highway robbery, literally

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Oct 9th, 2007, 02:17 PM
  #1
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highway robbery, literally

I've been hearing first-hand stories of cars with Americans in them being stopped, often by police, in the Czech Republic and being robbed. Sometimes the police say they are fining you for some unknown infraction and that the fine is all the money you have in your wallet. Anyone hear similiar stories?
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Oct 9th, 2007, 02:25 PM
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nope, only in Mexico. But I haven't sought them out and didn't drive there myself, so have no opinion. I think there may be some more crime in that country than some others, but haven't heard that about the police.

Are you implying they know a car on the highway has an American in it? How could that be?

I have heard some complaints about fines on the transit system from Americans, but those are legit. You can get fined if you don't have a valid ticket. I was actually asked to show my ticket by a transit agent on a tram (and I'm sure it was because I was a tourist, as I was looking at a map, probably how I was picked out). I didn't mind it, I had a valid pass.

Some people are actually being robbed by real, well, robbers or thieves, who are pretending to be the police, also, but are not.
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Oct 9th, 2007, 02:43 PM
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I was stopped in a speed trap at the freeway exit to Prague, along with just about every other car. Even though neither of us spoke any language that the other understood, it was clear that the policeman wanted me to pay a fine, but when I made it clear that I did not have any Czech money, he let me go. I felt very lucky. I think he was after Germans.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 05:19 AM
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>I've been hearing first-hand stories...

Do you doubt the veracity of the reporter?

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Oct 10th, 2007, 06:20 AM
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When we were in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, we saw plain-clothes travel inspectors on the trams and buses. They wear plain clothes so that passengers without tickets do not get off as they get on. They worked in teams, and started checking tickets as soon as the vehicle was moving.

We saw a number of tearful locals being interviewed.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 06:28 AM
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It probably isn't only Americans. Probably they look for tourists in rental cars.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 06:52 AM
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We just encountered this on our trip but I wouldn't call it highway robbery. From what we observed it was legit.
Similarly to Kerouac, we were caught in a speed trap between Cesky Krumlov and Prague.

The fine was 2500 CZK. It is customary to pay the fine on the spot (we observed many others doing this and receiving receipts). However, we only had 1800 CZK. So we were given a ticket with information on how to send the fine by mail. If it hadn't been legit, I'm sure they would have just taken the 1800 CZK and called it a day.

The officers didn't speak English, so maybe this is why there is so much confusion. When we were pulled over we couldn't figure out what we had done. Luckily, my husband and the officer spoke conversational German so they could communicate with one another. The officer explained that the person shooting radar (about a mile earlier) called it in to them. They flagged us (and many other German tagged cars) over.

When sharing our experience with others in Prague, we found out that speed traps are common. The reason most of the offenders are Germans and tourists is because the speed isn't posted. Czechs are aware and the fine is stiff (about two weeks pay.) FYI, the speed limits are 50 KPH in towns, 90 KPH on two lane highways, and 130 on multi-lane highways.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 08:36 AM
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There is no way a Czech policeman would know you were American. They will stop anybody.
Czech police are able to impose on the spot fines to a maximum of 5000 kronen. If you don't agree with the fine refuse it - your case will be dealt with in court and may result in a higher fine. Speeding fines are 300CZK for up to 10km , 1000CZK for 20 km and 2000CZK for 30 km faster than the limit.
The drink drive limit is 0, and you are not allowed to smoke or use a mobile phone whilst driving.
Be poilite, pay up if you can, they would rather take a snaller amount in cash than deal with it through the courst for the full amount, ask for a receipt and get on your way.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 05:12 PM
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Fines for speeding in areas where the speed limit isn't posted...hmmm..sounds to me like one more reason NOT to rent a car in the Czech Republic. I also read that theft of rental cars is a problem in the Czech Republic??

I'm planning our first family trip to the Czech Republic and Poland. We're going to Prague, Krakow, and some smaller towns. I'm thinking that it might be better to take trains, and maybe hire a driver for shorter drives, which would also be interesting because we could hire a licensed tour guide who is also a driver.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 06:41 PM
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OR, you could just the speed limit. 81 MPH (130KPH) isn't all THAT slow, after all.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 06:50 PM
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I am an American and I have drived in Czech Republic on 8 different trips. They do have the radar set up in the town areas and pull you off outside of the town area were it is less congested. We always try to obey the speed limits listed in our guide material, and park in parking lot areas or garages. I have seen cars being booted on several occasions, so I think the extra precaution of parking lots is important. In Poland we always used hotels or pensions that had gated parking areas, they are quite commom. In Czech we parked in town square areas or hotel parking areas, and have not had any problems.
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Oct 10th, 2007, 08:46 PM
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Naturally tourists should try to go the speed limit, as tomboy mentions. However, there is a natural tendency for drivers to go at the traffic speed. If the traffic speed in a particular "speed trap" happens to be over the speed limit, I can see how a tourist may not realize that he was speeding. Someone above mentioned that a whole lot of cars in a row were being pulled over and cited. I don't know how fast they were going, but probably they were going "traffic speed".

When you are driving in a new country, in a different type of car, it is difficult to monitor your speed every second. I'm not condoning speeding. Personally I have NEVER gotten a speeding ticket in my whole life. But there are times when I glance at my speedometer, and I see, wow, I didn't know I was going that fast because everyone else is passing me...when everyone is speeding, you get the false impression that you aren't speeding.

It is hard NOT to go traffic speed, since if everyone is passing you, that actually can create a hazardous driving situation.

This has been an interesting thread and I have appreciated learning from everyone's experiences driving in the Czech Republic.
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Oct 11th, 2007, 07:38 AM
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>If the traffic speed in a particular "speed trap" happens to be over the speed limit, I can see how a tourist may not realize that he was speeding.<

On a recent tour through New England, the limit was 55 mph.

We came upon a sign saying "reduced speed ahead" and a 45 mph sign.

Another reduction to 35.

Then a series of signs saying that the speed limit would drop to 25.

Finally a sign saying "Speed Limit 25 mph - we mean it".

Rounding a curve I came upon a radar trap where 6 officers were busy writing tickets.

It's a good idea to pay attention to the signs.

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Oct 11th, 2007, 07:56 AM
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One common misunderstanding about speed limits not being posted in Europe:
You do not necessarily see speed limits signs unless the regular speed limits are being reduced.

When you cross borders in Europe, you will see huge signs telling you the limits for city traffic, country highways, and motorways in that specific country you are entering.
So, when travelling on a Czech motorway, you know that you must not go faster than 130kmh, no matter if there is a speed limit sign every kilometer or not.
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Oct 11th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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Hi
We were stopped years ago in Hungary. They didn't speak English as the time. They advised us that the fine would be between $20 -100USD. It was in Hungarian currency however. My wife stared to protest but I reminded the food in a Hungarian jail might not be so good and nobody knew where we were. We oaid the fine. Their English improved and they gave us directions to where we wanted to go.
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Oct 11th, 2007, 02:29 PM
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thanks for the info about czech speed limits. if and when we make it, and we're on teh road between Prague and C-K, I'll try to remember the speed trap!

BTW, I still have my speeding ticket from Somewhere in New England. from 1988. with interest, I probably owe about U$1,000,000 by now.

it would have been easier if there were on the spot fines. I wouldn't be worried about being arrested as a wanted felon if i ever fly back into Boston.

regards, ann
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Nov 2nd, 2007, 11:54 AM
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I just returned from nine days (driving) in the Czech Republic with a car that was rented in Germany. My sister and I (mid-30's) are Americans but had no problems with our "German" car. I agree with the posting about speed limits being displayed upon entering the country. If you miss that sign, there are few signs to remind you. Czechs love to speed and although I had the inclination, I was very careful to obey the speed limit. A tour guide in Cesky Krumlov told us about the local police (not necessarily in that town) who like to take money from tourists by stopping them for minor infractions. Once the fine is paid (sometimes into their pocket), you are free to go.
Again, I did not experience any problems with the police but I didn't give them any reason to stop me. If you are driving on the highway, don't forget your toll pass. As soon as you cross the border, you can stop at a welcome center and buy the pass. The minimum pass is for 7 days and costs under $10.00. The sticker must be displayed on the right lower corner of the windshield. If you want to explore many areas of the CR, driving is the best method. The train system is being updated and will not be done until 2012. Currently, many trains share one track and that means lots of stopping and waiting. Before I rented the car, I thought about trains until I realized the complicated logistics of the CR.
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Nov 3rd, 2007, 11:21 AM
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I've driven (for a week at a time) in the Czech & Slovak Republics 4 times in the last 7 years. Never got a ticket for speeding. My US record is now down to 0 points, from a high of 10 perhaps 15 years ago (in other words, I'm capable of having a heavy foot).

I had no problem adhering to the speed limit(s). It's not as though 130KPH (80 MPH) is agonizingly slow. It's higher than the speed limit anywhere in the USA, so obey it. You're in the country to see the scenery, not a blurry haze of mileposts. Slow down (to 80 MPH)and enjoy.

I did get a ticket once in Prague for driving in a PESI ZONA (pedestrian zone). Didn't know what the sign meant, and marvelled that there were no other cars, but proceeded anyway. Nailed immediately, paid immediately a reasonable fine. It was only about $10 equivalent, so if that's "all the money you have in your wallet", you probably shouldn't be in Prague.
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