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Moving to Slovakia

Slovakia, or the Slovak Republic, is a landlocked country in the very centre of Europe and bordered by Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic. The country boasts picturesque, mountainous landscapes, particularly in the north where the breathtaking Carpathian Mountains stand guard, while lush forests make up a good portion of the topography too. But expats aren't just lured here by the country's staggering scenery; Slovakia is also one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union.

Although a former communist state it has, since gaining independence, transformed into an almost completely privatised, market-driven economy. 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.

The services sector is the largest contributor to its GDP, and car manufacturing is also key, both of which provide plenty of jobs for qualified expats.

Slovakia is still trying to shake off socio-economic problems that accompanied independence, such as corruption and cronyism. Nevertheless, Slovakia still ranked at 45 out of 190 countries on The World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking for 2020.

The country has a lot to offer expats. Although not a traditional tourist destination, it's increasingly making its mark. 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 the highest number of castles and ruins per capita. In addition, there are world-famous spas built around the country's natural thermal springs.

More than 80 percent of the population are native Slovaks and Slovak is the official language. Although English is increasingly accepted and understood in business and tourism, German is still a little more common due to Slovakia's proximity with and former occupation by Germany.

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.

Renting or buying a home in Slovakia is comparatively cheap, and it's not uncommon to find expats who live in Slovakia but commute to nearby cities such as Vienna. There are no restrictions on buying property for foreigners and Slovak property is considered a safe investment.

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.

Fast facts

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, 50 Hz. 

Currency: Euro (EUR)

International dialling code: +421

Emergency numbers: 158 (police), 150 (fire), 155 (ambulance)

Internet domain: .sk

Drives on the: Right

Pros and Cons of Moving to Slovakia

The Slovak Republic is known for its dramatic natural landscapes, historical castles and steadily growing economy. But like anywhere else, expats will find that there are pros and cons to life in Slovakia.

Accommodation in Slovakia 

+ PRO: Real estate is affordable

How much expats pay for housing will depend on where they would like to live.

The most expensive accommodation in Slovakia is in Bratislava, the capital – especially in the city centre around Bratislava Castle or Devin Castle.

Most Slovaks prefer to buy property, but expats usually rent at first. Either way, prices are relatively low.

Lifestyle in Slovakia 

+ PRO: There are good shopping options

There are two types of people – those who spend their weekends browsing in shopping centres and hanging out in cafés, and those who disappear into nature after work on Fridays. Thankfully, Slovakia is not only an adventurer's paradise, but great for shopping too.

Almost every residential part of Bratislava has its own shopping centre. Since so many people work late hours, supermarkets and malls are often open in the evenings and on Sundays.

Slovak shopping centres usually provide shopping, entertainment (like movies), good restaurants and cafés, as well as banks and post offices. In winter a few of them have ice skating too.

Expats who live in Kosice Banska Bystrica in central Slovakia or Kosice in the east will usually find shopping malls in the city centre – so it’s easy to get to them by bus.   

+ PRO: There's a lot to do

There are countless activities to keep expats occupied and amused in Slovakia. There’s a lot to see in every region depending on a person’s preferences, from hiking or relaxing in a spa, to visiting local cultural attractions and savouring local Slovak food.

Slovakia boasts beautiful historical castles dating back to the Habsburg Empire, as well as various UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Slovak countryside features mountains for hiking, fresh air, mineral springs, caves, lakes and campgrounds for expats who love nature. And there are many spas for those who prefer more organised relaxation.

+ Pro: Warm people, once you get to know them

Expats are likely to feel welcome in Slovakia... if they decide to stick around for a while. Slovak people may seem stand-offish at first and can be stubborn, but once they open up they're lovely, engaging people as well as open, honest, hardworking and always willing to help. Locals tend to love nature and are proud of their attractions, which they're often willing to show off to newcomers. Those expats who like sport are often able to make friends with the locals through mutual love of hockey and football. 

- CON: There is some crime in Slovakia 

The country is generally quite safe, but expats will still need to take precautions like not leaving their bags unattended, or cars and homes unlocked, and being wary of strangers.

- CON: Hospitality in Slovakia 

Unfortunately, Slovakia still has some way to go in terms of customer relations, and service in the hospitality industry could improve. Expats are also often charged for services that are usually free abroad and should be considered as an added value or bonus.

Working in Slovakia

+ PRO: Slovakia is open for business 

Slovakia is open to new business and the government is trying to attract new investors and entrepreneurs. Locals are open to new ideas, and expats with a good business plan and the right strategy usually find their business grows fast. By living in Slovakia, expats will quickly find out what kind of products or services could be useful for the market. Most opportunities can be found in Bratislava and cities such as Košice and Žilina, depending on the type of activity.

+ PRO: The cost of living in Slovakia is good 

The cost of living in Slovakia is favourable for expats. Prices in Bratislava are higher than in the rest of the country, but its residents have greater purchasing power.