A Home Visit
Should you get an invitation to visit someone’s home, do not be surprised when your hosts ask you to take your shoes off. Sometimes you will even be offered slippers. It is probable that your hosts will try to persuade you to keep your shoes on, but you will show respect for the tradition if you do take them off. It is custom to take flowers for the hostess and a bottle of wine or other alcoholic beverage for the host. Slovaks enjoy eating so you can expect to be offered food during your visit.
Bratislava has a temperate continental climate with warm summers and cold winters. The average daily temperature in summer (July, August) reaches 21 °C (maximum 38 °C), the average daily temperature in winter (December, January) –1 °C (minimum – 20 °C). The months with the highest rainfall are July and September; on the other hand May and October are relatively dry. The best times to visit Bratislava are from mid-April to mid-October and just before Christmas.
Slovaks are proud of their identity and language. Only a few foreigners are aware that the former Czechoslovakia was a federation of two republics – Czech and Slovak – and that, historically, two official languages always existed side by side: the Czech and the Slovak languages, also that Czechs and Slovaks are two separate nationalities, despite being close. To confuse Czechs and Slovaks would not be a polite gesture. The same is true for Slovenia. It has a similar name and national flag but it is a totally different country.
Drinking and Driving
Slovakia is a country where there is always an opportunity to drink. Locals will offer you alcohol even if they are aware that you came by car. Nevertheless, there is zero tolerance for alcohol being found in a driver’s bloodstream. Checks are frequent and the penalties severe. If you want to enjoy your time, you had better take a taxi or drink something non-alcoholic.
Slovakia is a country with one of the greatest number of national holidays in Europe – 15 in total. These are: 1st January, 6th January, Good Friday, Easter Monday, 1st May, 8th May, 5th July, 29th August, 1st September, 15th September, 1st November, 17th November, 24th December, 25th December and 26th December. On these days, usually only the shopping centres and hypermarkets are open.
Tips are usually rounded up; with higher expenses there is a rule of a 10% tip but the actual tip depends on your satisfaction. In ordinary restaurants the waiter will usually bring your bill, tell you the sum and wait until you pay. As a rule, the total sum including a tip is paid or you indicate by a gesture that they may keep the change.
If you want to try to speak Slovak, be aware that a substantial difference exists between addressing somebody who is not familiar to you and your friend. Just as in French, the second person plural is used in this case. Also address this person by his/her surname and use different greetings than you would with your friends.
Traveling without a ticket
In comparison with other cities, traveling without a ticket on the various forms of urban transport are treated quite severely in Bratislava. Checks are frequent and the inspectors are always in plain clothes. In order to avoid an unpleasant situation, remember that the tickets must be validated on board. Please note that tickets are not sold on board the urban transport and can only be purchased at a ticket machine or from a kiosk.
Just like Vienna, Bratislava is famous for its café culture. There are a number of different ways of making coffee so to simply ask for a coffee will bring a smile to the face of the person serving you. He or she will immediately offer you at least ten possible choices.
Mail and Telephones
Postage stamps are available at post offices and also from kiosks. The Main Post Office is conveniently situated in the Old Town on SNP Square 34-35 ( 2 CU 19). The office is open Mon-Fri 7 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sat 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Following the invasion of cellular phones, there are only a few telephone boxes operational in the city, mostly using a phone card. International cards are available from kiosks and at post offices.
The country code for Slovakia is 00421, Bratislava 02 (just 2 if calling from abroad); local telephone numbers have 8 digits.