Practicalities

Newspapers - Check English-language weeklies Prague Post (www.thepraguepost.com) and Slovak Spectator (www.slovakspectator.sk) for current affairs and event listings. Online news - Prague Daily Monitor (www.praguemonitor.com), News Agency of Slovakia (www.task.sk).

TV - The state-run channels are CT 1 and CT 2 (analogue), CT24 and CT4 sports (digital) in the Czech Republic, and STV 1 and STV 2 in Slovakia. Foreign programs are dubbed rather than subtitled.

Electricity - Outlets in both republics use the two small round holes common throughout central Europe (220V AC, 50Hz).

Toilets - Carry small change (anything from 2Kc/Sk to 5Kc/Sk) for public toilets. Men's are marked muzi or pani, women's zeny or damy.

Laundry - Brno and Prague have self-service laundrettes (there are none in Bratislava). Outside these, even laundry service outlets (pradelna/cistiareh) are rare. Weights and measures - The metric system is used throughout the republics; a comma is used in place of a decimal point, and full stops are used in place of a comma in numbers in the thousands, millions etc.

Local police investigators aren't known for being the world's most helpful, and you might find it useful to contact your embassy for assistance navigating the police report if you have something stolen.

Scams

There are a number of troublesome scams or annoyances, not all specific to this region, to watch out for. Naturally enough, the prime trouble spots for pickpocketing are where people gather in crowds. Classic pickpocket set ups involve someone creating a distraction (kids surrounding and hassling you, a man pushing the wrong way on a door from the outside so you can't exit a shop) while accomplices delve into your bags and pockets. Another favourite situation for a pickpocket is boarding a crowded tram or metro train, then stepping off with your goods right as the door closes.

Another scam involves a 'lost tourist' asking for directions (usually in halting English). Once you're talking, two people claiming to be plain-clothes policemen (who are actually the 'tourist's' friends) come up and accuse you of changing money illegally. They will demand to see your wallet and passport, but if you hand them over they will just run off. If in doubt, insist on accompanying them to a police station. (Note: ticket inspectors on public transport are notoriously low-key, and occasionally look a little thug-like. If you have the wrong ticket, or have travelled longer than the allotted time, they have the right to demand the fine on the spot. This is not a scam.)

Finally, in this plastic world, it pays to let your credit cards and banks know where to reach you. We've heard of the occasional credit card number stolen without the card being missing (it was either bought from a vendor who swiped it or from a fake reader placed in an ATM machine). Most cards have fraud protection, but if it happens to you, filing a police report can help prove you're in the Czech Republic, not in Bangladesh or wherever the money was charged.

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