Slovakia’s small size (about 600 km east-west and 200 km north-south) and dense system of roads make it easy to see a lot in a short time.
The whole continental Europe drives on the right side of the road and Slovakia is no exception. The usage of the right side in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was inspired by France. In 1918, when the Czechoslovak Republic was founded, the cars moved to the left side of the road. As of 1938, when Czech lands became a German protectorate and Slovakia became a German satellite, the whole area conformed to the German rule of driving on the right side of the road. Position of cars in the streets is a very good guide to estimating the approximative age of photos of Czech and Slovak towns from the pre-war and war years.
- The headlights must be on all the time.
- Speed limit in the build-up areas of towns and villages is 50 km/h.
- Speed limit out of urbanized areas (except highways and expressways) is 90 km/h.
- Speed limit on the highways and expressways is 130 km/h.
- Driver must be at least 18.
- Complying with the instructions of the traffic lights.
- Alcohol tolerance is zero.
- Seat belts has to be fastened for all passengers, for the passenger sitting on the back seats, too.
- Eating and other activities interrupting driving are not allowed.
- Using mobile phone or smoking during the driving is forbidden.
- Children with age less than 12 have to sit in the rear seat.
- Buses, trolleys and trams have always the right-of-way.
- Pedestrians at the crossings have an absolute priority.
On the unlit country roads between villages, pay special attention to cyclists often wearing dark clothing and riding on either side of the road. And park your car only where parking is allowed.
The traffic lights are there for a reason and are, for the most part, fully respected. Some bored policemen watch them and when passing on the orange light they may stop you and engage in a short conversation.
Other drivers drive relatively safely and when they see you in a foreign car, they will usually prefer to keep a distance from you, especially in Bratislava. Many people from countryside say that drivers in Bratislava drive like mad. On the other hand, some drivers from small villages get confused in city traffic, so the Bratislavans prefer to give them plenty of room in order to prevent possible unpleasant situations.
You should also pay attention to some rare “brave” men in strong cars who think the road belongs to them. However, this phenomenon appears worldwide.
Driving on Highways
Payment for driving on highways and some express roads is required. A driver has to buy and display a sticker or a stamp. The price of the sticker is settled according to the weight of the vehicle and can be valid for different periods of time (from 7 days up to a year). They can be bought on a border crossing, post offices and petrol stations.
Police checks are not unusual on roads in Slovakia. All drivers have to stop in case of a Stop Signal coming from the police. They have the right to stop you for a random check, even if you did not break any law. The reason of this kind of check is mostly the vehicle’s papers checking. Occasionally (after dark) they may check the alcohol level of the passenger.
Documents necessary to show to the police upon request:
- A valid driving license, Slovak or International
- Registration papers of the vehicle
- Insurance documentation
- ID, passport – personal identification
Drivers, who ignore speed limits are invariably caught by radar traps. Many private radio stations regularly draw attention to their listeners to the places where a closer attention is to be paid.
If breaking any driving rule, driver might get a fine. Driver is allowed to defer payment until later, but in such cases the policemen can decide hold the driver’s licence untill the fine is paid. The highest fine a police officer can issue on the spot is 650 €.
Requirements for tourists
A driving license issued in the United States or other foreign countries is not valid in Slovakia until the driver does not have an International Driving Licence. This type of licence can be issued in several offices, for example in AAA offices in the USA. The application form for requesting the permit can be provided by the US Embassy. There is a possibility to request it by mail as well.
It is possible to get insurance in Slovenská kancelária poisťovateľov (Slovak Insurer’s Bureau). To purchase the insurance it is necessary to visit the office in person.
- ID, passport – personal identification
- Registration papers of the vehicle
- Information about the car and its owner
Highways, Expressways, Roads
These are the highways in Slovakia:
- D1 (511 km) – Bratislava-Trnava -Trenčín-Žilina-Prešov-Košice-Border Checkpoint Záhor
- D2 (80 km) – Border Checkpoint Brodské-Malacky-Bratislava-Border Checkpoint Čunovo
- D3 (61 km) – Hričovské Podhradie-Žilina-Čadca-Border Checkpoint Skalité
- D4 (50 km) – Border Checkpoint Jarovce (Bratislava)–Border Checkpoint Devínska Nová Ves
These are the expressways in Slovakia:
- R1 – Trnava-Nitra-Zlaté Moravce-Žarnovica-Žiar nad Hronom-Zvolen-Banská Bystrica-Ružomberok
- R2 – Trenčín-Bánovce nad Bebravou-Nováky-Prievidza-Handlová-Zvolen-Detva-Lučenec-Rimavská Sobota–Rožňava-Košice
- R3 – Šahy-Krupina-Kremnica-Turčianske Teplice-Martin-Dolný Kubín-Oravský Podzámok–Polish Borders
- R4 – Hungarian Border, Milhosť-Košice-Prešov-Svidník–Polish Borders
- R5 – Czech Borders–Svrčinovec
- R6 – Czech Borders, Lysá pod Makytou–Púchov-Beluš
- R7 – Bratislava–Šamorín-Dunajská Streda-Nové Zámky-Šarovce–Šahy-Veľký Krtíš-Lučenec
- R8 – Hradište–Partizánske–Topoľčany-Nitra
Hitchhiking in Slovakia
The cheapest way to travel is not always the best or fastest one. But hitchhiking in Slovakia is one of the possibilities to get to another place and get to know local people.
Hitchhiking in the Slovak language is called autostop and to hitch a ride is to stopovať. The hitchhiker is stopár. It is, mostly among younger people, one of the most popular ways of traveling in the country or discovering other places in Europe.
Random hitchhiking, as a rule does not involve financial compensation. If the journey is a longer one, the hitchhiker should ask the driver, whether he would like a payment for his kindness. Most drivers, however, are happy to have a companion for the trip and don’t ask for anything more.
Hitchhiking in Slovakia is relatively safe. Of course, one has to follow the commonsense rules: to be careful, to take note of the registration number of the car, not to get in a car if the driver or any of the passengers look strange, etc. Just the same rules as in any other European country apply. Although there are odd cases of violence involving hitchhikers, the numbers are very few considering the number of happy hitchhikers who got to their destination safely.
Of course, young couples with backpacks on sunny days on well frequented roads have much better chance to stop a car than individuals on dark, lonely stretches of highway.
The customery signal for a hitchhiker to use is a slightly raised straight hand with a raised thumb and closed fist.
If you are on a busier road or plan to travel to a more distant location, it is advisable to write the destination on a sheet of paper or cardboard. For foreign destinations, use WIEN for Vienna and PRAHA for Prague. Inside Slovakia, two-letters code of the district is usually the best way to communicate. The codes for the ten largest cities are the following:
- BA – Bratislava
- KE – Košice
- PO – Prešov
- NR – Nitra
- ZA – Žilina
- BB – Banská Bystrica
- TT – Trnava
- MT – Martin
- TN – Trenčín
- PP – Poprad
On local roads, you will be probably happy to get to the nearest larger town, so no identification of the destination is necessary.