Is English sufficient to communicate in tourist places in Bratislava (musea, buying tickets, restaurants, receptions in hostels)? Should I expect that English would be generally understood in that places, if not by all personnel, then at least one English-speaking employee would be present there?

As a fallback option I have German and my native Polish (there are many similarities, but mutual understanding usually requires a lot of patience, concentration and good will).

4 Answers 4


Bratislava is pretty much like most former Eastern Bloc locations in my experience.

Especially in cities, most people who were teenagers at the end of communism have learned English to some degree. Most older people have not.

This means there is no shortage of people up to about age thirty with pretty good English who can fill the jobs in the tourism industry: hotels, museums, etc. When you need to communicate with random people not in tourist-facing jobs, pick younger looking people.

In country areas outside Bratislava it will be a little more difficult.

And obviously if you know any Slavic language (Croatian, Polish, Russian, etc) you will be able to find a way to communicate with anybody who doesn't know English pretty easily. Asking for directions or help with a flat tyre doesn't require the finesse of translating poetry or being a professional interpreter after all. There's just a bunch of differences in pronunciation and vocabulary you might find to quaint, cute, funny, or annoying - and they will think the same of your speech. Keep out the slang and don't talk too fast. Polish and Slovak are relatively close even amongst Slavic languages I believe.

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    Obviously Czech is the closes to the Slovak. Polish is close, but that's only enough to have very rough understanding. I'd say that Polish native speaker would understand about 70-80% of Slovak if it's spoken slowly and clearly. I'd say kind of similar like Spanish and Portuguese. Slavic languages from other language branches are significantly different, thus I wouldn't expect you to understand even 40-50% if you only speak for example Russian.
    – vartec
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 8:29
  • Sure. This percentage is based on one person listening in to a conversation of another person. When two people are trying to communicate they can usually figure out a simplified common ground. Hell I've used my Spanish that way with Portuguese and Italian speakers and even made progress in Romania, and Spanish is my poor second language. It's one thing to muse over mutual intelligibility figures in theory but in practice a Polish speaker will do much better with a monolingual Slovak then say an English speaker with a monolingual Dutch person. "Very rough understanding" is all you need. Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 4:33

I've been there twice, and for the most part, had no trouble navigating around in English. Most tourist places, shops owners and young people all spoke some English.

Oh, and don't mention the movie "Hostel", some don't appreciate the image that and "Eurotrip" have given their city ;)

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    I was disappointed that there was no sauna with topless girls in my hostel in Bratislava. Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 2:28
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    The second time, we stayed at Hostel Possonium which actually had a bar decked out like scenes from the movie...
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 2:44

As far as I know, English, German and Polish is about as good language combination as it can get going to Bratislava.

In a big city such as Bratislava, most young people will speak English. Maybe not fluently, but good enough to communicate.

Most older people, who speak any foreign language, speak German. Some also speak Russian, but they turn unfriendly when hearing that language (be it for historic reason or more recent "invasion" of the "new Russians").

With Polish you can communicate if there is enough of good will on both sides, just keep in mind that there are great many false friends. For example:

  • čerstvý - czerstwy (fresh vs stale)
  • platné - płatne (up to date vs paid)
  • ubikace - ubikacja (hallway vs toilet)
  • záchod - zachód (toilet vs west)
  • v cipu - w cipie (on the corner vs in the… female reproductive organ )
  • šukat - szukać (to f**k vs to search for)
  • Great examples! I was also going to say German would be useful but I decided I'd ranted enough (-: Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 12:24

Whilst I have never been to Slovakia, I have quite a few Slovak friends here in the UK, their spoken English is fine. Similarly I have been on holiday to quite a few European resorts where a number of Slovakian people work in the hotels, and bars close by. They all speak English without problem.

In fact I asked one Slovakian girl whilst on holiday recently how she learnt English, her response was simply from watching TV.

For absolute sure you will have no problem with communicating in English in Bratislava with young Slovaks.

On a side note it wouldn't surprise me if many Slovaks can also speak German as a secondary language.

You should be just fine.

  • Just about all my friends in Romania also insist they learned English from TV. I don't know any English speakers who learned a second language from TV though ... Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 12:26
  • @hippietrail I have a Portuguese friend, whose English he maintains was mostly learnt through watching American TV, as he was growing up. Anything is possible I guess.
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 12:50

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