KWBreaks: Slovakia by Rail – Circular Route.

Bratislava – Kosice – Poprad-Tatry – Tatra Electric Railway – Strbske Pleso – Strbske Pleso-Strba Rack Railway – Strba – Bratislava

This is a circular route from Bratislava.

And, as you will be starting from Bratislava Airport (BTS) – there is no need to follow the rest of the passengers on your flight onto a Vienna-bound bus 😉

Instead, I would recommend that you head directly for Bratislava Hlavna Stanica (Bratislava Central) Railway Station – and take the first train to Kosice (it is very important that the train you book is going via both Galanta and Zvolen!).

And this is just my personal preference. To get used to a country, I prefer not to end up in the biggest city straight away (where they are more used to separating visitors from their money?). Which is why I would head directly to Kosice. There you are likely to be one of the only visitors from the UK. Plus, Kosice is an amazing place.

And you will be coming back to Bratislava at the end of the tour anyway. Only, by then, you will have a lot more Slovakia-experience to rely on. And you will have arrived, rather leisurely, by train (as opposed to being bleary-eyed after getting out of bed at the crack of dawn if you visit Bratislava at the start of this tour of Slovakia).

This circular route can be made in either direction, and there is no difference in which direction you travel (it will all depend on your own itinerary). However, as Bratislava is the most popular entry-point by air, I have started from there, and have travelled in an anti-clockwise direction. Basically, I’m in a hurry to return to Kosice.

1. Bratislava Airport (BTS) to Bratislava city centre.

And Bratislava Hlavna Stanica (Bratislava Central) Railway Station.

You have two options to reach the centre of Bratislava. Bus or taxi.

Bus number 61 will take you directly to Bratislava Hlavna Stanica Railway Station (the railway station is actually where the bus terminates, so it will be very obvious when to get off of the bus).

Bus 61 timetable: https://imhd.sk/ba/schedule-timetable/route-line/61

Bus journey duration: 25 minutes.

Bratislava Airport website (English version): www.bts.aero/en/

2. Bratislava to Kosice by train.

This is VERY VERY VERY important:

The train that you buy tickets for, simply must call at both Galanta and Zvolen (which will mean that you are on the right route). There is actually a quicker way to reach Kosice from Bratislava by rail (via Strba), but this is the route that you will be returning on. And as the shorter route is likely to be the train that is suggested to you when you buy your ticket, you must insist that your ticket is for the slower train which travels via both Galanta and Zvolen.

Train journey duration: 7 hours (if it is less than six hours, then it is the wrong train).

Train timetable and tickets (English version): www.slovakrail.sk/en.html

Official Kosice Tourism website (English version): www.visitkosice.eu/en

3. Kosice to Poprad-Tatry by train.

Train journey duration: less than 2 hours.

Train timetable and tickets (English version): www.slovakrail.sk/en.html

Official Poprad Tourism website (English version): www.visitpoprad.sk/en/

4. Poprad-Tatry to Strbske Pleso (train – Tatra Electric Railway).

From the plain at Poprad, the Tatra Electric Railway meanders through the foothills of the Tatra Mountains, before arriving at the tourist resort of Strbske Pleso.

Train journey duration: 1 hour 15 minutes.

Train timetable: www.tatry.sk/.. (PDF)

Simply buy your ticket at Poprad-Tatry train station.

Official Tatras Tourism website (English version): regiontatry.sk/en/

5. Strbske Pleso to Strba (Tatra Rack Railway / Tatra Cog Railway).

It took over an hour to reach Strbske Pleso, as the Tatra Electric Railway meandered through the foothills of the Tatra Mountains from the mainline at Poprad. It takes the Tatra Rack Railway just 15 minutes to return there (at Strba) though! Straight down!

Train journey duration: 15-18 minutes.

Train timetable: www.tatry.sk/.. (PDF)

Simply buy your ticket at Strbske Pleso train station.

6. Strba to Bratislava (train).

Train journey duration: 4 hours 10 minutes.

Train timetable and tickets (English version): www.slovakrail.sk/en.html

Official Bratislava Tourism website (English): www.visitbratislava.com


So. How long does all of this take?

Well, how long have you got?

At a very minimum, the entire circuit of Slovakia by Train could be done in just three days and nights.

An early morning flight to Bratislava Airport (BTS); followed by a 25-minute bus ride to the central train station in Bratislava; breakfast in a cafe near the train station; then take the train all the way to Kosice (via Galanta of course); 7 hours to Kosice, so arriving late afternoon/early evening (as you will not be stopping anywhere for lunch, you should buy snacks/sandwiches/drinks in Bratislava before you get on the train); spend the first evening/night in Kosice.

Then on the morning of Day 2, travel to Poprad (Poprad-Tatry railway station); wander around Poprad and have lunch (there are some lovely open-air cafes in central Poprad); then in the afternoon travel between Poprad-Tatry station and Strbske Pleso on the Tatra Electric Railway; spend the second evening/night in Strbske Pleso.

On the morning of Day 3, after a leisurely breakfast in Strbske Pleso, take the 20-minute ride down to Strba on the Tatra Rack Railway (Tatra Cog Railway); at Strba, where you rejoin the mainline, take the regular train directly to Bratislava (4 hours 10 minutes), arriving in time for a late lunch, and spend the third evening/night in Bratislava.

But that would be really pushing it.

True, it would be a magical trip. And, as the train would always be taking the strain, it would be a very leisurely three days.

But if it was me:

An early morning flight to Bratislava Airport, and then the 25-minute bus ride into central Bratislava, where I would enjoy a very leisurely breakfast. But instead of taking the train all the way to Kosice, I would only go as far as Zvolen, and change there for the train up to Banska Bystrica. And as I would be having lunch there, I wouldn’t have to stock up in Bratislava before I boarded the train. My first afternoon/evening/night would be spent in Banska Bystrica.

On the morning of Day 2, after yet another leisurely Slovakian breakfast, I would return to Zvolen, where I would continue, as planned, to Kosice. Again arriving in time to enjoy a late lunch. My second afternoon/evening/night would be spent in Kosice.

And Day 3 would be a travel-free day. A day spent enjoying Kosice. Therefore, my third evening/night would be spent in Kosice too.

On Day 4, probably in the late morning, I would take the 1-2 hour train from Kosice to Poprad. And that would be my travelling over for the day. You see, having spent some time in Poprad before, I know where there is an open-air cafe table/chair with my name on it. So I would simply relax in the sunshine, and watch unhurried Slovakia passing by. My fourth evening/night would be spent in Poprad.

Day 5 would be another day for not going very far. After a late start, I would take the Tatra Electric Railway to Strbske Pleso (but I would stop at Stary Smokovec for lunch on the way). Eventually arriving at Strbske Pleso in time for dinner and an evening stroll. My fifth evening/night would be spent in Strbske Pleso.

Day 6 would again start late, and then the short ride down to Strba on the Tatra Rack Railway. I would wander around Strba for an hour or two (and possibly have an early lunch there). Followed by the 4-hour-plus train ride back to Bratislava. Arriving in Bratislava in plenty of time for dinner, and the Bratislava night would be my oyster. My sixth evening/night would be spent in Bratislava.

The whole of Day 7 would be spent wandering around Bratislava. My seventh, and last, evening/night would therefore be spent in Bratislava too.

So. A very leisurely, week-long journey. Which would allow me to see everything on this circular rail route around Slovakia, and in a very unhurried way.

You could easily extend your visit by spending some extra time at any of the stops along the route (it would be very easy to fill a whole fortnight).

If it was me though, any extra time would be spent in Kosice/Eastern Slovakia.


These “virtual” journeys are just my way of continuing to see the world, now that the progression of my ataxia means that lengthy travel is no longer a possibility for me. Hence the detail. By planning the journey in such detail, I end up knowing the route so well that I feel like I have been on it myself. Although in this case, I have.

So if this article has inspired you, saved you some valuable time (or even just saved you a few pounds/euros/dollars), please show your appreciation by making a donation to Ataxia UK (registered charity), by following this link:

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100% of your donation goes directly, and immediately, to Ataxia UK (plus an additional 25% if you are a UK-taxpayer and have ticked the “Gift Aid” box).

And a personal request?

Share a photograph, that you take at some point on your journey, with me on Twitter. Not necessarily your “best” photograph, but the one photograph that will forever remind you of your journey.

That way I can live a little piece of the journey through your eyes.

Slàinte Mhath!