Despite using the euro, Slovakia is a good enough value that it’s taking another country’s place for the Europe section of the next edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations.
I used to think that the Czech Republic and Slovakia split up after the fall of the Soviet Union because of big national pride issues. In reality, it was mostly the politicians that wanted the split. People I’ve met on both sides of the line say had it been put to a referendum, the split would have failed miserably. The citizens of the two countries still think of themselves as one, but this way there were double the number of jobs for the people in power.
Unfortunately for Slovakia, much of the big business money and tourism stayed on the Czech side. There was already more industry there as the Slovak side was more agricultural. And the Czechs had Prague, which was 10 times more interesting to visit than Bratislava. So Slovakia is like the plain sister who is constantly overshadowed by her flashy older one.
Typical wine prices in euros: 2.5 to 6.5
The good news for you is, that makes it a better value for travelers overall. Is Bratislava cheap? Well, yes and no. Bratislava has somewhat higher restaurant costs because of it being a river cruise stop and part of some coach tours, but it’s still far less expensive than Prague. The real values are in the lesser-visited but more interesting eastern part of the country, anchored by the beautiful small city of Kosice, pictured at the top. The whole main drag is pedestrian-only all day every day and it’s filled with cafes and restaurants with a view of the opera house and cathedral. From here you can get to dozens of interesting places, including the High Tatras Mountains, in 1-3 hours. Castles, great manor houses, caverns, monasteries, wineries, national parks with good hiking, skiing, rafting, cycling, and lots more.
Everything is priced in euros, but I’m doing the math for my fellow yanks to put it in dollars, at the current rate of 1 euro = $1.30.
Accommodation Costs in Slovakia
Not many backpackers make it here—heck not many travelers from the west period do—so outside of the capital there’s not the bustling backpacker infrastructure you find in the northern Czech Republic or Budapest with dozens of hostels to choose from and day trip tours going out regularly. So lodging tends to be a better deal for mid-range travelers than shoestring ones as almost nothing is over $100 per night. It’s far easier if you’re a couple and not a single as hostels are rare. Camping is easy and cheap though and around the hiking areas you can rent a simple mountain hut for two for under 10 euros/$13.
Camping at Slovakian Paradise national park – $8 one person with tent, $12 two.
Mountain hut here or in High Tatras mountains – $6-$10 per person
Hostel bed in Bratislava – $17 – $25 per person
2- to 4-star hotel or pension – $26 – $70 double, usually incl. breakfast
Apartment for four with kitchen – $69 to $90
Best hotel in Kosice – often $120 standard double (Doubletree by Hilton)
Typical pension prices in Kosice Slovakia
Food and Drink Prices in Slovakia
This is where the real bargains are. You can eat well and drink well (the wine and beer are both excellent) for a fraction of western Europe prices. This is one of those countries where a soda can cost more than a beer or wine, as can coffee. You can drink the tap water though.
Set meal 3-course lunch $3 to $8
Soups – $1 to $2.50
Main dishes – $1.50 to $6
500ml beer in a bar – $1 (happy hour) to $2.50 (nice place), average in the middle
500ml beer in a store – $0.60 to $1
Good bottle of wine in bar/restaurant – $6 to $12
Good bottle of wine in a store – majority $3.50 to $8, premium $8 to $20
Glass of house wine in a bar/restaurant – $1 to $2.60
Shot of local fruit brandy – $0.60 to $1.60
500ml of local honey – $5 to $7
Kilo (2.2 pounds) of seasonal produce – $0.75 to $2
Local cheese 100 grams – $0.40 to $2
Rolls and baguettes – $0.20 to $0.90
There’s not enough demand here for any kind of tourist shuttle system, so bring a phrase book and a map or guidebook to figure out where you’re going. Trains cover most of where you’d want to go, but sometimes you’ll need a bus.
Long train ride (Bratislava to Kosice) – $24 2nd class, $35 1st class, 1/2 price for students
Short train ride (Kosice to High Tatras hiking point) – $8 2nd class, $12 first class
City bus ticket – $0.60 to $1
Short Intercity bus ticket – $2.25 for 40 kms
Long Intercity bus ticket – $22 for 400 kms
Taxi ride – $0.80 to $1.30 per km, Bratislava center to airport $14 to $18
What I got for 2 euros at the supermarket
Other costs in Slovakia
Some attraction places hit you with an extra charge for using your camera, so either leave it in a locker or be stealthy with a phone.
Admission to castles, manors, and castles – $2.60 to $6.50
Admission to monasteries & churches – free to $3.90
This boat trip on the border with Poland – $13
Bike rental in same town – $6.20 half day
One-day ski pass – $17 to $36
For some reason this Euro26 card seems to be more commonly known here than the ISIC card, but either should get you a discount of 50% off most attractions and trains if you’re a student.