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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic - Consular Information Sheet
June 13,2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Slovak Republic is a moderately developed European nation undergoing profound economic and political changes. Tourist facilities are not as developed as those found in Western Europe and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. A visa is not required for stays up to thirty days. For stays longer than thirty days a visa must be obtained prior to entry at Slovak embassies or consulates abroad. Visas cannot be obtained at border points upon arrival. Travelers to the Slovak Republic can obtain entry information at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic at 3523 International Court N.W., Suite 250, Washington, DC 20007, telephone (202) 965-5160/1, Internet http://www.slovakemb.com.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: In addition to being subject to all Slovak Republic laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Slovak laws, which impose special obligations. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY/SECURITY: Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.

CRIME: Organized crime factions in Slovakia appear to be engaging in a power struggle at this time. While not directed against Americans or other foreign visitors, a number of gangland-style slayings have occurred over the past years, including fatal shootings at or near major hotels. Visitors are encouraged to obtain the latest information at the Consular Section of the Embassy.

In addition, and particularly in the summer, pickpocketing is common in shopping centers, in the vicinity of major hotels where foreigners stay, near major tourist sites, and on night trains, especially Prague-Bratislava-Budapest or Budapest-Warsaw.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are available. However, only a limited number of doctors speak English speakers. 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.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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 Slovakia 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

The roads in Slovakia are typically 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 Slovakia, drivers drive 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 (54mph). 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 offences are bot generally large, but foreigners are sometimes targeted for additional sums. Anyone suspecting that this has occurred should ask for a written receipt and note the number of the traffic officer imposing the fine.

Gasoline is readily available, although many gas stations are closed on Sunday. Gas stations typically do not offer repair service; private mechanics must be found. Few gas stations and mechanics accept credit cards, 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 calender year in which it is purchased, and is available at gas stations, post offices and some newspaper kiosks. The cost is either Sk 400 or Sk 800, depending on the size of the engine.

Emergency numbers:
Police: 158
Ambulance: 155
Fire: 150

Public Transportation: Taxi companies provide generally reliable, safe, and economical services. Avoid, however, independent cabs, which do not prominently display a company name. Buses, trolleys, and trams are mechanically safe, but there have been reports of thefts on city transportation, and of harassment by the transport police. 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.

General Recommendations: Tourists coming to Slovakia are required to have an International Drivers' Permit. Otherwise, they may have problems entering neighboring countries.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Slovak driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Slovak Information Center office in New York via the Internet at http://www.inx.net/~matica. See also road safety from other sources in Slovakia (http://www.zjazdnost.ssc.sk).

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Slovakia' civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Slovak air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.

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 DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

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

Slovak customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Air Transport Association) carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

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 Slovakia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting Slovakia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Slovakia and obtain updated information on travel and security within Slovakia. The U.S. Embassy is located at Hviezdoslavovo nam. 4, telephone (421)(7) 5443 0861, (421)(7) 5443 3338, fax (421)(7) 5441 8861, web site: http://www.usis.sk.

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