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Travel & living abroad

Europe

Slovakia

Flag of Slovakia
Still current at: 09 December 2011
Updated: 02 December 2011
No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary and the Health section (disputes in the health care system). The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in this travel advice for Slovakia.


(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country



  • Due to ongoing disputes there have been large scale resignations of doctors from the Slovak health care system. Some hospitals may not be fully functional with others only able to offer emergency services in some departments. It is possible that British nationals will need to seek medical assistance outside of their regions, or even outside of Slovakia. Please monitor your local media.

  • There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • You must carry your passport with you at all times for identification purposes.  It is also advisable to carry a photocopy of your passport, even if you are travelling as part of a group.

  • Before travelling to Slovakia you should ensure that your passport is in a presentable state. The Slovak authorities can refuse entry if your passport is worn or damaged, or looks as if it has been tampered with.

  • Most visits to Slovakia are trouble-free. See General - Consular Assistance Statistics. If you need to contact the emergency services in Slovakia call 112.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  See General - Insurance.

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

See our Terrorism Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime
In Bratislava especially there remains a risk of petty theft. Pickpockets operate around the main tourist areas, in particular around the popular Christmas markets, and foreigners are easily identified and targeted. Take precautions against bag snatching and mugging. Do not leave valuables unattended. When jackets are placed on the backs of restaurant chairs, wallets should be kept securely elsewhere. When putting bags down, place one foot through the arm straps to prevent theft.  

Some visitors to Bratislava have been given "spiked" drinks and have woken several hours later to find all their valuables gone.  Be wary of drinks offered by persons unknown to you.  Some large city centre pubs employ heavy-handed bouncers, some of whom carry firearms, who control boisterous behaviour very aggressively.  Be careful not to offend by showing disrespect to e.g. other national flags.

There have been cases of theft of valuables at the Zlaty Piesky camping area in Bratislava. You should exercise particular caution when camping there.  Be careful at Bratislava airport and keep valuables and cash with you, rather than place it in checked baggage.

Foreign-licensed cars have been targeted by criminals. If you have to fix a puncture, or any damage to your tyres, ensure that your vehicle is locked before you sort out the problem. There has recently been a sharp increase in robberies from parked cars. Items stolen have not been on general view. Remove all valuable from the car when parking, rather than just being placed out of sight.

Taxi drivers sometimes attempt to overcharge tourists, e.g. by adding unauthorised supplements or by not setting the meter at the start of a journey.  Insist that you will pay only the fare shown on the meter.

More serious crime does happen in Slovakia but is not usually targeted at tourists or visitors and tends to be a result of disputes between warring criminal fractions.

See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.


Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
You should have valid motor insurance for your car. Right-hand drive cars can not normally be registered in Slovakia, which makes it very difficult to obtain insurance for those who intend to settle or remain in Slovakia to work.  

You can drive on a UK driving licence for up to six months.  

Children under the age of 12 must not sit in the front seat of moving vehicles.  

Although reasonably good, many main roads have only a single carriageway in each direction making overtaking difficult.  Road markings are difficult to see in poor weather.

The standard of driving is not high and can be aggressive, with drivers often going too fast, pushing into dangerously small gaps, tailgating and overtaking with little regard for other road users. Drive defensively and allow yourself more "thinking time". Specifically, beware of oncoming cars overtaking on your side of the road (particularly on bends and hills). Older, low-powered cars and trucks travel very slowly; be careful not to overestimate their speed.  In 2010 there were 353 road deaths in Slovakia (source: DfT). This equates to 6.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 3.1 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2010.

In winter, equip your car for severe driving conditions:  use winter tyres, and if travelling outside Bratislava carry extra warm clothing, hot drinks in a thermos-flask, sacking (to help give tyres purchase in slippery conditions) and a shovel.  Although winter tyres are not compulsory in Slovakia, where an accident occurs and one vehicle has normal tyres the official presumption is that the vehicle is at fault.

Vehicles must have their headlights switched on all year round, regardless of the weather and whether they are in a town or out in the country.  Speed limits in towns have been reduced to 50kms per hour.

Drivers with any trace of alcohol in their body will be arrested.  There is no permitted level other than 0%.  If you are involved in an accident while driving the Police will give you a breath test regardless of who is to blame. 

A new electronic toll system was introduced in Slovakia on 1 January 2010. It applies to all vehicles with their weight over 3.5 tons. All truck drivers are strongly recommended to study the new rules and pay the necessary fees. Failing to do so may result in fines from €1655 to €2655.

More information on the toll system: http://www.emyto.sk or please call their Call Centre on +421 2 35 111 111. Call Centre operates 24/7 and is available in English.

Toll road network map can be found at: http://www.emyto.sk

See
our Driving Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Skiing and Hiking
If you ski or hike in the Slovak mountains and get into difficulties you should be aware that since if the Slovak Mountain Rescue Service (HZS) is called out to assist you, you will be required to meet their full costs. The costs could range from € 116 to €9,960 depending on the size of the operation.  Any person ignoring/violating HZS commands or laws will be liable to a fine of up to €3,320. Skiers and mountain visitors should ensure they have sufficient insurance to cover any rescue costs and to take heed of any instructions issued by HZS. 

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
Revised EU-wide security measures apply in Slovakia.  For more details about this see Airline Security

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Slovakia Country Profile.

While in Slovakia, you will be subject to its laws and regulations.  All those who violate Slovak laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested and fined or imprisoned. For example there is a law about adverse noise between 22:00 and 06:00. Unruly or rowdy behaviour could attract the attention of the police.  Bratislava has become a popular destination for stag parties and tourists have been fined or imprisoned for causing a public nuisance.

You must carry your passport with you at all times as identification - keep it safe, e.g. in a zipped up pocket or secure bag, and keep the details separately in case you lose it. Remember to enter/revise the next of kin details in the back of your passport. For travel outside of Slovakia even to other Schengen countries, British citizens resident in Slovakia should note that the Residence Permit card issued in Slovakia (Trvaly Pobyt) is not considered acceptable proof of identity. Non-Slovak authorities have detained EU citizens travelling without a passport until friends at home have found the passport and taken it to the place where the person was being held; only then could the individual continue travelling.

Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as a military establishment or somehow of security interest, may result in problems with the authorities.

Do not get involved with drugs in any way.  The penalties for smuggling, possession and use of drugs are severe.

It is an offence in Bratislava Old Town to drink alcohol in the street. There may be exceptions for seasonal markets (such as the Christmas Market) and outside seating areas of restaurants and bars.  But consuming alcohol (for example bought in a supermarket) in other public areas could result in your being fined €33.

See our Your Trip page.

Entry Requirements - Passport validity  
You must hold a valid passport to enter Slovakia. For stays of up to three months your passport must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this. However, it is always sensible to have a short period of extra validity on your passport in case of any unforeseen delays to your departure. You do not have to wait until your old passport expires to apply to renew it. Any time left on your old passport when you apply will be added to your new passport, up to a maximum of nine months. For passport applications in the UK, you should apply to the Identity and Passport Service. For stays of longer than three months, contact the Embassy of the country to which you are travelling.

As a British passport holder there is no minimum length of remaining validity needed.  Nevertheless it is recommended, wherever possible, that the passport is valid beyond the length of your planned stay in Slovakia.

Entry Requirements - Visas
Visas are not required for British citizens to enter Slovakia.

British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British nationals (Overseas), British subjects and British Protected persons should contact the nearest Slovak Embassy to determine if there is a requirement for a visa to be obtained.  This also applies to Third Country Nationals who hold residence permits in the UK.  Depending on the format of that residence permit, a visa for Slovakia may be required.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic has a website which will help to locate your nearest Slovak Embassy.

Entry Requirements - Registering with the Slovak authorities

If you plan to stay in Slovakia on a long-term basis, i.e. to work or live, you should register with the Police within three days of arrival.  You will need your passport, two photographs, a small fee of €3-€6 and proof of accommodation in the form of either your letter of ownership, if you own the property, or lease agreement accompanied by the letter of ownership from the owner of the property.  You have an option to apply for a Slovak “green card”, which can be used as proof of your ID, while keeping your passport in a safe place.

Those wishing to apply for a Slovak Residence Permit can go to the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic website for further information.

The standard of Medical facilities in Slovakia varies. Doctors are generally very good and Medical equipment is constantly being improved. However, many hospitals  are under-maintained and there are few English- speaking receptionists and nurses.

Due to ongoing disputes there have been large scale resignations of doctors from the Slovak health care system. Some hospitals may not be fully functional with others only able to offer emergency services in some departments. It is possible that British nationals will need to seek medical assistance outside of their regions, or even outside of Slovakia. Please monitor your local media.

You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Slovakian nationals. It also does not cover you for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature.  For more general information see EHIC page.

Tick-borne encephalitis is common in Slovakia. You should seek advice if you are planning to visit forested areas in the summer months.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that less than 500 adults aged 15 or over in Slovakia were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at less than 0.1% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. See our HIV and AIDS page.

Seek medical advice before travelling to Slovakia and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our Travel Health page.

General - Insurance  
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See our Travel Insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. 

General - Consular assistance
The Consular Section of the Embassy can provide assistance in an emergency such as the arrest, serious accident, illness or the death of a British national. The Consular Section can also assist you if your passport is lost or stolen and you need to travel urgently. We can help you arrange to transfer funds.  However, for some services a fee is charged. Please note that the Embassy is only able to issue an Emergency Travel Document (ETD). Applications for full passports are now handled by the British Passport Processing Service in Northern Europe which is based at the British Consulate-General in Dusseldorf. More information on the passport issuing process can be found on their website, http://ukingermany.fco.gov.uk/en/passports/welcome. Applicants are advised to allow 10 working days for a new full passport

Before submitting an application for an ETD, the loss of the full passport must be reported to a police station and a police report obtained. The nearest police station to the Embassy can be found at:

Sturova 15
811 02 Bratislava

If you don’t have a Slovak speaker with you, the police can provide a translator, although longer waiting times should be expected (about two hours).

In a serious emergency out or normal hours you should continue to call the main Embassy telephone number. You will then be given the telephone number of the FCO's Global Response Centre which will be able to offer immediate advice. This Centre cannot deal with visa or passport enquiries.

General - Consular Assistance Statistics
Most visits to Slovakia are trouble-free.  19 British nationals required consular assistance in Slovakia in the period 01 April 2010 – 31 March 2011 for the following types of incident: four deaths; seven hospitalisations; and three arrests.

General - Students

For students studying in a non-Slovak college, please note that there is no entitlement to use student tickets on any of Slovakia’s municipal bus services even if you are carrying a student card. Only students holding Slovak student cards qualify for the cut-price tickets. Fines of €46 are levied if stopped. Students should check with the provider of public transport whether they qualify for a discount.

General - Physically handicapped travellers
Slovakia, in general, does not cater for those that are physically handicapped. Some effort is now being taken to make buildings more accessible, but the vast majority of buildings only have steps rather than ramps.

General - Customs Regulations
If you travel within the European Union (EU) you can bring an unlimited amount of most goods.  For example, you can bring in any alcohol, tobacco, meat and dairy products - as long as they are for your own use and transported by you. If you are bringing in alcohol and tobacco goods and the Customs officer may have reason to suspect they may be for a commercial purpose, an officer may ask you questions and make checks. This refers to travelling into Slovakia and/or entering the UK. See the website of HMRC (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/arriving/arrivingeu.htm).

General - Money
Make sure you bring enough money and keep it safe. Travellers' cheques are the safest way to carry money but make sure that you buy them from an organisation with agents in Slovakia. Change cash and travellers' cheques at proper banks or bureaux de change: kiosks, although legal, offer poorer exchange rates and there is a greater risk of theft in their vicinity. Neither Scottish nor Northern Irish bank notes can be exchanged in Slovakia.

ATM machines that accept UK bank or credit cards (Cirrus, Maestro or Visa), are common. Shops - particularly in the main tourist areas - increasingly accept credit cards, but are sometimes reluctant to accept cards issued by foreign banks.  If you intend to pay for something by card do check first that that the shop will accept your card and that it can be read (there are sometimes problems with "Maestro"). Check your statements carefully for transactions you did not make.  

Make sure you know whom to contact to cancel stolen cards and/or how to obtain replacement travellers' cheques. If your money is lost or stolen you can arrange for friends or relatives in the UK to transfer money through Western Union to the Slovak Post, who is the only provider of this service in Slovakia: www.posta.sk. Please note that their offices are not open at night. Call Western Union in the UK 0800 833 833 for further information.

Contacts

Slovakia, Bratislava, British Embassy

Address:

British Embassy
Panska 16
811 01 Bratislava

Telephone:

(421) (2) 5998 2000

Fax:

(421) (2) 5998 2237

Office hours:

Monday-Thursday:  0830-1700
Friday:  0830-1400

 

Website: http://ukinslovakia.fco.gov.uk/en/

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