These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Slovakia basics

    
 
 Source: Ján Lacika



















Population: 5,400,998 (As of December, 2007); 48.6% men, 51.4% women
Nationalities: Slovak: 86%, Hungarian: 10%, Roma: 10% (estimated), other: 4% (Czech, German, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Polish).
Religion: Roman Catholic (69%), Evangelical (7%), Greek Catholic (4%), Reformed (2%), Orthodox (1%), Jewish and others.
Capital: Bratislava (pop. 425,459)
Currency: euro €
Language: Slovak
Business hours: Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00
Time zone: GMT/UTC+1hour

Geography

Area: 49,035 square kilometres.Borders with neighboring states: Hungary (679km), Poland (598km), the Czech Republic (265km), Austria (127km) and Ukraine (98km) .
Land Use: Forest: 40.61%. Arable land: 30.24%. Meadows and pastures: 17.02%. Urban areas: 2.62%. Water: 1.91%. Gardens: 1.59%. Other agricultural land: 1.03%. Other: 4.98%. (Statistics from the Environment Ministry, as of 1994)
Highest point: Gerlachovský štít (2,655 m)
Longest river:Váh River (403 km)
Towns: 136 (settlements with more than 5,000 inhabitants)
Villages: 2,717 (settlements with less than 5,000 inhabitants)
National Parks: 7 - High Tatras, Low Tatras, Pieniny, Slovenský raj, Malá Fatra, Muránska planina, Poloniny.
Caves: 660
Castles and castle ruins: 300
Major Cities: Bratislava (population 452,053), Košice (240,915), Banská Bystrica (84,919).

Climate

Slovakia has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters.

Telecommunications

Most pay phones are card operated. Buy phone cards (telefónna karta) at news-stands, gas stations or at the post office. International calling cards also work.To place an international call, dial 00, the country code, city code and number. Example: to call San Francisco, dial 00 + 01 (country) + 415 (city) + number.

General phone numbers:
Information 1181
General emergency 112
Police 158
Ambulance 155
Fire 150
Emergency Road Service 18124

Getting here

Vienna International Airport

Most visitors to Slovakia fly into Vienna’s Schwechat International Airport (60 kilometres away from Bratislava), which is larger than Bratislava’s M.R. Štefánik Airport. Taxis from Vienna (if Slovak) start at €66, but could be three times as expensive if they’re Austrian.

Buses are a better way of getting to Bratislava from Vienna Airport. They run several times a day, cost about €14, and the journey lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

Bratislava International Airport

M.R. Štefánik Airport is 8 km from downtown Bratislava. A taxi into town costs from €6,6 to €12. By bus, take number 61 to the main railway station, not forgetting to buy a 0,6 ticket from the yellow dispenser and mark it in the red punch machine. You will also need a 0,35-ticket for each large bag.

Košice International Airport

Košice International Airport is located six kilometres from the centre of town. Vienna, London, Dublin, Poprad and Bratislava are among its flights’ destinations.

Getting around

Travelling by car

If you drive in Slovakia, be careful. There are few freeways, so driving here often means jockeying for space on crowded two-lane roads with large trucks, sputtering Škodas and zooming BMWs. Even the freeways are not safe, as fast-moving traffic may be travelling at twice the speed of slower vehicles. Road dangers such as sharp curves and bad bumps are often inadequately marked, so drive defensively.
Driver requirements: All foreign national driving licences are recognised. Visitors driving cars or trucks must be at least 18 years of age. International driving permits are recognised.
Traffic regulations: The current traffic regulations are the same as in other European countries.
Some important differences:
* The use of mobile phones is forbidden while driving.
* Speed is limited at railway crossings to 30km/h, while in the city it is 60km/h, on the highway 90km/h, and on the freeway 130km/h. These speed limits are not signposted.
* Trams turning right have the right of way.
* There is no right turn on a red light.
* All accidents must be reported to the police.
* No amount of alcohol in the blood is tolerated.
Motorway stickers: Vehicles using certain sections of freeway and selected highways must purchase a sticker and place it on the right-hand side of the windscreen. Any sticker not fixed is invalid. Stickers can be bought at most gas stations, and cost €43,20 for one year.
Breakdown service: The road assistance service can be reached at 18-124. The service operates 24 hours a day.

Taking the train

Trains in Slovakia are the safest, cheapest and most agreeable way to travel. The most frequented line in the country, the Bratislava-Košice route, costs about €15 and takes roughly 5.5 hours.

For travellers, two web sites are crucial: www.zsr.sk and www.busy.sk. The former is the official site of the national railway company, where you can find when your desired train is leaving as well as details of the trip. The latter is run by the bus company.

At the train station, tickets can be purchased at the window reading KVC (Komplexné vybavenie cestujúcich). Make sure you’re being booked for a fast train (rýchlik) rather than a slow train (osobný), as the latter stops at every station on the line and can take hours longer than the rýchlik.

International trains to Bratislava run from Vienna (1 hour), Budapest (3 hours), and Prague (4-5 hours) several times a day, and from Krakow (6 to 7 hours) two or three times a day. International tickets can be bought at the international ticket office (Medzinárodná pokladna).

Trains from Vienna often arrive at the Bratislava-Petržalka station, south of the Old Town and across the Danube. Getting there by car to pick someone up can be complicated, but take the Nový Most bridge over the Danube and keep going past the Renault car dealership, hanging right.

Beware of crowded trains, especially on Friday and Sunday evenings when swarms of university students travel to and from school. On those lines it can be nearly impossible to find a seat in the regular cars. To assure a seat, buy a miestenka (seat reservation). Or bypass the crowds altogether and ride first class, where plenty of personal space is a virtual guarantee.

Taking the bus

Bratislava’s main bus station (Hlavná autobusová stanica) is in the Mlynské Nivy district, a 15 minute walk from the centre. You can buy international bus tickets either at the ticket office (zahranicná pokladna) or with Eurolines, which provides service to 21 European towns (open Mon-Sat, 05:20 to 20:00, Sun 6:30 to 20:00, Tel: (02) 5556-7349).

When travelling by bus domestically, buy tickets as you board after telling the driver your destination. On crowded routes, drivers will sell tickets to as many people as can be squeezed on, even if it means people have to stand for five hours.

Taxis

Taxi service is still cheap by Western standards. Some drivers may try to rip off foreigners by not turning the meter on and then claiming an outrageous total, so make sure it’s running before he takes off. In Bratislava, avoid taking cabs from the main railway station and the bus tation. For a tip, just round up to the nearest €0,30 figure.

In Bratislava, avoid taking cabs from the main railway station and the bus station. For a tip, just round up to the nearest Sk10 figure.

Keeping in touch

The Post Office

At a Slovak post office (Slovenská pošta), you can make phone calls and buy phone cards, pay your utility bills, send a telegram, get film developed, buy lottery tickets, and, of course, send mail. Often, the simplest thing to do with outgoing mail (odosielanie listov) is hand it to the person behind the counter; they will stamp it and send it off for you. For incoming packages, many post offices have a “poste restante” window - bring your passport.

Slovak money

Slovakia’s basic currency unit is the euro (€)

When changing money, look for signs saying zmenáren, or “change,” and steer clear of strangers offering to exchange money on the street (ie crooks who will either stick you with worthless bills or just snatch yours).

You can get cash from international accounts at an automatic teller machine (ATM), usually marked Bankomat. Travellers’ cheques can be cashed at most banks and some exchange offices. Credit cards are gaining acceptance, especially in tourist areas and bigger towns.

Properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Cultural
Historic town of Banská Štiavnica and the technical monuments in its vicinity
Bardejov town centre
Spiš Castle and its associated cultural monuments
Vlkolínec
Natural
Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst
Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians

Public holidays

Jan 1 - New Year’s Eve and Independence Day;
Jan 6 - Three Kings Day;
Mar/Apr - Good Friday and Easter Monday;
May 1 - Labour Day;
May 8 - Victory over Fascism;
Jul 5 - Cyril and Methodius Day;
Aug 29 - SNP Day;
Sep 1 - Constitution Day,
Sep 15 - Our Lady of Sorrows;
Nov 1 - All Saint’s Day;
Nov 17-Day of Struggle for Democracy;
Dec 24- 26 – Christmas


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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