Slovakia v Ireland: Cheap routes, ticket info and the price of a pint
All you need to know if you’re planning on going to Ireland’s Euro 2020 playoff
The Ireland team lines up ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
By next March it will have been 10 years since Ireland’s last trip to Slovakia and the infamous scene of the free train put on by the FAI with €5,000 worth of beer provided after numerous Ireland fans travelled to Bratislava when the match was actually to be played in Zilina, a two and a half hour train journey away.
Similar scenes may not materialise this time around although the match again may not take place in the capital city of Bratislava as Slovakia have played all of their Euro 2020 home qualifiers in the nearby city of Trnava which is about 30 minutes away via train.
Flight prices have already been on the rise since Wales saw off Hungary on Tuesday night and therefore confirmed Ireland’s opponents to be Slovakia.
So, if you fancy making the trip, here are a few pointers.
When is it?
The match will take place on Thursday, March 26th, 2020.
Where is it?
The Slovakian FA has until December 20th to confirm where the match will take place. They have played all of their Euro 2020 qualifiers in Trnava but recently tested the newly renovated Tehelné pole in Bratislava so they may decide to host there.
Where is Trnava?
Trnava is a city of 65,000 people located along the Trnávka River in Slovakia and is known as the “Little Rome” of the country because of the number of churches located within its city walls. The 19,200 capacity Anton Malatinský Stadium is perfectly located right in the centre of the city, less than 10 minutes walk from the City Tower, and is where the Slovaks have played every competitive home match since switching from Zilina in 2015 after a €28 million renovation of the stadium in Trnava had been completed. Indeed Slovakia have played just one match - a 1-1 friendly draw against Paraguay last month - in the slightly bigger Tehelné pole stadium in Bratislava. That friendly was a limited capacity test for the new renovations at the ground in the capital so there is a chance a decision may be made to host Ireland there.
Let’s get to the bad news then, how expensive are flights?
With some fans booking flights even before Wales’ win over Hungary on Monday and plenty more jumping on bookings since then, direct flights have skyrocketed. Ryanair are the only airline who fly from Dublin to Bratislava and there is no service on Wednesdays, meaning if you want to go direct you’ll have to fly out on the Tuesday morning, two days before the match, or on the morning of the game itself.
Currently a Tuesday morning flight, returning Friday afternoon, will set you back €320. If you want to fly out on the morning of the match (landing at 10.45am local time) you’re looking at €470 return.
Okay, no surprise in how expensive direct flights are. But Slovakia is in the middle of Europe, surely there are other routes?
There certainly are. There always are. Vienna is the closest alternative to Bratislava, just over an hour away on the train because of Bratislava’s location right on the Slovak-Austrian border. The bad news is that its proximity means plenty have already booked the route and return flights the day before the match, returning the day after, will already set you back €580.
So let’s look further afield. On the Wednesday evening at 7.55pm (meaning you wouldn’t necessarily have to take that day off work) there’s a Ryanair flight to Budapest for €90. Landing at 11.55pm it means that you’d have to spend the night in the Hungarian capital but there are worse places to stay.
The next morning a train from Budapest to Bratislava will take around two and a half hours and there are usually around four departures before midday, getting you into Bratislava in plenty of time to get to Trnava.
Tickets can be bought online at the Hungarian rail website and cost about €15 for a one-way journey. However, they cannot be bought online until about a month before travel but it’s also possible just to buy them in the station when you arrive.
So, now you’ve got there for about €105 and you need to get home. Going home via Budapest is possible again with a return train from Bratislava on the Friday morning or afternoon (another €15 or so) and then there is a Ryanair flight to Dublin at 8.20pm for €77.
All in all that’s return travel expenses for less than €200.
You can also do it even cheaper without going back via Budapest if you get the 9.55am Ryanair flight from Bratislava to Leeds for €20 and then the 7.35pm Ryanair flight from Leeds to Dublin for €36. It means a long wait in Leeds-Bradford Airport but it also means a return trip for €161.
Another route to get there is the 6.40am Aer Lingus flight to Munich on the day before the match for €40. From Munich you can then take what would be a particularly picturesque train journey through Bavaria to Vienna before switching in Vienna and carrying on to Bratislava. One ticket for both journeys can be purchased on the thetrainline.com at a price of €34.90 for a train leaving Munich at 1.30pm and arriving in Bratislava at 7.22pm. Add in the return route via Leeds-Braford which was mentioned earlier and you could do the whole trip for €130.
It's also worth checking Prague (about four hours away from Bratislava by train) and flights to Bratislava from UK airports.
Is there much in the way of accommodation in Trnava or will most stay in Bratislava?
There’s a choice to be made here given that it’s pretty easy to travel between Bratislava and Trnava with trains running frequently and taking around 30 minutes, while a taxi will only set you back around €30.
While nothing has been confirmed yet it could be likely that buses are laid on for Ireland fans travelling from Bratislava to the stadium.
Trnava isn’t exactly falling down with places to stay but a quick search on booking.com shows that there are hotel rooms and apartments available in the city centre, starting at about €60 a night during the week of the match.
If you’d rather stay in Bratislava there are numerous options with hostels for as little as €30 a night in the Stare Mesto (old town district) while there are plenty of hotels for around €60 per night rising to €150 a night or so if you’d prefer a bit more luxury.
And what’s the story with tickets?
Well, this is where we’ll have to wait. If Ireland are granted a 10 per cent allocation (as England and Wales both were in the same stadium recently) then we’d be looking at around 2,000 away tickets. As usual the majority of those tickets will be distributed to fans who have been to the required number of away matches in the last campaign.
The Slovak FA has until December 20th to confirm for definite what the venue will be so it could well be the new year before the FAI confirm ticket details.
Crucially, what’s the price of a pint in Bratislava?
It’s cheap. In the city centre for local beers you can get a pint for around €2. If you venture out a bit and go further afield you can find the local brew for as little as €1.
And is the currency Euro?
Yep, Slovakians have been using Euros since 2008.
Aside from cheap bars, is there much else to do?
There’s plenty to do in both Bratislava and Trnava as both cities have very picturesque old towns, particularly Bratislava. While the pedestrianised centre of the Stare Mesto is pretty small, it all centres around the Hviezdoslav Square where the Town Hall is located. A two minute walk away from there and you reach the banks of the River Danube from where you can look up to the spectacular castle which sits on a hill overlooking the city and it’s well worth a trip up to see it if you have time.
What will the weather be like in March?
At that stage it’ll be warming up a bit and will probably be similar to the weather at the same time here, so around 11 or 12 degrees and hopefully less rain than at home.
All prices correct at time of publishing