Are you planning to move to Ljubljana? What is it like to live in Slovenia?
In this Expat Interview, Fernanda shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers. You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in Ljubljana, such as the cost of living in Ljubljana, how to find apartments and jobs, and other practical tips.
What is it like to live in Ljubljana?
Living in Ljubljana as an expat is both fun and challenging at the same time. Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and the largest city in the country, but it is still not a large city per se, especially compared to other European capitals.
Even with all that, I feel that Ljubljana has a very international atmosphere, especially because every year, thousands of Erasmus students come to the city for a semester or two. There are always things happening and movement in the bars and events, bringing a great atmosphere.
Ljubljana is also a very green and vibrant city, which is something I love. We are very closely located to the mountains, the sea, rivers, and some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The easiness of travel is one of my favorite things about living here.
On the other hand, language is a big factor when talking about the challenges of expat life in Ljubljana. The Slovene language is extremely difficult for anyone not coming from a Slavic country. It gets especially hard when having to deal with bureaucracy or government establishments.
From my experience, it is possible to deal with almost everything by using English, but having someone that speaks the language to support you makes an enormous difference in your overall experience of living here.
How to prepare for moving to Ljubljana?
The most important thing you need to prepare before moving to Ljubljana are the papers and figuring out your housing situation.
Essentials for the papers (it will change a lot based on your nationality):
- Documents required for requesting temporary residence (for EU nationals, include a picture, official document, a form stating your personal information and reason for living in Slovenia) and any proof supporting your claim. For instance, if you are employed here, you can give a copy of your work contract).
- Temporary address: when applying for temporary residence, you will need to give a temporary address, and you must be able to receive mail at this address. This is why arranging the housing situation beforehand is a must-do.
- Health insurance – if you are regularly employed in Slovenia, you get basic insurance automatically. Still, you can choose to purchase additional health insurance to cover the extra parts not included in the basic plan.
The cost of living in Ljubljana
|Rental price (one-bedroom flat)||€ 600+|
|Heating (if related) + water||€ 60|
|Prepaid cell phone plan||€ 10|
|Monthly groceries||€ 250|
|Monthly transportation||€ 37|
|Average meal/ person||€ 10|
|1 beer||€ 2-4|
|Monthly gym membership||€ 30|
|Total||€ 1050 + daily food|
What salary do you need to live in Ljubljana?
It depends a lot on your lifestyle, of course. For a regular life, still being able to go out for entertainment and food, you would need around € 1300 if sharing an apartment and € 1800 if living alone.
Where to live in Ljubljana? – The best areas to stay
The best neighborhoods to live in Ljubljana are the ones closest to the center. However, I would not live in the pedestrian area of the center because it is overpriced since it is mostly oriented toward tourists and has limited transport access.
My favorite neighborhoods are Bezigrad, Trnovo, Prule, and Moste. The further from the center you go, the more housing opportunities you will find because they become more residential areas.
How to find an apartment in Ljubljana?
You can use Facebook groups to find an apartment in Ljubljana. The best one for this is called Stanovanjce, stanovanjce, kje si? Mali oglasi za nepremičnine
You can go through real estate websites. I recommend checking Nepremicnine and private real estate companies.
Transportation in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a fairly small city, so you can cross it in only 40min by car or even 1h by bike. I feel that for young expats who live closer to the center, the bike is the preferred transport option, while people living further away tend to get cars to ease the transportation. These are the transport options available:
Single bus tickets cost € 1.30. The monthly bus pass with unlimited rides costs € 37.
Many people use bikes to go everywhere, either on their own or the city bike. The yearly plan for the city bike called Bicikelj costs € 3.
Taxi is also available. We don’t have Uber in Ljubljana, but the most similar company is called Cameo. Otherwise, regular taxi companies also work well.
Going around by car is also an option. Parking is payable on the street using parking meters. The price varies depending on the area of the city you are in. If you have a temporary residence registered in Ljubljana, you can pay the yearly parking pass at your location (the price also varies per region). Where we live, it costs € 120 per year.
Weather in Ljubljana
Ljubljana has seasons very well marked, which is something I love. During the months of November and December, the city faces its worse weather, with extremely foggy days. Once you drive out of the city, the fog usually disappears, but if you stay in town, you can get quite a few grey days in a row. We usually get only one or two snowfalls every year between December and March.
The weather in the spring and summer is amazing in Ljubljana, with typical European summer weather, plus the occasional strong rain showers.
- The average temperature during the summer is 15°C to 27°C.
- The average temperature during the winter is -2°C to 4°C.
Practical information for living in Ljubljana
- Emergency number: 112
- Police number: 113
- Best hospital: UKC
Phone & internet providers: A1, Telemach, T2, Telekom. We use Telemach/T2. There is also the option of having prepaid SIM cards instead of the paid plan for your mobile phone (even after 3 years, I still use my prepaid). The best-prepaid companies are HoT (from Hofer) and Bob.
Supermarkets: Spar, Mercator, Lidl, Hofer, Tus, E. Leclerc (good for international products). Spar and Mercator are more expensive than Lidl and Hofer, but they have everything you need and many local products.
Shopping: BTC City park, Rudnik, Aleja shopping mall. BTC is the largest and most complete shopping complex in Ljubljana. It is my go-to place for finding anything.
What do you like about living in Ljubljana?
The best thing about living in Ljubljana for me is how “at home” it felt from the start. Even though I don’t speak the language, the people have always welcomed and are kind to me, going out of their way to help.
I also love how green the city is. When I say green, I mean not only due to the trees and parks but also about being conscious of the environment. I rarely see trash lying around, and the city buses are electric and extremely silent. You can even hear birds in the city center.
Another great positive part about living in Ljubljana, especially for a person coming from a third-world country like me, is safety. This city is very calm, and I have never once felt in any kind of danger. As a woman alone, I feel completely safe walking around during the evening, speaking on the phone in the street, or anything.
What are the bad things about living in Ljubljana?
The hardest part about living here is the language, by far. Even though people are helpful, with time, it is hard not to be able to understand alerts on the bus or deal with bureaucracy myself. Slovenian is a very hard language for people of Latin origin, like me.
Another thing I find hard about living here in Ljubljana (and Slovenia in general) is that we are not yet an international and connected country. Large brands and services, such as Amazon or Uber, that are taken for granted in many other places, don’t yet operate here. Connected to this, we also miss access to quite a few international products, even though we always find ways of ordering or bringing your favorite goods from home.
What are the best things to do in Ljubljana?
It may seem obvious, but the best thing to do in Ljubljana is to really enjoy the city, especially the center.
Walk up to the Ljubljana Castle to see the city from above (hint: you can go inside for free!), visit the city’s food market for some of the best local produce, like fresh cheese, and go to the Tivoli park. To see the city from a different angle, you can also hop on a boat tour on the Ljubljanica river or go paddle boarding if you visit during the summer.
If you stay in Ljubljana, you will quickly find out that one of the best things about the city is its central location in the country. Ljubljana has the perfect location for day trips. You can get to the Bohinj Lake to the seaside in Piran, or to the mountains in Kranjska Gora in up to one hour. Lake Bled is also a nice day trip from Ljubljana.
Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved here? How did you deal with that?
The biggest difficulty I had when moving to Ljubljana was dealing with the bureaucratic part of the move. I struggled to set up my temporary residency because people kept giving me wrong information, and I didn’t have a fixed address at first.
It was quite stressful at the start, but I was very persistent. I kept pushing the registration office and asked for help from local friends who understood the process better. Everything got solved within 6 months instead of the expected 1 month.
Is it easy to make new friends in Ljubljana?
It depends a lot on everyone’s individual experience because in order to make friends, you need to put yourself out there. The easiest way of meeting new people is through work or study (if that is your reason for moving here), interacting on expat groups and joining the meet-ups, or joining group classes where you get the chance to meet different people.
Where to meet new people in Ljubljana?
In my case, since I work in a very international company, there were also many other foreigners in the same position as me, so I did not feel lonely when moving here. However, it took a bit longer to make true Slovenian friends and not foreigners.
I strongly recommend connecting with the expat group, whether from your nationality or international expats in general. These people go through the same place as you, so connecting is very easy.
Where are your favorite cafes in Ljubljana?
Some of my favorite cafes in Ljubljana are Pritlicje and Cacao. I must admit that I don’t go out for coffee too much as I am not a coffee drinker, but I do go for ice creams instead. My favorite ice cream shops in town are DiMatteo and Vigo.
Where are your favorite restaurants and bars in Ljubljana?
My favorite bar is called Premier, located right by the river in one of the busiest parts of town. I also like Harats (an Irish pub) and the Tektonik bar (a small bar from a local brewery).
When it comes to restaurants, I have a few favorites I could mention depending on the type of food. For pizza, I love Verace or Pops Pizza. For local Slovenian food, my favorite is Figovec Slovenska Hisa. For vegan food, it would be Veganika.
Tips for finding a job in Ljubljana.
Finding a job in Ljubljana as an expat is not easy because of the language barrier, as most positions would require Slovenian. However, there are also many new companies and start-ups that operate mostly in English, where you can find decent opportunities.
I found my current job by checking on Linkedin, and I still think this is one of the best ways of finding new opportunities. There are often vacancies announced via the expat groups, so this can be an interesting alternative depending on your desired position.
I recommend joining the expat Facebook groups as soon as you decide to move, even before you arrive, so you get a feel of the topics. You can also ask questions if you need any help. People are usually very participative.
What have you learned from living abroad?
Most of all, living abroad has made me a more compassionate and kind person. When you get in contact with cultures that are so different from your own, you learn not only about others but also about yourself.
I also love the feeling of being pushed out of my comfort zone. Even after three years of living in Ljubljana, when I think I have it all figured out, something new happens, and I am back to square one, having to do it all over again. It may be stressful at first, but I simply love the feeling of conquering something new.
Fernanda is a Brazilian traveler who has lived in a few countries but, for the past few years, has settled in Slovenia with her boyfriend Edin. Even though her heart belongs to tropical places like her hometown Rio, she loves experiencing new cultures and meeting different people the most. Fernanda and Edin share their travel photography, experiences (and failures) at Mauka Travels and through their Instagram and TikTok.
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.