We have wanted to visit Poland with my mother, who is 100% Polish, and have been invited to a wedding in Bosnia-Herzegovina in mid-May, so this might be the year to make it happen! Thinking about a train trip from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Slovenia, Austria and Poland......any thoughts or insights welcome.
Where is the wedding? There are only a very few train lines in BiH. For example, there is no train any longer between Sarajevo and Zagreb, and only one very slow infrequent train between Mostar and Sarajevo. You may end up flying or taking buses (or renting a car) to get between locations in that country. There are several direct flights every day - one hour - between Sarajevo and Ljubljana, Slovenia. Thus, depending on where the wedding is, you may want to fly (and rent car?) while in BiH, then fly to your next destination and start taking trains from there.
It is in Foca. The groom suggested that we fly into Belgrade and then catch a flight to Sarajevo and rent a car. That would be the starting point of the trip.
So returning the car in Sarajevo, then flying on to your next destination might be a reasonable plan? I do have to amend my earlier post. When I flew from Sarajevo to Ljubljana in June, 2018, I took a direct flight on Adria Airways. It was a fine flight. HOWEVER, Adria Airways (I just remembered, and checked online) has recently gone bankrupt, leaving Slovenia with a markedly limited number of direct flights to other places. That direct Sarajevo-Ljub flight is no more. The fastest way to get to Ljub from Sarajevo might be with Air Serbia, with a connection in Belgrade. Sigh. You definitely want to look at a map, compare distances between cities where you want to go, and then research flights from Sarajevo to your various cities. It certainly makes sense to start in the south (Slovenia) and move north by train. However, not knowing how much time, money, and stamina your group members have, you also might want to consider deleting Slovenia from the itinerary, and flying on to (Vienna? Austrian Airlines direct flight) or Salzburg (Austrian Airlines, change in Vienna).
One more thought: as you are looking at how to get to Sarajevo by plane, do also look at Turkish Airlines. They have 2 direct flights from Istanbul to Sarajevo daily (but check their website to see schedules). I have found Turkish Airlines to be very comfortable and dependable (and with great food and wonderful flight attendants who speak perfect English). It's possible that you will find a better transcontinental schedule using them, connecting in Istanbul, than trying to match up your transcontinental flight on another airline with the 1 x day Air Serbia flight.
Keep your options open as you look into efficient ways to move out of B-H. Ground transportation in the Balkans is extremely slow; I figured I was covering an average of about 30 mph. You're probably going to want to take a flight to cover part of the journey, unless you have a geat deal of time availalble. Perhaps it would work best to travel BH-Poland-Austria-Slovenia. Unfortunately, I don't think there are currently any flights between BH and Poland.
If Poland is a priority because of your mother's heritage, I'd recommend focusing on it. It is a large country with many fascinating cities and towns. It takes many weeks to do it justice; I had five weeks and didn't cover the country very well. Austria and Slovenia are also lovely (and smaller), but I wouldn't want to try to combine all three with BH during a vacation of normal length.
I frequently post warnings on this forum about the website Rome2Rio, because so much of its detailed information (fares, travel times, frequencies) is wildly inaccurate. But it can be helpful in revealing possibilities when you're trying to connect odd pairs of destinations. So by all means, explore on Rome2Rio. Then go to Skyscanner.com to check actual flight times and fares.
There are many flights from Podgorica, Montenegro (unfortunately, not a very interesting place in a country with many more-worthwhile destinations), including to Poland. Rome2Rio is telling me flight destinations also include Ljubljana, but I haven't verified that.
If you can get to Zagreb (which has a very nice historic district and a bunch of interesting museums), you're only about 2-1/2 hours from Ljubljana by train or bus. Rome2Rio indicates there are flights to Zagreb from both Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. Again, I haven't verified that information.
Keep in mind that buses crossing the international borders in the Balkans tend to run very infrequently. It will probably be considerably easier to get a bus to Sarajevo than to Dubrovnik or Podgorica.
Thanks for all of this information. I think we will be gone 2 weeks and everyone is a pretty hearty traveler but of course I want to resist the temptation to try to do do much instead of really enjoying. I always have to temper my aggressive enthusiasm when planning because it is the worst to "have to" move on when you've barely seen much of a location! Perhaps we just move on to Austria via flight as you suggest.
I traveled inside of Turkey via Turkish Airlines and agree that they are terrific. Thanks for reminding me!
Does 2 weeks include the time in Bosnia-Herzegovina? If so, the most I'd do is add Slovenia and maybe one destination in Austria. Or go as directly to Poland as you can and spend all the remaining time there. Even if you have 2 weeks after B-H, I wouldn't try to combine either of the other countries with Poland; the latter is just too large. (And I'm not Polish.)
Skyscanner shows a direct flight from Sarajevo to Vienna. You can take an overnight train from Vienna to Krakow, I do this quite a bit in Europe.
I'd think hard before choosing a night train. That one's not as bad as many, but it makes stops at 11:50 PM, 1:32 AM, 3:18 AM, 3:25 AM and 4:27 AM. A potential passenger should ask himself/herself how much sleep is likely to happen with such interruptions. The 6:05 AM arrival time would also concern me. That's a lot of hours to kill before any indoor sightseeing attractions are open, and if it was a miserable night and you need a nap, you might be facing an 8-hour wait to get into your hotel room.
This is all helpful. I did notice that 6am arrival and it sounds kind of rough.
I am now considering a private drive between Vienna and Krakow, with a stop off at Auschwtiz built in, which I think makes sense. Has anyone any experience with a car service like this that they could recommend? We are 5 adults.
As a solo traveler that sort of option is not financially practical for me, but I know some people on the forum have mentioned using mydaytrip.com. Also GoOpti, but I don't know that GoOpti operates in the area you're talking about; it does serve Slovenia.
The search function on this website is really poor. If you want to try to find earlier posts mentioning those companies, you might try doing a Google search on ricksteves.com/travel-forum mydaytrip and ricksteves.com/travel-forum GoOpti.
Thanks. My Day Trip came up in a random google search but I was not sure if it was a legit enterprise. Sounds like it's worth a further exploration.
Okay, I am biased. There are non-stop flights for under $100 from Pozan, Warsaw and Krakow to Budapest. From Budapest there are non-stop flights for under $100 to Sarajevo. So spend a night or two in Budapest then move on to Sarajevo. I was in Bosnia & Herzegovina a few months ago. Stunning, beautiful country. Sarajevo was "very good" but for me at least just a two night city. The towns and the countryside were amazing and I will be back. I am pretty spoiled so I hired a driver. This is a very inexpensive country so the driver didnt cost much.
Thanks for this info, James E. This makes a lot of sense. Are there any intra-Europe airlines to avoid? Im by no means fancy and totally happy to get from point a to point b, but wouldn't welcome a lot of cancellations etc.
The flights I mentioned are LOT, Wizz and Ryan. My least favorite of the three is Ryan, but I will fly any of them. My trip a few months ago was on Wizz from Budapest to Sarajevo, and it was good. I fly them a lot. Europe gets so much smaller thanks to $65 flights. But they dont run every day so you have to plan around them.
You mentioned Belgrade. Interesting city, but given the option and having seen neither, Budapest would be the first choice. Also the flight out of Belgrade will probably be Serbian Air which I suspect might be more expensive. But i flew them from Titograd to Belgrade and they were okay.
What I do for these sorts of issues is I get on Google Flights. Enter where you are starting and EUROPE as the destination. Then select non-stop and you can see every non-stop flight out of that airport. Then go to where you want to get to and do the same. When you find both searches have a location in common, thats where you land and spend a few days..
James, that's super helpful! Thank you!!!!! I so wish we could be there for more than 2 weeks.....I haven't traveled in that part of Europe at all and there is SO much Id like to see!
I did the usual, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Austria thing; then I stumbled into Eastern Europe about 15 years ago. Now I cant stay away. I get there 3 times a year most years and its always Budapest where I keep a small place to stay, and something further down the rabbit hole. I love the country, the cities and the people. If it were Western Europe I would probably have to eliminate a third of my trips because of cost.
Its a good time to visit BiH too. I suspect that in the future the country is going to come apart. Its really 3 cultures, two that get along fairly well and one, the one tied to Serbia and the Яussians, that is problematic. Not a subject I would discuss as they tend to be very outspoken.
I just looked. Foča appears to be outside the Republika Srpska (ethnic Serb autonomous state within BiH) but the current mayor belongs to the party that runs the Republika Srpska, so I would assume it is at the least under the sphere of influence. These are the characters that wanted to wipe Muslims from the map and they burned the synagogues in Foča about 25 years ago. Most of the Muslims have left the area. But does look like a fascinating town.