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  • Day31

    Recommendations for Slovakia traveling

    September 16, 2020 in Slovakia ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    ~~~ This footprint is intended to help people planning a trip to Slovakia, not part of the travel journal! ~~~

    We enjoyed Slovakia a lot, there are many amazing places to be visited and it has the advantage of not being super touristic (yet).
    However, during our time in Slovakia and especially before, we noted that it's not always as easy to get information prior to the trip as one might be used to from other counties. This is why I would like to use this footprint to gather everything we learned so far. Please note that the information here is entirely based on personal experience, we might have misunderstood or missed helpful details. Also, prices and schedules refer to the time of our visit and may change. However, I still hope to make a contribution to facilitate planning trips to Slovakia.

    Language:
    In Bratislava, all of the people we met spoke at least some, many very good English. Outside the city it was rather the other way around, so be prepared to communicate in alternative ways. German language skills appear to be a little more common. Anyway it is always helpful to learn some basic expressions (in my personal opinion, this is also an act of courtesy and should be done in every country).

    Transportation:
    You can best move around by train or, for shorter distances, bus. In Bratislava and Košice (out of the places we visited) there are also city trams. From what we were told, cabs mostly exist in the larger towns, but are uncommon in the villages.
    Regarding the schedules: none of the connections are all too frequent (calculate with train frequencies of every 1-3 hours) and do not make any assumptions about the duration of the ride based on the distance, especially in the mountains (e.g., Poprad -- Štrbske Pleso: 29km, 1h). Therefore, it can be helpful to choose your accommodation for hiking close to where you want to go. For information in the schedules, use the website cp.sk. Tickets can be bought at the ticket counters inside the train stations.

    Hiking:
    If you are looking to climb the reaaally high mountains you might want to stick to the alps (the highest peak in Slovakia is "only" 2654m), but here you have the advantage of being able to hike many different routes from different angles in few days. For instance, the High Tatras is rather small areawise, so you can start from a different side of the mountain range every day just by taking a short train or you can hike in the Tatras one day, in the Slovak Paradise the next day and still stay in the same place.

    High Tatras:
    You do not need a car here, as the train and cable car infrastructure is very good (still, be aware of the schedules). All the official hiking trails (which you're supposed to stick to) are well-marked, so if you're rather spontaneous you can basically just follow them. If you want to plan your hikes in advance or want some more orientation I wound definitely recommend to buy a hiking map (3,50€ - 6,50€), which you can find at info centers or sometimes at sport shops. I will also upload a foto of our map in this footprint. The best info center we have been to was the one in Poprad, as it covered different areas (for example High Tatras and Slovak Paradise), the employee spoke perfect English and could answer all our questions.
    The hiking map and the trail marks also give you estimates of the difficulty of the trail and the time it will take you to complete each section. For us (not super fast hikers) the estimates were pretty accurate with the exception of the section from Skalnaté Pleso to Veľká Svišťovka. Since the difficulty did not quite match either, we believe that the estimates were taken before a large amount of rocks fell down on the trail and made it more challenging.
    Besides hiking, you can also visit some summits by cable car, the most impressive one being Lomnický Štít. This one is only possible to reach by cable car and the cable car has only one cabin, so if possible you should definitely try and reserve a spot optimally a few days before (for the schedule and cable car prices, see the pictures in this footprint).

    Slovenský Raj (= Slovak Paradise):
    One of the most helpful source of information has been the following blog: https://www.earthtrekkers.com/best-things-to-do-slovak-paradise-slovensky-raj/comment-page-1/#comments including the comments (especially that from Martina, July 10th 2019).
    You can visit the tourist office either in Poprad or one on-site. For the hikes here, having a map is not that crucial, as they can sometimes be found in the free information pamphlets and on the info boards in the park (of course, hiking maps are more detailed). The entrance fee to the park is 1,50€ per person.
    As to getting there (for current connections, see cp.sk): if you go by public transport, there are three possibilities:
    - buses going to Hrabušice (leaving at bus gate 14, get off at the crossroad between Hrabušice and Betlanovce); from here you have to walk along 1km to the main entrance at Podlesok, but these connections are more or less frequent (every 1-2h until about 7 p.m.)
    - direct buses to Podlesok (I guess those only run during high season, i.e. July and August)
    - take more stops in between
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