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LisaG Feb 13th, 2009 08:56 PM

Istanbul to Croatia: Drive or Train or?
Hello all,

My husband and I are going to be in Istanbul in late March and then are thinking of going to Croatia (the coast). We'll be in Istanbul for about 9 days, then leaving around the 30th to move on to Croatia.

We're contemplating the best way to get to Croatia from Istanbul. We will be at the beginning of a 6 week trip, so we don't necessarily need the fastest way. We'd consider driving if it's pretty and there are interesting places to see/stay on the way, and/or it's not so long that we're in the car for days.

I know, I know....look at a map you say! Here's why I'm asking for some guidance. Years ago we drove across Tuscany not realizing how long it actually took! Maps don't always reveal how wind-y and small some roads are. So I'd like to get some info. from those that have gone before me!

At this point we're considering driving or taking the train. Can anyone shed light on:

-- if driving, how long is the drive?
-- if driving, good places to see/stop along the way?
-- if by train, how long is the train ride?
-- if by train, where would be a good place to go directly from Istanbul?
-- should we chuck it all and fly?

We will be continuing on into either Italy or Austria from there. Not quite sure yet, and it may depend on the weather (and our culinary needs....will we be craving pasta or strudel?).

If I've left anything out that's crucial to the answers, let me know! Thanks much for any input you all have!


Wayne Feb 14th, 2009 06:00 AM

It's not easy or quick by train or car. If you want to take your time as you say, driving is a very nice way to get there. My suggestion (I always drive everywhere in Europe) is to make the trip from Istanbul to, say Dubrovnik, in no less than 3 days, with 3 or 4 one-night (or more) stops along the way.

Here is my idea for a 4 day drive:
First day go to Plovdiv. You will love this beautiful Bulgarian city and will want to stay 2 nights at least.
Second day go to Skokje. This is another place worth perhaps an extra day.
Third day, go to Podgorica.
Fourth day, drive on to Dubrovnik.

Any of these stops could be made at any of the many charming villages along the way, rather than the larger destination city. If you are adventurous, you don't need reservations because you will find accommodations along the way.

This all assumes, of course, that you are willing to go through the necessary exercises to make sure the auto you rent can be turned in somewhere else later, that the paperwork for other countries is prepared as needed, and that you study a good road map thoroughly and read about the areas you will be driving through. Good luck.

LisaG Feb 14th, 2009 06:24 AM


What a great reply, and thanks for your thoughtful suggestions for a drive. Exactly what I was looking for in the "driving" category.

I love your suggestions of the specific little towns along the way. Very useful.

A couple of more questions for you:

-- Can you give me an approximate # of hours for each of these legs?

-- When renting a car in Istanbul, will I get the paperwork to travel from country to country with the rental agency, or elsewhere?

Thanks for your responses!


Wayne Feb 14th, 2009 07:59 AM

You should reserve your car ahead of time and specify all the countries where you will plan to go, then make sure in Istanbul that indeed the paperwork reflects that plan, along with where you will drop off the car. I have an idea this might take a little effort.

To Plovdiv from Istanbul, the roads are mostly excellent. There are map services that will give you an estimate, but my estimate is about 6 hours of driving.

From Plovdiv to Skopje, another 6 to 7 hours.

From Skopje to Podgorica, another 6 to 7 hours through some very scenic roads and mountains.

From Podgorica to Dubrovnik, about 3 to 4 hours of leisurely driving along mostly beautiful coastal roads.

I've driven a lot in the former Yugoslavia and in Bulgaria, and the roads are decent but slower than you might think. If you do make this drive, though, you should not worry about the time-- just enjoy the villages and the people along the way. Goog luck.

Wayne Feb 14th, 2009 11:29 AM

Well, I meant to say GOOD luck.

LisaG Feb 14th, 2009 12:58 PM


Again, what great information!

We plan on leisure, and not worrying about the time at all. It is nice, however, to know what is in front of us! Your time estimates are extremely useful.

I look forward to our "goog" luck! That could be a trend!


LisaG Feb 16th, 2009 04:40 PM

To any others on the Forum,

Other than driving, what are the other ways to get to the Croatian coast from Istanbul? Is there an airport that is a direct flight, if we wanted to fly? All the research I've done has flights going through other points (like Vienna).

Any info. on training it?

Would love this information so we can make an informed choice.

Thanks in advance!


bobthenavigator Feb 16th, 2009 05:31 PM

It is a very long way. For me flying would be the only good option. I assume connections via Zagreb.

LisaG Feb 16th, 2009 06:11 PM


Thanks! The voice of reason! I was hoping that a more direct flight existed, but I haven't found one yet.

Many thanks,


thursdaysd Feb 16th, 2009 07:09 PM

For train schedules see First leg would be Istanbul to Sofia, 13 hours overnight. Then it's another 8 1/2 hours to Belgrade (Beograd). From there you could head to Zagreb, or Sarajevo, or there's a route to a place I've never heard of on the coast - Bar - but that's Serbia, not Croatia.

LisaG Feb 20th, 2009 05:17 AM


Very good information indeed! We've re-evaluated a bit, and are going to fly from Istanbul to Rome, and then train/or drive our way from there....maybe Croatia will not actually get onto the itinerary.

The information received here has crystallized our previously murky thoughts! Thanks to all!


Wayne Feb 20th, 2009 06:24 AM

Actually I'm glad you will be flying. The drive I suggested is long but interesting, and you really have to be an intrepid explorer to take your time and enjoy all the sights and villages along the way. For me personally, I would love to make that trip by car, but I believe you have made the best decision for yourself.

I recall a most pleasant trip through Serbia and Croatia, back when they were both part of Yugoslavia, where we loved to make random stops at little villages and restaurants. We would see a place with a goat or pig out front on a roasting spit, and we would go in for a meal.

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