Safety in Bratislava
Overall, Bratislava is a safe place to travel to. The crime rates are low in Bratislava, even by European standards, and pickpockets are the biggest concern you'll have to deal with while on a holiday there. Usually, the worst that can happen is running into a rowdy, drunk bunch late at night and looking at them 'the wrong way'. Guns are very rare except among the police and private security services. Foreign visitors to Bratislava generally report feeling very safe around the city even in the evening.
The Police in Bratislava
Most of the Old Town is covered with police cameras. There are both the state Police (green uniforms) and City Policy (blue uniforms, checkered pattern on cap) out in the streets. Some police speak English, they are usually willing to help tourists with queries. Cars may be towed for parking in no stopping zones and blocking traffic, otherwise, they may be clamped. City police have limited powers in dealing with moving traffic violations - there have been occasional cases of city police (white car with the sign "Mestská polícia") preying on unsuspecting tourists to collect fines - do not pay them any fines, insist on calling the "real" state police in green uniforms (white cars with a green stripe).
Types of crime and how to feel safe in Bratislava
Of course, like in every tourist area, there are petty theft and confidence games - though much less so in Bratislava than in most European cities and tourist destinations. If you follow the common sense tips and heed the warnings listed here, you will be safe.
- There are some pocket thieves downtown or around the main tourist areas - usually preying on wallets or mobile phones. Keep your wallet and other valuable things close.
- A common trick involves creating a diversion. Thieves often work in teams, one will distract the victim while the other fishes your pockets. It can be a begging child or a street brawl that should distract your attention. If this happens, clutch to your belongings firmly and calmly walk away.
- Downtown, sometimes there are organized gangs, primarily consisting of women posing as tourists. They may have maps or other tourist paraphernalia. They surround you, someone 'accidentally' pushes you and before you know, your wallet may be gone.
- There have been a few reports of female con artists who approach individual men or groups of male tourists. They may act drunk, want to take you for a drink to a bar and rob you of your money there or along the way. Simply refuse if things look fishy, say you are not interested and walk away.
- Always ask for a printed receipt in restaurants. If it seems you are being overcharged, ask the waiter to explain items on the printed receipt against the prices on the menu. Remember side dishes are usually charged extra. Do not under any circumstances settle for a handwritten receipt - all service establishments are required to operate electronic cash registers by law.
- There are a few beggars out in the street, exercise your best judgment in dealing with them. It is OK to give them some change, but it is equally acceptable not to give them anything and simply walk away.
- Strip bars and similar establishments practice numerous tricks to make you overpay. Drinks are usually way overpriced and there may be hidden cover charges, wardrobe charges and so on. If you have experience with similar businesses elsewhere, you should not find things too different.
- Taxi scams are quite common. Some taxi drivers might try to add an imaginary surcharge to the metered value, or not run the meter at all and then ask an astronomical fee. For taxi tips, see our article on Taxis - how not to get cheated
- There have been some racially motivated attacks against Gypsies, Africans and Arabs in recent years - exercise extreme care if walking alone at night. You are safe in the city center, which is also covered by police cameras.
- Public transport is very safe, but exercise great caution if using late-night buses.
- Car theft is as common in Bratislava as elsewhere in the region. If you come in a rental car or a nicer, newer foreign car, use guarded parking garages or hotel parking.
To summarize it:
Is Bratislava safe for tourists? Yes, it is.
Is Bratislava safe at night? Generally speaking yes, however, as in any other city, enjoying nightlife requires increased caution.
Useful telephone numbers:
112 for integrated emergency services (some operators speak English, they will put you through to the police, ambulance or the fire department as required)
159 for city police, mainly dealing with minor public order and parking violations
Calls are free of charge from a mobile phone or any phone booth.