Accessible Travel

Slovakia lags behind many EU states in accommodation for people with disabilities. The Slovak Union for the Disabled (www.sztp.sk) is working to change the status quo.

  • Hotels and restaurants have few ramps or barrier-free rooms. Large chain hotels are the best bet for accessible rooms; there are options in Bratislava and spa town Piešťany.
  • Central Bratislava is navigable by wheelchair, though pavements are far from universally smooth. It's best to have a companion for steep-access sights like the castle. There's some accessibility on public transport, including buses that lower, and special seating.
  • There are some wheelchair-accessible trails in the High and Low Tatras, and several museums featuring Braille or location-sensitive audio guides; find details on http://slovakia.travel/en/disabled-access-travel-in-slovakia.
  • Outdoors enthusiasts with mobility issues should consult www.high-tatras.travel/information/summer/routes-for-the-disabled. Eight marked hiking trails are suitable for some travellers with reduced mobility.

Accessible Travel Online Resources

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Bargaining

Respectful bartering is common in markets, but fixed-price goods are the norm in most places in Slovakia. Gentle haggling might be appropriate when agreeing to a fare for long taxi rides (or where the journey involves the driver waiting while you visit something), negotiating a lower rate for a long-term guesthouse stay, or large purchases (such as furniture) from a family-run business. Otherwise, the advertised price is usually gospel.

Dangers & Annoyances

Slovakia is generally safe, with a courteous culture and active police presence.

  • Hike cautiously, keep hold of mountain-rescue phone numbers and tell someone where you're heading. Weather conditions change rapidly.
  • Beware overpriced-drinks scams where attractive strangers insist on taking you to a specific bar.
  • Unscrupulous taxi drivers overcharge tourists, especially in Bratislava. Insist on the meter.
  • Locals may warn against visiting deprived areas; follow their advice, if only to escape uncomfortable stares.
  • If driving across the border with Ukraine, beware lurkers near your car. One scam is to damage tyres and have an accomplice offer 'assistance' down the road.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Dial the international access code 00 before Slovakia's country code.

Slovakia's country code421
Emergency112
Fire150
Ambulance155
Police158

Entry & Exit Formalities

Slovakia is part of the Schengen area, an EU territory that allows free movement of people across internal borders without checks. Non-EU passports should have an expiry date of ideally no less than six months after the visitor's intended departure date.

Customs Regulations

  • There are no limits on tobacco and alcohol products brought into Slovakia from other EU countries.
  • Limits apply to alcohol and tobacco (respectively, up to 2 litres of spirits and 200 cigarettes) if you're travelling from non-EU countries.
  • Meat and dairy products may not be brought in from non-EU countries.

Visas

Visas are not required for most visitors staying less than 90 days.

Further Information

For a full list of visa requirements, see www.mzv.sk (under 'Consular Info').

  • No visa is required for EU citizens.
  • Visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the US do not need a visa for stays up to 90 days.
  • Nationals from many African and Asian countries require a visa. For the full list see www.slovak-republic.org/visa-embassies.
  • The Schengen visa grants access not only to Slovakia but to 25 additional European countries.

Etiquette

Slovaks are friendly, though wry, and they may initially seem reserved. Beyond basic politeness, there are no major etiquette pitfalls to worry about.

  • Meeting and greeting Err on the side of formality when interacting with Slovaks. Handshakes are common on first introductions and punctuality is valued. Start with dobrý deň (hello); ahoj (hi) is more casual, used among friends.
  • Clothing Don't wear revealing clothing when visiting churches, regardless of how you see other tourists dressed.
  • Shoes Take off your shoes at the door when entering someone's home. This may also be appropriate at small guesthouses and homestays.
  • Dining and drinking When clinking glasses for a toast, make firm eye contact while you say na zdravie (cheers). When dining in a group, don't tuck in until someone (maybe you) has said dobrú chuť (like bon appétit).
  • Tipping Expected from tourists, either by rounding up a bill or leaving 10%.

LGBT Travellers

Homosexuality has been legal in Slovakia since 1962. However, same-sex relationships enjoy very little legal recognition in this conservative, mostly Catholic, country. Trans people are able to have their gender legally recognised only with medical intervention.

Polls suggest that a majority of Slovak people are in favour of civil partnerships for people of all genders but proposals to grant more legal rights to same-sex couples have stalled. Marriage equality is a long way off.

The LGBT scene is small but lively in Bratislava, nascent in Košice, and under the radar elsewhere. Outside Bratislava, unless at an LGBT-friendly venue, it's advisable for travellers to keep same-sex displays of affection to a minimum in public spaces.

The Queer Slovakia (http://queerslovakia.sk) website lists events in Bratislava, Košice and Žilina. For action in the capital, check out bratislava.gayguide.net (load the racy website with caution), and find a map of LGBT destinations on www.travelgayeurope.com/gay-map-of-bratislava.

To see Bratislava at its rainbow-coloured best, consider timing a visit for Pride Bratislava (http://duhovypride.sk) in late June or early July.

Internet Access

Wi-fi is widely available across the country. Slovak telecommunications companies are aiming to bring high-speed internet to lesser-populated areas in Slovakia by 2020.

Most hotels and cafes have wi-fi; in rural areas most guesthouses have a connection though it may not extend beyond the reception or dining area.

Wi-fi is so widespread that internet cafes are becoming scarce. For the laptopless, some hotels (especially four-star and above) have computers you can use.

Money

Slovakia's currency became the euro in January 2009. ATMs are available in most tourist destinations. Credit cards accepted in major hotels; with guesthouses, ask ahead.

ATMs

ATMs accepting international cards are widely available in cities and common in smaller towns. Small villages rarely have them.

Cash

Guesthouses and apartments outside major cities often accept payment in cash only. It's wise to carry some cash for small purchases such as museum tickets, public transport, market produce and souvenir stalls, all of which are less likely to accept cards.

Credit Cards

Visa and MasterCard are accepted at almost all hotels and restaurants in well-touristed places like Bratislava, Košice and the High Tatras resorts. Businesses in mid-sized towns usually accept cards or forewarn customers with a 'cash only' sign.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1€0.64
CanadaC$1€0.67
Japan¥100€0.77
New ZealandNZ$1€0.59
PolandPLN1€0.23
RussiaRUB100€1.33
SwitzerlandSfr1€0.88
UKUK£1€1.15
USUS$1€0.88

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Tipping

Slovaks don't tip consistently, but rounding up bills to the nearest euro is common practice.

  • Restaurants Leaving 10% is increasingly common (and may be expected of foreign tourists). Higher percentages may result in waitstaff assuming you've made an error and following you to return your change.
  • Taxis Round up the bill by an extra one or two euros.
  • Pubs and bars Not expected except for table service and elaborate cocktails.

Opening Hours

Standard opening times for the tourist season (May to September) follow. Other than ski resorts, operating hours in villages and remote areas may be considerably shorter from October to April; check ahead. Museums usually close on Mondays.

Banks 8am–5pm Monday to Friday

Bars 11am–midnight Monday to Thursday, 11am–2am Friday and Saturday, noon–midnight Sunday

Grocery Stores 6.30am–6pm Monday to Friday, 7am–noon Saturday

Post Offices 8am–6pm Monday to Friday, 8am–noon Saturday

Restaurants 11am–10pm

Shops 9am–6pm Monday to Friday, 9am–noon Saturday

Post

Post office service is reliable (outgoing) but waits are longer when you're expecting incoming mail from abroad. For outgoing mail, bank on five working days to reach other parts of Europe and seven for the US/Australia. Post offices are found across Slovakia, including the main post office in Bratislava.

Public Holidays

New Year's/Day of the Slovak Republic's Establishment 1 January

Epiphany/Three Kings Day 6 January

Good Friday and Easter Monday March/April

Labour Day 1 May

Victory over Fascism Day 8 May

Cyril and Methodius Day 5 July

SNP (National Uprising) Day 29 August

Constitution Day 1 September

Our Lady of Sorrows Day 15 September

All Saints' Day 1 November

Fight for Freedom and Democracy Day 17 November

Christmas 24 to 26 December

Smoking

  • Smoking Some bars still have smoking areas. Elsewhere smoking is generally permitted only in open areas and on terraces.

Taxes & Refunds

A 'Tourist Tax' or 'City Tax' levied on accommodation providers (up to €1.65 per person per night) may or may not be included in advertised room rates.

Value-added tax (VAT) is a 20% sales tax levied on most goods and services. Restaurants include VAT in prices. It’s sometimes possible for visitors to claim a refund of VAT paid on goods.

Telephone

Landline numbers can have either seven or eight digits. Mobile phone numbers (10 digits) are often used for businesses; they start with 09. When dialling from abroad, you need to drop the zero from both city area codes and mobile phone numbers. Purchase local and international phone cards at newsagents. A diminishing number of post offices have a telephone centre.

Mobile Phones

Slovakia has very good network coverage and you only need to bring a passport to buy a local SIM card. Major providers include Orange, T-Mobile and O2.

Time

Slovakia is part of the Central European Time Zone (UTC/GMT plus one hour) and follows daylight saving time. When the hour strikes noon in Bratislava, the following times apply:

Beijing

Time

7pm

Canberra

Time

10pm

London

Time

11am

Washington, DC

Time

6am

Toilets

  • Sit-down ('throne') toilets are the norm across Slovakia.
  • Public toilets aren't hugely common, but they do exist near tourist attractions, at bus and rail stations and by car parks.
  • There's usually a small fee (€0.20 to €0.50) to use public toilets.

Tourist Information

Association of Information Centres of Slovakia (www.aices.sk) Runs a wide network of city information centres.

Bratislava Tourist Information Centre Helpful and multilingual official tourist office in the capital.

Košice City Information Centre Official information centre for Slovakia's 'eastern capital'.

Slovak Tourist Board (http://slovakia.travel/en) The country's over-arching tourist resource online.

Travel with Children

Family is the focal point of life in Slovakia, particularly in rural areas. As a result the country is chock-full of child-friendly attractions. Note that in cities, children aren't usually present for evening dining and drinking (as they often are in Western European countries).

  • Bratislava has plenty to keep kids interested, including wacky statues dotted around the old town, plenty of parks to scamper in, castles and cable cars.
  • Open-air museums, where visitors can peep inside old-timey houses and spot farm animals, are often fun for little travellers (with little attention spans); there are great examples in Martin and Bardejovské Kúpele.
  • Košice has a flashy fountain that sings, the centrepiece of a main square lined with ice cream parlours and cafes, plus there's a zoo in easy reach of the city.
  • Kids love Poprad's Aqua City water park, and mountain resorts nearby have plenty of child-friendly activities: summer rowing on Štrbské Pleso's lake, cycling in the Smokovec Resort Towns and in winter, ski slopes for all ages and abilities.

Get tips for family travel with Lonely Planet's Travel with Children.

Practicalities

  • Many hotels provide cots or additional beds for children, usually for a small fee.
  • Nappies, infant formula and baby food are readily available at pharmacies and larger supermarkets across Slovakia.
  • Restaurants and public spaces aren't particularly breastfeeding-friendly, though attitudes are gradually changing.
  • Children under 12 years must not sit in a car's front seat.
  • Some public toilets have nappy-changing areas, though standards aren't often high.

Volunteering

There are some opportunities for volunteers in Slovakia. Many advertised vacancies are hostels and private businesses looking for free labour – if you're happy to exchange a few hours of cleaning or farming work for a place to stay, it might be for you. Slovakia doesn't have a national WWOOF group, but there are independent hosts seeking volunteers to work on organic farms; find them on www.wwoofindependents.org.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures The metric system is used.

Work

EU nationals are free to work in Slovakia; look for vacancies on www.profesia.sk or www.careerjet.sk. Non-speakers of Slovak may also wish to follow the International Jobs Slovakia message board on Facebook (www.facebook.com/International.Jobs.Slovakia), operated by Internationals Bratislava (www.internationals.sk).

TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) courses can be undertaken in Bratislava but there isn't an enormous amount of demand for English teachers. Qualified teachers can seek employment on www.eslemployment.com, www.eslbase.com and other sites.