Bratislava, Slovakia Report of what it's like to live there - 05/13/21

Personal Experiences from Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia 05/13/21

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have also lived in Port au Prince, Haiti; Vienna, Austria; Moscow, Russia; and Panama City, Panama.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

San Diego/USA
Easy to travel - Direct flight from Vienna to DC and a quick layover to get to San Diego.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is good. Most singles/couples have apartments. It is Europe, so most are not overly large and storage can be limiting. Families can choose either apartments or houses. No housing is directly in the old town/downtown due to limited parking and noise at night. Most housing is within a 30-minute walk to the embassy. Some houses may be a bit further.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I think it is about the same or a little bit less. We can find almost anything locally. Good wine and good beer.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We routinely order snacks and chips and other items from the states for our kids.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The old town has lots of restaurant (even health conscious and vegan) and bars that are not overly expensive. Several delivery options: WOLT, BOLT, and BISTRO.sk. This is one of the delights of post since the embassy is located in the old town it is super easy to walk to tons of different places.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO & POUCH. Local postal is adequate.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I pay 50 euro for someone to clean my apartment - 8-2PM one day a week.
There are sites for someone to look for a full-time nanny or full-time help. Help can be found probably as low as 6 euro an hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are at least 4 different chains of gyms priced around 18 euro per month to 100 euro per month. There are several within an easy walk to the embassy. Gyms don't usually open until about 06:00.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, COVID changed this and credit cards and apple pay are super common. Safe & easy to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

They are available.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I was surprised but many people speak English. I have not had any issues. Local language tutors are available and affordable.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think so - it is hilly, cobblestones, and not all sidewalks have a ramp for wheelchairs. I don't see people in wheelchairs often. If not constrained by a device; the city itself is quite walkable.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

GREAT and cheap! Buses, trams, trains and taxis are all safe and affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a SUV and it has been fine but there are some narrow streets. Some of the cars at the embassy: Honda Pilot, Mini Vans, small SUVs, etc.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes and it is typically already installed when you arrive. Some houses don't have the high speed internet. One of the downsides to choosing a house. The city is slowly installing optic cable everywhere.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap and easy to set-up. The embassy will help get a personal SIM card for the direct hire & any family members.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I have not used but have heard good feedback from colleagues and friends.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Two spouses work as teachers at QSI. A few telework remotely. There is a small number of embassy jobs; my second year here most went unfilled due to lack of interest.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual. Formal maybe for some work events.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No, very safe post. I run at 5 am in the morning and feel safe. Very little crime.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care in Slovakia is NOT great. Most people go to Austria for any medical care. The closest facility is about 20 mins away in Austria. Even during COVID we were able to cross the border for medical reasons/appointments. Medical care in Austria is GREAT.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No, just the COVID blues.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons but winter season has dragged on the last two years.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Two main schools: QSI which is about a 40 minute-slightly over an hour drive from the embassy and the British International School of Bratislava.
Most younger kids go to the British school. It is easy to get to via bus, tram, car (about a 15 minute drive). My kids went to the British school and they loved it and I was super happy with our experience. Buses for after school activities.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but not sure about prices since I didn't have any direct experience.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, but if both parents work it can be a bit of a juggle to pick the kids up from these activities and many of them have predominantly locals.
My one child is enrolled in football (soccer) training three days a week and has been happy with it. 30 euro per month. He has other classmates with him.
Judo is available, tennis, football (soccer), etc.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small but overall good morale.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Meet-ups at bars & restaurants, house parties
International Women's Cub of Bratislava

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Ok for singles. Since the city is small some singles may not get the chance to meet a lot of people or end up doing stuff by themselves. It is however a great post for travel opportunities: driving, flying and taking the train. So many places!
Great city for families.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes and no. I think with effort local friends can be made.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The travel opportunities and the uniqueness of having the embassy in the old town. Quality of life is great because things are affordable, you can get around quickly and there really is no traffic to speak of. Lots of family time together.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Tons and tons of castles!
Lots of stuff to do on the weekends - small festivals, drive to neighboring towns/villages, water parks, pools during the summer, ski slopes in the winter, hiking in the Tatras, hiking from Koliba (about 15 minutes/ish driving distance from the embassy), parks, beer gardens, wine cellars, bunkers, etc.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

No

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The proximity to so many wonderful countries! There is also a lot to see & do in Slovakia.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing since I was already familiar with the country and surrounding area.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Negative/toxic attitude.

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