Don’t expect to save much money whilst teaching English in Slovakia: on an average teacher’s salary, you’ll be able to afford your living costs and a few trips through the country, but you’re unlikely to save a substantial amount of money.
If you opt to rent a flat by yourself, a one bed in the centre will cost around £425/$730 a month – so it’s a huge chunk of your money. You can, however, save around £80/$130 a month if you rent a similar sized flat in the suburbs or share with other teachers from your school.
Slovakians love the ballet, and you can enjoy all of the classics from as little as £6/$10 a ticket – culture AND a fun night out! The Slovak national ballet travels the country for most of the year, so you’ll easily be able to catch a couple of shows!
Eating out is seen as a treat for the Slovakians, with traditional restaurants running hot meal deals with a bowl of soup, followed by meat and dumplings and a pint of beer for approximately £4.50/$7.30. Eating in is much more cost-effective though, with a kilo of potatoes costing 55p/$0.90 on average, and a kilo of pork for £3.10/$5, so be prepared to cook some stodgy Slovakian cuisine during the long winter months!
Slovakian cuisine is much like other Eastern European cuisine – very hearty, with mounds of meat (usually pork), dumplings or some form of potatoes. Slovakians eat a big breakfast early in the morning, tucking into bread, ham, cheese, eggs and sausages.
Lunch is the main meal of the day, usually with a soup to start and a meat-based meal after. Kapustnica is particularly popular, consisting of pork sausage and cabbage: sometimes with mushrooms added into the mix! Follow this up with Bryndzové Halušky – sheep cheese gnocchi with a sprinkle of bacon (well, we did say they liked pork!)
The Slovakians are big fans of beer, regularly washing their meals down with it: and the most popular local brand is Zlaty Bazant, which you can pick up in supermarkets for 90p/$1.35 a pint. If you’d prefer to try a non-alcoholic Slovakian beverage, be brave and opt for a glass of žinčica, sour (and slightly salty) milk – tasty!
As a land-locked central European country, Slovakia enjoys four very distinct seasons: summer regularly brings 30 degrees Celsius temperatures, with locals and tourists sitting out in the street cafes enjoying a pint of beer. In contrast, winter offers sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow, which you’ll soon get used to living out there, but pack well before you set off to teach in Slovakia!
Whilst accommodation isn’t a given, around half of Slovakian employers will provide teachers with accommodation free of charge, sharing with another English teacher in housing close to the school. For the employers that don’t offer housing, they will at least help you to find a place, as it can be quite difficult trying to find a place to stay if you don’t speak Slovakian!
Accommodation is of a very good standard in the city centres, or for less money you can live in a Panelák, which are essentially old communist blocks usually found on the outskirts: they’re a bit more basic and smaller, but still of an adequate standard.
As it’s a part of the EU, demand for English teachers in Slovakia is high all over the country, from the capital of Bratislava to the smaller towns and cities. Nevertheless, the largest demand is in the big cities of Bratislava, Košice and Nitra, where there are more schools and businesses as populations are bigger.
The peak hiring times are in August and January, so that teachers are in place for the following school term, and as competition is fairly low for these positions, it’s quite easy finding a job here – even if it’s your first time searching for a teaching job!
Bratislava is the largest city in the country, and if you like the atmosphere of a big city, then it really is the place for you. The majority of opportunities for teaching business English in Slovakia are here, with a large concentration of international companies located in the new town. The Old Town is charming, with pretty buildings and cute souvenir shops. Visit the gorgeous Presidential Palace for some culture, or splurge on clothes at Aupark shopping centre, just a 15 minute bus ride away, before enjoying a late dessert at the quaint chocolatier Čokolada – gorge on a mug of liquid chocolate and 5 chocolates for around £4/$6.50!
The second largest city Košice is one of contrasts, with the beautiful Hlavná Ulica (main street) in the Old Town, and the sprawling communist tower blocks on the edge of the city, giving the place an authentic Eastern European feel and there are some opportunities to TEFL here also. Nightlife in Košice is a bit hit-and-miss, but you’ll soon find your favourite haunts: eke out the nicer places from the trashy stag-do clubs – the Yasmin Club has been voted the best club in Košice, with an extensive range of cocktails!
Slovakia’s public transport in towns and cities consists of a network of trolley buses, trams and buses, which together, cover all of the city and the outskirts, making it easy to get to your chosen destination. At 45p/$0.72 for a one-way ticket, it’s cheap too, and buses run every 5-10 minutes on schedule, so you can rely on them to get you to school on time.
In theory, taxis are cheap in Slovakia, with a 15km journey costing around £10.50/$17. In reality, scams are rife, with drivers ripping foreigners off by either turning the meter off and charging a higher price, or driving the long way round. The easiest way to avoid these scams is to use the app HOPIN (currently available only in Bratislava and Banska Bystrica). In addition to booking a taxi, you can check the average price of your chosen trip, so drivers can’t hike the price up by a huge amount!
An average working week for a TEFL teacher in Slovakia is around 25 hours if you’re working in a school, with extra if you’re offering private lessons too. It’s worth noting that by working for a private language school, it’s likely you’ll need to do a lot of travelling which will be in addition to your core 25 hours (and will be unpaid). Nevertheless, you’ll still have plenty of time to discover Slovakia, and with contracts ending in June, you’ll have three months to go travelling!
When travelling around Slovakia, if you want to get between the two larger cities of Bratislava and Košice, it’s much quicker to fly, as it takes just under an hour and costs £100/$160 return; as opposed to by train, which although is significantly cheaper at £15/$24, takes 5.5 hours!
Trains are a very good means of travelling through Europe however, and you can get one to nearly anywhere in Europe. Visit the nearby capitals of Vienna for just £12/$19 (taking an hour), or Budapest in Hungary for £14/$22.50, taking twice the time. You can also travel further into Eastern Europe or up to France and Belgium by catching connecting trains, all for very reasonable prices.
For a great night out, visit the Sky Bar in Bratislava; stepping away from the rowdy stag nights with lovely cocktails and a beautiful view of the Old Town and Bratislava Castle on top of the hill. Our favourite cocktail is the Vodka Tea Party: a strong vodka cocktail served in a teapot, with gummy bears in the cup that double in size once the alcohol is poured on them!
If you’re teaching in Bratislava and want to live in a predominantly expat neighbourhood, have a look for housing in the Karlova Ves area, 10 minutes away from the centre of Bratislava and easily reachable by public transport.
The Slovaks are very private people, and when teaching in a school, they may seem very reserved and quiet (although they’re always polite!). However, once you have been teaching your students for a while, they will open up and you’ll form a good relationship with them.