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Slovenia Expat Health Insurance Guide

Slovenia lies at the heart of Europe, sandwiched between Croatia and Austria and is almost landlocked with only 46km of Adriatic coastline at its resort city of Piran. It may not boast beautiful beaches quite like its neighbour Croatia, but it’s known for its glacial lakes, picturesque mountains and baroque style towns and cities. The country is bordered by two other countries; to the west is Italy and to the east is Hungary. 

Slovenia is becoming a popular destination for expats because it has so much on offer and provides a great intercultural experience. The country’s clean and peaceful living, epic scenery, diverse cuisine and first-class wine and beer are just a few reasons why so many are choosing to move there. Not to mention it’s one of the safest countries in the world with extremely low crime rates, making it a very favourable environment.  

Climate

Although a small country Slovenia has a surprising variety of climates. The climate in the northeast can be described as continental with pleasantly warm, dry summers followed by cold winters. The high mountainous regions experience a severe Alpine climate whilst the coastal areas and much of the south have a Mediterranean style climate. Winters can be very cold with northeasterly winds known as Bora sweeping across the country. The mountainous regions of the country are especially affected by this and even experience heavy snowfall.

Summer temperatures tend to reach 20-26 °C and most of the time it remains comfortable but warm enough to take a dip in the many lakes that scatter the country. The coastal towns are blessed with the highest number of sunshine hours whilst the capital Ljubljana gets the least.

Due to its location, however, the country is quite wet and can often experience high amounts of rain, but this doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. Due to the amount of precipitation, you’ll find an abundance of pretty, green nature reserves to explore in Slovenia.

Slovenia Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainfall
Ljubljana

JanFebMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAug SepOctNov Dec
Temp °C25101520232625211683
Rainfall mm78769410611615212613912711313396

Lake Bled

JanFebMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAug SepOctNov Dec
Max Temp °C1361016192121171262
Rainfall mm106101121149164173159160170165195120

Piran

JanFebMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAug SepOctNov Dec
Max Temp °C91014182327292924201410
Rainfall mm677285544127185012015811075

Culture

The Slovenian nation is very connected with its language and culture. Art has always held a special place in Slovenian history and the country is home to numerous galleries and museums that display valuable items and Slovenian art dating from the 13th to the 20th century. One of the best ways to enjoy work by some of the most important creators is by attending one of Slovenia’s arts festivals that are held regularly throughout the year. If you prefer something a little less demanding there are also festivals dedicated to beer, wine, desserts, chocolate and shopping.

Music and dancing are at the heart of Slovenian culture. If you want to make friends with a Slovene, dance with them! The Slovenian Philharmonic is one of the oldest orchestras in Europe and remains a traditional one lasting more than 300 years. Head to The Slovenian National Theatre Opera and Ballet to listen to operas by a variety of composers and to appreciate the ballet.

You will have to search hard to find a village or hill that doesn’t have a church in Slovenia. The country is home to approximately 3000 sacred buildings and the history of Slovenian religion is displayed within.

The Slovenians often like to transform streets, squares and parks into open air cinemas and spend summer evenings under the stars watching film premieres. LIFFE Film Festival is one to take note of, it takes place in November in Ljubljana.

Slovenia flaunts copious castles, fortresses and manors that were built throughout the medieval, renaissance and baroque eras. Today, many are now just ruins that hold hidden stories but the ones that survived are now open as exhibitions, unique dining experiences and even accommodation.

Language

Slovenian, otherwise known as Slovene, is an Indo-European language that belongs to the family of South Slavic languages. This language is only spoken by about two million people and remains a native language with most of the people that speak it living in Slovenia. Slovene was the first written Slavic language and is also considered to be one of the most archaic in Europe.

The language has almost fifty different dialects making Slovene one of the most diverse Slavic languages. Some of the dialects can vary so significantly that it can make it hard for Slovenians from different parts of the country to understand each other.

The language was based on the existing Czech alphabet and therefore contains only 25 of the letters, including Č, Š, Ž and excluding X and Y.

English PhraseSlovenian Translation
Do you understand what I am saying?Ali razumete, kaj govorim? 
What is that?Kaj je to?
I don’t knownevem
Good morning!Dobro jutro 
How are you?Kako si? 
Thank youHvala vam

Transport

The public transport in Slovenia is reasonably well organised and reliable. The trains offer regular, quick and comfortable journeys between all the major tourist cities and buses offer access to the more remote places.

In the capital, Ljubljana, the buses are frequent and if you buy an Urbana smart card you can jump on board with cash-free payment. All you must do is load credit onto the card or buy a period ticket and you’re off. The card also gives you access to the cable car at Ljubljana Castle, public parking fees and services at the Ljubljana City Library.

Slovenian Railways operate domestic trains and they are often more spacious and comfortable than buses and travelling by train can also be cheaper. The trains are great if you are going a long distance and you can easily purchase tickets at the train stations or once on the train.

Connections between other countries are also very good. You can travel to Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland on a direct train from Slovenia.

Healthcare

The nationalised public healthcare system provides a high-quality level of care to all its citizens and residents. It’s funded through compulsory tax contributions from both employees and employers, but this doesn’t cover all costs, so Slovenes also have the freedom to apply for voluntary health insurance which gives them extra benefits that are not covered by the compulsory health insurance scheme. All residents are presented with a free electronic medical card that they must present anytime they visit a doctor or undergo and medical treatment.

As a result of spending a considerable amount of its Gross Domestic Product on healthcare, Slovenia enjoys clean and modern healthcare facilities.

Like other European countries visiting a doctor is the first point of care for any non-emergency medical assistance. If you find yourself in an emergency the protocol is to call an ambulance on the number 144.

Money

The official currency of Slovenia is the euro. The tolar was the currency in Slovenia up until the introduction of the euro at the beginning of 2007, which came after the country joined the European Union in 2004.

Slovenia allows non-residents and even tourists to open bank accounts so expats should have no trouble opening one when there. Most banks make the process easy by offering bank accounts specifically for non-residents.

When opening a bank account in Slovenia you will need:

  • your passport
  • confirmation of Slovenian Tax Number
  • foreign tax number

You won’t be charged when taking out money at an ATM in Slovenia that is related to your bank, however, it’s important to be aware that withdrawing cash from an ATM at a different bank can often incur charges.

Schooling

Slovenia’s schooling system is not too dissimilar to the UK’s.

In Slovenia, there are three levels of education; basic, secondary and higher education.

Basic school is the first stage in the Slovenian education system. It’s compulsory for all Slovenian children to attend basic school from the age of 6-15years. When in 6th and 9th grade, pupils must pass the National Knowledge Assessment Test. When a pupil in 9th grade passes the test, they can then continue to secondary education.

After graduating from basic school, pupils can choose what type of secondary education they wish to begin. Their choice will usually depend on their basic school performance and ambitions. The four types of secondary education are:

  • Minimum vocational education – available to students that only studied seven years of basic school
  • Secondary Vocational Education – available to students who completed basic school, they can study professions such as carpentry, mechanics, baking and hairdressing
  • Secondary Technical and Vocational Education – available to students who completed their studies at basic school and are interested in gaining knowledge within a specific technical or economic profession. Once passing their exams students can then go on to apply for university
  • General Secondary Education – education in gymnasiums is another way of continuing their education and gaining skills/knowledge in certain subjects that can then lead them to university

Higher Education is the next step in the system and students can either go to vocational college or choose to advance on to University.

Vocational Colleges are focused on developing students’ practical skills and offer a broader range of study subjects than universities do. Any pupil that has graduated from a gymnasium or secondary vocational school can partake in a two-year vocational college course in something like tourism, economics, computer science and other areas.

Management, Marketing and Business are the kinds of degrees that are available at universities and like in the UK, the courses last for three years and end with a thesis defence otherwise described as a dissertation. If a student is keen to continue their education further after completing their degree, they can choose to join a Master’s degree programme followed by a PhD programme.

Foreigners can study higher education in Slovenia for a relatively low fee and the Slovenian education is acknowledged across the EU meaning that graduates from colleges or universities can continue studying something such as a Master’s degree in another EU country if they wish.

Food & Drink

Much of Slovenia’s cuisine is influenced by its neighbours Austria, Italy and Hungary, but you’ll also find local dishes that are prepared fresh with locally grown ingredients. You’ll find oodles of tasty dishes and copious restaurants in the cities and beyond.

It’s becoming harder to find traditional Slovene dishes on restaurant menus due to pizza, pasta and burgers dominating the restaurant scene. However, popular Slovenian specialities include:

  • Goulash – a delicate stew of meat and vegetables
  • Potica – a cake that is full to the brim of nuts, honey, cream, raisins and cinnamon
  • Bled cream cake – delicious vanilla cream sandwiched between two slices of pastry

A typical Slovenian meal is made up of a soup starter followed by a meat dish, usually succulent pork, chicken or turkey, accompanied by seasonal vegetables or salad. Desserts can vary depending on the region you’re in. Pancakes are a beloved dish in Slovenia as is apple strudel and can be found on most restaurant dessert menus.

Grilled sausage is another dish that is prominent on Slovenian menus, they come in various forms with the most common being ‘kranjska klobasa’, which translates to big spicy sausage.

Two of the most traditional Slovenian dishes are:

  • Žlikrofi – ravioli filled with potato, onion and bacon
  • Žganci – buckwheat or maize porridge with Sauerkraut served alongside

There are many international restaurants located in the main tourist areas of Slovenia so if the traditional cuisine doesn’t tickle your taste buds you won’t go hungry.

The Slovenian tap water is perfectly fine to drink and will usually be served to you at dining establishments. Coffee and tea are drunk regularly in Slovenia but are normally served black and you will need to ask for milk or cream if you need it.

Daytime drinking is encouraged in Slovenia and takes place at small café-bars where they also serve a range of delectable cakes and pastries. Slovenian beer is known for being excellent and one of Slovenia’s best-kept secrets is its exceptional wines.

Safety

There’s no need to worry when it comes to safety in Slovenia as it has been ranked as the 10th safest country in the world.

If you’re out late at night in Slovenia, there’s no cause for concern as violent crime is very rare and is decreasing every year. The only matter is petty theft which can easily be avoided by taking the necessary safety precautions.

Be careful with your bag, purse or wallet especially when in crowded or busy areas and never leave your possessions unattended at the beach or other public areas. Don’t leave your valuables on show in your car and always double-check you’ve locked it. If possible, try to park in well-lit areas.

When taking public transport in Slovenia you can be confident that it is safe and reliable. The only things to be aware of are pickpockets and taxi drivers overcharging you. Just ensure you negotiate your taxi fare before getting in and avoid taxis that don’t have meters.

Slovenia is on an earthquake line and can experience the occasional tremor, however, there is no serious threat of natural disasters.

Places to Visit

Slovenia may be small but it’s saturated with glistening lakes, intriguing towns and cities, scenic mountains and so much more. There are endless things to see and do so you won’t have a moment to spare and you’ll no doubt be fascinated by what this country has to offer.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled is like a real-life fairytale land and because of this has become Slovenia’s most famous beauty spot. The area is surrounded by the snowcapped Julian alps and Bled Island sits tranquilly in the middle of the lake, which is barely disturbed apart from the swans and traditional wooden boats that take visitors to and from the island. Pictures of Lake Bled don’t do it justice and the overwhelming feeling you get when you see it with your own eyes cannot be beaten. For the ultimate breathtaking view of the lake and surroundings climb up to Blejski grad (Bled Castle) or take a steep hike up Ojstrica to find a secluded spot that offers the most magnificent panoramic view of the lake.

Ljubljana

Ljubljana is Slovenia’s charming capital and its laid-back, reserved atmosphere is sure to steal your heart. Ljubljana’s striking hilltop castle is perhaps its most treasured and visited landmark. You can reach the castle by funicular, walking paths, or public transport and once you’re there you can enjoy the stunning views of the city from the Outlook Tower, delve into the Slovenian history or dine in one of the two award-winning restaurants.

The city has lots more to see and do such as; numerous museums, strolls along the Ljubljanica River, and bike rides around the attractively landscaped Tivoli park. The very centre of the city is car-free and means you can wander through the cobbled streets at ease whilst breathing in the fresh air and dine or drink by the river without disturbance.

Piran

Picturesque Piran is just one of three coastal towns in Slovenia located on a peninsula that pokes subtly into the Adriatic Sea. The town is a jumble of Venetian architecture and medieval lanes. Tartini Square is the perfect place to rest and enjoy a drink or even ice cream after exploring the many offerings of Piran.

Walk the Walls of Piran to embrace the towns ancient history and to appreciate the amazing, colourful views of the orange topped buildings and turquoise sea.

Lake Bohinj

Slovenia’s largest lake is heavily overshadowed by Lake Bled but is equally, if not more, spectacular and should not go unnoticed. The lake, which covers 318 hectares, is found in Triglav National Park and may not be as glamorous as Lake Bled but its sparkling blue-green waters are truly mesmerising.

It’s noticeably less crowded at Lake Bohinj and the peaceful, serene environment is a welcomed contrast from that of Lake Bled. It’s a place where you can truly unwind and partake in leisurely activities such as swimming, cycling, walking and even kayaking or horse riding.

Škofja Loka

This small medieval town is just 26km from Ljubljana and is one of the oldest and most exquisite settlements in Slovenia. The characteristic town appears as if from a fairytale especially when it’s lit up after dark.

The very little car traffic gives you the opportunity to ramble through the old streets of the centre whilst admiring the houses and history of the town. The impressively immaculate castle overlooks the town and you can climb up to the castle to visit the Loka museum.

Capuchin Bridge is the oldest bridge in Slovenia and is a romantic spot where you can savour a wonderful view of the castle.

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