Slovakia travel guide
Like the Czech Republic minus the crowds, Slovakia may sit in the shadows of its neighbour, but the country quietly impresses with its epic alpine scenery, clifftop castles and exquisite capital.
Following the 'Velvet Divorce' of 1993, which saw Czechoslovakia split into two constituent parts (the Czech Republic and Slovakia), the nation set about reasserting its independent spirit, and today there's a humble, creative nature to Slovakia that wins over visitors of all stripes. Enthusiastic about art and music, the country is even home to a burgeoning hip-hop scene.
A small country of just five million odd inhabitants, Slovakia appeals to a broad range of travellers: from backpackers and businesspeople, to skiers and history buffs. It has one or two surprises up its sleeve. It is, for example, quietly gaining prestige as an alternative skiing destination. With its modern skiing infrastructure and new budget flights, Slovakia’s High Tatras mountains are becoming a tantalising destination for winter sports enthusiasts.
As for the capital, it may be compared unfavourably with its neighbour, Prague, but Bratislava is nevertheless an alluring option for a city break. With an air of glamorous Vienna, it is home to gorgeous churches dating back to the 15th century, countless cafes squeezed onto cobblestone streets, and a slew of terrific, sometimes quirky museums.
Part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for centuries, Bratislava’s architecture is grand Central European in style. It was the Hungarian capital for nearly 300 years, with 11 monarchs crowned in the extraordinary 500-year-old St Martin’s Cathedral.
Beyond its stunning capital, Slovakia boasts some impressive natural landscapes, which remain relatively unspoiled and uncrowded. The country has 10 national parks to speak of, which offer sprawling forests, rolling hills and meandering rivers.
Though Bratislava and the High Tatras mountains remain the star attractions in Slovakia, beyond them lies a diverse and decidedly beautiful land, rich in rewards for those bold enough to explore it.
49,033 sq km (18,932 sq miles).
5,429,418 (UN estimate 2016).
111 per sq km.
President Andrej Kiska since 2014.
Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini since 2018.
Last updated: 01 July 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.
There have been protests across Slovakia following the murder of an investigative journalist. While these have so far been peaceful, you should monitor local media coverage, avoid any demonstrations and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Make sure your passport is in a presentable state before you travel. The Slovak authorities can refuse entry if your passport is worn or damaged, or looks as if it’s been tampered with.
Most visits to Slovakia are trouble-free.
If you need to contact the emergency services in Slovakia call 112.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Slovakia, attacks can’t be ruled out.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Take care of yourself and your belongings in the same way as you would do in the UK. Take precautions against pickpockets and bag snatchers and don’t leave things unattended. Don’t leave your passport as a deposit for services such as car rental, and don’t lose sight of your bank card when making payments.
There is a risk of petty crime, especially in Bratislava. Pickpockets operate around the main tourist areas, particularly the popular Christmas markets and in bars, and foreigners are easily identified and targeted.
There has been an increase in reports of thefts from visitors in night clubs and, strip clubs around the old town pedestrian area in Bratislava as a result of drink spiking.
- you should seek recommendations for bars and clubs from trustworthy sources.
- research bars and clubs in advance.
- if travelling in a group, stay together.
- keep a close eye on your drinks and only accept drinks that you have seen being prepared. Alcoholic drinks might be stronger than in the UK.
There have been some instances of extortionate charging for drinks or having fraudulent transactions debited against credit/debit cards.
- always ask to see a menu to check drink prices before ordering.
- when paying by credit or debit card, make sure the transaction is completed in your presence and be wary of attempts to make you re-enter your pin number.
- if you’re told that the card payment transaction didn’t go through, ask for a receipt before doing the transaction again.
Report the loss or theft of a passport to the police as soon as possible. Ask them to provide you with a statement or confirmation of the loss/theft.
Taxi drivers sometimes try to overcharge tourists by adding unauthorised supplements or by not setting the meter at the start of a journey. Insist that you’ll pay only the fare shown on the meter.
If you’re stopped by the police and asked to pay a fine for speeding or other traffic offences, you should be given a receipt for any money paid. If the officers refuse to give you a receipt, call 158 (police) to make sure you’re dealing with a genuine police officer.
Be aware of ‘road pirates’ who target foreign-registered cars. Some will stab a tyre at a petrol station, then follow their target until the car stops; they then offer assistance and rob the target. They might also simulate a breakdown and ask for help. You should not leave belongings in view in your car. If you decide to stop to check the condition of your/their vehicle, only do so in a well-lit public area such as a service station. Make sure you lock your car and in general be extremely wary of anyone offering help.
You can drive using a UK driving licence for up to 6 months. If you intend to drive in Slovakia for longer than 6 months, you should exchange your UK driving licence for a Slovak one before the 6-month period runs out.
It is a requirement under Slovak law to have at least valid third-party motor insurance cover for your car.
Children under 150cm tall or under the age of 12 must not sit in the front seat of moving vehicles and must use an appropriate child restraint.
Only use registered car rental companies. You can find a list of car rentals on this Slovak Business Directory website.
Although in reasonably good condition, many main roads have only a single carriageway in each direction making overtaking difficult. Beware of oncoming cars overtaking on your side of the road (particularly on bends and hills). Road markings are difficult to see in poor weather and can be faded. Traffic signs and junctions can be confusing to those not used to the roads. In winter, equip your car for severe driving conditions. By law, you must use winter tyres when there’s snow or ice on the road. All vehicles must have headlights switched on all year round. Speed limits in towns are 50kmh.
In 2016 there were 242 road deaths in Slovakia (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 4.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
There’s zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or narcotics. If you are involved in an accident while driving the police will give you a breath test regardless of who is to blame. Drivers with any trace of alcohol in their body will be arrested.
An electronic toll system applies on motorways to all vehicles weighing over 3.5 tons. All truck drivers are strongly advised to study the rules and pay the necessary fees. Failing to do so may result in fines from €1,655 to €2,655. More information on the toll system and a road network map is available from the toll system operator or from their call centre on +421 2 35 111 111 (available 24/7 and in English).
If you use public transport you should buy a ticket before boarding the vehicle. You can buy tickets from ticket machines at some public transport stops or newspaper stands. Immediately after entering the vehicle you must validate the ticket using a marking machine inside the vehicle. An unmarked ticket is invalid and may result in a fine from 50 to 70 Euros. You won’t be treated more leniently if you’re a tourist or claim to be unaware of the rules.
For more information on using public transport in Bratislava, visit the DPB website.
Foreign students may not qualify for discounted fares even with a student card. Check with your public transport provider for further information.
Swimming and water sports
You should observe local rules and regulations on publicly accessible lakes, rivers and other water sources. Jumping into unknown waters can result in serious injury, including paralysis or death. Check with local authorities or sporting organisations for further information and advice.
Skiing and hiking
If you ski or hike in the Slovak mountains and need help from the Slovak Mountain Rescue Service (HZS), you will have to meet their full costs. These could range from €116 to €9,960 depending on the size of the operation. Anyone ignoring or violating HZS commands or laws will be liable for a fine of up to €3,320. Make sure you have sufficient insurance to cover any rescue costs. Mountain rescue services instructions in English can be found on the Mountain Rescue Service website
Travellers with limited mobility
There are many interesting places in Slovakia that are accessible to all people, but wheelchair access may be limited in certain places due to uneven paving and a lack of ramps.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Slovakia, attacks can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public places, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
You must carry your passport (or Slovak identity card if you have one) with you at all times as identification. Keep it safe in a zipped up pocket or secure bag, and keep the details separately in case you lose it.
The Residence Permit card issued in Slovakia (Trvaly Pobyt) isn’t considered acceptable proof of identity and can’t be used to travel outside Slovakia. You’ll need to use your passport to leave the country.
Bratislava has become a popular destination for stag parties and tourists have been fined or imprisoned for causing a public nuisance. Unruly or rowdy behaviour between 22:00 and 06:00 is illegal and could attract the attention of the police. 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 drinking alcohol (for example bought in a supermarket) in other public areas could result in a fine of €33.
Don’t get involved with drugs in any way. Penalties for smuggling, possession and use of drugs are severe.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as a military establishment or somehow security related, may result in problems with the authorities.
Same-sex relationships are legal in Slovakia, but same-sex marriages and civil partnerships aren’t recognised in Slovakian law. Public displays of affection may be frowned upon or attract unwanted attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Slovakia. They are also accepted for a return to Slovakia if you normally live there.
British citizens don’t need a visa to enter Slovakia.
British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British nationals (Overseas), British subjects and British Protected persons should contact the Slovak Embassy to check whether a visa is required.
Registering with the Slovak authorities
If you plan to stay in Slovakia for a longer period of time, you should register with the police within 3 days of arrival. You’ll need your passport, 2 photographs and proof of accommodation. You’ll have an option to apply for a Slovak ‘green card’, which can be used as proof of your ID, while your passport is kept in a safe place. Visit the website of Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic for further information.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Check the latest country-specific information and advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website or from NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
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.
If you’re visiting Slovakia you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Slovakian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The currency of Slovakia is the euro.
Only exchange money in banks and certified exchange offices. You can find these in all major hotels and some department stores. Travellers’ cheques aren’t generally accepted in stores, small hotels or restaurants. You can’t exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.
ATM machines 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. Check first that the shop will accept your card and that it can be read (there are sometimes problems with “Maestro”). Check your statements carefully when you get home.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.