Bratislava Stories and Tips

Always Be Prepared

Old Town Bratislava Photo, Bratislava, Slovakia

I blame the following on my mother: if she’d sent me to Girl Guides, I would have known the motto and been much better prepared for my trip to Bratislava.

As the train left Vienna’s Sudbanhof station, the conductor came through to check tickets. Twenty minutes later, I was surprised when Austrian officials came through the cars to do a passport check. Being a security-conscious traveler, I keep my money, passport, and other important documents in a money belt that I wear around my waist and under my clothes. I hadn’t anticipated needing the passport on the train, so, while trying not to appear too obvious (or too embarrassed), I stuck my hand down my pants, fiddled around with the zipper on the money belt, and provided my passport for inspection. The female guard didn’t bat an eye, and once satisfied that my passport was in order, she moved on. Smiling to the ladies across the aisle, I did a little more fiddling under my clothes, returned the passport to the money belt, and settled into my seat to enjoy the passing scenery.

Not much later, we crossed the border when the train stopped and a group of Slovakian guards came on to do yet another security check. Well darn, let’s look foolish again while I stick my hand down my pants to get that passport one more time. As expected, everything was fine and the guard returned the passport to me. Hmm, was that a smirk on his face? Okay, security checks are finished, so back under my clothes goes the passport and the train continues to Bratislava.

Imagine my surprise and consternation when yet another uniformed officer comes into the train car a few minutes later and starts checking passengers again. For crying out loud, I’m just taking a 1-hour trip between countries – how much security is needed here? Back goes the hand into the pants and I’m ready with my passport once again. This time, however, the joke was on me – this fellow was just checking tickets!

Oh well – the elderly ladies across the aisle from me were highly amused. Just before we stopped in Bratislava, they offered me a cookie – whether to commiserate with my embarrassed fumbling or to thank me for the entertainment I provided, who knows?

Note: My experience was prior to Slovakia’s May 1st European Union inclusion. I think the border checks may have been eliminated since then, but just in case, be a scout and be prepared.

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