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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Slovakia 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Slovakia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Bratislava does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Review OSAC’s Slovakia-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is moderate risk from crime in Bratislava. The general crime rate is below the U.S. national average. Most reports of crime come from Old Town, and involve petty theft (e.g. purse snatching, cell phone grabbing, and pickpocketing), vehicle break-ins, or vandalism. The congregation of tourists in Old Town leads to the influx of criminal elements. Pickpockets are professional and are most active in the summer and during the holiday season. They prefer locations like shopping centers, markets, public transportation (in the vicinity of Old Town), areas near major hotels and tourist sites, and overnight trains to Prague and Warsaw. The two train terminals (Hlavná Stanica and Petržalka) are rife with individuals seeking targets.

While not a frequent occurrence, purse snatchings do occur. The individuals most often targeted for purse snatchings are newly arrived travelers unfamiliar with the local environment. Purse-snatchers typically work in crowded areas and in teams, allowing them to cut straps of purses and run away into a crowd.

When dining in restaurants, particularly at locations with outdoor seating in the warmer months, do not hang handbags or suit coats on the backs of chairs. Thieves can and will steal wallets and other valuables in the absence of caution. While not as endemic as in neighboring countries, rare cases of credit card, internet, and ATM fraud have occurred within the last three years.

Although not common, automobile theft does occur. Many thieves transport stolen vehicles to neighboring countries for resale. Preferred targets are up-market European and American cars. Theft from cars is more common than theft of cars in Bratislava, based on opportunity (e.g., unlocked doors and open windows). Vandalism to vehicles may also occur, even on well-traveled streets.

From 2016 through 2018, the RSO received reports suggesting an increase in residential burglaries, to include several of occupied residences. This is a relatively new trend, as burglaries of occupied residences are typically rare in Bratislava. There have also been several incidents where thieves have gained access to residential parking garages, subsequently breaking into storage units and vehicles.

Both indigenous and foreign organized crime (OC) groups are well established. These groups are involved in legal and illegal businesses. Many crime figures have business interests in Old Town. Power struggles within the OC syndicates do occur, mostly outside of Old Town; these can be violent. OC actors do not target U.S. or other foreign individuals, and tend to co-exist in the tourist district so as not to scare away tourist spending. OC activities include trafficking in narcotics, persons, cigarettes, and weapons. These groups are also involved in auto theft, financial fraud, gambling, prostitution, public corruption, protection rackets, and cybercrime. The rate of auto theft connected to OC is high. Slovakia is actively fighting the trafficking of illicit goods/people and illegal migration as part of its role in protecting the EU’s external border with Ukraine. Slovakia has also tightened regulations regarding the sale and transfer of “demilitarized” weapons.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is a concern, on par with most countries. Protect computer systems and passwords using best practices and up-to-date antivirus software.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Roads are typically safe, though sometimes not well maintained. Four-lane highways exist in and around Bratislava; however, most roads outside of built-up areas have only two lanes. As a result, aggressive drivers can pose a serious hazard when attempting to pass at unsafe speeds. Due to poor lighting and narrow, winding roads, avoid nighttime driving outside of well-developed areas.

Traits of aggressive drivers include continual horn honking, screaming at other motorists, tailgating, and making rude hand gestures at other vehicles or people. When such behaviors result in actual physical or vehicle-to-vehicle altercations, aggressive driving can turn to road rage. Once it becomes apparent that the aggressive actions of another driver are intentional, make every attempt to avoid and distance oneself from them; take the same precautions with erratic drivers.

From November through March, there is often heavy snowfall; inadequate snow clearance is common. Roads in the mountainous north are particularly prone to hazardous conditions during the winter. Local law requires winter tires.

The law strictly prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol. The blood-alcohol tolerance level is 0%.

Remove all valuables from vehicles, even if parked in a garage. At night, use a garage if possible, or at least a lighted parking area on the street. Use vehicle alarm systems or anti-theft devices.

Public Transportation Conditions

Taxi companies generally provide reliable, safe, and economical services. Avoid independent cabs that do not display a company name prominently. Remain alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Expect higher charges when hailing a cab from the street or a taxi stand. Radio-dispatched taxis are often more reliable and affordable. The cheapest and best option is to call ahead and negotiate a price before entering the cab. Many people in Bratislava use mobile applications such as Taxify and Hop-In; these are similar to Uber or Lyft, which are not currently available in Slovakia.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Bratislava. There are no known terrorist organizations present in Slovakia. There have been a few incidents of homegrown “lone wolf” actors planning terrorist incidents in the country. Beginning in the aftermath of the 2015 attacks in Paris, it has become normal for the Slovak government to post additional police officers at government buildings, diplomatic missions, and public venues during periods of heightened concern or in response to regional events.

Although there are no known, specific threats to U.S. interests in Bratislava, U.S. citizens and U.S. interests abroad remain at risk from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qa’ida, their affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups or homegrown actors. These individuals do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. 

The threat from international terrorism remains high in the EU, and is diversifying in scope and impact. While there have been no incidents of international or transnational terrorism in Slovakia, there have been terrorism-related arrests in neighboring Austria. Slovakia’s membership in the Schengen zone could allow a terrorist to transit into Slovakia from any Western European country.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Some local elements tend to be anti-NATO and anti-American. The members of these groups tend to be older and generally hold a pro-Russian outlook. It is common for these groups to hold periodic demonstrations in Bratislava’s Old Town, often in the area near the U.S. Embassy on Hviezdoslavovo námestie. These protests are normally peaceful and usually feature a substantial police presence to maintain order.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Bratislava. Public demonstrations are common, though typically peaceful and generally small, numbering less than 150 participants. The city government must pre-approve demonstrations. In 2018, anti-corruption protests involved more than 1,000 participants, but were orderly with a heavy police presence. Small anti-NATO protests that often involve an anti-U.S. element are also not uncommon, but these typically attract up to 30 participants and are peaceful in nature.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Though religious or ethnic undertones are not uncommon in many of the protests, these messages generally reflect the ideology of certain individuals or groups, rather than widespread religious or ethnic tensions within Slovakia.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Although situated in a zone classified as being at moderate risk for seismic activity, Slovakia has not had any significant earthquakes in over 15 years.

Over the last few years, eastern and central Slovakia experienced heavy spring and early summer floods. The floods have resulted in several deaths and a large amount of property damage.

Personal Identity Concerns

Hate crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. travelers have reported being the target of comments or actions because of their perceived nationality or race. Small, fringe element groups of neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other far-right wing extremists continue their presence, but rarely impact foreigners. In many cases, these elements exist within other right-wing protest groups. Although they do not target U.S. travelers specifically, they could target any non-white individual. Skinheads also target members of the Roma minority, and those who resemble that ethnicity.

Slovakia has enacted laws that include stiffer penalties for racially motivated attacks than the “normal” assault statutes, yet the crimes remains difficult to prosecute. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to charge an offender under the more easily proven “simple assault” statute to increase the chance of a successful prosecution; the perpetrator therefore avoids the heavier penalty carried by the hate-crime statutes.

Personal Identity Concerns

While reported incidents of violence and harassment targeting the LGBT community are rare, they have occurred. Recent Pride Parades in Bratislava and Košice have proceeded without any issues or problems. 

Drug-related Crimes

Slovakia is a transit country for illegal drugs coming from Turkey, the Balkans, Asia, and Afghanistan, but experiences very little violence associated with the drug trade. Police have made some headway in seizing shipments of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. In addition, law enforcement agencies report increasing problems associated with the domestic manufacture and abuse of methamphetamines. Slovakia does not have the same restrictions on precursor chemicals or over-the-counter drugs used in the production of methamphetamines as do neighboring EU nations. 

Police Response

While competent and professional, police forces suffer from a lack of human and fiscal resources, as well as equipment. Police responsiveness to criminal incidents depends on the type and severity of the crime involved and, to an extent, the social status of the complainant. The government has announced plans for hiring of additional police officers following increasing security concerns in Europe.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Arrested or detained U.S. citizens should immediately inform the police that they would like to contact the U.S. Embassy. Report all incidents of police detention to the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services office at +421 2 5443 0861 (Monday-Friday during normal working hours) or at +421 2 5922 3393 (after-hours and on weekends).  

Crime Victim Assistance

Many foreigners who have been the victim of crime will find their interactions with the police to be somewhat frustrating due to the language barrier, as few police officers speak English. The police do make an effort to staff their 24-hour emergency numbers with individuals who have some English-language capabilities.

For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page. If you are the victim of a crime, contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy.

Police (Emergency): 112 or 158

Police (Non-Emergency): 09610 11111

Fire: 112 or 150

Ambulance: 112 or 155

U.S. Embassy: +421 2 5443 0861 (normal business hours); +421 2 5922 3393 (after-hours and weekends); +421 903 703 666 (after-hours and weekends)

Police/Security Agencies

The security guard company sector is a growth industry; however, many of these companies reportedly have ties to organized crime.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities are available, although the quality and accessibility varies. For any emergency, including a medical emergency, call 112. An English-speaking dispatcher should be available. According to the level of the medical emergency, the dispatcher may send an ambulance, with a staff of paramedics or a physician, if the patient’s condition warrants. Only a limited number of doctors speak English.

Medical prescriptions issued in the U.S. are not valid in Slovakia. If a traveler needs a prescription, a local doctor must issue it. Medicines are generally available locally at pharmacies, where customers ask the pharmacist for every product, including over-the-counter medicines; if they are not available under the U.S. drug name, consult the pharmacist or a local doctor for a local substitute. Medicine brought into Slovakia for personal use may be subject to comparison against the Ministry of Health list of those authorized for use in Slovakia. The Slovak Privacy Act generally prevents health providers from releasing information about a patient to a third party. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Air Transport Europe (via Poprad-Tatry Airport): phone +421 52 776 1911; emergency call: +421 18155

International SOS (London): +44 20 8762 8133

Air emergency service (via Bratislava Airport): Private jet services can provide a flight within two hours Tel.: +44 0 1747 642 777

Insurance Guidance

Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment for health services unless the patient can present an insurance number from the Slovak National Insurance Company. This includes ambulance service, for which the cost begins at 120 euro per transport for those without Slovak health insurance. Local health insurance is required for anyone staying in Slovakia longer than the 90-day visa-free visit period.

Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation (medevac) to the U.S. can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Consider special insurance from local providers, especially if mountain hiking and skiing.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Slovakia.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Slovakia. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Bratislava or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Bratislava, Hviezdoslavovo námestie 4, 811 02 Bratislava

Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, 0800-1630, except Embassy holidays

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: +(421) (2) 5443 0861 or +(421) (2) 5443 3338

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(421) 903 703 666

Website: https://sk.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

If you are going to reside in or visit Slovakia, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your presence. U.S. citizens traveling to Slovakia should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Slovakia Country Information Sheet

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