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Advice on Budapest + Croatia Itinerary - 2 week trip

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Jun 16th, 2014, 08:31 AM
  #1
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Advice on Budapest + Croatia Itinerary - 2 week trip

Hello! I am finalizing an itinerary for a 2 week trip in Budapest and Croatia. It will be my husband and I, and we will be traveling September 19th - October 4th. I would love any advice on the itinerary, and I also have a few questions.

Day 1 - USA - Budapest; arrive at 10am
Day 2-3 - Explore Budapest
Day 4 - 6am train to Zagreb (arrive at noon) spend the day and night in Zagreb. Rent a car
Day 5 - Wake up early, drive to Plitvice Lakes. Spend the night
Day 6 - Drive to Dubrovnik; afternoon/evening in Dubrovnik
Day 7-8 - Explore Dubrovnik
Day 9 - Drive to Split
Day 10-12 - Explor Split; possible trip to Hvar
Day 13 - Wake up and drive to Rovinj; arrive around 1pm
Day 14 - 15 Explore Rovinj
Day 16 - Drive to Zagreb; flight back to US

The things we are looking to do are:
#1 - Enjoy the coast / beautiful scenery. Would like to spend time on beaches, kayaking / canoeing.
#2 - Eat / drink at local restaurants and bars.

Questions:
1) Is the weather warm enough to swim / spend time on the beach?
2) If we were to narrow it to 4 out of the 6 destinations, which would you cut? Budapest, Zagreb, Plitvice, Dubrovnik, Split, or Rovinj?
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Jun 16th, 2014, 06:54 PM
  #2
kja
 
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We all travel for different reasons and with different preferences. That said, this trip would be WAY to rushed for me! FWIW, I thought Budapest deserved at least 4 days and Zagreb at least 2.5 to 3.5 days.

What to cut -- and I think you are right to look for options -- depends on what you want to see and experience, and I am probably not the best person to offer comments since I didn't try to spend time on a beach or kayaking/canoeing while in this part of the world. I think Sept/Oct might be a bit late for those activities, but I could easily be mistaken.

The one place I would NOT cut -- the magnificent, incomparable Plitvice Lakes.

Some considerations: I believe it is far easier to get to/from Budapest than anywhere else on this itinerary, so that is IMO a good reason to consider deferring delightful Budapest for another trip. Dubrovnik is furthest from the other places you are considering, and will add considerable travel time to your plans, so it may be worth deferring, too. Much as I enjoyed Zagreb, it doesn't seem to fit your list of interests all that well -- except for eating and drinking, and you should be able to do that quite enjoyably at any of your proposed destinations. BUT the coastal regions of Croatia are, I believe, at their best a bit earlier in the year, with ferries running much less frequently in late Sept. and Oct than during high season, and that will constrain your options for many options. Of the places you mention, Split may offer the most versatile options for travel at this time of year, as it is not dependent on tourism; but again, I could be mistaken.

If you do pursue an itinerary like this, consider deferring all of your time in Zagreb until the END of your trip to (a) make sure you are back in Zagreb in advance of your flight and (b) so you only need to rent one hotel room in Zagreb.

Hope these comments helps!
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Jun 17th, 2014, 07:04 AM
  #3
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Thanks so much for the response kja! I have been contacting a lot of sailing tours / kayaking tours, and they said the weather will be great. But I don't know if it's just because they want the business?

Great advice about Zagreb. If we keep Budapest, would you recommend taking the train to Zagreb, then renting a car and driving straight to Plitvice? Then we would have a day and a half there (one overnight)?
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Jun 17th, 2014, 10:30 AM
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We did a somewhat similar trip a few years ago, but that only included Croatia. Our interest was mostly nature and small towns, so we only spent the first night in Zagreb and rented a car the following day. In other words, I cannot comment on Zagreb.

We were there in Sept-Oct, and weather was nice, even hot in Dubrovnik, so I think what you were told about kayaking / canoeing possibilities is true.

I would not cut Plitvice Lakes, Dubrovnik or Rovinj, we loved them all. An overnight at Plitvice is a very good idea, to avoid the huge busses with day-tripper crowds.

Based on logistics only, I would eliminate Budapest this trip. Plus, it deserves more time than what you are allocating it.
It’s wise to limit your trip to 4 destinations in 2 weeks, so if you need to cut another one, I guess it should be either Zagreb or Split. Or maybe cut Rovinj since it’s out of way, too. My heart brakes when saying that, we loved Rovinj and the Istria peninsula.

Instead of back tracking, look into flying out of Dubrovnik, that would save a lot of time.

Renting the car in one country and returning it in another adds to the cost. Look into it, if that is something you need to consider. Have a great trip!
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Jun 17th, 2014, 05:23 PM
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Or fly out of Split. It has quite a big airport, bigger than Dubrovnik.

I have to admit I'd cut Zagreb from this itinerary. Of course I've never been to Zagreb, so I'm not one to say. But to me the coast is the point of Croatia, all the islands and coastal towns.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 06:02 PM
  #6
kja
 
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"If we keep Budapest, would you recommend taking the train to Zagreb, then renting a car and driving straight to Plitvice? Then we would have a day and a half there (one overnight)?" -- yes, if you keep Budapest in your itinerary, that would be the way to go. And you might spend an hour or two in Zagreb before heading out; just make sure you reach the Plitvice Lakes in time for dinner and before sunset.

The ideas to fly out of Dubrovnik or Split make a lot of sense.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 07:47 AM
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Thank you so much for the advice!! So many great places to see. I will talk to my husband about possibly eliminating Budapest..... that was his suggestion to the trip though, so I want to be considerate and not make it everything I want to do. I also prefer the coastal towns over Zagreb, so I think we can eliminate that too.

With the airport suggestions...
For some reason, if we fly into Budapest we save from $400 - $800. We are not on an extremely tight budget, but $800 is $800.... does anyone think the cost savings is worth the busy itinerary? I guess we probably would spend a lot going from place to place, so it might even out.

Rovinj - This is out of the way for us, but I've heard incredible things about it. If we would focus on Dubrovnik and Split, is Rovinj a must see for a few days?
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Jun 19th, 2014, 08:23 AM
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kja
 
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I thoroughly enjoyed Rovinj, but personally preferred Dubrovnik and Split. I'm sure that each of us has slightly different reactions. The problem (and the good news) is that ALL of Croatia is incredible!
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Jun 19th, 2014, 09:51 AM
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I'm so happy to hear such positive feedback about Croatia! This is the last big trip my husband and I are going to do before we start a family, so I've been trying so hard to find the perfect destination!

If anyone has any specific suggestions of apartments/hotels, restaurants, activities or places to see, I'd love any recommendations!! I know Buza Bar is top on our list for Dubrovnik!!
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Jun 19th, 2014, 10:45 AM
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Only you know your ideal travel style in terms of pace and number of nights, etc., but to me, it is always worth it to spend more to fly where you want to be. I usually urge people to pick either north or south--so, say Zagreb and Istria OR the islands from Dubrovnik to Split.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 01:05 PM
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Hi, I am nor sure where you are coming from but Easy Jet has flights into Dubrovnik and Split from several gateway cities. Does one of those cities have comparable fares to your flight into Budapest?

We just got back Dubrovnik and Kotor which is very near by. We were there via a cruise so I don't have that much advice but I will rave about the beauty, water activities, and fun outdoor cafes. I highly recommend Kotor and they are both Unesco World Heritage sights.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 02:05 PM
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Go to Dubrovnik Airport website and find what airlines fly on the days you want to go. I have gone to Croatia two times and found flying the easiest way to get there. For example one time we flew in to Prague, spent 3 days, then flew to Dubrovnik and spent some time. Then we flew to Zagreb. Took a bus from the airport to Plitvice Lakes. You need an overnight there. From there you can bus or drive to the coast and see more islands or back to Zagreb. For some reason Vienna has a lot of flights to Dubrovnik. I didn't love Split. It wasn't bad but I don't need to go back unless needed.

By the way I am going again this year at the same time as you.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 02:56 PM
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i want to point out that the drive down the coast from plitvice to dubrovnik is super slow... we found it beautiful but a tiny bit unpleasant... beach town after beach town with crosswalks throughout. just be sure you plan lots of time for this so that you don't feel frustrated.

someone has just posted about villa adriatica in dubrovnik... and we absolutely loved this place. not fancy, but the best view ever and very sweet family.

also, if you want to stay about 20 minutes away from plitvice park, we have a wonderful recommendation , 'rastoke' which is so pretty, that when we show people pictures, at first they think it is actually the park.

we liked hvar very much... but we didn't love split. i know we are in the minority here... and maybe partly because it was a very hot day... but it's sort of a port city and has that feel.

you will just love croatia... and definitely budapest. we love the thermal waters... but even if you're not a fan, you will love the charm of the city. we have recommended 'hotel victoria' to a few friends (in budapest) and they have all thanked us... amazing view of the river and right on the public transport line or an easy walk from chain bridge.
have fun!
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Aug 6th, 2014, 11:55 AM
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Very happy to read through this thread -- in October I'll be traveling from Buda to Hvar (via public transportation), and I'm trying to figure out the best way to do that.

If there is indeed a 6 a.m. train from Buda that gets to Zagreb at noon, that should leave me enough time in the afternoon to get a bus from Zagreb down to Split by the evening, yes? Or even down to Makarska? I've seen photos of that town and think I'd like it more than Split, but there isn't an easy or direct way to get from Makarska to Hvar, so maybe it's not worth the trouble.

Anyway, it looks like I could make it from Budapest down to Split, at least, in one day by public transportation. Then the following morning, I could get a ferry over to Hvar.

Does that sound realistic?
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Aug 6th, 2014, 05:19 PM
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i think your plan sounds fine. we took that same train from budapest to zagreb and there's some nice scenery... but we spent the night in zagreb. i think you'll get into split late enough in the day that you won't spend that much time there, so it will be fine.

when we went, we found the ferry information at ocean24.com (out of germany) to be most helpful. (however, i'm sure it's much easier to get online info now than 5 years ago.) i liked their interactive map. we actually bought overnight ferry tickets from split to italy from them, and were a bit surprised when they arrived in the mail several days later!! (that was a great little sleeper-boat ride and not terribly expensive btw.)

again... the ferry schedules can be tricky and vary from day to day and season to season. if you buy your tickets in person, definitely try to get them the evening before, just to make sure you get on the boat you want.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 05:49 PM
  #16
kja
 
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@ AbbieRoad - I'm not an expert on Croatian train or bus schedules, but in theory, your plan should work. That said, are you sure you don't want any time in Split? Although not everyone likes it, it was one of my favorite places in Croatia -- it is lively and dynamic and energetic and has lots of interesting nooks and crannies and public squares and an absolutely gorgeous lungomare. And are you convinced that you want to go to Makarska? Croatia is FULL of little places that are absolutely gorgeous, so I'm not sure choosing one just because of its pictures makes a lot of sense.

BTW, I think it's great that you searched this forum and found this information -- IMO, too few travelers take the time to benefit from the information that is already available. Kudos! That said, you might want to start your own thread once you get the information so that more people will respond to your specific request. And it's not too late to do so!

SaraFay -- I hope you don't mind the temporary hijack too much.
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Aug 7th, 2014, 06:20 AM
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@kawh, thanks for the suggestions! I have been peeking at ferry, bus, and train schedules a bit to see if this is possible. I'm actually also considering a flight from Budapest to Split, but they're not very cheap, unless you want an overnight layover somewhere, ha.

@kja, thanks for the information and suggestions! The reason I'm skipping Split for the most part, is that this is really a working vacation. I'm a freelancer (a "digital nomad"), and I have found through experience that it's easier for me if I don't move around TOO much when traveling. I would really like to spend a week on Hvar (with some visits to surrounding islands), so getting there as quickly as possible and staying put is a priority for me. I'm saving a few days at the end of my time in Croatia to go to Plitvice (another priority).

I'm also definitely not set on Makarska. I just saw some photos that looked beautiful -- the city on the coast with those mountains kind of behind it -- but I guess there's a lot of that in Croatia.

And thanks for the tip about the forum -- I know some forums prefer folks not start new threads if an existing one works well enough, but every forum is different! Apologies for any faux pas!
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Aug 7th, 2014, 05:02 PM
  #18
kja
 
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@ AbbieRoad -- I wasn't trying to suggest that you had made a faux pas -- just trying to ensure that you get the information you need!
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