What to do when you’re sick in Prague

We know you’re going to be super busy during your Prague semester. Between studying, attending classes, exploring the city, traveling, and partying, your plate is going to be pretty full. You’ve got a lot to do and you don’t want anything to get in the way, especially not an unexpected illness! 

So what happens if you get sick during your semester in Prague? What if you need to visit the ER? Where can you go for help if you need to see a doctor or specialist? The Czech healthcare system can be pretty confusing, so we’ve broken it down for you.

Health Insurance

First off, let’s cover how you’re going to pay for your medical visits during your Prague semester. 

Citizens of the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland

Some of you are citizens of the EU  – lucky you! And these same rules apply for citizens of Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland. You probably have it the cheapest (and easiest) when it comes to having health insurance and seeing a doctor in Prague. 

When you arrive for your semester in Prague, you should be all set. You’re able to cover the costs of standard medical treatment with your European Health Insurance Card (also known as the Blue Card) , through form E111 or a Provisional Certificate if you don’t have the mentioned card. 

Before you go for treatment, all you have to do is make sure the facility you’ve chosen cooperates with the Czech public health insurance system (in other words, don’t choose a private clinic) and be sure to take your normal insurance card and your ID with you. That’s it – you’re covered!

Non-EU Citizens

The rest of you spending your semester in Prague come from outside the EU, and you’ve got a couple options for health insurance. You are required to obtain health insurance from an authorized insurance company with the original contract written in Czech.

Lucky for you there are several Czech companies that provide insurance plans specifically designed to meet the needs of students in Prague, and you can usually buy it online. At the beginning of your stay, it’s up to you whether you want to get emergency medical coverage or comprehensive medical care, but you will need the latter if you want to extend your visa. 

The following companies offer both types of insurance for foreigners: UNIQA, Slavia, Maxima, and VZP. Take a look at their policies and options on their websites to decide which will work best for you! 

Medical Visits

Now on to your actual medical visits! First and foremost, we should mention that you should choose public clinics that cooperate with your respective insurance company and policy unless you want to pay for your visit – so double check before you go.

General Practitioners

If you’re feeling under the weather and it’s not an emergency, a quick Google search will point you in the direction of several poliklinikas and doctor’s offices around Prague. A poliklinika will probably be your best bet, as they’re usually public (so they’ll take your insurance) and there are several specialists in one building, so if you need a referral chances are you won’t have to travel to get to your respective specialist. 

Beware, though, because not all general practitioners speak English and some of the staff can be quite rude to foreigners, so be sure to search specifically for English or whatever language you may need and read reviews online before you go. Most places will be able to give you an appointment the same day so it’s a quick turnaround. Some doctors (mostly in the center) may also charge a fee for an examination in English even if you have insurance so check their website beforehand. 

Public Hospitals

If it’s an emergency or if you can’t get an appointment with a general practitioner, there are several public hospitals offering consultations in English and other languages:

  • Motol Hospital (Fakultní nemocnice v Motole)One of Europe’s biggest healthcare facilities, this hospital has a department dedicated specifically to foreigners and they offer consultations in English, German, French, Russian, and Spanish. The ER here is open 24/7.
  • Central Military Hospital (Ústřední vojenská nemocnice)Although this is the military hospital, it is also open to civilians and is generally considered to be one of the Czech Republic’s best facilities. According to the US Embassy, there is always an English-speaking staff member available. 
  • Homolka (Nemocnice na Homolce) – This hospital offers treatment to expats with Czech health insurance (so good for all you students during your Prague semester!), EU health insurance card-holders, and to those without insurance (hopefully this isn’t you, though…). Their staff includes members who speak English, German, French, and Russian. 

If for some reason you need a private clinic, one of the most popular places for foreigners’ medical care is Canadian Medical. While they have great reviews, you will pay out of pocket for your medical treatment there, which probably isn’t optimal for students in Prague. 

OTC Medication

Feel sick but know exactly how to treat yourself with over-the-counter medications? Need something preventative or for just-in-case scenarios like ibuprofen or probiotics? The only places allowed to sell these things in the Czech Republic are pharmacies (or lékárna in Czech).

You’ll have to go up to the counter and ask the pharmacist for what you need and they’ll grab it from behind the counter for you. Most pharmacists speak English but even if they don’t, the names of generic medications are usually similar. Or, if you’re not sure what to buy, they’ll be able to recommend a product for your condition. 

Hopefully you don’t get sick during your Prague semester, but it’s best to be prepared for the worst just in case. Navigating foreign healthcare systems can be stressful and confusing so this guide should make it a little easier for you. In the meantime, dose up on your vitamin C to try and keep the doctors away so you can make the most of your semester in Prague without coming down with a bug! 

Have a question about the medical care here in Prague that we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to help you out! 

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