Health & safety
A little planning before departure, particularly for pre-existing illnesses or conditions, will save trouble later. See your dentist before a long trip, carry a spare pair of contact lenses or glasses, and take your optical prescription with you. Bring medications in their original, clearly labelled, containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including their generic names, is also a good idea.
EU citizens on public-health insurance schemes should note that they’re generally covered by reciprocal arrangements in Slovenia. They should, however, carry their European Health Insurance Card. In the UK, application forms for such cards are available from any branch of the Department of Health (www.dh.gov.uk) In addition, citizens of certain other countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Romania, are guaranteed emergency medical assistance or subsequent treatment provided they submit the appropriate documentation. Citizens of other countries should check with their Ministry of Health or equivalent before setting out. Everyone else is entitled to emergency medical treatment in Slovenia, but they must pay for it. Check the website of the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia (www.zzzs.si) for more information.
If you do need health insurance while travelling, we strongly advise you to consider a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an ambulance or an emergency flight home.
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The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) online publication International Travel and Health is revised annually and is available at www.who.int/ith.
Other useful websites:
www.ageconcern.org.uk Advice on travel for the elderly.
www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk General travel advice for the layperson.
www.mariestopes.org.uk Information on women’s health and contraception.
www.mdtravelhealth.com Travel-health recommendations for every country; updated daily.
It’s usually a good idea to consult your government’s travel health website before departure, if one is available:
While Slovenia does not require any vaccination of international travellers, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, regardless of their destination. Since most vaccines don’t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given, visit a physician or clinic at least six weeks before departure.
Slovenia is not a violent or dangerous society. Firearms are strictly controlled, the few drunks you’ll encounter are sloppy but docile, and you’ll see little of the vandalism that plagues cities like New York or London (although the incidence of graffiti in urban centres has risen astronomically in the years since independence). The organised crime that torments Russia and some Eastern European countries has arrived in Slovenia, notably in Ljubljana and Maribor, but not to the same degree.
Police say that 90% of all crimes reported in Slovenia involve theft, so take the usual precautions. Be careful of your purse or wallet in busy areas like bus and train stations, and don’t leave it unattended on the beach, or in a hut while hiking. Lock your car at all times, park in well-lit areas and do not leave valuables visible.
In cities like Ljubljana, Maribor or Celje you might be approached occasionally by beggars who ask for – and then demand money – but it’s seldom anything dangerous. One problem can be drunks on the road – literally or behind the wheel – especially around St Martin’s Day (Martinovanje; 11 November).
One particularly irksome law here is that alcohol may not be purchased from a shop, off-license or bar for consumption off the premises by anyone between the hours of 9pm and 7am. Of course you can drink to your heart’s content in restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs until closing time, but not buy it outside. The ruling follows a number of horrific car accidents involving young people who had consumed alcohol bought at popular round-the-clock convenience stores.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Blood clots may form in the legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) during plane flights, chiefly because of prolonged immobility. The longer the flight, the greater the risk. The chief symptom of DVT is swelling or pain in the foot, ankle or calf, usually – but not always – on just one side. When a blood clot travels to the lungs, it may cause chest pain and breathing difficulties. Travellers with any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
To prevent the development of DVT on long flights, you should walk about the cabin, contract the leg muscles while sitting, drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol.
Jet lag & motion sickness
To avoid jet lag, which is common when crossing more than five time zones, try drinking plenty of nonalchoholic fluids and eating light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
Antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine (Antivert, Bonine) are usually the first choice for treating motion sickness. A herbal alternative is ginger.
Availability & cost of health care
Medical care in Slovenia corresponds to European standards and is good. Every large town or city has a zdravstveni dom (health centre) or klinični center (clinic) that operates from 7am to at least 7pm. Treatment at a public outpatient clinic costs little or nothing; doctors working privately will charge much more. Very roughly, a consultation in a Slovenian doctor’s surgery costs from €20.
Pharmacies are usually open from 7am to 8pm, and at least one in each community is open round the clock. A sign on the door of any lekarna (pharmacy) will help you find the nearest 24-hour one.
A tick-transmitted infection that is not unknown in Central and Eastern Europe, the illness usually begins with a spreading rash at the site of the tick bite. It is accompanied by fever, headache, extreme fatigue, aching joints and muscles, and mild neck stiffness. If untreated, these symptoms usually resolve over several weeks, but over subsequent weeks or months disorders of the nervous system, heart and joints might develop.
This disease is spread through contaminated food and water. Children are vaccinated against it, but vaccination should be boosted every 10 years, either orally (a drop on the tongue) or as an injection.
Contracted through bites or licks on broken skin from an infected animal, Rabies is always fatal unless treated. Three injections are needed over a month. If you have not been vaccinated and have been bitten, you will need a course of five injections starting within 24 hours or as soon as possible after the injury. If you have been vaccinated, you will need fewer injections and will have more time to seek medical help.
Another condition spread by tick bites, this is a serious infection of the brain. Vaccination is advised for those in risk areas – parts of Central and Eastern Europe, including Slovenia – who are unable to avoid tick bites (such as campers, forestry workers and ramblers). Two doses of vaccine will give a year’s protection, three doses up to three years’. For up-to-date information, log on to www.masta.org/tickalert.
Typhoid & Hepatitis A
These are spread through contaminated food (particularly shellfish) and water. Typhoid can cause septicaemia; hepatitis A causes liver inflammation and jaundice. Neither is usually fatal, but recovery can be prolonged. Typhoid vaccine (typhim Vi, typherix) will give protection for three years. In some countries, the oral vaccine Vivotif is also available. Hepatitis A vaccine (Avaxim, VAQTA, Havrix) is given as an injection; a single dose will give protection for up to a year, a booster after a year gives 10 years’ protection. Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines can also be given as a single-dose vaccine, hepatyrix or viatim.
Insect bites & stings
Mosquitoes are found in most parts of Europe; they might not carry malaria but can still cause irritation and infected bites. Just make sure you’re armed with a DEET-based prašek (insect repellent) and wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers around sundown.
Bees and wasps cause real problems only to those with a severe allergy (anaphylaxis) If you have a severe allergy to bee or wasp stings carry an ‘epipen’ or similar adrenaline injection.
If you are hiking or camping in Slovenia’s mountains and are unsure about the water, the simplest way of purifying it is to boil it for 10 minutes. Chlorine tablets will kill many pathogens. Iodine is more effective and is available in tablet form. Follow the directions carefully, and remember that too much iodine can be harmful.
Travelling with children
All travellers with children should know how to treat minor ailments and when to seek medical treatment. Make sure the children are up to date with routine vaccinations, and discuss possible travel vaccines well before departure as some vaccines are not suitable for children younger than a year.
Children should be encouraged to avoid and mistrust any dogs or other mammals because of the risk of rabies and other diseases. Any bite, scratch or lick from a warm-blooded, furry animal should immediately be thoroughly cleaned. If there is any possibility that the animal is infected with rabies, immediate medical assistance should be sought.
If using oral contraceptives, remember that some antibiotics, diarrhoea and vomiting can stop the pill from working and lead to the risk of pregnancy. Time zones, gastrointestinal upsets and antibiotics do not affect injectable contraception.
Travelling during pregnancy is usually possible but always consult your doctor before planning your trip. The riskiest times for travel are during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and after 30 weeks.
Emergency contraception is most effective if taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex. The International Planned Parent Federation (www.ippf.org) can advise about the availability of contraception in different countries.
When buying condoms, look for a European CE mark, which means they have been rigorously tested, and then keep them in a cool dry place; otherwise they might crack and split.