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'''Slovakia''' [http://www.slovakia.travel] or ''Slovak Republic'' (Slovak: ''Slovensko'' or ''Slovenská republika'', both names are officially recognized), is a landlocked country in [[Central Europe]].  It is surrounded by [[Austria]] to the west, [[Czech Republic]] to the northwest, [[Hungary]] to the south, [[Poland]] to the north and [[Ukraine]] to the east. Slovakia is a modern democratic country and is a member of the European Union.
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'''[http://slovakia.travel/en Slovakia]''' or the '''Slovak Republic''' (Slovak: ''Slovensko'', ''Slovenská republika''; both names are officially recognized), is a landlocked country in [[Central Europe]], bordered by [[Austria]] to the west, the [[Czech Republic]] to the northwest, [[Hungary]] to the south, [[Poland]] to the north and [[Ukraine]] to the east.
 
 
The main reasons to visit Slovakia are its natural beauty, vivid history and great opportunities for relaxation (and due to the small size of the country, it is quite easy to combine all three). For the same reasons ''Lonely Planet'' put it in as number 5 on it's ''Best in Travel 2013 - Top 10 countries'' list [http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/best-in-travel-2013/top-10-countries/], being best for "culture, adventure and off the beaten track".
 
 
 
Slovakia has nine national parks, which cover a  relatively big portion of the country and feature the tallest part of the Carpathian Mountain Range, the [[High Tatras]], which offer great opportunities for mountain and winter sports as well as great vistas. Geologically, a sizable part of Slovakia is made out of limestone, which in combination with many springs and rivers has resulted in formation of numerous caves (12 open to the public, several of which are UNESCO listed) and the beautiful rocky formations, canyons and waterfalls of the [[Slovak Paradise]] and [[Slovak Karst]]. Even outside these areas, there are some beautiful landscapes, and all of Slovakia is covered by thousands of well-marked hiking trails.
 
 
 
For history lovers, Slovakia has the highest number of castles and chateaux per capita in the world, ranging from simple ruins to well-preserved habitable castles with furnishings, so if you are a fan of medieval history, look no further. There are also numerous gothic and baroque cities and towns across Slovakia, including the capital. There are also well-preserved examples of wooden folk architecture, including churches made entirely out of wood and the tallest wooden altar in the world.
 
 
 
There are numerous mineral and thermal springs in Slovakia, and around some of these world-famous spas have been built that offer great curative therapies or just simple relaxation. You can also chill out, swim and sunbathe at the shores of several local lakes and pools or try AquaCity waterpark if you are feeling more adventurous. In particular, [[Bratislava]] boasts a lively nightlife as well and is a popular partying destination.  
 
  
 
==Understand==
 
==Understand==
===Terrain===
 
Much of the central and northern part of Slovakia is rugged and mountainous. Gerlachovský štít at 2,655 m (8,711 ft) in the [[Vysoké Tatry|High Tatra]]s is the highest peak.  The [[Tatra Mountains]] in the north, shared with Poland, are interspersed with many scenic lakes and valleys. These areas experience lower temperatures and traditionally people here lived off sheep grazing.
 
 
The lowlands are in the south with the lowest point of the Bodrog River being 94 m (308 ft) above sea level. The soil here is much more fertile, especially the area between Small Danube and Danube, and was more agricultural. The weather is gentler and especially summers can get surprisingly warm.
 
 
 
===History===
 
===History===
The area that is present-day Slovakia has been settled since early Paleolithic era. Before the inward migration of Slavs and Huns, the most important cultures were the Celts and Romans. To this day, artefacts and evidence of the presence of these cultures can be found.
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The area comprising modern Slovakia has been settled since the early Paleolithic era. The first documented groups living in the region were various Celtic tribes, who included the Boii and Taurisci. The Celts were joined later by the Dacians from the Balkans, who briefly ruled the area before being pushed out by Germanic tribes from the northwest. From the south, the Roman Empire established its northern border on the banks of the Danube by the 1st century. For the next 300 years, Roman legions launched military incursions northwards onto Slovak soil to combat Germanic tribes. The best-known example of the Roman presence is a Latin inscription carved in stone in [[Trenčín]].
 
 
The Slavic tribes, that invaded the area in the 5th century created a succession of influential kingdoms here. During this era, lasting until the 10th century when the Great Moravian Empire disintegrated, Slavs adopted Christianity and many medieval fort castles have been built, ruins of some of which remain to this day.
 
 
 
Since 10th century, Slovakia became a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, which, after 1867, formed an union with  the Austrian Empire and became the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This Union, lasting until 1918 was a great influence on the shaping of the entire region and was a multinational state with many cultures living together, and forms a common cultural history shared by many Central European nations.
 
[[Image:Levice Castle.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Castle in Levice]]
 
 
 
In 1918 the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. During WWII, Czechoslovakia briefly split, with the Czech Republic being Occupied by the Nazis and Slovaks forming their own war state. Following the chaos of World War II, Czechoslovakia became a communist country within Soviet-ruled Eastern Block. Soviet influence collapsed in 1989 and Czechoslovakia once again became free.
 
  
For many years overshadowed by their north-western ''Czech'' neighbors, political representatives of Czechs and Slovaks decided to strike out on their own. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on 1 January 1993 and '''Slovakia''' became a country in its own right. This is known as '''Velvet Divorce'''. Both countries remain close culturally and there is a high level of political and economical cooperation.  
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The Slavic invasion from the east profoundly changed the ethnic and cultural makeup of Slovakia. Settling in the Danubian lowlands in the 6th-7th centuries, the Slavs created a succession of influential confederations and polities, including Samo's Realm, the Principality of Nitra, and Great Moravia, the first organized Slavic state. Upon invitation of Great Moravia's duke, the Byzantine brothers Cyril and Methodius converted the region's Slavs to Christianity and introduced Old Church Slavonic, the first written Slavic language. Although the Slavs initially converted under the Eastern Byzantine rite, Slovaks predominantly followed Catholicism after the Great Schism in 1054.
  
Historic, political, and geographic factors have caused Slovakia to experience more difficulty in developing a modern market economy than some of its [[Central Europe|Central European]] neighbors, but now it boasts one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and has been a member of the European Union and the NATO since 2004. Slovakia is now a member of the Schengen agreement, and the country has adopted the Euro on 1 January 2009.
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Invading, nomadic Hungarians in the 9th century brought an end to Great Moravia and Slavic rule. In the decades to follow, the Hungarians settled in the Pannonian Basin, including the southern portions of the Slovak lands. For the next millennium, Slovakia fell within the Kingdom of Hungary's borders.  
  
=== Ethnicities ===
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The Mongol invasion of 1241-1242 devastated northwestern Slovakia. An estimated one-third of the region's population, many of them internally displaced by the invasion, perished. Afterwards, under the Hungarian kingdom, Slovakia economically developed thanks to its abundance of gold, copper, iron and salt, with [[Bratislava]], [[Košice]] and [[Prešov]] granted charters. Large numbers of Walloons (from contemporary [[Belgium]]), Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles and Ruthenians settled in the region during a period of immigration in the 13th-14th centuries. Politically, Slovakia was ruled by a series of semi-independent Hungarian oligarchs and aristocrats who either swore fealty to the king or actively competed with royal authority. The most famous of these oligarchs were Matthew III Csák, ruler of western Slovakia, and Amade Aba, whose domain comprised the east. By the 1500s, Slovakia had transformed into one of the most urbanized and economically advanced portions of Hungary.
  
There are some similarities between the Czech and Slovak cultures but the two nationalities remain distinct. One of the most striking differences is that while Czechs are largely atheists, Slovaks are largely Catholics, like their Polish neighbours.
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The Hungarian defeat at the 1526 Battle of Mohács by the Turks left the kingdom's inheritance to the Austrian Habsburgs. In the onslaught of the Ottoman Empire's invasion, the Habsburgs moved the Hungarian capital to Pressburg (contemporary [[Bratislava]]) in 1536, where the Habsburg monarchs assumed the Hungarian throne in St. Martin's Cathedral until 1830. While remaining a kingdom, Hungary became a ''de facto'' Habsburg province, although it retained its nobility and legal tradition separate from [[German]]-speaking [[Austria]]. Meanwhile, southern Slovak lands faced an Ottoman occupation until the 1680s and '90s, as Habsburg-led forces gradually reclaimed most of Hungary. Despite being interchangeably ruled by Hungarians, Austrians and Turks, Slovaks fiercely protected their culture and language.  
  
Hungarian-speaking minority, 8.5% of the population, is concentrated mostly in southern Slovakia.  
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[[File:Bratislava, Hrad, Slovensko.jpg|thumb|Bratislava Castle.]]
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The birth pangs of Slovak nationalism began in the 1780s. Due to the efforts of Catholic priest Anton Bernolák, the [[Slovak]] language was first standardized. Intellectual Protestants, including Ján Kollár and Pavel Šafárik, championed a Slovakized form of [[Czech]], stressing the common Slavic ancestry of both peoples. Ľudovít Štúr, a Lutheran Slovak (and renaissance man in every sense) advocated for the central Slovak dialect to be the national language, which was agreed upon after long debates between Catholics and Protestants in 1847. In 1848, Hungary revolted against its Austrian Habsburg masters, prompting Slovak patriots to launch their own counter-revolt against the rebellious Hungarians. First fighting alongside Austrian troops, Slovak nationalists eventually demanded full independence from the Habsburg Empire, yet were ignored by [[Vienna]]. Brought back to the Habsburg fold, Hungary was eventually granted full sovereignty in its internal affairs in the 1867 Compromise, creating the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Afterwards, the Hungarian government aggressively pursued Magyarization policies within its borders. where [[Slovak]] language teaching and institutions were suppressed in favor of [[Hungarian]] schooling and culture.
  
In the eastern part of the country, there are many Romas/Gypsies and some Rusnacs/Rusins and Ukrainians.  
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At the turn of the 20th century, Slovak nationalists increasingly joined forces with sympathetic Czechs in calls for autonomy. World War I and its exhaustive toll on the empire only accelerated mutual Czech and Slovak calls for separation. Just weeks before the the war's end, Czechoslovakia declared independence from Austria-Hungary on 28 October 1918, with Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as its first president. Hungary, reeling from the empire's collapse and a homegrown communist revolution, briefly occupied swaths of Slovakia in a 1919 invasion, yet withdrew after heavy pressure from [[France]] and [[Romania]].  
There are also some Czechs, Poles and still some Germans living in Slovakia.
 
  
===Climate===
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The First Czechoslovak Republic, although democratic and largely stable, did not satisfy all Slovaks. Highly centralized from [[Prague]], Slovakia lagged significantly behind the Czechs in industry, infrastructure and education, maintaining a strong agrarian and Catholic character. The Great Depression and its resulting economic slump fueled calls made by leading political-religious leaders Andrej Hlinka and Jozef Tiso for greater sovereignty. In the wake of the 1938 Sudetenland Crisis that saw the First Republic's partial dismemberment by Nazi Germany, Hungary and Poland, Hitler applied considerable pressure on Slovakia to separate and ally itself with Germany. Under its leader Jozef Tiso, the Slovak Republic declared independence from Czechoslovakia on 14 March 1939. A day later, the remaining Czech lands were invaded and made a protectorate of the Third Reich. Slovakia joined Nazi Germany in its invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, sparking World War II.
  
Slovakia has a temperate climate with sunny hot summers and cold, cloudy, humid and snowy winters. The climate is continental, with four seasons, and while the overall climate is mild, there is a considerable temperature difference between summer and winter months.  
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Under the clerical fascist Tiso regime, Slovakia joined the Axis powers and assisted the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Mimicking Nazi anti-Semitic laws, the Tiso regime barred Jews from intermarriages and employment, deporting tens of thousands to death camps in occupied Poland. Thousands of other Jews, however, were saved by acts of bravery and kindness from civilians. Secretly encouraged on by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, large portions of the Slovak Armed Forces revolted against Tiso in August 1944, joining underground partisans. Known as the Slovak National Uprising {''Slovenské národné povstanie'', or SNP), the rebellion sought Tiso's overthrow as the Soviet Red Army approached from the east. Lasting until October, the uprising was crushed by tens of thousands of German troops and Tiso loyalists, yet the SNP left an indelible mark in Slovak history. Soviet and Romanian units would liberate Slovakia by April 1945. Arrested by American forces in Germany, Tiso was handed over to Czechoslovak authorities and later executed for high treason in 1947. A majority of Slovakia's ethnic German population, along with tens of thousands of Hungarians, were expelled in the war's aftermath with the Beneš Decrees, an act of mass revenge that remains highly controversial.
  
It is generally warmer in southern regions and the lowlands, where summer temperatures can climb above 30&deg;C (86&deg;F) on hotter days, and where rain is more common in winters than snow, which usually melts in a few days.
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[[File:Bardejov namesti 3773.JPG|thumb|The UNESCO-protected town of [[Bardejov]].]]
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Following the 1948 communist coup d'etat, Czechoslovakia fell into the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. The communists accelerated industrialization throughout the country. After a period of intense Stalinist purges, the party liberalized in the 1960s. In 1968, under the leadership of Alexander Dubček—a Slovak—the state relaxed its controls on press, speech, travel and federalization in a period known as the Prague Spring (''Pražská jar''). The reforms proved too much for the Soviet Union, which organized a Warsaw Pact invasion of the country that August. Dubček was forcefully replaced by another Slovak, Gustáv Husák, who ruled Czechoslovakia for the next 20 years during the harshly conservative Normalization (''Normalizácia'') era.  
  
Northern, and especially mountainous regions have a colder climate, with summer temperatures not exceeding 25&deg;C (77&deg;F). Especially in the mountains, snow is common in winters and it can get quite cold.
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The dramatic events of 1989, including elections in [[Poland]], peaceful protests in [[Hungary]] and the fall of the Berlin Wall in [[Germany]], arrived in Czechoslovakia that November. Mass protests in [[Bratislava]], [[Prague]] and elsewhere around the country defiantly challenged the government for days, peacefully deposing the communists in the Velvet (or Gentle) Revolution (''nežná revolúcia''). Now a democratic federation, fissures buried by decades of authoritarianism arose, with Slovak nationalists arguing that Czechs had for too long overshadowed the union. As a result, Czech and Slovak politicians voted in 1992 to part ways with the Velvet Divorce.  
  
If you are planning on visiting the mountains, please note that, as in any mountainous region, the weather can change dramatically in a matter of minutes and it can rain (or snow!) even in summer. Take appropriate equipment and don't underestimate the weather.
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On 1 January 1993, the new states of Slovakia and the [[Czech Republic]] were born. Historical, political and geographic factors initially caused Slovakia to experience more difficulties in developing stable democratic traditions and a market economy than its neighbors, yet it now boasts a stable economy. Slovakia joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, and adopted the euro in January 2009, although this action remains controversial.
  
 
===Holidays and Festivals===
 
===Holidays and Festivals===
Slovakia is a predominantly Catholic Country, so major Christian holidays are observed, as well as some other holidays. Unless indicated otherwise, these days are public holidays and banks and most amenities and shops will be closed:
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As a predominantly Catholic society, major Christian holidays are observed in Slovakia, along with other secular days.
 
 
*''' Slovak Republic Day''' - 1st January - Conveniently, Czechoslovakia split into two on the 1st of January, so New Year's Day is a national holiday. It is traditionally celebrated by sleeping until midday.
 
 
 
*'''Ephiphany''' - 6th of January - Celebrates the arrival of the Three Magi into Betlehem. Shops and banks are closed.
 
 
 
*'''Mardi Gras period''' ('Fasiangy') - this is not a national holiday, but rather a festival season. Some villages will hold a traditional market with food and drinks offered, and there might be a march through the city in masks, and numerous balls, dances and carnivals are held.  6th January till Ash Wednesday (February or March).
 
 
 
*'''Easter''' - March/April, dates depend on the lunar calendar. Good Friday and Easter Monday are both national holidays. There is a number of different traditions relating to Easter. The traditional food served includes eggs and special Easter Ham, with bread and horseradish.
 
 
 
Religious people will go to mass, and it might be the only time when its likely to see people in traditional clothing in some villages, but this is increasingly less common. Everyone will be dressed up, though.
 
 
 
Throughout Slovakia, ''kraslice'' are prepared, which are egg shells adorned with ornaments and painted over with colours. These, along with sweets and money are given to boys, who visit friends' and neighbours' houses, where it is their job to make sure the women will be healthy and prosperous the following year by spraying them with water or perfume and beating them with a willow wand adorned with ribbons. It is called ''oblievacka'' and ''sibacka''. It tends to involve copious amounts of alcohol, food and wet T-shirts, and is not taken seriously by anyone. In recent years it became less popular. If you are female, do not wear clothes you like when venturing outside on Easter Monday as you might have water thrown or perfume sprayed at you. If you want to protest this clearly barbaric tradition, make sure to do so in waterproof clothing.
 
  
*'''International Labour Day''' - 1 May - This is celebrated by not working.
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*''' Slovak Republic Day''' (''Deň vzniku Slovenskej republiky''), 1 January: Celebration of the Velvet Divorce and the birth of the Slovak Republic, convieniently also on New Year's Day when most people nurse hangovers. Most businesses are closed and flags will be prominently displayed.
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*'''Ephiphany''' (''Zjavenie Pána''), 6 January: Christian celebration of the Three Kings' arrival in Bethlehem. Shops and banks are closed.
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[[File:Slovakia folk art 10.JPG|thumb|Traditional Slovak Easter eggs.]]
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*'''Carnival''' (''Fašiangy''), between Epiphany to Ash Wednesday: Traditional Catholic festival period, with village markets, drinks, dances, balls and celebrations. Similar to ''Fasching'' in [[Germany]] and ''Mardi Gras'' in the [[United States]]. A traditional period yet not a public holiday.
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*'''Easter''' (''Veľká noc''), a movable feast scheduled to the lunar calendar, usually in March or April and includes Good Friday and Easter Monday. Religious Slovaks will go to mass, sometimes in traditional clothing in some villages. Throughout Slovakia, ''kraslice'' are prepared, which are egg shells adorned with ornaments and painted. Traditional food is served, including eggs, special Easter Ham, bread and horseradish. Most businesses will be closed
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*'''Easter Monday''' (''Veľkonočný pondelok'' or ''Oblievačka''), the day after Easter: A holiday with pagan roots, where men go door to door splashing women young and old with water for fertility and good health, and in return get copious amounts of alcohol and sweets. Water splashing in common in central and eastern Slovakia, while (slightly) whipping woman with willow sticks on their bottoms is common in the northwest. A public holiday with most businesses closed.
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*'''May Day''' (''Sviatok práce''), 1 May: Celebration of workers and labor rights, once an enormous affair during communism is now marked by barbeques, rest and some small socialist gatherings. Most businesses are closed.
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*'''Day of Victory over Fascism''' (''Deň víťazstva nad fašizmom''), 8 May: Celebration of Nazi Germany's defeat, with most businesses closed.
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*'''St. Cyril and Methodius Day''' (''Sviatok svätého Cyrila a Metoda''), 5 July: Celebration of the Christian missionaries' arrival in Great Moravia. A public holiday with most businesses closed.
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*'''Slovak National Uprising''' (''Výročie Slovenského národného povstania''), 29 August: Commemoration of the mass uprising against the Tiso regime in 1944. Most businesses are closed.
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*'''Constitution Day''' (''Deň Ústavy Slovenskej republiky''), 1 September: Celebration of the 1992 constitution, with most businesses and schools closed.
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*'''Day of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows''' (''Sviatok Panny Márie Sedembolestnej''), 15 September: Catholic day commemorating the Virgin Mary, the state's patron saint. Most businesses are closed, with the faithful attending mass.
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*'''Vinobranie''', normally at the end of September and early October: Local celebrations of the wine harvest, where cities and towns across the republic host air markets of food, crafts and drink on different weekends.
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*'''All Saints Day''' (''Sviatok všetkých svätých''), 1 November: Families visit the graves of their ancestors to light candles. After sunset, cemeteries glow beautifully with candlelight. Visitors should be sure to visit a cemetery to witness this holiday. Many restaurants, malls and stores will either be closed or close earlier than usual.
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*'''Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy''' (''Deň boja za slobodu a demokraciu''), 17 November: Joint commemoration of the 1939 student protests against the German occupation and the 1989 overthrow of the communist Czechoslovak state, marked normally by political speeches and marches. Most businesses are closed. 
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[[File:Presov Slovakia 2046.JPG|thumb|A Christmas market in [[Prešov]].]]
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*'''St. Nicolas' Day''' (''Deň Svätého Mikuláša''), 6 December: In cities and towns, St. Nicolas (''Mikuláš''), accompanied by an angel and devil, visit houses of children, determining who's good and bad, and distribute sweets to behaved childred, or coal and onions to bad kids. Strictly a cultural holiday, with businesses open.
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*'''St. Lucia's Day''' (''Deň Svätej Lucie''), 13 December: While St. Lucia is associated as the patron saint of light in most Catholic states, St. Lucia is associated with witchery, love and mischief in Slovakia. A day of many traditions, including taking 13 pieces of paper, leave one blank and write the names of 12 boys or girls; one paper is burned every day until Christmas Eve. What name remains is the name of your future spouse; if blank, you are single forever. Strictly a cultural holiday with businesses open.
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*'''Christmas''' (''Vianoce''), 24-26 December: Lasting for three days, Christmas celebrations include a traditional dinner of wafers eaten with garlic and honey, followed by a soup (either of mushrooms or cabbage), and a main course of fried carp and potato salad. A time of family celebrations, with most businesses entirely closed.
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*'''New Year's Eve''' (''Silvestrovské oslavy''), 31 December: A day and night of partying and champagne, with many cities having displays. Not a public holiday, but some businesses may close early.  
  
*'''Day of Victory over Fascism''' - 8 May - Celebration of the end of WWII in Europe.
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===Ethnic groups===
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Although ethnic Slovaks make up a majority of the country's population, Slovakia retains a significant [[Hungarian]]-speaking minority, comprising nearly 9.4% of the total population. Hungarians make up a majority of the population in Slovakia's deep south, close to the [[Hungary|Hungarian]] border and in the Danubian lowlands.
  
*'''International Children's Day''' - 1 June - Not a national holiday, but children might have time off school and various activities will be organised for them, and they usually get treats.
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In the eastern part of the country, there are strong numbers of Romani (Gypsies), as well as Rusyns and Ukrainians.  
 
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Small, scattered Czech, Polish and German minorities also live throughout the republic.
*'''St. Cyril and Methodius Day''' - 5 July- arrival of the first Christian missionaries to Slovakia
 
 
 
*'''Slovak National Uprising Memorial Day''' - 29 August - Holiday to commemorate uprising against Nazis during WWII.
 
 
 
*'''Constitution Day''' - 1 September - Children love this one as school starts one day later.
 
 
 
*'''Day of Blessed Virgin Mary''' - 15 September - A patron saint of Slovakia.
 
 
 
*'''Vinobranie''' This is not a national holiday, but a festival that celebrates the wine harvest, usually held in October in wine-making regions. Cities cooperate so it is held on different weekends in different places and you can visit several. This includes open air markets selling street food, drinks (especially young wine), and various handicrafts.
 
 
 
*'''All Saints Day''' - 1 November - This is a day to remember those that have passed away. Halloween is not celebrated in Slovakia, and this is quite a serious religious holiday. All shops are closed and many people will go to the cemeteries to light a candle for their loved ones.
 
 
 
*'''Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day''' - 17 November - Commemorates student demonstration that brought about the end of Communism.
 
 
 
*'''St Nicolaus' Day''' - 6 December - This is not a national holiday, but is  seen as a start of the Christmas period. Traditionally, St Nicholaus leaves some sweets (if the child was good) or coal/onion (if the child misbehaved that year) in their shoe overnight (surprisingly enough, most children get sweets, not onion). Celebrations are held in towns, where someone dressed as St nicolaus (think Santa Claus) and his helpers angels/devils help him distribute sweets among crowds of eager kids. Christmas markets open and Christmas lights are turned on.
 
 
 
*'''Feast of St Lucy''' - 13 December - Not a national holiday, but many traditions are connected with this day, varying by the region. For example, you can take 13 pieces of paper, leave one blank and write names of 12 boys on the others if you are a girl. One is burned every day until Christmas Eve, what remains is a name of your future husband (blank = single forever).
 
[[Image:Vianocne.jpg|thumb|right|200px|Traditional Christmas cookies]]
 
*'''Christmas''' - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (24-26 of December) are national holidays. In Slovakia, Christmas is mainly celebrate during Christmas Eve, when a traditional family dinner is held, after which presents are opened. As Christmas Eve is meant to be a fast in Christian Calendar, no meat is eaten that day. The tradition dinner starts with a thin wafer, eaten with garlic (for health) and honey (for happiness and properity). This is followed by a soup (either mushroom or cabbage soup), and a main of fried carp and special potato salad. Many varieties of Christmas cakes (e.g gingerbread) are also eaten. Traditions differ, however.
 
 
 
*'''Silvester''' - 31 December - New Year's Eve is not a national holiday, but is widely celebrated, mostly by partying. At midnight, people toast the New Year with a glass of champagne. Many cities will have a firework display to celebrate New Year. Fireworks and drunk people abound.
 
  
 
==Regions==
 
==Regions==
 
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Slovakia is divided into nine political regions (''kraje''), which can be grouped into three regions for tourism purposes.
 
[[Image:Slovakia Regions map.png|thumb|right|475px|Map of Slovakia with regions colour-coded]]
 
[[Image:Slovakia Regions map.png|thumb|right|475px|Map of Slovakia with regions colour-coded]]
  
Line 116: Line 87:
 
| region1name=[[Western Slovakia]]   
 
| region1name=[[Western Slovakia]]   
 
| region1color=#9bb687
 
| region1color=#9bb687
| region1items=
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| region1items= [[Bratislava]], [[Nitra]], [[Trnava]], [[Trenčín]], [[Topoľčany]], [[Púchov]]
| region1description=the capital city, the Danube and other river valleys
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| region1description=Slovakia's urban core, home to the capital and largest city, the Danube, river valleys, forests and hills.
  
 
| region2name=[[Central Slovakia]]
 
| region2name=[[Central Slovakia]]
 
| region2color=#619abf
 
| region2color=#619abf
| region2items=
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| region2items=[[Banská Bystrica]]. [[Žilina]], [[Tvrdošín]], [[Rajecké Teplice]]
| region2description=medieval mining, national parks
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| region2description=A mountainous region of small towns, medieval mines and many national parks.
  
 
| region3name=[[Eastern Slovakia]]  
 
| region3name=[[Eastern Slovakia]]  
 
| region3color=#71b37b
 
| region3color=#71b37b
| region3items=
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| region3items=[[Košice]], [[Poprad]], [[Prešov]], [[Bardejov]]
| region3description=mountain ranges with fairytale castles
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| region3description=Capped with the Tatras, another mountainous and more region with forests, agricultural pastures and home to Slovakia's second city.
 
}}
 
}}
  
 
==Cities==
 
==Cities==
 
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*[[Bratislava]]—the republic's capital and largest city, with a beautifully restored historical centre full of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance churches, palaces, cobblestone streets, charming hillside neighborhoods, fountains, riverside parks, and pleasant cafes, all looked down on from the city's impressive castle.
*[[Bratislava]] {{-}} capital and the largest city of Slovakia with a beautifully restored historical centre full of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance churches, houses and palaces, cobblestone streets, fountains, pleasant cafes and lively and cosmopolitan atmosphere
+
*[[Banská Bystrica]]—once one of the most important mining towns in the Hungarian portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and an important centre for Slovak culture, with a beautiful restored square, ancient churches, castles, museums and a memorial to the Slovak National Uprising.
+
*[[Banská Štiavnica]]—a picturesque medieval mining town.
*[[Banská Bystrica]] {{-}} was one of the most important mining towns of Hungarian part of Austro-Hungarian Empire; beautiful restored square, many churches, castles and museums and memorial of the Slovak National Uprising
+
*[[Košice]]—Slovakia's second largest city and the metropolis of the east, home to the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe, the oldest European coat of arms, a historical city centre, many palaces and museums.
*[[Košice]] {{-}} metropolis of the east, second biggest city of the country with the easternmost situated Gothic Cathedral in the World, the oldest European coat of arms, a great historical city centre with the Cathedral Complex, numerous churches, palaces and interesting museums.
+
*[[Nitra]]—the oldest city in Slovakia, home to a pleasant city core, spectacular surrounding nature and an impressive castle.
*[[Poprad]] {{-}} the entryway into High Tatras
+
*[[Prešov]]—the best example of Renaissance architecture in Slovakia, numerous churches, the Solivary salt mine and museum.
*[[Prešov]] {{-}} the best example of renaissance architecture in Slovakia, numerous churches and nearby lying Solivar which is one of the most interesting salt mine museum in Europe
+
*[[Trenčín]]—one of the most charming towns in the country, with a highly-picturesque castle above the city overlooking its historical centre, the river Váh and the surrounding region.
*[[Rajecke Teplice|Rajecké Teplice]] {{-}} very peaceful spa town surrounded by magnificent Mala Fatra National Park
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*[[Trnava]]—an ancient twn with the high number of churches and well-preserved Baroque architecture.
*[[Trenčín]] {{-}} one of the most beautiful Slovak towns with a castle lying above the city overlooking the historical centre and the river Váh  
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*[[Žilina]]—the fourth largest city with a well-preserved historical city centre influenced by German architecture and a unique museum dedicated the tinkering culture in Budatín castle.
*[[Trnava]] {{-}} the oldest Slovak town with the highest number of churches (12) and well preserved baroque architecture
 
*[[Žilina]] {{-}} Fourth biggest city with a well preserved historical city centre influenced by German architecture and unique museum of the tinker´s culture located at the Budatín castle
 
*[[Kráľovský Chlmec]] {{-}} Small city in the heart of Medzibodrožie. Kráľovský Chlmec (Királyhelmec) is the most populated settlement of the area. The number of inhabitants is over eight thousand and lies at the foot of a former volcano.
 
  
 
==Other destinations==
 
==Other destinations==
[[Image:HighTatras.JPG|thumb|400px|right|Vysoké Tatry]]
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[[Image:HighTatras.JPG|thumb|The High Tatras (''Vysoké Tatry'').]]
*[[Slovak Paradise National Park]] {{-}} ''Slovenský Raj'' consists of deep ravines and canoyons created by the water cascading in waterfalls through the limestone.
+
*[[Bardejov]]—a spa town in the northeast that exhibits numerous cultural monuments and a completely intact medieval town centre. A [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/973 UNESCO World Heritage Site].
*[[High Tatras]] {{-}}  is the biggest national park in Slovakia and a centre winter sports and hiking.[http://www.tanap.sk/]
+
*[[Bojnice]]—Slovakia's most-visited castle, with beautifully preserved interiors.  
*[[Vlkolínec]] {{-}} UNESCO heritage list village, preserving the character of a traditional Carpathian village[http://www.vlkolinec.sk/?theme=uk]
+
*[[Vysoké Tatry|High Tatras]] (''Vysoké Tatry'')—the country's largest national park and a major centre for winter sports and hiking.
*[[Spissky Hrad]] {{-}} one of the biggest castles in Europe, UNESCO listed.[http://www.spisskyhrad.sk/en.html]
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*[[Levoca|Levoča]]—a magnificent medieval pearl in the Spiš region surrounded by town walls, with a unique Renaissance town hall, burger´s houses, numerous churches and St. James Cathedral, home to the biggest Gothic wooden altar of the world.
*[[Nizke Tatry]] {{-}} Low Tatras National Park [http://www.napant.sk/en/index.htm]
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*[[Piešťany]]—the country's most famous spa town.
*[[Slovak Karst]]
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*[[Rajecke Teplice|Rajecké Teplice]]—a peaceful spa town surrounded by the magnificent Malá Fatra National Park.
*[[Levoca]] {{-}} magnificent medieval pearl of the Spis region surrounded by town walls with a unique renaissance town hall, burger´s houses, numerous churches and St. James Cathedral where the biggest gothic wooden altar of the world is situated [http://eng.levoca.sk/]
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*[[Slovak Karst]]—a national park famous for an extensive network of natural caves and a [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/725 UNESCO World Heritage Site].
*[[Bojnice]] {{-}} the most visited castle in Slovakia, almost intact with beautifully preserved interiors. [http://eng.bojnice.sk/]
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*[[Slovak Paradise National Park]] (''Slovenský Raj'')—a protected area of deep ravines and canyons carved by cascading waterfalls in limestone.
*[[Piešťany]] {{-}} the most famous spa town in Slovakia [http://www.piestany.sk/index.php?id=1&L=1]
+
*[[Spis|Spiš Castle]]—one of the largest castles in [[Europe]] and a [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/620 UNESCO World Heritage Site].
*[[Bardejov]] {{-}} is a spa town in North-Eastern Slovakia that exhibits numerous cultural monuments in its completely intact medieval town center and is one of [[UNESCO]]'s World Heritage Sites. [http://web.bardejov.sk/]
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*[[Spišská Nová Ves]]—a charming medieval town in [[Eastern Slovakia]].
*[[Nitra]] {{-}} the oldest town in Slovakia [http://www.skmoda.sk]
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*[[Vlkolínec]]—a small, traditional Carpathian village in north-central Slovakia and a [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/622 UNESCO World Heritage Site].
 +
*Wooden Churches of the Slovak Carpathians—a collection of 16th-18th century [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1273 UNESCO-protected] Catholic, Greek Catholic and Protestant wooden churches, most located in the north of the country in [[Tvrdošín]], [[Kežmarok]], Hervartov, Leštiny, Bodružal, Hronsek, Ruská Bystrá and Ladomirová.
  
 
==Get in==
 
==Get in==
 +
===Travel document requirements===
 +
{{infobox|Visa policy|* As a Schengen state, ''in general'', non-[[EEA]] citizens who qualify for a visa exemption can only stay for a maximum of 90 days in a 180 day period within the Schengen zone (including Slovakia) '''''as a whole'''''.
 +
* Non-EU/EFTA citizens of states who can visit Slovakia and the Schengen area as a whole for 90 days in a 180 day period with only a passport include: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, East Timor, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao SAR, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City and Venezuela.
 +
* Individuals from '''any other state''' not mentioned above require a visa before entering Slovak borders.
 +
* Recognised refugees in possession of a valid travel document issued by the government of any one of the above countries are exempt from obtaining a visa for Slovakia (but '''no''' other Schengen country, except [[Germany]] and [[Hungary]]) for a maximum stay of 90 days in a 180 day period.
 +
* More information about these rules, regulations and applications are available with the [https://www.mzv.sk/web/en Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs].}}
 +
For all EU and EFTA nationals, a passport and national identity card only needs to be valid for the period of their stay in Slovakia. For all other nationals, passports or valid travel documents must be valid for a period of at least 90 days beyond the expected length of stay in Slovakia or the Schengen Area.
  
{{Schengen}}
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If an EU, [[EEA]], or [[Switzerland|Swiss]] national intends to stay in Slovakia longer than three months, they are obliged to submit a notice of stay to the foreign police within 10 working days after their arrival. After this, an individual can stay in Slovakia without any further obligations for 90 days from their entry. After this period of 90 days is over, the EU/EEA/Swiss national is obliged to apply for a registration of residence with the [http://www.minv.sk/?ministry-of-interior Ministry of Interior].
  
Recognised refugees in possession of a valid travel document issued by the government of any one of the above countries/territories are exempt from obtaining a visa for Slovakia (but '''no''' other Schengen country, except [[Germany]] and [[Hungary]]) for a maximum stay of 90 days in a 180 day period.  
+
===By plane===
 +
Most visitors arriving by plane will arrive at [[Bratislava|Bratislava's]] [https://www.bts.aero/en/ M. R. Štefánik Airport (BTS)], a small but relatively efficient airport located just to the city's east, with buses normally arriving every 10 to 20 minutes. Štefánik Airport is a major hub for [http://www.ryanair.com Ryanair], and also hosts services by [http://www.csa.cz/ ČSA Czech Airlines], [http://www.flydubai.com/ flydubai], [https://www.pobeda.aero/ Pobeda], [http://www.flyaircairo.com/en Air Cairo], [http://wizzair.com WizzAir] and a slew of seasonal charters that includes [http://www.smartwings.com/en/ SmartWings].  
  
Slovakia became a part of Schengen area only relatively recently, and local cross-border transport services might be limited in certain areas, though this is improving, and in some places it is very easy to cross over. You should have ID with you anyway, but to avoid hassle, make sure to keep an ID on you in border regions.  
+
[http://www.airportkosice.sk/en/ Košice (KSC)] is another important gateway to the country, with flights run by [https://www.austrian.com/ Austrian Airlines], [http://www.csa.cz ČSA Czech Airlines], [http://www.lot.com LOT], [https://p.turkishairlines.com/ Turkish Airlines] and [https://wizzair.com/ Wizz Air].  
  
If you need a visa, always apply at an embassy beforehand. There are zero chances you will get a visa at a Slovak border, no matter how you enter or what your nationality is.
+
Other ports of entry are [http://www.airport-poprad.sk/index_en.php Poprad-Tatry (TAT)] and [http://www.airportsliac.sk/ Sliač (SLD)], although these airports are largely reserved for charter flights.
 +
 
 +
Due to its close proximity to Bratislava and the western half of the country, [http://www.viennaairport.at/en Vienna (VIE)] is also commonly used for travelers bound to Slovakia. [http://www.krakowairport.pl/en Kraków (KRK)] is also suitable to use for visitors hoping to explore the Tatras in central Slovakia.
  
 
===By train===
 
===By train===
 +
There are several international train routes running through Slovakia. In general, there are frequent direct rail connections (without train changes) with [[Austria]], the [[Czech Republic]], [[Germany]], [[Hungary]], [[Poland]] and [[Ukraine]].
  
=====From The Czech Republic=====
+
===By car===
As parts of former Czechoslovakia, the trains between the Czech Republic and Slovakia are frequent. EC trains operate every two hours from [[Prague]] to Bratislava and [[Žilina]]. There is one daily train from Prague to [[Banská Bystrica]], [[Zvolen]], [[Poprad]] and [[Košice]]. All these cities have a direct overnight sleeper car connection from Prague.
+
Thanks to its [[Central Europe|Central European]] location, Slovakia has good road access with all of its neighbors. As a member of the Schengen Zone, border controls have been eased with all neighboring states except [[Ukraine]], which remains an EU border. Occasionally, there are impromptu border checks when crossing over from the [[Czech Republic]] or [[Austria]]. Visitors arriving by car from [[Ukraine]] should expect long delays.  
  
Cheap tickets ''Včasná jízdenka Evropa'' can be bought at the Czech Railways e-shop [https://www.cd.cz/eshop/acquisitions.aspx], at least 3 days in advance. The price begins at €15 for seat or €26 for couchette. Please note that such e-ticket is valid only on the one specified train!
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===By bus===
 +
A popular alternative to car and rail travel to Slovakia is using the bus. A number of prominent international carriers offer service to Slovakia. Among the best-known and reliable international coach companies providing service to the country include:
 +
* '''[http://www.eurolines.com/en/ Eurolines]''' — one of the most comprehensive bus companies found throughout Europe, offering travel from nearly every major European state. In Slovakia, Eurolines also goes under the name '''[https://www.slovaklines.sk/main-page.html Slovak Lines]'''.
 +
* '''[https://www.regiojet.com/en RegioJet]''' — Czech-based carrier, offering affordable and comfortable travel from the [[Czech Republic]], [[Hungary]], [[Poland]], [[Austria]], [[Germany]], [[Italy]], [[Switzerland]], [[Luxembourg]], [[The Netherlands]], [[France]], [[Belgium]], [[Denmark]], [[Norway]], [[Sweden]] and the [[UK]].
 +
* '''[https://www.leoexpress.cz LEO Express]''' — Czech-based carrier, with bus travel to the [[Czech Republic]], [[Poland]], [[Austria]], [[Germany]], [[Italy]], [[Switzerland]] and [[Ukraine]].
 +
* '''[http://www.polskibus.com/en/index.htm PolskiBus]''' — Polish-based service, connecting numerous cities in Poland with [[Bratislava]] and the Donovaly ski resort.
 +
* '''[https://meinfernbus.de/en Flixbus]''' — German-based carrier with hubs in [[Prague]], [[Kraków]] and [[Vienna]] connecting cities in [[Germany]], [[Poland]] and [[Austria]] with locations in Slovakia.
 +
* '''[http://www.luxexpress.eu/en Lux Express]''' — Estonian-based carrier, connecting the [[Baltic states]] and [[Poland]] to [[Bratislava]].
 +
* '''[http://www.ecolines.net Ecolines]''' — Latvian-based carrier, provides routes from [[Poland]], the [[Baltic states]] and [[Russia]], with a stop in [[Bratislava]].
 +
* '''[http://www.orangeways.com/en Orangeways]''' — Hungarian-based carrier, connecting several Hungarian, German and Czech cities to [[Bratislava]].
  
If you want greater flexibility or cannot buy in advance over the Internet, you can get a significant discount at a railway station if you buy a return ticket called ''CityStar''. Such international return ticket is valid for '''one month''' on any train (and cannot be bought over the Internet at all).
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===From the Czech Republic===
 +
[[File:Bombardier Talent RegioJet - on platform in Bratislava - afternoon.JPG|thumb|Czech RegioJet trains at Bratislava's hlavná stanica, an important rail gateway into Slovakia.]]
 +
As the former half of old Czechoslovakia, trains between the [[Czech Republic]] and Slovakia are frequent and largely reliable. EC trains operated by Czech carrier '''[https://www.cd.cz/en/ České dráhy (ČD)]''' run every two hours from '''[[Prague]]''' and '''[[Brno]]''' to '''[[Bratislava]]''' continuing eastward towards '''[[Košice]]'''. There is also a direct overnight train to '''[[Žilina]]''', '''[[Banská Bystrica]]''' and '''[[Zvolen]]'''. '''[[Olomouc]]''', '''[[Pardubice]]''' and '''[[Ostrava]]''' also share direct or indirect rail connections with various Slovak cities.  
  
=====From Germany=====
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A regular one-way ticket from Prague to Bratislava costs 400CZK and 400-700CZK to Košice if purchased several days in advance. České dráhy also offers discounted [http://www.cd.cz/en/mezinarodni-cestovani/jizdenka/slevy-evropa/-8978/ First Minute Europe] tickets, with up to 20% discounts to Slovak destinations. ČD additionally offers [http://www.cd.cz/mezinarodni-cestovani/jizdenka/slevy-evropa/-15457/ Group Weekend tickets], where groups can travel to the closest Slovak border station at a discount, as well as the [http://www.cd.cz/en/mezinarodni-cestovani/jizdenka/cestovani-v-prihranici-s-slovenskem/-9047/ Local Border Traffic] ticket for travelers going between communities within 40-60 km of the Czech-Slovak border, for prices as low as 23 to 80CZK.  
There are three daytime and one overnight train from Berlin to Bratislava. Cheap tickets can be bought at German Railways e-shop [http://bahn.de], when bought at least 3 days in advance. The price begins at €29.
 
  
=====From Austria=====
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Private Czech rail operators '''[http://leoexpress.cz LEO Express]''' and '''[http://www.regiojet.com/en RegioJet]''' provide services from '''[[Prague]]''', '''[[Pardubice]]''', '''[[Olomouc]]''' and '''[[Ostrava]]''' to '''[[Žilina]]''', '''[[Prešov]]''', and '''[[Košice]]''', with RegioJet additionally offering a line between '''[[Prague]]''', '''[[Brno]]''' and '''[[Bratislava]]'''. Online tickets for these carriers can start at 200 to 300CZK if booked in advanced.
There are two frequent regional express services leaving from [[Vienna]] Hauptbahnhof station, terminating at different stations in Bratislava - one at Bratislava Hlavná stanica (Main station) via Marchegg and the other at Bratislava Petržalka station via Kittsee - each operating in hourly intervals. You can use EURegio ticket for €15 – a return ticket valid 16 days, common for both routes. Travel time: 1 hour.
 
  
=====From Poland=====
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Additionally, both countries are linked together by a number of roads; the most important being Czech and Slovak motorway '''D2''' linking [[Brno]] to [[Bratislava]]. Drivers entering Slovakia from the Czech Republic using the D2 motorway from [[Prague]] can make a toll payment at the nearest rest area after the border. The short stretch between the border itself and the nearest rest area is toll-free.  
There is an overnight through car from [[Warszawa]] to Bratislava via Czech territory. Direct train connection from Poland is very poor, a bus is a better alternative. There are only few local trains between [[Žilina]] (SK) and [[Zwardoń]] (PL). There's no international passenger traffic at [[Nowy Sącz]]–[[Prešov]] and [[Sanok]]–[[Medzilaborce]] lines.
 
  
If you really want to travel from Poland by train, prepare for a full-day trip with a lot of train changes. It's cheaper to buy Polish ticket only to border point (Skalité Gr.) and then buy a Slovak domestic ticket at conductor (€1.30 surcharge).
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===From Austria===
 +
[[File:AngernGrenze.jpg|thumb|A ferry crossing the Morava between Angern an der March and Záhorská Ves.]]
 +
As '''[[Vienna]]''' and '''[[Bratislava]]''' are the closest capitals in Europe at only 55 km (34 mi), there are frequent cross-border connections between the two states, with rail service provided by Austrian state company '''[https://www.oebb.at/en ÖBB]'''. Its Vienna-Bratislava connections cost normally around €16 one-way, with a travel time of an hour.
  
=====From Hungary=====
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Similarly, '''[https://www.slovaklines.sk/main-page.html Slovak Lines]''' and '''[http://www.regiojet.com/en RegioJet]''' offer fast bus journeys between both capitals starting at €3, with Slovak Lines providing additional routes from several other Austrian towns and cities.
There are EC trains from [[Budapest]] to Bratislava running every two hours and two IC trains a day from Budapest and [[Miskolc]] to [[Košice]]. Unlike trip from Poland, it wouldn't be cheaper to buy the Slovak section at conductor. Instead, there is a bilateral return discount of 60% (i.e. a return ticket is cheaper that a one-way ticket).
 
  
=====From Ukraine and Russia=====
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A less conventional connection between the two countries is by using the Danube River. Fast, hydrofoil express boats operated by '''[http://www.lod.sk/en/timetables-and-prices/international-cruises/bratislava-vienna Lod]''' and '''[https://twincityliner.com/en Twin City Liner]''' connect Vienna with Bratislava, with a travel time of normally an hour and fifty minutes. Regular prices begin normally around €20 in each direction.
There is a daily direct sleeper car from [[Moscow]], [[Kiev]] and [[Lvov]] to Košice, Poprad and Bratislava. The journey is very long – 2 nights from Moscow and Kiev and 1 day and night from Lvov – because of poor rail state in western Ukraine, lengthy customs process at UA/SK border and bogie changing (Ukraine has different gauge than Europe).
 
  
It is much more cheaper to buy Ukrainian or Russian ticket only to the Ukrainian border station [[Chop]], then buy a ticket from Chop to the first Slovak station [[Čierna nad Tisou]], and then buy a Slovak domestic ticket at conductor (€1.30 surcharge). But then you have no berth reservation for the Slovak section and you have to change to seat car in Chop.
+
Austrian autobahn '''A6 (E58)''' connects with Slovak motorway '''D4''' outside of Bratislava, which intersects nearby with the '''D2 (E65) motorway.'''
  
Another option is to buy CityStar ticket in Russia (or Slovakia were its prices are cheaper) which can be however is valid only for group up to 5 members. CityStar ticket than servers as one-month valid two-way ticket between the stations and is offered with a discount for each next passenger on the ticket. Of course you have to buy berth ticket additionally as well.
+
Several Austrian communities are also just short distance by foot from their Slovak counterparts, with the best-known being '''Angern an der March''' only a brief ferry ride away from '''Záhorská Ves''', and '''Schlosshof''' separated by a scenic bicycle bridge from '''Devínska Nová Ves'''.  
  
===By bus===
+
===From Hungary===
 +
[[File:Bicycling above Danube - panoramio.jpg|thumb|Cycling across the Hungarian-Slovak border in the Danube town of [[Komárno]].]]
 +
With a 677 km (421 mi) long border, Hungary shares many links with its northern neighbor. Hungarian state rail provider '''[https://www.mavcsoport.hu/en Magyar Államvasutak (MÁV)]''' runs frequent bi-hourly service from '''[[Budapest|Budapest's]] Keleti''' station to '''[[Bratislava]]''', with a travel time of normally two and a half hours, costing normally 5,000HUF. There are also train links from the city of '''[[Miskolc]]''' to '''Lučenec''' and '''[[Košice]]'''.
  
Among many others, there are regular services from Vienna, Prague and Budapest to Bratislava; and from [[Uzhhorod]], Ukraine to the eastern Slovak town of Michalovce and from [[Krakow]], Poland through [[Zakopane]], Poland to Poprad.  
+
It is currently not possible to print a MÁV international ticket online, meaning that travelers will need to visit a train station or ticket office to pick it up.  
  
Taking a bus from Prague to Bratislava is slower but cheaper than train if you buy a ticket in advance, e.g. at [http://jizdenky.studentagency.cz/ Student Agency], [http://www.slovaklines.sk/index_en.html Slovak Lines], or using the common bus reservation system [https://eshop.amsbus.cz/].
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Hungary is also well connected to Slovakia by roads. The '''M15 motorway (E65/E75)''' connects to the Slovak '''D2 motorway''' south of '''[[Bratislava]]''' and northwest of the city of '''[[Mosonmagyaróvár]]'''; '''M15''' intersects with the '''M1 motorway (E60)''', providing a direct link from '''[[Budapest]]''' and  '''[[Győr]]'''. From '''[[Budapest]]''', '''M2 (E77)''' transitions to '''highway 2''' and connects to Slovak '''highway 66''' at the border, providing a clear (and very scenic) route to '''[[Zvolen]]''' and '''[[Banská Bystrica]]'''. From '''[[Miskolc]]''', '''highway 3 (E71)''' connects to Slovak '''expressway R4''', connecting to '''[[Košice]]''' and '''[[Prešov]]'''.
  
Buses from Poland and Ukraine are the best option, they are faster and more frequent than trains.
+
Many Hungarian and Slovak towns can be crossed by foot. Some examples include the town of '''Komárom''' separated by a river bridge from its Slovak twin '''Komárno''', the ancient capital '''[[Esztergom]]''' also by bridge from the Slovak town of '''Štúrovo''', the hillside town of '''Somoskőújfalu''' separated by a 50-minute scenic walk from '''Šiatorská Bukovinka''', and the eastern town of '''Sátoraljaújhely''' a short walk from its Slovak suburb '''Slovenské Nové Mesto'''. In each case, both sides of the border have rail and bus links to the rest of their respective nations.
  
From Budapest the travel is 3 hours, the bus stop for 5 minutes at Györ and in a small restaurant in the road.
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===From Poland===
 +
Due to the Tatra Mountains on the Polish-Slovak border, rail connections are not as developed between the two nations. However, Polish state carrier '''[https://www.intercity.pl/en/ PKP Intercity]''' provides a nightly train from '''[[Kraków]]''' to '''[[Bratislava]]'''. Other southwestern Polish rail connections are often routed through the Czech city of '''Břeclav''', continuing on towards Slovakia. Additionally, [[Silesian Voivodeship|Silesian]] rail carrier '''[http://kolejeslaskie.com/en/ Koleje Śląskie]''' provides rail service between the Polish ski resort of '''Zwardoń''' to '''[[Žilina]]''', with a journey time of 90 minutes. At the present time, there are no rail connections between eastern Poland and Slovakia.
  
=== By foot ===
+
By car, the Polish '''S1 expressway''' links '''[[Bielsko-Biała]]''' with Slovak '''highway 12''' towards '''Čadca''', national road '''DK7 (E77)''' from '''[[Kraków]]''', '''[[Rabka-Zdrój]]''' and '''[[Nowy Targ]]''' connects to Slovak '''highway 59''' with '''Dolný Kubín''' and '''[[Ružomberok]]''', and '''DK19 (E371)''' from '''[[Rzeszow]]''' to '''highway 21''' towards '''Svidník''' and '''[[Prešov]]'''.
* There's a pontoon ferry accessible to car-drivers and pedestrians between '''Angern an der March''' (Austria) and '''Záhorská Ves''' (Slovakia). 05:00-22:00.
 
  
===By plane===
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Several Polish towns are in walkable distance from their Slovak counterparts. These include the river valley communities of '''[[Piwniczna-Zdrój]]''' from '''Mníšek nad Popradom''', and the Polish ski resort of '''Zwardoń''' from its Slovak twin '''Skalité'''.
  
[[Bratislava]] has its own [http://www.airportbratislava.sk/ airport]. Since Bratislava is close to [http://www.viennaairport.com Vienna airport] with broad offer of regular flights, Bratislava airport is mostly used by low-cost companies and for charter flights.  
+
===From Ukraine===
 +
Ukrainian state carrier '''[http://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/ Ukrzaliznytsia (UZ)]''' offers connections from '''[[Uzhhorod|Uzhhorod (Ужгород)]]''' via '''Chop {Чоп}''' and '''Čierna n.Tisou''' to locations in Slovakia. However, trains are notoriously slow due to the railway gauge and electrical change at the border, as well as from the scrutiny of border guards, as the Slovak-Ukrainian border is not only a Schengen border but also the border for the [[European Union]]. It is highly recommended that travelers use a bus service instead, as it's generally faster and more reliable.  
  
The budget airline [http://www.ryanair.com Ryanair] operate flights to Bratislava from various European cities, inluding London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Dublin, Rome (Ciampino) and Brussels (Charleroi), and a few others. These flights can be quite cheap, so if you are arriving from outside Europe, you might end up saving a lot of money by flying to a bigger airport and then connecting to Bratislava. However these flights do not operate daily, so you may be better flying into [[Vienna]].  [http://www.norwegian.no Norwegian Air Shuttle] operate flights from [[Copenhagen]] and [[Oslo]], and there are also flights to Moscow and [[Tel Aviv]] with UTAir and Sun d'or Airlines respectively. Local airline [http://www.danubewings.eu/ Danube Wings] operates flights to Kosice.
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International tickets for UZ cannot be purchased online and must be bought at a railway station or UZ ticket office.  
  
The alternative is Vienna [http://www.viennaairport.com/ Airport], which is just 35 km (22 mi) from Bratislava. It provides a more convenient way of arriving to Slovakia by the major airlines, but can be more expensive. It also operates a much greater number of long-haul flights. Buses leave for Bratislava hourly, going from Vienna Airport straight to the city center or to main bus station in Bratislava. Alternatively, you can take a taxi which will cost around €70.
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By car, Slovakia is accessed by Ukrainian '''highway P15''' outside of '''Malyi Bereznyi (Малий Березний)''' and '''Ubľa'''. and from '''H13 (E50)''', connecting '''[[Uzhhorod|Uzhhorod (Ужгород)]]''' to '''Vyšné Nemecké'''. The former is for cars (not trucks), pedestrians and cyclists, and the latter is for motorized traffic only (including heavy trucks). Always expect long waiting times at the Uzhhorod-Vyšné Nemecké border crossing. Both crossings are open round the clock.
  
Other options include airports in Prague and Budapest, with both cities about 4 hours away by public transport. There are also direct flights operated between Prague and Kosice, in conjunction with flights to Prague providing the most convenient access by plane to the Eastern part of the country.
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The only sole pedestrian/cyclist crossing from Ukraine into Slovakia is between the villages of '''Mali Selmentsi (Малі Селменці)''' and '''Veľké Slemence''', open from 8:00 to 20:00.  
  
You can also fly to [[Krakow]] if you want to go to the Tatra Mountains. Buses from Krakow run to several Slovak towns around the Tatra mountains and Orava.
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It is essential that all travelers crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border '''have their passports or visa papers ready'''.
  
 
==Get around==
 
==Get around==
[[Image:Trains_in_Slovakia.jpg|thumb|400px|Train from Bratislava to Košice underneath the High Tatras]]
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===By plane===
[http://cp.atlas.sk/ CP] offers an '''exceptionally useful website''' with integrated timetables for all trains and buses in Slovakia, including all intra-city and inter-city transports. Anywhere you want to go in Slovakia, this should be your first point of reference, as it lists every single bus and train in Slovakia. It is also useful for international travel from/to Slovakia.
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[http://www.csa.cz/ ČSA Czech Airlines] operates domestic flights between [[Bratislava]] and [[Košice]]. However, given the price of the flight and its short length, it is seldom used by locals, although it is the most comfortable and fastest way to cross the country.  
  
 
===By train===
 
===By train===
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[[Image:Trains_in_Slovakia.jpg|thumb|A ZSSK train passing through the High Tatras.]]
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Train travel is quite common in Slovakia and is largely reliable and affordable albeit prone to delays. State carrier '''[http://www.slovakrail.sk/en.html Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko (ZSSK)]''' operates a bulk of the country's rail traffic, with major hubs in [[Bratislava]], [[Žilina]], [[Banská Bystrica]], [[Poprad]] and [[Košice]]. Due to ZSSK's wide reach throughout the country, it is one of the best options to travel around Slovakia, provided visitors don't have a private vehicle. The quality of ZSSK's fleet does, however, vary. Some trains are quite modern, while others clearly show their age. ZSSK's trains are coloured red and white.
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{{infobox|Trains for free|Since 2014, '''students and pensioners can travel for free on all ZSSK trains in Slovakia''' (2nd class only). Due to EU policies of non-discrimination, this also applies to citizens of all other EU nations. There are several limitations:
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* Free travel only applies to all train services funded by the state '''except for IC, RegioJet and LEO Express trains'''. Free travel for EC and SC trains are also possible, yet a special surcharge (€1 for EC, €5 for SC) is required.
 +
* Eligible travelers must register themselves to obtain an ID for free. This can be done at most railway stations and is free of charge (bring your own photograph sized 2x3 cm). Students enrolled in Slovak universities can use their university ID instead.
 +
* Children under 6 years of age and people above 62 can travel for free as well, regardless of their nationality (i.e. also non-EU citizens). Those above 62 years of age still have to register themselves (and obtain an ID) first, though.
 +
* Before boarding a train, an eligible traveler has to buy a ticket (costing €0). There's a '''limited number''' of free tickets available for each train (to reduce overcrowding). If the quota has already been reached, you can still buy a ticket with a 50% discount.
 +
* When travelling by train from abroad, free travel only applies '''after''' the first train stop in Slovakia, not from the actual border crossing point. Likewise, when exiting Slovakia by train, you'll have to buy another ticket from the last station in Slovakia onward.
 +
}}
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Since 2011, ZSSK no longer retains a monopoly on rail travel and is open to competition.  Czech private carrier '''[https://www.regiojet.com/en RegioJet]''' offers services in the north of the country, connecting [[Žilina]], [[Ružomberok]], [[Poprad]] and [[Košice]] together, with service continuing into the [[Czech Republic]]. In comparison to ZSSK, RegioJet's fleet is largely modern and its trains are distinctively coloured yellow.
  
Train is by far the best option to travel across Slovakia, provided you don't have a private vehicle. Frequent fast trains connect all important cities, but there are less local trains, even at main lines. For local transport a bus is generally a better alternative. Trains are fairly priced, with the prices competitive with buses, and cheap by western standards. They are reliable and clean.
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Another private Czech carrier, '''[http://leoexpress.cz LEO Express]''', also operates between [[Košice]] and [[Žilina]], with service continuing into the Czech Republic. Like RegioJet, LEO Express' trains are modern and its are coloured black and gold.  
 
 
Opt for an InterCity service if you want Western-style comfort; IC trains link Bratislava, Žilina, The High Tatras and Košice and have compulsory reservations. These can save you from the crowds: ordinary trains do get crowded, usually on Fridays and Sundays or around holidays. Watch out for pickpockets at major stations and steer clear of money scams. Also, sporadic robberies occur to sleeping passengers travelling the overnight longliners.
 
 
 
Domestic tickets can be bought over Internet at [http://www.slovakrail.sk SlovakRail]. Tickets bought over Internet are only valid in specified trains. Tickets bought at stations are valid for any one journey on the given route within a specified time period (usually one or two days, depending on the distance), and thus very flexible. International tickets, as of 2011, can only be bought at stations.
 
  
===By bus===
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Passengers should remember that there is '''no universal train ticket in Slovakia''', as ZSSK, RegioJet and LEO Express are separate entities, with different offices and tickets to purchase from. Visitors '''can only use a specific ticket''' with the company it was purchased from.
Bus connections are usually slower than trains, but can get you where trains cannot, and some private companies also offer discounts for travellers with a foreign ISIC card (state-run companies do not, unless you're a Slovak citizen). Tickets for long-haul routes- 100km+ (including to/from the [[Czech Republic]] or within the Czech Republic) can be bought from [https://eshop.amsbus.cz/ AMSBus] after compulsory registration (English version is also available). The travel from Bratislava to [[Nitra]] is a rare example of a route where buses are significantly faster and cheaper than trains.
 
  
Buses are punctual, and it is therefore advisable to arrive at the bus station in advance, the time specified in the timetable is the time it leaves the station. Most tickets are bought directly from the driver, so you will probably need cash. Though the bus driver will give you change, especially for shorter (cheaper) journeys, it is advisable to have some smaller denominations.
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====Train categories====
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The following categories are used to differentiate trains:
  
[http://www.turancar.sk/buslinky_new/maingb.html Turancar] and [http://www.studentagency.eu/ Student Agency] are good examples of private bus companies which are pretty reliable, comfortable (as they use new buses often with on-board entertainment LCD screens), running on time and offering student discounts for foreigners with ISIC.
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* '''Osobný vlak (Os)''' – slow-moving trains usually stopping at every stop; a mix of modern and old vehicles.
 +
* '''Regionálny expres (REX)''' – domestic and international trains connecting region to region.  
 +
* '''Regionálny rýchlik (RR)''' – fast domestic trains with shorter routes.
 +
* '''Rýchlik (R)''' – regular domestic and international day and night trains.  
 +
* '''Express (Ex)''' – high category international and domestic trains.  
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* '''EuroNight (EN)''' – international night trains; traveling abroad requires an reservation, while domestically does not.
 +
* '''EuroCity (EC)''' – international high category trains, requiring a €1 surcharge if visitors use this to travel domestically.
 +
* '''InterCity (IC)''' – high-speed domestic trains operating from [[Bratislava]] to [[Košice]] with minimal stops and obligatory seat reservations. Not funded by government subsidies.
 +
* '''RegioJet (RJ)''' – domestic and international trains exclusively operated by RegioJet.
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* '''LEO Express (LE)''' – domestic and international trains operated by LEO Express. 
 +
* '''SuperCity (SC)''' – high-speed Pendolino train operated by České dráhy (ČD). 
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{{infobox|Tatra Electric Railway (TEŽ)|Two types of tickets can be used on the Tatra Electric Railway: (1.) ordinary Slovak train tickets, featuring a "From:" and "To:" stations and valid only on a given date. These tickets can be bought at every railway station. (2.) Zonal tickets (looking like public transport tickets) can be used on any day and for any single journey (of a specified length). These tickets can only be bought at stations and newspaper stalls around the [[High Tatras]]. There is no difference in price, the only difference is flexibility. '''Both types of tickets have to be validated''' with a stamping machine inside a TEŽ train immediately after boarding.
  
===By car===
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TEŽ trains have no conductors and no ticket selling machines, but since October 2013, '''train drivers''' sell day tickets (€4) as a last resort for passengers who cannot obtain a ticket otherwise. Single tickets cannot be bought from train drivers, only outside the train. Passengers are occasionally checked by plain-clothed ticket inspectors; a fine for riding without a valid ticket is €30. More information and fare system [http://www.slovakrail.sk/en/passenger-transport/slovakia/high-tatras.html here].
The road network is extensive and in an overall good condition. Most major roads (especially in the Western parts) are two lane and in good repair, however the majority of the minor roads are one lane, and maintenance standard of this can vary from good to rather bumpy. Vehicles drive on the right side of the road and the speed limits are in general 50 kmh (31 mph) in a village/town, 90 kmh (56 mph) outside build-up areas and 130 kmh (81 mph) on motorways. However trucks and cars with caravans/trailers are limited to 80km/h (50 mph) outside build-up areas or on motorways and motorcycles are limited to 90km/h (56 mph) on motorways.
 
  
Wearing seatbelts in cars and vans is compulsory and children aged 11 or younger or lower than 150cm must be placed on the rear seat.
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SMS tickets can also be used on the TEŽ network. To take advantage of this, however, a Slovak mobile number is required. It is therefore out of question for short-term visitors.}}
  
Headlights must be switched on when driving at all times, regardless of weather conditions or whether it is a night or day, so switch them on.
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====Tickets====
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Compared to [[Western Europe]], Slovak train prices are relatively inexpensive and competitive. All three major train carriers sell domestic and international tickets online, as well as in most train stations, accepting card payments. Smaller stations (served only by local commuter trains) will only sell domestic tickets and sometimes will not accept card payment. Visitors should buy a ticket before boarding a train. If you don't, you can buy a ticket from a train conductor, with normally a €1.50 surcharge. If there's no ticket office at a station or if it's closed, visitors must purchase a ticket from the conductor, yet with no surcharge. Conductors '''do not sell international tickets'''. The only exception are tickets called small cross-border interchange (''Malý pohraničný styk'') which are valid in regional trains only and only around 40 km from the border.  
  
In winter, snow and ice is common on the roads, and winter tires are recommended. In extreme weather some minor mountain roads might require snow chains.  
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With the exception of train stations in major cities, most ZSSK employees cannot speak English. In order to bypass a potential language barrier, visitors should write down the name of their destination, the number of travelers, the class they want and the time of their desired departure, which will all be universally understood by the employee. In contrast, most RegioJet and LEO Express employees are fluent or understand English.
  
Slovakia has a zero tolerance policy towards alcohol. Do NOT drink and drive. If nothing else, then because the penalties are severe.
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ZSSK offers an array of discounts for travelers. Frequent rail users can look into a [http://www.slovakrail.sk/en/prices-and-discounts/discounts-and-offers-for-all/klasik-railplus-card.html KLASIK RAILPLUS] pass, where for €35 a year, people between the ages of 26 to 60 can obtain a 25% discount off all first and second class travel. Visitors traveling on Os and REX category trains for destinations within 60 km can obtain a [http://www.slovakrail.sk/en/prices-and-discounts/discounts-and-offers-for-all/regional-discount.html REGIONAL] discount, with 15% off the regular total fare. For six or more people traveling together a [http://www.slovakrail.sk/en/prices-and-discounts/discounts-and-offers-for-all/group-offer.html GROUP] discount offers 25% off first and second class travel. People celebrating their birthdays can have their second class tickets [http://www.slovakrail.sk/en/prices-and-discounts/discounts-and-offers-for-all/birthday.html upgraded] to first class for that particular day, although they must present a valid ID for proof.  
  
Wearing helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger on motorcycles of any size, and goggles must also be worn by the driver of motorcycles with engines larger than 50cc.
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RegioJet offers [https://bustickets.regiojet.com/CreateAccount?1 registration] for discounted travel, although it does not have a rewards programme. Users of LEO Express can join its [http://leoexpress.cz/cms/rewards-1221.htm Smile Club] to collect kilometers as points for future travel discounts. Currently, ZSSK does not have a rewards programme, although it does offer a [http://www.slovakrail.sk/en/credit-account.html Credit Account] for money deposits, enabling discounted travel.
  
Police presence is frequent on the roads, and especially the major roads, in both marked and unmarked vehicles.
+
If you're caught without a ticket in an international train leaving Slovakia, the Slovak conductor will ask you to buy a ticket to the border crossing point.
  
If you intend to drive on the motorways please note that vehicles must show a mandatory sticker (''vignette'') covering road toll, in the upper right corner on the car's windshield (mandatory location as this is mostly checked by fixed electronic camera system). The vignette can be purchased from most petrol stations and is valid for a week (€7), for a month (€14) or longer. Please note that that the vignette is compulsory on all motorways from the point of entry, and if you are caught without one you will be subject to a fine. If you are renting a car, it most likely is included in the rental, but remember to check or inquire when renting/booking.
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For a full listing of all train timetables and connections regardless of company, along with a fare calculator, '''[http://cp.atlas.sk/vlakbusmhd/spojenie/ CP]''' is an exceptionally useful website to plan rail travel.
  
The driving style in Slovakia is, especially compared to countries in Western Europe, more aggressive and of lower standard. One should be aware of other cars speeding, which is quite frequent, and overtaking on your side of the road, especially in the more mountainous areas of the country.
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====Taking bicycles====
 +
A single bicycle ticket costs €1.50 (regardless of the distance) and a day ticket costs €2.50 on ZSSK trains. Almost all trains in Slovakia transport bicycles without hassle, except for IC and EC trains, in which a bike either requires a prior reservation (€2.50) or prohibits bikes entirely. Day tickets for bikes are not valid on IC or EC trains. Unfortunately, low-floor trains are a rare occurrence in Slovakia (and so far only on REG lines), so be prepared to hoist your bike high up to put it inside the train. Moreover, many railway employees still view cyclists as a nuisance and can be quite unwelcoming.
  
If you understand Slovak, many private radio stations include a great traffic coverage as a part of their news, which will inform you about any obstructions on the road, car accidents, traffic jams and even police presence so it is certainly worth tuning in.
+
Unfortunately, bicycles are prohibited on RegioJet and LEO Express trains.  
  
Renting a car is a convenient, efficient and relatively cheap (prices starts a approx. 65€/day at car rental chains) way to explore Slovakia, especially if you intend to visit more remote areas, where train and bus services may be more sporadic.
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===By bus===
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Slovakia has a highly complex and integrated bus network, and for some routes is faster (and sometimes more punctual) than using rail. Bus stations are usually named AS (''autobusová stanica'') on maps and timetables. '''[http://www.slovaklines.sk/main-page.html Slovak Lines]''' is perhaps the best-known carrier, offering routes between a number of cities and smaller communities across the country, as well as serving the [[Bratislava]] regional network (BiD) in a 35 km radius. Tickets can be either purchased online or from the driver. Czech carrier '''[https://www.regiojet.com/en/ RegioJet]''' is another competitor and offers services between a number of Slovak communities. Tickets can be purchased from a RegioJet conductor, although going online to purchase a seat is the best option. A slew of smaller bus companies operate throughout the country, whose schedules can be researched via '''[http://cp.atlas.sk/vlakbusmhd/spojenie/ CP]''' and '''[https://amsbus.sk AMS Bus]''', where tickets can be purchased online.  
  
===Hitchhiking===
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When traveling with one of these smaller companies, passengers usually purchase the ticket from the driver. To do this, simply walk up to the driver and tell him or her the destination. The driver will print out a receipt, which will be your ticket. The receipt will show the price you need to pay. Largely, you can pay drivers by cash, although an increasing number of buses also allow you to purchase by a contactless credit card. Most drivers don't speak English, meaning that if visitors can't pronounce their destination's name, simply write it down and show it.  
Hitchhiking in Slovakia is best done by asking around at gas stations. It used to be that most people only speak Slovak (and possibly understand other Slavic languages) so it was difficult for foreigners who don't speak Slavic languages. However, nowadays most of the young people speak English and almost as many speak German.
 
  
Keep in mind that trains and buses in Slovakia are cheap for Westerners, and (apart from extremely rural areas where people are generally less wary of hitchhikers) it might take a while for someone to pick you up. You can find some offers if you travel from Slovakia and into Slovakia as well on specialized web pages. The biggest hitchhikers page in Slovakia is stopar.sk [http://stopar.sk/]. There you can find offers in English, German, French, Polish, Czech and Hungarian language and it is free.
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===By car===
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[[File:Diaľnica D1.svg|thumb|right|125px|A motorway-level road.]]
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[[File:Rýchlostná cesta R1.svg|thumb|right|125px|An expressway-level road.]]
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[[File:Cesta I. triedy číslo 2.svg|thumb|right|125px|A first-class road.]]
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As of 2017, there are nearly 718 km (446 mi) of motorways and expressways throughout the country. Successive Slovak governments have embarked on ambitious plans to connect the country and today most cities have high-speed road access, yet there are still considerable gaps in the network. Due to this, expect to drive on many smaller roads with lower speeds. Most major roads (especially in [[Western Slovakia]]) are in good repair, however maintenance standards vary from good to rather bumpy for lower-tier roads, especially in the east.
  
===On foot===
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'''Motorways''' (''diaľnice'') are demarcated by red and white signs, with a D and a number. Motorways are '''130 km/h (81 mph)''' in the countryside and '''90 km/h (56 mph)''' in urban areas. Below motorways are '''expressways''' (''rýchlostné cesty''), also marked with red and white signs with a R and a number, and look nearly identical to motorways. R-class roads also have speed limits of '''130 km/h (81 mph)''' in the countryside and '''90 km/h (56 mph)''' in urban areas. The third level of routes are '''first-class roads''', marked with blue and white signs with a one or two-digit number. First-class roads make up the bulk of Slovakia's road network. Speed limits are '''90 km/h (56 mph)''' in the countryside and '''50 km/h (31 mph)''' in urban areas. Finally there are '''second-class roads''', also blue and white with a three-digit number. These are generally rural routes. Be aware that many second-class roads in the countryside can be one lane.
[[Image:Signpost.JPG|thumb|right|300px|Hiking signpost in High Tatras]]
 
There is a long tradition of hiking and mountain walking in Slovakia, and it is an extremely popular sport. Most people you meet will have gone on a hike at least once in their life, and many do so regularly, and can give you advice about the most interesting local trails. The trail network is also very well maintained. The quality and efficiency of the sign-posting system is unique in European (and probably World) context.  
 
  
Every route is marked and signposted, different trails being given a different colour. There are four colours used - red, blue, green and yellow. Longest and most sternous trails are usually marked red, and it is possible to traverse from north-eastern Dukla Pass all the way to the west (Bradlo, near [[Bratislava]]) along the Slovak National Uprising Heroes trail (750km) along one such red-marked path. However, the trails are numerous, suitable for various levels of fitness, and many lead through beautiful scenery.In towns, you will usually see a signpost, with arrows pointing in different directions, marking the colour of the path and the average walking times to the nearest set of destinations. All you need to do is to follow the colour, there will be a mark every hundred metres or so, and consists of a 10-cm-by-10-cm square three-section mark where the edges are white and the chosen path's colour in the middle.  
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[[File:D1 klcov atolentak.jpg|thumb|The D1 Motorway.]]
 +
In order to use Slovak motorways and expressways, visitors must purchase a '''[https://www.eznamka.sk/selfcare/home/ vignette]'''. Vignettes can be purchased electronically online or at service stations near the border. Vignettes cost €10 for 10 days, €14 for 30 days. or €50 for one year. A failure of not paying for a vignette can result in a steep fine of €500. Trucks and vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes must pay a toll using an electronic on-board device, which applies to some first-class roads along the motorways! Truck and large vehicle drivers should check [https://www.emyto.sk/web/guest/home Myto] for more information.
  
It is also possible (and highly recommended) to purchase 'tourist maps' of smaller slovak regions. These are based on sets of former military maps, have a very good resolution (1:50000) and can be purchased from most kiosks, information centres and bookstores for bargain price of between €1.50-2.50. These are published by the Slovak Tourist Club (KST), which maintains all the trails, and show all the marked trails in the area, including the average walking times, which makes route planning very easy and efficient.
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Slovakia is a '''zero tolerance''' country towards alcohol, with no alcohol before driving whatsoever. Penalties are severe. Wearing seat belts in cars and vans is compulsory and children aged 11 or younger or lower than 150cm must be placed on the rear seat or on the passenger seat in a proper child seat (of course with the airbag disabled, in case the child seat is rear-facing). '''Headlights''' must also be switched on when driving at all times, regardless of weather conditions or whether it is a night or day, so switch them on. This is not necessary if your car is equipped with daytime running lamps. In winter, snow and ice are common on roads, and '''winter tires''' are recommended (and compulsory if the road is covered by snow or ice). In extreme weather. some minor mountain roads might require snow chains.
  
==Talk==
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Wearing helmets is '''compulsory''' for both drivers and passengers on motorcycles of any size. Goggles must also be worn by the driver of motorcycles with engines larger than 50cc.
  
The official and most widely-spoken language is '''[[Slovak phrasebook|Slovak]]'''. Slovaks are very proud of their language, and thus, even in Bratislava you will not find many signs written in English (outside of the main tourist areas). Also, most older people except some in Bratislava are unable to converse in English, but most of them knows Russian; most young people speak at least some English, as it has been taught in most schools since 1990. '''[[Czech phrasebook|Czech]]''' and Slovak are mutually intelligible, yet distinctive languages (at first, one might think they are dialects of each other).
+
Fines for traffic offences are now much higher than in the neighbouring [[Austria]], especially for speeding. Sadly enough, Western car registration plates attract more attention from police officers, so it's another good reason to abide the law. Police presence is frequent on roadways, especially on major routes, in both marked and unmarked vehicles.
  
Slovak is written using the same Roman characters that English uses (with some added accents or diacritics), so Western travellers won't have any trouble reading signs and maps. While some words are tongue twisters, the knowledge of the alphabet including the letters with diacritics will go a long way as Slovaks pronounce every letter of a word with accent always on the first syllable (but it may be on second syllable in some dialects in east).  
+
As a precaution, avoid driving through the mountain passes of central and northern Slovakia during strong winter conditions.  
  
Since the territory of Slovakia was under Hungarian influence for centuries, there is a significant [[Hungarian]]-speaking minority of 9.7%. Most of the Hungarians live in southern regions of the country and some of them speak no Slovak. Other Slovaks however normally do not speak or understand the Hungarian language.
+
Driving styles in Slovakia are, especially compared to [[Western Europe]] or [[North America]], more aggressive and of lower standard. One should be aware of other cars frequently speeding past and overtaking on your side of the road, especially in the more mountainous areas of the country.
  
While you can make do with English and [[German phrasebook|German]] in Bratislava, in smaller towns and villages your only chance is trying to approach younger people that speak some English. Older residents may know some German. People born between 1935 and 1980 will have learned [[Russian phrasebook|Russian]] in school, though few Slovaks will appreciate being spoken to in Russian as this language has some negative connotations due to the Communist era. Due to the significant tourism growth in the North and the East of Slovakia, English is becoming more widely used and you may try [[Polish]]. Other Slavic languages, especially Russian, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovene may also work. In the east Rusyn, a Ukrainian dialect close to Polish is spoken. It is also intelligible with Russian to some extent. Attempts to speak Slovak will be very appreciated.
+
Renting a car is a convenient, efficient and relatively cheap (prices starts a approx. 65€/day at car rental chains) way to explore Slovakia, especially if you intend to visit more remote areas, where train and bus services are sporadic.
  
If you speak the international language [[Esperanto phrasebook|Esperanto]], you can take advantage of the network of Esperanto delegates scattered across Slovakia.
+
===By bicycle===
 +
Travelling by bicycle is an excellent way to see and enjoy most of this beautiful country. There are caveats, though. Stick to second-class roads with low traffic, as drivers on larger roads may show little sympathy to cyclists. You can plan your journey using maps from [http://www.cykloserver.cz/cykloatlas/ Cykloserver.cz], which show both official (dark violet) and recommended (light violet) trails. Second, road bikes and their riders might suffer on minor Slovak roads of inferior quality. A touring bike is a better alternative. Wearing a '''safety helmet''' is required for cyclists of all ages riding on public roads outside of urban areas and for children under 15 also within urban areas.
  
==See==
+
Mountain bikers will especially love the county's network of legal MTB trails in the '''Malé Karpaty''', '''Veľká Fatra''' and '''Štiavnické vrchy''' ranges. Less adventurous cyclists can also enjoy paved roads of varying quality (off-limits to cars) in the '''Malé Karpaty''', '''Levočské vrchy''' and '''Nízke Tatry''' (the latter range also features some strenuous climbs), or cycle along the banks the levees of the '''Danube''', '''Morava''' and '''Váh''' rivers. Sadly, [[Slovak Paradise National Park]] restricts almost all cycling activities on its territory. Road cycling is popular, too, yet visitors should bear in mind that many secondary roads are in bad shape. Do not look for the same level of comfort as provided by roads in the Alpine countries.
[[Image:Tatry.JPG|thumb|center|500px|High Tatras]]
 
* Slovakia boasts a record-high number of castles and chateaux [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castles_in_Slovakia]. Some of them are little more than a pile of stones hidden in a deep forest, others are luxurious baroque mansions or citadels in the middle of towns. Especially worthwhile for tourists are the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spi%C5%A1_Castle Spiš Castle], reported to be the largest castle in Central Europe, the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bojnice_Castle Bojnice Castle] built in the 19th century in a pseudo-romanesque style, and [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dev%C3%ADn_Castle Devín Castle], an ancient archeological site and a sacred place for all Slavs
 
* [[Vlkolínec]], a hamlet high in the mountains, where time stopped in the 19th century [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlkol%C3%ADnec]
 
* Countless wooden churches in northern and north-eastern Slovakia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wooden_Churches_of_the_Slovak_Carpathians]
 
* Medieval mining towns of [[Kremnica]] and [[Banská Štiavnica]]
 
*Ochtinska aragonite cave - truly unique and one of the few such caves open to the public in the world, aragonite is a needle-like crystal that forms flower-like patterns on the walls[http://slovakia-travelguide.info/ochtinsk-aragonite-cave.html] [[Image:Ochtina Aragonite Cave 27.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Ochtinska Aragonite Cave]]
 
* Slovak Paradise National Park - smaller mountain range famous beautiful canyons and ravines with many waterfalls and rocky formations created by the streams you can hike along.
 
*High Tatras - a mountain range featuring a variety of terrain and beautiful vistas offers great opportunities for hiking and winter sports.
 
  
==Buy==
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===By hitchhiking===
{{Euro}}
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Hitchhiking (''stopovanie'' or ''autostop'') is best done by asking around at gas stations and is largely safe. However, '''hitchhiking is strictly prohibited on motorways and expressways.''' Keep in mind that trains and buses in Slovakia are cheap for Westerners and (apart from extremely rural areas where people are generally less wary of hitchhikers) it might take a while for someone to pick you up. Therefore, hitchhiking can only be recommended if it's your hobby, not primarily as a means to save money. You can find some offers if you travel from Slovakia and into Slovakia as well on specialized web pages. A useful resource is [http://www.autostop.sk/ Autostop.sk].
  
Until January 1, 2009, the official currency was the ''koruna'' ("crown", sk) which can still be found and accepted by the central bank until 2017 at a rate of 30.126sk to €1.  
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===On foot===
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[[Image:Signpost.JPG|thumb|Hiking signpost in the High Tatras.]]
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Slovakia is a hiker's paradise. With the exception of the relatively flat southern lowlands, much of Slovakia is covered with hundreds of kilometers of extremely well-marked scenic hiking trails, especially through its national parks, providing breathtaking landscapes. Slovaks have always lived in a close relationship with nature. During the communist period when travelling abroad was severely restricted, hiking became a national pastime. Most Slovaks visitors meet will have gone on a hike at least once in their life and many do so regularly. Many can give you great advice about the most interesting local trails. The Slovak trail network is also very well maintained. The quality and efficiency of the country's sign-posting system is unique in Europe (and perhaps the world).  
  
Automatic teller machines (ATM, "bankomat" in Slovak, pl. "bankomaty") are widely available in Slovakia except in smaller villages, and obtaining money there should not present a problem. In most of small villages you can gain money at local postal offices (cashback). Credit cards and debit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, Visa Electron, Cirrus Maestro are widely accepted both in shops and restaurants in bigger cities.
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Trails are numerous, suitable for various levels of fitness and many lead through beautiful scenery. Every route is marked and signposted, with different trails given a colour. Four colours are used: red, blue, green and yellow. The longest and most strenuous trails are usually marked red. On one red-marked path, the Slovak National Uprising Heroes Trail, it is possible to traverse from the northeastern Dukla Pass on the Polish-Slovak border all the way 750 km west to Bradlo (near [[Bratislava]]). In towns, you will usually see a signpost, with arrows pointing in different directions, marking the colour of the path and the average walking times to the nearest destinations. All visitors need to do is to follow the colour; there will be a mark every hundred metres or so, consisting of a 10x10 cm square three-section mark where the edges are white and the chosen path's colour is in the middle.  
  
==Eat==
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It is also possible (and highly recommended) to purchase hiking maps of smaller Slovak regions. These are based on former military maps, have a very good resolution (1:50000 or 1:25000) and can be purchased from most kiosks, information centres and bookstores for bargain prices between €1.50-2.50. These are published by the Slovak Tourist Club (KST), which maintains all the trails and show all marked trails in the area, including their average walking times, making route planning very easy and efficient. If visitors want to plan your hike before, use the excellent online maps at [http://mapy.hiking.sk/ Hiking.sk] or [http://www.cykloserver.cz/cykloatlas/ Cykloserver.cz]. The latter link features bicycle trails and also covers the neighboring [[Czech Republic]].
Slovak cuisine focuses mostly on simple and hearty recipes. Historically, what is now considered genuinely Slovak has been the traditional food in the northern villages where people lived off sheep grazing and limited agriculture - in the harsh conditions many crops don't grow, and herbs are more accessible than true spices. Therefore, the staple foods mostly involve (smoked) meat, cheese, potatoes and flour. This does not make the food bland, however, and much of it is quite filling and flavoursome, though can be a bit heavy. As no strong spices or truly exotic ingredients are used, sampling local wares is a safe and rewarding experience.  
 
  
Some dishes are authentically Slovak, many others are variations on a regional theme. A lot of cheese is typically consumed, out of meats pork and poultry products are the most common, with some beef and game dishes, most common accompaniments being potatoes and various types of dumplings. Since Slovakia is a land-locked country, fish and sea-food options are limited (carp is served at Christmas, trout is the most common fish). Soups are quite common both as an appetiser and, as some are quite filling, as a main dish.  
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In mountainous areas, you should also buy insurance for some peace of mind. Emergency rescue services are not covered by normal travel insurance. Costing about €0.50 a day, hiking insurance can be bought in hotels or online via the [http://www.hzs.sk/poistenie/ Mountain Rescue Service].
  
If you are a '''vegetarian''', the variety of food in the cities should be decent. However, when venturing out into the countryside, the offer may be limited as vegetables are mostly considered a side and/or eaten mostly raw or in salads. Also, be aware that even though some dishes will be in the vegetarian section of the menu, this merely means that they're not predominanty meat-based and still might be prepared using animal fats or even contain small pieces of meat, so make your requirements clear. Fried cheese with ham or Cesar salad(!) are good examples. Still, almost every restaurant in the country will serve at least the staple choice of fried cheese (the normal, non-ham variety) with fries, which is a universally popular. There should be a good selection of sweet dishes as well, with pancakes, dumplings filled with fruits, jams or chocolate and sweet noodles with nuts/poppy seeds/sweet cottage cheese most common. Seeking out the nearest pizzeria is also a good and accessible option mostly everywhere.
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==Talk==
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[[File:Banska Bystrica SNP Square.jpg|thumb|[[Banská Bystrica]]'s SNP Square.]]
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The official and most widely-spoken language is '''[[Slovak phrasebook|Slovak]]''', a Slavic language spoken by over 5 million people. Slovaks are very proud of their language and thus even in Bratislava visitors may not find many signs written in English outside of the main tourist areas. Most people born after the 1980s speak at least some English and in some cases [[German]] (particularly close to the [[Austria|Austrian]] border). '''[[Czech phrasebook|Czech]]''', a strongly-related language, is largely intelligible to most Slovaks. Despite their similar appearance, vocabulary and grammar, Czech and Slovak are not dialects of each other.
  
The main meal of the day is traditionally lunch, though this is changing especially in cities due to work schedules, and dinner is increasing becoming the main meal there.  
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Slovak is written using the same Roman characters English uses (with some added accents or diacritics), so Western travelers won't have any trouble reading signs and maps. While some words are tongue twisters due to the concentration of consonants, a basic knowledge of the alphabet including the letters with diacritics will go a long way, as Slovak is very phonetic. Standard Slovak is spoken with the stress always on the first syllable (but it may be on the penultimate syllable in some dialects in the east).  
  
In establishments where you sit in (cafes and restaurants), it is common to '''tip around 10%''' or at least round the amount up to the nearest euro or note (depending on amount). Tips are not included in the bill, if there is a percentage shown on your bill, this is usually the VAT. Tip is added to the bill and should be handed to the waiter while you pay, before you leave the table. Tipping is not compulsory, so if you are not satisfied with the service, don't feel obliged to tip! You will not be hassled if you don't. Tipping is not common in over-the-counter establishments, bars or for other services.  
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As the country was under the rule of [[Hungary]] for ten centuries, there is a significant '''[[Hungarian phrasebook|Hungarian]]'''-speaking minority, with most living in the south close to the Danube. Many Hungarians are bilingual, while some speak little to no Slovak. As it is not a related Slavic language, a vast majority of ethnic Slovaks have little to no understanding of Hungarian.
  
It should be noted that in all but the most exclusive restaurants it is not customary to be shown to your table by the staff. So when you enter, do not hang out by the door, but simply pick a table of your choice and enjoy. Once you are comfortably seated, waiting staff will be over shortly to give you the menu and let you order drinks.  
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While visitors can make do with English and [[German phrasebook|German]] in [[Bratislava]], in smaller towns and villages your only chance is trying to approach younger people that speak some English. Older residents may know some German. People born between 1935 and 1980 will have learned [[Russian phrasebook|Russian]] in school, although few Slovaks appreciate being spoken to in Russian due to lingering negative connotations from the communist era. Due to the significant tourism growth in the north and east, English is becoming more widely used. When traveling in Slovakia's north in the Tatras, [[Polish phrasebook|Polish]] is quite useful and somewhat understood by Slovaks. In the east, Rusyn, a [[Ukrainian phrasebook|Ukrainian]] dialect close to Polish, is spoken. It is also intelligible with Russian to some extent. Other Slavic languages, especially Serbian, Croatian and Slovene are also partially understood throughout the country. Attempts to speak Slovak will be warmly appreciated by the locals.
  
Again with the possible exception of the most exclusive establishments, there is mostly '''no dress code''' enforced in restaurants and informal clothing is fine. Hauling yourself into a restaurant for well-deserved meal after a day of hiking/skiing in your sporty clothes might attract a few frowns, but you certainly won't be turned away. Generally, anything you would wear for a stroll in town is perfectly fine. You don't need a jacket or closed shoes and in summer shorts are also acceptable.  
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If you speak the international language [[Esperanto phrasebook|Esperanto]], you can take advantage of the network of Esperanto delegates scattered across Slovakia.
  
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For those interested in learning Slovak, there are language schools in [[Bratislava]] and [[Košice]].
  
====Slovak food====
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==Buy==
[[Image:Haluskos.JPG|thumb|right|400px|Bryndzove Halusky]]
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[[File:Euro Series Banknotes.png|thumb|Euro banknotes.]]
'''Bryndzové halušky''' is a Slovak national dish made out of potato dumplings and special kind of unpasteurized fermented sheep cheese called 'bryndza'. This meal is unique to Slovakia and quite appetising (and surprisingly filling), and you should not leave Slovakia without trying it. Please note that while this dish will usually be listed in the vegetarian section of the menu, it is served with pieces of fried meaty bacon on top, so if you are a vegetarian make sure to ask for halušky without the bacon. Halušky can be found in many restaurants, however, the quality varies as it is not an easy dish to prepare. If you at all can, seek out an ethnic Slovak restaurant (this can be harder than it sounds), or at least ask locals for the best place in the vicinity. In the northern regions you will find also authentic restaurants called 'Salaš' (this word means sheep farm in Slovak and many take produce directly from these), which serve the most delicious and fresh variety. Sometimes, a variety with smoked cheese added on the top is available. A separate dish called '''strapačky''' might also be available where sauerkraut is served instead of bryndza, but it is not as typical (this will also come with bacon on top).
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{{Euro}}
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Until 2009, the official currency was the '''slovenská koruna''' ("crown", '''SKK''') which can still be found and accepted by the central bank until 2017 at a rate of 30.126SKK to €1.  
  
A '''salaš''' will usually serve also other typical Slovak dishes, and many will offer several varieties of sheep cheese to buy as well. They are all locally produced, delivious, and well worth buying if you are a cheese fan. Verieties include ''bryndza'' (primarily used to make 'Bryndzové halušky', but it is a soft spreadable cheese which is very healthy and often used as a spread), blocks of sheep cheese (soft and malleable, delicious on its own or with salt), ''parenica'' (cheese curled in layers into a small peelable roll, sold smoked or unsmoked) and ''korbáčiky'' (this word means hair braids in Slovak, and korbáčiky are threads of cheese woven into a pattern resembling a basic braid). Some of these cheeses are available to buy in supermarkets as well but these are mass produced and not as good.
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Automatic teller machines (ATM, ''bankomat'') are widely available in Slovakia except in small villages. Obtaining money there should not present a problem, as most small villages have a postal office where visitors can withdraw money (cashback) for a fee of €7. Credit and debit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, Cirrus and Maestro are widely accepted both in shops and restaurants across the country.
  
Most other dishes are regional, and their varieties can be found elsewhere in Central Europe. These include '''kapustnica''', a sauerkraut soup typically eaten at Christmas but served all year round in restaurants. It is flavoursome and can be mildly spicy based on what sausage is used. Depending on the recipe it may also include smoked meat an/or dried mushrooms.
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==See==
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A country of fascinating old cities, quaint villages and rugged beauty, Slovakia is an accessible land that benefits from being in the heart of [[Central Europe]]. Thanks to the fall of communism, as well as to good transit links with [[Austria]] and the [[Czech Republic]], there has never been a better time to visit this country than now. Many visitors tend to stay in [[Bratislava]] due to its close proximity to [[Vienna]] and its position between [[Budapest]] and [[Prague]], entirely missing out on the highly scenic central and eastern regions of the country. Adventurous tourists should surely break out of the capital and head east towards the Tatras, encountering an array of cities, castles and national parks along the way.
  
Various large dumplings called '''pirohy''' can be found and depending on the filling can be salty or sweet. Fillings include sauerkraut, various types of cheese or meat or simply fruits or jam. They closely resemble Polish pirogi.
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===Cities===
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[[File:Dóm svätej Alžbety changed.jpg|thumb|Old [[Košice]].]]
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The country's capital and largest city, '''[[Bratislava]]''', is a mixture of the Baroque, Socialist and modern, home to a thoroughly charming '''Old Town''' and overlooked by both its imposing '''Bratislava Castle''' and the '''Most SNP''', an iconic bridge capped by a UFO-like object. The jagged ruin of '''Devín Castle''' is also a prominent point in the capital. For history lovers, '''St. Martin's Cathedral''' draws in visitors thanks to its history steeped in Habsburg coronations. In recent years, Bratislava has become a popular destination for British and German tourists (especially for stag nights) for its nightlife and affordable prices.  
  
'''Goulash''' is a regional dish made with cuts of beef, onions, vegetables and squashed potatoes with spices, which is very hearty and filling. Depending on the thickness it can be served as a soup (with bread) or as a stew (served with dumplings). Goulash can be sometimes found outdoors during BBQs or at festival markets, where it is prepared in a big cauldron, sometimes with game instead of beef - this is the most authentic. A variety called '''Segedin goulash''' also exists, which is quite distinct and prepared with sauerkraut. Goulash can be quite spicy.  
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To the east, '''[[Nitra]]''' is one of the oldest cities in the country, with a history stretching back to ancient Slavic times, capped by its ancient '''Nitra Castle'''. The charming town of '''[[Trenčín]]''', close to the Czech border, has a history stretching back to Roman times and is also capped by its highly photogenic and imposing Gothic '''Castle'''. Trenčín is also home to the [https://www.pohodafestival.sk/en/ Pohoda Festival], one of the country's largest international music festivals. To the north, the medieval city of '''[[Žilina]]''' is a gateway to the exquisite Upper Váh region and is home to its charming '''Mariánske námestie'''. Close to the country's geographic center, the medieval mining city of '''[[Banská Bystrica]]''', nestled in the Tatra foothills, is another fascinating city with an old historical centre. Going to the northeast of the country in the '''Šariš Region''', visitors should not miss the historical town of '''[[Bardejov]]''', a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a highly photogenic medieval core. To the south, '''[[Prešov]]''' presents a compact, cobblestone Old Town. South of Prešov, '''[[Košice]]''' invites visitors in with its ancient, narrow streets and its imposing Gothic '''St. Elisabeth Cathedral''', the country's largest house of worship.
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===Natural attractions===
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[[File:Tiesňavy.jpg|thumb|A dramatic vista in [[Malá Fatra National Park]].]]
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Slovakia is simply a treasure trove of natural sites. Much of the central and northern parts of the country are rugged and mountainous due to the '''Carpathian Mountains''', of which the '''Tatra''', '''Fatra''' and '''Beskid''' ranges are a part of. In the south, the '''Danubian Lowland''' is a flat, fertile and green region bordering the Danube River.  
  
Apart from kapustnica and goulash, which are more of a main dish, other '''soups''' are quite popular as an appetiser. Mushroom soup is a typical Christmas dish in many parts, and there are several soups made out of beans or bean sprouts. In restaurants, the most common soups are normal chicken and (sometimes) beef broth, and tomato soup and garlic broth (served with croutons, very tasty, but don't go kissing people after) are also very common. Some restaurants offer certain soups to be served in a small loaf of bread ('v bochniku'), which can be an interesting and tasty experience.
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Slovakia is home to nine national parks and various natural preserves that protect the country's mountainous regions. The crown jewel of the national park system is [[Vysoké Tatry|High Tatras National Park]], a rugged park of high peaks, deep valleys, lakes and forests straddling the Slovak-Polish border. The park is home to '''Gerlach Peak''' (''Gerlachovský štít'') at 2,655 m (8,711 ft), the tallest mountain in the country and [[Central Europe]]. To the south, [[Low Tatras|Low Tatras National Park]], [[Malá Fatra National Park]], [[Slovak Paradise]] and [[Muránska planina National Park]] dominate much of [[Central Slovakia]].  
  
Other typical '''streetfood''' includes '''lokše,''' potato pancakes served with various fillings (popular varieties include duck fat and/or duck liver pate, poppy seeds or jam) and '''langoš''', which is a big deep fried flat bread most commonly served with garlic, cheese and ketchup/sour cream on top. A local version of a burger is also common, called '''cigánska pečienka''' (or simply cigánska). This is not made out of beef, however, but instead pork or chicken is used and is served in a bun with mustard/ketchup and (sometimes) onions, chilies and/or diced cabbage. If you are looking for something sweet, in spa cities such as [[Piešťany]], you will find stands selling '''spa wafers''', which are usually two plate-sized thin wafers with various fillings. Try chocolate or hazelnut.
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Several national parks also share cross-border cousins. [[Pieniny National Park]] connects to its Polish counterpart, [[Pieniński National Park]], with both parks sharing the breathtaking '''Dunajec River Gorge'''. To the very east, [[Poloniny National Park]] connects with [[Uzhansky National Park]] in [[Ukraine]] and [[Bieszczady National Park]] in [[Poland]]; the Slovak and Ukrainian portions form the Primeval Beech Forests, a [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1133 UNESCO World Heritage Site] and one of the last, relatively untouched regions of Europe.  
  
Especially in the western parts, lokše can be found in a restaurant as well, where they are served as side for a roasted goose/duck ('''husacina'''), which is a local delicacy.
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Geologically, a sizable part of the country is made out of limestone, which in combination with many springs and rivers has resulted in formation of numerous caves. Perhaps the best-known example is the UNESCO-listed [[Slovak Karst]], a mountainous area on the southeastern Slovak-Hungarian border, marked by dozens of deep caves, with its '''Domica Cave''' being a highlight.
  
Other foods worth trying are chicken in paprika sauce with dumplings ('paprikas'), Schnitzel ('Rezeň' in Slovak, very common dish. 'Čiernohorsky rezeň' is a variety that is made with potato dumpling coating used instead of batter and is very good) and Svieckova (sirloin beef with special vegetable sauce, served with dumplings). From the desert section of the menu, try plum dumplings (sometimes other fruit is used, but plums are traditional); this is a good and quite filling dish on its own as well.
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===Castles and other attractions===
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[[File:Slovakia Bojnice (The photo is made of a glider "Duo Discus xlt") (8698340484).jpg|thumb|Bojnice Castle overlooking the town of the [[Bojnice|same name]].]]
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For history lovers, Slovakia has the highest number of castles and chateaux per capita in the world, ranging from simple ruins to the well-preserved. If visitors are fans of medieval history, look no further. There are also numerous Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque examples in cities and towns across the republic, including within the capital. There are also well-preserved examples of wooden folk architecture, including churches made entirely out of wood and the tallest wooden altar in the world.
  
In some parts of the countryside, there is a tradition called '''zabíjačka''', where a pig is killled and its various meat and parts are consumed in a BBQ-like event. This is a lot more historic celebration than you are likely to find in mostly modern Slovakia, but if you have an opportunity to attend, it may be an interesting experience, and the meat and sausages are home-made, delicious and full of flavour. If you can find home-made '''hurka''' (pork meat and liver sausage with rice) or '''krvavnicky''' (similar to hurka, but with pork blood) on offer elsewhere, they are both very good. There is also '''tlačenka''' (cold meat pressed together with some vegetables, served similar to ham), which is served cold with vinegar and onion on top, and can be bought in supermarkets as well.Various other type of sausages and smoked meats are available commercially.  
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In the capital, '''Bratislava Castle''' dominates the city's skyline and has more or less become a symbol of the Slovak state. Also in the capital are the ruins of '''Devín Castle''', an ancient fortification dating to Great Moravian times that was destroyed by Napoleon's troops in 1809. To the northeast, '''Trenčín Castle''' sits high over the Váh river plain, used by the Slavs and later the Hungarians. South of Trenčín in the town of [[Bojnice]] is '''Bojnice Castle''', a Gothic and Renaissance masterpiece that cemented Hungarian rule in the region for centuries. In the city of [[Žilina]], '''Budatín Castle''' is another Renaissance-era masterwork. Also close to Žilina is '''Strečno Castle''', a fortification perched high above the Váh River. Heavily damaged during the Slovak National Uprising, much of Strečno has been restored. In north [[Central Slovakia]], the dramatic '''Orava Castle''' looms over the village of Oravský Podzámok; the castle was used extensively for the landmark 1922 horror film ''Nosferatu''. Outside of [[Košice]], the ruins of '''Spiš Castle''' continue to impress visitors 800 years later.  
  
A thick fried slice of cheese served with French fries and a salad is also a common Slovak dish[http://www.slovakcooking.com/2009/recipes/syr/]. It is served in most restaurants, and worth trying out, especially the local variety made from smoked cheese ('udeny syr'/'ostiepok') or 'hermelin' (local cheese similar to Camembert). This is not considered a substitute for meat.  
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A good listing of Slovakia's castles, mansions and ruins can be found on the state's [http://slovakia.travel/en/things-to-see-and-do/culture-and-sights/castles-chateaux-and-manor-houses tourism website].
  
There is a good variety of bakery products, including various sweet pastries- try the local fillings of poppy seeds and/or (sweet) cottage cheese ('''tvaroh'''). '''Strudel''' (štrúdla) is also popular, try the traditional apple and raisins filling or fancier sweet poppy seeds and sour cherries version. For something savoury, try '''pagáč''', which is a puff pastry with little pork cracklings. Local bread is excellent, but please note that some of the several varieties are sprinkled with caraway seeds. You may or may not like this! Baguettes and baguette shops/stands are very common and you will be able to choose from a variety of fillings.
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==Do==
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[[File:Dobšinská Ice Cave, 35.jpg|thumb|The Dobšinská Ice Cave.]]
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===Spelunking===
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Thanks to Slovakia's dramatic geology, more than 2,400 caves are found throughout the country (and many are still being discovered into the present day). Slovakia is arguably one of the best places for spelunking in Europe. Several of these subterranean areas are nationally protected or UNESCO listed and can be explored by the general public. Some notable caves in the country include the surreal Dobšinská Ice Cave in [[Slovak Paradise National Park]], Ochrinska Aragonite Cave, Gombasek Cave and Jasovská Cave in the [[Slovak Karst]], Belianska Cave in the High Tatras, Demänovská Cave of Liberty in the Low Tatras. and Domica Cave. The [http://www.ssj.sk/en Slovak Caves Administration] offers a listing and information regarding the country's rich cave systems.  
  
For dessert, visit the local '''cukráreň'''. These establishments, though slowly merging into cafes, exclusively specialise in appeasing your sweet tooth and serve a variety of cakes, as well as hot and cold drinks and (sometimes) ice-cream. The cakes resemble similar fare in the Czech Republic or their Viennese cousins. The selection is diverse and on display, so just pick one you like the look of, perhaps a 'krémeš' (a bit of pastry at the bottom, thick filling of vanilla custard, topped with a layer of cream or just chocolate) or 'veterník' (think huge profiterole coated in caramel), selection of tortas etc.
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===Winter sports===
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The High and Low Tatras, Pieniny and Donovaly ranges are excellent for skiing and snowboarding. Many domestic tourists, along with Czechs, Poles, Germans, Austrians and Hungarians are drawn to Slovak ski resorts due to their high altitudes and affordable prices. Some skiing resorts include those in Jasná, Tatranská Lomnica, [[Ružomberok]], Velká Raca, Oravice and [[Ždiar]]. A full listing of the republic's resorts and ski locations can be found [http://www.skiresort.info/ski-resorts/slovakia/ here].
  
When you are shopping in the supermarket, remember to pick up '''Tatranky''' and/or '''Horalky''', two brands of similar wafers with hazelnut filling and lightly coated in chocolate that the locals swear by.  
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===Spas===
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Slovakia offers many excellent spas, saunas and water parks to relax at year round, whether its in the cold winter months or the sweltering summer. If visitors enjoy stinking mud and are willing to pay for it, the best, most famous (and most expensive) spa is located in [[Piešťany]]. Other major spas are located around [[Trenčianske Teplice]], [[Rajecké Teplice]], [[Bardejov]], Dudince and Podhájska. If spas and saunas are too slow for visitors who want more fun, try water parks in Bešeňová, [[Liptovský Mikuláš]], [[Poprad]], [[Turčianske Teplice]], Oravice, Senec and Dunajská Streda. Significantly cheaper options are classical open-air pools, some of the best are in Veľký Meder and Štúrovo.
  
For more information visit[http://www.slovensko.com/about/food/]Slovensko.
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===Festivals===
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[[File:Banská Štiavnica im Herbst.JPG|thumb|The medieval mining town of [[Banská Štiavnica]].]]
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In the late winter and early spring ''Fašiangy'' (''Mardi Gras'') is celebrated throughout the country. In the countryside, especially in wine-producing regions, wine festivals (''vinobranie'') are common in the early autumn at the end of the harvest period. Many town centres will be closed and a traditional market is set up for these events, mostly with local produce, handicrafts for sale, and plenty to eat and drink. In larger cities, similar Christmas markets open in December.
  
====International Cuisine====
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===Steam trains===
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Those interested in railway history or would like to spend a family day in the countryside, Slovakia offers a number of phased-out railway tracks, once used for transporting wood through the mountains, to transport tourists through forests and valleys in cozy steam trains. The best-preserved of them all is [http://www.chz.sk ČHŽ] near the town of Brezno.
  
Italian restaurants and pizzerias are extremely popular in Slovakia, and have become ubiquitous. Even if you don't go to an ethnic Italian restaurant, there will be a pizza or pasta dish on almost every restaurant menu. Italian (and generally Mediterranean)ice cream is also very popular.
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==Learn==
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Studying in Slovakia is relatively inexpensive for foreign students, with studies, living expenses and other educational items normally costing around €4,000 on average for bachelor, master and doctorate students.  
  
Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine is also becoming more common everywhere, and kebab/gyros (a bun with sliced bits of meat) stands are very common.
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There are several excellent centers for higher education in the country, with courses offered in English. This includes '''[https://uniba.sk/en/ Comenius University]''' in [[Bratislava]], Slovakia's oldest and most prestigious university, along with '''[http://www.upjs.sk/en Pavol Jozef Šafárik University]''' in [[Košice]], '''[https://www.umb.sk/en/ Matej Bel University]''' in [[Banská Bystrica]] and the '''[http://www.stuba.sk/english.html?page_id=132 Slovak University of Technology]''' in Bratislava. More information about studying in Slovakia can be found [http://show.studyin.sk/ here].
  
In bigger cities, you will find selection of ethnic restaurants including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, French and many others. Moreover, as mentioned above, many Austrian, Czech, Hungarian and Polish dishes with Slovakian twist are commonplace.
+
==Work==
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[[File:Bratislava Cityscape.jpg|thumb|The skyline of [[Bratislava]]'s Old Town.]]
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As a European Union member, EU citizens can legally reside and work in Slovakia without restrictions. The most popular website for job listings is [http://www.profesia.sk/en/ Profesia.sk]. As of 2015, average salaries were €880 a month, with the highest salaries in [[Bratislava]] and the surrounding region. The best paid positions in the country are IT experts, whose salaries are nearly over €2,000 a month; construction workers earn around €600 a month and waiters €400.
 +
 +
If prospective workers are from outside of the EU, a visa is required to work. Teaching English as a second language is a popular work option, especially for freelancers. In order to do this, prospective freelancers will need a trade license (''živnostenský list''), which can be obtained from a tradesman department (''živnostenské oddelenie'') at a regional trade license office (''živnostenský úrad''). You will need a clean criminal record from your home country, a bank statement from a Slovak bank account, a notarized copy of your rental or home contract and pay a small fee.  
  
Fast food establishments can be found in Slovakia as anywhere else in the world, McDonalds and Burger King can be found in many bigger and smaller cities. However, due to the other food being relatively cheap in comparison to the Western prices in fast foods, this is not usually considered the truly budget option. A food in a cheaper restaurant will cost 1-1.5x the price of a meal combo and might prove a better value. Still, these establishments are reasonably popular, especially with the younger generation.
+
It's best to consult the Slovak embassy or consulate in your country for more information.  
  
==Drink==
+
Note that unless you are applying for certain positions in international firms and similar organisations where English or German might do, you will probably need a working knowledge of Slovak for most other jobs.
===Non-alcoholic drinks===
 
For non-alcoholic drinks try '''Vinea''', a soft drink made from grapes, in both red and white and also non-carbonated. '''Kofola''', a Coke-type soft drink, is also very popular among locals and is available both on tap and bottled. Slovakia is one of three countries in the world where Coca-cola is not the number one in the market.
 
  
'''Mineral waters''' are some of the best in the World, come in numerous varieties and each has unique positive health effects (e.g. getting rid of heartburn, improving digestion etc) depending on the type of minerals naturally found in the water.
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==Eat==
There are many types available from shops and supermarkets, for example Budiš, Mitická, Slatina, Rajec, Dobrá Voda, Zlatá studňa, Mattoni etc. Others are only available directly from the many natural mineral springs common all across the country. As these are true 'mineral' waters, they will invariably contain minerals, and the taste will differ according to the brand/spring. If you don't like one, try a different brand! You may also try mineral waters with various flavourings, ranging from raspberry to 'mojito'.
+
The main meal of the day is traditionally lunch, although this is changing especially in cities due to work schedules, where dinner is increasing becoming the main meal.
  
In contrast to what you might be used to, '''sparking water''' is the default option, so if you prefer still you might have to look for this specifically. The level of carbonation is marked by the label. Dark blue or Red label usually indicates carbonated ones ("perlivá"), a green label indicates mildly carbonated ones ("mierne perlivá") and white, pink or baby blue indicates those without carbon dioxide ("neperlivá"). Due to the excellent local choice and quality of the water, international brands are not as common.
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With the possible exception of the most exclusive establishments, dress codes are not enforced in restaurants. Informal clothing is common in nearly all establishments. Hauling yourself into a restaurant for a well-deserved meal after a day of hiking or skiing in sporty clothes might attract a few looks, yet visitors will not be turned away. Generally, anything you would wear for a stroll in town is perfectly fine. Visitors won't need a jacket or closed shoes. In the summer shorts and sandals are acceptable.  
  
In restaurants, serving of a free glass of water is not a part of the culture, so remember that if you ask for one it is quite likely that you will be brought (most likely sparkling) mineral water instead (and charged for it).  
+
In sitting establishments (cafes and restaurants), it is common to '''tip around 10%''' or at least round the amount up to the nearest euro or note (depending on the amount). Tips are not included in the bill; if there is a percentage shown on your bill, this is usually VAT. The tip is added to the bill and should be handed to the waiter while you pay before leaving the table. Tipping is not compulsory, so if visitors are not satisfied with the service, don't feel obliged to tip! You will not be hassled if you don't. Tipping is not common in over-the-counter establishments, bars or for other services.  
  
Out of hot drinks '''coffee''' is available everywhere, mostly in three varieties (cafes in cities will offer more) - espresso, 'normal' coffee which is served medium-sized, small and black and Viennese coffee which is 'normal' coffee with a dollop of cream on top. Cappuccinos are quite common as well. Coffee is served with sugar and cream/milk on the side. Hot chocolate is popular as well. '''Tea''' rooms are quite popular as a place to chill out in major cities. These usually have a laid-back, vaguely oriental ambiance, and offer a great variety of black, green, white and fruit teas. Schisha might be on offer as well. A part of this culture spread to the other catering establishments, most of which will now offer a choice at least between fruit and black tea. Note that black tea is served with sugar and lemon in Slovakia, serving of milk or cream is not common.  Some places may offer a beverage called 'hot apple', which tastes a bit like softer hot apple juice.  
+
It should be noted that in all but the most exclusive restaurants it is not customary to be shown to your table by the staff. When entering, simply pick a table of your choice. Once you are comfortably seated, waiting staff will be over shortly to give you the menu and let you order drinks.  
  
==== Alcoholic Beverages ====
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===Traditional local foods===
Drinking is very much a part of the Slovak culture and some form of alcohol will be served at most social occasions. However, the locals mostly hold their liquor well and BEING visibly drunk is frowned upon, so be aware of your limits. Note that some locally brewed spirits may be stronger than what you are used to, and that ''the standard shot glass in Slovakia is 50ml'', which may be more than you are used to if arriving from Western Europe. If you order double vodka, you will get 1dl of it! Alcohol in general is cheap compared to Western Europe or the US. There are no special shops, and alcoholic beverages can be purchased in practically any local supermarket or food store. You can legally drink and purchase alcohol if you are 18 years or older, but this is not very strictly enforced. You still might be IDed in some city clubs if you look very young, however.  
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[[Image:Haluskos.JPG|thumb|''Bryndzové halušky'', a Slovak staple.]]
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Slovak cuisine focuses mostly on simple and hearty recipes. Historically, what is now considered genuinely Slovak has been traditional food from northern villages, where people lived off sheep grazing and limited agriculture, where herbs were more accessible than spices. Therefore, staple foods mostly involve (smoked) meat, cheese, potatoes and flour. This does not make the food bland, however, with much of it is quite filling and flavoursome, though can be a bit on the heavy side. As no strong spices or truly exotic ingredients are used, sampling local wares is a safe and rewarding experience.  
  
For '''beers''', there are a great variety of excellent local brews that are similar in style and quality to Czech beers (which are also widely available), and beer is mostly the local drink of choice. Try out the '''Zlatý Bažant''', '''Smädný Mních''', '''Topvar''' and '''Šariš'''. Šariš is also available in a dark version that is thicker and heavier on your stomach. If the local tastes do not satisfy, "Western" beers are sold in the bigger restaurants and pubs.  
+
Some dishes are authentically Slovak, while others are variations on regional themes. Cheese, pork and poultry are typically consumed along with some beef and game dishes, mostly accompanying potatoes and various types of dumplings. Since Slovakia is a landlocked country, fish and seafood options are limited, yet trout is the most common fish served. Carp is usually served on Christmas. Soups are quite common both as an appetizer and, as some are quite filling, also as a main dish.  
  
Slovakia has also some great local '''wines''', many similar to Germanic Riesling styles. There is a number of wine-growing regions in the south with centuries worth of tradition, including the area just outside Bratislava. If you can, try to visit one of the local producer's wine cellars, as many are historical and it is a cultural experience as of itself. You might also be offered home-made wine if you are visiting these areas, as many locals ferment their own wines. The quality obviously varies. Every year at the end of May and beginning of November, an event called '''Small Carpathian Wine Road'''[http://living.spectator.sme.sk/slovakia/bratislava-region/small-carpathians-wine-route-%28malokarpatska-vinna-cesta%29] takes place in Small Carpathian Wine Region (between [[Bratislava]] and [[Trnava]]), where all the local producers open their cellars to the public. Buy a ticket in the nearest cellar and you will receive a wine glass and admission into any cellar in the region, where you can sample the best produce from the previous year.
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'''Bryndzové halušky''' is the national dish. Made out of potato dumplings, unpasteurized fermented sheep cheese called ''bryndza'' and small bits of bacon or pork fat, this meal is unique, quite appetizing and very filling. Please note that while this dish will usually be listed in the vegetarian section of the menu, it does normally contain meat; if you are vegetarian, make sure to ask for ''halušky'' without bacon. ''Halušky'' can be found in many restaurants, however, quality can vary. Ethnic Slovak restaurants are normally the best places to find this meal. In the northern regions, visitors will find authentic restaurants called ''salaš'' (a word meaning "sheep farm" in Slovak), which serve delicious and local, fresh varieties of sheep cheese. Sometimes, ''halušky'' is served with smoked cheese added on top. A separate dish called '''strapačky''' might also be available, where sauerkraut is served instead of ''bryndza'', yet this is atypical..
  
There are also sweeter wines grown in South-Eastern border regions called [[Tokaj]]. Tokaj is fermented out of the special Tokaj grape variety endemic to the region (part of which is in Hungary and part in Slovakia) and it is a sweet dessert wine. Tokaj is considered a premium brand with a world-wide reputation and is arguably some of the best Central Europe has to offer. Other Slovak wines might not be widely known outside the region but they are certainly worth a try. The best recent wine years in Slovakia were 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006. Around the harvest time in the autumn, in the wine-producing regions, young wine called '''burčiak''' is often sold and popular among the locals. As burčiak strenghtens with fermentation (as it becomes actual wine), its alcohol content can vary quite wildly.
+
A '''salaš''' will also usually serve other typical Slovak dishes and foods. Varieties include soft, spreadable versions of ''bryndza'', blocks of sheep cheese (soft and malleable, delicious on its own or with salt), '''parenica''' (cheese curled in layers into a small peelable roll, sold smoked or unsmoked) and '''korbáčiky''' (meaning "hair braids" in Slovak), in which cheese is woven into a hair braid pattern. Many of these cheeses are available to buy at outdoor markets and in modern supermarkets, although those that are mass-produced and not as good.
  
Slovakia produces good '''spirits'''. Excellent is  the plum brandy ('''Slivovica'''), pear brandy ('''Hruškovica''') or herb liquor '''Demänovka'''. But the most popular alcohol is '''Borovička''', a type of gin. '''Fernet''', a type of aromatic bitter spirit is also very popular. In some shops you may try a 25 or 50 ml shot for very little money, so as to avoid buying a big bottle of something of unknown flavour, then decide whether to buy or not to buy. International brands are also available, but at a price premium (still cheaper than in most Western countries, however).  
+
[[File:Silvestrovska kapustnica.JPG|thumb|''Kapustnica'' with sausage.]]
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Most other dishes are regional, with their varieties also found elsewhere around [[Central Europe]]. These include '''kapustnica''', a flavoursome and sometimes mildly spicy sauerkraut soup found in other Slavic countries, typically eaten at Christmas but served year round in restaurants. Depending on the recipe it may also include smoked meat and/or dried mushrooms. '''Pirohy''', large dumplings similar to the Polish dish of '''pierogi''' can also be widely found and depending on the filling, is either savory or sweet, with fillings of sauerkraut, various types of cheeses, meats, or simply fruits and jam. A popular variant is '''bryndzové pirohy''' (sheep cheese dumplings).
  
If you are a more adventurous type, you can try some home-made fruit brandys that the locals sometimes offer to foreigners. Slivovica is the most common, but also pear brandy, apricot brandy, or raspberry brandy can be found. Drinking is a part of the tradition, especially in the countryside. If you are visiting locals, don't be surprised if you are offered home-made spirit as a welcome drink nor that the host may be quite proud of this private stock. The home-made liquors are very strong (up to 60% alcohol), so be careful. If Slivovica is matured for 12 or more years, it can become a pleasant digestive drink.
+
'''Guláš''' (goulash) is a regional dish made with cuts of beef, onions, vegetables and squashed potatoes with spices, which is very hearty and filling. A culinary legacy of the Hungarians, ''guláš'' can be served as a soup (with bread) or as a stew (with dumplings) and can be found outdoors during barbecues, festival markets (where it is prepared in a big cauldron), and in restaurants with game instead of beef, considered the most authentic. A variety called '''Segedinský guláš''' {[[Szeged]] goulash) is quite distinct, prepared with sauerkraut. ''Guláš'' can be quite spicy.  
  
In winter months, mulled wine is available at all winter markets and mulled mead is also common. A mixed hot drink called '''grog''', which consists of black tea and a shot of local 'rum' is very popular, especially in the skiing resorts, and really warms you up.
+
Apart from ''kapustnica'' and ''guláš'', which are main dishes, other '''polievky''' (soups) are quite popular as an appetizer. '''Hubová polievka''' (mushroom soup) is a typical Christmas dish in many parts,along with several soups made out of beans or bean sprouts. In restaurants, the most common soups are '''kuracia polievka''' (chicken), '''hovädzia polievka''' (beef), '''krémová cesnačka''' (creamy garlic) and '''paradajková polievka''' (tomato), served in garlic broth with croutons (don't go kissing people after) are also very common. Some restaurants offer certain soups to be served in a small loaf of bread (''v bochniku''), which can be an interesting and tasty experience.
  
== Do ==
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A typical example of Slovak street food is '''lokše''', which are potato pancakes served with various fillings (with popular varieties including duck fat and/or meat ('''husacina'''), poppy seeds or jam). Especially in [[Western Slovakia]], ''lokše'' is also be found in restaurants. '''Langoš''', a Hungarian specialty, is a large, fried flat bread served with garlic, cheese and ketchup (or sour cream) on top, often sold on street corners or in markets. A local version of an American hamburger (but without beef and instead using pork or chicken) is called '''cigánska pečienka''' (or simply '''cigánska'''). If visitors are looking for something sweet, in spa cities such as [[Piešťany]], you will find stands selling '''spa wafers''', usually two plate-sized thin wafers with various fillings. Try chocolate or hazelnut.
[[Image:Banska_Stiavnica.jpg|thumb|300px|The medieval mining town of Banská Štiavnica]]
 
*Visit the nearest chateau/castle - many are hundreds of years old, some preserved in a habitable state with period furnishings and many guided tours are offered.
 
  
*Go hiking! - the entire Slovakia (except flatlands) is covered with hundreds of miles of extremely well-marked hiking trails, that especially in the national parks lead though gorgeous landscapes. Get the idea [http://mapy.hiking.sk/ here].
+
[[File:Bryndzové pirohy.JPG|thumb|''Bryndzové pirohy'', dumplings with sheep cheese.]]
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Other foods worth trying are '''paprikas''' (chicken in paprika sauce with dumplings), '''rezeň''' (schnitzel), '''čiernohorsky rezeň'''' (schnitzel with a potato dumpling coating instead of batter) and '''sviečková na smotane''' (beef sirloin in a vegetable sauce with dumplings), a Slovak variant of the Czech staple '''svíčková'''.  
  
*Visit one of the traditional wooden churches [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpathian_Wooden_Churches], they're unique to the region. These might not be readily accessible without a car, however.
+
In some parts of the countryside, there is a tradition called '''zabíjačka''', where a pig is slaughtered and its various parts are consumed in a festive, barbecue-like event. This is a more historic celebration than you are likely to find in contemporary Slovakia, although if you have an opportunity to attend, it can be an interesting experience, where meat and sausages are home-made, delicious and full of flavour. If you can find homemade '''hurka''' (pork meat and liver sausage with rice) or '''krvavnicky''' (similar to ''hurka'', but with pork blood) on offer elsewhere, they are both very good. There is also '''tlačenka''' (cold meat pressed together with some vegetables, served similar to ham), which is served with vinegar and onion on top, and can be bought in supermarkets as well. Various other type of sausages and smoked meats are available commercially.  
  
*Go spelunking - caves are interspersed around Slovakia and as many are open to general public they are some of the most accessible in the world. Many are UNESCO listed, including ''Dobsinska Ice Cave'' (in Slovak Paradise), and ''Ochrinska Aragonite Cave, Domica, Jasovska Cave'' and ''Gombasek Cave'' (all in Slovak Karst)
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A thick fried slice of cheese served with French fries and a salad is also a common Slovak dish. It is served in most restaurants and worth trying out, especially with local smoked variety of cheese ('''udeny syr'''. '''ostiepok''') or '''hermelin''' (a local cheese similar to Camembert). This is not considered a substitute for meat.
  
[[Image:Domica Cave 13.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Domica Cave in Slovak Karst]]
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===Sweets===
 +
[[File:Strudel44.jpg|thumb|Slovak-style ''jablkový závin'' (apple strudel).]]
 +
For dessert, visit a local '''cukráreň''' (candy or sweet shop). These establishments, though slowly merging into cafes, exclusively specialise in appeasing your sweet tooth, serving a variety of cakes, hot and cold drinks and (sometimes) ice cream. Due to the shared heritage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovak cakes often resemble those in the [[Czech Republic]] and [[Austria]]. The selection is diverse and on display, so just pick one you like the look of, perhaps a '''krémeš''' (a small pastry, thick of vanilla custard and topped with a layer of cream or chocolate), or '''veterník''' (a huge profiterole coated in caramel).
  
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Slovakia has a good variety of bakery products, including various sweet pastries. Try local fillings of poppy seeds and/or sweet, quark-like cottage cheese ('''tvaroh'''). '''Štrúdla''' or '''závin'''. the Slovak cousin of the Austrian '''strudel'''  is also popular; try the traditional apple filling ('''jablkový závin''') or the fancier version with sweet poppy seeds and sour cherries. For something savoury, try '''pagáč''', a puff pastry with little pork cracklings. Local bread is excellent, but please note that some of the several varieties are sprinkled with caraway seeds. Baguettes and baguette stands are very common where visitors can choose from a variety of fillings.
  
*Visit a local festival - in the early spring 'Fasiangy' (Mardi Gras) is celebrated, especially in the countryside, and in early autumn the end of the harvest period is celebrated in wine-producing regions. The part of the centre of the town will be closed and a traditional market available, mostly with local produce and handicrafts for sale and plenty to eat and drink. In bigger cities, similar Christmas markets open in December/around Christmas.
+
When you are shopping in the supermarket, remember to pick up '''Tatranky''' and/or '''Horalky''', two brands of wafers with hazelnut filling, lightly coated in chocolate.  
  
*Ski and snowboard in the mountains, especially High Tatras and Low Tatras. Smaller ranges are also very suitable for cross-country skiing
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===Vegetarian food===
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For vegetarians, the variety of food in larger cities should be decent, though when venturing into the countryside, offers may be limited as vegetables are mostly considered a side dish, eaten mostly raw or in salads. Be aware that even though some dishes will be in the vegetarian section of the menu, this merely means that they're not predominantly meat-based and still might be prepared using animal fats or may contain small pieces of meat, so make your requirements clear. '''Vyprážaný syr so šunkou''' (fried cheese with ham) or Cesar salad are good examples of this. Still, almost every restaurant in the country will serve at least fried cheese (the normal, non-ham variety) with fries, which is universally popular. There should be a good selection of sweet dishes as well, with pancakes, dumplings filled with fruits, jams or chocolate, and sweet noodles with nuts, poppy seeds and sweet cottage cheese. Seeking out the nearest Italian pizzeria is also a good and accessible option found mostly everywhere.
  
*Navigate down the rivers Váh or Dunajec on a raft through picturesque gorges. For a more gentle ride, raft down the Small Danube.
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==Drink==
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Like its Czech, Polish and Hungarian counterparts, drinking is very much a part of Slovak culture, served at nearly all social occasions. However, locals tend to hold their liquor well and being visibly drunk is frowned upon, so be aware of your limits. Note that some locally-brewed spirits may be stronger than what visitors may be used to and that the standard Slovak shot glass is 40 ml, more than those in [[Western Europe]] or [[North America]]. If you order a double vodka, you will get almost 1 dl of it! Alcohol in general is cheap compared to Western Europe, [[East Asia]] or the [[US]]. There are no special shops, and alcoholic beverages can be purchased in practically any local supermarket or food store. You can legally drink and purchase alcohol if you are '''18''' years or older, but this is not strictly enforced. Visitors may be carded in some clubs if you look very young, however.  
  
*If you're into railway history or would like to spend a day romantically, Slovakia offers a number of phased-out railway tracks, which were once used for transporting wood, but now transport only tourists in cosy steam trains through forests and valleys. The best-preserved of them all is [http://www.chz.sk ČHŽ] near the town of ''Brezno''.
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===Beer===
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[[File:00873 Kelt, Saris, Madny Mnich, 2011.jpg|thumb|A collection of Slovak beers with brandy.]]
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When it comes to beer (''pivo''), Slovakia has a great variety of excellent local brews similar in style and quality to neighboring Czech brands (which are also widely available). Beer is mostly the local drink of choice. A few Slovak brews include:
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* '''Zlatý Bažant''' — perhaps Slovakia's best-known beer, made in the southwest town of Hurbanovo. A pilsner type beer also sold by its literal translation '''Golden Pheasant''' in [[North America]].
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* '''Corgoň''' — another pilsner type blonde from the Hurbanovo brewery.
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* '''Kelt''' — a light lager also made from the Hurbanovo brewery.
 +
* '''Šariš''' — made from the country's largest brewery in the [[Eastern Slovakia|Eastern Slovak]] town of Veľký Šariš. An award-winning beer made either light or dark.
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* '''Smädný mních''' — a light beer also made from the Veľký Šariš brewery, known for its monk emblem.
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* '''Steiger''' — a [[Bratislava]]-based beer.
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* '''Kaltenecker''' — a popular microbrew from Rožňava in [[Eastern Slovakia]].
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* '''ERB''' — a microbrew from [[Banská Štiavnica]].  
  
=== Cultural Events ===
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===Wine===
*'''International Film Festival Artfilm''' [http://www.artfilm.sk/] - Yearly in June/July in [[Trenčianske Teplice]] and [[Trenčín]].
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[[File:Vineyards in Tokaj.jpg|thumb|The Tokaj wine region (shared with [[Hungary]]) is an excellent location to explore wineries.]]
*'''International Film Festival Cinematik''' [http://cinematik.sk/] - Yearly in early September in [[Piešťany]]. Young and relatively small film festival. Accreditation for the whole festival is less than €7.
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Thanks to its fertile, warm south, Slovakia also has some great local wine (''víno''). Many are similar to German Riesling styles, yet relatively young, local grape varieties ('''Děvín''', '''Pálava''', '''Dunaj''' and '''Hron''') are growing in popularity. There are a number of wine-growing regions in the south with centuries worth of tradition, including the area just outside Bratislava in the towns of Modra and [[Pezinok]]. The best-known wines are those from the Tokaj region in the southeast, an area shared with the [[Tokaj-Hegyalja]] region in northern [[Hungary]]. Home to the Tokaj grape variety endemic to the region, Tokaj wine is considered a premium brand with a worldwide reputation and is arguably some of the best [[Central Europe]] has to offer. If visitors have time, try to visit a local producer's wine cellar, as many are historical and a cultural experience in itself. You might also be offered homemade wine if you are visiting these areas, as many locals ferment their own brews. The quality obviously varies. Look for wines labeled '''neskorý zber''' or '''výber z hrozna''' which indicate a high quality wine (roughly corresponding with the German ''Spätlese'' and ''Auslese'' labels, respectively).
*'''International Film Festival Bratislava''' [http://www.iffbratislava.sk/] - forever in December.
 
  
*'''Comics-Salón''' [http://comics-salon.sk/index.php?eng] - A event dedicated to Japanese Anime & Manga, Fantasy and SciFi and its fans, but not only them! Great atmosphere, friendly folk and lots of fun awaits you there. This events roots stretch back to 2004, when it was held in "Súza" [[http://www.suza.sk/ba/svk/index.php]] for the first time. Now, once every year early in September [[Bratislava]] enjoys the rush of fine individuals from all over Europe to participate in this unique event. For the past 2 years, the location was moved to "Istropolis" exhibition halls due to space constraints.
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Wine lovers will also enjoy the [http://slovakia.travel/en/little-carpathian-wine-route Little Carpathian Wine Route], a trail leading through vineyards beginning in [[Bratislava]] and passing through Svätý Jur, [[Pezinok]] and Modra before ending in [[Trnava]]. Along the route, visitors can stop at various wine cellars along the route to taste what local vineyards have to offer.  
  
===Music Events===
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Around the harvest time in the autumn, in the wine-producing regions, young wine called '''burčiak''' is often sold in wine bars and local markets, and is popular among locals. As ''burčiak'' strengthens with fermentation (as it becomes actual wine), its alcohol content can vary wildly.
  
*'''Pohoda Music Festival''' [http://www.pohodafestival.sk/] - one of the biggest Slovak music festivals. Yearly in July in [[Trenčín]].
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===Spirits===
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[[File:Trnavska medovina.jpg|thumb|150px|A bottle of Trnavská medovina (Trnava mead).]]
 +
Slovakia produces excellent, hard-hitting spirits. Some highly popular brews include '''slivovica''' (plum brandy), '''hruškovica''' (pear brandy) and '''demänovka''' (herb liquor). The most popular spirit of choice is '''borovička''', a type of gin. '''Fernet''', an Italian-originated aromatic bitter spirit is also very popular. In some shops you may try a 25 or 50 ml shot for a few cents, so as to avoid buying a big bottle of something of unknown flavour, then decide whether to buy or not to buy. However, the general rule of thumb when buying liquor in a supermarket is the more expensive, the better. Some liquors are trying to look like they are made of fruit but are instead just aromatized or coloured alcohol. International brands are also available, but at a premium price (yet still cheaper than in most Western countries).  
  
*'''Aquabeatz''' [http://ccx.sk/] - one of the many local events you should definitely not miss. Yearly twice in February and July in [[Nové Zámky]]. Divided to Winter and Summer edition - WE being held within the clubbing complex itself, while SE being held open air at the city's so called "Airport" just ask the locals for directions.
+
If visitors are more adventurous, try some homemade fruit brandies that the locals sometimes offer to foreigners. ''Slivovica'' is the most common, but also pear brandy, apricot brandy, or raspberry brandy can be found. Drinking is a part of tradition, especially deep in the Slovak countryside. If you are visiting locals, don't be surprised if you are offered homemade spirits as a welcome drink nor that the host may be quite proud of their private stock. Homemade liquors are very strong (sometimes up to 60% alcohol), so be careful. If ''slivovica'' has matured for 12 or more years, it can become a pleasant digestive.
  
==Relax==
+
In the winter months, '''varené víno''', a mulled wine like the German ''glühwein'' and the Czech ''svařák'' is available at all outdoor markets. '''Medovina''' (mead) is also common and can be served warm or cold. '''Grog''', a mixed hot drink consisting of black tea and a shot of local rum, is also very popular, especially at skiing resorts.
Slovakia offers many excellent spas and water parks. If you enjoy stinking mud and are willing to pay for it, the best, most famous (and most expensive) spa is located in [[Piešťany]]. Important spas are also in [[Trenčianske Teplice]], [[Rajecké Teplice]], [[Bardejov]], ''Dudince'' and ''Podhájska''.
 
  
If it's too boring for you and you'd welcome some water slides and fun, try water parks in ''Bešeňová'', [[Liptovský Mikuláš]], [[Poprad]], [[Turčianske Teplice]], ''Oravice'', ''Senec''. Significantly cheaper are classical open-air pools, some of the best are in ''Veľký Meder'' and ''Štúrovo''.
+
===Non-alcoholic drinks===
 +
For non-alcoholic drinks try '''Vinea''', a refreshing soft drink made from red and white grapes and is also non-carbonated. '''Kofola''', a cola-like soft drink originating from the communist Czechoslovak era, is also very popular among locals and is available both on tap, in cans and bottles. Slovakia is one of the few countries in the world where Coca-Cola and Pepsi are not the most popular soft drink beverages.
  
==Sleep==
+
'''Mineral water''' from Slovakia rank as some of the best on the globe, coming in numerous varieties with unique positive health effects (e.g. getting rid of heartburn, improving digestion, etc.) depending on the type of minerals naturally found in the water.
There is a wide rangeof accommodation available in Slovakia. These range from [http://www.aquacityresort.com/accommodation/4-star--mountain-view-hotel.aspx] AquaCity, based in Poprad, through to budget priced rooms [http://www.chataslovakia.sk/1/poschodie.php?lg=en] in rental chalets.
 
  
The most luxurious hotels can mostly be found in major cities such as Bratislava and Košice and in the major tourist destinations like the High Tatras or the spa towns (the situation here is unique as the price of the hotel usually includes some of the spa procedures). These hotels offer Western style comfort and prices.
+
Many mineral water brands available from shops and supermarkets, for example '''Budiš''', '''Mitická''', '''Slatina''', '''Rajec''', '''Dobrá Voda''', '''Zlatá studňa''' and '''Mattoni'''. Others are only available directly from the many natural mineral springs common across the country. As these are true mineral waters, they will invariably contain ''minerals'' with the taste differing according to the brand or spring. If visitors don't like one, try a different brand! You may also try mineral waters with various flavourings, ranging from raspberry to mojito.
  
There will at least one hotel available in every major town or tourist area, but the quality varies. Some of the mid-range hotels were built during the Communist era in the corresponding architecture style, which might make them look less appealing from the outside, though the interiors might be perfectly adequate.
+
In contrast to what you might be used to, '''sparking water''' is the default option, so if you prefer still water, you might have to look for this specifically. The level of carbonation is marked by the label. Dark blue or red labels usually indicate carbonated water (''perlivá''), a green label indicates mildly carbonation (''mierne perlivá'') and white, pink or baby blue indicat those without carbonation of any kind (''neperlivá''). Due to the excellent local choice and quality of the water, international brands are not common.
  
Budget hostels are mostly concentrated in the major cities, and you can expect typical hostel prices as in the rest of (Central) Europe. If you are venturing outside of cities, there are numerous mountain huts available for short-term rent in the mountain areas. Especially in touristy areas there will be many private rooms available for rent, look out for 'Zimmer Frei' signs. This typically does not include breakfast.  
+
In restaurants, serving of a free glass of water is not a part of dining culture, so remember that if you ask for one, it is quite likely that you will be brought (most likely sparkling) mineral water instead (and charged for it).  
  
When hiking, official maintained mountain cabins offer cheap accommodation for hikers on trails in all of the national parks and a lot of the national conservation areas. They have a limited number of beds (if any) and generally limited capacity, so for the more frequented places during the high season an advance booking might be necessary and is recommended. If you don't manage to book a bed, you might be allowed to still stay overnight, sleeping on the floor in designated areas. Either way, you will probably want to bring your own sleeping bag. The facilities, due to the location, are limited, but there will be a shared toilet and possibly a shower. There's usually a kitchen that serves several hearty hot dishes and a number of drinks at pretty reasonable prices. For more information about prices and contact for mountain cabins in High Tatras see [http://www.vysoketatry.com/chaty/chaty.html here].
+
Out of all hot drinks, '''káva''' (coffee) is available everywhere, mostly in three varieties (cafes in cities will offer more): espresso, normal coffee served medium-sized, small and black, and Viennese coffee with a dollop of cream on top. Cappuccinos are quite common as well. Coffee is served with sugar and milk and cream on the side. '''Horúca čokoláda''' (hot chocolate) is popular as well, especially in the winter. '''Čaj''' (tea) rooms are quite popular as a place to chill out in major cities. These usually have a laid-back, vaguely oriental ambiance, offering a great variety of black, green, white and fruit teas. Shisha and hookahs might be on offer as well. A part of this culture has spread other catering establishments, most of which will now offer a choice at least between fruit and black tea. Note that black tea is served with sugar and lemon in Slovakia; serving black tea with milk or cream is uncommon. Some places may offer a beverage called "hot apple", which tastes a bit like softer hot apple juice.  
  
 +
==Sleep==
 +
[[File:Čičmany - panoramio - mrnino (1).jpg|thumb|Traditional folk architecture in Čičmany, [[Western Slovakia]].]]
 +
Slovakia has an array of lodging options. Especially in the larger cities like [[Bratislava]] and [[Košice]], hosteling and low-cost hotels are widely available for budget travelers, as well as high-end lodging from big Western brands. Further out in the countryside in smaller towns and cities, prices tend to fall significantly, with well-rated hotels offering affordable prices.
  
It is only legal to pitch a tent in Slovakia outside national parks and propected natural zones (where should be signposts but there might not depending on how and where you enter these), but camping is reasonably popular in summer. 
+
In the [[High Tatras]] and in the country's various spa towns, visitors can also choose luxurious hotels offering spa procedures included in the price. This is not universal, as there are many spas and ski resorts that still remain largely affordable. There are numerous mountain cabins, chalets and pensions available for short-term rental.  
Camping grounds in Slovakia '''(non-exhaustive list)''':
 
 
 
{| class="prettytable sortable" border="1"
 
|-
 
! width="25%" | Name || width="10%" | Region || width="10%" | Location || class="unsortable" width="20%" | Address
 
|-
 
| [http://www.campingbojnice.sk/ Camping Bojnice] ||  || [[Bojnice]] || Kopálková Silvia
 
|-
 
| [http://www.intercamp.sk/ ATC Zlaté Piesky] ||  || [[Bratislava]] || Senecká cesta 2
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Bystrina ||  || [[Demänovská Dolina]] ||
 
|-
 
| [http://www.tiliakemp.sk/ Tília kemp Gäceľ] ||  || [[Dolný Kubín]] || Gäceľská cesta
 
|-
 
| Camping Kamzík ||  || [[Donovaly]] ||
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Margita a Ilona ||  || [[Levice|Levice-Kalinciakovo]] ||
 
|-
 
| Autokemp Levocska'Dolina ||  || [[Levoca]] ||
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Oravice ||  || [[Liesek]] ||
 
|-
 
| [http://www.autocampingturiec.sk/ Autocamping Turiec s.r.o.] ||  || [[Martin]] || Kolóna Hviezda c. 92
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Slnava II ||  || [[Piestany]] ||
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Lodenica ||  || [[Piestany]] ||
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Tajov ||  || [[Tajov]] ||
 
|-
 
| [http://www.eurocamp-ficc.sk/ Eurocamp FICC] ||  || [[Tatranská Lomnica]] ||
 
|-
 
| Intercamp Tatranec ||  || [[Tatranská Lomnica]] || Vysoke Tatry 202
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Na Ostrove ||  || [[Trencin]] ||
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Trusalová ||  || [[Turany]] ||
 
|-
 
| [http://www.selinan.sk/ Autocamping Varín] ||  || [[Varin]] ||
 
|-
 
| Autocamping Vavrisovo ||  || [[Vavrisovo]] ||
 
|}
 
  
==Learn==
+
Because of the country's gorgeous countryside, camping facilities are quite common. Pitching a tent in a national park or a protected landscape area, however, is illegal, yet several national parks have officially-designated places where visitors can stay a single night (provided there's no mess). Facilities vary from location to location, with some offering shared showers or toilets. Unfortunately, this doesn't include the High Tatras, where the only legal option to sleep during a multi-day trek is in a mountain chalet. If you do pitch a tent in a national park outside of a designated area, there is always a possibility you could be woken up by a park warden, demanding a fine.
The most important universities in Slovakia include:
 
  
*[http://www.uniba.sk/index.php?id=921 Comenius Univerzity] - the oldest existing Slovak university, in Bratislava
+
Pitching a tent outside national parks and ''protected landscape areas'' is in the legal grey area. Under Slovak law, you always require prior consent from the owner of the land to camp on it. Anyway, this rule is not enforced and you'll be okay if you only stay one night on any place, steer clear of private houses and commercial buildings and leave reasonably soon in the morning. If you do plan to stay longer and with a larger group of people, you'll need an official permit, of course.
*[http://www.stuba.sk/new/generate_page.php?page_id=132 Slovak University of Technology] - located in Bratislava, technical subjects such as IT, engineering, physics etc
 
*[http://www.truni.sk/] - the university of [[Trnava]]
 
*[http://www.umb.sk/umb/umbbb.nsf/] - a university in [[Banská Bystrica]]
 
*[http://www.euba.sk/?hl=en University of Economics] - located in Bratislava, focus on business and economics
 
*[http://www.selyeuni.sk/ Selye János University] - in Komarno, the only university in Slovakia offering tuition in Hungarian
 
*[http://www.ucm.sk/news University of St Ciril and Methodeus] - a university in [[Trnava]]
 
*[http://www.tuke.sk/tuke?set_language=en&cl=en Technical University in Kosice] - a technical university in [[Kosice]]
 
 
 
At the secondary schooling level, there are several bilingual schools in Slovakia. The International Baccalaureate program with international recognition and transferability that is taught entirely in English can be studied at [http://ib.gjh.sk/ Gymnazium Jura Hronca] in Bratislava.
 
 
 
A number of Slovak language courses and/or private tutors should be available in most major cities.
 
*[http://www.1sjs.sk/] - The first state language school in Bratislava
 
 
 
Video to help you learn about Slovakia can be found at High Tatras TV [http://www.hightatras.tv].
 
 
 
== Work ==
 
Slovakia is a member of the European Union so if you are a citizen of another member state, you can legally reside and work in Slovakia without restrictions. The most popular website for job listings is [http://www.profesia.sk/en/ profesia.sk]
 
 
 
Most Embassy offices will advise European Citizens as well. Average salary in 2009 was €750 a month. Best paid are IT experts with average salary over €1500 a month (construction workers earn around €560 a month and waiters €340 a month).
 
 
 
If you are from outside the EU, you will need a visa to work in Slovakia, and it's best to contact your and/or Slovak embassy for more information. Teaching English as a second language is a popular work option. Note that unless you are applying for certain positions in international firms and similar organisations where English/German might do, you will probably need a working knowledge of Slovak for most other jobs.
 
  
 
==Stay safe==
 
==Stay safe==
 +
[[File:Seat Leon Cupra (Slovak police).jpg|thumb|A ''Polícia'' car.]]
 +
Law enforcement in Slovakia is primarily handled by the [http://www.minv.sk/?policia Policajný zbor], known simply as the '''Polícia'''. The Polícia can be recognized by their white and green cars, normally wearing white-green or black-green uniforms. Cities and smaller towns have municipal guards, although their powers are mostly limited to misdemeanors. 
  
'''Slovakia is generally safe''', even by European  standards, and as a visitor you are unlikely to encounter any problems whatsoever. Violent crime is especially uncommon, and Slovakia sees less violent crime per capita than many European countries. However, the biggest fear for a traveler is most probably the ''roads''.
+
In case of an emergency, call the universal number '''112'''. You can also call directly on '''150''' for fire brigade, '''155 ''' for a medical emergency, or '''158''' for the police.  
  
While Slovakia has undertaken an expansive road network upgrades since the end of the 90's there are still a lot of roads that are poorly lighted, and are very narrow outside of the main routes. Avoid driving through the mountain passes of central and northern Slovakia when possible, especially in the winter. If you plan to drive you must not be '''under the influence of alcohol.''' Penalties are very severe if you are caught in such an act.
+
'''Slovakia is generally safe''', even by European standards, where visitors are unlikely to encounter any problems whatsoever. Violent crime is especially uncommon. Slovakia sees less violent crime per capita than many European countries. Pickpockets are an issue, even though much smaller than in the popular destinations of [[Western Europe]]. However, the biggest fear for a traveler is likely to be road safety.  
  
 +
When visiting cities, exercise the same caution as you would in any other European city. Use common sense! Be extra careful after the dark if walking in poorly-lit areas, stay aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings in sight and avoid drunks and groups of young men. Pickpockets can sometimes be found in larger crowds or at major train or bus stations.
  
In case of an emergency, call 112, the universal emergency number. For police you can call 158, ambulance 155, and firefighters 150.
+
Since the 2000s, there has been an increase in neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist activism in Slovakia, which has resulted in a spate of racially-motivated attacks on foreigners. Perhaps the best-known neo-Nazi group is the ĽSNS, an extremist party known for its xenophobia, pro-fascist views and its veneration of Slovakia's World War II leader Jozef Tiso. Since 2016, the ĽSNS has been a sitting group in parliament, although the party is nearly completely ostracized by the political spectrum. It is advisable that foreigners (and those of colour) avoid ĽSNS demonstrations, which also attract considerable anti-fascist (antifa) counter-demonstrators and riot police.  
  
 +
When visiting mountainous areas, especially the [[High Tatras]], let the hotel personnel or other reliable people know where exactly you are going, so that rescuers can be sent out to find you if you don't return. The relative small area and height of the High Tatras is very deceptive with its steep, difficult terrain and unpredictable weather. Never hike alone and use proper gear. The mountain rescue service is a good source of additional and current information and take their warnings seriously. In an event of an emergency they can be contacted by calling '''18300''' or the universal '''112'''. Make sure your medical insurance coverage includes the mountain activities before you venture forth, as a rescue mission in the inaccessible terrain may prove expensive.
  
It shouldn't be necessary to mention that the '''2006 film Hostel''', whose plot takes place in 'Slovakia' '''is a complete work of fiction''', and the probability of tourists being kidnapped and tortured is the same in Slovakia as in any developed city in the USA or Western Europe - astronomically low. Slovakia is considered a safe travel destination for all tourists, as is much of Europe. Similarly, the American movie ''Eurotrip'' (2004) might prove a sensitive topic, because it portrayed Slovakia as a terrifyingly undeveloped country, which is also false.
+
Also note that the weather in the [[High Tatras]] is prone to sudden changes, especially during spring and autumn.
  
When visiting cities, exercise the same caution as you would in any other European city - use common sense, be extra careful after the dark, stay aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings in sight and avoid drunks and groups of young men. Pickpockets sometimes can be found in bigger crowds and at major train/bus stations.  
+
Slovakia is one of the few countries in Europe where bears and wolves live freely in the wild. While no one has died from a bear attack in the last hundred years, a few attacks occur each year. Your chance of encountering one as a tourist is very low, yet the possibility exists. A bear will avoid you if it knows you're there, so the best way to avoid this is by making your presence known by talking loudly, singing or clapping, especially in an area where it can't readily see you from a distance. If you see a bear, '''do not run''', but leave the area slowly in the opposite direction. If you see one from your hotel, possibly feeding from the rubbish bins, which is a bit more common, though still unlikely, '''DO NOT''' approach or feed it.
  
When visiting mountainous areas of Slovakia, especially the '''High Tatras''', let the hotel personnel or other reliable people know where exactly you are going, so that rescuers can be sent out to find you if you don't return. The relative small area and height of the High Tatras is very deceptive - it is steep and difficult terrain with unpredictable weather. Never hike alone and use proper gear. The mountain rescue service is a good source of additional and current information, take their warnings seriously. In an event of emergency they can be contacted by calling 18300 or the universal 112. Make sure your medical insurance coverage includes the mountain activities before you venture forth, as a rescue mission in the inaccessible terrain may prove expensive.
+
==Stay healthy==
 +
[[File:Liptovská Mara - church tower and water reservoir.jpg|thumb|The countryside of Liptovská Mara in [[Central Slovakia]].]]
 +
No vaccination is necessary to visit or stay in Slovakia, although if you plan to visit countryside areas, tick vaccination is recommended. Also Hepatitis A and B vaccination is advisable as with all European countries.  
  
Also note that the weather in the High Tatras is prone to sudden changes, especially during spring and autumn.
+
'''Ticks''' can be found in forests and also sometimes in larger parks in bushes and tall grass. In some areas ticks may carry ''encephalitis''. Therefore, when hiking try to avoid thick undergrowth and always check all over your body when you return (ticks tend to seek warm spots). Remove the tick as soon as possible by gently wiggling it out of the bite by its head (never break it off or squeeze the body as the head will stay lodged in skin and might become infected). Do not touch the tick at any stage with bare hands; use tweezers and latex gloves.  
  
Slovakia is one of the few countries left in Europe, where the likes of '''bears''' and wolves still live in the wild. While no one has died from a bear attack in the last 100 years, a few attacks occur each year. Your chance of encountering one as a tourist is very low, but the possibility exists. A bear will avoid you if it knows you're there, so the best way to avoid this is by making your presence known by talking loudly/singing/clapping etc, especially in an area where it can't readily see you from a distance. If you see a bear, do not run, but leave the area slowly in the opposite direction. If you see one from your hotel - possibly feeding from the rubbish bins - which is a bit more common, though still unlikely - DO NOT approach or feed it.
+
Nearly all food and drinks are perfectly safe. Hygiene standards in Slovakia are aligned with Western and Central Europe.
  
==Stay healthy==
+
Tap water is drinkable everywhere. According to one study, water used as tap water in the Bratislava-Vienna region is the cleanest in the world. If you prefer mineral water, you can choose from a multitude of brands, as the republic has possibly the highest number of natural mineral water springs per capita in the world.
  
No vaccination is necessary to visit or stay in Slovakia although if you plan to visit countryside areas, tick vaccination is recommended. Also Hepatitis "A" and "B" vaccination is advisable as with all European countries.  
+
The [[High Tatras]] might not be the biggest or tallest mountain range, but some trails feature strenuous climbs, rocky terrain where weather can prove unpredictable. Slovak mountains on average claim several lives per year, including in the summer. Take proper gear, do not overestimate your abilities and use common sense.
  
'''Ticks''' can be found in the countryside forests and also sometimes in larger parks, and in some areas they may carry ''tick-borne encephalitis''. As they reside in bushes and taller grass (when they fall of the trees). Therefore, when going hiking try to avoid thick undergrowth and always check all over your body when you return (ticks tend to seek warm spots). Remove the tick as soon as possible, by gently wiggling it out of the bite by its head (never break off or squeeze the body as the head will stay lodged in skin and might become infected). Do not touch the tick at any stage with bare hands, use tweezers and latex gloves.  
+
'''Never venture off the marked hiking trails''' in national parks (unless you're a skilled mountain climber and with a proper permit)! It is foolish, as well as illegal. In wooded areas, where chances of injury are lower, hiking off the marked trail carries a heightened risk of encountering a bear or a wolf. Bears know where the hiking trails are and avoid them at all costs. See the above section for tips, should you run across one.
  
Most of the food and drink is perfectly safe, the hygiene standards in Slovakia are the same as elsewhere in Western/Central Europe.
+
If you decide to swim in a local river, natural pool or lake (as many locals do), remember that unless expressly stated otherwise, these activities are often not supervised by a lifeguard and you are doing so at your own risk.
  
Tap water is drinkable everywhere - according to one study, water used as tap water in the Bratislava-Vienna region is the cleanest in the world. If you prefer mineral waters, you can choose from a multitude of brands, since Slovakia has quite possibly the highest number of natural mineral water springs per capita.
+
The standard of health care is quite high, but the language barrier can be problematic not many doctors speak English. However, this should not be a problem in major towns, most of which will have a medical clinic (''fakultná nemocnica'').  
  
The High Tatras might not be the biggest or the most tallest mountain range, but some trails may feature strenuous climbs, rocky terrain, and the weather may prove unpredictable. Take proper gear, do not overestimate your abilities, and use common sense.  
+
There are no over-the-counter drugs sold in Slovakia in supermarkets or drug stores. Visitors will need to head to a pharmacy (''lekáreň'') even if you just need an aspirin. In even smaller cities, there should be one open 24 hours a day. Look out for the nearest green cross sign; even if a particular pharmacy is closed, a sign on the door will point you towards the nearest open one. If you need a specific medicine, make sure you have your prescription ready as many drugs require it.
  
If you decide to swim in the local rivers/natural pools/lakes, as many locals do, remember that unless expressly stated otherwise, these activities are not supervised by a life guard, and you are doing so at your own risk.
+
==Respect==
 +
[[File:Dievčence v kysáčskom slovenskom ľudovom kroji.jpg|thumb|Slovak women in traditional costume.]]
 +
Slovaks are a friendly, hospitable and peaceful people. Any visit should be largely free of trouble, although there are a few things to be mindful of.
  
The standard of health care is quite high, but the language barrier might be a problem as not many doctors speak English. However, this should not be a problem in major towns, which have a ''Fakultná nemocnica''.  
+
The country, along with its neighbors the [[Czech Republic]], [[Hungary]], [[Poland]] and [[Austria]] are considered a part of [[Central Europe]], ''not'' [[Eastern Europe]], a fact that is easily lost with many Western Europeans and North Americans. Being called ''Eastern European'' is considered offensive by some.  
  
There are no over-the-counter drugs sold in Slovakia in supermarkets or drug stores, you will need to head to a pharmacy even if you just need an aspirin. In even smaller cities, there should be one open 24/7. Look out for the nearest green cross sign - even if this particular pharmacy is closed, a sign in the door will point you towards the nearest open one. If you need a specific medicine, make sure you have your prescription ready as many drugs require it.
+
A common (and sometimes amusing) mistake made by foreigners is confusing Slovakia with similarly-named [[Slovenia]]. While both countries have Slavic heritage and similar flags, Slovakia was connected to Czechoslovakia and the Hungarian portion of Austria-Hungary, while Slovenia was a former republic of Yugoslavia with historical connections to Austria and the Venetian Republic. Slovaks (and Slovenes) are usually not offended by this, although many roll their eyes and find the confusion humorous.    
  
==Respect==
+
Outside of the major cities, Slovakia is a fairly traditional Catholic society, with religiosity far stronger than the largely atheistic Czechs, yet less stridently Catholic than the Poles. Visitors should be mindful and respectful of these views.  
Slovaks are friendly and peaceful people living in a free democratic state. There is not a single issue that would provoke hostility or real trouble. Usually the worst thing that could happen is that you would be thought a bit boorish and the history explained to you over another beer. However, it pays to be respectful and sensitive when discussing certain topics.  
 
  
Remember that Slovakia is a separate nation that has been independent since 1993 when Czechoslovakia split into the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic. It is also a 'young nation', as for most of its history it was a part of other multinational states such as Austria-Hungary or Czechoslovakia. Therefore, some people may be sensitive when it comes to nationality issues. There is no hostility or resentment when it comes to the Velvet divorce that split Czechoslovakia, and the two nations remain very amicable. Do not refer to Slovakia as a part of another state and you should be fine.  
+
For nearly a millennium, the country was a region of [[Hungary]] and for much of the 20th century the other half of Czechoslovakia before amicably splitting off in 1993. As a relatively new state, many Slovaks are proud of their country's independence and therefore some remain sensitive when it comes to nationality issues. There is no hostility or resentment when it comes to the Velvet Divorce that ended Czechoslovakia; Czechs and Slovaks remain politically, linguistically and culturally close  together with next to no controversy. Calling the country "Czechoslovakia" by accident may raise some eyebrows or cause some laughter. However, under no circumstances should visitors refer to Slovaks as "Czechs." Both societies—although similar—are distinct. Relations with the Hungarian minority are also largely peaceful, yet controversies in the past regarding language and nationality rights have been exploited by Slovak and Hungarian nationalists.
  
Slovakia's position during WWII was quite complex, and this topic is best avoided when speaking to nationalists. Similarly, the decades of Communism left its mark on the country and this can be a sensitive topic. Slovakia, while formerly a part of the Soviet bloc, has never been a part of the USSR or the Russian Empire. Please remember this.  
+
Under Jozef Tiso, the Slovak Republic's position in World War II was complex. Many ultra-nationalists continue to venerate Tiso and his mentor Andrej Hlinka, while those on the center-right, center and left consider Tiso an archtraitor, and will specifically point out the Slovak National Uprising as mass resistance against Tiso's government. This topic is best avoided if visitors so happen to meet an ultra-nationalist, although few can speak English. Decades of communism left its mark on Slovakia economically and socially, and also remains a sensitive topic. As a part of Czechoslovakia, the country was a member of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. However, Slovakia was ''never'' a part of the Soviet Union nor the Russian Empire.  
  
Out of the more current issues, the relations with the Roma/Gypsy minority are sometimes strained and people may hold strong views on the subject. Do not venture into a debate unless you are intimately acquainted with the problem.  
+
Relations with the Romani (Gypsy) minority are strained, with a large section of Slovak society holding strong views on the subject. Do not venture into a debate unless you are intimately acquainted with the problem.  
  
Slovaks are quite hospitable, and if they invite you into their home, expect to be well looked after and offered a variety of food and drinks. If you are invited in for lunch, expect a 2-3 course meal just as for dinner, as lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day. It is considered polite to bring a small gift for the host, such as a bottle of wine or good spirit, a box of chocolates, or a small bouquet of flowers. Never money.
+
Slovaks are quite hospitable. If they invite you into their home, expect to be well-looked after and offered a variety of food and drinks. If you are invited for lunch, expect a two or three-course meal similar to dinner, as lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day. It is considered polite to bring a small gift for the host, such as a bottle of wine, a spirit, a box of chocolates or a small bouquet of flowers. Never bring money.
  
Most people do not use their outdoor shoes inside for hygienic reasons, so take your shoes off in the hallway when entering somebody's home. Don't worry, they will find you a spare pair of slippers to keep your feet warm.
+
Most people do not use their outdoor shoes inside their home for hygienic reasons, so please take your shoes off in the hallway before entering a home. Guests will often be given a pair of slippers afterwards.
  
 
When dining in a restaurant with the host's family, it is customary for them to pick the bill. This might not happen, but don't be surprised if they do.
 
When dining in a restaurant with the host's family, it is customary for them to pick the bill. This might not happen, but don't be surprised if they do.
  
When being introduced to or meeting someone, even of the opposite sex, and even for the first time, it is not uncommon to kiss each other on the cheek once or twice (depending on the region) instead of shaking hands. It is not common between two males, but is quite normal for women. Do not be alarmed, and remember that this is not a sexual gesture.
+
When being introduced to or meeting someone, even of the opposite sex for the first time, it is not uncommon to kiss each other on the cheek once or twice (depending on the region) instead of shaking hands. It is not common between two males, but is quite normal for women. Do not be alarmed and remember that it is not a sexual gesture.
  
 
==Contact==
 
==Contact==
The international calling code for Slovakia is +421.
+
[[File:Bratislava bronze sculpture 2014.jpg|thumb|The iconic bronze statue of Čumil the Sewer Worker in [[Bratislava]].]]
 
+
The international calling code for Slovakia is '''+421'''.  
In case of an emergency, call the universal number 112. You can also call directly on 150 for fire brigade, 155 in a medical emergency or 158 for the police.  
 
  
Slovak phones operate on the '''GSM standard''', which covers most of the country, and 3G is also becoming increasingly widespread. The coverage is surprisingly good, and you will often have signal even in mountain areas, unless you are in a deep ravine. There are three main operators - Orange, T-mobile and O2, and they all use 900 or 1800Mhz standard, which might not be compatible with some U.S. phones operating on 1900Mhz.
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Slovak phones operate on the '''GSM standard''', which covers most of the country. 3G is also widespread. As of 2015, there is good coverage of 4G in most cities. Phone coverage is surprisingly good and visitors often have signal even in mountainous areas unless you are in a deep ravine. There are four mobile operators / carriers: [http://www.orange.sk Orange], [http://www.telekom.sk T-Com], [http://www.o2.sk O2] and [http://www.4ka.sk 4ka]. All use 900 or 1800Mhz standard, which might not be compatible with some North American phones operating on 1900Mhz.
  
They all offer a variety of prepaid cards with various "pay as you go" schemes (some market research is advised, if you want the best deal) and incentives. If you have an unlocked phone, these are easy to pick up in any phone shop, or you can purchase a cheap phone with a prepaid card included.
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All Slovak providers offer a variety of prepaid cards with various "pay as you go" schemes (some market research is advised, if you want the best deal) and incentives. If you have an unlocked phone, these are easy to pick up in any phone shop, or you can purchase a cheap phone with a prepaid card included.
  
There are still some phone boxes available, but with mobile phones now commonplace, they are declining in number. Also note that you might need to purchase a prepaid card to use some of them.
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There are still some phone boxes available, but with mobile phones commonplace, they are declining in number. Also note that you might need to purchase a prepaid card to use some of them.
  
Wifi and broadband can be found more or less everywhere, and there will be an internet cafe/gaming room available somewhere even in smaller towns. Also, hostels, pubs, cafes, and some public institutions such as libraries or government buildings offer (usually free) wifi.
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Wi-Fi (pronounced as ''wee-fee'') is widely available for free at many restaurants, cafes, pubs, businesses, libraries or government buildings, often advertised on the front window. Internet cafes are still sometimes found (especially in hostels), although with the advent of smartphones, they are now declining.
  
Mobile internet is available from 6 € / month via O2 provider or 3G prepaid mobile internet at 10-15€ for 5 GB. Broadband internet is available in most of the cities and some villages, prices depend on a location, in bigger cities you can get internet as cheap as 16€ per 100 Mbit/s downstream and 4 Mbit/s upstream from Orange (or slower from T-com or UPC).
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Mobile internet is available from €6 month via O2 or 3G prepaid mobile internet at €10-15 for 5 GB. Broadband internet is available in most of the cities and some villages, with prices depending on a location. In bigger cities you can get internet as cheap as €16 per 100 Mbit/s downstream and 4 Mbit/s upstream from Orange (or slower from [https://www.telekom.sk/ Telekom] or [https://www.upc.sk/ UPC]).
  
 
==Cope==
 
==Cope==
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[[File:Spisske Podhradie 02.jpg|thumb|Spiš Castle overlooking the small town of Spišské Podhradie.]]
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===News===
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Slovakia has an array of independent media outlets spanning across television, radio, newspapers and the internet. However, it is largely unintelligible for visitors as it is entirely in Slovak, Czech and towards southern Slovakia, Hungarian. However, there are several English language news sources where visitors can remain abreast on current events and cultural happenings in the republic.
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* '''[http://enrsi.rtvs.sk Radio Slovakia International]''' — English arm of public broadcaster RTVS. Offers news, commentary, interviews and cultural reports from across the country and [[Central Europe]]. Also broadcasts in French, Spanish, German and Russian.
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* '''[https://spectator.sme.sk/ The Slovak Spectator]''' — the nation's bi-weekly English newspaper, with an active online presence. Popular among expats, this newspaper and website offers news, editorials, cultural listings and a classifieds section on everything from apartments, cars, NGOs and jobs. 
  
All foreign embassies are located in Bratislava, in the old town part of the city. A list of embassies in Slovakia with contact information can be found on the country's web site [http://www.slovak-republic.org/visa-embassies/in-slovakia/] If your home country does not have an embassy in Slovakia, the nearest embassy can probably be found in Vienna in Austria, which is readily accessible by train, bus or car from Bratislava.  
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===Embassy support===
 
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Most foreign embassies are located in Bratislava's Old Town. A complete listing of embassies in the county with contact information can be found [http://www.slovak-republic.org/visa-embassies/in-slovakia here]. If a visitor's home country does not have an embassy in Slovakia, the nearest embassy will most likely be located nearby in [[Vienna]], which is readily accessible by train, bus or car from Bratislava.  
  
 
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Latest revision as of 14:39, 27 June 2017

Trenčín with Trenčín Castle
Location
Slovakia in its region.svg
Flag
Flag of Slovakia.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Bratislava
Government Parliamentary republic
Currency Euro (€)
Area 49,035 sq km
Population 5,426,252 (2015 est.)
Language Slovak (official), Hungarian, Ukrainian
Religion Roman Catholic 62%
atheist 13.4%
Protestant 8.9%
Greek Catholic 3.8%
Orthodox 0.9%
Jehovah's Witnesses 0.3$
other 0.5%
unspecified 10.6%
Electricity 230V/50Hz (European plug type E)
Country code +421
Internet TLD .sk
Time Zone UTC +1

Slovakia or the Slovak Republic (Slovak: Slovensko, Slovenská republika; both names are officially recognized), is a landlocked country in Central Europe, bordered by Austria to the west, the Czech Republic to the northwest, Hungary to the south, Poland to the north and Ukraine to the east.

Understand[edit]

History[edit]

The area comprising modern Slovakia has been settled since the early Paleolithic era. The first documented groups living in the region were various Celtic tribes, who included the Boii and Taurisci. The Celts were joined later by the Dacians from the Balkans, who briefly ruled the area before being pushed out by Germanic tribes from the northwest. From the south, the Roman Empire established its northern border on the banks of the Danube by the 1st century. For the next 300 years, Roman legions launched military incursions northwards onto Slovak soil to combat Germanic tribes. The best-known example of the Roman presence is a Latin inscription carved in stone in Trenčín.

The Slavic invasion from the east profoundly changed the ethnic and cultural makeup of Slovakia. Settling in the Danubian lowlands in the 6th-7th centuries, the Slavs created a succession of influential confederations and polities, including Samo's Realm, the Principality of Nitra, and Great Moravia, the first organized Slavic state. Upon invitation of Great Moravia's duke, the Byzantine brothers Cyril and Methodius converted the region's Slavs to Christianity and introduced Old Church Slavonic, the first written Slavic language. Although the Slavs initially converted under the Eastern Byzantine rite, Slovaks predominantly followed Catholicism after the Great Schism in 1054.

Invading, nomadic Hungarians in the 9th century brought an end to Great Moravia and Slavic rule. In the decades to follow, the Hungarians settled in the Pannonian Basin, including the southern portions of the Slovak lands. For the next millennium, Slovakia fell within the Kingdom of Hungary's borders.

The Mongol invasion of 1241-1242 devastated northwestern Slovakia. An estimated one-third of the region's population, many of them internally displaced by the invasion, perished. Afterwards, under the Hungarian kingdom, Slovakia economically developed thanks to its abundance of gold, copper, iron and salt, with Bratislava, Košice and Prešov granted charters. Large numbers of Walloons (from contemporary Belgium), Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles and Ruthenians settled in the region during a period of immigration in the 13th-14th centuries. Politically, Slovakia was ruled by a series of semi-independent Hungarian oligarchs and aristocrats who either swore fealty to the king or actively competed with royal authority. The most famous of these oligarchs were Matthew III Csák, ruler of western Slovakia, and Amade Aba, whose domain comprised the east. By the 1500s, Slovakia had transformed into one of the most urbanized and economically advanced portions of Hungary.

The Hungarian defeat at the 1526 Battle of Mohács by the Turks left the kingdom's inheritance to the Austrian Habsburgs. In the onslaught of the Ottoman Empire's invasion, the Habsburgs moved the Hungarian capital to Pressburg (contemporary Bratislava) in 1536, where the Habsburg monarchs assumed the Hungarian throne in St. Martin's Cathedral until 1830. While remaining a kingdom, Hungary became a de facto Habsburg province, although it retained its nobility and legal tradition separate from German-speaking Austria. Meanwhile, southern Slovak lands faced an Ottoman occupation until the 1680s and '90s, as Habsburg-led forces gradually reclaimed most of Hungary. Despite being interchangeably ruled by Hungarians, Austrians and Turks, Slovaks fiercely protected their culture and language.

Bratislava Castle.

The birth pangs of Slovak nationalism began in the 1780s. Due to the efforts of Catholic priest Anton Bernolák, the Slovak language was first standardized. Intellectual Protestants, including Ján Kollár and Pavel Šafárik, championed a Slovakized form of Czech, stressing the common Slavic ancestry of both peoples. Ľudovít Štúr, a Lutheran Slovak (and renaissance man in every sense) advocated for the central Slovak dialect to be the national language, which was agreed upon after long debates between Catholics and Protestants in 1847. In 1848, Hungary revolted against its Austrian Habsburg masters, prompting Slovak patriots to launch their own counter-revolt against the rebellious Hungarians. First fighting alongside Austrian troops, Slovak nationalists eventually demanded full independence from the Habsburg Empire, yet were ignored by Vienna. Brought back to the Habsburg fold, Hungary was eventually granted full sovereignty in its internal affairs in the 1867 Compromise, creating the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Afterwards, the Hungarian government aggressively pursued Magyarization policies within its borders. where Slovak language teaching and institutions were suppressed in favor of Hungarian schooling and culture.

At the turn of the 20th century, Slovak nationalists increasingly joined forces with sympathetic Czechs in calls for autonomy. World War I and its exhaustive toll on the empire only accelerated mutual Czech and Slovak calls for separation. Just weeks before the the war's end, Czechoslovakia declared independence from Austria-Hungary on 28 October 1918, with Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as its first president. Hungary, reeling from the empire's collapse and a homegrown communist revolution, briefly occupied swaths of Slovakia in a 1919 invasion, yet withdrew after heavy pressure from France and Romania.

The First Czechoslovak Republic, although democratic and largely stable, did not satisfy all Slovaks. Highly centralized from Prague, Slovakia lagged significantly behind the Czechs in industry, infrastructure and education, maintaining a strong agrarian and Catholic character. The Great Depression and its resulting economic slump fueled calls made by leading political-religious leaders Andrej Hlinka and Jozef Tiso for greater sovereignty. In the wake of the 1938 Sudetenland Crisis that saw the First Republic's partial dismemberment by Nazi Germany, Hungary and Poland, Hitler applied considerable pressure on Slovakia to separate and ally itself with Germany. Under its leader Jozef Tiso, the Slovak Republic declared independence from Czechoslovakia on 14 March 1939. A day later, the remaining Czech lands were invaded and made a protectorate of the Third Reich. Slovakia joined Nazi Germany in its invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, sparking World War II.

Under the clerical fascist Tiso regime, Slovakia joined the Axis powers and assisted the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Mimicking Nazi anti-Semitic laws, the Tiso regime barred Jews from intermarriages and employment, deporting tens of thousands to death camps in occupied Poland. Thousands of other Jews, however, were saved by acts of bravery and kindness from civilians. Secretly encouraged on by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, large portions of the Slovak Armed Forces revolted against Tiso in August 1944, joining underground partisans. Known as the Slovak National Uprising {Slovenské národné povstanie, or SNP), the rebellion sought Tiso's overthrow as the Soviet Red Army approached from the east. Lasting until October, the uprising was crushed by tens of thousands of German troops and Tiso loyalists, yet the SNP left an indelible mark in Slovak history. Soviet and Romanian units would liberate Slovakia by April 1945. Arrested by American forces in Germany, Tiso was handed over to Czechoslovak authorities and later executed for high treason in 1947. A majority of Slovakia's ethnic German population, along with tens of thousands of Hungarians, were expelled in the war's aftermath with the Beneš Decrees, an act of mass revenge that remains highly controversial.

The UNESCO-protected town of Bardejov.

Following the 1948 communist coup d'etat, Czechoslovakia fell into the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. The communists accelerated industrialization throughout the country. After a period of intense Stalinist purges, the party liberalized in the 1960s. In 1968, under the leadership of Alexander Dubček—a Slovak—the state relaxed its controls on press, speech, travel and federalization in a period known as the Prague Spring (Pražská jar). The reforms proved too much for the Soviet Union, which organized a Warsaw Pact invasion of the country that August. Dubček was forcefully replaced by another Slovak, Gustáv Husák, who ruled Czechoslovakia for the next 20 years during the harshly conservative Normalization (Normalizácia) era.

The dramatic events of 1989, including elections in Poland, peaceful protests in Hungary and the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany, arrived in Czechoslovakia that November. Mass protests in Bratislava, Prague and elsewhere around the country defiantly challenged the government for days, peacefully deposing the communists in the Velvet (or Gentle) Revolution (nežná revolúcia). Now a democratic federation, fissures buried by decades of authoritarianism arose, with Slovak nationalists arguing that Czechs had for too long overshadowed the union. As a result, Czech and Slovak politicians voted in 1992 to part ways with the Velvet Divorce.

On 1 January 1993, the new states of Slovakia and the Czech Republic were born. Historical, political and geographic factors initially caused Slovakia to experience more difficulties in developing stable democratic traditions and a market economy than its neighbors, yet it now boasts a stable economy. Slovakia joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, and adopted the euro in January 2009, although this action remains controversial.

Holidays and Festivals[edit]

As a predominantly Catholic society, major Christian holidays are observed in Slovakia, along with other secular days.

  • Slovak Republic Day (Deň vzniku Slovenskej republiky), 1 January: Celebration of the Velvet Divorce and the birth of the Slovak Republic, convieniently also on New Year's Day when most people nurse hangovers. Most businesses are closed and flags will be prominently displayed.
  • Ephiphany (Zjavenie Pána), 6 January: Christian celebration of the Three Kings' arrival in Bethlehem. Shops and banks are closed.
Traditional Slovak Easter eggs.
  • Carnival (Fašiangy), between Epiphany to Ash Wednesday: Traditional Catholic festival period, with village markets, drinks, dances, balls and celebrations. Similar to Fasching in Germany and Mardi Gras in the United States. A traditional period yet not a public holiday.
  • Easter (Veľká noc), a movable feast scheduled to the lunar calendar, usually in March or April and includes Good Friday and Easter Monday. Religious Slovaks will go to mass, sometimes in traditional clothing in some villages. Throughout Slovakia, kraslice are prepared, which are egg shells adorned with ornaments and painted. Traditional food is served, including eggs, special Easter Ham, bread and horseradish. Most businesses will be closed
  • Easter Monday (Veľkonočný pondelok or Oblievačka), the day after Easter: A holiday with pagan roots, where men go door to door splashing women young and old with water for fertility and good health, and in return get copious amounts of alcohol and sweets. Water splashing in common in central and eastern Slovakia, while (slightly) whipping woman with willow sticks on their bottoms is common in the northwest. A public holiday with most businesses closed.
  • May Day (Sviatok práce), 1 May: Celebration of workers and labor rights, once an enormous affair during communism is now marked by barbeques, rest and some small socialist gatherings. Most businesses are closed.
  • Day of Victory over Fascism (Deň víťazstva nad fašizmom), 8 May: Celebration of Nazi Germany's defeat, with most businesses closed.
  • St. Cyril and Methodius Day (Sviatok svätého Cyrila a Metoda), 5 July: Celebration of the Christian missionaries' arrival in Great Moravia. A public holiday with most businesses closed.
  • Slovak National Uprising (Výročie Slovenského národného povstania), 29 August: Commemoration of the mass uprising against the Tiso regime in 1944. Most businesses are closed.
  • Constitution Day (Deň Ústavy Slovenskej republiky), 1 September: Celebration of the 1992 constitution, with most businesses and schools closed.
  • Day of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows (Sviatok Panny Márie Sedembolestnej), 15 September: Catholic day commemorating the Virgin Mary, the state's patron saint. Most businesses are closed, with the faithful attending mass.
  • Vinobranie, normally at the end of September and early October: Local celebrations of the wine harvest, where cities and towns across the republic host air markets of food, crafts and drink on different weekends.
  • All Saints Day (Sviatok všetkých svätých), 1 November: Families visit the graves of their ancestors to light candles. After sunset, cemeteries glow beautifully with candlelight. Visitors should be sure to visit a cemetery to witness this holiday. Many restaurants, malls and stores will either be closed or close earlier than usual.
  • Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy (Deň boja za slobodu a demokraciu), 17 November: Joint commemoration of the 1939 student protests against the German occupation and the 1989 overthrow of the communist Czechoslovak state, marked normally by political speeches and marches. Most businesses are closed.
A Christmas market in Prešov.
  • St. Nicolas' Day (Deň Svätého Mikuláša), 6 December: In cities and towns, St. Nicolas (Mikuláš), accompanied by an angel and devil, visit houses of children, determining who's good and bad, and distribute sweets to behaved childred, or coal and onions to bad kids. Strictly a cultural holiday, with businesses open.
  • St. Lucia's Day (Deň Svätej Lucie), 13 December: While St. Lucia is associated as the patron saint of light in most Catholic states, St. Lucia is associated with witchery, love and mischief in Slovakia. A day of many traditions, including taking 13 pieces of paper, leave one blank and write the names of 12 boys or girls; one paper is burned every day until Christmas Eve. What name remains is the name of your future spouse; if blank, you are single forever. Strictly a cultural holiday with businesses open.
  • Christmas (Vianoce), 24-26 December: Lasting for three days, Christmas celebrations include a traditional dinner of wafers eaten with garlic and honey, followed by a soup (either of mushrooms or cabbage), and a main course of fried carp and potato salad. A time of family celebrations, with most businesses entirely closed.
  • New Year's Eve (Silvestrovské oslavy), 31 December: A day and night of partying and champagne, with many cities having displays. Not a public holiday, but some businesses may close early.

Ethnic groups[edit]

Although ethnic Slovaks make up a majority of the country's population, Slovakia retains a significant Hungarian-speaking minority, comprising nearly 9.4% of the total population. Hungarians make up a majority of the population in Slovakia's deep south, close to the Hungarian border and in the Danubian lowlands.

In the eastern part of the country, there are strong numbers of Romani (Gypsies), as well as Rusyns and Ukrainians. Small, scattered Czech, Polish and German minorities also live throughout the republic.

Regions[edit]

Slovakia is divided into nine political regions (kraje), which can be grouped into three regions for tourism purposes.

Map of Slovakia with regions colour-coded
Western Slovakia (Bratislava, Nitra, Trnava, Trenčín, Topoľčany, Púchov)
Slovakia's urban core, home to the capital and largest city, the Danube, river valleys, forests and hills.
Central Slovakia (Banská Bystrica. Žilina, Tvrdošín, Rajecké Teplice)
A mountainous region of small towns, medieval mines and many national parks.
Eastern Slovakia (Košice, Poprad, Prešov, Bardejov)
Capped with the Tatras, another mountainous and more region with forests, agricultural pastures and home to Slovakia's second city.

Cities[edit]

  • Bratislava—the republic's capital and largest city, with a beautifully restored historical centre full of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance churches, palaces, cobblestone streets, charming hillside neighborhoods, fountains, riverside parks, and pleasant cafes, all looked down on from the city's impressive castle.
  • Banská Bystrica—once one of the most important mining towns in the Hungarian portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and an important centre for Slovak culture, with a beautiful restored square, ancient churches, castles, museums and a memorial to the Slovak National Uprising.
  • Banská Štiavnica—a picturesque medieval mining town.
  • Košice—Slovakia's second largest city and the metropolis of the east, home to the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe, the oldest European coat of arms, a historical city centre, many palaces and museums.
  • Nitra—the oldest city in Slovakia, home to a pleasant city core, spectacular surrounding nature and an impressive castle.
  • Prešov—the best example of Renaissance architecture in Slovakia, numerous churches, the Solivary salt mine and museum.
  • Trenčín—one of the most charming towns in the country, with a highly-picturesque castle above the city overlooking its historical centre, the river Váh and the surrounding region.
  • Trnava—an ancient twn with the high number of churches and well-preserved Baroque architecture.
  • Žilina—the fourth largest city with a well-preserved historical city centre influenced by German architecture and a unique museum dedicated the tinkering culture in Budatín castle.

Other destinations[edit]

The High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry).
  • Bardejov—a spa town in the northeast that exhibits numerous cultural monuments and a completely intact medieval town centre. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Bojnice—Slovakia's most-visited castle, with beautifully preserved interiors.
  • High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry)—the country's largest national park and a major centre for winter sports and hiking.
  • Levoča—a magnificent medieval pearl in the Spiš region surrounded by town walls, with a unique Renaissance town hall, burger´s houses, numerous churches and St. James Cathedral, home to the biggest Gothic wooden altar of the world.
  • Piešťany—the country's most famous spa town.
  • Rajecké Teplice—a peaceful spa town surrounded by the magnificent Malá Fatra National Park.
  • Slovak Karst—a national park famous for an extensive network of natural caves and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Slovak Paradise National Park (Slovenský Raj)—a protected area of deep ravines and canyons carved by cascading waterfalls in limestone.
  • Spiš Castle—one of the largest castles in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Spišská Nová Ves—a charming medieval town in Eastern Slovakia.
  • Vlkolínec—a small, traditional Carpathian village in north-central Slovakia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Wooden Churches of the Slovak Carpathians—a collection of 16th-18th century UNESCO-protected Catholic, Greek Catholic and Protestant wooden churches, most located in the north of the country in Tvrdošín, Kežmarok, Hervartov, Leštiny, Bodružal, Hronsek, Ruská Bystrá and Ladomirová.

Get in[edit]

Travel document requirements[edit]

Visa policy

  • As a Schengen state, in general, non-EEA citizens who qualify for a visa exemption can only stay for a maximum of 90 days in a 180 day period within the Schengen zone (including Slovakia) as a whole.
  • Non-EU/EFTA citizens of states who can visit Slovakia and the Schengen area as a whole for 90 days in a 180 day period with only a passport include: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, East Timor, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao SAR, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City and Venezuela.
  • Individuals from any other state not mentioned above require a visa before entering Slovak borders.
  • Recognised refugees in possession of a valid travel document issued by the government of any one of the above countries are exempt from obtaining a visa for Slovakia (but no other Schengen country, except Germany and Hungary) for a maximum stay of 90 days in a 180 day period.
  • More information about these rules, regulations and applications are available with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

For all EU and EFTA nationals, a passport and national identity card only needs to be valid for the period of their stay in Slovakia. For all other nationals, passports or valid travel documents must be valid for a period of at least 90 days beyond the expected length of stay in Slovakia or the Schengen Area.

If an EU, EEA, or Swiss national intends to stay in Slovakia longer than three months, they are obliged to submit a notice of stay to the foreign police within 10 working days after their arrival. After this, an individual can stay in Slovakia without any further obligations for 90 days from their entry. After this period of 90 days is over, the EU/EEA/Swiss national is obliged to apply for a registration of residence with the Ministry of Interior.

By plane[edit]

Most visitors arriving by plane will arrive at Bratislava's M. R. Štefánik Airport (BTS), a small but relatively efficient airport located just to the city's east, with buses normally arriving every 10 to 20 minutes. Štefánik Airport is a major hub for Ryanair, and also hosts services by ČSA Czech Airlines, flydubai, Pobeda, Air Cairo, WizzAir and a slew of seasonal charters that includes SmartWings.

Košice (KSC) is another important gateway to the country, with flights run by Austrian Airlines, ČSA Czech Airlines, LOT, Turkish Airlines and Wizz Air.

Other ports of entry are Poprad-Tatry (TAT) and Sliač (SLD), although these airports are largely reserved for charter flights.

Due to its close proximity to Bratislava and the western half of the country, Vienna (VIE) is also commonly used for travelers bound to Slovakia. Kraków (KRK) is also suitable to use for visitors hoping to explore the Tatras in central Slovakia.

By train[edit]

There are several international train routes running through Slovakia. In general, there are frequent direct rail connections (without train changes) with Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine.

By car[edit]

Thanks to its Central European location, Slovakia has good road access with all of its neighbors. As a member of the Schengen Zone, border controls have been eased with all neighboring states except Ukraine, which remains an EU border. Occasionally, there are impromptu border checks when crossing over from the Czech Republic or Austria. Visitors arriving by car from Ukraine should expect long delays.

By bus[edit]

A popular alternative to car and rail travel to Slovakia is using the bus. A number of prominent international carriers offer service to Slovakia. Among the best-known and reliable international coach companies providing service to the country include:

From the Czech Republic[edit]

Czech RegioJet trains at Bratislava's hlavná stanica, an important rail gateway into Slovakia.

As the former half of old Czechoslovakia, trains between the Czech Republic and Slovakia are frequent and largely reliable. EC trains operated by Czech carrier České dráhy (ČD) run every two hours from Prague and Brno to Bratislava continuing eastward towards Košice. There is also a direct overnight train to Žilina, Banská Bystrica and Zvolen. Olomouc, Pardubice and Ostrava also share direct or indirect rail connections with various Slovak cities.

A regular one-way ticket from Prague to Bratislava costs 400CZK and 400-700CZK to Košice if purchased several days in advance. České dráhy also offers discounted First Minute Europe tickets, with up to 20% discounts to Slovak destinations. ČD additionally offers Group Weekend tickets, where groups can travel to the closest Slovak border station at a discount, as well as the Local Border Traffic ticket for travelers going between communities within 40-60 km of the Czech-Slovak border, for prices as low as 23 to 80CZK.

Private Czech rail operators LEO Express and RegioJet provide services from Prague, Pardubice, Olomouc and Ostrava to Žilina, Prešov, and Košice, with RegioJet additionally offering a line between Prague, Brno and Bratislava. Online tickets for these carriers can start at 200 to 300CZK if booked in advanced.

Additionally, both countries are linked together by a number of roads; the most important being Czech and Slovak motorway D2 linking Brno to Bratislava. Drivers entering Slovakia from the Czech Republic using the D2 motorway from Prague can make a toll payment at the nearest rest area after the border. The short stretch between the border itself and the nearest rest area is toll-free.

From Austria[edit]

A ferry crossing the Morava between Angern an der March and Záhorská Ves.

As Vienna and Bratislava are the closest capitals in Europe at only 55 km (34 mi), there are frequent cross-border connections between the two states, with rail service provided by Austrian state company ÖBB. Its Vienna-Bratislava connections cost normally around €16 one-way, with a travel time of an hour.

Similarly, Slovak Lines and RegioJet offer fast bus journeys between both capitals starting at €3, with Slovak Lines providing additional routes from several other Austrian towns and cities.

A less conventional connection between the two countries is by using the Danube River. Fast, hydrofoil express boats operated by Lod and Twin City Liner connect Vienna with Bratislava, with a travel time of normally an hour and fifty minutes. Regular prices begin normally around €20 in each direction.

Austrian autobahn A6 (E58) connects with Slovak motorway D4 outside of Bratislava, which intersects nearby with the D2 (E65) motorway.

Several Austrian communities are also just short distance by foot from their Slovak counterparts, with the best-known being Angern an der March only a brief ferry ride away from Záhorská Ves, and Schlosshof separated by a scenic bicycle bridge from Devínska Nová Ves.

From Hungary[edit]

Cycling across the Hungarian-Slovak border in the Danube town of Komárno.

With a 677 km (421 mi) long border, Hungary shares many links with its northern neighbor. Hungarian state rail provider Magyar Államvasutak (MÁV) runs frequent bi-hourly service from Budapest's Keleti station to Bratislava, with a travel time of normally two and a half hours, costing normally 5,000HUF. There are also train links from the city of Miskolc to Lučenec and Košice.

It is currently not possible to print a MÁV international ticket online, meaning that travelers will need to visit a train station or ticket office to pick it up.

Hungary is also well connected to Slovakia by roads. The M15 motorway (E65/E75) connects to the Slovak D2 motorway south of Bratislava and northwest of the city of Mosonmagyaróvár; M15 intersects with the M1 motorway (E60), providing a direct link from Budapest and Győr. From Budapest, M2 (E77) transitions to highway 2 and connects to Slovak highway 66 at the border, providing a clear (and very scenic) route to Zvolen and Banská Bystrica. From Miskolc, highway 3 (E71) connects to Slovak expressway R4, connecting to Košice and Prešov.

Many Hungarian and Slovak towns can be crossed by foot. Some examples include the town of Komárom separated by a river bridge from its Slovak twin Komárno, the ancient capital Esztergom also by bridge from the Slovak town of Štúrovo, the hillside town of Somoskőújfalu separated by a 50-minute scenic walk from Šiatorská Bukovinka, and the eastern town of Sátoraljaújhely a short walk from its Slovak suburb Slovenské Nové Mesto. In each case, both sides of the border have rail and bus links to the rest of their respective nations.

From Poland[edit]

Due to the Tatra Mountains on the Polish-Slovak border, rail connections are not as developed between the two nations. However, Polish state carrier PKP Intercity provides a nightly train from Kraków to Bratislava. Other southwestern Polish rail connections are often routed through the Czech city of Břeclav, continuing on towards Slovakia. Additionally, Silesian rail carrier Koleje Śląskie provides rail service between the Polish ski resort of Zwardoń to Žilina, with a journey time of 90 minutes. At the present time, there are no rail connections between eastern Poland and Slovakia.

By car, the Polish S1 expressway links Bielsko-Biała with Slovak highway 12 towards Čadca, national road DK7 (E77) from Kraków, Rabka-Zdrój and Nowy Targ connects to Slovak highway 59 with Dolný Kubín and Ružomberok, and DK19 (E371) from Rzeszow to highway 21 towards Svidník and Prešov.

Several Polish towns are in walkable distance from their Slovak counterparts. These include the river valley communities of Piwniczna-Zdrój from Mníšek nad Popradom, and the Polish ski resort of Zwardoń from its Slovak twin Skalité.

From Ukraine[edit]

Ukrainian state carrier Ukrzaliznytsia (UZ) offers connections from Uzhhorod (Ужгород) via Chop {Чоп} and Čierna n.Tisou to locations in Slovakia. However, trains are notoriously slow due to the railway gauge and electrical change at the border, as well as from the scrutiny of border guards, as the Slovak-Ukrainian border is not only a Schengen border but also the border for the European Union. It is highly recommended that travelers use a bus service instead, as it's generally faster and more reliable.

International tickets for UZ cannot be purchased online and must be bought at a railway station or UZ ticket office.

By car, Slovakia is accessed by Ukrainian highway P15 outside of Malyi Bereznyi (Малий Березний) and Ubľa. and from H13 (E50), connecting Uzhhorod (Ужгород) to Vyšné Nemecké. The former is for cars (not trucks), pedestrians and cyclists, and the latter is for motorized traffic only (including heavy trucks). Always expect long waiting times at the Uzhhorod-Vyšné Nemecké border crossing. Both crossings are open round the clock.

The only sole pedestrian/cyclist crossing from Ukraine into Slovakia is between the villages of Mali Selmentsi (Малі Селменці) and Veľké Slemence, open from 8:00 to 20:00.

It is essential that all travelers crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border have their passports or visa papers ready.

Get around[edit]

By plane[edit]

ČSA Czech Airlines operates domestic flights between Bratislava and Košice. However, given the price of the flight and its short length, it is seldom used by locals, although it is the most comfortable and fastest way to cross the country.

By train[edit]

A ZSSK train passing through the High Tatras.

Train travel is quite common in Slovakia and is largely reliable and affordable albeit prone to delays. State carrier Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko (ZSSK) operates a bulk of the country's rail traffic, with major hubs in Bratislava, Žilina, Banská Bystrica, Poprad and Košice. Due to ZSSK's wide reach throughout the country, it is one of the best options to travel around Slovakia, provided visitors don't have a private vehicle. The quality of ZSSK's fleet does, however, vary. Some trains are quite modern, while others clearly show their age. ZSSK's trains are coloured red and white.

Trains for free
Since 2014, students and pensioners can travel for free on all ZSSK trains in Slovakia (2nd class only). Due to EU policies of non-discrimination, this also applies to citizens of all other EU nations. There are several limitations:

  • Free travel only applies to all train services funded by the state except for IC, RegioJet and LEO Express trains. Free travel for EC and SC trains are also possible, yet a special surcharge (€1 for EC, €5 for SC) is required.
  • Eligible travelers must register themselves to obtain an ID for free. This can be done at most railway stations and is free of charge (bring your own photograph sized 2x3 cm). Students enrolled in Slovak universities can use their university ID instead.
  • Children under 6 years of age and people above 62 can travel for free as well, regardless of their nationality (i.e. also non-EU citizens). Those above 62 years of age still have to register themselves (and obtain an ID) first, though.
  • Before boarding a train, an eligible traveler has to buy a ticket (costing €0). There's a limited number of free tickets available for each train (to reduce overcrowding). If the quota has already been reached, you can still buy a ticket with a 50% discount.
  • When travelling by train from abroad, free travel only applies after the first train stop in Slovakia, not from the actual border crossing point. Likewise, when exiting Slovakia by train, you'll have to buy another ticket from the last station in Slovakia onward.

Since 2011, ZSSK no longer retains a monopoly on rail travel and is open to competition. Czech private carrier RegioJet offers services in the north of the country, connecting Žilina, Ružomberok, Poprad and Košice together, with service continuing into the Czech Republic. In comparison to ZSSK, RegioJet's fleet is largely modern and its trains are distinctively coloured yellow.

Another private Czech carrier, LEO Express, also operates between Košice and Žilina, with service continuing into the Czech Republic. Like RegioJet, LEO Express' trains are modern and its are coloured black and gold.

Passengers should remember that there is no universal train ticket in Slovakia, as ZSSK, RegioJet and LEO Express are separate entities, with different offices and tickets to purchase from. Visitors can only use a specific ticket with the company it was purchased from.

Train categories[edit]

The following categories are used to differentiate trains:

  • Osobný vlak (Os) – slow-moving trains usually stopping at every stop; a mix of modern and old vehicles.
  • Regionálny expres (REX) – domestic and international trains connecting region to region.
  • Regionálny rýchlik (RR) – fast domestic trains with shorter routes.
  • Rýchlik (R) – regular domestic and international day and night trains.
  • Express (Ex) – high category international and domestic trains.
  • EuroNight (EN) – international night trains; traveling abroad requires an reservation, while domestically does not.
  • EuroCity (EC) – international high category trains, requiring a €1 surcharge if visitors use this to travel domestically.
  • InterCity (IC) – high-speed domestic trains operating from Bratislava to Košice with minimal stops and obligatory seat reservations. Not funded by government subsidies.
  • RegioJet (RJ) – domestic and international trains exclusively operated by RegioJet.
  • LEO Express (LE) – domestic and international trains operated by LEO Express.
  • SuperCity (SC) – high-speed Pendolino train operated by České dráhy (ČD).

Tatra Electric Railway (TEŽ)
Two types of tickets can be used on the Tatra Electric Railway: (1.) ordinary Slovak train tickets, featuring a "From:" and "To:" stations and valid only on a given date. These tickets can be bought at every railway station. (2.) Zonal tickets (looking like public transport tickets) can be used on any day and for any single journey (of a specified length). These tickets can only be bought at stations and newspaper stalls around the High Tatras. There is no difference in price, the only difference is flexibility. Both types of tickets have to be validated with a stamping machine inside a TEŽ train immediately after boarding.

TEŽ trains have no conductors and no ticket selling machines, but since October 2013, train drivers sell day tickets (€4) as a last resort for passengers who cannot obtain a ticket otherwise. Single tickets cannot be bought from train drivers, only outside the train. Passengers are occasionally checked by plain-clothed ticket inspectors; a fine for riding without a valid ticket is €30. More information and fare system here.

SMS tickets can also be used on the TEŽ network. To take advantage of this, however, a Slovak mobile number is required. It is therefore out of question for short-term visitors.


Tickets[edit]

Compared to Western Europe, Slovak train prices are relatively inexpensive and competitive. All three major train carriers sell domestic and international tickets online, as well as in most train stations, accepting card payments. Smaller stations (served only by local commuter trains) will only sell domestic tickets and sometimes will not accept card payment. Visitors should buy a ticket before boarding a train. If you don't, you can buy a ticket from a train conductor, with normally a €1.50 surcharge. If there's no ticket office at a station or if it's closed, visitors must purchase a ticket from the conductor, yet with no surcharge. Conductors do not sell international tickets. The only exception are tickets called small cross-border interchange (Malý pohraničný styk) which are valid in regional trains only and only around 40 km from the border.

With the exception of train stations in major cities, most ZSSK employees cannot speak English. In order to bypass a potential language barrier, visitors should write down the name of their destination, the number of travelers, the class they want and the time of their desired departure, which will all be universally understood by the employee. In contrast, most RegioJet and LEO Express employees are fluent or understand English.

ZSSK offers an array of discounts for travelers. Frequent rail users can look into a KLASIK RAILPLUS pass, where for €35 a year, people between the ages of 26 to 60 can obtain a 25% discount off all first and second class travel. Visitors traveling on Os and REX category trains for destinations within 60 km can obtain a REGIONAL discount, with 15% off the regular total fare. For six or more people traveling together a GROUP discount offers 25% off first and second class travel. People celebrating their birthdays can have their second class tickets upgraded to first class for that particular day, although they must present a valid ID for proof.

RegioJet offers registration for discounted travel, although it does not have a rewards programme. Users of LEO Express can join its Smile Club to collect kilometers as points for future travel discounts. Currently, ZSSK does not have a rewards programme, although it does offer a Credit Account for money deposits, enabling discounted travel.

If you're caught without a ticket in an international train leaving Slovakia, the Slovak conductor will ask you to buy a ticket to the border crossing point.

For a full listing of all train timetables and connections regardless of company, along with a fare calculator, CP is an exceptionally useful website to plan rail travel.

Taking bicycles[edit]

A single bicycle ticket costs €1.50 (regardless of the distance) and a day ticket costs €2.50 on ZSSK trains. Almost all trains in Slovakia transport bicycles without hassle, except for IC and EC trains, in which a bike either requires a prior reservation (€2.50) or prohibits bikes entirely. Day tickets for bikes are not valid on IC or EC trains. Unfortunately, low-floor trains are a rare occurrence in Slovakia (and so far only on REG lines), so be prepared to hoist your bike high up to put it inside the train. Moreover, many railway employees still view cyclists as a nuisance and can be quite unwelcoming.

Unfortunately, bicycles are prohibited on RegioJet and LEO Express trains.

By bus[edit]

Slovakia has a highly complex and integrated bus network, and for some routes is faster (and sometimes more punctual) than using rail. Bus stations are usually named AS (autobusová stanica) on maps and timetables. Slovak Lines is perhaps the best-known carrier, offering routes between a number of cities and smaller communities across the country, as well as serving the Bratislava regional network (BiD) in a 35 km radius. Tickets can be either purchased online or from the driver. Czech carrier RegioJet is another competitor and offers services between a number of Slovak communities. Tickets can be purchased from a RegioJet conductor, although going online to purchase a seat is the best option. A slew of smaller bus companies operate throughout the country, whose schedules can be researched via CP and AMS Bus, where tickets can be purchased online.

When traveling with one of these smaller companies, passengers usually purchase the ticket from the driver. To do this, simply walk up to the driver and tell him or her the destination. The driver will print out a receipt, which will be your ticket. The receipt will show the price you need to pay. Largely, you can pay drivers by cash, although an increasing number of buses also allow you to purchase by a contactless credit card. Most drivers don't speak English, meaning that if visitors can't pronounce their destination's name, simply write it down and show it.

By car[edit]

A motorway-level road.
An expressway-level road.
A first-class road.

As of 2017, there are nearly 718 km (446 mi) of motorways and expressways throughout the country. Successive Slovak governments have embarked on ambitious plans to connect the country and today most cities have high-speed road access, yet there are still considerable gaps in the network. Due to this, expect to drive on many smaller roads with lower speeds. Most major roads (especially in Western Slovakia) are in good repair, however maintenance standards vary from good to rather bumpy for lower-tier roads, especially in the east.

Motorways (diaľnice) are demarcated by red and white signs, with a D and a number. Motorways are 130 km/h (81 mph) in the countryside and 90 km/h (56 mph) in urban areas. Below motorways are expressways (rýchlostné cesty), also marked with red and white signs with a R and a number, and look nearly identical to motorways. R-class roads also have speed limits of 130 km/h (81 mph) in the countryside and 90 km/h (56 mph) in urban areas. The third level of routes are first-class roads, marked with blue and white signs with a one or two-digit number. First-class roads make up the bulk of Slovakia's road network. Speed limits are 90 km/h (56 mph) in the countryside and 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas. Finally there are second-class roads, also blue and white with a three-digit number. These are generally rural routes. Be aware that many second-class roads in the countryside can be one lane.

The D1 Motorway.

In order to use Slovak motorways and expressways, visitors must purchase a vignette. Vignettes can be purchased electronically online or at service stations near the border. Vignettes cost €10 for 10 days, €14 for 30 days. or €50 for one year. A failure of not paying for a vignette can result in a steep fine of €500. Trucks and vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes must pay a toll using an electronic on-board device, which applies to some first-class roads along the motorways! Truck and large vehicle drivers should check Myto for more information.

Slovakia is a zero tolerance country towards alcohol, with no alcohol before driving whatsoever. Penalties are severe. Wearing seat belts in cars and vans is compulsory and children aged 11 or younger or lower than 150cm must be placed on the rear seat or on the passenger seat in a proper child seat (of course with the airbag disabled, in case the child seat is rear-facing). Headlights must also be switched on when driving at all times, regardless of weather conditions or whether it is a night or day, so switch them on. This is not necessary if your car is equipped with daytime running lamps. In winter, snow and ice are common on roads, and winter tires are recommended (and compulsory if the road is covered by snow or ice). In extreme weather. some minor mountain roads might require snow chains.

Wearing helmets is compulsory for both drivers and passengers on motorcycles of any size. Goggles must also be worn by the driver of motorcycles with engines larger than 50cc.

Fines for traffic offences are now much higher than in the neighbouring Austria, especially for speeding. Sadly enough, Western car registration plates attract more attention from police officers, so it's another good reason to abide the law. Police presence is frequent on roadways, especially on major routes, in both marked and unmarked vehicles.

As a precaution, avoid driving through the mountain passes of central and northern Slovakia during strong winter conditions.

Driving styles in Slovakia are, especially compared to Western Europe or North America, more aggressive and of lower standard. One should be aware of other cars frequently speeding past and overtaking on your side of the road, especially in the more mountainous areas of the country.

Renting a car is a convenient, efficient and relatively cheap (prices starts a approx. 65€/day at car rental chains) way to explore Slovakia, especially if you intend to visit more remote areas, where train and bus services are sporadic.

By bicycle[edit]

Travelling by bicycle is an excellent way to see and enjoy most of this beautiful country. There are caveats, though. Stick to second-class roads with low traffic, as drivers on larger roads may show little sympathy to cyclists. You can plan your journey using maps from Cykloserver.cz, which show both official (dark violet) and recommended (light violet) trails. Second, road bikes and their riders might suffer on minor Slovak roads of inferior quality. A touring bike is a better alternative. Wearing a safety helmet is required for cyclists of all ages riding on public roads outside of urban areas and for children under 15 also within urban areas.

Mountain bikers will especially love the county's network of legal MTB trails in the Malé Karpaty, Veľká Fatra and Štiavnické vrchy ranges. Less adventurous cyclists can also enjoy paved roads of varying quality (off-limits to cars) in the Malé Karpaty, Levočské vrchy and Nízke Tatry (the latter range also features some strenuous climbs), or cycle along the banks the levees of the Danube, Morava and Váh rivers. Sadly, Slovak Paradise National Park restricts almost all cycling activities on its territory. Road cycling is popular, too, yet visitors should bear in mind that many secondary roads are in bad shape. Do not look for the same level of comfort as provided by roads in the Alpine countries.

By hitchhiking[edit]

Hitchhiking (stopovanie or autostop) is best done by asking around at gas stations and is largely safe. However, hitchhiking is strictly prohibited on motorways and expressways. Keep in mind that trains and buses in Slovakia are cheap for Westerners and (apart from extremely rural areas where people are generally less wary of hitchhikers) it might take a while for someone to pick you up. Therefore, hitchhiking can only be recommended if it's your hobby, not primarily as a means to save money. You can find some offers if you travel from Slovakia and into Slovakia as well on specialized web pages. A useful resource is Autostop.sk.

On foot[edit]

Hiking signpost in the High Tatras.

Slovakia is a hiker's paradise. With the exception of the relatively flat southern lowlands, much of Slovakia is covered with hundreds of kilometers of extremely well-marked scenic hiking trails, especially through its national parks, providing breathtaking landscapes. Slovaks have always lived in a close relationship with nature. During the communist period when travelling abroad was severely restricted, hiking became a national pastime. Most Slovaks visitors meet will have gone on a hike at least once in their life and many do so regularly. Many can give you great advice about the most interesting local trails. The Slovak trail network is also very well maintained. The quality and efficiency of the country's sign-posting system is unique in Europe (and perhaps the world).

Trails are numerous, suitable for various levels of fitness and many lead through beautiful scenery. Every route is marked and signposted, with different trails given a colour. Four colours are used: red, blue, green and yellow. The longest and most strenuous trails are usually marked red. On one red-marked path, the Slovak National Uprising Heroes Trail, it is possible to traverse from the northeastern Dukla Pass on the Polish-Slovak border all the way 750 km west to Bradlo (near Bratislava). In towns, you will usually see a signpost, with arrows pointing in different directions, marking the colour of the path and the average walking times to the nearest destinations. All visitors need to do is to follow the colour; there will be a mark every hundred metres or so, consisting of a 10x10 cm square three-section mark where the edges are white and the chosen path's colour is in the middle.

It is also possible (and highly recommended) to purchase hiking maps of smaller Slovak regions. These are based on former military maps, have a very good resolution (1:50000 or 1:25000) and can be purchased from most kiosks, information centres and bookstores for bargain prices between €1.50-2.50. These are published by the Slovak Tourist Club (KST), which maintains all the trails and show all marked trails in the area, including their average walking times, making route planning very easy and efficient. If visitors want to plan your hike before, use the excellent online maps at Hiking.sk or Cykloserver.cz. The latter link features bicycle trails and also covers the neighboring Czech Republic.

In mountainous areas, you should also buy insurance for some peace of mind. Emergency rescue services are not covered by normal travel insurance. Costing about €0.50 a day, hiking insurance can be bought in hotels or online via the Mountain Rescue Service.

Talk[edit]

Banská Bystrica's SNP Square.

The official and most widely-spoken language is Slovak, a Slavic language spoken by over 5 million people. Slovaks are very proud of their language and thus even in Bratislava visitors may not find many signs written in English outside of the main tourist areas. Most people born after the 1980s speak at least some English and in some cases German (particularly close to the Austrian border). Czech, a strongly-related language, is largely intelligible to most Slovaks. Despite their similar appearance, vocabulary and grammar, Czech and Slovak are not dialects of each other.

Slovak is written using the same Roman characters English uses (with some added accents or diacritics), so Western travelers won't have any trouble reading signs and maps. While some words are tongue twisters due to the concentration of consonants, a basic knowledge of the alphabet including the letters with diacritics will go a long way, as Slovak is very phonetic. Standard Slovak is spoken with the stress always on the first syllable (but it may be on the penultimate syllable in some dialects in the east).

As the country was under the rule of Hungary for ten centuries, there is a significant Hungarian-speaking minority, with most living in the south close to the Danube. Many Hungarians are bilingual, while some speak little to no Slovak. As it is not a related Slavic language, a vast majority of ethnic Slovaks have little to no understanding of Hungarian.

While visitors can make do with English and German in Bratislava, in smaller towns and villages your only chance is trying to approach younger people that speak some English. Older residents may know some German. People born between 1935 and 1980 will have learned Russian in school, although few Slovaks appreciate being spoken to in Russian due to lingering negative connotations from the communist era. Due to the significant tourism growth in the north and east, English is becoming more widely used. When traveling in Slovakia's north in the Tatras, Polish is quite useful and somewhat understood by Slovaks. In the east, Rusyn, a Ukrainian dialect close to Polish, is spoken. It is also intelligible with Russian to some extent. Other Slavic languages, especially Serbian, Croatian and Slovene are also partially understood throughout the country. Attempts to speak Slovak will be warmly appreciated by the locals.

If you speak the international language Esperanto, you can take advantage of the network of Esperanto delegates scattered across Slovakia.

For those interested in learning Slovak, there are language schools in Bratislava and Košice.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Euro banknotes.

Slovakia has the euro (€) as its sole currency along with 24 other countries that use this common European money. These 24 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. Together, these countries have a population of more than 330 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone. Every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.

Until 2009, the official currency was the slovenská koruna ("crown", SKK) which can still be found and accepted by the central bank until 2017 at a rate of 30.126SKK to €1.

Automatic teller machines (ATM, bankomat) are widely available in Slovakia except in small villages. Obtaining money there should not present a problem, as most small villages have a postal office where visitors can withdraw money (cashback) for a fee of €7. Credit and debit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, Cirrus and Maestro are widely accepted both in shops and restaurants across the country.

See[edit][add listing]

A country of fascinating old cities, quaint villages and rugged beauty, Slovakia is an accessible land that benefits from being in the heart of Central Europe. Thanks to the fall of communism, as well as to good transit links with Austria and the Czech Republic, there has never been a better time to visit this country than now. Many visitors tend to stay in Bratislava due to its close proximity to Vienna and its position between Budapest and Prague, entirely missing out on the highly scenic central and eastern regions of the country. Adventurous tourists should surely break out of the capital and head east towards the Tatras, encountering an array of cities, castles and national parks along the way.

Cities[edit]

Old Košice.

The country's capital and largest city, Bratislava, is a mixture of the Baroque, Socialist and modern, home to a thoroughly charming Old Town and overlooked by both its imposing Bratislava Castle and the Most SNP, an iconic bridge capped by a UFO-like object. The jagged ruin of Devín Castle is also a prominent point in the capital. For history lovers, St. Martin's Cathedral draws in visitors thanks to its history steeped in Habsburg coronations. In recent years, Bratislava has become a popular destination for British and German tourists (especially for stag nights) for its nightlife and affordable prices.

To the east, Nitra is one of the oldest cities in the country, with a history stretching back to ancient Slavic times, capped by its ancient Nitra Castle. The charming town of Trenčín, close to the Czech border, has a history stretching back to Roman times and is also capped by its highly photogenic and imposing Gothic Castle. Trenčín is also home to the Pohoda Festival, one of the country's largest international music festivals. To the north, the medieval city of Žilina is a gateway to the exquisite Upper Váh region and is home to its charming Mariánske námestie. Close to the country's geographic center, the medieval mining city of Banská Bystrica, nestled in the Tatra foothills, is another fascinating city with an old historical centre. Going to the northeast of the country in the Šariš Region, visitors should not miss the historical town of Bardejov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a highly photogenic medieval core. To the south, Prešov presents a compact, cobblestone Old Town. South of Prešov, Košice invites visitors in with its ancient, narrow streets and its imposing Gothic St. Elisabeth Cathedral, the country's largest house of worship.

Natural attractions[edit]

A dramatic vista in Malá Fatra National Park.

Slovakia is simply a treasure trove of natural sites. Much of the central and northern parts of the country are rugged and mountainous due to the Carpathian Mountains, of which the Tatra, Fatra and Beskid ranges are a part of. In the south, the Danubian Lowland is a flat, fertile and green region bordering the Danube River.

Slovakia is home to nine national parks and various natural preserves that protect the country's mountainous regions. The crown jewel of the national park system is High Tatras National Park, a rugged park of high peaks, deep valleys, lakes and forests straddling the Slovak-Polish border. The park is home to Gerlach Peak (Gerlachovský štít) at 2,655 m (8,711 ft), the tallest mountain in the country and Central Europe. To the south, Low Tatras National Park, Malá Fatra National Park, Slovak Paradise and Muránska planina National Park dominate much of Central Slovakia.

Several national parks also share cross-border cousins. Pieniny National Park connects to its Polish counterpart, Pieniński National Park, with both parks sharing the breathtaking Dunajec River Gorge. To the very east, Poloniny National Park connects with Uzhansky National Park in Ukraine and Bieszczady National Park in Poland; the Slovak and Ukrainian portions form the Primeval Beech Forests, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the last, relatively untouched regions of Europe.

Geologically, a sizable part of the country is made out of limestone, which in combination with many springs and rivers has resulted in formation of numerous caves. Perhaps the best-known example is the UNESCO-listed Slovak Karst, a mountainous area on the southeastern Slovak-Hungarian border, marked by dozens of deep caves, with its Domica Cave being a highlight.

Castles and other attractions[edit]

Bojnice Castle overlooking the town of the same name.

For history lovers, Slovakia has the highest number of castles and chateaux per capita in the world, ranging from simple ruins to the well-preserved. If visitors are fans of medieval history, look no further. There are also numerous Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque examples in cities and towns across the republic, including within the capital. There are also well-preserved examples of wooden folk architecture, including churches made entirely out of wood and the tallest wooden altar in the world.

In the capital, Bratislava Castle dominates the city's skyline and has more or less become a symbol of the Slovak state. Also in the capital are the ruins of Devín Castle, an ancient fortification dating to Great Moravian times that was destroyed by Napoleon's troops in 1809. To the northeast, Trenčín Castle sits high over the Váh river plain, used by the Slavs and later the Hungarians. South of Trenčín in the town of Bojnice is Bojnice Castle, a Gothic and Renaissance masterpiece that cemented Hungarian rule in the region for centuries. In the city of Žilina, Budatín Castle is another Renaissance-era masterwork. Also close to Žilina is Strečno Castle, a fortification perched high above the Váh River. Heavily damaged during the Slovak National Uprising, much of Strečno has been restored. In north Central Slovakia, the dramatic Orava Castle looms over the village of Oravský Podzámok; the castle was used extensively for the landmark 1922 horror film Nosferatu. Outside of Košice, the ruins of Spiš Castle continue to impress visitors 800 years later.

A good listing of Slovakia's castles, mansions and ruins can be found on the state's tourism website.

Do[edit][add listing]

The Dobšinská Ice Cave.

Spelunking[edit]

Thanks to Slovakia's dramatic geology, more than 2,400 caves are found throughout the country (and many are still being discovered into the present day). Slovakia is arguably one of the best places for spelunking in Europe. Several of these subterranean areas are nationally protected or UNESCO listed and can be explored by the general public. Some notable caves in the country include the surreal Dobšinská Ice Cave in Slovak Paradise National Park, Ochrinska Aragonite Cave, Gombasek Cave and Jasovská Cave in the Slovak Karst, Belianska Cave in the High Tatras, Demänovská Cave of Liberty in the Low Tatras. and Domica Cave. The Slovak Caves Administration offers a listing and information regarding the country's rich cave systems.

Winter sports[edit]

The High and Low Tatras, Pieniny and Donovaly ranges are excellent for skiing and snowboarding. Many domestic tourists, along with Czechs, Poles, Germans, Austrians and Hungarians are drawn to Slovak ski resorts due to their high altitudes and affordable prices. Some skiing resorts include those in Jasná, Tatranská Lomnica, Ružomberok, Velká Raca, Oravice and Ždiar. A full listing of the republic's resorts and ski locations can be found here.

Spas[edit]

Slovakia offers many excellent spas, saunas and water parks to relax at year round, whether its in the cold winter months or the sweltering summer. If visitors enjoy stinking mud and are willing to pay for it, the best, most famous (and most expensive) spa is located in Piešťany. Other major spas are located around Trenčianske Teplice, Rajecké Teplice, Bardejov, Dudince and Podhájska. If spas and saunas are too slow for visitors who want more fun, try water parks in Bešeňová, Liptovský Mikuláš, Poprad, Turčianske Teplice, Oravice, Senec and Dunajská Streda. Significantly cheaper options are classical open-air pools, some of the best are in Veľký Meder and Štúrovo.

Festivals[edit]

The medieval mining town of Banská Štiavnica.

In the late winter and early spring Fašiangy (Mardi Gras) is celebrated throughout the country. In the countryside, especially in wine-producing regions, wine festivals (vinobranie) are common in the early autumn at the end of the harvest period. Many town centres will be closed and a traditional market is set up for these events, mostly with local produce, handicrafts for sale, and plenty to eat and drink. In larger cities, similar Christmas markets open in December.

Steam trains[edit]

Those interested in railway history or would like to spend a family day in the countryside, Slovakia offers a number of phased-out railway tracks, once used for transporting wood through the mountains, to transport tourists through forests and valleys in cozy steam trains. The best-preserved of them all is ČHŽ near the town of Brezno.

Learn[edit]

Studying in Slovakia is relatively inexpensive for foreign students, with studies, living expenses and other educational items normally costing around €4,000 on average for bachelor, master and doctorate students.

There are several excellent centers for higher education in the country, with courses offered in English. This includes Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia's oldest and most prestigious university, along with Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica and the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. More information about studying in Slovakia can be found here.

Work[edit]

The skyline of Bratislava's Old Town.

As a European Union member, EU citizens can legally reside and work in Slovakia without restrictions. The most popular website for job listings is Profesia.sk. As of 2015, average salaries were €880 a month, with the highest salaries in Bratislava and the surrounding region. The best paid positions in the country are IT experts, whose salaries are nearly over €2,000 a month; construction workers earn around €600 a month and waiters €400.

If prospective workers are from outside of the EU, a visa is required to work. Teaching English as a second language is a popular work option, especially for freelancers. In order to do this, prospective freelancers will need a trade license (živnostenský list), which can be obtained from a tradesman department (živnostenské oddelenie) at a regional trade license office (živnostenský úrad). You will need a clean criminal record from your home country, a bank statement from a Slovak bank account, a notarized copy of your rental or home contract and pay a small fee.

It's best to consult the Slovak embassy or consulate in your country for more information.

Note that unless you are applying for certain positions in international firms and similar organisations where English or German might do, you will probably need a working knowledge of Slovak for most other jobs.

Eat[edit][add listing]

The main meal of the day is traditionally lunch, although this is changing especially in cities due to work schedules, where dinner is increasing becoming the main meal.

With the possible exception of the most exclusive establishments, dress codes are not enforced in restaurants. Informal clothing is common in nearly all establishments. Hauling yourself into a restaurant for a well-deserved meal after a day of hiking or skiing in sporty clothes might attract a few looks, yet visitors will not be turned away. Generally, anything you would wear for a stroll in town is perfectly fine. Visitors won't need a jacket or closed shoes. In the summer shorts and sandals are acceptable.

In sitting establishments (cafes and restaurants), it is common to tip around 10% or at least round the amount up to the nearest euro or note (depending on the amount). Tips are not included in the bill; if there is a percentage shown on your bill, this is usually VAT. The tip is added to the bill and should be handed to the waiter while you pay before leaving the table. Tipping is not compulsory, so if visitors are not satisfied with the service, don't feel obliged to tip! You will not be hassled if you don't. Tipping is not common in over-the-counter establishments, bars or for other services.

It should be noted that in all but the most exclusive restaurants it is not customary to be shown to your table by the staff. When entering, simply pick a table of your choice. Once you are comfortably seated, waiting staff will be over shortly to give you the menu and let you order drinks.

Traditional local foods[edit]

Bryndzové halušky, a Slovak staple.

Slovak cuisine focuses mostly on simple and hearty recipes. Historically, what is now considered genuinely Slovak has been traditional food from northern villages, where people lived off sheep grazing and limited agriculture, where herbs were more accessible than spices. Therefore, staple foods mostly involve (smoked) meat, cheese, potatoes and flour. This does not make the food bland, however, with much of it is quite filling and flavoursome, though can be a bit on the heavy side. As no strong spices or truly exotic ingredients are used, sampling local wares is a safe and rewarding experience.

Some dishes are authentically Slovak, while others are variations on regional themes. Cheese, pork and poultry are typically consumed along with some beef and game dishes, mostly accompanying potatoes and various types of dumplings. Since Slovakia is a landlocked country, fish and seafood options are limited, yet trout is the most common fish served. Carp is usually served on Christmas. Soups are quite common both as an appetizer and, as some are quite filling, also as a main dish.

Bryndzové halušky is the national dish. Made out of potato dumplings, unpasteurized fermented sheep cheese called bryndza and small bits of bacon or pork fat, this meal is unique, quite appetizing and very filling. Please note that while this dish will usually be listed in the vegetarian section of the menu, it does normally contain meat; if you are vegetarian, make sure to ask for halušky without bacon. Halušky can be found in many restaurants, however, quality can vary. Ethnic Slovak restaurants are normally the best places to find this meal. In the northern regions, visitors will find authentic restaurants called salaš (a word meaning "sheep farm" in Slovak), which serve delicious and local, fresh varieties of sheep cheese. Sometimes, halušky is served with smoked cheese added on top. A separate dish called strapačky might also be available, where sauerkraut is served instead of bryndza, yet this is atypical..

A salaš will also usually serve other typical Slovak dishes and foods. Varieties include soft, spreadable versions of bryndza, blocks of sheep cheese (soft and malleable, delicious on its own or with salt), parenica (cheese curled in layers into a small peelable roll, sold smoked or unsmoked) and korbáčiky (meaning "hair braids" in Slovak), in which cheese is woven into a hair braid pattern. Many of these cheeses are available to buy at outdoor markets and in modern supermarkets, although those that are mass-produced and not as good.

Kapustnica with sausage.

Most other dishes are regional, with their varieties also found elsewhere around Central Europe. These include kapustnica, a flavoursome and sometimes mildly spicy sauerkraut soup found in other Slavic countries, typically eaten at Christmas but served year round in restaurants. Depending on the recipe it may also include smoked meat and/or dried mushrooms. Pirohy, large dumplings similar to the Polish dish of pierogi can also be widely found and depending on the filling, is either savory or sweet, with fillings of sauerkraut, various types of cheeses, meats, or simply fruits and jam. A popular variant is bryndzové pirohy (sheep cheese dumplings).

Guláš (goulash) is a regional dish made with cuts of beef, onions, vegetables and squashed potatoes with spices, which is very hearty and filling. A culinary legacy of the Hungarians, guláš can be served as a soup (with bread) or as a stew (with dumplings) and can be found outdoors during barbecues, festival markets (where it is prepared in a big cauldron), and in restaurants with game instead of beef, considered the most authentic. A variety called Segedinský guláš {Szeged goulash) is quite distinct, prepared with sauerkraut. Guláš can be quite spicy.

Apart from kapustnica and guláš, which are main dishes, other polievky (soups) are quite popular as an appetizer. Hubová polievka (mushroom soup) is a typical Christmas dish in many parts,along with several soups made out of beans or bean sprouts. In restaurants, the most common soups are kuracia polievka (chicken), hovädzia polievka (beef), krémová cesnačka (creamy garlic) and paradajková polievka (tomato), served in garlic broth with croutons (don't go kissing people after) are also very common. Some restaurants offer certain soups to be served in a small loaf of bread (v bochniku), which can be an interesting and tasty experience.

A typical example of Slovak street food is lokše, which are potato pancakes served with various fillings (with popular varieties including duck fat and/or meat (husacina), poppy seeds or jam). Especially in Western Slovakia, lokše is also be found in restaurants. Langoš, a Hungarian specialty, is a large, fried flat bread served with garlic, cheese and ketchup (or sour cream) on top, often sold on street corners or in markets. A local version of an American hamburger (but without beef and instead using pork or chicken) is called cigánska pečienka (or simply cigánska). If visitors are looking for something sweet, in spa cities such as Piešťany, you will find stands selling spa wafers, usually two plate-sized thin wafers with various fillings. Try chocolate or hazelnut.

Bryndzové pirohy, dumplings with sheep cheese.

Other foods worth trying are paprikas (chicken in paprika sauce with dumplings), rezeň (schnitzel), čiernohorsky rezeň' (schnitzel with a potato dumpling coating instead of batter) and sviečková na smotane (beef sirloin in a vegetable sauce with dumplings), a Slovak variant of the Czech staple svíčková.

In some parts of the countryside, there is a tradition called zabíjačka, where a pig is slaughtered and its various parts are consumed in a festive, barbecue-like event. This is a more historic celebration than you are likely to find in contemporary Slovakia, although if you have an opportunity to attend, it can be an interesting experience, where meat and sausages are home-made, delicious and full of flavour. If you can find homemade hurka (pork meat and liver sausage with rice) or krvavnicky (similar to hurka, but with pork blood) on offer elsewhere, they are both very good. There is also tlačenka (cold meat pressed together with some vegetables, served similar to ham), which is served with vinegar and onion on top, and can be bought in supermarkets as well. Various other type of sausages and smoked meats are available commercially.

A thick fried slice of cheese served with French fries and a salad is also a common Slovak dish. It is served in most restaurants and worth trying out, especially with local smoked variety of cheese (udeny syr. ostiepok) or hermelin (a local cheese similar to Camembert). This is not considered a substitute for meat.

Sweets[edit]

Slovak-style jablkový závin (apple strudel).

For dessert, visit a local cukráreň (candy or sweet shop). These establishments, though slowly merging into cafes, exclusively specialise in appeasing your sweet tooth, serving a variety of cakes, hot and cold drinks and (sometimes) ice cream. Due to the shared heritage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovak cakes often resemble those in the Czech Republic and Austria. The selection is diverse and on display, so just pick one you like the look of, perhaps a krémeš (a small pastry, thick of vanilla custard and topped with a layer of cream or chocolate), or veterník (a huge profiterole coated in caramel).

Slovakia has a good variety of bakery products, including various sweet pastries. Try local fillings of poppy seeds and/or sweet, quark-like cottage cheese (tvaroh). Štrúdla or závin. the Slovak cousin of the Austrian strudel is also popular; try the traditional apple filling (jablkový závin) or the fancier version with sweet poppy seeds and sour cherries. For something savoury, try pagáč, a puff pastry with little pork cracklings. Local bread is excellent, but please note that some of the several varieties are sprinkled with caraway seeds. Baguettes and baguette stands are very common where visitors can choose from a variety of fillings.

When you are shopping in the supermarket, remember to pick up Tatranky and/or Horalky, two brands of wafers with hazelnut filling, lightly coated in chocolate.

Vegetarian food[edit]

For vegetarians, the variety of food in larger cities should be decent, though when venturing into the countryside, offers may be limited as vegetables are mostly considered a side dish, eaten mostly raw or in salads. Be aware that even though some dishes will be in the vegetarian section of the menu, this merely means that they're not predominantly meat-based and still might be prepared using animal fats or may contain small pieces of meat, so make your requirements clear. Vyprážaný syr so šunkou (fried cheese with ham) or Cesar salad are good examples of this. Still, almost every restaurant in the country will serve at least fried cheese (the normal, non-ham variety) with fries, which is universally popular. There should be a good selection of sweet dishes as well, with pancakes, dumplings filled with fruits, jams or chocolate, and sweet noodles with nuts, poppy seeds and sweet cottage cheese. Seeking out the nearest Italian pizzeria is also a good and accessible option found mostly everywhere.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Like its Czech, Polish and Hungarian counterparts, drinking is very much a part of Slovak culture, served at nearly all social occasions. However, locals tend to hold their liquor well and being visibly drunk is frowned upon, so be aware of your limits. Note that some locally-brewed spirits may be stronger than what visitors may be used to and that the standard Slovak shot glass is 40 ml, more than those in Western Europe or North America. If you order a double vodka, you will get almost 1 dl of it! Alcohol in general is cheap compared to Western Europe, East Asia or the US. There are no special shops, and alcoholic beverages can be purchased in practically any local supermarket or food store. You can legally drink and purchase alcohol if you are 18 years or older, but this is not strictly enforced. Visitors may be carded in some clubs if you look very young, however.

Beer[edit]

A collection of Slovak beers with brandy.

When it comes to beer (pivo), Slovakia has a great variety of excellent local brews similar in style and quality to neighboring Czech brands (which are also widely available). Beer is mostly the local drink of choice. A few Slovak brews include:

  • Zlatý Bažant — perhaps Slovakia's best-known beer, made in the southwest town of Hurbanovo. A pilsner type beer also sold by its literal translation Golden Pheasant in North America.
  • Corgoň — another pilsner type blonde from the Hurbanovo brewery.
  • Kelt — a light lager also made from the Hurbanovo brewery.
  • Šariš — made from the country's largest brewery in the Eastern Slovak town of Veľký Šariš. An award-winning beer made either light or dark.
  • Smädný mních — a light beer also made from the Veľký Šariš brewery, known for its monk emblem.
  • Steiger — a Bratislava-based beer.
  • Kaltenecker — a popular microbrew from Rožňava in Eastern Slovakia.
  • ERB — a microbrew from Banská Štiavnica.

Wine[edit]

The Tokaj wine region (shared with Hungary) is an excellent location to explore wineries.

Thanks to its fertile, warm south, Slovakia also has some great local wine (víno). Many are similar to German Riesling styles, yet relatively young, local grape varieties (Děvín, Pálava, Dunaj and Hron) are growing in popularity. There are a number of wine-growing regions in the south with centuries worth of tradition, including the area just outside Bratislava in the towns of Modra and Pezinok. The best-known wines are those from the Tokaj region in the southeast, an area shared with the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in northern Hungary. Home to the Tokaj grape variety endemic to the region, Tokaj wine is considered a premium brand with a worldwide reputation and is arguably some of the best Central Europe has to offer. If visitors have time, try to visit a local producer's wine cellar, as many are historical and a cultural experience in itself. You might also be offered homemade wine if you are visiting these areas, as many locals ferment their own brews. The quality obviously varies. Look for wines labeled neskorý zber or výber z hrozna which indicate a high quality wine (roughly corresponding with the German Spätlese and Auslese labels, respectively).

Wine lovers will also enjoy the Little Carpathian Wine Route, a trail leading through vineyards beginning in Bratislava and passing through Svätý Jur, Pezinok and Modra before ending in Trnava. Along the route, visitors can stop at various wine cellars along the route to taste what local vineyards have to offer.

Around the harvest time in the autumn, in the wine-producing regions, young wine called burčiak is often sold in wine bars and local markets, and is popular among locals. As burčiak strengthens with fermentation (as it becomes actual wine), its alcohol content can vary wildly.

Spirits[edit]

A bottle of Trnavská medovina (Trnava mead).

Slovakia produces excellent, hard-hitting spirits. Some highly popular brews include slivovica (plum brandy), hruškovica (pear brandy) and demänovka (herb liquor). The most popular spirit of choice is borovička, a type of gin. Fernet, an Italian-originated aromatic bitter spirit is also very popular. In some shops you may try a 25 or 50 ml shot for a few cents, so as to avoid buying a big bottle of something of unknown flavour, then decide whether to buy or not to buy. However, the general rule of thumb when buying liquor in a supermarket is the more expensive, the better. Some liquors are trying to look like they are made of fruit but are instead just aromatized or coloured alcohol. International brands are also available, but at a premium price (yet still cheaper than in most Western countries).

If visitors are more adventurous, try some homemade fruit brandies that the locals sometimes offer to foreigners. Slivovica is the most common, but also pear brandy, apricot brandy, or raspberry brandy can be found. Drinking is a part of tradition, especially deep in the Slovak countryside. If you are visiting locals, don't be surprised if you are offered homemade spirits as a welcome drink nor that the host may be quite proud of their private stock. Homemade liquors are very strong (sometimes up to 60% alcohol), so be careful. If slivovica has matured for 12 or more years, it can become a pleasant digestive.

In the winter months, varené víno, a mulled wine like the German glühwein and the Czech svařák is available at all outdoor markets. Medovina (mead) is also common and can be served warm or cold. Grog, a mixed hot drink consisting of black tea and a shot of local rum, is also very popular, especially at skiing resorts.

Non-alcoholic drinks[edit]

For non-alcoholic drinks try Vinea, a refreshing soft drink made from red and white grapes and is also non-carbonated. Kofola, a cola-like soft drink originating from the communist Czechoslovak era, is also very popular among locals and is available both on tap, in cans and bottles. Slovakia is one of the few countries in the world where Coca-Cola and Pepsi are not the most popular soft drink beverages.

Mineral water from Slovakia rank as some of the best on the globe, coming in numerous varieties with unique positive health effects (e.g. getting rid of heartburn, improving digestion, etc.) depending on the type of minerals naturally found in the water.

Many mineral water brands available from shops and supermarkets, for example Budiš, Mitická, Slatina, Rajec, Dobrá Voda, Zlatá studňa and Mattoni. Others are only available directly from the many natural mineral springs common across the country. As these are true mineral waters, they will invariably contain minerals with the taste differing according to the brand or spring. If visitors don't like one, try a different brand! You may also try mineral waters with various flavourings, ranging from raspberry to mojito.

In contrast to what you might be used to, sparking water is the default option, so if you prefer still water, you might have to look for this specifically. The level of carbonation is marked by the label. Dark blue or red labels usually indicate carbonated water (perlivá), a green label indicates mildly carbonation (mierne perlivá) and white, pink or baby blue indicat those without carbonation of any kind (neperlivá). Due to the excellent local choice and quality of the water, international brands are not common.

In restaurants, serving of a free glass of water is not a part of dining culture, so remember that if you ask for one, it is quite likely that you will be brought (most likely sparkling) mineral water instead (and charged for it).

Out of all hot drinks, káva (coffee) is available everywhere, mostly in three varieties (cafes in cities will offer more): espresso, normal coffee served medium-sized, small and black, and Viennese coffee with a dollop of cream on top. Cappuccinos are quite common as well. Coffee is served with sugar and milk and cream on the side. Horúca čokoláda (hot chocolate) is popular as well, especially in the winter. Čaj (tea) rooms are quite popular as a place to chill out in major cities. These usually have a laid-back, vaguely oriental ambiance, offering a great variety of black, green, white and fruit teas. Shisha and hookahs might be on offer as well. A part of this culture has spread other catering establishments, most of which will now offer a choice at least between fruit and black tea. Note that black tea is served with sugar and lemon in Slovakia; serving black tea with milk or cream is uncommon. Some places may offer a beverage called "hot apple", which tastes a bit like softer hot apple juice.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Traditional folk architecture in Čičmany, Western Slovakia.

Slovakia has an array of lodging options. Especially in the larger cities like Bratislava and Košice, hosteling and low-cost hotels are widely available for budget travelers, as well as high-end lodging from big Western brands. Further out in the countryside in smaller towns and cities, prices tend to fall significantly, with well-rated hotels offering affordable prices.

In the High Tatras and in the country's various spa towns, visitors can also choose luxurious hotels offering spa procedures included in the price. This is not universal, as there are many spas and ski resorts that still remain largely affordable. There are numerous mountain cabins, chalets and pensions available for short-term rental.

Because of the country's gorgeous countryside, camping facilities are quite common. Pitching a tent in a national park or a protected landscape area, however, is illegal, yet several national parks have officially-designated places where visitors can stay a single night (provided there's no mess). Facilities vary from location to location, with some offering shared showers or toilets. Unfortunately, this doesn't include the High Tatras, where the only legal option to sleep during a multi-day trek is in a mountain chalet. If you do pitch a tent in a national park outside of a designated area, there is always a possibility you could be woken up by a park warden, demanding a fine.

Pitching a tent outside national parks and protected landscape areas is in the legal grey area. Under Slovak law, you always require prior consent from the owner of the land to camp on it. Anyway, this rule is not enforced and you'll be okay if you only stay one night on any place, steer clear of private houses and commercial buildings and leave reasonably soon in the morning. If you do plan to stay longer and with a larger group of people, you'll need an official permit, of course.

Stay safe[edit]

A Polícia car.

Law enforcement in Slovakia is primarily handled by the Policajný zbor, known simply as the Polícia. The Polícia can be recognized by their white and green cars, normally wearing white-green or black-green uniforms. Cities and smaller towns have municipal guards, although their powers are mostly limited to misdemeanors.

In case of an emergency, call the universal number 112. You can also call directly on 150 for fire brigade, 155 for a medical emergency, or 158 for the police.

Slovakia is generally safe, even by European standards, where visitors are unlikely to encounter any problems whatsoever. Violent crime is especially uncommon. Slovakia sees less violent crime per capita than many European countries. Pickpockets are an issue, even though much smaller than in the popular destinations of Western Europe. However, the biggest fear for a traveler is likely to be road safety.

When visiting cities, exercise the same caution as you would in any other European city. Use common sense! Be extra careful after the dark if walking in poorly-lit areas, stay aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings in sight and avoid drunks and groups of young men. Pickpockets can sometimes be found in larger crowds or at major train or bus stations.

Since the 2000s, there has been an increase in neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist activism in Slovakia, which has resulted in a spate of racially-motivated attacks on foreigners. Perhaps the best-known neo-Nazi group is the ĽSNS, an extremist party known for its xenophobia, pro-fascist views and its veneration of Slovakia's World War II leader Jozef Tiso. Since 2016, the ĽSNS has been a sitting group in parliament, although the party is nearly completely ostracized by the political spectrum. It is advisable that foreigners (and those of colour) avoid ĽSNS demonstrations, which also attract considerable anti-fascist (antifa) counter-demonstrators and riot police.

When visiting mountainous areas, especially the High Tatras, let the hotel personnel or other reliable people know where exactly you are going, so that rescuers can be sent out to find you if you don't return. The relative small area and height of the High Tatras is very deceptive with its steep, difficult terrain and unpredictable weather. Never hike alone and use proper gear. The mountain rescue service is a good source of additional and current information and take their warnings seriously. In an event of an emergency they can be contacted by calling 18300 or the universal 112. Make sure your medical insurance coverage includes the mountain activities before you venture forth, as a rescue mission in the inaccessible terrain may prove expensive.

Also note that the weather in the High Tatras is prone to sudden changes, especially during spring and autumn.

Slovakia is one of the few countries in Europe where bears and wolves live freely in the wild. While no one has died from a bear attack in the last hundred years, a few attacks occur each year. Your chance of encountering one as a tourist is very low, yet the possibility exists. A bear will avoid you if it knows you're there, so the best way to avoid this is by making your presence known by talking loudly, singing or clapping, especially in an area where it can't readily see you from a distance. If you see a bear, do not run, but leave the area slowly in the opposite direction. If you see one from your hotel, possibly feeding from the rubbish bins, which is a bit more common, though still unlikely, DO NOT approach or feed it.

Stay healthy[edit]

The countryside of Liptovská Mara in Central Slovakia.

No vaccination is necessary to visit or stay in Slovakia, although if you plan to visit countryside areas, tick vaccination is recommended. Also Hepatitis A and B vaccination is advisable as with all European countries.

Ticks can be found in forests and also sometimes in larger parks in bushes and tall grass. In some areas ticks may carry encephalitis. Therefore, when hiking try to avoid thick undergrowth and always check all over your body when you return (ticks tend to seek warm spots). Remove the tick as soon as possible by gently wiggling it out of the bite by its head (never break it off or squeeze the body as the head will stay lodged in skin and might become infected). Do not touch the tick at any stage with bare hands; use tweezers and latex gloves.

Nearly all food and drinks are perfectly safe. Hygiene standards in Slovakia are aligned with Western and Central Europe.

Tap water is drinkable everywhere. According to one study, water used as tap water in the Bratislava-Vienna region is the cleanest in the world. If you prefer mineral water, you can choose from a multitude of brands, as the republic has possibly the highest number of natural mineral water springs per capita in the world.

The High Tatras might not be the biggest or tallest mountain range, but some trails feature strenuous climbs, rocky terrain where weather can prove unpredictable. Slovak mountains on average claim several lives per year, including in the summer. Take proper gear, do not overestimate your abilities and use common sense.

Never venture off the marked hiking trails in national parks (unless you're a skilled mountain climber and with a proper permit)! It is foolish, as well as illegal. In wooded areas, where chances of injury are lower, hiking off the marked trail carries a heightened risk of encountering a bear or a wolf. Bears know where the hiking trails are and avoid them at all costs. See the above section for tips, should you run across one.

If you decide to swim in a local river, natural pool or lake (as many locals do), remember that unless expressly stated otherwise, these activities are often not supervised by a lifeguard and you are doing so at your own risk.

The standard of health care is quite high, but the language barrier can be problematic not many doctors speak English. However, this should not be a problem in major towns, most of which will have a medical clinic (fakultná nemocnica).

There are no over-the-counter drugs sold in Slovakia in supermarkets or drug stores. Visitors will need to head to a pharmacy (lekáreň) even if you just need an aspirin. In even smaller cities, there should be one open 24 hours a day. Look out for the nearest green cross sign; even if a particular pharmacy is closed, a sign on the door will point you towards the nearest open one. If you need a specific medicine, make sure you have your prescription ready as many drugs require it.

Respect[edit]

Slovak women in traditional costume.

Slovaks are a friendly, hospitable and peaceful people. Any visit should be largely free of trouble, although there are a few things to be mindful of.

The country, along with its neighbors the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Austria are considered a part of Central Europe, not Eastern Europe, a fact that is easily lost with many Western Europeans and North Americans. Being called Eastern European is considered offensive by some.

A common (and sometimes amusing) mistake made by foreigners is confusing Slovakia with similarly-named Slovenia. While both countries have Slavic heritage and similar flags, Slovakia was connected to Czechoslovakia and the Hungarian portion of Austria-Hungary, while Slovenia was a former republic of Yugoslavia with historical connections to Austria and the Venetian Republic. Slovaks (and Slovenes) are usually not offended by this, although many roll their eyes and find the confusion humorous.

Outside of the major cities, Slovakia is a fairly traditional Catholic society, with religiosity far stronger than the largely atheistic Czechs, yet less stridently Catholic than the Poles. Visitors should be mindful and respectful of these views.

For nearly a millennium, the country was a region of Hungary and for much of the 20th century the other half of Czechoslovakia before amicably splitting off in 1993. As a relatively new state, many Slovaks are proud of their country's independence and therefore some remain sensitive when it comes to nationality issues. There is no hostility or resentment when it comes to the Velvet Divorce that ended Czechoslovakia; Czechs and Slovaks remain politically, linguistically and culturally close together with next to no controversy. Calling the country "Czechoslovakia" by accident may raise some eyebrows or cause some laughter. However, under no circumstances should visitors refer to Slovaks as "Czechs." Both societies—although similar—are distinct. Relations with the Hungarian minority are also largely peaceful, yet controversies in the past regarding language and nationality rights have been exploited by Slovak and Hungarian nationalists.

Under Jozef Tiso, the Slovak Republic's position in World War II was complex. Many ultra-nationalists continue to venerate Tiso and his mentor Andrej Hlinka, while those on the center-right, center and left consider Tiso an archtraitor, and will specifically point out the Slovak National Uprising as mass resistance against Tiso's government. This topic is best avoided if visitors so happen to meet an ultra-nationalist, although few can speak English. Decades of communism left its mark on Slovakia economically and socially, and also remains a sensitive topic. As a part of Czechoslovakia, the country was a member of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. However, Slovakia was never a part of the Soviet Union nor the Russian Empire.

Relations with the Romani (Gypsy) minority are strained, with a large section of Slovak society holding strong views on the subject. Do not venture into a debate unless you are intimately acquainted with the problem.

Slovaks are quite hospitable. If they invite you into their home, expect to be well-looked after and offered a variety of food and drinks. If you are invited for lunch, expect a two or three-course meal similar to dinner, as lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day. It is considered polite to bring a small gift for the host, such as a bottle of wine, a spirit, a box of chocolates or a small bouquet of flowers. Never bring money.

Most people do not use their outdoor shoes inside their home for hygienic reasons, so please take your shoes off in the hallway before entering a home. Guests will often be given a pair of slippers afterwards.

When dining in a restaurant with the host's family, it is customary for them to pick the bill. This might not happen, but don't be surprised if they do.

When being introduced to or meeting someone, even of the opposite sex for the first time, it is not uncommon to kiss each other on the cheek once or twice (depending on the region) instead of shaking hands. It is not common between two males, but is quite normal for women. Do not be alarmed and remember that it is not a sexual gesture.

Contact[edit]

The iconic bronze statue of Čumil the Sewer Worker in Bratislava.

The international calling code for Slovakia is +421.

Slovak phones operate on the GSM standard, which covers most of the country. 3G is also widespread. As of 2015, there is good coverage of 4G in most cities. Phone coverage is surprisingly good and visitors often have signal even in mountainous areas unless you are in a deep ravine. There are four mobile operators / carriers: Orange, T-Com, O2 and 4ka. All use 900 or 1800Mhz standard, which might not be compatible with some North American phones operating on 1900Mhz.

All Slovak providers offer a variety of prepaid cards with various "pay as you go" schemes (some market research is advised, if you want the best deal) and incentives. If you have an unlocked phone, these are easy to pick up in any phone shop, or you can purchase a cheap phone with a prepaid card included.

There are still some phone boxes available, but with mobile phones commonplace, they are declining in number. Also note that you might need to purchase a prepaid card to use some of them.

Wi-Fi (pronounced as wee-fee) is widely available for free at many restaurants, cafes, pubs, businesses, libraries or government buildings, often advertised on the front window. Internet cafes are still sometimes found (especially in hostels), although with the advent of smartphones, they are now declining.

Mobile internet is available from €6 month via O2 or 3G prepaid mobile internet at €10-15 for 5 GB. Broadband internet is available in most of the cities and some villages, with prices depending on a location. In bigger cities you can get internet as cheap as €16 per 100 Mbit/s downstream and 4 Mbit/s upstream from Orange (or slower from Telekom or UPC).

Cope[edit]

Spiš Castle overlooking the small town of Spišské Podhradie.

News[edit]

Slovakia has an array of independent media outlets spanning across television, radio, newspapers and the internet. However, it is largely unintelligible for visitors as it is entirely in Slovak, Czech and towards southern Slovakia, Hungarian. However, there are several English language news sources where visitors can remain abreast on current events and cultural happenings in the republic.

  • Radio Slovakia International — English arm of public broadcaster RTVS. Offers news, commentary, interviews and cultural reports from across the country and Central Europe. Also broadcasts in French, Spanish, German and Russian.
  • The Slovak Spectator — the nation's bi-weekly English newspaper, with an active online presence. Popular among expats, this newspaper and website offers news, editorials, cultural listings and a classifieds section on everything from apartments, cars, NGOs and jobs.

Embassy support[edit]

Most foreign embassies are located in Bratislava's Old Town. A complete listing of embassies in the county with contact information can be found here. If a visitor's home country does not have an embassy in Slovakia, the nearest embassy will most likely be located nearby in Vienna, which is readily accessible by train, bus or car from Bratislava.

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