Slovakia Facts & Things To Know Before Your First Visit
Updated on May 1st, 2020
Slovakia is a small country located in Central Europe with five and a half million residents. Slovakia is a great destination for the budget traveller and those looking to spend time in the outdoors. You’ll find food, travel and tourist activities are much cheaper than other European destinations.
In this post, you will find 15 Slovakia facts and travel tips that I wish I knew before visiting. I spent 3 months in this beautiful country on a Workaway program here over winter. Winter is a great time for snow sports but the harsh European winters put a hold on most other activities. To really experience the beauty of Slovakia visit in the Spring or Summer months.
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#1 Travel by train
One thing to note before you visit Slovakia is that it has a great train system. Most major towns and cities are located along the Slovakian train line and from there you can get buses to smaller villages. Train travel is affordable at around 5€ per 100km (considering the country is 324km wide – not a bad deal).
The express train is called the IC or EC depending on whether it originates within the country (IC) or internationally (EC). The express train is significantly quicker than the regular trains and is not reflected in the price.
#2 Don’t expect a sober trip when you visit Slovakia.
The Slovak locals love to drink and sure know how. There’s no need for the common saying, ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ here. It’s not surprising to see locals with shots while you’re out enjoying coffee and breakfast. So hop on the bandwagon and have a shot of Becherovka at 8 am.
#3 Toilets aren’t marked with images
Something I seemed to have taken for granted elsewhere in the world is that most toilets have images of a man or woman to help determine which one to use. In Slovakia, this is not the case. Make sure to learn the following words to avoid any awkward situations.
Female/Women – Žena or ženy
Male/Men – Muži or mež
I have the funny story of trying to ask a cleaning lady which toilet to use. After I pointed at both toilets and then myself for some time, the lady showed me what I thought was which toilet to use. When I started to enter the toilet, the lady screamed, ‘Nieeeee’ and started laughing. I guess she pointed to the men’s.
Ladies, grab your free European packing list!
#4 Not everyone speaks English in Slovakia
Slovakians are very mixed in their English speaking abilities. Unlike other countries, you will find many of the younger generations have a hard time speaking English. Even in popular tourist areas, you may have to mime out what you are after. I found many of the locals can speak Polish and Russian quite well.
#5 On that note, learn some basic phrases for your visit to Slovakia
The locals will love it and thank you for attempting to learn some of their words and phrases.
Hello – Ahoj (AH-hoy)
Thank you – Ďakujem (JAH-
Please/You are welcome – Prosím (PROH-seem)
Goodbye – Do
Yes – Áno (AAH-noh)
No – Nie (pronounced NYEE-eh)
Do you speak English? – Hovoríte
#6 Slovakia has 9 National Parks
Slovakia boasts 9 national parks which cover over 3,000 km2. Of these, they are mostly spread throughout the north-central region of the country. You’ll find caves, forests, lakes, waterfalls and untouched wilderness.
When visiting the low Tatras, make sure you include a visit to one of the top cafes in Liptovsky Mikulas.
#7 Visit Slovakia if you’re an outdoor enthusiast
Due to the above, Slovakia is a wonderful place to visit if you love the outdoors. During the wintertime, skiers will love the Low Tatras which is home to Slovakia’s largest ski resort, Jasna. The rest of the country has many small hills which have a couple of lift systems so that villagers are able to get their turns in. Ski touring is also very popular in this country as is cross country skiing and winter trekking.
If you prefer your adventures in the summertime, you’ll find no shortage of hiking trails. Slovensky Raj, Slovak Paradise in English as the name suggests is a paradise for walkers.
#8 You can drink the tap water in Slovakia
Make sure to enjoy the delicious tap water when you visit Slovakia. Due to the large alpine areas in the country, Slovakia’s tap water is some of the best in the world. After Austria, it has the second-largest reservoirs of drinkable water in all of Europe.
When dining out at cafes and restaurants, be sure to ask for a glass of water instead of bottled.
#9 Breakfast in Slovakia is a sweet ordeal
While I’m sure you can find some wonderful breakfast and brunch cafes in Bratislava, finding these elsewhere in Slovakia is near impossible. One of my favourite meals to eat out is breakfast, and I have seriously been missing some smashed avo on toast.
If you are a sweet brekky kinda person, don’t worry though because there are plenty of bakeries open in the morning. You can also find creperies in some towns. Yum!
#10 Visit Slovakia for a budget-friendly trip
Are you looking for a holiday which won’t break the bank? Then make sure you visit Slovakia. For the majority of things, prices are much cheaper than in Western Europe. Beer in a bar is under €2, a meal in a restaurant for dinner will cost you between €8 and €12 and a bed in a dorm in Bratislava is less than €10. The average cost of your own Airbnb in the city centre for 2 people is between €20 and €40.
⇒ See More: Keep costs down and get paid to travel the world on a superyacht
#11 Most movies are shown in English
Weird fact: Most movies in the cinema are shown in English with Slovak subtitles. Apparently, it costs too much to pay for the dubbing and therefore they don’t. If you’ve been missing movies during your travel, head to the cinema for cheap Tuesday and grab tickets for only 5 euros. What a bargain!
#12 There are waterparks everywhere
When you visit Slovakia, make sure you check out one of the waterparks. Many of these are open year-round and have thermal waters. You can easily spend more than 3 hours and especially in the summertime.
The Aquaparks consist of varying warm temperature thermal pools both indoors and out. There are waterslides, baby pools and a number of saunas and steam rooms. In addition to this, you’ll find bars, restaurants and shops so the only reason you need to leave is when you’re sufficiently shrivelled.
#13 Vegetarians visiting Slovakia, beware!
Slovakia is a very meat driven country. While items on a menu look like they will be vegetarian, they are not. For example, a very popular Slovak dish is cabbage soup. On a menu, it usually fails to mentions that two of the main ingredients in this is sausage and smoked ham.
Tip: Of the central and Eastern European countries I have visited, Romania has the best food for vegetarians.
#14 Interesting fact – Slovakia has the most castles and chateaux per capita
Do you dig visiting castles and medieval towns? If so, Slovakia is a must-visit for you. Although a relatively small country there are 180 castles and 423 chateaux’s! The post list the top 15 castles to visit in Slovakia. I would suggest getting out of Bratislava and seeing the others.
#15 The best Slovakia travel resources and pages
Finally, if you are looking for some valuable resources for getting around and what to do when visiting Slovakia take a look at the following links.
Train schedules and buy tickets
Bus schedules – There is an app to download which is in English
Slovakia Travel Websites
Travel in Slovakia – Good Idea
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Hello Erin. 🙂
You should try typical slovak pastry for breakfast – rožok (breadroll). We are eating it sweet or salty and it is really delicious. 🙂
I can also recommend hiking in Slovakia, there is amazing nature. 🙂 Check out my blog for more.
Hi Tina, Thanks for the tips. That pastry sounds delicious. I will have to try it next time I’m in the country. Yum!