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Cruise the highways in a rental jalopy or Mercedes gem

Picture yourself cruising down a Slovak highway, the open road stretching ahead or twisting through the mountains. All you need is...a car. But what if you don't own an automobile? It is possible to rent a car in Slovakia's bigger cities; however, you need to know what you are getting into. Local rental agencies have an incredibly broad spectrum of services, from a handful of cheap old Škodas to top Western cars at top Western prices. It all depends on what you want, and what you want to pay. Take Bratislava, for example, where you can choose between Adecar, which offers pre-1993 Škoda Favorits for 500 Sk a day with 100 free kilometers, or Hertz Rent-a-Car, which rents its cars for 300 DM a day with unlimited mileage. In Košice, you can rent a car for as little as 240 Sk a day.

Picture yourself cruising down a Slovak highway, the open road stretching ahead or twisting through the mountains. All you need is...a car. But what if you don't own an automobile? It is possible to rent a car in Slovakia's bigger cities; however, you need to know what you are getting into. Local rental agencies have an incredibly broad spectrum of services, from a handful of cheap old Škodas to top Western cars at top Western prices.

It all depends on what you want, and what you want to pay. Take Bratislava, for example, where you can choose between Adecar, which offers pre-1993 Škoda Favorits for 500 Sk a day with 100 free kilometers, or Hertz Rent-a-Car, which rents its cars for 300 DM a day with unlimited mileage. In Košice, you can rent a car for as little as 240 Sk a day.

While a few of the agencies rent cars with unlimited mileage, many offer a basic mileage package of around 100 or 200 kilometers, with an additional charge for extra distance. Others charge a flat fee for 24 hours of rental, plus a per-kilometer cost. Most companies offer a separate price for month-long rentals, with a lower per-kilometer fee. For example, GA-Tour in Košice offers its Škoda Felicia for a month at 310 Sk a day, 20 Sk/day below the regular price.

If all those choices seem a bit overwhelming, car rental agencies also offer special services to their customers. For example, AutoDanubius will deliver one of their cars from Bratislava to the Vienna Airport for 990 Sk, to the Poprad Airport for 1,790 Sk or to anywhere in Europe for 6.90 Sk per kilometer. AutoDanubius rents a huge fleet of cars, from a Toyota Microbus to a stretch limousine. For hauling or moving, Adecar lends Škoda pick-up trucks and vans, at 550 Sk a day. And Aliscar in Banská Bystrica (Nový Sad 18, 088/723 964) rents chauffeured cars for 6 Sk a kilometer. They speak German, but not English; call one hour in advance to hire a car.

A key thing to know is that most companies will insist you buy insurance if you plan to cross the border, and the cost of insurance can vary. Bratislava's Favorit Car requires 400 Sk of insurance, which covers one week of driving abroad. Note as well that the agencies strictly count one day as 24 hours; you rent a car at 10 on Tuesday and bring it back at 11 on Wednesday, steel yourself to pay for two days. And remember to fill the gas tank, otherwise they will charge you for an empty tank at an arbitrary price per gallon.

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