Ah, Christmas! That special time of year when we open our hearts and pocket books for the ones we love. One of the added joys of ex-pat Christmas life is posting those gifts abroad, once you've found them. The stress of this task adds a special urgency to the whole gift-giving process.
For fellow ex-pats who haven't already gone through the hassle of sending a gift abroad from Bratislava, here are few quick tips that will minimise the frustration.
If you plan to send anything larger than a padded envelope of photos overseas, you'll have to trek out to the customs inspection office at the Nové Mesto train station on Tomášikova Ulica in Bratislava. There, you'll have to show the contents of your parcel to a customs agent, before packing them up again according to strict specifications, and reporting to the train station post office for mailing. Be sure to bring packing supplies with you: white packing paper, packing tape, twine, a marker, a pair of scissors and a bottle of valium.
Half the battle is simply finding the customs office. A car or taxi is definitely the way to go, particularly if your package is unwieldy. By car, take Trnavská Cesta from Trnavské Mýto, past the big sport halls and the hockey stadium (Zimný Štadión). Tomášikova Ulica is the first left after the lake. Take a right at Tomášikova 54, just before the train station, where you'll see a sign reading, "Pošta 090 Vyclievacie Oddelenie".
If you don't have a car, take tram number 9 or 4 toward Zlaté Piesky and get off at the lake just beyond the hockey stadium (Zimný Štadión). Then walk past the train station to Tomášikova 54, which will be a little side street to the left. Or take city bus number 113, 118, or 50 to the train station.
The customs office (Colný Úrad) is a little brown portable building on the left of this side street. Go in through the blue wrought-iron gate, sign-in with the porter, then head upstairs and to the left.
Excluding the lines you may encounter this time of year, the rest is easy, if a bit tedious. The friendly and helpful staff will guide you through the forms and may even lend a hand as you struggle with the packing regulations. Slovak authorities insist that you wrap your box in white paper, tie twine around it and write the address according to the example on the wall.
After the customs official stamps your handiwork, lug your box around to the post office, which is beside the main entrance to the train station terminal. Then go have a beer.