Before 1st January 2009 Slovakia used the koruna, but now it uses the euro as it adopted the European currency on that date. You can find out more about the currency and the country itself in the rest of this article.
As you may be aware, the euro uses the same denomination banknotes and coins for every country that uses it. The main difference is the so-called country side of the coins, which differs in design for each individual issuing country. However the coin values are the same, and these are the 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. You will also find two other coins in use: these are the one and two euro coins.
There are a number of banknotes in common circulation although you are unlikely ever to come across the largest valued ones. These are the €100, €200 and €500 notes. In fact if you are offered these you may wish to decline them as they can be more popular among those who want to forge some of the banknotes. You can use the €5, €10, €20 and €50 denominated banknotes and indeed these are much easier to find.
Most people are familiar with the history of the euro by now. Many countries in Europe adopted it as a so-called accounting currency on 1st January 1999, before introducing it in banknote and coin form three years later in 2002. It would be a further seven years before Slovakia started using the currency.
As you might imagine euros are simple to get hold of – in fact they are probably one of the easiest currencies to get hold of in the world today. You just need to go to your local bureau de change and exchange some of your own currency for the euro prior to going on holiday there. You probably won’t need to order this currency in advance since it is regularly exchanged for people wanting to go on holiday to a European country that uses the currency. It doesn’t matter if you get coins that don’t have the Slovakian country side design on them. This is because all euros can be used as legal tender throughout all European countries that use them.
You might want to shop around a little to get the best exchange rate though. Don’t be fooled by deals that claim not to charge a commission as it is usually hidden in the exchange rate itself. Do your comparisons and see where you go from there.
The best bet is to get your euros before you leave home but you can of course frequent a money changer, bureau de change or bank in Slovakia to get more. You could also use your bank card to withdraw cash from a cash machine. If you do this make sure you are not being watched or hassled from anyone.
You can also use cards to make payment for various purchases. Check that credit or debit cards are accepted prior to doing this and remember not to let any card out of your sight.
Since the euro is a popular currency you will usually find it quite high up on the selection of currencies listed on any currency converter. So when you use one, find your own currency first and then find the euro as the currency to convert it into. You’ll get an updated idea of what the exchange rate is, but be aware that it depends on the site you go to as to how current the rate will be. Remember too that bureaux de change and other similar places will have different rates depending on how much commission they charge. It will either be a flat rate on top or included in the exchange rate.
If you want to learn more about visiting Slovakia and what types of identification or travel documents are required, you can visit the website of the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in London. The address is http://www.mzv.sk/londyn.
The majority of people who go to Slovakia have a wonderful time and then return home with no issues. Petty crime, as is the case in many destinations worldwide, can be a problem but crime is no more prevalent here than in many European countries. Pickpocketing can be troublesome but if you take some basic precautions you should be fine.
For instance, don’t carry around more cash or valuables than you really have to. Once you arrive at your hotel make sure your passport is locked away in the safe, as well as anything else you don’t have to take with you. Make sure your wallet or purse is either in a front pocket or securely held in a bag you carry around your neck. If you put your bag down keep it with you and ideally put your leg through the strap so no one can grab it. A money belt is a great idea and lots of tourists use them throughout the world.
You will carry cash of course but try not to carry more than you need to. Split it between different pockets too if you can. This way if anyone did try to pick your pocket they wouldn’t be able to steal everything you have.
Slovakia is a ‘land-locked’ country in the middle of Europe. This means it has no coastline. Instead it is bordered by Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic.
The capital city of Slovakia is Bratislava, which you may already have heard of. This makes a good city to visit on a long weekend but even if you have a longer break in the country you should take a closer look. You can see the famous River Danube here as well as many other fascinating sights. These include Bratislava Castle, a stunning sight that overlooks the city itself. The castle dates back to the 9th century and can be found in the Old Town. This part of the city is known as Stare Mesto in Slovak and you will not only find the castle here: there are many other old and classic sights here too. These include Horsky Park and Grassalkovich Palace.
Elsewhere in the city you may want to try a meal in the famous UFO restaurant. This can be found on a bridge in the city and you will see why it is called this when you see it: it looks exactly like a classic UFO!
But what does the rest of Slovakia have to offer? Well, as is the case with every country, it has its fair share of natural sights to appreciate as well as the cities. If you happen to like hiking you should consider visiting Strbske pleso. In case your Slovakian isn’t up to scratch, this is a glacial mountain lake and it is quite stunning. It won’t come as a big surprise to learn this is one of the leading tourist destinations in the entire country. Hiking is popular in this region but it pays to be prepared and to have the right gear with you.
Another great hiking opportunity is presented in the Slovak Paradise National Park. There are all kinds of walks to tackle here, but most of them take in the likes of canyons, waterfalls and other stunning natural sights. You certainly won’t get bored of the scenery!
As long as we are on the subject of mountains and natural sights you won’t want to miss, you should definitely check out the High Tatras too. These are mountains and you can climb a variety of them in the area. As you can imagine you’ll get sensational views if you make it to the top of just one of them.
Slovakia can be something of a surprising country when you think about it. We sometimes get an impression of countries in Europe that perhaps we don’t know too much about. You might have expected cities and built-up areas, but mountains and breath-taking scenery? This would be less expected, surely.
And yet you will get all this and much more if you visit the country. It is no big surprise to learn that Slovakia is rapidly becoming a more popular place to visit. As more people realise everything it has to offer, its best kept secrets are likely to remain anything but. For hikers it is a dream come true, with so many different landscapes to explore. For those who love city breaks the temptation of Bratislava is simply too much to think about.
So whether you are planning a short weekend away or you want a week or two spent somewhere different, perhaps this will provide the break you need.