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3 months around Balkans. Does this itinerary look good?

3 months around Balkans. Does this itinerary look good?

Jun 18th, 2018, 09:09 AM
  #1  
bck
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Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 34
3 months around Balkans. Does this itinerary look good?

We are three, restricted by visa (not a 1st world passport), spent last 30 days in Schengen (Portugal, Prague, Vienna) and currently in Budapest. We want to go to Slovenia for 1 week, spend the next 25 days in balkans (non-Schengen), followed by three weeks in Schengen (to join some family in Italy and finish up the rest of Schengen visa duration) and final 27 days again in non-Schengen. We are visiting non-Schengen countries using the valid Schengen stamp on the passport (where the number of days spent in Schengen area doesn’t matter). Please let me know if this tentative itinerary looks good.

Slovenia - 1 week

Train from Budapest to Ljubljana

Ljubljana - 2 days

Should we rent a car for our whole trip in Ljubljana?

Lake Bled - 3 days

Any other place in Slovenia before we head to Croatia? Piran?

First 25 days in Non-Schengen:

Croatia (Zagreb, Plitvice lakes, Split, Dubrovnik) - 9 days

Should we rent a car in Zagreb instead of Ljubljana?

Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar, Sarajevo) - 7 days

Montenegro - 4 days

Albania (Tirana, Berat) - 5 days

Three weeks in Schengen (Will be planning this later)

Greece - 1 week

Fly (or ferry?) to Italy - 2 weeks

We originally wanted to go to Switzerland, but skipping it for Greece and saving it for next year or later.

Fly to Istanbul

Last 27 days in Non-Schengen:

Istanbul (Provides e-visa if we have a Schengen visa) - 7 days

Bulgaria (Plovdiv, Sofia) - 6 days

Romania (Bucharest, Brasov, Sighisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara) - 14 days

Schengen visa stamp expires at this time.

Serbia - visa-on-arrival (Belgrade and other places TBD) - 2 weeks

After this, we will be flying out to SE Asia to continue our year long world travel.

We are all ~30 yr old, love learning history, exploring food and nature. Budget is not a big concern. Below are the questions. Thanks a lot for your time and help!

1. Appreciate any input on places that we can add/remove, change the order of the above countries to visit, events happening at that time that we should look to attend.
2. Should we do the western side of balkans first (before the three weeks in Schengen) and Romania-Bulgaria-Istanbul later or the vice versa?
3. Should we rent the car for the whole trip or not? We are not big fan of driving (though we are very used to drive in multiple countries), but we can drive if that will save time, provide additional comfort and flexibility.
bck is offline  
Jun 18th, 2018, 11:02 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 76,961
You'll be best off me thinks by renting car for all or most of trip since you are going to many places poorly served by trains but for lots of train info for parts of your trip check www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.rixcksteves.com. And don't forget to buy needed decals for driving in various countries on autobahns and an International Driviers License from your local AAA - most countries require it and perhaps some rental agencies too.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 18th, 2018, 05:37 PM
  #3  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,703
Should be wonderful!

First and foremost, I know nothing about the Schengen rules except that they exist and you MUST follow them. Please don’t take anything I saw as a comment about what is or is not possible under Schengen!

As for car rentals:
· Ljubljana itself does not require a car, nor is one necessary for Lake Bled (although it can help with places like the Vintgar Gorge). Whether you will want a car in Slovenia depends on what else you want to visit while there and how convenient public transportation options are for your purposes. If you rent a car in Slovenia, make sure the car has the “vignette” required in that country, or buy one ASAP. I wouldn’t rent separately in Slovenia and Croatia, but again, it depends on your purposes. If you decide to do so, make sure you know what you will be charged for picking up in one country and dropping off in the other – the fee can be quite high, particularly when you can easily take a train between Ljubljana and Zagreb.

Croatia: It depends on what YOU want to see and experience, but IMO, 9 days is very little for Croatia. You can probably visit the 4 locations you visit in that time, but you will skip a LOT. Maybe that’s intentional?

Depending on your interests, a full week for Bosnia i Herzegovina could be a bit much. IMO, Sarajevo easily merits 3 or 4 days, while a single day (with an overnight) is enough for most people in Mostar.

Greece: 1 week seems like VERY little time for Greece, although again, it really depends on what you want to see / do.

Italy: 2 weeks is VERY little time for Itally. Once you decide where, exactly, you hope to visit, you can think about how to get there.

IMO, 7 days is reasonable for Istanbul. If you plan to visit anything else in Turkey, you could easily want more (or even MUCH more) time.

1. See above.

2. I can’t advise you on that.

3. I would use a car only when absolutely necessary for your purposes and only with a clear understanding of (a) local requirements and costs and (b) careful attention to what you will do with a car in some of these places, where a car really isn’t an advantage and can be an incumbrance. PalenQ is correct that trains don’t cover some of the areas you hope to visit, but he is ignoring the wide availability of comfortable and convenient buses.

Hope that helps!

Last edited by kja; Jun 18th, 2018 at 05:41 PM.
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Jun 19th, 2018, 01:07 AM
  #4  
bck
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Join Date: Jul 2015
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@PalenQ Thank you. We have international permit and used to driving in any conditions. However, not a big fan of driving
@kja Thanks for the suggestions. Do you think I can travel enough of Croatia and BiH in public/local transport? If so, I will use the rental car only for Slovenia.
Do you think I can spend more time on the other parts of BiH (Balgaj, Plocitelj, Trevinje, Sutjeska, Visegrad) than adding more days to Croatia from BiH?
bck is offline  
Jun 19th, 2018, 01:11 AM
  #5  
 
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Do not waste time planning for driving between countries. As kja said, even between Schengen countries, one way rentals may be impossible in the Balkans.

You may wish to go to Romania and then Bulgaria immediately after Budapest.

Moving from Albania to Italy and then to Greece will also save you time and reduce backtracking.


If you reduce time in Romania and Bulgaria and add part of that to the Greek islands, you can then cross over to the Western Turkish coast, visit some interesting sites like Ephesus and drive up rto Istanbul via Sardes, Pergamom, Troy for your 5-7 days in Istanbul.

Renting car in mainland Greece and inITaly can be rewarding also.
otherchelebi is online now  
Jun 19th, 2018, 04:26 PM
  #6  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Originally Posted by bck View Post
Do you think I can travel enough of Croatia and BiH in public/local transport? If so, I will use the rental car only for Slovenia.
As already stated, it depends on what, exactly, you want to see and experience. IME, the only parts of Croatia where have a car is a decided advantage is in Istria (which you don't mention) and -- perhaps -- for getting to / from the Plitvice Lakes. For the Plitvice Lakes, there are busses, but they aren't necessarily convenient. I traveled from Sarajevo to Mostar by train, from Mostar to Dubrovnik by bus, and then within Croatia -- except for Istria and the Plitvice Lakes -- by ferry or bus.

Originally Posted by bck View Post
Do you think I can spend more time on the other parts of BiH (Balgaj, Plocitelj, Trevinje, Sutjeska, Visegrad) than adding more days to Croatia from BiH?
Your call! You can not possibly see everything in the Balkans in 3 months. I didn't see these parts of BiH, but not for lack of interest, but rather because my interests made other places in the region a higher priority for me. Only you can decide what to see and what to skip, but I would note that covering a lot of territory generally means skimming parts of it and means that you spend a LOT of time in transit relative to your time on the ground.

IMO, otherchelebi's suggestion to go from some of the Greek Islands to western Turkey makes a LOT of sense.
kja is offline  
Jun 26th, 2018, 12:12 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Lake Bled is really pretty but if you are not a nature lover there s nothing to do there for 3 days. However I would add trip to Postojna ,fascinating cave.
ivson is offline  
Jun 26th, 2018, 02:44 PM
  #8  
bck
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Join Date: Jul 2015
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Originally Posted by otherchelebi View Post
Do not waste time planning for driving between countries. As kja said, even between Schengen countries, one way rentals may be impossible in the Balkans.

You may wish to go to Romania and then Bulgaria immediately after Budapest.

Moving from Albania to Italy and then to Greece will also save you time and reduce backtracking.


If you reduce time in Romania and Bulgaria and add part of that to the Greek islands, you can then cross over to the Western Turkish coast, visit some interesting sites like Ephesus and drive up rto Istanbul via Sardes, Pergamom, Troy for your 5-7 days in Istanbul.

Renting car in mainland Greece and inITaly can be rewarding also.

Thank you, will do this.
bck is offline  
Jun 26th, 2018, 02:45 PM
  #9  
bck
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Originally Posted by ivson View Post
Lake Bled is really pretty but if you are not a nature lover there s nothing to do there for 3 days. However I would add trip to Postojna ,fascinating cave.
Finished my Slovenia trip and throughly loved it. Spent 2 days in Bled including trip to Vintgar Gorge and the castle, which was fantastic.
bck is offline  
Jun 26th, 2018, 02:46 PM
  #10  
bck
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Thank you. Excellent advise.
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