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Trip Report -- Overland Bosnia via Dubrovnik, Montenegro and Albania to Macedonia

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Feb 15th, 2007, 08:47 AM
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Trip Report -- Overland Bosnia via Dubrovnik, Montenegro and Albania to Macedonia

Photos http://tinyurl.com/p4jcb

I have provided my itinerary, with some public transport information, but I have not listed all the sites I visited since those are better seen in the photos.

Friday, August 25: flew Czech Air from Newark to Prague

Saturday, August 26: I had been to Prague before, but since I had an 11 hour layover before my connecting flight to Sarajevo, I went into the city (took airport bus to metro, and then went one stop to castle, and from there walked to old town, and late in day took metro and bus back to airport). Flight to Sarajevo was two hours. I stayed at Guest House Halvat, recommended in Lonely Planet -- great location, excellent rooms, very nice people, and I recommend it, too.

Sunday, August 27: spent day in Sarajevo

Monday, August 28: caught the 6:25 am train to Mostar; incredibly scenic train journey, and arrive in Mostar around 9:00 am. Spent day in area around bridge. I stayed at Hotel Bristol (original hotel was built in 1904, but since destroyed and re-built, and I would not stay there again -- characterless and no hot water)

Tuesday, August 29: 7:00 am bus to Dubrovnik, arriving around 10:00. Took Tram 1A to Pile Gate, and walked to Hotel Stari Grad (excellent hotel). There are two hotels in the old town, Stari Grad and Pucic Palace, but I was told by friends that Pucic Palace is located on a very busy market square, while Stari Grad is located on a quiet street -- also, Pucic is around 3x cost of Stari Grad, and its not 3x as nice. Spent day in Dubrovnik, but its very, very crowded, and was only pleasant late at night and early morning. I spent most of mid-day, when the streets were mobbed, walking the walls or sitting at a bar on the Adriatic.

Wednesday, August 30: spent day in Dubrovnik

Thurday, August 31: took 10:00 a.m. bus to Kotor, Montenegro (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and arrived around 1:00, had lunch and spent a few of hours in the old city. Around 4:00, caught shared van to Budva, and stayed at Sveti Stefan (an island fishing village turned into a hotel)

Friday, September 1: took bus from Budva to Bar, then taxi to Montenegro/Albania border. Originally, I had expected to take the taxi across the border to Shkodra, but the line was long, so I got out of the taxi and walked across the border, figuring I'd find a taxi or hitch to Shkrodra. It took less than 5 minutes to walk across border, and there were several taxis (Euro 10 to Shkodra). I had the taxi leave me at a shared van to take me to Tirana (Euro 5). I arrived in Tirana mid-day, and spent day in Tirana.

Saturday, September 2: took 7:00 am van to Podgareci, but got out near Qafe Tana border with Macedonia (caught taxi, Euro 4, to border), and walked across border, and caught taxi (Euro 15) to Ohrid (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Spent day in Ohrid, then took taxi (Euro 11) to other border, walked across border and took taxi to Podgareci. Waited around 10 minutes for shared van to Elbaseni, then switched to shared van to Tirana, arriving back in Tirana around 6:00 (I had been told that it was not possible to visit Ohrid as a day trip from Tirana by public transport, but its very easy).

Sunday, September 3: took train (equivalent of $0.50) from Tirana to Durresi, a coastal town, and visited museum and Roman amphitheatre, and took bus ($1.00) back to Tirana, and spend rest of day wandering Tirana.

Monday, September 4: early morning flight from Tirana via Milan to Newark

It was a very interesting trip, and very easy to do by public transport. I know many use private cars and drivers in this area, but its unnecessary, but more than that, its a lot less fun (at least for me) to be sheltered in a private vehicle and chauffered from site to site. I would go back to all of these places, except I would only re-visit Dubrovnik in the off-season (way too many day trippers from large cruise ships overwhelm the small town).



Michael

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Feb 16th, 2007, 02:11 AM
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Thanks for the report Michael - lots of good info. And your photos are stunning.

Helen
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Mar 5th, 2007, 11:32 AM
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Topping for friend.
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Mar 5th, 2007, 11:42 AM
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Your pictures are really beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.
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Mar 5th, 2007, 11:46 AM
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Thank you, its a very photogenic region.

wky123, the bus from Mostar to Dubrovnik, based on my notes, was three hours (but we stopped at a cafe for 20 minutes or so -- they leave without checking for missing passengers, and several came running as the bus pulled away ... I would not be surprised if we left someone behind).

Michael
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Mar 19th, 2007, 07:00 AM
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topping for Maxwell
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 12:45 AM
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Michael, I don't know if you are still out there...Wonderful pics of an interesting trip. Tell me, how come there are so few tourists in your pictures? Is it that there are very few tourists in these places? What was the weather like? Warm? Cold? Rainy? How easy would it be for a 60 something woman to travel alone? Is it easy to find accomodation through Lonely Planet without booking ahead? How about language problems? Can I use English/German? Are there ATMs for local currency? From Macedonia how easy is it to get down to Greece?
I'd appreciate help with these questions...or you could e mail me at [email protected]
Thanks.
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 07:08 AM
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Gertie

Tell me, how come there are so few tourists in your pictures? Is it that there are very few tourists in these places? The only very, very crowded destination was Dubrovnik, which I photographed just after sunrise. During the day, the old city was swamped with visitors, and it would have been impossible to get good photos. I spent midday walking the wall, or sitting at a bar just outside the wall and overlooking the Adriatic. Directions to that bar are given in Lonely Planet.

The other places (Sarajevo, Mostar, Kotor, Tirana and Ohrid) were not nearly as crowded, and it was a lot easier to get photos without a lot of people in the picture.

What was the weather like? Warm? Cold? Rainy? I visited in August 2006, and the weather was perfect -- mid-70s to mid-80s, and no rain.

How easy would it be for a 60 something woman to travel alone? Is it easy to find accomodation through Lonely Planet without booking ahead? Its very easy to travel alone, relying on buses and shared taxis. I booked lodging ahead because I had specific hotels I wanted to stay in -- like Hotel Stari Grad, one of two hotels in Dubrovnik's old city (there are other apartments, but only two traditional hotels), and Hotel Sveti Stefan (the island hotel in Montenegro, which was full, and where I would have been turned away if I had not made a reservation). If you are flexible, you can make reservations as you travel, which is what I often do. As a side note, the Sveti Stefan has been purchased by Aman resorts (or some other top hotel group), and is closed for reservation, and when it re-opens, it will be very expensive.

How about language problems? Can I use English/German? I only speak English, and I had no language issues.

Are there ATMs for local currency? Yes

From Macedonia how easy is it to get down to Greece? I didn't make it that far, but I believe there are buses from Skopje (the Lonely Planet Western Balkans, which is what I used, should have info. I also brought the various Bradt Guides with me since they had better background info, history, culture, etc., than the LP).

Its a great trip, and very easy to do by public transport. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Michael
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 08:49 AM
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Thank you Michael. It's very inspiring these days to see pictures without the crowds even if you have to get up at crack of dawn. I'll order Lonely Planet and get moving!
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 09:00 AM
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Michael,

I found this report to be quite interesting, as its always nice to see some places that are off the beaten path. How did Macedonia and Albania compare to, say, Croatia and Montenegro?

Definitely go back to Dubrovnik during the off season. We were there in November and the town was almost empty with the exception of a small cruise shipped that docked in town on our last day. We had the Buza Bar all to ourselves for sunset and Dubrovnik was just magical.

Tracy
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 11:00 AM
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gertie...

In just 3 weeks I am flying into Split, renting a car, and driving to Dubrovnik via Mostar and probably Trebinje. I really wanted to go on to Sarajevo from Mostar, but didn't really have enough time and I feel that Sarajevo warrants more than just an overnight visit. During my few days in Dubrovnik I plan to drive down the Montenegro coast one day. Then on my way back up to Split I will drive along the Peljesac peninsula and take the ferry to Korcula. Then there is a ferry across to the main coast at Ploce, from where I can drive back up to Split to fly home.

I have booked a room at Motel Kriva Cuprija in Mostar for 35 euros, and an apartment in Dubrovnik at 45 euros a night. My first night in Trogir is also booked as I am arriving quite late. I haven't booked anything for my last night as I haven't yet decided whether it will be on Korcula, at the ferry port of Trpanj, or somewhere along the main coastal highway. I will see how it is going on the day and find a place then!

I'll post back when I get home and let you know how it has gone. BTW, I am a 50 something woman travelling alone so I'll let you know about that too.
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 11:09 AM
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Sounds good julia t. Let me know. I will have plenty of time so was interested in Michael's post about public transport. I'm a big fan of Greece and always try to incorporate that into my travels somehow. Do let me know how the accomodation works out, especially the apartment; had never tried one of those for just one person but...
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Sep 23rd, 2007, 07:54 PM
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Hi Michael,

I was doing a search on travel to the Balkans and came across your trip report. It is mind boggling how similar the trip I am planning for Sept 2008 is to yours!

I wanted to bounce some ideas off you since you have experience. My primary concern with traveling from Croatia-Montenegro-Albania-Macedonia-Greece is the fear of public transportation, language barriers, finding mini buses/taxis, storing luggage on the vans, etc. Seems like you breezed through the process!

Here’s the trip we have in mind, then I’ll go through some of the concerns I have:

Aug 29: arrive Sarajevo
Aug 30-31: relax Sarajevo
Sept 1 : train to Mostar, overnight Mostar
Sept 2: bus to Split, overnight Split
Sept 3: relax Split
Sept 4-7: ferry Split – Hvar – Korcula – Dubrovnik
Sept 8: relax Dubrovnik, PM transportation to Kotor
Sept 9-10: relax Kotor, Cetinje
Sept 11: travel Kotor to Tirana
Sept 12: relax Tirana
Sept 13: travel Tirana to Ohrid
Sept 14-15 relax Ohrid
Sept 16: travel Ohrid – Meteora, Greece
Sept 17: visit Meteora
Sept 18: bus Meteora – Athens
Sept 19: visit Athens
Sept 20: depart for USA

Any thoughts on this? Hopefully the ferry schedules will work out for the Croatian Islands – I’ve been to Split and Dubrovnik before so not worried about spending a lot of time there.

Do you need reservations on the Sarajevo-Mostar train or Mostar-Split bus?

My main concerns are the border crossings.

1. Dubrovnik-Kotor – is there a direct bus? From what I have read I thought a bus was available to the border, where you’d have to walk across and get another bus to Kotor. Maybe I’m reading dated info? If there is a direct bus, do you recall if one runs in the evening?

2. Kotor–Tirana – so you took a bus to the border, walked across, got a taxi to Skhodra and then a shared mini bus to Tirana. Was this really as easy as it sounds? Do you speak Albanian? What time did you get into Tirana? If it is possible to arrive there before too late, we can visit a few sites in Tirana on Sept 11 and do a day trip to Berat on Sept 12. Do you think it is possible to do a day trip to Berat from Tirana?


3. Tirana-Ohrid – again looks like this was a breeze for you. You took a minibus almost to the border at the northern part of Lake Ohrid, taxied to the border, walked across, and then took a taxi to Ohrid. Any difficulties here?

4. Since you didn’t go to Greece you probably don’t have any info on the trip from Ohrid into Greece. I believe you can take a bus to Bitola, taxi to and maybe over the border to Florina, and then catch a 6 hour train that goes back towards Thessaloniki before turning west and heading to Kalambata (near Meteora)

I hope it’s ok to ask you these questions – any advice/reassurances would be helpful. My friend and I have backpacked to quite a few places so this wouldn’t be our first adventure, but we’re still a bit nervous. For example, we’ll not have much luggage (just backpacks) – but is there room for these reasonbly large packs on the mini vans?

Our other option is to skip Albania and fly directly from Tivat in Montenegro to Skopje and take a bus from there to Ohrid. I’d prefer not to go that route – the airfare is expensive, Skopje isn’t really worth the time, and we wouldn’t get to visit Albania.

If you’d like to email me directly – [email protected]

Thanks!
Craig
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Sep 24th, 2007, 06:43 AM
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Craig, the Western Balkans is one of the easiest places to travel by public transport (compared to say, the 'Stans of Central Asia, where I visited in May and relied on private cars).

I did not make it to the Croatian islands, nor cross into Greece, but your other portion of the trip mirrors mine, and its very, very easy.

To answer some specific questions:

1. Dubrovnik-Kotor – is there a direct bus? I took a direct bus from the Dubrovnik bus station (I purchased the ticket the day before to make sure I had a seat, but the bus was only half full). I think my bus left around 10:00am (there may be other buses, but I don't recall an evening bus).

2. Kotor–Tirana – so you took a bus to the border, walked across, got a taxi to Skhodra and then a shared mini bus to Tirana. Was this really as easy as it sounds? YES, VERY EASY. Do you speak Albanian? NO, ONLY ENGLISH, AND I WAS ABLE, PARTLY WITH THE MAPS IN THE LONELY PLANET, TO MAKE IT APPARENT WHERE I WANTED TO GO (FOR EXAMPLE, IN SHKODRA, I WANTED TO BE DROPPED AT THE MINIBUS TO TIRANA, AND BY USING THE LP, I WAS ABLE TO USE THE LOCAL NAME FOR MINIBUS) What time did you get into Tirana? I THINK I ARRIVED AROUND 1:00 OR SO, BUT I LEFT MONTENEGRO PRETTY EARLY. If it is possible to arrive there before too late, we can visit a few sites in Tirana on Sept 11 and do a day trip to Berat on Sept 12. Do you think it is possible to do a day trip to Berat from Tirana? I DIDN'T VISIT BERAT -- MY ONLY DAY TRIP FROM TIRANA, MOSTLY BECAUSE I WANTED TO TAKE THE TRAIN, WAS TO DURRES (I THINK THE TRAIN WAS $0.50).


3. Tirana-Ohrid – again looks like this was a breeze for you. You took a minibus almost to the border at the northern part of Lake Ohrid, taxied to the border, walked across, and then took a taxi to Ohrid. Any difficulties here? IT WAS A BIT TRICKY, MOSTLY BECAUSE OF LANGUAGE, BUT I FINALLY MADE IT CLEAR THAT I WANTED TO BE DROPPED NEAR THE BORDER, AND THEN I MADE IT CLEAR TO THE TAXI THAT I WANTED TO BE DROPPED AT THE BORDER. IT WASN'T THAT DIFFICULT.

4. Since you didn’t go to Greece you probably don’t have any info on the trip from Ohrid into Greece. I believe you can take a bus to Bitola, taxi to and maybe over the border to Florina, and then catch a 6 hour train that goes back towards Thessaloniki before turning west and heading to Kalambata (near Meteora) NO IDEA. I'VE BEEN TO GREECE A FEW TIMES, BUT NOT THE NORTH.

THERE'S PLENTY OF ROOM IN THE MINIVANS FOR A BACKPACK -- SOME OF THE LOCALS ARE TRANSPORTING ENORMOUS SACKS OF STUFF.

I WOULDN'T SKIP BOSNIA, CROATIA AND MONTENEGRO -- THEY WERE HIGHLIGHTS.

All in all, its a very easy trip, with very cheap, extensive and frequent public transport.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Michael
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Sep 24th, 2007, 07:41 AM
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I forgot to answer your question about the Sarajevo -> Mostar train. I did not make a reservation, but got to the station about an hour before departure and purchased a ticket. The train was, perhaps, 10% full (there were 3 or 4 people in first class), at least in first class. Its one of the most scenic train trips I have ever taken, so if you have a choice, take the morning, instead of the evening, journey.
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Sep 24th, 2007, 10:15 AM
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Michael-
Enjoyed your photos. We are going to Croatia/Montenegro in March and were planning to spend 1 day and night in Mostar. After doing some research, I think I want to also stay a night in Sarajevo since it appears to be a 2 hour drive from Mostar.

My question is: Would you recommend doing both cities, and is one night in each enough time to explore?

Thanks!
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Sep 24th, 2007, 11:21 AM
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sessa, I enjoyed both Sarajevo and Mostar, and you can see all of Mostar and a lot of Sarajevo in one full day. If you can, take the train, at least one way, between the two -- its an incredible journey and an amazing engineering feat, with dozens of bridges, tunnels and tressles.
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Sep 24th, 2007, 11:23 AM
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trestles (typo in prior post)
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