Obtaining a Visa
Since May 1 2005, citizens of the European Union no longer need a visa to enter the Czech Republic. This is not the case of non-Europeans, who must apply at the consular services for a Czech long term student visa. The process for obtaining this visa is rather long, so it is essential to begin early enough to get it in time. Documents required for the issuance of a Czech long term student visa concern the applicant’s financial situation, its status and future housing. Thus, it is imperative to ask the administration of your university to issue an education certificate which specifies that you are expected, as part of your studies, to make a period of study abroad in the Czech Republic.
Upon your arrival in the Czech Republic, remember to register with the immigration police: this step is mandatory. Citizens of European countries have a certain time to complete this process. Citizens from outside the European Union have a period of three days to register with the police. After this period of time, your status will be illegal and you will be forced to pay a fine. The registration process with the immigration police is complex, especially when it must be done within three days. However, easy solutions exist: you can, indeed, give your passport for one or two days to a company which will take care of the process for the sum of 600 Kc (about 20 euros). It is possible to require details concerning such companies to the head of the exchange department of your university.
The easiest option is to stay in a student dormitory. At the time of the administrative registration, it is possible to make a reservation. The dormitories are not very expensive, about 80 euros per month for a room (however, foreign students receive no housing assistance in the Czech Republic). The quality of these homes is very variable. Some are restored and therefore have new and modern infrastructure, while others are more austere. Students living in such homes often share a room or a studio equipped with a bathroom, toilets and a small kitchen. The atmosphere is very nice as Erasmus students are grouped in the same building. However, the problem of kolej (dormitories) is their geographical emplacements, often located far way from downtown. While trams, buses and the subway usually connect to downtown, it is not always pleasant to live far from the active center of Prague, which hosts most of the interesting events. Another option is to be housed in an apartment in downtown. The prices, though variable depending on the neighborhood, remain relatively low. Thus, for a small studio, it can cost about 200 euros. You will find also many collocation opportunities since many Erasmus students leave their dormitory during the year to take an apartment downtown. Concerning your accommodation, remember when you register at your host university to book a room in the dormitory: you can provide your reservation at the Czech consulate at the time of your visa application (which can be canceled to find an alternative housing). In addition, a global insurance is also required.
Cost of Living
Overall, the Czech Republic is not an expensive country. However, in Prague in particular, prices are high. You can always manage to eat cheaply, but for the accommodation, you should expect high prices. The hotels are expensive compared to the standard of living of the population. They have similar prices to those of Western Europe. In pivnice or hospoda, a goulash lunch will cost about 120 Kc (4.80 euros). It is not uncommon for the dish of the day to cost around 100 CZK (4 euros). You can count on a food budget of 300 CZK (12 euros) per day for the bare minimum. Avoid changing money at the border, the rates are extreme. Most major banks have an exchange office. The Cedok in Prague provides exchange services. Commissions are charged by institutions ranging from 1 to 10%. Avoid Exact Change and Cekobanka for which the commission is very high.
Prague is a city well served by its public transport system, consisting of a network of buses, trams and the subway. The use of the subway is easy, since there are only three lines in Prague. It should be noted that transportation tickets are on sale in subway stations and in kiosks, and can’t be obtained in the tram or the bus itself. In any case, it is always better to buy a student ticket for three months; it will be much less expensive (a ticket costs about 600 Kc, twenty euros), and you will save valuable time. While the public transportation system is reliable and effective, it does not apply to taxis, on which the state has little control. Taxis never have a price counter. It is therefore essential to bargain before entering a taxi. Avoid taking a taxi at night. As a general rule, always try to call a taxi from a reliable agency (the most famous being the agency AAA). If you want to travel, the railway network covers the whole country. If you are traveling in southern Moravia, prefer the bus because the region is less served by trains.