overall cost comparison, what’s cheap and what’s pricey is probably quite a bit different than wherever you’re from. In particular, clothing and electronics are crazy expensive here compared to the US. Food and drink are crazy cheap. To get a sense based on wherever you’re from, I find Expatistan to be the best source.

Now that you have an idea of how much money you need, let’s get back to money. One of the hardest things about using a currency with which you’re unfamiliar is having a feel for how much it’s worth. With 50 Kč coins and 2,000 Kč notes, it’s easy for Czech money to feel like Monopoly money. Although the currency exchange rates fluctuate, the rule of thumb I use is to divide by 20. So, that 50 Kč coin is about $2.50 … so don’t treat it like a penny. And that 2,000 Kč note is about $100. Speaking of the 2,000 Kč note, it also behaves the way a $100 bill does (or did in the 1980s) — to wit, many places won’t be able to take it or break it. Fortunately, most ATMs here have a fancy feature: they let you select in which denominations you want your withdrawal. When you take out money, I recommend getting about 1,000 Kč in 100 Kč notes, and everything else in the larger denominations.

Posted in Richardson-Welland Wedding.