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Driving a car in Slovakia
Which side to drive on? What are the speed and blood alcohol limits? What are the road conditions like and what about the drivers in Slovakia?
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 speed limit in the built-up areas of towns and villages differs from the rest of the European Union and is set at 60 km/h as the allowed maximum. Outside of the urbanized area, the speed limit is 90 km/h and on the highways it is 130 km/h. Drivers, who ignore these speed limits are invariably caught by radar traps and the fines are considerable. Many private radio stations regularly draw attention to their listeners to the places where a closer attention is to be paid.
The highways and some express roads require the payment of toll. You have to buy and display a sticker or stamp, the price of which varies according to the weight of your vehicle. The stamps are either for the whole calendar year or for a period of 15 days. You can buy them on border crossings, gas stations or post offices. There are plenty of gas stations all around the country. The prices of petrol may vary slightly, but the quality of petrol is usually very high.
The use of the cell phone (mobile phone) while driving a car is forbidden. Unfortunately you will see that many people do not respect this rule. But do not expect to get away with it yourself.
The alcohol limit is 0.0, zero, nix! Period.
In some European countries, the cars have to have their lights switched on also during the daylight hours when in motion. While Scandinavian countries require the lights on all year long, the neighbouring Czech Republic matched this period with the daylight saving time and the cars have to have their lights on between the last Sunday in October and the last Sunday in March. In Slovakia, this period starts on 15 October and ends on 15 March.
On the unlit country roads between villages, pay special attention to cyclists often wearing dark clothing and riding on either side of the road. The pedestrians have priority on zebra crossing and they usually use this right to the fullest extent, crossing the road without watching for approaching cars. They may be committing suicide, but you will be charged with manslaughter.
The traffic lights are there for a reasong and are, for the most part, fully respected. Some bored policemen watch for them and passing on the orange light they may stop you and engage in a short conversation.
Actually, the policemen can stop you at any time and any place for no particular reason. Remember to carry all documents, have the seat belt attached, don't drive too fast, never drink before the trip, do not drive on the wrong side of the road and park your car only where parking is allowed.
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.
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