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Worldworx Travel> Safety> Europe> Slovak Republic

Safety Travel Safety: Europe: Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic: Slovak Republic
Capital: Bratislava
Population: 5,422,366
Currency: Slovak koruna (SKK)
Languages: Slovak (official), Hungarian
Religions: Roman Catholic 60.3%, atheist 9.7%, Protestant 8.4%, Orthodox 4.1%, other 17.5%
Borders: Austria 91 km, Czech Republic 215 km, Hungary 677 km, Poland 444 km, Ukraine 97 km

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.

SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
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.

CRIME ^
The Slovak Republic has a high 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 muggings, armed robbery, shooting, drugging and robbing of unsuspecting victims at nightspots and bars. Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites 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 while an accomplice performs the robbery. 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.

Reports of racially motivated incidents against foreigners and persons of color, 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.

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. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Slovak Republic are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical facilities are available in the Slovak Republic. However, 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 thousands of dollars or more.

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:

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

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 and chains are recommended for travel to mountain and ski resorts. In the Slovak Republic, vehicles travel on the right side of the road. The maximum legal speed on highways is 130 kilometers per hour (78 mph). On smaller roads the maximum speed is 90 kph (54 mph). The limit in towns is 60 kph (36 mph). Use of cellular phones while driving is strictly prohibited.

Drivers must yield the right of way to all vehicles with flashing blue lights (police, ambulances, fire trucks, motorcades). Vehicles with yellow or orange lights usually mean 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 or 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 Sunday, 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 750 Sk (Slovak crowns) for all vehicles up to 3.5 tons. A short-term decal valid for 15 days may be purchased for 150 Sk.

Public Transportation: 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. 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 10, 30, 60 minutes), or a prepaid zone ticket (24-, 48-, 72-, 168-hour, 1-, 3-month and 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 ticket for the fine. More information is provided in English on http://www.imhd.sk.

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, on international night trains serving Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest. Taxi drivers with special permits may provide international taxi service.

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

Driver's Licenses: 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 Slovakia. 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.

A Slovak driver's License can be applied for 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 permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Slovak Embassy in Washington, D.C. See also road safety from other sources in the Slovak Republic at http://www.zjazdnost.ssc.sk.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and the Slovak Republic by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Slovak Republic's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

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Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

August 20, 2004

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