1. Call for a taxi (in Bratislava many taxi firms have English-speaking staff); getting a taxi from a rank can be significantly more expensive. Either way, check if the meter is running and get out if it isn’t.
2. Always punch your ticket on public transport in cities (and make sure you have a ticket before boarding). Fares aren’t high but fines are, and inspectors are merciless. Drivers on municipal buses and trams usually do not sell tickets, but there are plenty of machines and kiosks that do.
3. Take opening hours with a pinch of salt. Some places close early (or occasionally don’t open at all). On the other hand, in the sticks someone can often be found to open the doors if you ask nicely (start with the neighbours). Major attractions publish their opening hours. Pay particular attention to information on the last admission on the day you want to visit, which might be as much as one hour before the attraction officially closes.
4. Don’t leave your shopping too late. Even in Bratislava, many shops close at Saturday lunchtime and don’t open again till Monday morning. Exceptions are shopping malls and kiosks near rail/bus stations.
5. If a waiter/shop assistant/post office clerk scowls at you, don’t be discouraged. If it’s any consolation, this sort of thing used to happen much more regularly. And by the way, they’re not singling you out as a foreigner: everyone gets the same treatment.
6. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol in public places. Smoking is prohibited in restaurants, bus stops and shopping malls, on pain of a significant fine.
7. Don’t leave your belongings on your car seats. Slovakia is generally a safe country but your belongings may ‘inspire’ an opportunist to break the window of your car and take them.
8. Always have your passport with you. In Slovakia, you must normally produce a passport or ID when checking into a hotel.
9. When visiting someone in their home, take a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers. If flowers, make sure you take an odd number! An even number of flowers is only ever taken to funerals or cemeteries. Slovaks frequently bring flowers to weddings and birthday parties. Everyone wants to shake hands and kiss the person who is celebrating, so be prepared for hand-shaking and kissing lines.
10. Be prepared to say ’No’ several times if you really don’t want extra helpings of food or another shot of slivovica. Slovaks are very hospitable and retain the notion that carrying a few extra pounds is healthier than being on the thin side.
11. Bratislava is a state within a state. Most tourists don't leave the capital city, which is an absolute shame because the rest of the country is dramatically different.
12. If you have to use the toilet (záchod), make sure you have pocket change. Some restaurants and pubs charge a small fee, usually 20-50 cents, to use it. Men often have to pay extra for toilet paper as well.
30. May 2012 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff