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Re: [S-R] driving in Slovakia

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  • Michael Mojher
    Prague Michelin Trip Planner: From Bratislava to Prague is 338 km / 203 miles. 3 hours and 13 minutes of driving. Cost: 44.20 Euros; Petrol 30.93 Euros and
    Message 1 of 14 , Apr 7, 2010
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      Prague
      Michelin Trip Planner: From Bratislava to Prague is 338 km / 203 miles. 3 hours and 13 minutes of driving. Cost: 44.20 Euros; Petrol 30.93 Euros and Road Tax of 13.27 Euros. The vast majority of it on good highways.
      With the new open borders going from one EU country into another is no different than going from one state here to another. Sometime car rental companies do have restrictions. I have not found any that would let me take their car into the Ukraine.
      Cars
      Compacts are the standard car. Which in large cities you can be thankful for since the streets are often very much narrower. The downside is dependent on the size of your party. Compacts can be overfilled with three adults and their luggage. Sixt Rental at Bratislava Airport for two weeks in June charges $1260 for a compact and $1807 for a mid-size (VW Passat). The other "sticker shock" is the petrol. On my last trip it was just under the equivalent of $8 a gallon. The Michelin trip planner said the the Bratislava to Prague 203 mile trip would cost $43.40 in petrol. That is a little over 21 cents per mile. That gives you an idea of what that cost can be. Thankfully, Slovakia is a small country and you can go a long ways on a tank of gas.
      So depending on how adventurous you are and what your budget will allow you can drive anywhere the rental company will allow you. Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw and Prague are all relatively easy drives.


      From: sharond
      Sent: Wednesday, April 07, 2010 8:36 AM
      To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [S-R] driving in Slovakia



      I know this has been discussed many times however, I would like to know a few more things about driving in Slovakia. Do you need to get an International drivers license? What about special insurance? If you are making your own travel arrangements where and how do you rent a car?
      Is it difficult to reserve a car, by this I mean are the numbers of vehicles for rent limited?
      After driving in Slovakia you then decide you want to go to Prague, do you continue to drive? I would think driving into Prague would be a crazy idea. Any suggestions?





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Ron
      Lots of good advice and opinions. I see an international drivers license as a waste of time and money. I was never asked for one in 10 years - and I had one
      Message 2 of 14 , Apr 7, 2010
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        Lots of good advice and opinions. I see an international drivers license as a waste of time and money. I was never asked for one in 10 years - and I had one fora single year of that. Otherwise police and border people were content with the standard US license - which, by the way, you must have along with your international license.

        I have had my best luck booking a car on line before I went. Check not just your standard US insurance but your Visa card, often both offer some coverage on rentals, up to 3 weeks, where you don't have ot buy the supplemental insurance. Talk to your insurance agency.

        Oh, don't forget you need vignettes - freeway stickers - to allow you to drive in SK & CZ, one for each. The SK should come with an SK rental, and if you ask it may come with CZ as well. I believe they sell them for various periods of time as well as annually. If you get stopped without one or for any other reason, roadside fines are possible. Just ask for your receipts on the spot, that is to keep the cops honest. They will look pretty funky, so don't be surprised at him ripping them off of a pad of cheap printed paper.

        Get to know the road signs and speed limits ahead of time. Prague to Stara Lubovna was a hard 10 hour drive or 12 hours with reasonable breaks and skipping a lot of beautiful places in between. Consider making it a part of the tour with stops here & there. Look for a place to stay on the outside of Prague, it is a terrible city to drive in and worse to find a place to park. They have great subway, streetcar & bus connections.
      • Gloria
        I thought I told you about car rental with Cimcak car rental out of Kosice. He has a web site. Lower than the others. No international license is needed for
        Message 3 of 14 , Apr 7, 2010
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          I thought I told you about car rental with Cimcak car rental out of Kosice. He has a web site. Lower than the others.
          No international license is needed for SK or poland. We were there in Oct.09. His cars have GPS and radio. He will meet you at the
          airport. Pick you up at your hotel in Kosice or leave car at hotel when finished. Roads are good in SK. Better than South Carolina at the moment.

          Gloria Kurbanick

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • helene cincebeaux
          one thing that doesn t get factored in - Prague is huge and the highway goes right thru the city and skirts the national museum, there is just a lot of traffic
          Message 4 of 14 , Apr 7, 2010
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            one thing that doesn't get factored in - Prague is huge and the highway goes right thru the city and skirts the national museum, there is just a lot of traffic all the time

            so travel calculations can give you the time from place to place but add in another hour to get in or out of prague.

            sometimes it seems impossible to get from one street to another due to one ways or  somehow you end up on a highway.

            the thing we most laugh at is they mark a turn differently than we do - sometimes way ahead and some times right on top of it.  We usually end up turning around and going back to get it right the second time.

            don't think either country has right on red.

            I was taught there to use signals when passing - even if only a bicyclist.

            sometimes, surprise, someone passes you on the right - and they have never heard of defensive driving. Used to go too fast thru villages but new speed limits help there.

            helene




            ________________________________
            From: Michael Mojher <mgmojher@...>
            To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Wed, April 7, 2010 3:11:01 PM
            Subject: Re: [S-R] driving in Slovakia

             
            Prague
            Michelin Trip Planner: From Bratislava to Prague is 338 km / 203 miles. 3 hours and 13 minutes of driving. Cost: 44.20 Euros; Petrol 30.93 Euros and Road Tax of 13.27 Euros. The vast majority of it on good highways.
            With the new open borders going from one EU country into another is no different than going from one state here to another. Sometime car rental companies do have restrictions. I have not found any that would let me take their car into the Ukraine.
            Cars
            Compacts are the standard car. Which in large cities you can be thankful for since the streets are often very much narrower. The downside is dependent on the size of your party. Compacts can be overfilled with three adults and their luggage. Sixt Rental at Bratislava Airport for two weeks in June charges $1260 for a compact and $1807 for a mid-size (VW Passat). The other "sticker shock" is the petrol. On my last trip it was just under the equivalent of $8 a gallon. The Michelin trip planner said the the Bratislava to Prague 203 mile trip would cost $43.40 in petrol. That is a little over 21 cents per mile. That gives you an idea of what that cost can be. Thankfully, Slovakia is a small country and you can go a long ways on a tank of gas.
            So depending on how adventurous you are and what your budget will allow you can drive anywhere the rental company will allow you. Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw and Prague are all relatively easy drives.

            From: sharond
            Sent: Wednesday, April 07, 2010 8:36 AM
            To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@ yahoogroups. com
            Subject: [S-R] driving in Slovakia

            I know this has been discussed many times however, I would like to know a few more things about driving in Slovakia. Do you need to get an International drivers license? What about special insurance? If you are making your own travel arrangements where and how do you rent a car?
            Is it difficult to reserve a car, by this I mean are the numbers of vehicles for rent limited?
            After driving in Slovakia you then decide you want to go to Prague, do you continue to drive? I would think driving into Prague would be a crazy idea. Any suggestions?

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]







            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Michael Mojher
            Turn signals. American s are notoriously bad at using them. In Slovakia they them for every maneuver other than going straight. Even if you are on the road
            Message 5 of 14 , Apr 7, 2010
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              Turn signals.
              American's are notoriously bad at using them. In Slovakia they them for every maneuver other than going straight. Even if you are on the road that has the right of way and you come to a "Y" intersection. You are suppose to signal if you are taking the left of right, be the right of way road or not. Basically, when in doubt - signal your intention. After spending month long trips to Slovakia my signaling has become automatic, even back home.
              Not using your turn signal can get you pulled over in Slovakia.
              There are also road side check points in Slovakia. If you are signaled to pull-over do so. There is zero tolerance for drinking and driving.


              From: helene cincebeaux
              Sent: Wednesday, April 07, 2010 5:27 PM
              To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: Re: [S-R] driving in Slovakia



              one thing that doesn't get factored in - Prague is huge and the highway goes right thru the city and skirts the national museum, there is just a lot of traffic all the time

              so travel calculations can give you the time from place to place but add in another hour to get in or out of prague.

              sometimes it seems impossible to get from one street to another due to one ways or somehow you end up on a highway.

              the thing we most laugh at is they mark a turn differently than we do - sometimes way ahead and some times right on top of it. We usually end up turning around and going back to get it right the second time.

              don't think either country has right on red.

              I was taught there to use signals when passing - even if only a bicyclist.

              sometimes, surprise, someone passes you on the right - and they have never heard of defensive driving. Used to go too fast thru villages but new speed limits help there.

              helene

              ________________________________
              From: Michael Mojher <mgmojher@...>
              To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Wed, April 7, 2010 3:11:01 PM
              Subject: Re: [S-R] driving in Slovakia


              Prague
              Michelin Trip Planner: From Bratislava to Prague is 338 km / 203 miles. 3 hours and 13 minutes of driving. Cost: 44.20 Euros; Petrol 30.93 Euros and Road Tax of 13.27 Euros. The vast majority of it on good highways.
              With the new open borders going from one EU country into another is no different than going from one state here to another. Sometime car rental companies do have restrictions. I have not found any that would let me take their car into the Ukraine.
              Cars
              Compacts are the standard car. Which in large cities you can be thankful for since the streets are often very much narrower. The downside is dependent on the size of your party. Compacts can be overfilled with three adults and their luggage. Sixt Rental at Bratislava Airport for two weeks in June charges $1260 for a compact and $1807 for a mid-size (VW Passat). The other "sticker shock" is the petrol. On my last trip it was just under the equivalent of $8 a gallon. The Michelin trip planner said the the Bratislava to Prague 203 mile trip would cost $43.40 in petrol. That is a little over 21 cents per mile. That gives you an idea of what that cost can be. Thankfully, Slovakia is a small country and you can go a long ways on a tank of gas.
              So depending on how adventurous you are and what your budget will allow you can drive anywhere the rental company will allow you. Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw and Prague are all relatively easy drives.

              From: sharond
              Sent: Wednesday, April 07, 2010 8:36 AM
              To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@ yahoogroups. com
              Subject: [S-R] driving in Slovakia

              I know this has been discussed many times however, I would like to know a few more things about driving in Slovakia. Do you need to get an International drivers license? What about special insurance? If you are making your own travel arrangements where and how do you rent a car?
              Is it difficult to reserve a car, by this I mean are the numbers of vehicles for rent limited?
              After driving in Slovakia you then decide you want to go to Prague, do you continue to drive? I would think driving into Prague would be a crazy idea. Any suggestions?

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Vladimir Linder
              For years I have been renting from: ADVANTAGE CAR RENTALS www.acr.sk email:office@acr.sk Call Milan Mjartan at: 011-421-2-62410-510 or cell:011-421-903-460-605
              Message 6 of 14 , Apr 7, 2010
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                For years I have been renting from:

                ADVANTAGE CAR RENTALS

                www.acr.sk


                email:office@...

                Call Milan Mjartan at: 011-421-2-62410-510

                or cell:011-421-903-460-605

                Great deals, great cars, great service

                Vlad
              • Cathie McAdams
                The benefit from the International Driver License is the translation.  We rented at Eurocar in Kosice and that attendant used it even though he was fluent
                Message 7 of 14 , Apr 8, 2010
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                  The benefit from the International Driver License is the translation.  We rented at Eurocar in Kosice and that attendant used it even though he was fluent in spoken English.  Our rental was about $37.00/day.  Make sure you get at least the liability coverage. 

                  If you are driving in a country other than Slovakia, you should get the road permit for the other country(ies) that you are planning to see.  That will allow you to purchase gasoline.  However, we bought gas in northern Hungary and no one asked to see our permit.  It also gives you the liability coverage in that country.

                  Always, always, turn your headlights on, no matter the time of day.  It is their law.  But you would think that the rental companies, knowing this, would wire the car so the headlights come on when the engine is on.  Also, the headlights do not turn off by themselves like the newer cars here.  We had a mid-size newer Skoda in June.  This was not the law in 2006.




                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Paul Guzowski
                  Sharon et al, I have been working on a rather longish paper with tips on travel to/from and around Slovakia but have not quite finished it yet. That said, I
                  Message 8 of 14 , Apr 8, 2010
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                    Sharon et al,

                    I have been working on a rather longish paper with tips on travel
                    to/from and around Slovakia but have not quite finished it yet. That
                    said, I decided to post the portion I wrote on driving in Europe in
                    general and, more specifically, in Slovakia and its immediate neighbors.
                    What I say is based on living/working nearly 20 years in Europe, the
                    last two of which were in Bratislava, SK. I believe the following to be
                    factual unless I state it as my opinion.

                    I had a company rental car while I was in Bratislava but only drove it
                    to/from work and if I needed to travel outside the city. This was for a
                    couple of reasons. Parking in Bratislava is problematic, navigating the
                    city was not easy due to many one-way and some pedestrian-only ones, and
                    lastly because fuel is so expensive there. As of this writing, a gallon
                    of unleaded regular will set you back about $6.50 and a gallon of diesel
                    will be a little less. Normally, if I needed to go somewhere in the
                    city, I either walked or took the tram or bus.

                    The public transportation is inexpensive and reliable. If you will only
                    be in Bratislava for a few days or up to a week, the Bratislava City
                    Card (€8 for 3 days or €12 for 7 days) is a very good deal. It offers
                    unlimited travel on Bratislava's public transportation and you can read
                    more about it here:
                    (http://www.bratislavaguide.com/public-transport-bratislava). Taxis are
                    also abundant and reasonably priced so I occasionally used one to go
                    to/from a company dinner if the public transportation did not stop
                    nearby, especially if I wanted to drink a beer or glass of wine with my
                    dinner.

                    Traveling outside Brastislava is easiest by train, in my opinion. The
                    trains are clean, comfortable, fast, and run on schedule. Additionally,
                    they generally take you from city center to city center which is very
                    convenient for the average tourist.

                    Renting a car in Europe is not difficult but there are a few things to
                    watch out for that are different from what you may be used to in the US
                    or Canada. To begin with, rates will generally be higher and will be out
                    of sight if you want to rent one place and drop off in another. I had a
                    friend who rented a car in Budapest and after a couple of weeks of
                    driving dropped it off at the Vienna International Airport and the
                    drop-off charge was a couple of hundred dollars.

                    If you do rent a car in Europe, be sure to take the collision damage
                    waiver insurance even though it costs a bit more. The European auto
                    rental agencies inspect their cars before and after rental with a fine
                    tooth comb and if they find some scratch or dent even if it is minor you
                    will be billed. And while we are talking about the insurance, be sure to
                    read the small print of the international insurance green card and the
                    rental agreement. Many rental agencies restrict into which countries you
                    can drive the car. This is based on historical accident and theft
                    rates.

                    When you rent a car in Europe, expect to get a standard transmission and
                    don't be surprised if the car does not have air conditioning. I would
                    recommend a diesel if you can get it because they have much lower fuel
                    consumption and the fuel is cheaper than gasoline.

                    In my six years in eastern/central Europe, we had a couple of rental
                    cars stolen. Even though most cars have alarms, I'd suggest buying a
                    steering wheel blocking device. You will see them in most cars and cars
                    without them are easier targets for thieves. Also, NEVER EVER leave the
                    car unlocked for a moment, even at a petrol station or in a car park
                    while you are putting things in the trunk. One of my colleagues was
                    marked leaving the bank and when he got to the parking lot one thief let
                    air out of his tire and while my colleague was checking it out, the
                    other one stole valuables from the car.

                    Never anything of value visible in the car for any period of time and
                    don't leave anything of value anywhere in the car overnight. One of my
                    Slovak colleagues left his backpack in the trunk of locked car in a
                    parking garage while he ran into the mall to the ATM. When he got back,
                    the backpack with his expensive camera and laptop in it was gone. In
                    another case, our team had been traveling across Slovakia on a long trip
                    and they stopped for dinner at a restaurant. The left their briefcases
                    in the locked trunk and when they got back to the car after dinner all
                    of the cases were gone along with the five company laptop computers they
                    were carrying.

                    If you will be driving in Slovakia, your US driving license is valid but
                    in some other countries you need to have an international driving
                    permit. Austria is such a country and if you are stopped for even a
                    minor infraction on Austria's roads and you don't have an EU driving
                    license or international driving permit, the fine is €500. It is worth
                    $15 to get an international driving permit (a translation of your US
                    license) from the local AAA office before you depart the US if you will
                    be driving in Europe.

                    I would also encourage anyone who wishes to drive in Europe to study the
                    signs and road regulations very carefully. This includes the default
                    speed limits which are something we in the US are not normally familiar
                    with. When I was in Slovakia, the default speed limits unless otherwise
                    posted were 60kph (36 mph) within city limits (denoted by the city limit
                    signs entering and exiting the town), 90 kph (55 mph) on two lane roads
                    outside city limits, and 130kph (80mph) on divided motorways. Of course,
                    any posted limit takes precedence over the defaults. Some other
                    considerations are in the following paragraphs.

                    Talking on a mobile phone while driving is strictly forbidden and while
                    you may see it happening the ban is strictly enforced. Wearing seat
                    belts is required for all occupants of the vehicle, too. Drivers must
                    carry a reflective vest in the car and must wear it if stopped on the
                    shoulder to change a tire or carry out any other actions.

                    Many European countries now require cars to have lights on during
                    daylight hours. This varies by country so it is best to do your homework
                    for the countries in which you will drive. For example, in Hungary you
                    have to have your lights on whenever you leave the city limits during
                    all times of the year. In Slovakia, between 15 October and 15 March, you
                    must have your lights on at all times regardless of the time of day.
                    This is easy to forget when the sun is shining in the middle of the day.
                    I was stopped twice when I forgot to turn my lights back on after
                    leaving a petrol station.

                    There is virtually no such thing as a four-way stop in Europe. Most
                    intersections will be controlled in one direction or the other and the
                    priority road always has the right of way. At uncontrolled
                    intersections, the driver on the right has the right of way as does the
                    driver on your right on a multi-lane highway if he/she wants to move
                    left. Additionally, while they are slowly starting to appear in the US,
                    most Americans will be surprised by the number of traffic circles and/or
                    roundabouts in Europe. There are special right-of-way rules for
                    roundabouts and you can read more about them here:
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundabout

                    In Europe, the left lane (right lane in UK) on a divided highway is for
                    passing only. The American habit of cruising in the left lane is
                    illegal, is not tolerated, and you will be fined. You must always drive
                    as far right as you can if the lane to the right is clear regardless of
                    how fast you are driving. This helps keep traffic moving since it is
                    strictly forbidden to pass any vehicle on the right.

                    Police procedures in several European countries allows for “spot fines”
                    for smaller infractions of the traffic code. This is true in Slovakia so
                    it is always good to have at least €40 with you to avoid the hassle of
                    following up on a traffic violation later. If you pay one, make sure you
                    get a receipt. The idea of trying to talk your way out of a fine is not
                    normal in Europe and it could even exacerbate your situation so I would
                    recommend against it. When I first got to Central Europe in 2001, I
                    heard stories about putting some money in your driving license when you
                    hand it over to the policeman so that he would overlook your infraction.
                    This practice may have been prevalent and perhaps even tolerated in
                    former times but is not tolerated in the European Union. There are
                    anti-corruption agents monitoring for this and you may even face
                    allegations of bribery.

                    In many countries in Europe, travel on the motorways is not free. In
                    France and Italy one stops periodically to pay a toll but in other
                    countries you have to buy a toll sticker called a “vignette” in
                    many/most non-English speaking European countries. This is true for
                    Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. In Slovakia, these
                    toll stickers which are required for the use of the motorways, are
                    available in several categories depending on the vehicle's weight. They
                    can be purchased for one year, one week, and one month with prices as
                    follows for vehicles under 3.5 tons:

                    Annual: €36.50

                    One Month: €09.90

                    One Week: €04.90

                    Finally, tolerance for drinking and driving is more strict than it is in
                    the US and it varies by country
                    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_law_by_country). In Slovakia
                    and Hungary, there is zero tolerance while Austria allows up to 0.05%
                    for experienced drivers. In six years in central Europe I encountered a
                    number of sobriety checkpoints where I was required to take a
                    breathalyzer test even though I had committed no infraction. One time,
                    my car was hit in a parking lot accident while I was in a business
                    meeting during my time in Bratislava. When I arrived on the scene, the
                    police required me to take a breathalyzer test even though I was nowhere
                    near the car at the time of the accident. When I questioned this, I was
                    told it was standard procedure. Therefore, I highly recommend public
                    transportation or a taxi if you will be enjoying Slovakia's wonderful
                    beers and wines while dining and you don't have a designated driver.

                    As for driving to Prague, I'd personally recommend taking the train
                    instead. It is fast, cheap, and worry free. Driving back and forth on
                    the motorway is not such a big deal but navigating around in the city
                    and finding a safe place to park the car is a headache. Once in the
                    Prague, the public transportation is cheap and can get you anywhere you
                    want to go in the city as a tourist.

                    I hope this information will be useful to someone. I know it has been a
                    long post but I wanted to get a few things out to the group, especially
                    the point about International Driving Permits being required to drive in
                    Austria. I will try to finish up the rest of my tips and will save the
                    file to the group's file space when I do.

                    Paul in NW Florida
                  • m ivanov
                    I am going to Slovakia this summer and your information is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with me. ________________________________ From: Paul Guzowski
                    Message 9 of 14 , Apr 8, 2010
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                      I am going to Slovakia this summer and your information is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with me.




                      ________________________________
                      From: Paul Guzowski <guzowskip@...>
                      To: SLOVAK-ROOTS@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Thu, April 8, 2010 8:44:19 AM
                      Subject: [S-R] Re:driving in Slovakia

                       
                      Sharon et al,

                      I have been working on a rather longish paper with tips on travel
                      to/from and around Slovakia but have not quite finished it yet. That
                      said, I decided to post the portion I wrote on driving in Europe in
                      general and, more specifically, in Slovakia and its immediate neighbors.
                      What I say is based on living/working nearly 20 years in Europe, the
                      last two of which were in Bratislava, SK. I believe the following to be
                      factual unless I state it as my opinion.

                      I had a company rental car while I was in Bratislava but only drove it
                      to/from work and if I needed to travel outside the city. This was for a
                      couple of reasons. Parking in Bratislava is problematic, navigating the
                      city was not easy due to many one-way and some pedestrian-only ones, and
                      lastly because fuel is so expensive there. As of this writing, a gallon
                      of unleaded regular will set you back about $6.50 and a gallon of diesel
                      will be a little less. Normally, if I needed to go somewhere in the
                      city, I either walked or took the tram or bus.

                      The public transportation is inexpensive and reliable. If you will only
                      be in Bratislava for a few days or up to a week, the Bratislava City
                      Card (€8 for 3 days or €12 for 7 days) is a very good deal. It offers
                      unlimited travel on Bratislava's public transportation and you can read
                      more about it here:
                      (http://www.bratisla vaguide.com/ public-transport -bratislava). Taxis are
                      also abundant and reasonably priced so I occasionally used one to go
                      to/from a company dinner if the public transportation did not stop
                      nearby, especially if I wanted to drink a beer or glass of wine with my
                      dinner.

                      Traveling outside Brastislava is easiest by train, in my opinion. The
                      trains are clean, comfortable, fast, and run on schedule. Additionally,
                      they generally take you from city center to city center which is very
                      convenient for the average tourist.

                      Renting a car in Europe is not difficult but there are a few things to
                      watch out for that are different from what you may be used to in the US
                      or Canada. To begin with, rates will generally be higher and will be out
                      of sight if you want to rent one place and drop off in another. I had a
                      friend who rented a car in Budapest and after a couple of weeks of
                      driving dropped it off at the Vienna International Airport and the
                      drop-off charge was a couple of hundred dollars.

                      If you do rent a car in Europe, be sure to take the collision damage
                      waiver insurance even though it costs a bit more. The European auto
                      rental agencies inspect their cars before and after rental with a fine
                      tooth comb and if they find some scratch or dent even if it is minor you
                      will be billed. And while we are talking about the insurance, be sure to
                      read the small print of the international insurance green card and the
                      rental agreement. Many rental agencies restrict into which countries you
                      can drive the car. This is based on historical accident and theft
                      rates.

                      When you rent a car in Europe, expect to get a standard transmission and
                      don't be surprised if the car does not have air conditioning. I would
                      recommend a diesel if you can get it because they have much lower fuel
                      consumption and the fuel is cheaper than gasoline.

                      In my six years in eastern/central Europe, we had a couple of rental
                      cars stolen. Even though most cars have alarms, I'd suggest buying a
                      steering wheel blocking device. You will see them in most cars and cars
                      without them are easier targets for thieves. Also, NEVER EVER leave the
                      car unlocked for a moment, even at a petrol station or in a car park
                      while you are putting things in the trunk. One of my colleagues was
                      marked leaving the bank and when he got to the parking lot one thief let
                      air out of his tire and while my colleague was checking it out, the
                      other one stole valuables from the car.

                      Never anything of value visible in the car for any period of time and
                      don't leave anything of value anywhere in the car overnight. One of my
                      Slovak colleagues left his backpack in the trunk of locked car in a
                      parking garage while he ran into the mall to the ATM. When he got back,
                      the backpack with his expensive camera and laptop in it was gone. In
                      another case, our team had been traveling across Slovakia on a long trip
                      and they stopped for dinner at a restaurant. The left their briefcases
                      in the locked trunk and when they got back to the car after dinner all
                      of the cases were gone along with the five company laptop computers they
                      were carrying.

                      If you will be driving in Slovakia, your US driving license is valid but
                      in some other countries you need to have an international driving
                      permit. Austria is such a country and if you are stopped for even a
                      minor infraction on Austria's roads and you don't have an EU driving
                      license or international driving permit, the fine is €500. It is worth
                      $15 to get an international driving permit (a translation of your US
                      license) from the local AAA office before you depart the US if you will
                      be driving in Europe.

                      I would also encourage anyone who wishes to drive in Europe to study the
                      signs and road regulations very carefully. This includes the default
                      speed limits which are something we in the US are not normally familiar
                      with. When I was in Slovakia, the default speed limits unless otherwise
                      posted were 60kph (36 mph) within city limits (denoted by the city limit
                      signs entering and exiting the town), 90 kph (55 mph) on two lane roads
                      outside city limits, and 130kph (80mph) on divided motorways. Of course,
                      any posted limit takes precedence over the defaults. Some other
                      considerations are in the following paragraphs.

                      Talking on a mobile phone while driving is strictly forbidden and while
                      you may see it happening the ban is strictly enforced. Wearing seat
                      belts is required for all occupants of the vehicle, too. Drivers must
                      carry a reflective vest in the car and must wear it if stopped on the
                      shoulder to change a tire or carry out any other actions.

                      Many European countries now require cars to have lights on during
                      daylight hours. This varies by country so it is best to do your homework
                      for the countries in which you will drive. For example, in Hungary you
                      have to have your lights on whenever you leave the city limits during
                      all times of the year. In Slovakia, between 15 October and 15 March, you
                      must have your lights on at all times regardless of the time of day.
                      This is easy to forget when the sun is shining in the middle of the day.
                      I was stopped twice when I forgot to turn my lights back on after
                      leaving a petrol station.

                      There is virtually no such thing as a four-way stop in Europe. Most
                      intersections will be controlled in one direction or the other and the
                      priority road always has the right of way. At uncontrolled
                      intersections, the driver on the right has the right of way as does the
                      driver on your right on a multi-lane highway if he/she wants to move
                      left. Additionally, while they are slowly starting to appear in the US,
                      most Americans will be surprised by the number of traffic circles and/or
                      roundabouts in Europe. There are special right-of-way rules for
                      roundabouts and you can read more about them here:
                      http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Roundabout

                      In Europe, the left lane (right lane in UK) on a divided highway is for
                      passing only. The American habit of cruising in the left lane is
                      illegal, is not tolerated, and you will be fined. You must always drive
                      as far right as you can if the lane to the right is clear regardless of
                      how fast you are driving. This helps keep traffic moving since it is
                      strictly forbidden to pass any vehicle on the right.

                      Police procedures in several European countries allows for “spot fines”
                      for smaller infractions of the traffic code. This is true in Slovakia so
                      it is always good to have at least €40 with you to avoid the hassle of
                      following up on a traffic violation later. If you pay one, make sure you
                      get a receipt. The idea of trying to talk your way out of a fine is not
                      normal in Europe and it could even exacerbate your situation so I would
                      recommend against it. When I first got to Central Europe in 2001, I
                      heard stories about putting some money in your driving license when you
                      hand it over to the policeman so that he would overlook your infraction.
                      This practice may have been prevalent and perhaps even tolerated in
                      former times but is not tolerated in the European Union. There are
                      anti-corruption agents monitoring for this and you may even face
                      allegations of bribery.

                      In many countries in Europe, travel on the motorways is not free. In
                      France and Italy one stops periodically to pay a toll but in other
                      countries you have to buy a toll sticker called a “vignette” in
                      many/most non-English speaking European countries. This is true for
                      Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. In Slovakia, these
                      toll stickers which are required for the use of the motorways, are
                      available in several categories depending on the vehicle's weight. They
                      can be purchased for one year, one week, and one month with prices as
                      follows for vehicles under 3.5 tons:

                      Annual: €36.50

                      One Month: €09.90

                      One Week: €04.90

                      Finally, tolerance for drinking and driving is more strict than it is in
                      the US and it varies by country
                      (http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Drunk_driving_ law_by_country). In Slovakia
                      and Hungary, there is zero tolerance while Austria allows up to 0.05%
                      for experienced drivers. In six years in central Europe I encountered a
                      number of sobriety checkpoints where I was required to take a
                      breathalyzer test even though I had committed no infraction. One time,
                      my car was hit in a parking lot accident while I was in a business
                      meeting during my time in Bratislava. When I arrived on the scene, the
                      police required me to take a breathalyzer test even though I was nowhere
                      near the car at the time of the accident. When I questioned this, I was
                      told it was standard procedure. Therefore, I highly recommend public
                      transportation or a taxi if you will be enjoying Slovakia's wonderful
                      beers and wines while dining and you don't have a designated driver.

                      As for driving to Prague, I'd personally recommend taking the train
                      instead. It is fast, cheap, and worry free. Driving back and forth on
                      the motorway is not such a big deal but navigating around in the city
                      and finding a safe place to park the car is a headache. Once in the
                      Prague, the public transportation is cheap and can get you anywhere you
                      want to go in the city as a tourist.

                      I hope this information will be useful to someone. I know it has been a
                      long post but I wanted to get a few things out to the group, especially
                      the point about International Driving Permits being required to drive in
                      Austria. I will try to finish up the rest of my tips and will save the
                      file to the group's file space when I do.

                      Paul in NW Florida







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                    • Bill Tarkulich
                      No further responses to this topic, please. It is off-topic. Thank you, Bill Tarkulich Moderator
                      Message 10 of 14 , Apr 8, 2010
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                        No further responses to this topic, please. It is off-topic.

                        Thank you,

                        Bill Tarkulich
                        Moderator
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