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Slovakia (also known as the Slovak Republic, but there's no need to use this term - apart from official documents - unlike the term Czech Republic) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is surrounded by Austria to the west, Czech Republic to the north west, Hungary to the south, Poland to the north and Ukraine to the east.
With numerous medieval towns, high mountains, caves and a lively capital city, there's probably something for every traveller to enjoy in Slovakia. Slovakia is said to be the country with the highest number of fortified castles per capita in the whole world.
Slovakia has a temperate climate with sunny summers and cold, cloudy, humid and snowy winters.
Much of the central and northern part of Slovakia is rugged and mountainous. Gerlachovský stít at 2,655 m in the High Tatras is the highest point. The Tatra Mountains in the north, shared with Poland, are interspersed with many scenic lakes and valleys. The lowlands are in the south with the lowest point of the Bodrog River being 94 m above sea level.
Slovakia is also a country of massive medieval castles built on the rocks, beautiful detailed ones located on plains (there is about 180 castles and ruins) as well as country of caves. Most of 12 biggest caves (traditional karst caves, ice caves, aragonite cave etc) are open for public for several hours daily only, Tuesday to Saturday.
In 1918 the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. Following the chaos of World War II, Czechoslovakia became a communist country within Soviet-ruled Eastern Block. Soviet influence collapsed in 1989 and Czechoslovakia once more became free.
For many years overshadowed by their north-western Czech neighbors, political representations of Czech and Slovak decided to strike out on their own. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on 1 January 1993 and Slovakia became a country in its own right.
Historic, political, and geographic factors have caused Slovakia to experience more difficulty in developing a modern market economy than some of its Central European neighbors. Finally, however, Slovakia joined the European Union and the NATO in 2004.
Since Slovakia is a EU member, citizens of EU countries do not require a visa for stays in Slovakia.
Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Mexican and US citizens are all permitted to stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
South African citizens require a visa for entry into Slovakia, unless they have indefinite leave to remain as a resident in another EU country.
If you need a visa, always apply at an embassy beforehand. There are zero chances you get a visa at a Slovak border, no matter how you enter and what your nationality.
The easiest way to get to Slovakia by train from west is via Vienna, in Austria. Bratislava is a simple 50 - 70 minute trip on a express or a local train (either via Kittsee or Marchegg).
Trains also travel to Slovakia from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine. Crossing to and from Ukraine is a lenghty process due to bogie changing (different gauge in Ukraine) and security measures. Keep in mind that crossing borders by train anywhere in Europe implies hefty surcharges. The best option is to buy a ticket to a station just on the other side of the border, and buy another one for onward travel there. You'll avoid the surcharge that way.
Among many others, there are regular services from Vienna, Prague and Budapest to Bratislava; and from Uzhhorod, Ukraine to the eastern Slovak town of Michalovce.
Bratislava has its own airport. Sky Europe provides the most convenient and cheap way to fly to Bratislava from London, Paris and other European cities, as well as regional airports within Slovakia (22 destinations in total). easyJet has recently started a service from London Luton providing another cheap and easy link. ryanAiroperates to Stansted and Hahn.
Full service carriers providing service to Bratislava BTS are Czech Airlines and Lufthansa. Czech Airlines (CSA) provides several flights a day to/from its Prague hub. Similarly Lufthansa (LH) provides several flights a day to/from its Munich hub. There is also nonstop connection to Moscow and several other cities to the east.
The other alternative is Vienna airport Schwechat, which is just about 35 kms from Bratislava. It provides a more convenient way of arriving to Slovakia by the major airlines, but can be more expensive. Buses leave for Bratislava hourly, optionally you can take airport shuttle.
You can also fly to Krakow if you want to go to the Tatra Mountains. Buses from Krakow run to several Slovak towns around the Tatra mountains and Orava.
Scheduled connection between Poprad - Tatry Airport and London - Stansted is operated by SkyEurope Airlines Boeing 737 every Wednesday and Saturday.
Czech Airlines connects its Praha hub also with slovakian airports in Kosice, Sliac and Zilina. One can also fly between Kosice and Vienna (OS) and between Kosice and Bratislava (NE).
Information provided by Wikipedia
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