Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Slovakia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Roads in Slovakia typically are safe and well maintained. Four-lane highways exist in and around Bratislava. However, most roads outside of developed 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, we do not recommend nighttime driving outside of built-up areas.
Slovakia commonly receives heavy snow from November through March. Snow removal is not adequate on rural roads. Roads in the mountainous northern part of the country are particularly prone to hazardous conditions during winter months. Winter tires are required by law when there are snowy conditions, and chains are necessary in certain mountainous areas.
In Slovakia, vehicles travel on the right side of the road. Headlights must be used at all times (day and night) throughout the year. The maximum legal speed on highways is 130 kilometers per hour (78 mph). On smaller roads, the maximum speed is 90 kph (54 mph). The limit in towns is 50 kph (31 mph). It is strictly prohibited to use cellular phones while driving. Safety reflection vests and first aid kits must be located in each vehicle. Seat belts are compulsory and baby car seats are required for all children less than 36 kg (80 lbs).
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a crime under Slovak law. 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 offenses are not generally large, but foreigners are sometimes targeted for additional sums. If you suspect this has occurred, you should ask for a written receipt and note the name and number of the traffic officer imposing the fine.
A highway user decal is required for travel on most major roads outside of Bratislava. The decal is valid for the calendar year, and is available at gas stations, post offices, and some newspaper kiosks. Short-term stickers are available and are valid for seven days or for one month.
Taxi companies generally provide reliable, safe, and economical services. Avoid independent cabs that do not prominently display a company name. Taxis sometimes overcharge in areas frequented by tourists. You can expect higher charges when you randomly stop a cab on the street. Radio-dispatched taxis are often much more reliable and less expensive.
Buses, trolleybuses, and trams are mechanically safe and generally reliable, but there have been reports of thefts on city transportation or of harassment by the transport police. On public transportation you must have a time-ticket validated after entering the vehicle (valid for 15 or 60 minutes), or a prepaid zone ticket (valid for 24 hours, 48 hours, 3 days, 7 days, 1 month, 3 months, or 1 year). Different ticket validities and fees apply in towns outside of Bratislava. Children from 6 to 15 years of age pay reduced fares. Passengers who are traveling without a valid ticket will be fined by the ticket inspector. The ticket inspector must have an identification card and must provide a receipt for the fine. More information is provided in English on the Bratislava city transport website.
A motorcycle driver’s license and helmet are required to operate a motorized two-wheeled vehicle. Small motorcycles are not allowed on highways. All traffic regulations apply.
Tourists intending to drive in Slovakia are required to have an International Driving Permit. A U.S. driver’s license alone is not sufficient to drive in Slovakia; it must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit, which you can get in the United States from the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. U.S. citizens who are not residents of Slovakia may drive with a valid U.S. state license, if accompanied by a valid International Driving Permit, for a maximum of 6 months.
If you do not have a U.S. state driver’s license, you may apply for a Slovak driver’s license at the Dopravny Inspektorat in the district of your place of residence in Slovakia. Completion of the regular driving course and a written examination (in Slovak) are required for issuance of a Slovak driver’s license. For specific information concerning a Slovak driver’s permit, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Slovak Embassy in Washington, D.C.
U.S. citizens who are long-term residents in Slovakia and are in possession of a U.S. state driver’s license must apply for exchange of a U.S. state driver’s license for a Slovak driver’s license. Conditions for the exchange are set by the Law on Road Traffic effective from February 2009. Under the law, the issuing country must be a member either of the Geneva Convention (the United States ratified the Convention in 1950) or Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.
The law requires residents of Slovakia who hold U.S. state driver’s licenses to apply for exchange of their license within 60 days of the time period starting 185 days after the day their residency permit was issued. The applications are filed with the Dopravny Inspektorat at the district police department in the place of residency in Slovakia. The Slovak license is issued in the EU format and may be used in all EU countries.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.