Essential & Magical Ireland (with Prague) GPBS 2019 TOUR - NOT AVAILABLE

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Czechia

During its brief 22 year history, Czechia has managed to become the darling of the European tourism industry. Visitors flock here year-round to explore the country's diverse landscape of magnificent mountains, glorious forested uplands, unique rock formations, and astonishing cave systems. However, many of this small landlocked republic’s greatest assets are man-made - its historic bounty includes an enviable assortment of cobbled-stoned medieval towns strewn with Baroque monasteries, Bohemian castles, and formidable fortresses. Throw in a phenomenal capital city brimming with quaint old breweries, bustling markets, scenic national parks, and lively jazz clubs and it is easy to see why Czechia is fast becoming Europe’s most popular tourist destination.


Banking and Currency

Currency

The Czech Republic’s currency is the Czech Crown (Koruna) and is abbreviated CZK. The Crown is divided into 100 Haler but coins with a value of less than one Crown are no longer used. Coins come in denominations ranging from one CZK to 50 CZK and notes from 100 CZK to 5,000 CZK.

Some restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions in large cities like Prague will accept Euros as a form of payment, but expats should be aware that the exchange rate in restaurants and hotels is poor.

Banking

Bank opening hours are Monday - Friday, 8h00 to 17h00.

Travellers will be able to use their foreign debit and credit cards in the Czech Republic; however, some smaller shops only accept cash. Travellers who need to make transfers from their home country should use a foreign exchange centre such as Aktiv Change, as banks do not offer good rates for large transfers.

ATMs are common in most parts of the Czech Republic are known as bankomats and many will have a language option, allowing travellers to operate them in whichever language they choose. You should be aware that most ATMs will charge a fee, especially when withdrawing from a foreign bank account.

The Czech Republic is still very much a cash economy but credit cards are becoming more widely used. Inquire whether restaurants and hotels do in fact accept credit cards before making a purchase.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Czech Airlines (www.csa.cz) operates an extensive domestic service. There are regular domestic flights from Prague to Ostrava, Karlovy Vary and Brno. However, as this is a small country, taking a bus, train or driving is generally the easier and cheaper alternative.

Cars can be hired at airports, railway stations and at other city locations throughout Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic. Reliable and trusted hire operators include Europcar (www.europcar.com) and Sixt (www.sixt.com), who have offices throughout the country. You must be aged over 21 and have held a driving licence for at least one year to rent a vehicle.

It is easy and safe to flag down a taxi in the Czech Republic, and rates are very affordable by Western standards. It is also easy to hire a taxi in advance. Most taxi offices in Prague, Brno or other major cities will speak English. Fares are higher at night.

Student Agency (tel: 841 101 101; www.studentagency.eu) offers a range of domestic bus routes between Prague and most major Czech cities and towns – and they are all very affordable. Popular routes include Prague to Plzen (Pilsen), Prague to Brno, and Brno to Ostrava.The rail network is operated mainly by Czech Railways (tel: 840 112 113; www.cd.cz) but there are also limited services by Regio Jet (tel: 841 101 101; www.regiojet.cz) and Leo Express (tel: 840 842 844;www.le.cz). There are several daily express trains between Prague and the main cities and resorts. Reservations should be made in advance on major routes; see timetables at http://jizdnirady.idnes.cz. Fares are low, but supplements are payable for travel by express trains.

Also available is the InterRail One Country Pass, which offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month within the Czech Republic.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in the Czech Republic are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots.

The national dishes of the country are based on domestically grown ingredients, such as cereals, potatoes and leguminous plants. These are usually served with beef, fish, pork or poultry. On the whole, a strong emphasis is put on meat dishes. Knedlíky (boiled and sliced dumplings) are the most common side dish of Czech cuisine. They can be wheat or potato based.

In general, the water is safe to drink in the Czech Republic. The water is chlorinated and locals drink it from the tap with no problems. However, some strains of E. coli which you may not have immunity for, could be present in small concentrations causing possible diarrhea. Bottled water is recommended for the first few weeks while your body develops immunity.


Climate and Weather

The Czech Republic generally experiences cold winters and mild summers. Spring and summer have the highest rainfall. July is the hottest month everywhere, January the coldest. From December through February, temperatures push below freezing even in the lowlands, and are bitter in the mountains. There is no real ‘dry season’, and the long, sunny hot spells of summer tend to be broken by sudden, heavy thunderstorms. Winter brings 40 to 100 days of snow on the ground (about 130 in the mountains), plus fog in the lowlands.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Prague is the most popular destination in the Czech Republic. It is very much a tourist city with many visitors from around the world, so you will see all sorts of clothing and there are no real restrictions - although locals tend to be smart casual.  A very comfortable pair of walking shoes is recommended.

Jeans and t-shirts are popular. In general there is no strict code for bars and restaurants, and smart-casual wear will usually be fine. The churches are spectacular and often have concerts open to the public but do bear in mind that you need to wear modest attire.

Prague has a very lively street cafe culture - so carry a jacket or sweater to keep warm whilst sitting outside.


Electricity and Plug Standards

The Czech Republic has 220 volt electricity, meaning unless your computer or appliance is dual voltage or designed for 220 volts, you will need a converter or transformer. The cycles (Hz) are 50 per second. The socket types used are type C, type E and type F. Buying a universal adapter will be necessary if your appliance plugs are not compatible and a voltage converter will be required if your appliances are not compatible with 220 volt electrical output.


Ireland

Set at the western side of the United Kingdom, with the Celtic Sea to the south and the North Atlantic Ocean to the west, the island of Ireland (and Northern Ireland) has many treasures packed into its compact territory. Its magnificent natural landscapes are strewn with spectacular Nordic castles and gorgeous Georgian country houses. Its vibrant heritage includes a lively traditional dance and music culture, a rich literary tradition, and some of the world’s cosiest pubs. The bustling capital of Dublin offers up an exciting nightlife scene, stately architecture and quaint riverside charm, while beyond the cities, the countryside boasts vast areas of unspoilt wilderness. Add the country’s famously hospitable and humourous locals and it’s no wonder that Ireland appeals to travellers of all ages and from all walks of life.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Euro (EUR; symbol €) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.

There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.

Currency exchange services are available in banks, airports and bureaux de change.

Banking

Banking hours: Mon-Fri 09h30-16h30. In Dublin, banks stay open Thurs until 17h00; there are also late opening nights in other parts of the country, but the day will vary.

American Express, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are all widely accepted. ATMs are available everywhere, catering for Cirrus and Maestro symbols.

Travellers cheques are accepted throughout Ireland. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.



Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Aer Arran (www.aerarann.com), Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com) and Flybe (www.flybe.com) currently have domestic routes, between them covering Dublin, Kerry, Shannon and Donegal. Domestic airports include Galway (GWY), Sligo (SXL), Carrickfinn (CFN) and Kerry (Farranfore) (KIR), as well as various small airstrips. Given the size of the country, however, internal flights are rarely essential.

Car hire is available from all airports and seaports, as well as major hotels. All international hire companies are represented in Ireland, as well as local operators. Drivers must be 21 or over. A full licence from the driver's home country is required, and the driver will normally be required to have had at least two years' experience.

It is advisable to book hire cars in advance, especially in the peak season, and a child seat should be ordered in advance also. Advise the car hire company if the car will be driven into Northern Ireland.

Ireland has a comprehensive road network. Getting from A to B by road might look relatively straightforward, but it’s always advisable to have a detailed road map or, better still, sat nav. Be aware that many signposts list place names in both Irish and English. Vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. Main roads are of a high quality. Minor roads can vary in standard, with some remote stretches being potholed.

Speed limits are 50kph (30mph) in towns and cities, 80kph (50mph) on local roads (this is displayed on white signs) and 100kph (60mph) on national roads (this is displayed on green signs). Seat belts should be worn at all times.

EU nationals taking cars into the Republic of Ireland should have with them registration documents as proof of ownership.

Taxi services are available in all cities and towns and at hotels, rail and bus stations and taxi stands. You’ll find metered taxis in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick, but may elsewhere have to agree on a fare beforehand.

Ireland is generally bike-friendly and can make for a superb touring destination. Bikes can be hired from most cities, and many towns, with ease.

Bus Eireann ((01) 836 6111 for Dublin central station; www.buseireann.ie) has a comprehensive network of bus routes across the country.

Most major cities have decent, well-priced public transport networks. The emphasis is usually on buses or suburban rail. Dublin also has its own tram system.

Rail services in Ireland are run by Iarnród Eireann (Irish Rail)(tel: (1) 836 6222; www.irishrail.ie) and express trains run between the main cities. There are two classes of accommodation, with restaurant and buffet cars on some trains.

Ferry services run to the Aran Islands with Aran Island Ferries (www.aranislandferries.com).

It is possible to visit some of the other outlying islands, such as the Skellig Islands and Saltee Islands, on pleasure-boat or charter trips.



Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Levels of hygiene are of a high standard in Ireland, so travellers should only take precautions that they would do in any other developed country. There’s no more danger of being served contaminated or undercooked food in Ireland than anywhere else. A statutory, independent, science-based body, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, is tasked “to take all reasonable steps to ensure that food produced, distributed or marketed in the State meets the highest standards of food safety and hygiene reasonably available.”

Tap water is generally fine to drink, although stories in recent years have suggested that in some areas the levels of fluoride might be risky, particularly to bottle-fed babies. Bottled water is readily available.

Local ingredients are at the heart of the culinary boom which has taken hold of Ireland in the last decade or so. It’s not as if artisan and organic dishes now dominate the nation’s dinner tables, of course, but those in search of genuinely good food won’t have to search too far to be well rewarded. Unsurprisingly, this is especially true in major cities. Dublin in particular has a significant number of Michelin stars.


Climate and Weather

Ireland's relatively temperate climate is due to mild southwesterly winds and the effects of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Summers are warm – only rarely getting unpleasantly hot – while temperatures during winter are much cooler, although it’s far from common for the temperature to drop below freezing and snowfall is rare. Spring and autumn are very mild, with rainfall expected all year round.

The other chief characteristic of the climate, however, is its unpredictability. You might be basking in balmy T-shirt weather one week, then wrapping up to stave off the chill the next – all the while with an umbrella to hand.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight clothing is recommended during summer with warmer medium weight clothing advised for the winter. Rainwear is advisable throughout the year. If you find yourself lacking anything essential on arrival, of course, all key centres are well stocked with clothing outlets, with the larger cities particularly good in terms of picking up high quality outdoor equipment.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Ireland  are the "Type G " British BS-1363 type. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Ireland usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance is not compatible with 220-240 electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary.  


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