Portugal or ??

Jun 12th, 2019, 02:05 PM
  #1  
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Portugal or ??

Have gone to Italy last 2yrs Lugano, Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terra, Tuscany region and Rome again. Love culture, old villages w. obblestone streets, charm, history, good food, with plenty to do and see. Prefer destinations that donít require rental cars to see the country - love the trains in Italy. Also, not necessarily looking for beach destination, as I live in So Florida. So, this October looking for new destination for 2 weeks. Any recommendations are appreciated. Many thanks
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Jun 12th, 2019, 02:45 PM
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Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro.
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Jun 12th, 2019, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew View Post
Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro.
Interesting, I will certainly look into it! Where would you fly in/out of? So they have a good rail system and you can navigate through the country w/o a car? Excited to look this up. We were thinking of and booked flight to Portugal but Iím not 100% on my choice. I happen to Love Italy ... thank you Andrew
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Jun 12th, 2019, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by dial6851 View Post
Interesting, I will certainly look into it! Where would you fly in/out of? So they have a good rail system and you can navigate through the country w/o a car? Excited to look this up. We were thinking of and booked flight to Portugal but Iím not 100% on my choice. I happen to Love Italy ... thank you Andrew
No, unfortunately, they don't have a good rail system. Yeah, I love Italy too - I just go back from another trip to Italy and loved taking the trains everywhere. Italy has a terrific rail network.

There are trains in the Balkans, but the network just isn't very extensive. I think I delayed my visit to the Balkans for a year because, like you, I was disappointed that I couldn't just take the trains everywhere. When I finally visited I just rented a car for part of the trip and took trains, buses, and ferries the rest of the time. I love the Balkans and would recommend these countries to anyone. These regions do have good bus service, but driving was a piece of cake and affordable, and I wondered what I had been worried about in the first place. I still have never driven in Italy and don't want to.

People do enjoy trips to and get around these countries without renting a car. It just takes a little more work without Italy's great train system. Buses aren't as nice - I hate long bus rides. But there is decent train service between Ljubljana, Slovenia and a few cities in Croatia (Zagreb or Rijeka). And the train journey between Mostar and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, sounds lovely (I have driven the same stretch of river, and the scenery is stunning).

What I'd do is do some research on the area, see what you want to see and do, then figure out how to get from point to point. You might not need more than a few long bus rides and might take trains and/or ferries everywhere else. Rick Steves has some good travel shows (YouTube) about these countries. You might pick up his Croatia/Slovenia book as well - a good basic primer.
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Jun 12th, 2019, 04:49 PM
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You said you booked flights to Portugal. Can you change them without losing your money? We only visited Lisbon and Sintra last year and LOVED what we saw. I would love to return to Portugal to see more. Lisbon is a wonderful and interesting city with lots to do, miradouros (viewpoints), and great neighborhoods for wandering. Restaurants are very inexpensive. We took a bus tour to Sintra, but you could easily take the train. Regarding seeing the rest of the country, I know you can take trains to Porto and to make stops to see places in between Lisbon and Porto. A lot of people rent cars, and from trip reports I have read, I think it is easy to drive in Portugal.

We are going to Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro this September. We are renting a car once we leave Dubrovnik. My husband doesn't mind driving. He has driven in France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, and Costa Rica. I know there is a train from Split to Zagreb. There is no train service from Split south to Dubrovnik, but there is bus service. My daughter and son-in-law rented a car in Croatia several years ago, and they told us driving there was very easy. (And I know my SIL is not very experienced driving internationally, but he enjoyed driving in Croatia.)

Another recommendation is Andalucia and Madrid in Spain. These are perfect locations for October because they are very very very HOT during the summer months. There is so much history and culture in Andalucia
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Jun 12th, 2019, 04:57 PM
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I didn't finish my post. In Andalucia, we visited Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga, in addition to Madrid and Toledo. Seville is a gorgeous city architecturally with the amazing Alcazar; Granada has the magnificent Alhambra, and Cordoba has the wonderful Mezquita. And all these cities have other important and interesting sites. I recommend Malaga if you want some coastal ambience with museums, the Alcazaba, Cathedral, etc. If you like art, Madrid has some outstanding art museums. And spend a night in Toledo. Don't see it as a day trip because it's very crowded during the day, and so much quieter and prettier at night.
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Jun 12th, 2019, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew View Post
No, unfortunately, they don't have a good rail system. Yeah, I love Italy too - I just go back from another trip to Italy and loved taking the trains everywhere. Italy has a terrific rail network.

There are trains in the Balkans, but the network just isn't very extensive. I think I delayed my visit to the Balkans for a year because, like you, I was disappointed that I couldn't just take the trains everywhere. When I finally visited I just rented a car for part of the trip and took trains, buses, and ferries the rest of the time. I love the Balkans and would recommend these countries to anyone. These regions do have good bus service, but driving was a piece of cake and affordable, and I wondered what I had been worried about in the first place. I still have never driven in Italy and don't want to.

People do enjoy trips to and get around these countries without renting a car. It just takes a little more work without Italy's great train system. Buses aren't as nice - I hate long bus rides. But there is decent train service between Ljubljana, Slovenia and a few cities in Croatia (Zagreb or Rijeka). And the train journey between Mostar and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, sounds lovely (I have driven the same stretch of river, and the scenery is stunning).

What I'd do is do some research on the area, see what you want to see and do, then figure out how to get from point to point. You might not need more than a few long bus rides and might take trains and/or ferries everywhere else. Rick Steves has some good travel shows (YouTube) about these countries. You might pick up his Croatia/Slovenia book as well - a good basic primer.
Andrew, great advice, Iím going to look into it. Sounds amazing! Where did you fly in/out of? Sounds like easy driving. We rented a car last yr in Florence to drive thru Tuscany (only way to see that region). At the advice of this forum we rented near Florence airport. Hectic at first but then not bad. You have to have built in GPS and donít go near Siena! With you love of Italy, did Portugal measure up?
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Jun 12th, 2019, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
You said you booked flights to Portugal. Can you change them without losing your money? We only visited Lisbon and Sintra last year and LOVED what we saw. I would love to return to Portugal to see more. Lisbon is a wonderful and interesting city with lots to do, miradouros (viewpoints), and great neighborhoods for wandering. Restaurants are very inexpensive. We took a bus tour to Sintra, but you could easily take the train. Regarding seeing the rest of the country, I know you can take trains to Porto and to make stops to see places in between Lisbon and Porto. A lot of people rent cars, and from trip reports I have read, I think it is easy to drive in Portugal.

We are going to Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro this September. We are renting a car once we leave Dubrovnik. My husband doesn't mind driving. He has driven in France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, and Costa Rica. I know there is a train from Split to Zagreb. There is no train service from Split south to Dubrovnik, but there is bus service. My daughter and son-in-law rented a car in Croatia several years ago, and they told us driving there was very easy. (And I know my SIL is not very experienced driving internationally, but he enjoyed driving in Croatia.)

Another recommendation is Andalucia and Madrid in Spain. These are perfect locations for October because they are very very very HOT during the summer months. There is so much history and culture in Andalucia

Karen, thank you so much for the information. Sounds like driving in the Balkens is easier than Italy. I am going to look into this region. I have to see what our penalty is to change flights. Iím only starting the planning. Thanks so much
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Jun 12th, 2019, 05:42 PM
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Spain has it all
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Jun 12th, 2019, 05:43 PM
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ps..you can fly from Lisbon to Madrid for 50 euros
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Jun 12th, 2019, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by dial6851 View Post
Andrew, great advice, Iím going to look into it. Sounds amazing! Where did you fly in/out of?
I've been to the Balkans a few times. I've flown into Venice a few times to get to Ljubljana to start a trip. It's about 3 hours by shuttle van (look into a company called GoOpti - Slovenian transfer company that is well regarded, though I have never used them). Only recently, train service has be re-introduced between Trieste and Ljubljana, so if you really want to take the train, you can, but it takes longer than the shuttle or a bus (FlixBus).

Some people fly to Zagreb instead. You can fly int/out of Split or Dubrovnik, too, but in October, you may have fewer seasonal flight connections from them It really depends on the flight schedules that work best between your origin cities. Hop on Google Flights and see what works. You might be best planning a staging night somewhere in Europe (even Venice again) or Amsterdam, Paris, something like that. It is a little harder getting back from Croatia to the US sometimes.

Sounds like easy driving. We rented a car last yr in Florence to drive thru Tuscany (only way to see that region). At the advice of this forum we rented near Florence airport. Hectic at first but then not bad. You have to have built in GPS and donít go near Siena!
On my most recent trips, I've had a good working smart phone, and I've simply used my Android phone with Google Maps for a GPS. You don't even need mobile data to use GPS if you can download the driving maps "offline" into Google Maps ahead of time - GPS technically doesn't need cell phone service. But having a working cell phone does help a lot.

With you love of Italy, did Portugal measure up?
Sadly, no - I'm one of the few dissenting experiences with Portugal. I visited last year for the first time. It's certainly not a BAD place, and I can see why people like it. But - it just didn't grab me for some reason. Lisbon is a nice city, but it has become very touristy. Porto used to be pretty tourist-free, I guess, but those days are long gone - it's now pretty busy, too. There are few places in Portugal I'm dying to return to (only a ten day trip, though, so not like I saw a big part of the country. But I returned to Italy for the fourth time last month (had a great time) and hope to return to Slovenia and Croatia again too.

Not that Croatia is undiscovered anymore, either. Dubrovnik is mobbed these days due to Game of Thrones and cruise ships. Plitvice Lakes National Park - definitely a highlight of the entire country - is also really clogged up with tour groups these days. Go anyway. It's amazing. Just plan to enter the park very early when it opens to see it without so many crowds. A good strategy is to arrive in the afternoon, see half of the park in the afternoon, stay over and the next morning, see the rest and move on after lunch - by whichtime the park will be packed with people. Should be a little slower in October, though.

Slovenia and Bosnia are much less touristy than Croatia. Ljubljana has plenty of tourists these days - but still nothing like Venice. It's one of my favorite cities in Europe - small, vibrant, charming.

You could get by without a car in Slovenia if need be. But it's still nice to have one to do some scenic drives and visit small towns that are less convenient to visit by bus or train. You could even rent a car just for the day one day (don't want/need one in Ljubljana itself). It gets expensive to rent a car in one country and return in another - but you can do a one-way rental within Croatia itself without little or no drop fee. Dropping the car in Dubrovnik at the end and making that your last stop is a possibility (don't want a car in Dubrovnik, either).
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Jun 13th, 2019, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by dial6851 View Post
Prefer destinations that donít require rental cars to see the country
I know that both Andrew and I have said driving in Croatia is easy, but I forgot to add that regarding Spain, and especially Andalucia, Madrid, and Toledo, you can travel entirely by train and bus. We took the ALSA bus to and from Granada because the high speed train tracks weren't finished in 2017, but I understand that the train to/from Granada is running starting this month. Even if it wasn't, bus travel was so easy. ALSA buses are clean, modern, comfortable, and air-conditioned.Traveling by trains and buses in this part of Spain was inexpensive, easy, and dependable. If it seems like I am pushing Andalucia, it's because fall (and spring) are the best times to visit because of the extreme heat during the summer months.

Regarding Croatia, I think October will be a good time to visit, too, to avoid the crowds. The only thing I might be concerned about is that the islands might be too quiet in October, and the ferries and catamarans don't run as frequently. But there is so much to do in Croatia that you certainly don't need to visit the islands if you don't want to.

Either way you can't go wrong!
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Jun 13th, 2019, 06:34 AM
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If you already have tickets to Portugal, I would use them. Lisbon is one of my favorite cities, although it is getting more crowded. The bus system supplements the train system, and while a car might be useful I have managed without. Lisbon - Coimbra - Porto by train, with day trips by bus or train would be easy, and you can add a coastal town if you like.

However, if you are seriously considering the Balkans you certainly don't need a car there, either. While the train system is limited, the bus system is fine. In 2004 I arrived in Ljubljana by train from Venice (day trip to Lake Bled, private tour to Postojna and Predjama) , took the train on to Zagreb, flew to Dubrovnik (day tour to Montenegro), ferry to Hvar and then Split, bus to Plitvice and back to Zagreb for a train to Budapest. See also,

The "B" Trip, Part Three, Western Balkans

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...ing-ljubljana/

I found that in October things were definitely shutting down.
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Jun 13th, 2019, 04:05 PM
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We were in Portugal 4 years ago for the second time. Loved it both times. Also agree that Andalusia is wonderful. We just returned from the Balkans and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I can't speak to not having a car, as we had a car in most of the Balkans, Andalusia and Portugal. BTW, the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia is a lot like Italy. We kept saying, "We could be in Italy."
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Last edited by yestravel; Jun 13th, 2019 at 04:07 PM.
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