| ||INFORMATION STATION|
|Facts at a Glance|
| ||Full country name: Slovak Republic|
Area: 49,036 sq km (19,124 sq mi)
Population: 5.4 million
Capital city: Bratislava (pop 452,000)
People: Slovak (85.6%), Hungarian (10.7%), Romany (1.5%), Czech (1%)
Language: Slovak, Czech & Hungarian, German
Religion: 60% Roman Catholic, 10% Protestant, 4% Orthodox
Government: parliamentary democracy
Executive: President: Rudolf Schuster (SOP)
Prime Minister: Mikulás Dzurinda
Slovakia sits in the heart of Europe, straddling the north-western end of the Carpathian Mountains and forming a clear physical barrier between the plains of Poland to the north and Hungary to the south. The spectacular High Tatra alpine range runs along Slovakia's north-eastern border, shared with Poland. Gerlachovský (2655m/8708ft) is the highest of the mighty Tatra peaks. Although almost 80% of Slovakia is over 750m (2460ft) above sea level, the portion south of Nitra is a fertile lowland stretching down to the Danube River which forms the border with Hungary. Slovakia also shares borders with the Czech Republic in the north-west, Austria in the south-west and Ukraine in the east.
Forests, mainly beech and spruce, cover 40% of the country despite centuries of deforestation. Wildlife includes bears, wolves, lynxes, marmots, chamois, otters and mink that live in the High Tatras. The national parks outside the Tatra include most of these animals in smaller numbers. Deer, pheasants, partridges, ducks, wild geese, storks, grouse, eagles and vultures can be seen throughout the countryside. The Slovak countryside is not as badly polluted as other European countries although larger towns that have seen rapid industrialization since WWII are suffering.
The damp continental climate over most of the Slovak Republic is responsible for warm, showery summers, cold, snowy winters, and generally changeable conditions. July is the hottest month everywhere, January the coldest. From December through February, temperatures push below freezing even in the lowlands, and are bitter in the mountains. There is no real 'dry season', and the long, sunny hot spells of summer tend to be broken by sudden, heavy thunderstorms. The driest regions are Slovakia's southern lowlands. Winter brings 40 to 100 days of snow on the ground (about 130 in the mountains), plus fog in the lowlands.
| ||GDP: US$46.3 billion|
GDP per head: US$8600
Annual growth: 6%
Major industries: Metal products, electricity, gas, coke, oil, rubber products, agriculture
Major trading partners: EU (esp. Germany), Czech Republic, Austria, Poland
Member of EU: no
|Facts for the Traveler|
| ||Visas: Nationals of all Western European countries can visit Slovakia without a visa. US, Australian, New Zealand and South African passport holders can stay for 30 days without 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: encephalitis, Lyme disease
Time: GMT/UTC plus one hour
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Tourism: More than 100,000 visitors a year
|Money & Costs|
| ||Currency:Slovakian crown (koruna)|
Budget: US$2-5Mid-range: US$5-15Top-end: US$15 and upwards
Budget: US$10-15Mid-range: US$15-40Top-end: US$40 and upwards
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.
|When to Go|
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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