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Slovakia 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Slovakia; Europe > Slovakia > Bratislava

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

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

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BRATISLAVA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Slovakia-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

The general crime rate is below the U.S. national average. Most reports of crime are generated in Old Town, and most of the crimes reported to the RSO involve petty theft (purse snatching, cell phone grabbing, pickpocketing), vehicle break-ins, or vandalism. The congregation of tourists in Old Town leads to the influx of criminal elements. The individuals most often targeted for purse snatchings are newly-arrived personnel and tourists who are unfamiliar with the local environment. Pickpockets are professional and are most active in the summer and during holiday season. They prefer locations like shopping centers, markets, public transportation (in the vicinity of Old Town), near major hotels and tourist sites, and overnight trains to Prague and Warsaw. The two train terminals (Hlavna Stanica and Petrzalka) are rife with individuals seeking targets.

While not a frequent occurrence, purse snatchings do occur. Purse snatchers typically work in crowded areas and in teams, allowing them to cut straps of purses and run away in the crowd. 

When dining in restaurants, particularly at locations with outside seating in the warmer months, visitors should not hang handbags or suit coats on the backs of chairs. Wallets and other valuables can/will be stolen if caution is not exercised.

While not as endemic as in neighboring countries, incidents of credit card, Internet, and ATM fraud have been reported.

Although not common, automobile theft does occur. Many stolen vehicles are transported for resale in neighboring countries. Preferred targets are up-market European and American cars. Theft from cars is more common than theft of cars in Bratislava. Vandalism to vehicles can also occur, even on well-traveled streets.

During the spring and summer of 2016, the RSO received an increased amount of reporting suggesting an increase in the occurrence of 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 of thieves gaining access to residential parking garages and 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, which can be violent, within the OC syndicate do occur, mostly outside of Old Town. They 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 dollars. 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 taken action to tighten regulations regarding the sale and transfer of “demilitarized” weapons.

Cybersecurity Issues

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

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

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

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, you should make every attempt to avoid and distance yourself from them. You should do the same for erratic drivers or anyone else who is driving in a manner that is of concern.

From November-March, there is often heavy snowfall, and many rural roads are not adequately cleared. Roads in the mountainous north are particularly prone to hazardous conditions during the winter. Winter tires are required by local law.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited. The blood-alcohol tolerance level is zero percent.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to remove all valuables from their vehicles, even if parked in a garage. At night, use a garage if possible or at least a lighted parking area on the street. The use of alarm systems or anti-theft devices is strongly recommended.

Public Transportation Conditions

Taxi companies generally provide 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. Higher charges can be expected when a cab is randomly stopped in the street or is idling at a taxi stand. Radio-dispatched taxis are often more reliable. The cheapest and best option is to call ahead and negotiate a price before entering the cab.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BRATISLAVA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no known terrorist organizations present in Slovakia. There have been several incidents of homegrown “lone wolf” actors who conducted or were planning to conduct terrorist incidents. Following the November 2015 attacks in Paris, additional police were posted at government buildings, diplomatic missions, and public venues. Police continued this presence through the 2015 holiday season in order to ensure a safe environment. 

Although there are no known, specific threats to U.S. interests in Bratislava, U.S. citizens and U.S. interests abroad remain at risk of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq; al-Qa’ida; its affiliated organizations; and other terrorist groups or homegrown “lone wolf” 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 Austria. Slovakia’s membership in the Schengen zone could easily allow a terrorist to transit into Slovakia from any Western European country without having to pass through any border, immigration, and/or customs checks.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

There are elements that tend to be anti-NATO and anti-American. The members of these groups tend to be older and generally hold a pro-Russian outlook. In September 2015, one of these groups sponsored a joint anti-Islam and “anti-Imperialism of the United States” protest in Bratislava with 700 participants. This protest was peaceful, and the police maintained a substantial presence around the protest. Another group has carried out a series of small, peaceful anti-NATO and anti-American protests near the Embassy.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BRATISLAVA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest 

Public demonstrations are common though typically peaceful. Demonstrations must be pre-approved by the city government and are generally small, numbering less than 150 participants. Recent anti-corruption protests and protests in support of teachers have involved more than 1,000 participants. Small anti-NATO protests that often involve and anti-American element are also not uncommon.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Though religious or ethnic undertones are not uncommon in many of the protests, it is more appropriate to associate these events with the outward messages conveyed by the individuals or groups, rather than to attribute them to 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 earthquakes in recent memory.

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

Personnel Identity Concerns

Hate-related crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of comments or actions because of their perceived nationality or race. Small, fractional fringe element groups of neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other far-right wing extremists continue to be present but rarely impact foreigners. In many cases, these elements may be found within other right-wing protest groups. Although U.S. citizens are not specifically targeted, any non-Caucasian individual could be targeted. Skinheads also target members of the Roma minority.

Laws have been enacted to fight racially-motivated attacks that include stiffer penalties than the “normal” assault statutes, yet the issue remains a difficult crime to prosecute. Therefore, it is not uncommon for prosecutors to charge the offender under the more easily proven ‘simple assault’ statutes to increase the chance of a successful prosecution; the perpetrator avoids a heavier penalty carried by the hate-crime statutes.

While reported incidents of violence and harassment targeting gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual (LGBT) communities are rare, during Slovakia’s first Gay Pride Parade in May 2010, 50 skinheads/neo-Nazis staged a counter-demonstration and attempted to disrupt the celebration by chanting slogans, attempting to infiltrate the group, and tossing several “smoke-bombs” toward the crowd.

A June 2015 anti-immigrant protest had approximately 8,000 participants, some of whom attacked a family of tourists from Saudi Arabia. The police arrested more than 140 people in connection with this protest.

Drug-related Crimes

Slovakia has been identified as a transit country for illegal drugs coming from Turkey, the Balkans, Asia, and Afghanistan. There is 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 reports 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 meth as are seen in neighboring EU nations.  

Police Response

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

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Should you be arrested, immediately inform the police that you 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 (Mon-Fri during normal working hours or after-hours) at +421 2 5922 3393 (after-hours and 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-speaking capabilities.

If you are the victim of a crime, you should 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 availability 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, which may be medically equipped and staffed by paramedics or a physician if the patient’s condition warrants it. Only a limited number of doctors speak English.

Medical prescriptions issued in the U.S. are not valid in Slovakia. If a prescription is needed, 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, you should 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 list of those authorized by the Ministry of Health 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, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

University Teaching Hospital Kramare, Limbova 5 (largest hospital); phone: +421 2 5954 1111; contact person: MU Dr. Sebo cell phone +421 903 355 496

Children’s University Teaching Hospital, Limbova 1; phone: +421 2 5937 1111; contact person: Marcel Brener MD cell phone +421 903 469 777

University Teaching Hospital of St. Cyril and Metod Petrzalka (Nemocnica Petrzalka), Antolska 11; phone: +421 2 6867 1111; contact person: MU Dr. Sykora +421 2 6867 2749

The National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Pod Krasnou horkou 1; phone +421 2 5932 0111; contact person: Ing. Msolly Mongi

Private Hospital Medissimo, Tematinska 5; phone +421 2 3230 3030; contact person: MU Dr. Paul Hnilica, MD cell phone +421 917 818 801

Hospital Hainburg, Holmeister Street 70, Hainburg, Austria +43 21 659 0501

Available Air Ambulance Services

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

International SOS (London): +44 20 8762 8133

Air emergency service (Airport Bratislava): Karol Biermann; phone +421 2 4333 6608; or emergency dispatch center: 866-299-6870 or 305-514-0942 

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 local 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 to the U.S. can cost thousands of dollars or more. Special insurance may be needed for mountain hiking and skiing and is available from local providers.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Bratislava Country Council currently meets once a year and has approximately 25 members. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

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

Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0800-1630, except Embassy holidays

Embassy Contact Numbers

All numbers should be preceded by the country code (421) and city code (2):
Telephone: +(421) (2) 5443 0861 or +(421) (2) 5443 3338
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(421) 903 703 666
Fax: +(421) (2) 5441 8861
Website: http://slovakia.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 in-country. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Enroll your stay or visit on the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) website.

Additional Resources

Slovakia Country Information Sheet