ABOUT After World War II, Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. In 1968, an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops ended the efforts of the country's leaders to liberalize Communist party rule and create "socialism with a human face." Anti-Soviet demonstrations the following year ushered in a period of harsh repression. With the collapse of Soviet authority in 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its freedom through a peaceful "Velvet Revolution." On 1 January 1993, the country underwent a "velvet divorce" into its two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Now a member of NATO, the Czech Republic has moved toward integration in world markets, a development that poses both opportunities and risks. In December 2002, the Czech Republic was invited to join the European Union.

CLIMATE The climate differs markedly among the various regions of the Czech Republic, depending on the height above sea level. Generally speaking, the higher you are, average temperatures may drop more and rainfall is more likely. The Czech Republic is also characterized by a cold winter. After this comes spring, followed by a warm summer and chilly autumn. December, January and February are counted as the winter months. During March, April and May, there is a sharp increase in temperatures. The first of the autumn months is September, which is still relatively hot and markedly drier than the preceding month. The period of good weather that usually comes in August is known as Indian Summer. The average daily temperatures usually fall once again below 10 °C around the start of October.

BEWARE Prague city police advises visitors to Prague of the following. Always exchange currency at a currency exchange office or bank, never on the street as this money is often counterfeit avoid contact with women and men acting as street prostitutes as they are often pickpockets take care when using cash machines don’t buy drugs on the street as sale and distribution is illegal and the drugs are often hazardous counterfeits be aware of consumption charges in night clubs; they are often high. Be careful with consumption cards, which carry high financial penalties if they are lost before the bill is paid Never leave drinks or food unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. There have been a small number of incidents involving drinks being spiked and visitors having their valuables stolen while intoxicated. Petty theft is a problem, especially in major tourist areas in Prague. Pickpocketing is common at the main railway station and on public transport, particularly the routes to and from Prague Castle and other major tourist sites, and on the buses to/from the airport. Try to avoid busy carriages on the metro and trams, which are favoured by pickpockets. There is also a risk of pick-pocketing on flights from the UK.