“ Bratislava Airport (Slovakia) „
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I decided to try a different route home from university this time, and travelled via Bratislava airport instead of Budapest. Coming into the city on the train, I found it very easy to find the bus I needed to cross the city to get to the airport. It is number 61 and had a picture of a plane as well as the word airport in English and Slovak so is easy to find. Tickets are purchased from outside the station, and I bought an hour ticket for 45cent as a student. I was at the airport within 40 minutes of my train arriving. I made sure I had plenty of time, so I'm sat starting to write this review now, with 3 hours until my flight!
The airport in Bratislava is very small, with no flights during the night (there is only one flight between midnight and 8am tomorrow). The outside of the airport is made of large glass panels, similar to Bristol airport. There are plenty of parking and drop off points outside for a small airport.
As I only travel with hand luggage to save myself from Ryanair's fees, I did not need to use the downstairs check-in area, but it looked easy to navigate, with plenty of staff and no queues. I went straight upstairs on the escalator, to go through security. The staff spoke English well, and after removing my laptop and telling her several times that I do not have any cosmetics in my bag, I passed though easily. I don't think she believed me the first time, though after only 2 hours sleep in the last 36 hours, it should have been obvious that I didn't have any make up on!! Then it was time to explore duty free and hang around for hours.
The Heinemann duty free area is small, and it has alcohol (with a selection of different spirits and wine, there is choice if you don't care on brand, but none of the brands I looked for where there), cigarettes (a variety although I cannot find any Lambert and Butler), perfume, skin care and chocolates.
There is also a souvenir shop, which sells t-shirts, magnets, keyrings etc. with I love Slovakia, and similar slogans to remind you of your trip. The t-shirts were priced at 15-18 euros which is expensive in my opinion. Next to this is a Tabak Press, which is a small shop selling tobacco, magazines, snacks and small souvenirs. The floors in the upstairs area are clean, as are the toilets. It is as clean as the UK, but not as amazingly perfectly shiny as Budapest airport! Foot prints can be seen on the floor in places, and the toilet roll is the horrible cheap, scratchy type.
I wondered if there was Wi-Fi here, as I haven't seen any signs, and although my laptop will connect to a connection called Airport Free Wi-Fi, it tells there is no internet access! There is plenty of seating upstairs, so I am going to get a drink and read my book.
Boarding my plane was easy, the boarding gate was called a good hour before the flight, so I went to sit near the gate, and read my book until the gates opened. My flight arrived safely back in the UK 15 minutes early. I will fly from Bratislava again!
Bratislava Airport - M. R. Stefánik Airport
***Little bit of history***
In Slovakia this airport is commonly known as M.R. Stefánik Airport (to you all just Bratislava Airport). It was named after Milan Rastislav Stefánik, who was a diplomat, politician, astronomer and even a general in French Army during WW1. He tragically died in a plane crash near Bratislava in 1919 when he was returning home to see his family. Apparently Bratislava airport is well know for its extraordinary good climatic conditions, this is great but this was not the case when I went to see my parents in October and our plane had to be diverted to Czech Republic due to very thick fog which made us unable to land.
Bratislava Airport first flight was in 1923 and is now the main international airport of Slovakia. The airport has 3 terminals (A,B,C). Over the years, there has been loads of development and reconstruction going on. The most recent reconstruction of terminal B has been completed and opened in June 2012. By completion of the terminal, the capacity of passengers almost doubled to 5 million per year.
Airport is very conveniently located only 5 miles from the Bratislava City Centre making it excellent location to get to the city. Should you wish to get the taxi to/from the airport, journey would not take more than 15 minutes during the night or calm period, during the rush hour, expect around 30 minutes to get there. Taxi charges vary, taxi drivers' tent to put the prices up for the foreigners (I know this is rip off!!!). The average taxi charge should not exceed 10 euros, don't get cheated into paying 20 euros. Taxis waiting at the airport will charge a lot more than taxi which is called over the phone to come and collect. You can reserve your taxi transport in advance directly to your hotel/place you want to go to for 13 euros. If you would rather have your own transport but not booked anything yet, don't panic, there are few car hire companies in the terminal building.
Should you fancy taking public transport, the bus station is located directly outside of the airport and would be hard to miss it. The bus service number 61 is available regularly from the airport to Bratislava City Centre (with few stops in between). The journey takes around half an hour and tickets must be purchased before you get on the bus from the machine located at the airport. Ticket cost 70 cent.
Short and long term parking is available at the airport, there are around 1 000 spaces available including disable parking spaces. I know this doesn't sound like a lot, but please bear in mind that Slovakia only has 5.5 million population (half a London). First 15 minutes parking is free of charge, drop of/pick up point is available too and will take you directly in front of the departure terminal. I believe parking charges are around 2 Euros for an hour which seems very little comparing to the charges at the UK airports. Parking lot is located in front of the airport, there is no need for you to get further transport to the terminal.
Upon entering the departure terminal, you will find yourself in a big(ish) hall, not much different from any other airport other than it is smaller than the UK Airports I have been to (Birmingham, Luton even East Mids lands) departure terminals. Straight in front of you on the top, there is a notice board with scheduled departures/arrivals times, flight numbers and check-in desk. The boards are in Slovakian and English as well which is very useful. The boards are also randomly placed all around the departure hall.
Last time I flew from Bratislava Airport (October 2012) the hall was looking nice and clean and I could see that it is cleaned regularly. The check-in desks are located in the middle of the hall, from my memory there are only around 10 check-in desks. Toilettes are located on the both sides of the departure hall as; this includes baby changing/feeding area and disabled toilets. They are being cleaned regularly which is noticeable really, every time I used them toilets have been nice and cleaned. I have used baby changing facility too, again this has been cleaned every time I used it, there are couple of changing units available and even a shower head over the big sink should you need to wash your little one.
To access departure gates, you will need to go upstairs through the security control. Lifts, escalators and normal stairs are all available to use to get to the passport control. There are also ladies/gents toilettes upstairs.
***Amenities and facilities***
There are various facilities available at the Airport as you might expected such as Bureaux de change, first aid, left luggage, baggage wrapping (in the departure terminal, charge of 4 euros per luggage), lost baggage, free hotspot (Wi-Fi) restaurant, bars, cafés, VIP lounge, airport business club, duty-free shop, smaller shops, post office, news agents and as already mentioned car rental facilities. For 50 cent charge, you can even have your luggage weight.
From my memory, there is only 1 coffee bar in the actual departure hall which is located downstairs in the corner of the hall. Shops, restaurants and more bars are available in the departure hall, after you get pass the security control.
Bear in mind that this is a tiny airport compared to some UK Airports and if you fly late at night, restaurants/bars will be closed. In October, our flight was at 10pm and I noticed at least couples of newsagents were still opened to get water/magazine as well as café in the departure hall as well as near the departure gates.
Departure lounge offers restaurants, duty-free shop or small news agents. If you are getting excited to do loads of duty free shopping, then you will be disappointed, there is one big(ish) shop available mostly selling tobacco or sweets. There is a small café shop at the departure lounge area where you can smoke so it was packed the last time we flew. In Slovakia, restriction to smoking in the public places such as pubs or restaurants doesn't apply and you will find that many restaurants (if not all) actually allow smoking whilst you eat your food!!!
There was a kids play area located at the departure gates which I was relieved to see. Travelling on my own with my 21 month old has been really hard especially at 9pm when she is really tired and unco-operative. Kids area was located in the corner (close to gate A14) and included colorful flooring with tables, chairs, wooden puzzles and bean bags. There was also a soft play area with the slide and ball pit and couple of obstacles. My daughter loved it and as mentioned earlier I was very grateful and pleased for this.
I have good experience with this airport so far. The staff at the airport are reasonably polite, overall look and even the navigation around the airport has improved massively with the reconstructions that was undertaken to improve it over the years.