Slovakia, or the Slovak Republic, is a landlocked country in the very centre of Europe, bordered by Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. In the north, the picturesque Carpathian Mountains stand guard, while a good portion of the rest of the country is covered in lush forests.
Living in Slovakia as an expat
Although a former communist state, Slovakia has transformed into an almost completely privatised, market-driven economy since it gained independence. Slovakia's relatively low cost of living and low taxes combined with a great range of outdoor pursuits and natural splendour have made it an attractive choice for expats. That said, Slovakia is still trying to shake off socio-economic problems that accompanied independence, such as corruption and cronyism.
Qualified expats will find plenty of opportunities for work in the two main driving sectors behind the country’s growing economy, namely the services sector and the manufacturing industry. Slovak is the official language of business in the country. Although English is increasingly accepted and understood in business and tourism, German is still a little more common due to Slovakia's proximity to, and former occupation by, Germany.
The price of renting or buying a home here is slowly rising, but still comparatively cheap. Expats will most likely have to reserve a sizeable portion of their paycheck for accommodation closer to the city centres. There are no restrictions on buying property for foreigners and Slovak property is largely considered a safe investment.
Slovakia has a reasonably extensive public transport system. Cities such as Bratislava are serviced by buses, trams, trolleybuses and taxis, making it easy to get around and explore. There are also international bus services to other countries, and buses that run between Bratislava and its surrounding villages and towns. Commuting by bicycle is also easy throughout city centres. Driving in Slovakia is relatively safe, with roads that are in great condition and extensive signage. The country does have a reputation for its aggressive motorists, though, and expats should drive defensively.
The country provides universal healthcare for its citizens. Residents can choose between three different healthcare companies, one of which is government-based. Although public healthcare coverage is wide, the public system is often understaffed and facilities are somewhat lacking, resulting in most expats, and even some locals, opting for private healthcare instead.
Cost of living in Slovakia
The cost of living in Slovakia is relatively low. Housing can be expensive, but food, utilities and eating out can be cheap, especially if expats know where to look. Free schooling, public healthcare and low taxes also make Slovakia highly attractive to many foreigners.
Expat families and children
Expats moving to Slovakia with a family should investigate schools thoroughly. Although free Slovak-language public education is provided, there are also a number of other options in the cities for Spanish, Hungarian, French or German speakers, as well as a handful of international-curriculum English-speaking schools. Large cities like Bratislava also have a few private schools that offer quality education.
Although not a traditional tourist destination, Slovakia has a lot to offer expats. Unspoilt natural attractions such as the Tatra and Carpathian mountain ranges, dense forests, and UNESCO-listed caves and rock formations are sure to keep hikers, skiers and nature-lovers occupied. Those with an interest in history will be able to delve into the region’s rich past, as Slovakia has one of the highest number of castles and ruins per capita in the world. In addition, there are world-famous spas built around the country's natural thermal springs.
Climate in Slovakia
The climate is continental, with a marked difference between the four seasons, especially the freezing winters and warm summers.
Ultimately, Slovakia may still be seen as something of a left-field choice for expats, but it is slowly increasing in popularity, not only for tourists and adventurers but for foreigners who decide to build a home here long term. With the low cost of living and the variety of interesting sights and experiences, expats are sure to settle easily into life in this European country.
Population: 5.5 million
Major religions: Catholicism and Christianity
Capital city: Bratislava (and largest city)
Legal system: Parliamentary republic
Main languages: Slovak, Hungarian, Roma
Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from late March to late October)
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz.
Currency: Euro (EUR)
International dialling code: +421
Emergency numbers: 158 (police), 150 (fire), 155 (ambulance)
Internet domain: .sk
Driving: Driving is on the right-hand side.