Changing Money

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The easiest, cheapest way to carry money is in the form of a debit card from your bank, which you can use to withdraw cash either from an ATM (bankomat) or over the counter in a bank. Using an ATM will result in your home bank charging a fee (usually 1.5% to 2.5%), but you'll get a good exchange rate and provided you make withdrawals of at least a couple of thousand crowns at a time, you'll pay less than the assorted commissions on travellers cheques. Check with your bank about transaction fees and withdrawal limits.

Travellers cheques are not much use here, as they are not accepted by shops and restaurants and can be exchanged only at banks and currency exchange counters.

The main Czech banks - Komercní banka, Ceská sporitelna, Ceskoslovenská obchodní banka (CSOB) and Zivnostenská banka - are the best places to change cash. They charge 2% commission with a 50Kc minimum (but always check, as commissions can vary from branch to branch). They will also provide a cash advance on Visa or MasterCard without commission.

Hotels charge about 5% to 8% commission, while Cedok travel agencies and post offices charge 2% - similar rates to the banks. Note that Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes are almost impossible to change, and where they are accepted you'll get a worse exchange rate than for Bank of England notes.

Try to avoid the many private exchange booths (smenarna) in the main tourist areas. They lure you in with attractive-looking exchange rates that turn out to be 'sell' (prodej or prodajame) rates; if you want to change foreign currency into Czech crowns, the 'buy' (nakup) rate applies. There is also an even worse rate for transactions under a certain amount, typically around €500. Check the rates carefully, and ask exactly how much you will get before parting with any money.

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