It takes as little as 30 minutes for a foreigner to get a mobile phone in Slovakia, depending on what kind of package you are looking for.
But whether the service you want is standard or discount, whether you are a common citizen or a business entity, be prepared to bring with you the required documents.
The easiest and cheapest way to join the 35% of Slovaks who own a mobile is to buy a phone with a pre-paid calling credit, advise the two main mobile service operators in the country, Globtel and Eurotel.
The two simplest packages, Easy for Eurotel and Prima for Globtel, allow a foreigner to get a phone by simply presenting a valid passport and some ready cash. You are soon the proud owner of a phone with a Sk100 calling credit with Eurotel or Sk300 credit with Globtel.
To go with this package, Eurotel currently offers phones ranging in price from the Motorola T180 at Sk2,990 ($62) to the Siemens S35i at Sk9,490 ($196). Globtel, meanwhile, sells the Siemens A35 for Sk3,999 ($83) and the Alcatel OT302 for Sk4,999 ($103).
Once the credits are used up, they can be renewed by buying an Easy or Prima card at one of the operators' licensed offices, or at one of the many newspaper kiosks around town.
However, if a foreigner is looking for a sale-price phone, both Eurotel and Globtel require a two-year user contract to be signed. In this case you need a residency permit covering the entire two-year contract period, while with Globtel you will also need to present a Slovak utility receipt or your housing rental contract.
The trouble is that most foreigners staying in Slovakia are on long-term (one-year renewable) residence permits, which means they are unable to satisfy the document requirements. The only expats who have a chance are those on five-year permanent stay permits, issued for those who marry Slovak nationals.
"I myself had a problem getting a cheap phone because the expiry date on my card was six months away, while the contract was for two years," said British teacher John Dale.
If you are lucky enough to have the right sort of residency permit, you can get a mobile phone for as little as Sk1 from Eurotel and Sk9 from Globtel.
The user contract that goes with these models requires the foreigner to pay a set monthly rate for the desired user time package for a period of two years, and make additional payments if the set user time is exceeded.
The standard monthly user packages offered for discounted phones are a 60-minute programme for Sk615 from Eurotel and a 50-minute programme for Sk490 from Globtel.
More documents are required if the foreigner is either self-employed with a trade license (živnosť) or owns a larger business such as a limited liability or a joint stock company established in Slovakia.
If such foreigners wish to buy a phone through the company and write phone and bills off their tax bases, in addition to a passport or residency permit, they are required to present the company's business license or a verified copy not older than three months.
In case of limited liability and joint stock companies, the passport and residency permit of the firm's statutory representative or the person eligible to act in the company's name (oprávnený zástupca) is required, as well as written proof, verified by a public notary, that the representative is eligible to act on the company's behalf.
The two other documents required are a copy of the company's extract from the commercial register (obchodný register) and an official company stamp.
Although this may seem like document hell, one foreign businessman said he had never experienced troubles getting phones through his company.
"I've been here since 1992 and even used the first mobile phones [on the NMT mobile net], but never met any overt problems. It's always been a smooth process," said Gerard Koolen, managing partner at the Lugera and Makler HR firm.
Foreigners are also allowed to use the phones they have brought from home. All you need to buy is a user programme offered by either Eurotel and Globtel, and to present your passport.
Both Eurotel and Globtel staff say that foreign phones are often blocked by a domestic operator. "But we can unblock them for Sk300 ($6)," said a customer service operator at Globtel. The number to call is 02 4341 0953 or 02 5851 4636.
Eurotel offers the same service from their department in Bratislava for $12; call 02 4955 3850.
29. Oct 2001 at 0:00 | Peter Barecz