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SLOVAKIA

Slovakia is a country of massive medieval castles built on the rocks, beautiful detailed ones located on plains (there is about 180 castles and ruins) as well as country of caves. Only a small number of the over 3000 caves (12) is open to the public, however.

These mostly consist of traditional karst caves,but there's also an ice cave, and one of the world's few aragonite cave open to the public.

History

In 1918 the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. 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 representations of Czech and Slovak 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.

Historic, political, and geographic factors have caused Slovakia to experience more difficulty in developing a modern market economy than some of its Central European neighbors. Finally, however, Slovakia joined the European Union and the NATO in 2004, and finally became part of the Eurozone on January 1st 2009.

Ethnicities

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.

Slovakia was a part of the Hungarian empire for almost a millenium, and a strong Hungarian-speaking minority of 9.7% remains, concentrated mostly in southern Slovakia. Historic German populations were uprooted and expelled after WWII but their historical influence remains.

In the eastern part of the country, there are many Romas/Gypsies and some Rusnacs/Rusins and Ukrainians. There are also some Czechs, Poles and still some Germans living in Slovakia.

Climate

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.

It is generally warmer in southern regions and the lowlands, where summer temperatures can climb above 30 degrees Celsius on hotter days, and where rain is more common in winters than snow, which usually melts in a few days.

Northern, and especially mountaineous regions have a colder climate, with summer temperatures not exceeding 25 degrees Celsius. Especially in the mountains, snow is common in winters and it can get quite cold.

If you are planning on visiting the mountains, please note that, as in any mountaineous 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.

Regions

Western Slovakia
the capital city, the Danube and other river valleys

 

Central Slovakia
medieval mining, national parks

 

Eastern Slovakia
mountain ranges with fairytale castles

Cities

  • 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 — 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 — 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • Rajecké Teplice — very peaceful spa town surrounded by magnificent Mala Fatra National Park
  • Trenčín — one of the most beautiful Slovak towns with a castle lying above the city overlooking the historical centre and the river Váh
  • 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

Other destinations

Get in

Slovakia is a member of the Schengen Agreement. For EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.

Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you travelling within the Schengen area or not, some airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.

Keep in mind that the counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving a specific Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa.

As of December 2010 only the nationals of the following non-EU/EFTA countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area: Albania*, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia*/**, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports. These visa-free visitors may not stay more than three months in half a year and may not work while in the EU.

Citizens of Taiwan (Republic of China) with an ID number will become visa-exempt on 11 January 2011.

Note that

  • while British subjects with the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British Overseas Territories citizens connected to Gibraltar are considered "United Kingdom nationals for European Union purposes" and therefore eligible for unlimited access to the Schengen Area,
  • British Overseas Territories citizens without the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British subjects without the right of abode in the United Kingdom as well as British Overseas citizens and British protected persons in general do require visas.

However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the Schengen Area.

Further note that

(*) nationals of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel and

(**) Serbian nationals with passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (Serbs residing in Kosovo) still do need a visa.

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.

By train

The easiest way to get to Bratislava by train from west is via Vienna, in Austria. The trip takes 50 - 70 minutes depending on whether the train is an express or a local train. There are two routes, either via Kittsee or Marchegg, and every direct ticket is valid for any of them. EuroCity trains to Bratislava depart from Prague Main Station every two hours, the journey takes slightly less than 4 hours. For the north and east of Slovakia, international trains leave from Prague in the Czech Republic to Žilina with some continuing to Košice.

Trains also travel to Slovakia from Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. As of 2011 railway timetable, all personal trains crossing to/from Poland are only regional trains and do not operate every day, buses are a better option. Crossing to and from Ukraine is a lengthy process due to bogie changing (different gauge in Ukraine) and security measures.

Direct international trains may be expensive: the best option is to buy a ticket to a station just on the other side of the border, and buy another one for onward travel there. You'll avoid the surcharge that way. Alternately, buy a return ticket if you can; it costs much less than price of two one-way international tickets combined (doesn't apply for domestic tickets).

By bus

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.

Please note that taking a bus from Prague to Bratislava is both cheaper and faster than train, but you should buy in advance, e.g. at Student Agency, Slovak Lines, or using the common bus reservation system AMSBus.

From Budapest the travel is 4 hours, the bus stop for 5 minutes at Györ and in a small restaurant in the road.

By plane

Bratislava has its own airport. Sky Europe[2] was the main airline but it went bust in 2009. The budget airline, RyanAir[3] operates to Stansted, Hahn and some other cities.

Full service carriers providing service to Bratislava BTS [4] are Czech Airlines[5] and Lufthansa [6]. Czech Airlines (CSA) provides several flights a day to/from its Prague hub. Czech Airlines connects its Praha hub also with Slovak airports in Kosice, Sliac and Zilina. One can also fly between Kosice and Vienna (OS) and between Kosice and Bratislava (NE). Similarly Lufthansa (LH) provides several flights a day to/from its Munich hub. There is also nonstop connection to Moscow and several other cities to the east.

The other alternative is Vienna airport Schwechat, which is just about 35 kms from Bratislava. It provides a more convenient way of arriving to Slovakia by the major airlines, but can be more expensive. Buses leave for Bratislava hourly, optionally you can take the airport shuttle.

Poprad - Tatry Airport [7] is also connected with Bratislava, Bologna and Basel thanks to scheduled routes operated by Danube Wings.

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.

Local Travel

From Austria

  • There's a pontoon bridge accessible only to pedestrians, cyclists and personal cars just south of the Austrian-Czech-Slovak three country border, between Hohenau an der March (Austria) and Moravský Svätý Ján (Slovakia). The way goes through flat countryside, is very calm and can be conveniently done by bike. Its length is approximately 6 kilometers, of which the 4 kilometers on the Slovak part are a completely straight invariable landscape which may feel somewhat boring.
  • A ferry operates between the villages of Angern an der March (Austria) and Záhorská Ves (Slovakia), accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and personal cars. Always check this website beforehand! The ferry is frequently out of service due to ice, high water level or strong winds. Hint: "zatvorený" means "closed" in Slovak. This crossing is absolutely not suitable for tourists relying on public transport.
  • The public transport company of Bratislava (DPB) runs a cross-border bus line no. 901 between Hainburg an der Donau (Austria) and Bratislava (Slovakia), with a stop also in the Austrian town of Wolfsthal. In Bratislava, the terminus is the stop Nový most.

From Czech Republic

  • When traveling on train between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it is useful to buy a separate ticket for the part of the journey close to and crossing the border. The "minor border communication" (Malý pohraniční styk in Czech and Malý pohraničný styk in Slovak; MPS for short) is a special train fare which may be asked for tickets between stations that are situated closer than 40 (sometimes up to 50) kilometers from the border. These tickets can only be bought at stations which themselves are situated in the respective area.
  • In the train station Vlárský průsmyk situated on the railway between Brno (Czech Republic) and Trenčianská Teplá (Slovakia), both Czech and Slovak trains terminate and start, so that domestic Czech tickets can be bought to/from there and used in combination with Slovak tickets from/to the virtual border station Nemšová št.hr. In practice, though, because of the MPS (see above), this place is just useful as a convenient shared transfer place between Czech and Slovak trains.
  • Rail traffic on the railway border crossing between Sudoměřice nad Moravou (Czech Republic; the town itself is called just Sudoměřice) and Skalica na Slovensku (Slovakia; the town itself is called just Skalica) has been discontinued. Czech trains stop in Sudoměřice nad Moravou on their way between Veselí nad Moravou and Hodonín, Slovak trains terminate in Skalica. Between the two stations, it's a short, straight and flat walk of 3 kilometers and you may choose whether you walk on the unused railway, the adjecent busy road or the parallel old local road situated a little more to the east.

From Hungary

  • You can use the bus no. 91 of the public transport company of Bratislava (DPB) going to Čunovo in order to cross between Rajka (Hungary) and Bratislava (Slovakia). In Bratislava, the bus has Nový most as its terminus, and near the Hungarian border you get on/off at the stop Čunovské jazerá (you need to signal to the driver if you plan to get off at this stop). From Čunovské jazerá it's a four-kilometer-long straight walk through a flat terrain to the town of Rajka, two kilometers on each side of the border. You may detour to visit a monument at the Austrian-Hungarian-Slovakian three country border.

From Ukraine

  • The two border crossings between Slovakia and the Ukraine (Ubla and Uzhhorod) are nowadays external Schengen borders and as a rule cannot be crossed by individuals on foot, even not at the official crossing post. You can, however, get into someone's car just to cross the border.
  • There's a bus from Košice (Slovakia) going to Vyšné Nemecké, a border town from which you can reach the border crossing on foot. After crossing the border, you can proceed downhill to the center of Uzhhorod, either on foot or by taking a cheap taxi at the margin of the city.

Get around

CP offers an exceptionally useful website with integrated timetables for all trains and buses in Slovakia, including all intra-city and inter-city transports.

By train

Train is by far the best option to travel across Slovakia, provided you don't have a private vehicle. Rail network is extensive, the only exception is central southern Slovakia, where buses are more efficient. Trains are fairly priced, reliable and clean. 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 SlovakRail. Tickets bought over Internet are only valid in specified trains. Tickets bought at stations are valid for one journey with any applicable train, within a specified time period (usually one or two days, depending on the distance). International tickets, as of 2011, can only be bought at stations.

By Bus

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 (including to/from the Czech Republic or within the Czech Republic) can be bought from 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.

Hitchhiking

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 [8]. There you can find offers in English, German, French, Polish, Czech and Hungarian language and it is free.

By car

If one intends to drive on the motorways it is required to pay a road toll. This is done by buying a sticker (vignette) which is valid for a week (4,90 €) or longer. The sticker is fastened in the upper right corner on the car's windshield. Getting caught driving on the motorway without a valid vignette means that one has to pay a fine.

Talk

The official and most widely-spoken language is 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; however, most young people speak at least some English, as it has been taught in most schools since 1990. Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible, yet distinctive languages (at first, one might think they are dialects of each other).

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.

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.

While you 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, though few Slovaks will appreciate being spoken to in Russian. 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.

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

See

  • Slovakia boasts a record-high number of castles and chateaux [9]. 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 Spiš Castle, reported to be the largest castle in Central Europe, the Bojnice Castle built in the 19th century in a pseudo-romanesque style, and 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 [10]
  • Countless wooden churches in northern and north-eastern Slovakia [11]
  • Medieval mining towns of Kremnica and Banská Štiavnica

Buy

Slovakia has the euro (EUR, €) as its currency. Therewith, Slovakia belongs to the 23 European countries that use the common European money. These 23 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, 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 Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. These countries together have a population of 327 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 bills look the same throughout the eurozone. Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.

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.

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.

Eat

'Bryndzové halušky' is Slovak national meal made with potato dumplings and special kind of unpasteurized fermented sheep cheese called 'bryndza'. You will get pieces of fried meaty bacon on top of Bryndzové halušky. Apart from being very tasty and delicious, the bryndza is also extremely healthy. Some scientists suppose it can even prevent cancer and treat allergies. Other unique varieties of cheese are also available. While this, and other traditional dishes, can be found in many restaurants, if you can, try to seek out one of the restaurants named 'Salaš', as these traditionally specialise in this dish. Order it with 'zincica' (sheep milk).

Most other dishes are regional, and their varieties can be found elsewhere in Central Europe. These include the sauerkraut soup (kapustnica, typically eaten at Christmas), plum dumplings, chicken in paprika sauce with dumplings (paprikas), Segedin goulash (with sauerkraut), Schnitzel and Svieckova (sirloin beef with special vegetable sauce, served with dumplings).

A thick fried slice of cheese served with French fries and a salad is a common Slovak dish[12]. It is served in most restaurants, and worth trying out, especially the local variety made from smoked cheese ('udeny syr'/'ostiepok'). This is not considered a substitute for meat.

There is a good variety of bakery products, inclusing various cakes - try the local fillings of poppy seed and/or (sweet) cottage cheese ('tvaroh'). Local bread is excellent and filling, but please note that some varieties are sprinkled with caraway seeds. You may or may not like this! Some restaurants offer certain soups to be served in small loaf of bread ('v bochniku'), which can be an interesting and tasty experience.

For more information visit[13]Slovensko.

Drink

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 and can have positive effects, such as helping get rid of heart burn. There are many types available from shops and supermarkets, for example Budiš, Mytická, Slatina, Rajec, Dobrá Voda, Zlatá studňa, Mattoni etc. Others are only available directly from the many spas that naturally spring up all over the place.

For beers, there are a great variety of local brews that are similar in style to Czech beers (which are also widely available). Try out the local 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. Note that quality of the tap beer may vary dramatically between different restaurants and pubs, depending on how well they can prepare the beer and how they care about the equipment (clean pipes etc.).

Slovakia has also some great local wines, many similar to Germanic Riesling styles. There are also sweeter wines from the Southern border regions called Tokaj. Slovak wine might not be widely known outside the region but it is certainly worth a try. The best recent wine years in Slovakia were 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006. The year 2006 is expected to be the best in the last 40 years backwards.

Slovakia produces good spirits. Excellent is the plum brandy (Slivovica), pear brandy (Hruškovica) or liquor Demänovka. But the most popular alcohol is Borovička, a type of gin. 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 ;)

If you are a more adventurous type, you can try some home-made Slivovica that the locals sometimes offer to foreigners. While it is allowed to ferment alcohol at home by law, it is prohibited to distill it. The home-made liquors are very strong (up to 60% alcohol). If Slivovica is matured for 12 or more years, it can become a pleasant digestive drink.

Do

  • 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 georgeous landscapes. Get the idea here.
  • Visit one of the traditional wooden churches [14], they're unique to the region. These might not be readily accessible without a car, however.
  • Visit a cave - they are interspensed around Slovakia and many open to the public.
  • 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.
  • Ski in the mountains, especially High Tatras and Low Tatras. Smaller ranges are also very suitable for cross-country skiing
  • Navigate down the rivers Váh or Dunajec on a raft through picturesque gorges.
  • 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 ČHŽ near the town of Brezno.

Cultural Events

  • International Film Festival Artfilm [15] - Yearly in June/July in Trenčianske Teplice and Trenčín.
  • International Film Festival Cinematik [16] - Yearly in early September in Piešťany. Young and relatively small film festival. Accreditation for the whole festival is less than €7.
  • International Film Festival Bratislava [17] - forever in December.
  • Comics-Salón [18] - 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" [[19]] 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.

Music Events

  • Pohoda Music Festival [20] - one of the biggest Slovak music festivals. Yearly in July in Trenčín.
  • Aquabeatz [21] - 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.

Relax

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.

Sleep

There is a wide diversity of rooms available in Slovakia. These range from [22] AquaCity, based in Poprad, through to budget priced rooms [23] in rental chalets.

Mountain cabins offer cheap accommodation for hikers on trails in all of the national parks and a lot of the national conservation areas. An own sleeping bag is often required and a booking in advance is necessary for the most frequented places.

Learn

There are many ways to find out more about Slovakia. These can range from Government web sites through to Tourist sites.

Video to help you learn about Slovakia can be found at High Tatras TV [24]

Work

There are many ways in which Europeans can research work opportunities in Slovakia. Most Embassy offices will advise European Citizens. Average salary in 2009 was 750 EURO a month. Best paid are IT experts with average salary over 1500 EURO a month (construction workers earn around 560 EURO a month and waiters 340 EURO a month).

Stay safe

In case of an emergency, call 112, the universal emergency number. For police you can call 158, ambulance 155, and firefighters 150.

Slovakia is generally safe, even by European standards, and as a visitor you are unlikely to encounter any problems.

When visisting cities, excercise the same caution as you would in other European cities - use common sense, especially after the dark, and keep your belongings in sight. Pickpockets sometimes can be found in bigger crowds/cities and at major train/bus stations.

When visiting mountain areas of Slovakia, especially the High Tatra, inform hotel personnel of your trip plans, so that rescuers can be sent out to find you if you don't return to the hotel. Also, when visiting High Tatras, contact local mountain rescue service of your intent, they may even provide you with a safety guidelines. Take any warnings issued by the mountain rescue service seriously.

Insurance for Mountain Rescue Service is highly recommended when attending High Tatras due to cost of rescuing when lost in the terrain. Emergency number to Mountain Rescue Service is 18300 or universal number 112 can be used.

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

Stay healthy

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.

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 multitude of marks, since Slovakia has probably highest numbers of natural mineral water springs per capita. 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").

Respect

Remember that Slovakia is a separate nation that has been independent independence since 1993 when Czechoslovakia split into the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic.

As with other "young" nations, some people can be sensitive on nationality issues.

Like most other countries, politics and history are delicate topics, so tread lightly on those issues, especially World War II, which cost the lives of roughly 15% of Czechoslovakia's population, a rate similar to Poland, the USSR and Yugoslavia.

It shouldn't be necessary to mention that the 2006 film Hostel, whose plot takes place in Slovakia is a 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. It is considered a safe travel destination for all tourists, as is much of Europe.

It is advisable not to mention it in conversation with Czechs or Slovaks, unless you are sure they are not going to take offense, as the film insulted a lot of Slovaks much like Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat insulted people of Kazakhstan. Similarly, the American movie Eurotrip (2004) might prove a sensitive topic, because it portrayed Slovakia as a terrifyingly underdeveloped country.