We're beginning the planning for a spring trip that will include a visit to the Krupina (taking my mom to the town of her grandparents). Having no knowledge of Slovakia, is it easy to rent a car in Bratislava and head out on our own adventure? I have extensive travel experience in the Italian countryside, but with no knowledge of the local Slovak language, I wasn't sure how challenging the adventure might be. Anything we shouldn't miss between these towns? Thanks!
I'm just a coward and rarely drive on holiday but we have been into Slovakia several times by various means.
Krupina is near Banská Štiavnica which along with Banská Bystrica are among my favorite in Slovakia. The people In the region speak Slovak, Hungarian, German and English. You will not have much trouble with the language and when you do just relax and go with it. Folks are nice. We have stayed at the Hotel Salamander in Banská Štiavnica. A little worn, but very clean and good management. The Hotel Grand Matej looks interesting and I thought we would try it on the next trip.
I would start the trip in Budapest (and always do); much more interesting than Bratislava. Check me on Google Maps but I seem to remember Budapest to Banska Štiavnica being about 2 to 2.5 hours from Budapest; and a pretty drive on good but interesting roads.
If you get the opportunity continue further north to the Tatras. Beautiful mountains. My favorite hotel in the world is the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras
I will send you a PM with a link to some photos.
It is easy to rent a car in Bratislava. If you have special wishes about a car, book it ahead. I would rather rent a car in Bratislava than Budapest. You would not need any permission to take a car out of country (because you won't) and if you rent in Slovakia you would not need to buy freeway sticker because it is almost always included. If you rent in Hungary you would have sticker for Hungary but for Slovakia you would have to buy it. If you have time to see more than Slovakia then Vienna is very close to Bratislava, Budapest less than three hours by train from Bratislava. Prague about 4 hours. I would not bother to go to those cities by car. Train is better. James is right Krupina is close to Banska Stiavnica and Kremnica both former gold mining towns. And if the weather cooperates go to High Tatras. Hotel Kempinski in Strbske Pleso which James recommends often is probably the best. Spendy but you get what you paid for. And view from your balcony over the lake toward peaks is priceless.
In the meantime before you go in spring read the posts under Slovakia on this Travel Forum especially these:
You will find some of your questions answered there. Also get yourself Slovakia guidebook and once you are in Bratislava buy a good road atlas. IMHO the best guide book is Slovakia by Lucy Mallows (it's in edition Bradt).
Slovakia is one of few former communist countries which are on Euro. English is a mandatory language at school. All young people speak at least some English. Just speak slowly, pronounce well and don't use slang. You will have no problem with communication.
Ilja is a much better source for SK than I am so listen to her. I've only been there a hand full of times and i think she has me beat on count alone.
Fair disclosure: I love Budapest so am sort of biased. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQasF7B9vfU
Bratislava never much impressed me but Ilja is correct the car will be easier if rented and then kept in SK; but not insurmountable as our rental car always comes out of Budapest. Not sure of the details because we don't rent it or drive it (spoiled). Still its a shame to be in the region and not see Vienna and Budapest especially if you have a car at your disposal. No matter where you start you might, time available, look at seeing more of the region. Three very different and very enjoyable places.
As for the Kempinski, the prices aren't that bad in the warmer months, and you do get what you pay for.
We will be back hopefully next fall as part of a trip including Ukraine and of course Budapest.
No matter what you do, or how you do it. You have chosen a wonderful part of the world.