People coming to Bratislava generally arrive by air at Vienna International Airport, which is only an hour away. There are limousine services that can meet you at the airport and transport you to your destination. Alternatively, there are also car rental companies and cars can be picked up at the airport. You’ll need a valid driving licence, a passport and a credit card. If you book online you may receive a discount, and additional insurance is available on all rentals.
Regular buses also run from Vienna Airport to Bratislava, and you can either take the Eurolines bus from the departure area or the Post bus from the arrivals area. For more information, check out www.viennaairport.com
Milan Rastislav Stefanik Airport in Bratislava, primarily serviced by discount carriers, is another option. It’s about 20 minutes from the city and once again you have the option of being picked up by a car service, renting a car or taking a taxi. There’s also the number 61 city bus, which goes about every 15 minutes. For more information, go to www.airportbratislava.sk .
Most taxis are clean and reasonably priced and you can get virtually anywhere in the city for under 10 euros. Make sure the metre is running before starting the trip and round up to the nearest 0.50 for the tip. Fares vary somewhat between companies and some charge a flat rate. Drivers are obliged to issue a receipt if requested. While most operators can take orders in English, not all drivers are bilingual (or understand our attempts at Slovak) so it’s advisable to write out your destination on a piece of paper. Avoid hailing a taxi on the street unless you want to pay significantly more than you would by ordering one by phone. Also avoid any taxi that’s not connected to a company – they’re scam artists and you can easily get burned. Some reputable companies are:
16777, +42 1216777 (mobile)
16321, +42 1216321 (mobile)
16222, +42 1216222 (mobile)
16302, +42 1216302 (mobile)
16916, +42 1216916 or +42 19059 16916 (mobile)
Only Mercedes and Skoda Superb vehicles, slightly higher rates.
Bratislava has a good public transit system, operating buses, trams and trolleybuses with routes that cover the city. Its fleets are gradually being upgraded and many buses now run on natural gas.
In the city centre there are three main connecting points: Hodzovo namestie (Presidential Palace) for northwest- and east-bound bus connections; Postova (below Hodzovo namestie) for trams; and Novy most (close to Saint Martin’s Cathedral and the Danube banks) for trams and west-bound buses, as well as bus connections to Petrzalka.
Tickets are sold in many news stands and in every tourist information bureau, and at most stops in the town there are ticket vending machines. Trolley and tram drivers in Bratislava don’t sell tickets, therefore you need to buy a ticket before entering a trolleybus or a tram. You must immediately validate your ticket in the orange validation machines after boarding (via any door), as they automatically lock 15 seconds after the doors close. Ticket inspectors spot-check tickets on a random basis and fines are not cheap at 50 euros. Non-Slovak speakers are targeted by some ruthless inspectors, so be sure your ticket is adequate to get you to your destination and is properly validated. You’re entitled to show the inspector your personal ID and pay the fine later. If unfairly accused of not having a valid ticket, ask your fellow passengers for help or call the police.
There are two types of tickets available, based on either time or zone. Time tickets are for 15, 60 or 90 minutes and the 60- and 90-minute ones include transfers. Prepaid zone tickets are available for varying lengths of time (24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 168 hours, 1 month, 3 months and 1 year). There are two different zones in Bratislava. Zone 1 encompasses the central core and the inner areas of Districts II through V, with the outer suburbs constituting Zone 2. You can buy passes that cover either one or both zones.
If you’ll be using public transit frequently, monthly or even annual passes are a great deal – the longer the period, the less you’ll pay per trip. Children under 6 and adults over 70 travel for free and students between 6 and 15 travel at a 50 percent discount. Pets, which must be in a cage or muzzled, and large pieces of baggage require tickets and you must ask the driver if you can board with either a dog or a baby stroller.
Public transportation runs approximately 5am-11:30pm. There are 20 night bus lines that cover most of the city, but be aware that they run on a very abbreviated schedule. If you don’t have a prepaid pass, you’ll need a 60-minute ticket, which will be honoured for 90 minutes. The night buses only stop when requested, so remember to push the button for your stop.
Information about public transportation in Bratislava, with schedules, maps and an online route planner, can be found at www.imhd.sk .
Bratislava is considerably less accessible for disabled persons than most European capitals. Nothing was done under the communist regime and things are only changing slowly. Barrier-free sidewalks can be found in some areas of the city and the Bratislava Transport Company operates barrier-free trolleybuses with the kneeling system on only four routes. Most new buildings are fully accessible.
The compact city centre, Old Town, which is home to most of the city’s cultural and historical monuments, is an exclusively pedestrian zone. Within walking distance are not only the best hotels and restaurants, but also a wealth of galleries, museums, theatres and historical sights. The cobblestone streets are charming but be aware that they’re often uneven; proceed with caution if wearing high heels. The numerous parks and forested areas also offer great walking possibilities, and up in the hills you can certainly get a good work-out!
If you’re an EU citizen you can drive using your home country’s driving licence, valid throughout the EU; other foreigners need an international driving licence. Non-EU citizens with either a temporary or permanent residency permit must apply to exchange their licence for a Slovak driving licence. This can be done at your local district police department and the Slovak driving licence is valid in all EU countries. You’ll need to have a valid passport, a valid driving licence, a copy of your driving licence with an official translation into Slovak and your driving record with an official translation into Slovak.
If you bring a vehicle into the country, it must be registered with your local Slovak police office. The car will be inspected to verify it meets Slovak requirements and a customs deposit must be paid, which should be refunded when the vehicle leaves the country. All vehicles must be covered by a liability insurance policy that is valid in Slovakia, with collision/comprehensive coverage being optional.
When driving in Slovakia, you should always carry your driving licence, car registration papers, proof of insurance and personal identification.
Local driving rules include:
- headlights must be on at all times
- seatbelts must be worn by all occupants
- children under 12 must sit in the rear seat
- right turns on red are illegal
- use of mobile phones while driving is not permitted, unless hands-free
- public transit vehicles that are turning always have the right of way
- pedestrians have the right of way
- there’s zero tolerance for drinking and driving
- safety reflection vests and first aid kits are required in all vehicles
- winter tires are compulsory on all roads covered in ice or snow
- drivers must yield the right of way to all vehicles with flashing blue lights and slow down when they see vehicles with flashing yellow or orange lights
- police must be called in case of accidents that result in over 4,000 euros in estimated damages
Bratislava has plenty of underground and open-air car parks, and there are electronic signs on the main streets to advise you of free spaces. The cheapest parking is usually on the street, where you must buy a 1-hour parking card from news stands or from sellers in yellow reflective vests who patrol the areas. Unlawfully parked cars can be clamped or towed, so ensure your spot is legal.
Gasoline is readily available and credit cards are accepted at most petrol stations, but as these stations don’t offer repair services, mechanics operate independently and generally need to be paid in cash. Stickers must be purchased for highway driving and are available at gas stations, post offices and border crossings. Stickers are valid for either one week or one year.
Random police checks and radar traps are common, and you can be fined up to 650 euros on the spot. You’re allowed to defer payment, but the officer may keep your driving licence until the fine is paid.