About Slovakia (SI)
Slovakia (SK) is a landlocked country in Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Czechia, Ukraine, and Poland. For the purpose of international tourism, Slovakia can be divided into three main regions. Western Slovakia is home to the capital, Bratislava and the center of commerce. Central Slovakia is a mountainous collection of rural villages and national parks. Eastern Slovakia is even more mountainous and home to the country’s secondary urban center, Košice. Meanwhile, Bratislava is notable for its Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture and proximity to Austria, and thus frequently used as an alternative gateway to Vienna (66 km / 40 mi).
Driving in Slovakia is very straightforward, with motorways and national routes on par with European standards. Public transportation hasn’t kept pace with Slovakia’s economic growth, so the best way for visitors to get around is to rent a car in Slovakia. Unfortunately, the country’s network of roads has a number of gaps, which necessitates a fair amount of driving on secondary roads, which aren’t in top condition. On the other hand, the majority of primary attractions are accessible by expressways and other major routes in much better condition. Slovakia’s traffic code is rather stringent and laws — particularly the zero tolerance for drink driving — are aggressively enforced. At the same time, foreigners in car rentals are frequently targeted for random stops. Mountain driving is generally best left to experienced drivers, but getting around Slovakia in a car is efficient and very affordable. The only hiccup in the routine might be fuel prices, which tend toward the high end of the European spectrum.
Choosing your car
Cheap car rentals in Slovakia are booked with Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, National, and Thrifty. Choose from economy, compact, and minicars, estate wagons, SUVs, premium and luxury 4-door sedans, and 7-12 seater minivans.
Tips and advice
Your car hire in Slovakia will probably be fitted with a vignette for use on motorways and expressways — which are technically not the same thing. See below. At any rate, you don’t want to know the amount of the fine for not having a vignette.
Motorways are high-speed routes classified as D roads. Expressways are almost identical to motorways, except they’re classified as R roads — probably because they lead to regional rather than domestic destinations.
Local drivers get somewhat of a bad rap in Slovakia, but the accident fatality rate is considerably lower than some of its neighbors.
It’s always a good idea to discuss your travel plans with the car hire provider, and in many cases, the agent will ask if you plan on driving the car across international borders. There’s generally no problem crossing into Austria and Hungary, but other destinations may require a waiver and an additional fee.
English is widely spoken in Bratislava, and to a lesser extent, outlying areas, but all road signs are in Slovak.
Slovakia is home to the highest concentration of medieval castles and fortresses in Central Europe, one of which, Bratislava Castle, is an absolute nightmare to drive near. Visitors are advised to park near by and take a bus into the walled complex.