Let’s Go Exploring! Slovakia and the Tatra Mountains

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FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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Ever since I read Harry Potter, I’ve always wanted to ride the Hogwarts Express. Zooming through the English countryside, daydreaming about dragons, spells, and Quiddich, I can’t think of any other way I’d rather spend my time. But since I can’t do that, I did the next best thing–ride the Tatras Electric Railway (or TER, as the cool kids like to call it) through the Tatra mountains.

If you’ve read my Zakopane, Poland post, you know that the Tatra mountains is the hidden gem that shocked me into thinking I was in the Canadian Rockies. And since we were so enamoured with this magical wonderland, we decided to see what it was like from the other side of the mountain range. And the best part? We didn’t even have to go through immigration. Because Poland and Slovakia are right next to each other, separated by a mountain range, and both in the EU, we simply got on a bus in Zakopane, Poland and ended up there in just one hour.

Poprad, being a small industrial town a short 40-min train ride from the Tetra mountains, wasn’t that pretty to look at, but what it lacked in charm, it made up for in spades in value.

We found this free concert in the cute little town square—right across from a Gelato shop serving Gelato for one Euro.

 

For only $45USD/night, the Airbnb we stayed in had a private bath, kitchen, AND its own PRIVATE Jacuzzi and Sauna room!

At first, the listing indicated this amenity was included in our fee, but when we got there we were told we’d need to pay 12 Euros/ hour to rent it out. All I needed to do is call Airbnb, and they immediately fixed the problem by paying the 60 Euros for the 5 days we were staying there because the owner made a mistake by listing it as an included amenity.

God, I love Airbnb. They’ve already saved our butts a number of times, like the washer scenario in Germany, or paying to find us a new place when our Amsterdam host cancelled 1 week before our arrival. If you’ve never used Airbnb before and want to give it a try, use this link to get $40USD off for your first stay.

After a hour-long soak in the hot tub and sauna, we decided to go check out the Tatra mountains.
Good thing the Airbnb was close enough for us to walk to the train station by foot.

We had to wait 30 mins for the train but just waiting at the train station was a visual feast for the eyes:

The only other time we’d seen scenery this breath-taking through a window was the train from Lucerne to Engleberg in Switzerland.

With near floor to ceiling glass windows and lots of space to stretch out, I didn’t want to get off the train— the train ride was almost better than the hiking itself!

I’m not big on hiking but after our 2-hour hike through the forest, and walking around the lake I wanted to hike this mountain, all day everyday.

Especially since we were able to re-energize ourselves with scrumptious Langos (fried pastry with cheese and sourcream, sort of like a cross between pizza and Beavertails) and GoFris (waffles with whipped cream).

By Kobako (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

And just like Poland, Slovakia and crazy cheap food prices that constantly made me do a double-take:

We also had a great time rowing a canoe across a lake—or rather I had a great time berating Wanderer while he rowed us across the lake. What? I was tired and sleepy from eating all those Langos. Plus, how was I supposed to drink my Vienna coffee if I didn’t have my hands free?

 

Anyway, after a nice canoe trip around the lake, we hiked down back to the train, only to get caught in a downpour in the middle of the forest. Within seconds, the dirt path in front of us turned into a brown river, and I stood on a rock, trying to decide whether to keep going, and head back up the mountain.

Luckily, the rain didn’t last long and we were able to get down safely. If you hike the Tatra mountains, make sure you bring a big umbrella and extra shoes to change into when you get down. I didn’t, so I had to let them get soaked and then use a blow dryer on them afterwards.

Despite the rain, we had a wonderful time hiking the mountains, and one thing we did notice about the Slovakian side of the Tatra mountains versus the Polish side is that the Polish side has a prettier alpine village, but is way more touristy. That being said, I would still pick the Polish side.

We tried to go to AquaCity in Poprad, thinking it would be just like Aquapark in Zakopane. Turns out we were completely wrong.

Not only was AquaCity twice as expensive, it was a total zoo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many packed people (kids and adults) into one waterpark before in my life. It was so loud in there I lost my voice yelling just so Wanderer could hear me. If you want to go somewhere to relax, AquaCity is definitely NOT it.

LIES!!! LIES!!!

Good thing we had a free private jaccuzzi back at the AirBnb, which we took full advantage of.

So if you’re curious about Slovakia, do go hiking in the Tatra mountains. Just don’t expect AquaCity to help you relax afterwards.

Here’s how much we spent in Poprad, Slovakia:

Category Cost in USD/couple Cost in CAD/couple Notes
Accommodations: $45 USD/night $56 CAD/night We loved the Airbnb we stayed in. Close to the train station, walkable to downtown, plus it has it's own private Jacuzzi and Sauna. Score!
Food: $21 USD/day $26 CAD/day ($14/day for eating out, $12/day for groceries) Just like Poland, food was ridiculously cheap in Slovakia. Because everything is in Euros instead of Zlotys, there's a slight mark-up, but generally we were able to eat out quite cheaply and get dirt cheap groceries as well. 
Transportation: $4.50 USD/day $5.60 CAD/day Since we were able to get around Poprad by food, the only transportation costs were buses to get there from Poland ($8 each) and the breathtaking train ride into the mountains ($5.80 each, round trip)
Entertainment: $5 USD/day $6 CAD/day There were lots of free stuff to do in Poprad–concerts, hiking, so the only money we spent on entertainment was $22 (or 15 Euros) to rent a canoe for an 45 mins .
Total: $75 USD/couple/day $93.6 CAD/couple/night Slightly more expensive than Zakopane, Poland but the Airbnb was WAY better. I would say I prefer the alpine lake and the food more in Zakopane, but the accommodations in Poprad. Also because Poprad wasn't a touristy town, it was a lot more quiet–unless you go to AquaCity, at which point, you will need a vacation from your vacation, so don't do it.

 

Update: We’ve added a map to help you navigate our travel posts! Check it out:
https://www.millennial-revolution.com/lets-go-exploring-series/



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26 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Slovakia and the Tatra Mountains”

  1. So cool…Slovakia is definitely on my bucket list!! The whole Europe is actually.
    Question, the flight tickets are not part of your $100/couple a day goal, are they?

    1. Good question. We didn’t have take a flight to Slovakia, since we got there by taking a bus across the border from Zakopane, Poland. So if you’re going directly there, you’ll have to add in your flight costs (or taxes if you’re using frequent flyer points).

  2. While weekending (during a business trip) in Vienna several years ago, we took a “jet” boat to Bratislava. It was beautiful, inexpensive, welcoming, as well a a nice break from the cacophony that is Vienna. We enjoyed great food and beer while chatting with some locals. It was sad to leave that evening and I plan to return in a year or so.

    The boat ride was neat. Estimate cruising speed 60-70 MPH. Roomy, with snacks and drinks on board.

    It’s also amazing that Slovakia and the Czech republic were able to dissolve Czechoslovakia peacefully. It almost wasn’t….

    Meanwhile, next door….
    The breakup of Yugoslavia resulted in brutal wars between the Croats, Serbs, and other factions. Because of the civil war, there was a major humanitarian crisis in Kosovo, and a UN peacekeeping force of several thousand troops entered the region in 1999 (some from my old army unit). There is still a much smaller contingent in place today.

    These nations in the Balkan region (and others) were artificially cobbled together under the Soviet Union. When that dog fuck imploded, there were scores to be settled and wrongs to be reconciled. Bad as it was (war, genocide, human trafficking, etc), it could have been the pretext for a third major war in Europe in less than a century.

    I know you two have seen many of the historic tragedies in your travels. It is so, so sad to consider that you’ve only observed a minute fraction of human atrocity. And that is
    So.
    Fucked.
    Up.

    1. I remember hearing about the Kosovo crisis back in grade school. Really really sad and scary. Really makes you lose faith in humanity. We are so fortunate not to have to experience any of those atrocities.

  3. Looks like a pretty affordable location guys… and it really does look just like Canada!

    Beautiful looking train ride too. I can see the appeal.

  4. You might wish to check over the city’s name in a few places, as Google has no knowledge of a Slovakian city named “Proprad”. “Poprad” on the other hand…

    To be fair, you have Poprad 5 times versus Proprad only twice.

  5. yikes .

    $22 for 45 mins for a canoe rental . thats just a few hundred yards and back … .. everything else was great value then .. ?

    yay Harry Potter . . reminds me of my childhood in England, taking trains to school and i dressed like that and awful teachers too . . but i had a great time mostly . ha ha

    1. The Canoe rental is actually pretty cheap by European standards, but definitely not like Poland or Vietnam value 🙂

      I’m so mesmerized by the uniforms of British children–straight out of a storybook. Sorry to hear about the awful teachers though.

  6. Love it. The Slovak language looks very similar to Czech (which I don’t really know either 🙂 ).

    The mountainous scenery looks a lot like the northern half of Slovenia which we LOVED and have to go back to some day. We had Slovakia on our list for summer 2017 but had to cut it due to too many cool places to visit. Next time perhaps!

    1. One thing the tour guide in Slovakia mentioned is that they get mistaken for Slovenia ALL THE TIME 🙂 Not surprising, since I also got confused the first time we looked this place up.

      We’ll have to visit Slovenia this year because of all the rave reviews from you guys!

      1. It’s lovely. I’d recommend a rental car if you want to see the coolest shit. Or drop some $$$ (that’s $$$$$ in CAD given the exchange rate 😉 ) on a tour guide with a car for the day or pay for a tour. If you do make plans to go to Slovenia definitely hit me up for some tips as there’s at least a jam packed week’s worth of stuff to see/do and you could stretch it over a few weeks for sure.

  7. Oh my gosh, I LOVE the interactive map! Would you be willing to share your secret on how you added it? I have been looking for something exactly like it, but in a U.S. States version.

    1. Sure, we just used a WordPress Plugin called “Ideal Interactive Map”. Very easy to install and configure, just watch their tutorial on how to set it up.

  8. I (almost) feel like a terrible person saying this, but in tying these travel posts in with the larger message of this blog, it would seem the couple from the beginning of the animated movie Up could have traveled to their destination if they hadn’t decided that setting aside change as their only form of savings was acceptable, and also hadn’t bought a large house they really didn’t need. My sympathies remain concerning the miscarriage and the relative misery of that couple’s later years, but I suspect that segment of story resonates with so many people precisely because of their attitude toward money 😉

    1. *sheepish grin* I admit, I had the exact same thought watching Up again, now that we’ve travelled the world after becoming FI. It’s sad but true. If they didn’t have to break open their piggybank, again and again, every time their car or house needed repairs, they could’ve easily fulfilled their travel dreams (except maybe don’t go to Venezuela right now :P). But that’s what everyone thinks they need to do so they do it. They don’t realize life could be so much easier.

      Still really love that segment though. Such good storytelling.

    1. Love Europe. We’ll be talking about the Spanish non-lucrative visa soon, so if you want to move there, there is a way… 🙂

  9. These mountains look amazing. Wanderer looked happy rowing his canoe. The interactive map is pretty cool. Imagine how that’ll look in another 2-3 years.
    Do you have plans to tour Africa/South America?

  10. These articles are my favorite! I think if you go to Romania you’ll find it to have the price point of Poland with the weather of Italy – it’s one of my favorite places!

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