Western Balkans tavel - suggested routes, transportation options
Replies: 17 - Last Post: May 25, 2013 8:13 AM Last Post By: artowl
Feb 2, 2013 11:38 AM
Western Balkans tavel - suggested routes, transportation optionsWe would like to travel to the Western Balkans at the end of July/beginning of August this year for three to four weeks. Albania is a must. I'm also interested in Bosnia & Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. We'd love to see Croatia, yet are concerned that we would need more time to fully include it in our itinerary. We prefer to travel via car so we can have the most freedom and can see all the small towns and off the beaten path stuff yet I'm guessing that taking a car from country to country in this area would prove to be more difficult.
I've read through the Lonely Planet guide and it doesn't give enough information about how to travel among the countries with a car or suggestions on how to rent and travel through certain countries, then move onto the next.
Any suggested itineraries (does not have to be detailed, it would be helpful to just have something as simple as - travel in this order and do it via this mode of transportation) or resources would be appreciated.
Thank you in advance!
Feb 3, 2013 7:44 AM
1That's a lot of countries for not a lot of time. It'll also be high season, with more traffic along the coasts, higher prices and very hot temperatures. I 3-4 weeks You could do a circle around AL-MK-KS-MN-BH-CRO-MN-AL but you'll be driving a lot. I'd save BH and CRO for another trip. Renting in Albania and arranging the paperwork should allow you to take the car into the other countries, email to the Hertz and Avis offices in Tirana directly for details.
Feb 3, 2013 10:43 AM
Feb 3, 2013 7:35 PM
3I did something similar last summer. Rented in Montenegro, then visited (southern) Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro (again), Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania, finishing where I started in Montenegro. Rented with Europcar, very satisfied with the car and service. Can't see "everything" there is to see in those countries in 4 weeks, but it's plenty of time to hit the highlights.
Feb 3, 2013 8:09 PM
4Thank you Zashibis!
Did you have any trouble crossing borders or did you have to have special paperwork to cross borders? Also, what were the roads like? Did you drive in the larger cities and have challenges finding parking? When we drove through Latvia, we found many times we'd be on a nice paved road, then meet the truck paving the road and have to drive on gravel. We have a GPS for Europe. Did you have any trouble with maps/GPS or is it pretty much straightforward? Any more information you could provide would be appreciated. Thank you so much for responding!
Feb 3, 2013 8:37 PM
5Would have preferred a GPS, but I made do with old-fashioned paper maps. Mostly the roads are paved and in pretty good condition, though there were exceptions, like the main road to Berat in Albania. (In general, Albanian secondary roads leave something to be desired.) Some roads are very narrow, and call for careful driving, like the road from Plužine to Žabljak through Durmitor National Park in Montenegro. And, yes, I drove in all the cities on my route. Worst for driving was Sarajevo where parking is very limited and it's easy to get lost. Other cities, like Tirana and Skopje are fairly easy. Overall, it was in general no more difficult than driving and parking in unfamiliar cities anywhere else in Europe.
You do need special paperwork to cross borders, which the rental company will provide. I think it added an extra 10 euros per day to the cost of the rental, but I don't remember exactly. Other than that document, the only other thing to note is that it doesn't cover insurance for Kosovo, so you have to buy special insurance for that country once you cross the border. Again, I don't remember exactly, but it was something like 25 euros for a week. (I wasn't in Kosovo a full week, but a week was the minimum you could buy.) Other than that, crossing borders presents no problems.
Feb 4, 2013 12:34 AM
6p.s. I should add that the insurance in Kosovo is mandated by law. I was pulled over by a cop and asked to produce the proof of insurance. When I said I didn't have it, he nicely just escorted me to the proper office so I could buy it.
Also, beware of speed traps in the Republika Srpska part of Bosnia. Seems like just about every tiny town had one.
Feb 4, 2013 5:59 AM
Feb 5, 2013 4:33 AM
8I had posted quite a lengthy reply and it didn't go through, what the heck is happening on TT lately?
I had written that I had planned the exact same trip last September, but due to some last-minute events I had to shorten the length of our stay to barely less than three weeks. That meant leaving out Serbia and Macedonia for another time and settling for an itinerary that included Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania.
We flew into Dubrovnik, where we had been to before, and immediately picked up our car and drove into BH. We dropped off the car in Montenegro since it couldn't be driven into Albania, but you have plenty of Montenegro-based companies as well as the usual suspects (Hertz, Avis and the likes) that allow cars into Albania. Make sure you make your reservations well ahead since we were quite lazy/late/incompetent and all the Montenegrin companies we consulted were booked out, so we ended up having the hire a private taxi to drive us from Kotor into Tirana. By the way, for all the horror stories I had heard I found driving in Albania (we had a local friend’s car) to be no worse than in Croatia or Montenegro, in fact I think Montenegro was spookier and featured more reckless drivers, and police presence is not as noticeable as in Bosnia, for instance.
-As Zashibis says, parking in Sarajevo can be a daunting experience, esp. given that space is scarce, plenty of areas are metered and some streets are chillingly hilly! That said, we found driving in and out of the city to be pretty straightforward, traffic and rainstorm notwithstanding.
-Yes, police and speed traps are quite prevalent in Serb Bosnia, so be careful. Local drivers will usually flash the headlights as a warning of police presence, or at least that happened to us various times, pay attention to them and slow down accordingly. By the way, the drive between Sarajevo and Visegrad is absolutely gorgeous.
-I think our itinerary in the end was BH six days, Montenegro five days, Albania six days, as well as the last evening in Dubrovnik. We liked BH and Albania better than Montenegro, but that is of course a personal opinion. We missed plenty of places (like Gjirokaster in Albania or Podgorica, for instance) but that’s what a restricted itinerary has.
-We used no GPS.
-I don’t know where you’re from but I am suggesting my friends that they should bring their own car to the region, thus avoiding plenty of hassles, but I don’t know if such a road-trip is feasible for you.
Once again, and hoping this will now get posted, have a great time in a fascinating region.
Feb 6, 2013 7:00 AM
9Thank you so much for your post! It did post this time. :)
We're thinking about flying in and out of Albania and renting a car there. We can not bring our own car since we do not live in Europe. Did many of the places that you stayed have parking included? Or was there room to park the car? I'm guessing if you're not staying in the largest city in the country, then parking might be easier.
Thank you again for information - It is so helpful.
Any other information you could provide about finding accommodation or great places to see would also be appreciated.
Feb 7, 2013 6:05 AM
Feb 7, 2013 6:41 AM
Feb 7, 2013 7:01 AM
Feb 7, 2013 7:13 AM
13Yep, it was a shame having to rule out Macedonia and Serbia, but of course they remain a top priority.
Feb 9, 2013 3:18 AM
14I've read through the Lonely Planet guide and it doesn't give enough information about how to travel among the countries with a car or suggestions on how to rent and travel through certain countries, then move onto the next.
Try to have a look to Bradt guidebooks. When I was in Albania, I used it. You will have a lot of suggestion and they are cover a lot of the countries of this region.
You meet a lot of person with their own car (camping-car for most of them) and there are no complain about problems.
(0 star Hotel)
From US$16.73 per night
(5 star Hotel)
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(4 star Hotel)
From US$89.46 per night