If you don’t have a private car, the train is by far the finest way to travel throughout Slovakia. All major cities are served by frequent rapid trains, although there are fewer local trains, even on key lines. A bus is usually a superior option for local transportation. Trains are reasonably affordable, with costs comparable to buses and low by Western standards. They are dependable and hygienic.
If you prefer Western-style comfort, use an InterCity train; IC services connect Bratislava, ilina, the High Tatras, and Koice and need reservations. These may save you from crowds: regular trains can become packed, especially on Fridays and Sundays or during holidays. Avoid money frauds and keep an eye out for pickpockets at big train stations. In addition, robberies of sleeping passengers aboard nighttime longliners occur on a rare basis.
Domestic tickets with a 5% discount may be purchased online at SlovakRail. On the first day of validity, internet tickets in electronic or paper form for domestic trains are valid on the chosen train and date or on any subsequent train (even if you lost your seat reservation) on the same route (except all IC trains and Ex 1502 Chopok train). Tickets purchased at stations are good for any single trip on the stated route during a set time period (typically one or two days, depending on the distance), making them very flexible. International tickets may only be purchased at stations as of 2011.
Bus connections are generally slower than trains, but they may bring you to places that trains cannot. Some private companies also provide discounts for travelers with a foreign ISIC card (state-run companies do not, unless you are a Slovak citizen). Tickets for long-distance routes of 100 kilometers or more (including to/from the Czech Republic or inside the Czech Republic) may be purchased through AMSBus following mandatory registration (English version is also available). Traveling by bus from Bratislava to Nitra is a rare example of a route where buses are considerably quicker and less expensive than railroads.
Buses are timely, therefore it is best to be at the bus station early; the time stated in the schedule is the time it departs from the station. Most tickets are purchased straight from the driver, so you will almost certainly need cash. Though the bus driver may give you change, particularly for shorter (less expensive) trips, it is best to have some lower amounts on hand. If you have a large bag, you can expect to pay a modest surcharge.
Turancar and Student Agency are two examples of private bus companies that are dependable, pleasant (due to the usage of modern buses with on-board entertainment LCD screens), on time, and provide student discounts to foreigners with ISIC.
The road network is broad and in excellent condition generally. The majority of major highways (particularly in the western sections) are two lanes and in excellent condition; however, the majority of smaller roads are one lane, and the maintenance quality may range from good to very rough. Fuel stops and restaurants (odpovadlo or erpacia stanica) are quite common along major routes and highways, and in smaller towns, you’ll most likely find small kiosks (stánok) or fruit or cheese stands (ovocn stánok for fruit, stánok so syrom for cheese) next to the road, presenting local delicacies at low prices.
Slovakia’s driving style is more aggressive and of poorer quality, particularly when compared to nations in Western Europe. Other vehicles speeding, which is very common, and overtaking on your side of the road, particularly in the more hilly parts of the nation, should be avoided.
Vehicles drive on the right side of the road, with speed restrictions of 50 kmh (31 mph) in villages/towns, 90 kmh (56 mph) outside built-up areas, and 130 kmh (81 mph) on highways. Trucks and vehicles towing caravans/trailers are restricted to 80 km/h (50 mph) outside built-up areas or on highways, while motorcyclists are restricted to 90 km/h (56 mph) on highways.
Seatbelts are required in automobiles and vans, and minors under the age of 11 or shorter than 150 cm must sit in the back seat.
Headlights must be turned on at all times when driving, regardless of weather conditions or whether it is day or night, therefore turn them on.
Snow and ice are frequent on the roadways throughout the winter, and winter tires are required. Minor alpine routes may need snow chains in severe weather.
Slovakia has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drinking. DO NOT DRIVE AFTER DRINKING. If for no other reason, the consequences are harsh.
Helmets are required for both the driver and the passenger on all motorcycles, and goggles are required for drivers of motorbikes with engines greater than 50cc.
Police officers are often seen on the roadways, particularly on main thoroughfares, in both marked and unmarked cars.
If you want to travel on the highways, keep in mind that cars must display a required sticker (vignette) covering road tolls in the top right corner of the windscreen (mandatory location as this is mostly checked by fixed electronic camera system). The vignette is available at most gas stations and is good for ten days (€10), a month (€14), or longer. Please keep in mind that the vignette is required on all highways from the point of entrance, and failure to have one will result in a fine. If you are hiring a vehicle, it is most usually included in the rental fee, but always verify or ask before renting/booking.
If you speak Slovak, many private radio stations provide excellent traffic coverage as part of their news, informing you of any roadblocks, vehicle accidents, traffic jams, and even police presence, so it is well worth tuning in. Stellacentrum is another website where you may get basic information on traffic and police patrols (they even inform, where the police patrols actually are).
Most locations provide free parking; however, parking fees may apply in the core sections of larger cities. The most prevalent form of paid parking in cities other than Bratislava is a closed area where you enter and get a slip from a machine. On your way out, you must return the slip and pay to a person. The individual most likely does not speak English, but if you seem perplexed enough, he or she will give you a handwritten note with the amount scribbled on it. Pay with precise change and avoid big amounts, since these establishments seldom have a lot of cash on hand. There are locations in downtown Bratislava where you must get a parking slip from a vending machine and pre-pay for your parking. The slip must then be put beneath the car’s wind shield and must be visible from the outside.
Renting a vehicle is a handy, efficient, and reasonably inexpensive (prices start at about 65€/day at car rental companies with free mileage) option to explore Slovakia, particularly if you plan to visit more rural regions where rail and bus services may be more irregular. Don’t anticipate GPS or a road map, and remember to check whether the highway vignette (see above) is included; it’s most probable, but not always. Inquire when reserving, and if it isn’t, they’ll most likely be able to incorporate it without any further fees.
In Slovakia, the best way to hitchhike is to ask around at petrol stations. It used to be that the majority of people exclusively spoke Slovak (and maybe understood other Slavic languages), making it difficult for outsiders who did not know Slavic languages to communicate. However, today, the majority of young people speak English, and almost as many speak German.
Keep in mind that trains and buses in Slovakia are inexpensive for Westerners, and it may take some time for someone to pick you up (unless in very remote regions where people are less suspicious of hitchhikers). On specialist web sites, you may discover various deals if you go from Slovakia and into Slovakia. Stopar.sk is Slovakia’s most popular hitchhikers page. There are free offerings available in English, German, French, Polish, Czech, and Hungarian.
Hiking and mountain walking have a long history in Slovakia, and it is a very popular activity. Most individuals you meet have gone on a walk at least once in their lives, and many do so on a regular basis, so they can advise you on the most fascinating local trails. The trail system is also in excellent condition. The quality and effectiveness of the sign-posting system are unparalleled in the European (and perhaps global) environment.
Every route is well defined and signposted, with various paths denoted by a different color. The colors utilized are red, blue, green, and yellow. The longest and most extensive routes are generally designated red, and it is feasible to walk from the north-eastern Dukla Pass all the way to the west (Bradlo, near Bratislava) via the Slovak National Uprising Heroes trail (750 km). The paths, on the other hand, are many, appropriate for all levels of fitness, and many go through magnificent landscape. In towns, you’ll typically notice a signpost with arrows pointing in various directions, indicating the color of the route and the average walking durations to the closest set of locations. All you have to do is follow the color; there will be a mark every hundred meters or so that consists of a 10-cm-by-10-cm square three-section mark with white borders and the color of the selected route in the center.
It is also feasible (and strongly advised) to buy ‘tourism maps’ of smaller slovak areas. These are based on sets of old military maps, have a high resolution (1:50000), and can be bought for a low price of €1.50-2.50 at most kiosks, information centers, and bookshops. These are issued by the Slovak Tourist Club (KST), which maintains all of the trails, and indicate all of the designated trails in the region, as well as typical walking durations, making route planning extremely simple and efficient.