Jet lag, though a temporary disorder, can wreak havoc when trying to adjust to a new city. While fatigue and insomnia are the most common symptoms, it can also cause anxiety, irritability, confusion, constipation, diarrhea, dehydration, headaches, nausea, concentration and coordination problems and memory loss. Irregular heartbeats and weakened immune systems, though rare, have also been reported. Generally, the more time zones you cross, the greater the jet lag.
There are a number of easy things you can do to minimise the effects of jet lag. Gradually ease into your new time schedule while still in your home country so that you don’t have to adjust all at once. You can do this by going to bed an hour earlier each week leading up to your departure. Avoid alcohol and caffeine for a day or two before, during and after flying, and drink plenty of water. Break up your trip if travelling over many time zones and, upon arrival, adapt to the local time zone as quickly as possible. Try not to nap, get out in the sunlight and stay up until your regular bedtime in the new zone.
Tap water in Slovakia is safe to drink, though in older buildings you may want to have it checked for iron content, as the pipes may be old. Bottled water is plentiful and generally served in restaurants, although some will serve tap water if requested.
There are no safety issues with the Slovakian food supply, unless you count the calories and fat content in traditional cuisine!
Health care system:
Despite having a slightly lower life expectancy than many Western countries, Slovakia has a relatively good standard of health and a low incidence of disease. However, as in many regions in central Europe and North America, there’s a risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis or Lyme disease.
Healthcare is provided by an extensive network of out-patient clinics, hospitals and other medical facilities. Physicians are competent and well-trained and many speak one or more languages other than Slovak. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most other hospital workers, although their quality of care is fine. Hospitals tend to be old and lacking in modern comforts.
There are expats who rely completely on the public system and, for the most part, they have few complaints. The majority, however, prefer to use private medical clinics for communication reasons, for the quality of the facilities and for the convenience of having a fixed appointment. Fully fluent English-speaking doctors are a little more difficult to find in the public system, and while there are some new facilities in Bratislava, most of them are old and not up to the standards most expats are used to. Except in private clinics, it’s not standard practice to get a fixed appointment time – you must simply show up at the clinic and wait your turn – so hours can be wasted waiting in line.
In an emergency, call either 155 or 112 for help. Both take calls in English. You must report what has happened and provide your address, name and phone number. There are different emergency rooms for adults and children and there’s also one for dental problems. There’s a fee for emergency care and EU citizens must have a valid European Health Insurance Card. Other foreigners must pay directly.
If you don’t require an ambulance, emergency services are provided at hospitals throughout the city. It’s a good idea to find out where the appropriate emergency clinics for both adults and children are in your vicinity, so that you know where to go if an emergency occurs. If you’re using a private clinic for your health care, check to see if it provides a 24-hour medical emergency line.
Pharmacies (Lekaren ) are plentiful in Bratislava and always have a sign with a green cross, making them easy to identify. They’re generally well-stocked and can provide medications for most ailments, although the names may be different than in your home country. They’re usually open 7:30am-4pm and the name and address of 24-hour pharmacies are on the door. As not all pharmacies accept credit cards, make sure you have enough cash with you. Many pharmacies have staff that speak one or more foreign languages, so it shouldn’t take you long to discover a local one that meets your needs.
Drugs are relatively inexpensive in Slovakia but most pharmacies don’t accept foreign insurance, nor are there electronic files in most locations. Remember to get a receipt if you can claim reimbursement. If you have refills remaining on your prescription, be sure to ask that the prescription be returned to you for use when it needs to be filled again.
Many products that are readily available over the counter in Western countries either require a prescription or must be specifically requested from the pharmacist. These are often considerably more expensive than at home. On the other hand, the opposite sometimes holds true, with some prescription drugs sold over the counter in Slovakia. It may be advantageous to stock up on a variety of OTC medications to ensure that you have what you need when you need it!
There are no vaccinations required for entering Slovakia, though there are requirements for school admission and you should bring your children’s vaccination schedule. If your family hasn’t already been inoculated, you may want to also consider the tick vaccine if you intend to spend a great deal of time outdoors and in the woods. You should consult your doctor before arriving.
It’s definitely wise to have a health checkup prior to coming to Slovakia and to ensure that you have an adequate supply of any required medications. If you have specific medical issues, you should bring along any relevant reports and records so that your new physician has a comprehensive overview of your condition and treatment plan.
Dental and eye examinations, if you wear glasses or contacts, are probably also a good idea.
All citizens have access to free health care and the obligatory health insurance contributions are shared by employers and employees. Medical insurance for children, women on maternity leave and the disabled is paid by the state. Most treatments are covered, as are operations and hospitalizations, and many drugs are either partially or fully covered.
There are a number of non-profit insurance companies and people are free to select the one they prefer. Voluntary supplemental insurance from commercial insurance companies is also available, for those who want additional coverage.
If you’re from an EU member country, you can obtain access to public health care equivalent to the level you would receive in your home country and you should hold an EHIC card. Other nationals should have health insurance to cover them for the duration of their stay. Expats can use the same non-profit insurance companies that provide coverage to Slovaks, but supplemental insurance is recommended to cover additional services in private medical clinics.
If you’re using health insurance from your home country, make sure it covers you for medical expenses abroad and bring your insurance card, claim forms and any other relevant documents. Find out before leaving if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or if you need to pay upfront and be reimbursed later. Many clinics do not accept credit cards, so if you have to pay upfront remember to bring enough cash to appointments.
Most expats choose to have their health care needs met at one of the private medical centres, which are well-staffed and cover a wide range of specialties. They’re modern facilities with state-of-the-art equipment.
Medifera (www.medifera.sk ) was the first private clinic to open in 1993 and now employs 60 doctors, 30 nurses and 12 physiotherapists, covering 28 specialties. They have two locations, one in the centre of the city and one in the Aupark Tower near the Aupark shopping centre.
ProCare (www.procare.sk ) has a network of clinics with modern facilities and equipment and provides primary and secondary health care . The main clinic is in the Bratislava Business Centre in the centre of the city.
Private Health Care Centre Hippokrates (www.hippokrates.sk ) has been providing comprehensive health care for over 10 years and operates on a fee for service basis. It’s also in the city centre and is open six days a week.
As mentioned above, there are hospitals for both adults and children throughout the city. While there are no private hospitals in Bratislava, doctors at private clinics can coordinate care if you need hospitalisation. Some expats who require hospitalisation choose to go just across the border to Hainburg, Austria, where the regional hospital has more comfortable and up-to-date facilities.