Slovakia was the eastern half of the former Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech and Slovak republics shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain; these days they’re both modern democracies and EU members. Slovakia is often overlooked in favour of Czechia with its famous capital Prague, but the Slovakian capital of Bratislava is well worth a visit and the Tatra Mountains along the Slovak – Polish border are renowned for their beauty and great hiking. Bratislava is a near-neighbour of Austria‘s capital Vienna (they’re the closest pair of European capitals, disregarding Rome / Vatican City), and most easily reached from there.
Travel to, from, and within Slovakia overland
Slovakia has well-developed road and rail networks, both of which are easy ways to get around the country. An Interrail / Eurail pass is a good way to travel to Slovakia overland as part of a wider European trip; it takes just an hour from Vienna to Bratislava (when I did the journey, Slovakia was not yet in the EU and the rail journey involved a change of trains at the border with full customs and immigration checks; these days the trains run right through).
You can also travel between Bratislava and Vienna along the Danube by boat – see here for details.
As a member of the Schengen Area, and being surrounded by fellow Schengen countries (except Ukraine), border crossings aren’t something you have to think about much when overlanding through Slovakia (although police do sometimes board trains near borders to check IDs). If heading to Ukraine, check the entry requirements for your passport and be careful about Schengen visas / your days in & out of Schengen.
Things to do in Slovakia
Explore Bratislava’s wonderful old town and climb up to the castle – the view from the hill is fascinating, with the pretty spires and rooftops below you contrasting with the massed ranks of concrete monstrosity Communist-era tower blocks looming on the other side of the river across this retro-dystopian sci-fi bridge:
I’ve only been to Bratislava, but the Tatra Mountains in the country’s east are at the top of the list for my next visit.
Resources and Useful Links for Visiting Slovakia
Official website for the Interrail pass
Official website for the Eurail pass
Search Agoda for hotel deals in Slovakia
World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance you can buy even if already overseas (most travel insurance companies won’t cover you if you’ve already left your country, and this can be a crucial point as I once found out the hard way in Thailand)
Seat 61 has the schedules & fares for London to Slovakia by train
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