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Country Reports

Slovakia Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Independent for the last quarter century following the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Central European country of Slovakia (population 5.4 million), maintains very good travel conditions.

CRIME

Crime rates remain low, but minor crimes (muggings, purse-snatchings, including by children) are regularly reported. Be especially vigilant in crowded areas such as shopping centers, Christmas markets, hotels, major tourist sites, and on public transportation, particularly in Bratislava (Old Town).

In restaurants, especially terraced ones, it is recommended to keep a close eye on personal belongings due to the threat of theft. During the summer, the crime rate increases due to an influx of foreign visitors.

Foreigners, especially when not familiar with the place, are often targeted for their presumed affluence; keep a low profile and conceal all valuable objects (jewelry, cameras). Avoid deserted areas after nightfall, especially parks near train stations and city center.

Travelers are advised to be particularly vigilant when using the country's rail network, especially when on night trains between Prague-Bratislava-Budapest and Budapest-Warsaw. In Bratislava train stations (Bratislava-Petžalka and Hlavna Stanica central station), it is necessary to keep an eye on your belongings.

Although not common, incidents of parked car theft, especially of luxurious brands, have been reported. Do not park your car in a remote area. If possible, park your car in a garage or in a bright place. Keep your personal belongings out of sight. Always keep your car doors and windows closed, even while driving.

Never accept cigarettes, food or drink from strangers.

Credit card fraud is less common than in neighboring countries however it can occur. Always keep an eye on your credit card and use ATMs inside banks when they are open to withdraw cash.

If you are arrested by plainclothes officers, do not hand over personal effects; instead, offer to accompany the agents to the nearest police station. The Slovakian national police suffer from a lack of labor, resources, and equipment, impacting their efficiency.

Despite being rare, xenophobic and racist attacks have been reported due to the existence of neo-nazi, skinhead, and far-right organizations. In June 2015, more than 8.000 people protested against migrants.

Organized crime networks are well established in the country, especially in the capital. Crimes such as drug and tobacco smuggling, arms and people trafficking, car theft, cybercrime, money games, financial fraud, and extortion are common. However, tourists are generally not targeted by these mafia organizations.

POLITICS

Slovakia, a member of the European Union since 2004 and of the euro zone since 2009, is a parliamentary republic. The next presidential election is due to take place in 2019.

In March 2016, despite losing the absolute majority of seats, the Smer-SD Party (member of the European Socialist Party) was victorious in the legislative elections.

Discrimination against the Roma minority, which constitutes 7.5 percent to 10 percent of the population, is rampant, even at the government level.

SOCIAL UNREST

Protests are common in the country. It is advised to avoid all social and/or political gatherings, even peaceful ones, as they can quickly become violent.

TERRORIST THREAT

No country is safe from the threat of terrorism. Stay alert; report any suspicious behavior to authorities.  

NATURAL RISKS

The country often suffers from summer floods following heavy rain. In 1998, 2002, 2006, and in 2013, the country experienced severe flooding that left dozens dead.

Between November and March, important snowfalls can isolate some parts of the country (roads and rails cut, electricity outages, etc.).

HEALTH

It is essential to take out a health insurance policy before departure that covers healthcare abroad as well as medical evacuation and repatriation.

Regarding health conditions in the country, it should be noted that cases of traveler's diarrhea are periodically reported.

Cases of tick-borne encephalitis are also reported in valleys, forests, and mountainous regions, particularly in the south and the west; the majority of cases are reported between April and October with peak transmission between July and August. Lyme disease is also present in rural areas. It is strongly advised to take precautions while in wooded areas: cover your legs, arms, and feet and inspect your entire body after the outing. If a tick is found, use tweezers to remove it as quickly as possible with steady, even pressure, making sure not to sever the mouth-parts, or go directly to a doctor. 

Furthermore, the country is plagued by meningitis (peak transmission between November and March).

Medical and hospital facilities are generally of good quality.

TRANSPORTATION

Despite the small number of highways, the motorway is generally well developed. However secondary and peri-urban roads may be in bad condition (deformed pavement, pothole, indication failure, etc.).

Roads in remote areas are often poorly maintained and can be dangerous. Extreme vigilance is advised at night due to the lack of proper street lighting. Horse-drawn carts, agricultural vehicles, cyclists, and vehicles without taillights or reflectors are common. Moreover, drivers can be very aggressive.

Vehicles are required to be fitted with snow tires from November 1 until May 1. Dipped-beam headlamps are required to be turned on during both the day and night. It is necessary for drivers to display a sticker on a vehicle windshield, authorizing the circulation on highways and national roads, otherwise punishable by fine. This sticker, which has a limited period, is available at border posts, post offices and at some gas stations. Driving under influence is strictly forbidden.

Travelers should note that few domestic flights are operated in Slovakia.

Trains are slow but the railway network is dense and in a good state.

It should also be noted that public transportation (tramways, bus and trolley bus in Bratislava) is reliable and well-developed.

Taxis are usually reliable and inexpensive. It is advised to order a taxi ahead. Riders should check the meter and ask for a price estimate before using the taxi. It is recommended not to use informal taxi companies.

LOCAL LEGISLATION

Slovakia is a member of the European Union since 2004 and uses the euro as its national currency. It is also a member of the visa- and border checkpoint-free Schengen Area. Always carry proper identification in case an identity check is necessary.

Taking pictures of the military staff or installations is forbidden. Anyone caught breaking the law could be punished.

Climate

Slovakia has a continental climate. The hottest and driest regions are the southern and eastern plains. The coldest month is January (-2°C average) and the hottest are July and August (21°C average). The period from May to September is generally quite sunny, despite periodic thunderstorms.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +421 Police: 158 Fire Dept.: 150 Ambulance: 155

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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