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Travel Security Advice for Slovakia

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slovakia_mapSlovakia_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 

The Slovak Republic is a rapidly developing European nation. Tourist facilities are not as developed as those found in Western Europe, particularly outside the major cities, and some goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are occasionally unavailable.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Slovak Republic for additional information.

On January 1, 2009, the Slovak Republic adopted the Euro as its official currency. All bank deposits in Slovak crowns (SKK) were automatically transferred to Euros. Slovak bank notes and coins are no longer accepted as of January 16, 2009: however, commercial banks will be exchanging the Slovak crowns to Euros throughout 2009. Subsequent exchanges will only be provided by the National Bank of the Slovak Republic.



REGISTRATION: 

U.S. citizens living or traveling in the Slovak Republic are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State travel registration page , so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.  



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

The Slovak Republic is a party to the Schengen Agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter the Slovak Republic for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet. All foreigners seeking entry into the Slovak Republic must carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs for hospitalization and medical treatment in the Slovak Republic. Border police have the right to request evidence of finances sufficient to pay for the proposed stay in the Slovak Republic in the amount of $50 per person per day. Visit the Embassy of the Slovak Republic website for the most current visa information.

All persons in the Slovak Republic over the age of 15 must carry official identification at all times. American citizens staying overnight in the Slovak Republic must register with the local Border and Aliens Police within three working days. Persons staying at hotels are registered automatically. Visit the Slovak Ministry of the Interior for the most current information.

Persons wishing to remain in the Slovak Republic longer than 90 days or arriving for purposes other than tourism or business travel must apply for temporary residency and/or work permits shortly after arrival in the Slovak Republic. However, it is strongly recommended that such persons review the requirements available on the Embassy website and begin preparing their applications prior to travel, as many documents required of U.S. citizens are more easily obtained in the United States. For example, U.S. citizens must submit a certificate not older than 90 days showing the result of a fingerprint records check by the FBI. As authorities in the Slovak Republic cannot take fingerprints for this purpose, it is  time consuming to obtain this certificate after arrival in the Slovak Republic which may result in an illegal stay in Slovakia and the requirement to leave the whole Schengen area for at least 90 days. In addition, the Slovak Republic requires all documents (birth certificates, etc) intended for official use in the Slovak Republic to be authenticated (e.g. to have an apostille). See our section on Judicial Assistance for more information.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors, however a medical examination including HIV/AIDS test is required for obtaining residency permit in the Slovak Republic.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Taking photographs of security/military installations (for example, military bases, government buildings, nuclear power plants, etc.) is prohibited. Violation of this law may result in confiscation of the film, a reprimand or fine, or even expulsion from the country. Serious cases may be reported to and handled by local and/or military police.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs' website.  

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

All persons physically present in the Slovak Republic, including American visitors, are required by law to carry a passport at all times. It is not sufficient to carry a photocopy of the passport, although it is recommended that you keep a photocopy of your passport in a safe place. The police have the right to ask Americans for identification, and only a passport showing legal entry and/or legal residency status is adequate evidence.

A document other than a passport may not be considered a sufficient proof of identity and legal status in the Slovak Republic. If you are asked for your passport with residency permit and you do not have it, you risk a spot fine and/or detention by the police.



CRIME: 

The Slovak Republic has a medium rate of crime. Police forces suffer from a lack of manpower resources and equipment. Local police are not likely to speak English. Western visitors, especially short-term visitors such as tourists and students, are the primary foreign targets of street crime. The majority of street crime is non-violent and ranges from pick-pocketing (particularly in the summer) and purse and cellular telephone snatchings to mugging, armed robbery, shooting, drugging and robbing of unsuspecting victims at nightspots and bars. Most thefts reported by Americans occur at crowded tourist sites (such as Bratislava’s Old Town area) or on public buses or trains. Thieves in the Slovak Republic often work in groups or pairs. In most cases, one thief distracts the victim, another performs the robbery, and a third person hands off the stolen item to a nearby accomplice. Groups of street children are known to divert tourists’ attention so that a member of their group can pickpocket the tourists while they are distracted.

Do not leave personal items in unattended vehicles, even if locked.

Racially motivated incidents against foreigners and members of minorities, particularly perpetrated by groups with a history of targeting persons of Roma, African, or Asian descent, have occurred in the Slovak Republic. In addition to incidents of assault, persons of Roma, African, or Asian heritage may be subject to various types of harassment, such as verbal abuse.

Both indigenous and foreign organized crime groups are well established in the Slovak Republic. They do not target U.S. or other foreign individuals and tend to co-exist peacefully in the tourist district so as not to scare away tourist dollars. Though not common, violent incidents sometimes do occur outside of Old Town Bratislava.



VICTIMS OF CRIME: 

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates ).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Slovak Republic is 112.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Slovak laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Smuggling, possession or use of drugs even in small amounts is a crime and may result in severe penalties and arrest. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: 

Slovak customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Slovak Republic of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington, D.C. or one of the Slovak consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 

Medical facilities are available in the Slovak Republic, although the quality and availability varies within the country. Ambulances are only a means of transportation to the hospital; they may not have life support stabilization equipment on board. Only a limited number of doctors speak English. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment for health services unless the patient can present an insurance number from the Slovak National Insurance Company. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Medical prescriptions issued in the U.S. are not valid in the Slovak Republic. If needed, a local doctor must issue a prescription. Medicines are generally available locally, if not available under the American name, a doctor can be consulted for a substitute. The Ministry of Health of Slovak Republic administers the use of medicines and medicine brought to the Slovak Republic for personal use may become subject to comparison against the list of those authorized for use in the Slovak Republic.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information .



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad. Important questions are whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page .



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Slovak Republic is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Roads in the Slovak Republic typically are safe and well maintained. Four-lane highways exist in and around Bratislava. However, most roads outside of built-up areas are two lanes only, and aggressive drivers attempting to pass at unsafe speeds pose a serious hazard. Due to poor lighting and narrow, winding roads, nighttime driving outside of built-up areas is not recommended.

From November through March there is often heavy snowfall, which is not adequately cleared from many rural roads. Roads in the mountainous northern part of the country are particularly prone to hazardous conditions during winter months. Winter tires are required by the traffic law under snowy condition and chains are necessary in certain mountainous areas.

In the Slovak Republic, vehicles travel on the right side of the road. Headlights must be used at all times (day and night) from October 15 until March 15. The maximum legal speed on highways is 130 kilometers per hour (78 mph). On smaller roads the maximum speed in 90 kph (54 mph). The limit in towns is 50 kph (31 mph). Use of cellular phones while driving is strictly prohibited. Safety reflection vests and first aid kits are compulsory equipment of each vehicle. Seat belts are compulsory and baby car seats are required for all children under 36 kg.

Drivers must yield the right of way to all vehicles with flashing blue lights (police, ambulances, fire trucks, motorcades), while vehicles with yellow or orange lights usually indicate that traffic must slow down. Drivers must always be cautious, however, as many slowly moving vehicles, such as agricultural vehicles, are not well marked.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited. The blood alcohol tolerance level is zero percent.

Penalties for drivers involved in car accidents involving injury of death are decided by a court of law. Penalties for minor offenses are not generally large, but foreigners are sometimes targeted for additional sums. Anyone suspecting this has occurred should ask for a written receipt and note the name and number of the traffic officer imposing the fine.

Gasoline is readily available, although many gas stations are closed on Sundays, especially in rural areas. Gas stations typically do not offer repair service; private mechanics must be found. Most gas stations accept credit cards, but mechanics less frequently accept them, so travelers should expect to pay for these services in cash.

A highway user decal must be purchased for travel on most major roads outside of Bratislava. The decal is valid for the calendar year in which it is purchased, and is available at gas stations, post offices and some newspaper kiosks. The cost is 36.50 Euro for all vehicles up to 3.5 tons. A short-term decal valid for 30 days may be purchased for 9.90 Euro and for 7 days for 4.90 Euro.

Taxi companies provide generally reliable, safe, and economical services. Avoid independent cabs that do not prominently display a company name. Visitors should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Higher charges can be expected when a cab is randomly stopped in the street. Radio-dispatched taxis are often much more reliable.

Buses, trolleys, and trams are mechanically safe, but there have been reports of thefts on city transportation and of harassment by the transport police. On public transportation it is obligatory to have a time-ticket validated after entering the vehicle (valid for 30 or 60 minutes), or a prepaid zone ticket (valid for 24,48,or 68 hours,1 month, 3 months, or 1 year). Children from 6 to 15 years of age pay reduced fares. Passengers who are traveling without a valid ticket will be fined by the ticket inspector. The ticket inspector has to have an identification card and must provide a receipt for the fine. More information is provided in English from the Bratislava city transport website.

Inter-city travel is widely available by bus, train, or taxi and is generally safe (inquire about taxi fares in advance). There are regular international trains and buses which are mechanically safe. However, there is a danger of theft, even from locked compartments, particularly on international night trains serving Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest. Taxi drivers with special permits may provide international taxi service.

A motorcycle driver’s license and helmet are required. Small motorcycles are not allowed on highways. All traffic regulations apply.

Tourists coming to the Slovak Republic are required to have an International Drivers’ Permit. A U.S. driver’s license alone is not sufficient to drive in the Slovak Republic. The U.S. driver’s license must be accompanied by an International Driver’s Permit, obtainable in the United States from the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. American citizens who have no residency status in the Slovak Republic may drive with a valid U.S. state license if accompanied by a valid international driver’s license, for a maximum of 6 months.

American citizens with no state driver’s license may apply for a Slovak driver’s License at the Dopravny Inspektorat in the district of the applicant’s place of residence in the Slovak Republic. Completion of the regular driving course and a written examination (in Slovak) are required for issuance of a Slovak driver’s license. For specific information concerning Slovak driver’s permit, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Slovak Embassy in Washington, D.C.

American citizens who are long-term residents in the Slovak Republic, and are in possession of a U.S. state driver’s license, must apply for exchange of a state driver’s license for a Slovak driver’s license. Conditions for the exchange are set by the Law on Road Traffic effective from February 2009.

A condition for exchange of a foreign driver’s license under the law is membership of the issuing country in either in Geneva Convention (U.S. ratified the Convention in 1950) or Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.

The law obliges holders of U.S. state driver’s license who also have a residency permit in the Slovak Republic to apply for exchange of their state license no later than 60 days after elapsing 185 days from the residency permit issuance. The applications are filed with the Dopravny Inspektorat at the District Police department in the place of residency in the Slovak Republic. The Slovak license is issued in the EU format and may be used in all EU countries. 

Please refer to our Safety page for more information.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the Slovak Republic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of the Slovak Republic’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page .



CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



EMBASSY LOCATION: 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State list of embassies and consulates .

U.S. Embassy, Bratislava


Address:  Hviezdoslavovo namestie 4, 811 02 Bratislava
Mailing address: U.S. Embassy, P.O. Box 309, 814 99 Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Telephone: (421)(2)5443 0861 or (421) (2) 5443 3338
Emergency after-hours telephone: (421) 903 703 666
Facsimile: (421)(2) 5441 8861
Email:
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Slovak Republic dated January 15, 2009 without substantive changes.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Slovakia HERE......

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)........

Regards

The SW Team........

 

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