Slovakia

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Introduction to Slovakia

Slovakia, the former Czechoslovakia's less glamourous partner, emerged dishevelled and sleepy after the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989. Although it's now holding its own in a rebuilding Eastern bloc, there's a refreshing absence of Prague-style glitz and clamour.

This is a land of real spirit, where folk traditions have survived the domination of foreign rulers and a plethora of castles and chateaux pay testament to untold wars and civil conflicts. And the people have come through it all with their welcoming spirit intact.

Full country name: Slovak Republic

Area: 48,845 sq km

Population: 5.43 million

Capital City: Bratislava

People: Slovak (85.7%), Hungarian (10.6%), Romany (1.6%), Czech (1%)

Language: Slovak, Hungarian, Czech, German

Religion: 60% Roman Catholic, 10% Protestant, 4% Orthodox

Government: parliamentary democracy

Head of State: President Ivan Gašparovic

Head of Government: Prime Minister Mikulás Dzurinda

GDP: US$67.34 billion

GDP per capita: US$12,400

Annual Growth: 6%

Inflation: 6%

Major Industries: Metal products, electricity, gas, coke, oil, rubber products and agriculture

Major Trading Partners: EU (esp. Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland)

Member of EU: Yes

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Nationals of all western European countries can visit Slovakia without a visa. US, Australian and New Zealand passport holders can stay for 90 days without a visa. South African Passport holders require a visa. If you require a visa to Slovakia, it is strongly advised that you obtain one before commencing your journey or at a foreign consulate. It may be difficult to obtain one at a border crossing.

Health risks: Lyme disease (Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks, which are only 1-2 mm long. Most cases occur in the late spring and summer. The first symptom is usually an expanding red rash that is often pale in the centre, known as a bull's eye rash. However, in many cases, no rash is observed. Flu-like symptoms are common, including fever, headache, joint pains, body aches and malaise. When the infection is treated promptly with an appropriate antibiotic, usually doxycycline or amoxicillin, the cure rate is high. Luckily, since the tick must be attached for 36 hours or more to transmit Lyme disease, most cases can be prevented by performing a thorough tick check after you’ve been outdoors)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1

Dialling Code: 421

Electricity: 230V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Practically every day is a saint's day in the Slovak Republic, and 'special days', festivals and public holidays are widely acknowledged. Public holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Three Kings Day (6 January), Labour Day (1 May), Cyril and Methodius Day (5 July) and Christmas (24-26 December). The Bratislava Lyre in May or June features rock concerts. During June or July folk dancers from all over Slovakia meet at the Vychondná Folklore Festival, 32km (20mi) west of Poprad. The Bratislava Jazz Days are held in September.

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Best time to Visit

May, June and September are the prime visiting months, with April and October as chillier and sometimes cheaper alternatives. Most Slovaks take their holidays in July and August when hotels and tourist sights are more than usually crowded, and hostels are chock-a-block with students, expecially in the Tatras mountain resort areas. Luckily, the supply of bottom end accommodation increases in large towns during this time, as student hostels are thrown open to visitors. Centres like Bratislava and the mountain resorts cater to visitors all year round. Elsewhere, from October or November until March or April, most castles, museums and other tourist attractions, and some associated accommodation and transport, close down.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Slovak Koruna

Meals

Budget: Sk65-160

Mid-range: Sk160-300

High: Sk300-490

Deluxe: Sk490+

Lodging

Budget: Sk325-490

Mid-range: Sk490-850

High: Sk850-1300

Deluxe: Sk1300+

Slovakia has been relatively slow to privatise, meaning that it's likely to remain a bargain for travellers far longer than the neighbouring Czech Republic. Food, admissions and transport are all cheap and accommodation manageable except in Bratislava. By staying at cheap hostels and campsites, sticking to self-catering, pub grub and stand-up cafeterias, you might get away with US$15-20 per person per day in summer. In a private home or better hostel, with meals at cheap restaurants and using public transport, you can get by on US$20-25. To share a clean double room with bath in a mid-range hotel or pension, and enjoy good local or Western meals, plan on at least US$30-40. Except for Easter and Christmas-New Year, many bottom and mid-range hotels drop their prices by a third or more outside the summer season.

Travellers' cheques can be changed at major banks and post offices. Credit cards can be used in most major hotels, restaurants and shops and most of the larger branches of major banks can give cash advances from credit cards. ATMs are becoming quite common but shouldn't be relied upon outside of major towns. Be aware that some exchange places might not accept damaged or torn US dollars.

A tip of 5-10% is appreciated in any tourist restaurant with table service. The usual protocol is for them to tell you the total food bill and for you, as you hand over the money, to say how much you are paying with the tip included.

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Attractions

Bratislava

Bratislava is Slovakia's largest city and has been the capital since 1969. Here the Carpathian Mountains, which begin at the Iron Gate of Romania, finally come to an end. On the way by train, you'll see vineyards on the slopes of the Little Carpathian Mountains, where they meet the Danube River.

Many beautiful monuments survive in the old town to tell of its past under Hungarian rule, and Bratislava's numerous museums are surprisingly rich. Franz Lizst visited Bratislava 15 times, and the opera productions of the Slovak National Theatre rival anything in Europe.

Spiš

Spissky hrad (Zipser Burg) is the largest castle in Slovakia. It was founded in 1209, wrecked by the Tatars in the 13th century and reconstructed in the 15th century. Although the castle burnt down in 1780, the ruins and the site are spectacular.

The highest enclosure contains a round Gothic tower, a cistern, a chapel and a rectangular Romanesque palace perched over the abyss. Instruments of torture are exhibited in the dungeon.

The Malá Fatra National Park

The Malá Fatra (Little Fatra) Mountains stretch 50km (31mi) across northwestern Slovakia; Velký Kriván (1709m/5605ft) is the highest peak. At the heart of the national park is Vrátna, a beautiful mountain valley with forested slopes on all sides. Hiking possibilities vary from easy tourist tracks through the forest to scenic ridge walks; in winter the valley transforms into a popular ski resort. There are plenty of places to stay and eat, though midsummer accommodation is tight. The Malá Fatra is an easy day trip from Zilina, Central Slovakia's pleasant, untouristy main town.

Vysoké Tatry

The Vysoké Tatry (High Tatras) are the only truly alpine mountains in Eastern Europe and one of the smallest high mountain ranges in the world. Narrow rocky crests soar above wide glacial valleys with precipitous walls while the lower slopes are covered by dense coniferous forest.

Enhancing the natural beauty packed into this relatively small area (260 sq km/100 sq mi) are 30 valleys, almost 100 glacial lakes and numerous bubbling streams. A network of 600km (372mi) of hiking trails reaches all the alpine valleys and many peaks.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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