Any Type 1 diabetic can visit the Czech Republic without worry or fear. All it takes is some preparation and the right attitude.
Here are some tips for diabetes travel to the lovely Czech Republic, which has a lot of great things to offer the intrepid traveler. Diabetes can’t stop you from seeing whatever you want in this mesmerizing Central European country between Germany, Austria, and Slovenia.
What you’ll find in this diabetes travel guide to the Czech Republic
As a traveling Type 1 diabetic, I’ve included some of my own experiences in the Czech Republic here, plus diabetes tips, incidents, and advice that I’ve developed after years of exploring the globe with a backpack full of insulin and blood sugar test strips.
See these topics below:
- How to speak Czech (for diabetics)
- What to eat in the Czech Republic
- Where to go in the Czech Republic
- My experiences as a Type 1 diabetic in the Czech Republic, including blood sugars and insulin doses
- Links to my detailed diabetes travelogue for the Czech Republic
How to speak Czech – for T1Ds
If you want to communicate that you’re diabetic in the Czech Republic, you’re in luck. There is a Czech term for it, but the most useful term happens to be the English word “diabetes”.
UPDATE: This page used to recommend the Czech phrase úplavice cukrová for diabetes but in the comments section, Clare from the Czech Republic reports that that term is no longer used and you should just say diabetes. That makes it even easier! Thanks Clare.
If you want to say it anyway – perhaps to amuse yourself – try this (and roll the Rs):
- diabetes mellitus – úplavice cukrová (“oo-pluh-vee-tseh tsoo-crow-vuh”)
- diabetes – cukrovka (“tsu krove kuh”)
At any rate, having to communicate that you’re diabetic is unlikely. Only in an extreme circumstance would you have to tell some doctor or nurse about it, and part of the fun of traveling as a diabetic is that you must overcome your fear. An emergency won’t happen; go!
It is a good idea, though, to wear a bracelet or necklace or something that identifies you as a diabetic. As stated, the English word “diabetic” will be fine, as will the usual abbreviations like “DM” or “IDDM” (which, handily, matches the Czech phrase inzulin-dependentní diabetes mellitus – and no I’m not going to translate that for you!).
Traveling in the Czech Republic as a Type 1 diabetic
The Czech Republic is a modern and advanced country, and you will be able to find everything you need. There is a wide range of food available, and while some typical traveler food can be high in carbs, there is also meat and vegetables that you can mix in with the rice and bread. (See more about Czech food and diabetes below.)
You should bring the insulin and test strips that you’ll need for the whole trip, just to make it easier. Most guesthouses and hotels and hostels will have a refrigerator where you can store your insulin if you need to. Just remember to get it when you check out!
Low blood sugar snacks can be found everywhere. Personally I always had a bottle of orange juice and some cookies or chocolate on me. There are convenience stores and kiosks all around, especially in train and bus stations, and grocery stores are easy to find. Always have enough low BG snacks on you; keep some in a separate bag too so you can replenish the supply you’re carrying if you use yours up.
When Czechoslovakia existed it was fairly small; now that it’s split up into the two nations of Czech Republic and Slovakia, both are even smaller. An excellent train network extends to most corners of the Czech Republic, and buses will take you to destinations between the cracks.
Lunch may not be available on trains and buses, so if you’re taking a journey and aren’t sure, stock up beforehand. Sandwiches and chips and drinks are for sale at most stations. Buses may stop somewhere long enough for you to hop off and buy something, but this is hard to coordinate. Just bring enough with you before the trip begins.
My route in the Czech Republic
My ten days in the Czech Republic, alongside my non-diabetic travel partner Masayo, were spent partially in smaller towns and partially in the famous capital city. Every place was different, and each was absolutely worth the visit.
Entering from Poland, we visited Kroměříž with its famous Archbishop’s Gardens (and peacocks) then went to Kutná Hora to see the amazing Church of Bones. After a few days in Prague, we saw the tiny southern town of Český Krumlov, where I overcame a brief illness before visiting a fantastic hilltop castle and the Egon Schiele Museum. Finally we passed through Brno and into Slovakia.
My diabetes experiences in the Czech Republic
Not only did I regularly underestimate the carbohydrate content of Czech meals (especially dinners), but I was sick for a couple days, and my average blood sugar in the Czech Republic was rather high, though a slight improvement on what it had been in Poland.
When traveling with diabetes, always strive for better control. Even if you’re doing all you can, and still ending up low or high, don’t get discouraged. Just keep at it, and you’ll figure it out eventually. Not to perfection, but much better. As long as you’re paying attention, checking often, and trying to learn from each experience, you’re successful.
My diabetes stats from the Czech Republic:
- Total number of BG checks: 49
- Average BG: 196
- Lowest BG: 55
- Highest BG: 383
- Average morning BGs (~12:00): 199
- Average afternoon BGs (12:00~6:00): 172
- Average evening BGs (6:00~): 223
These will be much better for you if you consider that dinners might have more carbs than you think. Watch our for those sauces!
But don’t let diabetes scare you from eating what you want: make your best guess, take your insulin, and then check and adjust as needed. Let diabetes be something you work with, not something that dictates your travels.
Your meals in the Czech Republic can include quite a range of foods. Here’s a sampling of what I, as a traveling diabetic with no real schedule or plans, found; your own experiences will likely resemble this to a degree.
- Train station food – Kiosks and small grocery shops are a good place to find snack-type foods for meals aboard trains or buses. Sandwiches and chips are the old standbys, but you can also add yogurt, chocolate soy milk, cookies, fruit, beef jerky, and/or whatever else you want. Most packaged food will have carb information on it. You don’t really need to read Czech to understand it, but do pay attention to whether the information is given per portion, or per 100g, or whatever, and calculate accordingly.
- Coffee shops – What traveler to the Czech Republic doesn’t find himself or herself at a Starbucks-esque cafe at some point? Diabetics should know that the pastries and muffins in these places can be quite loaded with carbs, and there may be no nutrition info available, but as with other meals just make your best guess and check afterwards.
- Guesthouse breakfast – Many hostels and guesthouses offer a free or cheap breakfast buffet. These can be huge and scrumptious, with breads and meats, yogurts, cereals, pastries, fruits, juices, etc. A good money-saving tactic can be to load up on these meals and then have a super light lunch. But watch the insulin dose: a huge breakfast is tough for many diabetics to handle. (But I believe anyone can get used to it by understanding exercise levels and sleep schedules, and by experimenting and checking BG often enough.)
- Czech food – Try something like potato pancakes and venison ghoulash – higher in carbs than it looks but totally worth the attempt. Potatoes are common in Czech dishes so be careful.
- International restaurants – You may like to seek out non-Czech international foods, or you may be in a town small enough where the only thing open is a Chinese noodle place.
- Beer – The Czech Republic is legendary for its beer, which is cheaper in restaurants than a glass of carbonated water. Like any alcohol, it can complicate diabetes, so take it easy. Be particularly careful about insulin, a large meal, and beer, and check while you’re drinking periodically and make choices and adjustments as you go. Good health is important for a diabetic to feel good, but don’t miss out on Czech beer if that’s your thing. Find an intelligent balance.
Public insulin injections in the Czech Republic
In restaurants, you may be able to shoot up at the table, depending on how and where you do it. Personally, I inject into my legs and did so at tables in public, right through my pants and long underwear. Not the recommended way, but it never gave me any problem (and if there was a dot of blood, it would wash right off my Bluff Works travel pants).
Accommodation in the Czech Republic
I recommend booking.com which is the website I used to book all my rooms in the Czech Republic. You can specify price, room type, amenities, free breakfasts, location, etc.
Here are some examples of where we stayed in the Czech Republic, and what you can expect from Czech lodging:
- Penzion Kroměříž, Kroměříž – One of the nicest places we’d stayed on this trip so far, this pension in the town of Kroměříž featured a great room close to the train station and the Archbishop’s Palace on a quiet side street. There was a refrigerator in the large room I put my insulin in, a nice view over the residential part of town, and hip, modern furniture. Plus a delicious buffet breakfast in the morning.
- Penzion Centrum, Kutná Hora – Unbelievable location in Kutná Hora, this pension had a tiny room and an even tinier bathroom/shower, but with a gigantic cathedral right outside the door and a 60-second cobblestoned walk to the town center, it’s hard to imagine a better spot to stay in town. Breakfast was cooked, not a buffet – a big plate of eggs and bacon plus juice, rolls, and coffee.
- Hotel Jelení Dvůr, Prague – We got a proper hotel room, not a hostel or guesthouse, in tourist-heavy Prague because it was reasonably well-located (less than 1km from Prague Castle), quiet, and best of all, relatively cheap. Prague is expensive, so save money where you can. The room here was excellent, and the breakfast buffet was one of the most extensive we’d seen.
- Hostel Merlin, Český Krumlov – A tiny building with cramped, dark attic rooms was fine with me: I was sick and laying in bed for a day, but the Merlin’s location is right in the middle of this absolutely unbelievable little town so when I got better it was easy to go see everything; it was right outside our door. Superb value for the money. No breakfast, though, so you’d have to find a cute little place in town. That’s a problem worth having.
Have you been to the Czech Republic?
I’m always looking to meet people – diabetic or not! – who have traveled to the Czech Republic. Tell me your experiences, or let me know if you have any specific questions.
Diabetic travel nerds who are more serious about traveling to the Czech Republic are advised to check out my daily travelogue (links below); I discuss the places I went, food I ate, insulin I took, and blood sugar results in much more detail.
You can go anywhere with diabetes!
Read more about my travels in Czech Republic
Come along on the adventure! Follow detailed travelogues about the wondrous sights, fascinating people, and varied diabetes experiences I encountered as a traveling T1D in Czech Republic:
Day 35: Unpronounceable Trip: Kraków To Kroměříž
Day 36: Peacocks And Moss At Kroměříž Gardens
Day 37: The Smaller The Czech Town The Prettier It Is
Day 38: Kutná Hora's Gruesome Church Of Bones
Day 39: First Look At Prague, The Capital Of Central Europe
Day 40: Prague Is Spectacular Even If You're Sick
Day 41: A Side Of Prague Most Tourists Don't See
Day 42: Hiking Up To Vyšehrad, The Hilltop Czech Fortress
Day 43: The World's Most Beautiful Place To Recuperate
Day 44: Český Krumlov: UNESCO Home Of Artist Egon Schiele
Day 45: Down Frosty Roads Into Bratislava, Slovakia
Share your travel stories, give advice, or ask a question in the comments section.
Next page: Tips for traveling to Poland with diabetes
“The guide to surviving Poland as a diabetic traveler. Read these tips on insulin doses, Polish food, blood sugar checks, and more before you go!”