A dozen things to remember

Advice to help all kinds of visitors handle cultural differences.

  1. Call for a taxi (many taxi firms have English-speaking staff); getting a taxi from a rank can be significantly more expensive. Either way, check if the meter is running and get out if it isn’t.
  2. Always punch your ticket on public transport in cities (and make sure you have a ticket before boarding). Fares aren’t high but fines are, and inspectors are merciless. Drivers on municipal buses and trams usually do not sell tickets, but there are plenty of machines and kiosks that do.
  3. Please remember that most of museums and galleries are closed on Mondays. Take opening hours with a grain of salt. Major attractions publish their opening hours. Pay particular attention to information on the last admission on the day you want to visit, which might be as much as one hour before the attraction officially closes.
  4. Don’t leave your shopping until late. Even in Bratislava or Košice, many shops close at Saturday lunchtime and don’t open again untill Monday morning. Exceptions are shopping malls and kiosks near rail/bus stations.
  5. Don‘t be discouraged if a waiter/shop assistant/post office clerk scowls at you. They are not singling you out as a foreigner: everyone gets the same treatment.
  6. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol in public places. Smoking is prohibited in restaurants, bus stops and shopping malls and can result in a significant fine.
  7. Don’t leave your belongings on your car seats. Slovakia is generally a safe country but your belongings may ‘inspire’ an opportunist to break the window of your car and take them.
  8. Always have your passport with you. In Slovakia, you must normally produce a passport or ID when checking into a hotel.
  9. When visiting someone in their home, take a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers. If flowers, make sure you take an odd number! An even number of flowers is only ever taken to funerals or cemeteries. Slovaks frequently bring flowers to weddings and birthday parties. Everyone wants to shake hands and kiss the person who is celebrating, so be prepared for hand-shaking and kissing lines.
  10. Be prepared to say ’No’ several times if you really don’t want extra helpings of food or another shot of slivovica. Slovaks are very hospitable and retain the notion that carrying a few extra pounds is healthier than being on the thin side.
  11. Bratislava is a state within a state. Most tourists don’t leave the city, which is a shame because the rest of the region is dramatically different.
  12. If you have to use the toilet (záchod), make sure you have pocket change. Some restaurants and pubs charge a small fee, usually 20-50 cents, to use it. Men may have to pay extra for toilet paper as well.

Read here for six useful tips when eating at restaurants.