Often, one of the big expenses of travel in Europe is the cost of ground transportation to get from place to place during a trip. Slovakia surprised me by how little it cost to move around the country by trains and buses. The price of city trams and buses was cheap in Bratislava and Kosice, the two largest cities. I traveled across Slovakia from Kosice in the east to Bratislava in the southwest by train, a distance of 440 km / 275 miles for 20 EUR. Aside from my first hour in Kosice, when I needed to pay 10 EUR for a taxi from Kosice Airport to DoubleTree Kosice, the rest of my travel transportation in Slovakia was by train and bus to move around the country point to point.
Second class train travel offered comfortable seats with access to power outlets.
September 2016 sample fares for trains and buses 10 days in Slovakia
Kosice Transportation 2 days 15.30 EUR
Kosice International Airport to Kosice city center by taxi = 10.00 EUR.
I walked around Kosice and never took a bus or tram.
In Kosice the price for bus/tram single fares are 0.50 to 1.00 EUR. 3.20 EUR for 24 hour pass. 10.20 EUR for 7-day pass.
Train Kosice to Poprad 5.30 EUR 2nd Class one way, about 100 km/ 62 miles.
High Tatras Electric Train and Aerial Cable Transportation 4 days 35.00 EUR
High Tatra electric trains are low emissions transportation connecting Poprad to the foot hill towns via Starý Smokovec. The train tickets cost from 50 cents to 2.00 EUR one way. There are day passes, but unless you are frequently moving around on more than two tickets daily, then no real need for a multi-day pass in this area.
Poprad is the main city and gateway to the Tatras. I paid 1.50 EUR to travel from Poprad train station to Starý Smokovec for my hotel stay at Grand Hotel Starý Smokovec.
Loyalty Traveler – Grand Hotel Stary Smokovec Slovakia 1904, Historic Hotels of Europe
Since I primarily hiked around the area, I spent a total of 6 EUR for travel over four days. There was one other town I would have liked to visit if I’d had more time for an additional 4 EUR round trip from my hotel in Starý Smokovec to get to Štrbské Pleso in the western section of the rail line.
Aerial cable cars in the High Tatra mountains are expensive by Slovakia standards. One of the most popular excursions for the region are the cableway trips from Tatranská Lomnica to Lomnicky peak (Lomnický štít), the second highest peak in the Carpathian Mountain Range at 2,634 meters, is 44 EUR round trip. Reservations are required and you have to go up at a designated time. You can purchase tickets up to six days in advance. I simply showed up Tatranská Lomnica and found all the tickets were sold out for that day and the following day. So I paid 29 EUR to take the cable up to Lomnické sedlo at 2,190 meters and hike around for about 90 minutes. The ticket was 27 EUR and an additional 2 EUR for a GoPass card which offers regional discounts on other purchases and activities.
Loyalty Traveler – Lomnické sedlo, Slovakia – Roof of the High Tatras
English Link for High Tatra activities: Vysoké Tatry is a ski resort and entertainment area with numerous activities available.
Lomnicky štít aerial cableway.
Buses from Poprad to Levoča and Spiš Castle 2 days 6.40 EUR
One thing to know is you need to pay a luggage surcharge when riding a bus. This is a small surcharge of 20 to 50 cents on top of the ticket price. I paid 1.70 EUR to travel from Poprad to Levoča, a 30 minute bus ride and an additional 40 cents for my one carry-on piece of luggage. I was not charged for my small backpack. From Levoča I paid 1.10 EUR to take a bus 30 minutes to the town Spišské Podhradie where I hiked about 40 minutes up to Spiš Castle.
All in, my bus transportation over three days I paid about 6.40 EUR for 2 hours and about 30 miles of bus rides.
I had planned to travel to Slovak Paradise National Park until I learned there is very limited public transportation to the region. Renting a car or cycling is the best option, since it was unfeasible for me to travel there by public transportation for a one day trip. From Poprad there was only one bus daily in the morning around 8 am and one bus back around 9:30pm. I passed within ten miles of the park on the bus to Levoča.
Slovak Paradise National Park – Slovensky raj
Slovakia is ‘Slovensky’ in the native language and makes for great confusion in English when it so closely resembles the name of Slovenia, a distinct other European country. Slovenia is separated from Slovakia by Hungary and Austria. Slovakia is a land of hills and mountains on the northwestern end of the Carpathian Mountains and Slovenia is a land of hills and mountains in the southeastern end of the Alps.
Train Poprad to Bratislava 14.90 EUR
I spent five hours on a train traveling second class across Slovakia. I did not realize my ticket had an assigned seat until about two hours into the journey. I simply got on the train and sat in a seat in an empty 6-seat compartment and started working on my computer. About 30 minutes into the train journey, a young Slovakian couple came into the compartment with backpacks. About an hour later some older women entered and they had a discussion with the couple about seats and the young woman looked at their tickets and the older women left. I then started wondering if I was supposed to be somewhere else in an assigned seat. I looked at my ticket to see Carriage 5, seat 75. I was seated in Carriage 9.
I had the window open for cool air when the couple arrived and the man shut the window. I was overheating and left to figure out where my actual seat was located and if that would be a more comfortable place to sit. Turned out Carriage 5 was totally packed and the seating there was not enclosed compartments. Someone was in my assigned seat anyway. Back in the car with the couple and asked it they spoke English. He did, she indicated she didn’t. Turned out I was sitting in her window seat, but she did not want me to move.
For the first time after a week in Slovakia I had a real conversation in English with a Slovak. That was enjoyable.
Bratislava transportation by bus and train 2 days 12.80 EUR
Bratislava is a large city of about 250,000 residents. Even though my stay at the DoubleTree Bratislava was about 2 miles and a 40 minute walk from the main old town tourist area and about 1.5 miles from the train station, I walked for two days to and from the hotel around the city. When I needed to catch a train to Vienna, I took the bus the day I left. The price was 0.70 EUR for a one-way ticket.
Getting to Vienna, Austria from Bratislava had several options from buses at 5 to 7.50 EUR. I tried to buy a bus ticket online, but failed. I decided to take the train since I knew where the train station was located. Tried to buy a train ticket online and failed. I purchased a train ticket to Vienna at Bratislava station for 12.10 EUR. That was 2.10 EUR lower than the web price for the ticket I tried to buy online. The train ride was a little over one hour out of Bratislava to Vienna.
There is even the option to travel between Vienna and Bratislava by boat along the Danube. I did not have sufficient time in my schedule for that kind of travel.
Austria 2 Days
Vienna to Salzburg train 1 day 22.00 EUR
One issue I had read is the high expense of the train between Vienna and Salzburg. I went online to the site Rome2Rio.com to check out different transportation options. That site showed a train ticket priced from $60 to $85.
Turned out I learned by leaving Bratislava on a Monday rather than Sunday as I had originally planned, I could get a 19.00 EUR ticket through the Austrian Federal Railways OBB website compared to 55 EUR leaving Sunday. Different trains had significant differences in ticket price. I booked a 1:55pm train from Vienna for a 3 hour journey to Salzburg. This was only 40 minutes longer than the fastest train schedule. I paid 3.00 EUR additional for an assigned seat.
Vienna Train Station
Salzburg, Austria Train Station
My hotel in Salzburg was Ramada City Centre just to left of train station and the bus station is just to right of where I snapped this photo. Altstadt Salzburg was about a 20 minute walk and the historic city center was relatively compact. In one day walking around Salzburg I toured the city in about 3 hours during the morning in the rain. In the afternoon, after the rain stopped, I toured many of the same areas again snapping photos with slightly more light and no rain on my camera.
Salzburg Bus #2 cost 2.60 EUR for a 20 minute ride to the airport. The bus runs every 10 to 15 minutes or so. There are a few buses in the 5am hour. I caught a bus at 6:07am for my 8:35am Air Berlin flight. The bus stop was about 200 meters from the airport terminal. The AirBerlin check-in counter was not even staffed yet when I arrived. The agents arrived about 15 minutes after my airport arrival.
Total Transportation costs for 12 days traveling from Kosice, Slovakia to Salzburg, Austria = 109.00 EUR.
While my actual travel costs are personally relevant primarily only to me, my objective for readers is to show that it is relatively inexpensive to travel in this part of Europe without a car through the purchase of point-to-point public transportation tickets. I generally find that multi-day passes and options like multi-country train tickets for Europe are significantly more expensive.
If you want to constantly be moving, then that kind of ticket option can be a good value. My style of travel is to limit my movement between towns and cities. When I go to Europe I am more interested in ‘being there’, wherever there happens to be for me, rather than always traveling and in the process of ‘going there’.
I simply cringe when I hear the itinerary plans for many American tourists who choose to go to 4 to 6 countries in 8 to 12 days. That is a lot of time going there rather than being there. I try and minimize my time in transit, unless that time is moving around a locality. And I don’t mind using up hours simply walking and feeling like this is an interesting place to be living. I am a traveler and this place is not really my home, but feels like my home today.
That is the joy I find in travel.