Slovakia— The Basics
In the heart of central Europe, Slovakia is a charming little country that has quite a lot to offer! By far one of the less expensive European destinations, a few Euros can take you a long way in Slovakia. With a little travel advice, any adventurer’s trip to Slovakia will go off without a hitch!
Sights and Attractions
Bratislava is one of the most beautiful yet often overlooked capital cities in the world. Standing right above the Danube River, the aptly named Bratislava Castle is a lovely masterpiece of Baroque architecture. Right atop the hill overlooking the surrounding section of the city, Bratislava Castle is renowned for its four stern towers, its bright whitewashed walls, and its classic red roofing. With constructions being made in the 800s and with constant additions well into the 1700s, this castle serves as a reflection of the cities continued growth. An abundance of history lies behind those walls. Tours are given almost daily. If you think it’s pretty on the outside, just wait until you explore the vast number of rooms within!
After you check out Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral is within walking distance. Once upon a time, the area of Bratislava was under the control of the Kingdom of Hungary. Between 1563 and 1830, 20 kings and queens had their coronation at St. Martin’s cathedral. Not only is its design beautiful on the outside, but the ornate interior holds a lot of history.
Standing at over 150 feet tall, Michael’s Gate used to be one of only four ways to enter and exit Bratislava. Now, as invasion and siege are not the credible threats they used to be, such gates are simply a leftover relic from a more savage age.
Thankfully, this leftover relic is quite beautiful! For lovers of history, architecture, forts, and castles, Michael’s Gate now hosts a museum centered on the historical development of Bratislava, its fortifications, and its general defense infrastructure. The walls that would have connected to this tower are shown in a number of miniature reconstructions of the older city layout.
Slovakia Travel Tips
Slovakia Currency Considerations
Slovakia uses the Euro! This is great for those who are visiting other European nations on their oversea travel adventure. Don’t wait to exchange your currency in Slovakia. If the thought of exchanging currency doesn’t pass your mind until you’ve reached Bratislava, then you’d better get ready to lose your hard-earned money on a bad exchange rate.
Exchange your currency in your home country. With an online currency exchange service, you are more likely to get a reasonable rate, meaning that you will get the most out of your currency in Slovakia.
Slovakia is a very safe place. Still, as with anywhere else, this piece of travel advice holds true: always keep an eye on your valuables! Every forest has its scavengers. Don’t leave money or valuables unattended.
Always think about where you’re keeping your currency in Slovakia. If you’re staying in a hostel, be sure to put your things in a locker when you’re not around. Don’t set your purse down in public, and try to keep your wallet in your front pocket. It’s more difficult to snatch that way. You don’t want to leave your oversea travel adventure with a frown on your face and a story of how your wallet was jacked. You don’t want the savings on those travel deals to go to waste because your purse disappeared.
Slovakia is a pretty inexpensive place, so you won’t be charged an arm or a leg for a hotel, hostel, or homestay. Outside the usual tourist season, you’ll find that homestays can be heavily discounted. They would rather charge less than get nothing, so be mindful of that if you are not booking during the summer.
Despite how inexpensive Slovakia is, it’s always best to look for the best travel deals before booking any tickets or stays. If you have more money from those savings, then you will be able to spend more on your trip and enjoy the fruits of traveling. A universally applicable piece of travel advice: learn some lodging-related terms in the local language, just in case. Bed, night, day, number of days — such terms are incredibly helpful.
Flights and Transportation
The main international airport is in Bratislava, so your oversea travel adventure is likely to start there. Before your flight, take advantage of any travel deals you come across. Airlines occasionally offer discounted hotels with long-distance trips.
A reasonably extensive railway system brings travelers throughout the nation. Wherever a train can’t take you, a bus probably can. Basic knowledge of Slovak numbers, currency terms, and transaction terms are always helpful when taking routes usually frequented by locals.
The Slovak people speak the Slovak language. Usually, Slovak and Czech speakers can understand most of what the other is saying. You can get by just fine with English in the capital of Bratislava, but don’t expect to come across many English speakers outside of important urban centers.
A large number of Slovaks can speak German or Russian as a second language, so any knowledge of these languages can be helpful. Thankfully, the Slovak language uses a modified version of the Latin alphabet, which means that you will be able to read it. If you have any trouble communicating, use a translation app on your phone or an up-to-date phrasebook. Pictures help, too.
Slovakia was once part of a country called Czechoslovakia. In 1993, Czechoslovakia dissolved and was succeeded by the Czech Republic and Slovakia. With that in mind, and seeing as it has been decades, it is not a good idea to refer to Slovakia as Czechoslovakia. Slovaks are their own people. They have their own heritage and history, and they are proud of who they are.
Slovakia, as part of Czechoslovakia, was a member of the Warsaw Pact, and a client-state to the Soviet Union. Travelers who go to Slovakia and refer to it as Soviet, post-soviet, or worst of all, Russian, are met with eye rolls, scoffs, and glares.
Slovakia has a long, rich history, and they don’t want their identity to be reduced to a political period that didn’t even last 60 years. Viewpoints on the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact vary between individual Slovaks, but it’s probably best just to not bring it up. For the lover of old communist relics, it’s ok to ask directions to monuments and structures, but don’t be over the top about it.
Slovakia, as part of Czechoslovakia, was occupied for some time by the Nazis in the Second World War. Many people were killed, abused, and mistreated during that time. This is a sensitive subject, so bear this in mind when discussing that era.
If you are visiting a Slovak’s home, be sure to bring a small gift. Get there when you say you will, and take your shoes off upon entry. Wear nice socks to avoid looking like a barbarian.
Whether you’re there to see Bratislava or the surrounding countryside, know that a trip to Slovakia is a trip you won’t soon forget. The friendly people, beautiful cityscapes, and scrumptious food and drink will not leave you disappointed. Why delay? Ask for those vacation days, get your Euros, and take an affordable, A+ vacation to Slovakia!
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