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Getting your stuff to and from Slovakia

An American friend of mine has a small Slovak home full of goods from the US. Recently he recounted how he shipped them here in 1996. I had imagined an obstacle course full of customs pitfalls and shady middlemen, so I was surprised to learn how smooth, if frighteningly expensive, his experience had been.
This friend has a three-child family, with mountains of clothes and sneakers, a monumental collection of books and a prized piano played by all the kids. He considered these items indispensable, as he did his computers and the children's bicycles.
When he called a US shipping firm, he learned that the sheer volume of these goods required a 40-by-8-by-8-foot container (the next smallest was 20-by-4-by-8 feet), leaving him a world of additional space that he would have to pay for anyway. So he threw in couches and tables, stereos, carpets, pots and pans, gardening tools, and much more.

An American friend of mine has a small Slovak home full of goods from the US. Recently he recounted how he shipped them here in 1996. I had imagined an obstacle course full of customs pitfalls and shady middlemen, so I was surprised to learn how smooth, if frighteningly expensive, his experience had been.

This friend has a three-child family, with mountains of clothes and sneakers, a monumental collection of books and a prized piano played by all the kids. He considered these items indispensable, as he did his computers and the children's bicycles.

When he called a US shipping firm, he learned that the sheer volume of these goods required a 40-by-8-by-8-foot container (the next smallest was 20-by-4-by-8 feet), leaving him a world of additional space that he would have to pay for anyway. So he threw in couches and tables, stereos, carpets, pots and pans, gardening tools, and much more.

The part that makes me cringe is that this cost him $11,000 (Sk531,300).

Things were moved without delay, however, from his home in the American Midwest, through the Great Lakes, down the Hudson across the Atlantic over to Germany and down a series of rivers into Bratislava. The moving company arrived with the empty container and took it away later with six tons of stuff. A Slovak firm brought it to his new door in Bratislava four weeks later. He saved $2,500 by loading and unloading it himself.

The container made a two-day stop at customs in Bratislava, which can hold it for much longer, at your expense, or search it more vigorously than in his case. He was also lucky to have shipped his stuff before July this summer, when a new law went into effect requiring anyone bringing goods in value exceeding Sk40,000 ($828) to make a deposit of up to 50% of the value of those goods. The deposit is designed to prevent you from turning around and selling everything. (The Spectator article Four year legislation battle brings little customs change, Vol. 7 No. 43, is a lengthier look at the new law.)

For customs information go to www.colnasprava.sk. The website will not be in English until next year, but questions in English may be sent to webadmin.cssr@mfsr.sk Slovak Chambers of Commerce abroad also provide customs information and forms.

With the help of a Slovak, my friend saved $1,500 by filling out the five or so forms Slovak customs required himself instead of leaving it to the shipping company. He says to make sure to translate your list of items into Slovak before your container arrives - a friend of his who didn't was hassled by customs - and to make sure the papers regarding your stay are in order.

Now five years later, he is considering shipping everything back to the states. He expects it to be as painless as before, and going from Slovakia is $2,000 cheaper.

The following is a list of moving and shipping (Prepravcovia a zasielatelia) firms in Bratislava. A more detailed version of this list is available in The Slovak Spectator's Book of Lists.

AGS Bratislava
Prístavná 10
(02) 5341-9227
Ags/worldwide/movers.com

Birkart Slovakei
Inter. Spedition
Komárňanska 24
(02) 5341-9630
www.birkart.com

Gillespie
Studená 35
(02) 4445-3136
NA

Interdean
Kopčianska 20 (Po Box 30)
(02) 6381-0666
www.interdean.com

M&G Spedition Colservis
Vajnorská 142
(02) 4445-9265
www.mgsped.sk

Špedservis
Horárska 12
(02) 5341-2308
www.spedservis.sk

Shipping smaller goods

The courier firms are up to 10 times more expensive than the Slovak Post, but as much as 10 times faster, and they monitor your shipment and deliver packages door to door.

By comparison, a 2kg package shipped by the Slovak post from Bratislava to London costs Sk495 and will take up to a week; one Slovak courier firm charges around Sk4,000 to do it in a day.

You can't send paint, explosives, aerosol cans, coffee, cash, travel documents or biological material across Slovak borders. Couriers send most foods, including beer and chocolate.

For Slovak post prices and other information see www.slposta.sk. Also in English. Four courier company websites with branches in Bratislava:

www.dhl.com
www.keg.sk (Kurier Expres Grell)
www.tnt.com
www.ups.com

Foreign Affairs is a bi-weekly column devoted to helping expats and foreigners navigate the thrills and spills of life in Slovakia.
The next Foreign Affairs column will appear on stands December 3, Vol. 7, No. 46.

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