Traveling by car has some obvious advantages: it offers much more flexibility and is quicker than a bus or train. But these advantages can be outweighed by the costs of the rental and gasoline, as well as the general hassles of driving in the Czech Republic. Most roads in the country are of the two-lane variety and are in reasonably good condition, but are often jammed with trucks. And then there’s the parking problem – it’s impossible in Prague centre and often very difficult in the larger Czech cities to find a free parking space. If you do decide to rent a car and drive, don’t set out without an up-to-date road map, often available at gas stations and bookstores.
The Czech Republic has no tollbooths. A special permit (a window sticker) is required to drive on expressways and other four-lane highways. Rental cars should already have a permit affixed to the windshield. Regular yearly and even temporary permits—for 15 days or two months—are available at local post offices, and selected large service stations. Once you have purchased one, fill out the sticker with your car registration number and attach the shield-shaped portion to the bottom inside right-hand corner of the windshield. Keep the rectangular part as proof of purchase. If you’re caught without it you’ll be fined.
Gas stations are plentiful on major thoroughfares and near large cities. Many are open around the clock. At least two grades of unleaded gasoline are sold, usually 91-93 octane (regular) and 94-98 octane (super), as well as diesel. Prices are per litre, and the average cost of gasoline is substantially higher than in the United States, but on a par with other EU cities. The Czech word for gasoline is “benzin,” and at most stations you pump it yourself.