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Whether you call the country Czechia or the Czech Republic, you’re right either way. In 2016 the country’s government decided it would be good to have a one-word name for the country, and officially changed the “short” name of the country to Czechia.
It hasn’t really caught on yet, though, and many locals and tourists still call it the Czech Republic, at least in English.
I spent a month in Prague, the country’s capital and largest city. It’s full of amazing food, incredible architecture, great co-working spaces, and solid, if not particularly cheap, mobile providers.
Unlike many other European countries, you won’t be bombarded with tons of marketing from carriers when you land, or even as you walk the streets of Prague.
Sure there are stores and kiosks everywhere throughout the city, but it’s refreshing not to be overwhelmed by them all telling you they are the biggest, fastest, best value, etc. as you wander around.
There are three big players in Czechia: Vodafone, T-Mobile, and O2, and I initially wasn’t sure which to go with. All three offer LTE coverage on pre-paid plans, but my research as to the best option gave mixed results.
I started by asking other digital nomads at the co-working space I favored, but learned nothing conclusive. Everyone had a different favorite, mostly based on which company had the best special when they first landed in town.
I also checked their phones, but all had strong signal and good speeds in the city center regardless of network.
Additional online research turned up the same thing, with several people suggesting the providers were all comparable. Finally, I decided to just go into the stores and get more info firsthand.
Staff at both O2 and T-Mobile told me they had the best network, just because “they were the best.” They offered no differentiation or explanation as to why, and seemed to think it was an odd question.
I then visited the Vodafone shop, and was impressed. Not only was there no wait to talk to someone, but the salesperson explained his answer very articulately by showing me a map of all of the countries in Europe where Vodafone operates, and how their roaming packages have better pricing and coverage.
He then ran a speed test on his phone to show me the lightning-fast LTE speeds of the network (more below). Lastly, he showed me the prepaid package options, which were more numerous than either of the other two carriers. I was sold.
Vodafone was the clear winner for me, and after using it for a few weeks, I wasn’t disappointed.
How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Czechia
While Vodafone has a kiosk in Terminal 2 of Prague’s international airport, as mentioned I waited until I was in the city and visited all three carriers. O2 and T-Mobile used a touchscreen ticket system, with a 15-minute wait in both cases. When I finally did get to talk with someone, I felt more like an annoyance than a customer.
Vodafone had no visible ticket system, with plenty of knowledgeable staff on hand to answer my questions right away. Even with the carrier overview and package selection, the entire process took only 15 minutes.
No passport was even required for the transaction. I just had to select my plan, sign a form written in Czech that said I wouldn’t do anything illegal with my SIM, and pay.
The representative installed the card for me and made sure it was working before I left. It was a breeze.
Prepaid SIM Costs
O2 was running a special at the time, making it slightly cheaper than the other providers, while T-Mobile had a different but comparable offering to Vodafone.
All three companies matched each other well on prices, and I was told they all tweak their plans a little each month to stay competitive. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, none had printed price sheets.
The Vodafone SIM card was free with the purchase of my plan, and I went for a tourist-focused package that included 10GB of data for 800 Czech Koruna (~$31), good for 30 days. This also included unlimited Vodafone-to-Vodafone calls. There was also a 20GB option, for 1299 CZK.
These packages didn’t include EU roaming. I was in Czechia for the full month so roaming wasn’t something I needed, but you’ll need to go for a different package (or provider) if that’s something you’re after.
With 10 gigs to use in a month and a fast Wi-Fi connection at my co-working spot, I never had to top up, but it’s easy enough to do.
Options include the Vodafone app (Můj Vodafone), the company website, or any place around town that has a Vodafone sticker in the window (and there are a lot of them).
Coverage and Data Speeds
As soon as I bought my SIM card, I noticed how fast web browsing and internet-based apps seemed to be… and then I tested the speed.
126Mbps down/42Mbps up! Those speeds remained consistent during my entire trip, and I had no issues with the service anywhere I used my phone.
Czechia is part of the European Union, so EU roaming regulations apply. These “roam like at home” rules ended roaming charges across much of Europe in 2017, letting you use a SIM card from any EU country across all the others at no extra charge.
There are some exceptions and limits, however, especially with large data packages like the tourist plan mentioned above. We’ve also had reports of Vodafone staff at the airport refusing to enable roaming on other plans for foreign visitors (see the comments below.) In short, double-check the exact details carefully at time of purchase if you plan to roam elsewhere in the EU.
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.