Balkan trip

Jan 1st, 2010, 02:07 PM
  #1  
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Balkan trip

I'm planning a Balkan trip next July with my family (husband and 2 teenagers). The plan so far is to fly into Dubrovnik, stay there for 3 nights then spend 6 nights in Montenegro (probably Kotor) and then 3 nights in Albania before flying back from Dubrovnik. The Albania bit is still a bit wooly at the moment. I'm mainly interested in finding out about bringing a hired car through the 3 countries. Has anybody got any advice about hire companies, insurance problems etc?
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Jan 1st, 2010, 04:29 PM
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We did a similar trip three years ago. I researched for months about taking a rental car into Albania and couldn't find a company that would allow it. In the end, we used a friend's car and it was fine. There was no problem crossing from Croatia into Montenegro, but we did have to make sure we had the proper insurance papers.

As an aside, having driven through Albania, I can now understand why rental companies don't allow their cars into the country. The infrastructure is still very poor, especially in the north. Some of the roads are okay, but many are terrible. We never drove at night. One day we saw a truck veering toward us from the opposite lane; turns out he as avoiding a manhole that didn't have a cover on it! The roads are better in Croatia and Montenegro, but it's slow going because much of it is mountainous.

Where in Albania are you planning to go? The Albanian people are some of the nicest people we've ever met. You'll love Croatia and Montenegro; they're absolutely beautiful and the coast is breathtaking!

Ellen
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Jan 1st, 2010, 04:30 PM
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I should add that our friend's car had Kosovo license plates which is a definite plus in Albania.
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 05:30 AM
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Thank you Ellen that's really helpful. I'll keep looking into the car hire option but may have to settle for public transport or an organised tour although that's not really what we like to do. We're still not sure about where to go in Albania. We will only have 3/4 nights so much will depend on haw far we can get in that time given the transport situation. Have you any suggestions or favourite spots that you would recommend? Also how long do you think it would take to drive from Tirana to Dubrovnik if we did have a car?
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 01:38 PM
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We drove from Dubrovnik to Berat which is about two or three hours south of Tirana in 11.5 hours. It was a LONG day! That included border crossings and a 45-minute delay for construction in Montenegro. Do you know viamichelin.com? It's a good site, but it says Tirana to Dubrovnik is 3.5 hours which I seriously disagree with!

With the time you have, you probably won’t be able to get much past Tirana or Berat. Berat is an old city with Ottoman architecture and a large (inhabited) fortress with a beautiful view of the surrounding valley. Tirana is a large city going about its business. I think we were just about the only non-Albanians there! Skanderbeg Square forms the heart of the city with seemingly never-ending traffic, a large hotel, the opera house, a museum, some government buildings, and a mosque surrounding it. Albania, not surprisingly, is much more third world than Montenegro and especially Croatia.

The bus station in Tirana is just off the square and after seeing some of the buses, I was glad we had a car. Trains aren’t an option and it looks like flights are expensive and lengthy. One of the interesting things I discovered when I researched our trip was that it’s often difficult in the Balkans to get from point A to B; so different from Western Europe. But that just makes it interesting!

Have you considered an open jaw itinerary; fly into Dubrovnik and fly out of Tirana? That way, at least you wouldn't have to make your way back to Dubrovnik to get home.

Let me know if I can answer any other questions; I know it's frustrating when you can't find what you need. One more thought...the Bradt travel guides are good and may have useful information. Amazon.com has them. Good luck and please continue to post your progress!

Ellen

Ellen
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 09:50 PM
  #6  
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Thanks again Ellen, flying out from Tirana is a good idea but unfortunately the return flights are already booked from Dubrovnik as EasyJet were doing a good price and Tirana flights for 4 was looking expensive. I have ordered the Bradt Albania guide so hopefully that will help. Might end up getting to Albania by bus and then hiring a car there and returning to Dubrovnik a night early. Still plenty of time to sort it out and I do like a challenge! I will keep you posted if you don't mind me continuing to pick your brains!
Regards, Margaret.
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Jan 4th, 2010, 01:37 AM
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Margaret,

That might be the best idea; at least you'd get into the country. I doubt that there would be any problem renting a car once you're there. We noticed that the farther south we went, the better the roads were. I see that I had a typo in my response; viamichelin says 4.5 (not 3.5) hours from Tirana to DBV. Still very optimistic, I think. Please do continue to post; I'd love to help in any way I can and there are so few resources...

Ellen
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