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 Zuzana Čaputová since 2019.
Prime Minister Robert Fico since October 2023.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Slovakia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Slovak Embassy in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Slovakia.
Passport validity requirements
To travel to Slovakia, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
To enter Slovakia (and all Schengen countries) your passport must:
- have a ‘date of issue’ less than 10 years before the date you arrive. Passports issued after 1 October 2018 are now valid for only 10 years, but for passports issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added if you renewed a passport early
- have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document, or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You could get a fine of 1600 euros if you stay longer than legally allowed.
Checks at border control
Make sure you get your passport stamped.
If you’re a visitor, your passport must be stamped when you enter or leave the Schengen area (which includes Slovakia). Border guards will use passport stamps to check you haven’t overstayed the 90-day visa-free limit for stays in the Schengen area. If your passport was not stamped, border guards will presume you have overstayed the visa-free limit.
If your passport was not stamped, show evidence of when and where you entered or left the Schengen area (for example, boarding passes or tickets) and ask the border guards to add the date and location in your passport.
Read about passport stamping if you live in Slovakia.
At border control in Slovakia, you may also need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
- show proof of your accommodation, for example, a hotel booking confirmation or proof of address for a second home
You can travel without a visa to the Schengen area (including Slovakia) for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies if you travel:
as a tourist
to visit family or friends
to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
for short-term studies or training
If you’re travelling to Slovakia and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries in the 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer (for example, to work, study or for business), you must meet the Slovak government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Slovak Embassy in the UK.
If you stay in Slovakia with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
Applying for a visa
Fill in the visa application form and book an appointment to attend the embassy in person using the online visa application service for Slovakia.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Slovakia guide.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Slovakia. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
Registering with the police
Foreign nationals visiting Slovakia must report where they’re staying in Slovakia at their nearest Foreigners Police Department. If you are staying at a hotel, the hotel will do this for you. If you are in private accommodation, you must notify the police by letter, email or in person within 3 working days of your arrival.
If you plan to stay in Slovakia for a longer period, you must register formally. Visit the website of the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic (in Slovak) for more information.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Slovakia
An attack on a bar popular with the LGBT+ community in the capital Bratislava on 12 October 2022 which resulted in 2 deaths was classified as a terrorist act. Prior to this attack, there was no recent history of terrorism in Slovakia. Further attacks cannot 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.
Border with Ukraine
There is widespread military activity in Ukraine. FCDO advises against all travel to Ukraine.
Demonstrations may occur with little or no warning. Avoid any protests, political gatherings or marches. Follow the advice of local authorities.
Protecting your belongings
Take precautions against pickpockets and bag snatchers and do not leave your possessions unattended. Do not leave your passport as a deposit for services such as car rental, and keep 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 Christmas markets and in bars, and have targeted foreigners.
There is a risk of drink spiking and theft in clubs around the old town pedestrian area in Bratislava. People have sometimes been charged extortionate prices for drinks, so check prices before ordering.
Foreign-registered cars can be targeted. Criminals may puncture your tyres at a petrol station or fake a breakdown and then rob you or drive off in your car if you stop to help.
At night, only stop your car in a well-lit public area such as a service station. Make sure you lock your car and in be extremely wary of anyone offering help.
Do not leave luggage in view in your car.
Laws and cultural differences
You must carry your passport with you at all times as identification.
Alcohol laws and bans
Bratislava has become a popular destination for stag parties and tourists have been fined or imprisoned for causing public nuisance. Unruly or rowdy behaviour between 10pm and 6am is illegal and could attract police attention. In Bratislava Old Town, it is illegal to drink alcohol in the street. If you drink alcohol (for example bought in a supermarket) in other public areas, you could get a fine of 33 euros.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Penalties for smuggling, possession and use of drugs are severe.
Using cameras and binoculars in secure areas
Taking photographs of any location that could be seen as a military establishment or security related may result in problems with the authorities.
Same-sex sexual relationships are legal in Slovakia, but same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are not recognised in Slovak law. Public displays of affection may be frowned on or receive unwanted attention.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Swimming and water sports
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.
Skiing and hiking
If you’re planning a winter sports holiday in Slovakia, read the SkiSafe guidance including what to do before you go and staying safe at your resort.
If you ski or hike in the Slovak mountains and need help from the Slovak Mountain Rescue Service (HZS), you will have to meet costs of up to 1000 euros. Make sure your insurance includes rescue costs. Anyone ignoring or violating HZS rules or instructions will be fined up to 3,320 euros.
Visitors in mountain areas occasionally encounter bears and wolves, but attacks on people are rare. For advice on minimising risks, see the Slovak Wildlife Society website.
You can drive in Slovakia with your UK driving licence. For any stay longer than 6 months you must exchange your licence for a Slovak one.
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. Road markings are difficult to see in poor weather and can be faded. In winter, you must equip your car for severe driving conditions.
Drink driving is a serious offence in Slovakia. If you are tested and found to have any alcohol in your system, you may get a fine of up to 1300 euros, have your licence confiscated, and face possible imprisonment.
If you use Slovak motorways (‘Dialnica’) you must display a motorway vignette (sticker) on the inside of your windscreen as you enter Slovakia. If you do not you could get a heavy fine. You can get a motorway vignette at all major border crossings into Slovakia and at larger petrol stations.
More information on the toll system and a road network map is available from the toll system operator.
Taxi drivers sometimes try to overcharge tourists by adding unauthorised supplements or by not setting the meter at the start of a journey.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 155 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
For more information read guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Slovakia guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
There is an increased risk of tick bites from April to October. For more information read insect and tick bite avoidance.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Slovakia
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Slovakia.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Slovakia.
COVID-19 healthcare in Slovakia
The Slovak government website has information in English and advice on how to get tested for COVID-19 (in Slovak only).
Health insurance cards
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to any state-provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Slovak nationals. If you do not have your card with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.
It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. A GHIC or EHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
GHIC and EHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or private clinic.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Slovakia
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Slovakia
- dealing with a death in Slovakia
- being arrested or imprisoned in Slovakia
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are in Slovakia and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
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.